Disclaimer: The Great and Powerful Viacom owns Gunsmoke, I do not
dare challenge The Great and Powerful Viacom. I anticipate and seek
no financial reward for this meager effort and ask only that The
Great and Powerful Viacom allow me to share this with others eager
and desperate for the fulfillment of the dreams long denied us. I
will pay no attention to the man behind the curtain if The Great and
Powerful Viacom will allow this.

With that unpleasantness out of the way, I humbly offer this story.
My second.

Episodes referenced or used as inspiration: "The Bullet" and

"Time of The Jackals"

Note: hosiery in this story is not the stockings or pantyhose of
today nor even the gartered stockings Kitty might have worn for work
early on when she wore short (mid-calf) skirts. These are simply a
more sheer version of socks, probably about knee high. Just
something to wear inside the shoes of the day.

Feedback always welcome
Noticing
A Gunsmoke story by MarMar

Dec. 2004

Marshal Matt Dillon stretched his long legs out across the
boardwalk as he leaned back in the chair and surveyed Front Street.
It was barely past dawn and Dodge City would be coming to life
before long. Stomach grumbling, Matt wondered if the new cook at
Delmonico's had settled in yet and figuring Doc might soon be out for an early breakfast, he decided to stay as he was for the moment.

Out in the street, Matt watched as one of Moss Grimmick's livery
stable cats picked its way around the puddles in the wet dirt of
Front Street. It had cleared up a few hours ago, but after days of
steady rain the puddles persisted. Some of the street had settled
back to packed dirt, but Matt knew that as the street traffic picked
up so would the mud. Seemed like the mud got in everywhere this time
of year but Matt was grateful he at least wasn't out on the trail
having to sleep in it, too.

Just as Matt thought he might adjust his hat back down to cover
his face, he noticed a woman down the way on the boardwalk across
the street. He didn't recognize her and figured she must have come
in on the early stage he had heard arrive several minutes earlier.
Usually, when things were slow, Matt liked to meet the stages, just
to keep up on who was moving through his town. Today, though, he
just hadn't felt like making the effort. Besides, the stage, horses,
and people all moving round there would make it the first place to
have all that mud stirred back up. Now, however, he was thinking
maybe he should have met that stage.

She was young, Matt noted, and not familiar with the town, from
the way she kept looking around. Coming to a stop, she looked across
to Matt's side of the street, not toward Matt, but in the direction
of Delmonico's cafe. She hesitated, looking at the street, and Matt
guessed she was figuring the best path for getting across with the
least damage to her skirts. The dress she wore was a lightweight,
pale colored fabric that was just right for travel on the warm day,
but would not withstand much wear and tear from a muddy street. Matt
let his eyes move from the hem of the dress slowly up the fancy
layered skirts, measuring how the dress synched at her waist and
hugged just right all that was above there to the high lacey collar
that opened in a modest V in the front. Certainly not a local; Matt
knew he would have remembered seeing her before. And clearly not
just off the farm, not with that dress and hat. No, she must be from
the east, and a good bit farther east than Wichita, Matt decided.

As Matt had been appreciating the view she must have mapped her
course, for as he watched, she stepped off the boardwalk and
delicately walked a circuitous path toward the café. He smiled to
himself, reminded of watching Grimmik's cat earlier. When she
entered the restaurant, Matt thought perhaps he wouldn't wait for
Doc to show up for breakfast after all, finding he had more of an
appetite than he had expected.

By the time Matt entered, hanging his hat on the rack by the
door of Delmonico's, Preston was putting what appeared to be a bowl
of oatmeal on the table in front of the young woman and pouring her
a cup of coffee. Not much breakfast Matt judged as he prepared to
order his customary eggs and ham steak with sides of potatoes and
biscuits with sausage and gravy. With practiced precision, Matt had
chosen a table farther back in the café and a bit to the side of the
spot where the Eastern Woman', as he had dubbed her, was sitting.
This would allow him to observe her while appearing to be looking
toward the door.

Watching her as he waited for his breakfast to arrive, Matt
noticed three things: she was beautiful, she was right handed, and
her hair blazed like a prairie sunrise. He found it difficult not to
stare in appreciation. She also didn't appear particularly happy,
but from the way her lips pressed together whenever she looked out
onto the street, Matt figured it was just possible the muddy
conditions were to blame. They didn't make for the best traveling
conditions on an already uncomfortable stage. Matt also noted that
the recent weather situation did not help present Dodge City in the
best light, either.

Matt's subtle surveillance was curtailed somewhat with the
arrival of his meal. Digging into his breakfast, Matt never noticed
the woman taking the opportunity to watch him. He did hear the
sounds of life picking up out on the street. He saw Taylor Smith and
his boy ride by in their wagon and a couple of men pass by on
horseback. Dodge was waking up. The foot traffic was light, though,
and tended to be on one side of the street or the other with few
braving to cross.

As he ate, Matt continued to wonder about the Eastern
Woman'. He wondered who she was and where she might be headed. He
doubted she belonged to any of the ranches in Ford County, no
daughter returning from school in the east or young wife back from
St. Louis. Matt figured he would at least know about anyone like
that and he knew of no such person expected. St. Louis, she could be
from there or maybe a bride traveling to join her husband at Fort
Dodge or somewhere farther out. Matt had tried to get a glimpse of
her left hand to see if she wore a ring, but the few times he caught
her lifting that hand above the table, her napkin obscured the
pertinent finger.

Something about her held his attention. She just didn't seem
to fit. Fit what, Matt wasn't quite sure, but there it was. Of
course, it was unusual to see a woman, especially a young woman,
travel alone by stage. Maybe that was it, or maybe it was the way
she held herself, the way she moved. She made Matt think of the rare
flower of a cactus, attracting you with its beauty but holding you
off with its spikes. Or, perhaps it was just that she was possibly
the loveliest woman he had ever seen.

Matt noticed, too, that she took her time eating. He had
nearly finished all of his own breakfast before he realized that she
was settling her bill and preparing to leave. As he watched her deal
with Preston, he finally gained the clue he had sought: no wedding
ring. Still, could be headed to the Fort to meet up with her
intended, he thought and realized it was not a welcome thought at
all. This in itself surprised him. For nearly a year Matt had rarely
been seen in the company of a woman other than due to business or
just lending a friendly hand to someone on the street or chatting
with the girls at the Long Branch or Lady Gay saloons. Doc had
needled him mercilessly about it of late, but Matt just hadn't had
any interest or desire to even look around. Not for months, not
since he and Leona had ended whatever it was they had had going. Oh,
Doc had had the courtesy to wait a couple of months before he
started, but once he had started he picked up steam quickly, never
missing a chance to rib Matt about his lack of companionship or the
way he ignored the obvious invitations from a few of the local
ladies. Doc seemed amused that Matt was often unaware of their
actions and intentions. Leona's reactions had just served to
reinforce Matt's conviction that his badge and a permanent
relationship were a bad mix and it had made him more reluctant than
ever to get close to anyone. It was just easier to ignore the issue
all together. Now, without a thought or plan, Matt found himself
unable to sit at the table while the Eastern Woman walked out of
Delmonico's. Finishing a last bite, he told Preston he would settle
his bill later. Then, retrieving his hat, he followed her out onto
the boardwalk.

The sun was higher, making Matt squint momentarily against
the glare. Looking around, Matt's pulse beat a bit faster as it took
him a minute to locate the woman who had captured his interest. She
had not followed her earlier path, crossing the street directly from
the restaurant. Matt saw she was walking down the same side of Front
Street in the direction of the stage depot. Keeping a discreet
distance, Matt moved slowly in the same direction.

After repeated glances toward the street, the woman finally
stood still and, hands on her hips, looked across to the depot. Matt
recognized that she had been searching the street for the best
possible crossing path. Stopping his own progression and propping
his hands on the buckle of his gun belt, Matt leaned against the
building, watching. He smiled as he saw her shift her weight,
seeming to decide, then change her mind, as she mapped the street
with her eyes. He saw her sigh in defeat. Even the light traffic of
the morning had been enough to stir the street into a mass of mud
with little left to offer anything near a dry, clean passage.

Matt was further bemused to see her take a seat on the
storage box outside the freight office behind her and, crossing one
leg over the other, begin to unlace her shoe. Altogether enchanted,
Matt watched as she removed both her shoes and then her hosiery.
Matt thought it out of place seeing the hole evident in the toe of
the left stocking before she slipped it off and rolled it into her
shoe, but that thought was quickly forgotten as his gaze latched
onto her delicate, bare feet and dainty toes.

What she did next caught the young marshal so totally off
guard he actually stood for a moment with is mouth hanging agape.
Rising from her place on the box and tucking the shoes under one
arm, she walked to the edge of the boardwalk and, before stepping
off into the muddy throughway, she reached down, gathered her skirts
in her hands and lifted them up almost to her knees. She was half
way across Front Street before Matt was able to close his mouth and
move to stand up straight. He was grinning.

His first thought was of those delicate feet pressing
through that thick, muddy ooze. His second thought was to look
around, hoping no one had observed his own blatant fascination with
this woman and her unusual actions. Luck, and an inclement early
morning, were on his side. The few people out on the street were too
absorbed in their own affairs to be aware of the activity down near
the stage depot. Matt did not notice Doc watching from the doorway
of Delmonico's.

The object of his admiration had reached her goal and stood,
her skirts once more brushing the boardwalk, at the depot, talking
with the ticketmaster. Matt supposed she was checking on the time
for the stage departure. Seeing Dan pull up with the stage hitched
to a fresh team of horses, Matt figured that departure was
imminent. The arrival of the stage blocked his view of the woman and
the dept office and once again Matt was surprised at his own
reaction, feeling a sense of impending loss at the thought of this
woman boarding the stage and leaving Dodge City.

In spite of his unusual reaction, or perhaps because of it,
Matt was unable to turn away. He could tell from the movement of the
stage that the few passengers were boarding from the opposite side.
He strained to see, but was unable to make out the faces through the
stage window openings at this distance. Trying to deny the sense of
dread growing within him, Matt watched. He heard the door slam shut
and saw Tom climb up to join Dan on the driver's seat. With a sharp
snap of the reins and a call from Dan the team moved out. His throat
tightening, Matt was powerless to stop watching the stage as it
passed him and picked up speed heading out of town flinging mud high
in its wake.

Matt stood looking after the stage for a moment even after
it moved out of sight past the turn at the other end of Front
Street. At this early hour he could still hear its progress. With a
sigh that heaved his broad chest and shoulders up and down, Matt
shoved his hands into his pockets and prepared to face the remainder
of his day.

Turning away from the direction the stage had taken,
intending to walk his rounds starting down past the stable, Matt's
eyes swept the area in his habitual manner and he froze in mid
stride. There, just across the street at the depot, stood his
Eastern Woman. Matt noted the three bags sitting on the walk behind
her and felt his mouth twitch with the threat of another grin.
Without a thought to the condition of the street or his own boots,
he stepped off the boardwalk and headed unerringly in her direction,
the odd sense of relief he felt lightening every step.

Matt was sure she had seen him and was aware he was walking
toward her, but she turned to look down the street. He stopped when
he reached the edge of the boardwalk, not stepping up. For some
reason, he felt that was close enough. He stood and simply admired
her, waiting. When she finally turned in his direction, Matt found
himself pinned by a pair of crystal blue eyes that seemed to draw
him in.

"Good mornin', ma'am." Matt tipped his broad brimmed hat in
a gentlemanly way.

"Good mornin' yourself, cowboy." She replied, and her
lips parted as she honored him with a dazzling smile.

If Matt had thought her lovely before, he now knew she was the most
beautiful woman he was ever likely to see. He had been so relieved
to see her still standing at the depot that he had headed toward her
without a thought to what he would say. Now he found himself at a
momentary loss.

Finally he asked, "Did you miss your stage?"

Her warm blue eyes regarded him for a bit as she
smiled. "No," she answered in her warm, rich voice, "I decided to
cash my ticket in and stay awhile. Perhaps you could tell me where I
might find a room in town."

"Well, the Dodge House is the best in town." He offered,
pleased to hear she was staying. "Right down the way here on the
same side of the street as the depot." Matt told her, remembering
the muddy street and her bare feet. He noticed the shoes still
tucked under her arm.

"Well," she hesitated. "Maybe you could tell me the second
best place in town." She said with a wry look and slightly raised
eyebrow and Matt understood her to mean less expensive.

So, that explained the hole in the stocking, he thought, and
perhaps the light breakfast, too. This woman was an intriguing
study of contrasts. Her appearance suggested someone of social
training', what some called breeding', her etiquette at breakfast
was impeccable, from what he knew. Yet her manner with him was easy
and casual. She seemed to emit a sense of purpose and direction, but
on an apparent whim she had cashed in her ticket and stayed in a
town that was strange to her. A rather ugly, muddy town at the
moment, he admitted to himself. Matt realized she was watching him,
waiting for his answer.

"Ma Smally's" he said without further hesitation. Matt knew
she would be comfortable there and the rates were very reasonable.

"Ma Smally's?" she asked, quirking the eyebrow again.

"Sure. Ma runs the nicest house around."

"House?" she seemed to step back a bit from him, but perhaps
he had imagined it.

"Ma's boarding house is clean, comfortable, and affordable"
Matt emphasized, "and it's just a bit farther down this street and
around a corner." He pointed vaguely in the direction he meant. "And
you can't beat Ma's cookin'" he added for further enticement.

"I see. In that case, perhaps you would be willing to show
me the way." She suggested with a quick nod of her head, moving to
pick up her bags.

Instantly, Matt stepped up onto the boardwalk and reached
for the bags. As he did, his hand brushed against hers and he was
close enough to detect the scent of a perfume that was sweet and
spicy at the same time. He easily lifted the three bags, two in one
hand. Standing up, he saw her looking up at him with a hint of a
smile.

"Lead the way, Cowboy" she said with an amused twinkle in
her eye and she stepped around to walk beside him.

He was vaguely aware that she asked him about the town, the
people, how long he had been there and such as they walked, and that
he must have answered her to some satisfaction, but her perfume
teasing at his senses and his uncharacteristic feelings in response
to finding she was staying in town distracted him and made it
difficult for him to focus on the conversation. He did notice that
when he answered her question about what he did, telling her he was
the marshal, she seemed to pause ever so slightly. He thought he
might have imagined it, ever more wary of the reaction it drew from
others since the debacle with Leona, but he didn't think so.

When he told her they were nearing the turn down to Ma's
place, she suddenly stopped. Matt had to backtrack a few steps to
where she stood.

"Well," she said, matter-of-factly "I can hardly go asking
for a clean room while sporting dirty, bare feet, now can I?" to
herself as much as to him.

As Matt watched, astonished, she dropped her shoes and walked to the edge of the boardwalk. Lifting her skirts once more, with one hand, and holding the rail with the other, she reached out first one foot, then the other, dipping them in the rain filled trough on the other side of the hitching post. Tiptoeing over to a chair along the wall of the shop front, she sat and prepared to re-don her hose and shoes.

Quickly putting the bags down, Matt withdrew his bandana
from his pocket and offered it to her to dry her feet.

"Here," he offered, holding it out to her.

"Thanks, Cowboy," she smiled up at him. "Or should I
say Marshal'? Is that all part of the service?"

"No ma'am, not usually" Matt managed to chuckle, his
attention more on her actions than on the question.

She frowned, "Ma'am?" she asked and just looked at him, her
dancing blue eyes belying the frown. Finished with her laces, she
stood and shook out her skirts. Offering him her hand she said, "My
name is Kitty, Kitty Russell." She smiled, "and I suppose you have a
name other than Marshal."

Accepting her proffered hand, Matt noticed how slender and
delicate, yet strong it was. He thought it might be nice to hold it
for more than a handshake. "Matt Dillon," he told her. He also
noticed that rather than return the bandana to him, she tucked it
into the wrist of her sleeve.

"Well, Matt," he loved the way her rich voice sang his name, "show me the way." And she gestured elegantly in the direction they had been walking.

He had carried her bags to her room and she had walked with
him back down to the porch, thanking him for all his help. Matt
found he was reluctant to leave her.

"I'm glad I could help, Miss Russell." He said, lifting his
hat off and holding it in his hands.

"Please," she implored him, "call me Kitty'. If you don't,
I'll have to start calling you Marshal'" she finished in a light
tone, her eyes sparkling, making him think she had no intention of
calling him Marshal'.

"Fine, Kitty. I guess I'll see you round town." Matt was unsure what to say, how to break away and get on with his duties. "Let me know if there's anything else I can do for you." He knew he had to walk down the porch steps, but he delayed.

Her expression turning more serious, Kitty finally said, "Well, I do need to find a job. Maybe you could suggest someplace."

A job. Matt was not accustomed to having women ask him to suggest places of employment. It made sense, of course, from what he had gathered earlier at the depot. She was traveling alone, apparently not expected anywhere at a certain date, and she was frugal with her spending. Of course she would need a job. Wondering what to offer her, Matt asked,

"What kind of work do you do?"

Matt noticed that she just looked at him for a moment, then her expression changed from serious to droll with a smile teasing up
just one side of her mouth.

"Well," she explained, "I can sell a glass of whiskey to just about anybody if I try." She looked directly at him, "And I deal a pretty smooth game."

As she looked up at him, he saw in the blue pools of her eyes a
combination of challenge and pleading, for what he wasn't sure. He
wasn't quite startled, but admitted to himself he had not
anticipated her response. She seemed to take his hesitation as a negative reaction and he hurried to cover the pause.

"What do you deal?" he asked, genuinely wanting to know, a
legitimate official concern and true curiosity. He was beginning to
realize that this woman had more facets to her than anyone he had
ever encountered.

A slow smile eased across her full lips and spread all the way to her eyes as she held his gaze. The smile became more playful as she answered.

"What do you play?"

If he had been intrigued when he first caught sight of her
earlier this morning, he had now moved on to interested. Knowing he
was in deeper than he wanted to be at the moment, he allowed the
question to pass unanswered. He did offer a suggestion.

"The Long Branch out on Front Street is the best place in
town. Tell Bill Pence I told you to ask him about a job. Can't
promise he'll have one, but it's a good chance." Matt met her gaze
and held it. "Let me know what he says." He moved toward the top
step, knowing it was best if he left now. "If you'll excuse me, I
need to be getting' on with my rounds." With that, he turned and
headed back the way they had come, thinking there was nothing he
wanted more than for Bill Pence to give her a job.

The warm resonance of her voice played in his ears and mind
as he walked "Thanks, Cowboy. See you later." Yes, he thought, she'd
see him later. He had to get his bandana back, after all.