M is for Murder

Sunset had painted the western sky red, and tinged even the shafts of light falling across Duncan MacLeod's hands as he finished setting the type for this week's newspaper. It still amazed him that he, an unlettered barbarian for so many years, was now a newspaperman… and in a society where literacy had become an important part of life.

The rose-tinged shafts of light played over his hands as if shining through bits of colored glass instead of the clear glass that served as his front window here in Davidson in the Washington Territory. For some reason, the quality of the evening light bothered him. He pulled his hands back, wiping them on his leather apron as if they'd been stained by blood.

"Out, damned spot…" he quoted, recalling lines from the first bit of English he'd learned to read over two hundred years ago. "Macbeth," he said, letting his nearly vanished Highland brogue sound in the silence of the office. He smiled at the memory of learning to read, and sighed at the memory of his lost immortal friend, Brother Timon.

Shaking off the shards of his long memory, Duncan ran a hand over his newly clipped short hair, still missing the longer locks that he'd worn for so long during and after his time with the Lakota. Shoring his locks had been his personal acknowledgement to himself that life, at least for immortals, goes on. He'd spent nearly ten years in isolation, trying to calm the demons within him that sought to rage. That life was as denied to him now as was his childhood in the Highlands of Scotland nearly three hundred years ago. He was an immortal. One of those beings damned to walk the earth alone until someone took his head.

Despite the on-going violence of his personal life, Duncan had in the past century begun to seek an existence that allowed him to make a difference in the lives of the mortals around him. Still amazed by the written word, even after all this time, he'd chosen to open a newspaper office in this small western outpost of civilzation as the hallmark of his new life.

He'd arrived in Davidson barely two months ago in February of 1882, and had opened the office, paying for the printing press from a small bag of gold nuggets. To most of the people in Davidson, he was Mr. MacLeod, a former trapper who'd found a small amount of gold in his travels. He set the type himself most weeks, finding in that simple task a calm and familiar routine that granted peace to his soul.

Yet this evening, not even this task calmed him. He felt unsettled… and knew not the reason. At the sound of the office door opening, Duncan immediately banished his odd mood and smiled warmly at young Tim Ramsey, manager of the dry goods store.

"Good evening, Duncan," the young man said. He was a pleasant enough fellow, recently married and one of Duncan's staunchest friends in Davidson.

"Good evening to you as well," the Highlander replied and shifted the type frame so that it lay flat on the table. "I hadn't realized it was so late."

Tim shoved his hands into his trouser pockets with a laugh. "Not to worry, I may be early. Judith shooed me out of the house as soon as we finished dinner. Several of her friends were coming by." He gave a rueful look.

Duncan smiled. Tim and Judith were expecting their first child, and likely her friends were coming by this evening with small gifts and advice. A slight sigh escaped from Duncan as he rose to remove his apron and the black oversleeves that covered his arms and protected the sleeves of his white shirt from inkstains.

"You should marry, Duncan… and have children of your own," Tim said accurately gauging the wistfulness of the Highlander's mood.

"I'd have to find the proper woman," Duncan replied, "and as for children?" He let the words go unspoken. Immortals couldn't have children. But it was not something he could announce to the world of mortal men. He shrugged, recalling his disappointment when he'd first learned that fact of his life. No bairns… no little MacLeods running around… ever.

"Well I told Doc we'd pick him up on our way to the saloon," Tim laughed. Doc was Edgar Soames, the third of their group, and the one who was likely the best poker player. Duncan wouldn't have been surprised to learn that Doc had been a professional gambler at sometime in his life. Once a week, the three of them, along with Jack Randall, the town sheriff, and Samuel Bruckner, who ran the mercantile store, got together to hoist a few drinks and to play some small-stakes poker. They'd listen to Holcomb's piano stylings, and Daisy's singing as they played, and generally had a pleasant enough night out.

Jack and Tim were each married, while Edgar, Samuel and Duncan were bachelors. Jack's wife was generally pretty happy to shoo him out of the house one night a week, usually on the night her Bible study group met, but as Judith's time grew closer, Tim would likely be reluctant to leave her. This might be one of the last times the young man joined them for poker.

Duncan lifted his wool jacket from the hook behind the front door and slipped it on, still feeling a bit odd in clothes not made of buckskin. He carefully positioned his hat on his head, and smoothed the brim. "Ready?"

The two men laughed and joshed familiarly with one another as they strolled along the raised wooden walk between the newspaper office and the doctor's office at the far end of Davidson's single street. Arriving at the door, and noting the glow of a kerosene lantern through the frosted window, Duncan knocked and opened the door, stepping in with a friendly greeting that died on his lips.

Edgar Soames, one arm outstretched, was lying face down on the floor, a pool of blood congealing around him. "Get the sheriff!" yelled Duncan to Tim. He could tell by the pallor of Soames' compexion that he was already dead. He crouched near the body, restraining the desire to turn him over… as Jack might not want anything touched… and peered at the pool of blood.

Edgar had tried to leave them a clue. He'd managed to begin writing something in the spilled blood, his finger had managed to form the letter "M" before he'd died. He'd tried to name his murderer. Duncan ran a hand over his face, stroking his dark mustache as he thought about what that "M" might mean.

-----

The poker game had been cancelled in light of Edgar Soames' murder, but once Jack Randall had seen to the body and made arrangements for William Moon, the town undertaker, to take custody of the body, he joined Duncan, Tim, and Samuel Bruckner at The Golden Nugget. The burly manager of Dixon's Mercantile took a deep sip of his frothy, dark beer and shook his head. "Poor Doc. Who would want to kill him?" Flecks of foam lodged in his full, dark beard. He seemed not to notice.

"He managed to write an 'M' in the blood," Duncan mused.

Jack nodded. "But what does it mean? Was he naming his murderer or trying to give us a clue about something else."

"A name seems most likely," replied Tim. "After all, he must have known he was dying."

Jack nodded. "Yeah. Three stab wounds to the chest. It had to be someone he knew. I can't see Doc letting a stranger get that close… even if it was a patient."

"What was the murder weapon?" Duncan suddenly asked. "Could you tell from the wounds?"

"Looked like a knife or maybe a bayonet." Jack slumped in his chair. "Whoever it was took the weapon with them."

"Then it was someone he trusted," Duncan said. "Someone he would never have expected of attacking him. But why?"

Bruckner nodded with a grimace. "Figure that out… and you may discover who." The big man wiped his brow, nervously. "If it's a name… it could be any of a dozen or more people."

Tim shook his head. "Doc was well-liked. Besides… without a town doctor… the whole town suffers." He paled. "Especially people like us… Judith and me."

The men looked up as the madam of the bordello upstairs stopped by. Her red hair was swept up off of her neck and secured in the style of the day with a few feathers. Her heavy black dress creaked from the tinkle of the appliqued beads that covered it. She beat her ostrich feather fan slightly. "Terrible news about Doc," she said. "He was a good one, Doc was. He was always taking care of my girls. Didn't charge much neither."

"Madge," Jack asked curiously. "Have you heard anything hereabouts? Any conversation about someone being unhappy with Doc for some reason?"

Madge shook her head, "Not a word Jack. There was that little blow-up a few months ago when the boys from the Circle Mclaimed Doc cheated them at cards that night. Course he didn't… and it blew over… but other than that… I can't think of a thing."

She wandered off after a few moments . The four men met one another's eyes… the Circle M?

Duncan finally shook his head vehemently. "If Doc meant one of them… surely he'd have managed to put a circle around that 'M'. He didn't."

"Maybe he didn't have time," Jack mused. "Listen. Besides the four of us, who else knows about the "M'?"

The men shook their heads. They'd kept that information to themselves. Jack pulled out a pad of paper and the stub of a pencil. "Then whose name starts with 'M'… first or last."

Duncan shrugged. "Mine."

Jack duly wrote MacLeod on one line. He snorted a bit. "Purely in the interest of being thorough… did you kill Doc?"

"No," Duncan said soberly. "I didn't know him that well. Other than our games, he and I didn't really cross paths very often."

"There's William Moon… the undertaker," Tim suggested. "He and Doc argued over the death of the widow McMahon's husband last winter. Doc thought it was natural while Moon thought it was suspicious."

Jack continued to make notes.

"Madge," Samuel suggested. He shrugged. "If we're listing everyone who uses an 'M' name."

Jack and the others nodded. Gradually the names… even those no one wanted to mention or the ones no one seriously considered as the murderer were added to the list. Slowly a list of eighteen people emerged. The men looked at one another.

"How do we want to do this?" Jack asked. I can interview everyone officially… but that will take a while."

Duncan suggested working in pairs. "Let's split the list up into two groups. You and Sam could interview half while Tim and I do the others… unofficially of course. Duncan noticed Sam squirm a bit in his seat. "Is there a problem?"

"Maybe it would make more sense for you and me to interview the least likely candidates. After all… Jack is the sheriff. We could just talk to the others and maybe keep this off the record. I see most of these people at the store. I don't want to run them off."

"True," Duncan nodded. "Several have accounts with me about ads in the paper. Let's see who we can most easily interview and eliminate from the list so that Jack can concentrate on the more likely suspects.

"What about me?" Tim asked.

"Well everyone knows you've worked occasionally as Jack's deputy," Sam explained. "They won't think anything of your being with him."

Tim sulked slightly. "Guess so." He sipped at his mug of beer.

Daisy finished up a number to mixed applause, bowed and, pulling her shawl around her thin shoulders, approached them. "Sherrif?" she asked. "Do you know who did it?"

Jack shook his head.

Daisy stood silently for a moment before moving on. Duncan noticed tears sparkling in her pale blue her eyes before she left. He leaned forward. "Daisy seems awfully upset."

"Were she and Doc close?" Jack replied thoughtfully.

Sam shook his head. "No… I never even saw them talking together."

Duncan stared after the slight form of thepale, young blonde young woman. "Interesting," he muttered under his breath. Inwardly he wondered about Daisy Callahan and her possible relationship to Edward Soames. Still… the "M" was the clue they needed to decipher and follow.

-----

By ten the following morning, all four men were meeting with the people whose names appeared on their lists. While Jack and Tim were out at the Circle M interviewing the cowboys, Duncan and Samuel were calling on the widow McMahan.

"I'm devastated of course," the widow told them over fragile porcelain cups of hot tea. From somewhere she'd produced a lemon and thin slices of it floated in each cup. The cup in Bruckner's large hand seemed lost and in danger of being crushed. MacLeod, veteran of many a cup of tea in English society over the last century, expertly held his properly and seemed far more at ease. "Doc saw me through pneumonia last winter. What if I get it again?" The widow seemed truly stricken.

"He was a good man," agreed Duncan. "Ever disagree with Doc," he asked casually as she offered him the plate of muffins. He duly took one, choking slightly on their dense and heavy consistency. Evidently muffins were not the widow's forte'.

"Well I acussed him of killing my poor Joshua when he died… but I was upset. Cancer? I tell you Joshua wasn't sick a day of his life. He just didn't wake up one morning. Doc said the cancer had him and he'd never wake up. Eight days he lingered. Why… the bed linen had to be burned." She hmmphed the last statement and Ducan managed not to roll his eyes.

"Well I'm certain your being upset never bothered Doc," Samuel said as he lifted a muffin and then considered where to set it. Finally he popped it into his mouth and chewed. Afew crumbs felland lodged in his bushy beard.

"Well of course he didn't!" replied the widow. "He cured me! Besides… I may have disagreed with him, but he was the only doctor in town. Whatever shall we do now?"

Duncan shrugged slightly. "I shall be putting out a special edition about Doc… and I'd like to include any personal information you might have. I really didn't know him well."

"Well I heard tell," the widow said, lowering her voice and sitting forward with a wink, "that he was a riverboat gambler in his youth. He certainly knew how to rake in the winnings at the card table."

"Aye," Duncan nodded. "I always thought that myself."

"And," the widow pronounced with a pause. "I've heard there was a lady involved. Why once I saw him staring at a tintype of a young woman with dark hair."

"No clue as to who she was or what became of her?" Bruckner said.

The widow shook her head. "When he saw me looking, he hid it quickly."

-----

"That was helpful," Duncan murmured to Samuel as they walked down the street toward the undertaker's.

"How so?" Bruckner asked.

"We may need to search Doc's belongings. If there was a picture of a woman… we need to find out who she was."

"Likely an old love from his past," Samuel said with a shrug. "Besides, there are no strange women in town."

"No," Duncan agreed. "There aren't." Still, he promised himself to find that photo. Maybe he'd find letters, or a name… or something. If there were a woman in Doc's past… someone waiting on him, perhaps a kind letter from a friend would help ease the news of Doc's passing. Aye, Duncan thought. Already his mind began to form the words.

Pausing outside of William Moon's establishment, each man took a deep breath and then entered to speak with the skeletal Moon.

Tall, frightfully thin, with dark stringy hair, William Moon seemed to have either grown into his role as undertaker, or figured it was the only job he'd be successful at. Duncan had seen children on the street give him a wide berth as if he brought death himself, not just managed it after it came. No one apparently liked him, but he was one of Duncan's paid subscribers.

"Is there something you gentlemen need?" Moon clasped his hands, the long white fingers prominent as he bowed slightly. His high pitched voice sent shivers down both men's backs. It resembled nothing so much as some keening spirit of the wilderness.

"Is Doc ready yet?" Duncan asked easily, determined not to let the cold, oily nature of Moon keep him from his appointed task.

"Nearly so. I still need a fresh shirt for him. The sheriff said he'd send one over later. The other one was far too bloody." Moon's shadow seemed to creep up the wall until it bent over them all. Duncan repressed a shudder, feeling the icy finger of death poised over his throat. But there were no other immortals in this town. There was no one who knew what he was or how he might die. Still, the pall of death seemed to linger over him. Another friend too lately met and too soon dead… mortals whose lives resembled that other line from Macbeth that he favored… Life's but a poor shadow; who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. To an immortal, mortals were brief candles illuminating small moments of their lives. Duncan sighed.

"Did you find a tintype or a picture on him?" Duncan asked casually, not at all certain that it had anything to do with Doc's death; but it was a mystery of Doc's life and he wanted to solve it.

Moon arched a thin eyebrow and smiled slightly. "A photograph? No… he did have a gold watch though with a most interesting inscription."

"What'd it say," Bruckner asked breathlessly.

Moon reached into a small drawer of his rolltop desk and lifted out the watch. "Read it for yourself. The watch doesn't work. I was going to sell it to offset the cost of his funeral."

Duncan hastily grabbed the watch and turned it over in his hand. "Sorry," he mumbled. "I'm looking for clues about his past for his obituary."

"Of course," simpered Moon with a wry smile.

The watch was real gold; worn smooth by years of handling. Duncan could almost sense the age of the watch… polished, used, and handed down from father to son. For a moment his thoughts flickered to the ancestral blade of the MacLeods… his father's sword. He wondered in whose hands it lay now or if it were lying in some attic gathering dust. Shaking his head of the cobwebs of thought he gently ran his fingers over the case, worn so smooth that the engraving was little more than a memory. Carefully he opened the watch. As Moon had said… the watch itself no longer worked. The brittle filigree hands were motionless and a water stain covered part of the dial.

On the inside cover however, still shiny and polished as if new, was an inscription… "All my loveL".

Duncan sucked in a breath and held it. "Wonder how old that inscription is?" Reluctantly he passed the watch over to Samuel.

The big man squinted his eyes a bit. "Looks recent… or at least not as old as the watch. The style of the writing is current." He looked up and for a moment a shred of guilt flashed in his eyes as if he might have betrayed something. "At any rate… that's what it looks like." He shrugged and handed the watch back to Duncan, who held it loosely and then gave it back to Moon.

"It obviously meant a great deal to him. Perhaps he should be buried with it."

Moon wrapped the watch fob around the watch as he raised a skeptical eyebrow. "But it could be worth something."

"I'll pay for the funeral," Duncan explained. "Just give the man some dignity and his watch."

Moon nodded in reply, and then turned to place the watch back in the drawer of his desk. "I shall see to it of course. I still need a clean shirt…"

"I'll see to everything," Duncan furthered, then took his leave. Once outside, he took several deep cleansing breaths as if the air outside were preferable.

"I've never liked that man," Samuel said softly from behind him.

"He's definitely the odd sort," the Highlander agreed.

"He and Doc argured over cause of death for many a townsperson."

"Do you think Doc was doing something he oughtn't to have?"

Samuel shook his head, noticing the small groups of people on the street… all of them watching them and whispering with one another. "Doc was just a fair to middlin' doctor. I think Moon likely knew more about disease… but people didn't trust him."

Duncan glanced back over his shoulder. "I wonder why?"

"Well Moon was here first. He was the only one in town who knew much about healing except for Melinda Gainer… the mid-wife. Once Doc arrived… he got most of the business."

"So perhaps a long-standingt feud?" Duncan mused.

Samuel shrugged. "Leastways… that's what I heard. I haven't been in town but a few months," he mumbled.

Duncan nodded. "Maybe Jack or Tim had more luck. It's nearly noon. I'm headed over to Doc's to find a clean shirt for Moon to bury him in. I'll see you at the saloon in a bit."

Samuel looked at him thoughtfully. "Maybe we should do that together… just so no one thinks anyone did anything wrong?"

Duncan nodded and stepped into the street. "I've never heard of Melinda Gainer. What happened to her?"

"Died of some fever last winter was what I heard. All very strange." Samuel shrugged. "People talk. I listen. You'd be surprised the things you can learn by listening." A slight blush crept up his face. Again he had the look of someone with a secret. Duncan shrugged it off. He was no one to worry about others having secrets considering his own. If anyone ever learned it… he'd likely be burned as a witch or run out of town… tarred and feathered on a rail. Thoughts of being burned made him shudder. He'd live… but would he heal? Duncan MacLeod didn't want to find out. Few deaths bothered immortals… but fire was one with damaging and perhaps lasting effects.

Opening the door to Doc's office, he stood a moment in the gloom… notcing the accusing bloodstain on the floor. Then he stepped quickly through to Doc's room in the back and began going through his things, selecting a clean white linen shirt, a bit frayed about the cuffs, and black wool suit he'd once seen Doc wear to a funeral. The feel of the wool was fine and the suit was well-tailored. Yet like the shirt had seen better days. The seat of the trousers was a bit shiny from wear. He ruefully held up a pair of well-shined black shoes. "I doubt Doc would need shoes now."

Samuel looked up from the bureau drawers he was rifling through. "I suppose Doc would want to go out in style. The suit will look better than those old gray trousers he died in."

Duncan folded the suit over his arm. His eyes swept over the room, wondering where Doc might have hidden something from his past. The crisp white pillowcase of the feather pillow on the bed caught his eye. He leaned over to fluff and feel the pillow. His fingers touched something hard. He reached in and pulled it out.

Within the oval on the black card was the sepia tone picture of a young woman. Her dark hair was parted in the middle and swept up with combs on either side of her head. Her off the shoulder gown appeared to have been of silk and lace. A cameo was pinned to her plunging neckline. She held a bouquet of flowers in her hands. From the looks of them… lillies and daisies.

An appreciative whistle escaped Samuel's mouth as he gazed at the picture over Duncan's shoulder. "Nice looking."

"Aye," Duncan replied, his brogue managing to sound in his voice. "She is that." He turned the card over. "December 1858" was written in a spidery hand on the back of the car. Under it was a printed stamp naming the photographer. "Warren Photography, LaSalle, Lousiana."

"Reckon that's where he's from?" Samuel asked.

"At least where he lived before the war," Duncan remarked. "He once mentioned he'd served as an army surgeon."

"Well with that drawl of his… and the tales he'd been a riverboat gambler… guess we know which side."

Duncan pocketed the picture and picked up the clothes. "Jack and Tim should be back by now." Without a further word, the two men left Edgar Soames' quarters.

-----

In the saloon, the four men sat hunched over mugs of beer, passing the picture of the mysterious woman around.

"I haven't seen anyone who looks like that in town," Jack commented as he handed it back to Duncan.

"Likely someone from his past," Duncan agreed. "Someone he still loved." He didn't know her… but something of that sepia smile stirred something in him.

"A wife?" Tim suggested.

Samuel said nothing. Instead he seemed focused on his beer as if counting the bubbles rising into the foam. Duncan recalled that Bruckner said he learned a lot by listening.

"Sam," Ducan said softly. "What is it? What have you heard?"

Sam sniffed and wiped his beard. "Not much… just talk about Doc bein' married once. 'Fore the war."

"And?" Jack furthered.

Sam shrugged. "That's all. 'Twas a couple of Madge's girls talkin' one day while lookin' through a new order of fabric." He looked around. "I don't want to speak ill of the dead."

"Sam," Jack continued, "If I'm going to solve this murder… I need to know everything… even trollops' gossip."

Sam hastily took a long swig of his beer and then wiped his beard again. His hand shook. "Well… they were talkin' about Doc familiar like."

"He took care of Madge's girls," Duncan reminded him.

"Well… there's takin' care of and there's bein' familiar with."

Tim pulled at the neck of his shirt. "Hell… every man at town has probably been familiar with those girls at one time or another. Before Judith and I married… well… even I… un." By this time, Tim's good looks were hidden by a deep blush. The tips of his ears burned in his light hair and he shifted his gaze.

The other three laughed.

"But a doctor shouldn't take advantage of his customers," Sam tried again. "I mean… they came to him for help and Doc took it out in trade. Least… that's what I guessed."

"And about his having been married?"

Sam leaned over. "Marie… that French whore said Doc knew French."

"Coming from Louisiana, I'm not surprised," Duncan said with a shrug. "Many of the people there are descended from French settlers."

Samuel nodded. "Anyway… she said he told her in confidence that he'd once been married."

Hey gents," came Madge's husky voice. "What's the latest?"

The four men sat back with a guilty start. Duncan's hand closed over the photograph and made to turn it over.

"Why that's Doc's wife," Madge said, reaching down to pull it from Duncan's loose grip. "Lillian I think her name was."

"What do you know about her?" Jack gave the others a stern look as he asked his question.

"Well… ten years ago when Doc first come to town, we got along real good. He showed me this. Said she died of childbirth while he was away in the war. Evidently he and her parents didn't get along." She lay the picture back on the table. "I don't think he ever got over losing her."

"What about the child?" Duncan asked.

Madge shrugged. "He never said. Poor man. We'll all miss him." She pulled her feather boa around her shoulders and like the good hostess she was, moved on to the next table.

-----

By late afternoon most of the townspeople had gathered at Boot Hill where the Reverend Jenkins led them in a rousing chorus of "Shall We Gather at the River". Duncan stood with hands folded before him while he watched the faces of the mourners. If he'd hoped to see some sense of guilt on someone's face… he hoped in vain. He helped Jack, Tim, and Sam lower Doc into the ground and stood by while one by one, people dropped handfuls of dirt onto the lowered coffin before returning to their lives. If there were any answers here, Duncan did not see them.

The setting sun cast red fingers across the horizon as William Moon picked up a shovel and finished filling in the grave. By this time, Duncan was the only mourner remaining. Was it his immortality or his sense of honor that pricked his consciense. "Macbeth doth murder sleep! By the pricking of my thumbs… something wicked this way comes." The familiar lines of shakespeare's Scottish play rambled through his mind over and over. "I'm missing something!" he hissed under his breath.

A flash of red in the copse of trees caught his eyes. They narrowed. Someone was watching. Duncan closed his eyes. "Who wears red at a funeral? Who wasn't here?" Slowly he visualized the faces of the mourners. One by one likel ghostly images they appeared before his eyes. "Who should have been here and wasn't?" Still the answer eluded him.

Moon finished with the grave. He stood with the shovel over his shoulder. "I'm finished now."

Duncan nodded before turning on his boot heel and returning to town. At The Golden Nugget, he raised a glass of scotch to Edgar "Doc" Soames and saluted the empty chair at the poker table. Other men were doing the same. At the piano, Daisy lifted her her thin soprano voice to the tune "Auld Lang Syne"; the patrons let her get through the first verse before they joined her on the chorus.

Duncan sipped his scotch, his eyes wandering over the faces and forms of the others. As at most wakes, he heard jokes, fond reminiscences, and memories of the departed. He wondered if, when he died, if there would be anyone to remember him. "Out, out brief candle…" Again the word's of Shakespeare haunted him. His was not a life like that of mortal men.

Duncan finished the scotch, made his apoligies to the others, and rose… headed for the darkness and the cool night.

Behind him, Samuel Bruckner watched him go with a knowing sense of understanding.

"He's taking Doc's death hard," Tim Ramsey said as he watched Duncan leave.

"He is," Samuel explained. "But that's the kind of man he is. He cherishes his friends and mourns their passing."

"Do you know something I don't?" Jack asked.

Sam shrugged. "Just call me an observant watcher of those around me." He reached for the bottle and poured everyone another drink. He figured MacLeod needed some time alone.

-----

Sometime later, Daisy stepped out of the noisy saloon and pulling her shawl around her shoulders, stepped to the edge of the raised boardwalk and stared out into the night. Lanterns along the single street glowed softly in the rising mist of the spring night. Above her, the sky sparkled with millions of stars. She looked up at them and then mournfully and solemnly stared up the street toward Doc's office. Her red crinoline petticoat under her short dancehall black dress flickered in the lantern light. And as she gazed up the street, the light fell softly on her profile.

It was then that Duncan saw what had been teasing at the edge of his thoughts. Her long slender neck… the curve of her cheekbone… even the same wistful expression. He stepped forward into the light causing her to jump slightly and pull her shawl more tightly.

"I didn't see you there in the shadows."

Duncan sighed. "I was thinking about Doc. It was too noisy inside."

Daisy nodded. "I know what you mean. Now it seems like every other drunken Saturday night."

"So why did you kill him?" he prompted, still not completely certain of what he thought he knew.

She didn't deny it. Again she gazed mournfully up the street. "It just happened."

"Did you blame him for your mother's death?"

She turned and looked at him. Even in the yellow lantern light he could tell she was blushing. "Oh… you figured that out? I was hoping no one would." In answer, Duncan held out the photograph which she took tenderly. "No… I never blamed my father. But my grandparents did. And they blamed me for killing their precious Lily." She glanced up. "Her name was Lillian but everyone called her Lily."

Duncan tapped the flowers in the photograph. "And she liked daisies. Let me see… French family… a daisy is also…"

Daisy nodded. "A Marguerite. That was my real name. My grandparents thought Lily had married beneath herself when she married a gambler. Then he went off to war. She died within an hour of my birth. She bled to death. But she held me and named me."

"What about after the war?"

Daisy shrugged. "I never met him… though one of the servants let slip that he'd come looking for answers. My grandfather told him there was no child and he left. I never even knew his name."

"So what happened here?"

Daisy leaned against a post. "I was never like Lily. I was never the virginal young lady. In the end… I ran away. I ended up here by chance. Doc was just Doc… a regular customer. When I was sick last winter, he fixed me up… and well… we…" Daisy sniffed.

"You didn't know? Did he?"

Daisy shook her head. "Two days ago, I saw him staring at the photograph. I realized who he had to be. I felt so lost. I didn't know if I should tell him… I loved him. But like my grandparents… he only had room in his heart for Lily. I just got so mad. He had me now… she was dead. Besides…" Daisy's hands moved to protect her abdomen. "There's the baby. But no… when I told him about the baby… he wanted to end it; so in anger I told him everything. He kept pushing me away. He wouldn't love me. He wouldn't touch me. He wouldn't even look at me."

"So you killed him."

"I had to. I didn't want to. But he wouldn't love me." By this time, the tears which had been falling from Daisy's eyes had become sobs as she wept bitterly. Duncan looked up to see Jack exit the saloon and stare at them. Duncan motioned for Jack to come.

"So you killed him in anger."

"I needed him to love me," Daisy wept. She buried her face in Duncan's chest, her fists knotted into his wool jacket.

Jack shook his head. He glanced back at the saloon as if uncertain what to do next.

"Please don't tell anyone," Daisy sobbed. "I'll own up to killing him…and about the baby… but don't tell about the other."

Duncan wrapped his arms around her for a reassuring hug. "Not a word," he whispered. "Not a word." He released her as Jack stepped forward to take her arm.

"Miss Daisy… I'm going to have to arrest you. Come with me please."

Daisy nodded and followed him without protest.

Behind them Duncan watched them go. Then he turned and walked solemnly down the street to the newspaper office and his room. Despite questions from Samuel, Tim, Jack and others in the days to come… he kept his word about who Daisy actually was. That she was pregnant and had killed Doc for rejecting her was all that ever came out at her trial. A jury acquitted Daisy who gave birth to a daughter at Christmastime. She called her Noelle.

&&&

Duncan MacLeod went to Davidson, Washington Territory in 1882 and opened a newspaper office. Several flashbacks of events during his time there were a part of several episodes.

Samuel Bruckner is listed on The Watchers' Chronicles cd-rom as Duncan's Watcher during his time in Davidson. All the information about him in this story is based on that entry.

Tim Ramsey appeared in the episode Under Color of Authority. He was the young man who died in a shootout with Mako, the marshall.

All other characters are mine.