Once Upon A Time In the Future (3/3)
A Justice League Unlimited Story - R 'Verse Story
Copyright September 2007
And it's a miracle
How one soul finds another
Just one miracle
Is all it took for my brother
For I have seen them
As they walk the world together
And I believe, I believe. - (Strong Hand (For June) - Emmylou Harris)
Amos was about to enter the saloon when the sheriff and the woman he'd seen at the Harley House came out. Actually, the sheriff was leading her out. "I was just coming to find you to get the key to the jail," he said as he turned and followed the sheriff back.
As the three moved across the street to the jail, the sheriff said to Amos, "Looks like you don't have a place to sleep tonight, after all. This woman shot a man and is gonna spend the night in the empty cell." Amos had already noticed when the woman came out of the saloon that she wore a gun belt slung low on her hip. She was a gunslinger, something Amos could recognize a mile away, and the man she killed probably didn't know it until it was too late.
The woman stopped in the middle of the street, spun around to face the two lawmen. She couldn't have been more than five-foot-five in boots and a hundred and ten pounds soaking wet, but Amos just knew she wasn't someone to be taken lightly. "What?" she exclaimed. "You can't hold me. You heard the witnesses. He called me a cheater, called me out and drew on me first. You gonna hold me because he didn't kill me?"
Amos couldn't resist as he threw his head back in laughter.
The woman glared at him. "You find this funny?"
"Yes ma'am, I do," Amos answered. "Sound to me like you're upset cause the sheriff is probably doing you the biggest favor of your life tonight. At least if you're in jail a while, none of that man's friends can get back at you." He paused. "At least for tonight."
The woman stared hard at Amos, made a growling sound, but said nothing as she turned around and resumed walking to the jail. The sheriff flashed a quick smile at Amos as he unlocked his office door. There was a tray in front of the office on the sidewalk with sandwiches on it and coffee that was probably cold from having been outside.
Amos picked up the tray and followed the sheriff and the woman inside. He set the tray down on the sheriff's desk. Amos took the sandwiches and cold coffee off the tray and motioned for the sheriff to open the door leading to the jail cells.
"Come along, Cimarron," the sheriff said as he opened the door. He opened the second cell and Miss Cimarron walked in and tossed her hat on the bed. The sheriff locked the cell behind her and she sat on the cot.
"I want a matron. You can't keep me in here without a matron," she said.
The sheriff shook his head. "I doubt you'll be in here long enough to need a matron. I just wanted to get you out of that saloon."
Redding in the next cell stood. "You should have put her in here with me, sheriff." He turned to Miss Cimarron and grinned, "You'd like that wouldn't you?"
Miss Cimarron took what looked like a metal star out of her coat and started tossing it up and down. "Sure. I've already killed one man tonight. Killing another one won't bother me none."
"Both of you shut up," the sheriff yelled.
Redding turned to Amos. "Where's my dinner. You trying to starve me?"
"Here," Amos said as he gave Redding the two sandwiches and the coffee.
Redding took the sandwiches and sipped the coffee. He frowned. "It's cold."
"Like your heart, Redding. Like your heart," the sheriff snapped back as he put his shirt on, tucked it in his pants and put on his gun belt.
"Why didn't you tell me you were a wanted man here?" Amos said to Redding as the man hungrily munched the beef sandwiches.
Redding looked up with a quizzical expression on his face. "I'm not wanted for anything back here."
The sheriff leaned forward. "You remember Amy Lou Smith, don't you?"
"Amy?" Redding was quiet, but Amos noticed the man's legs started to tremble. He put his sandwich down and put his hands in his lap. "She doesn't know I'm here, does she? Sheriff, please don't let her see me in here. I don't want her to know I'm back in town like this."
The sheriff and Amos look at each other, stunned.
"She's dead," Amos said slowly. "They say you killed her."
Redding stood. There was panic in his face. "What? I didn't kill nobody. Why would I hurt Amy? She was the only one in this whole town who ever tried to help me. Always told me I could make something of myself. Told me there was a big world out there and I should see it. She was teaching me to read. She gave me readin' lessons at the school right up to the night I left."
"Maybe you wanted more than a lesson the night you left and she said no," Amos said. It hadn't escaped him that Redding had called the dead woman by her first name and not Miss Amy or Miss Smith.
Redding looked at the sheriff. "Look, I admit I asked her if she'd go away with me, but she said she couldn't. Said something about her already being condemned to Danny's second circle because of me. I didn't know what she meant, but she kissed me and wished me well and I left." He paused. "I know this, if she had gone with me, I know I wouldn't have ended up robbing banks, that's for sure."
Miss Cimarron, in the next cell, started laughing, softly at first, then louder.
"You find this funny?" Amos said to her. She had a nice laugh he thought. It was the type that was infectious and made you want to laugh with her. But it was clear to him that this woman hadn't smiled or laughed enough in her lifetime. He immediately chastised himself for thinking that. Her happiness was not his concern.
She stood and moved to the front of her jail cell so that she was about two feet away from Amos and the sheriff. She looked Amos in the eyes for a long moment, then looked at the sheriff. "Yes, I do. It's not Danny's second circle. It's Dante's second circle. It's the second circle of hell. That's the circle of lust. I learned all about Dante's Divine Comedy at the orphanage. My guess is your teacher wanted him as much as he wanted her."
She looked at Redding. "So how many times while she was teaching you the A-B-C's were you two doing it?"
Redding was silent, then he said to the sheriff. "Okay, maybe we was friendly a couple of times and I was mad that she didn't want to leave with me, but I didn't kill her. I swear she was alive when I last saw her. You can ask Mr. Lomax. I bumped into him on my way out. I know he saw me leave."
A slow smile crossed Amos' face. "Did Mister Lomax know you and Miss Amy were 'friendly'?"
Redding shrugged. "I don't think so. She was supposed to marry him or something. I think if he'd known, he might have tried to ... kill us both." Redding's jaw dropped as he realized what he'd said.
The sheriff opened Miss Cimarron's cell, motioning for her to come out and then said to Amos. "Maybe he only got half the job done."
Sam wiped his countertop with a damp cloth. Mister Lomax had been in the saloon for half an hour buying drinks for everyone in the bar. Sam had seen this happen at other places before where one person was able to work up a crowd to go do something they probably would regret in the morning.
"Two years ago, Tom Redding destroyed my life," Lomax said to the house. "He killed the only woman I loved and fled town. Now he's back and the sheriff's going to let him escape justice with some colored man. We can't let him get away with that, can we? What about justice for Amy?"
"Yes, what about some justice for Amy?" It was the sheriff and the colored marshal people had been talking about all day. They were standing in the doorway
Lomax frowned. "There'll be justice when we've hung Redding for killing our school teacher."
"You mean your fiancée, don't you?" the marshal said as he and the sheriff moved toward Lomax.
Lomax sneered at the marshal and smiled at those gathered around him. "Looks like the sheriff has brought his new best friend in here. Well, good! Since they're both here we can get Redding out of the jail now."
"You're in a big hurry to get that man hanged, aren't you?" the marshal said. Then he shrugged his shoulders as he added, "Of course, I would be too if another man was messin' around with my woman. Yup, I'd certainly kill any man who was fooling around with the woman I was going to marry."
Lomax moved his coat away from his gun and snarled at the marshal. "How dare you insult the honor of the woman I was going to marry? I'll kill you where you stand and I don't care whether you're wearing a badge or not."
"Before you do that," the sheriff said. "You should know that Redding already admitted he and Miss Amy were more than friendly with each other. Bet that must have made you pretty angry when you found out!"
"Weren't you standing outside the schoolhouse, waiting to take Miss Amy to the Harley House for dinner, when you overheard her tell Redding she was already slated for Dante's second level of hell because of him?" the marshal said as he squared himself against Lomax.
"Redding didn't know what she meant," the sheriff said as he moved to Lomax's left side. "But you did, didn't you? You heard Redding ask her to go away with him and after he left, you confronted Miss Amy, didn't you? Is that when she confessed that she'd been unfaithful? Is that when you killed her?"
Lomax's frown deepened. He nervously shifted his stance in front of the marshal. "That's a lie! Is that what Redding told you? That's not true. I loved Amy. Can't you see Redding's lying?"
"Why would he do that, Lomax? He brought your name up as his alibi without any prompting. He said he saw you going into the school house when he was leaving and that Miss Amy was still alive then," the marshal said. "That would make you, not Redding, the last one to see her alive, wouldn't it?"
"You didn't tell anyone you saw Redding leaving the school that night," the sheriff said. "In fact, you didn't say anything about going to the school that night at all, remember?"
"What did you do," the marshal said as he kept his right hand at the ready, "go back to the Harley House and wait for her to arrive knowing that she was already dead? Then after a while, did you pretend to be so concerned you got the sheriff to go with you so you'd have an alibi and a witness?" The marshal glanced at the sheriff. "Tell me, Sheriff, who suggested going to the Redding place. Was it Lomax?"
"It sure was," the sheriff said. He paused a split-second before he said, "Robert Lomax. You're under arrest in connection with the Amy Lou Smith murder. Give me your gun."
"This is your fault," Lomax shouted at the marshal.
In an instant, Lomax drew on the marshal, but the marshal seemed just as fast as the woman who had been in the bar earlier, Sam thought. Maybe faster.
Lomax's shot missed and knocked the marshal's hat off his head. The marshal had better aim and Lomax fell backward sporting a new third eye.
The marshal bent down and picked up his hat. He poked his finger through a bullet hole and turned to the sheriff. "Damnit, I'd just gotten it broken in the way I liked, too." He put the hat back on his head, reached into his pocket, pulled out a book and gave it to the sheriff. "Everyone who saw what happened, write it down in this book," he said.
Then the marshal reached into his right shirt pocket and pulled out another slip of paper and said, "Sheriff, this here is a 'John Doe' warrant. I'm arresting this man, Robert Lomax, for the murder of Miss Amy Lou Smith and the attempted murder of Deputy Marshal Amos Blackshear."
The sheriff took the warrant, glanced at it and then held it up so everyone could see. "This looks like a proper warrant to me and we all saw Lomax attempt to shoot the deputy here. That's as good as a confession to the Amy Smith killing for me and the deputy marshal shot Lomax in self-defense before he could serve his warrant." He passed the book to the man next to him as he added, "And that's what you'll write in this here book."
The marshal glanced at the sheriff before flopping himself down in a chair and placing his hat on the table. He looked at it for a long moment before picking it up and poking the bullet hole with his finger.
Sam's thoughts were interrupted by a woman's voice saying, "Can I buy that marshal a beer without having to pull a gun on you?" It was the woman who'd been in his place earlier and killed a man. He hadn't noticed her enter or approach the bar.
Sam stared at her for a moment and then flashed a quick grin. "Keep your money. I'll give him one on the house."
The woman smiled.
(The next morning)
Amos put his rifle in his saddle scabbard and led the horses around to the front of the jail. He was tightening the cinches on the Redding's horse when the sheriff escorted the wanted man out of the building.
"Good luck, marshal," a voice said from behind him. Amos turned around to see Miss Cimarron atop a pinto. She'd tilted her hat back so that he could clearly see her face. She leaned forward on her saddle horn, but before she could say anything else, Amos smiled and said, "Thank you for the beer, ma'am."
"What beer?" She smiled slightly.
"The bartender said you suggested it. Thank you."
"Don't worry about it, Marshal. Maybe you'll get a chance to buy me a beer some day."
"Yes, ma'am. Some day," Amos said. They both knew that would never happen.
"Looks like you'll be needing a new hat," she said.
He took his hat off his head and held it up, looking at the bullet hole, then looked back at her. "Maybe I'll just get it patched when I get back to Fort Smith as a reminder of this place." He put the hat back on his head.
Miss Cimarron nodded as her smile faded. "Have a safe journey, Marshal."
"Same to you, Miss Cimarron," Amos said slowly, suddenly filled with an overwhelming and unexplainable sense of sadness that he could hear in his own voice as he repeated, "Same to you."
The sheriff removed his handcuffs from Redding at the same time that Amos put his on the man. "Where are you heading to, Cimarron?" he said to her.
"Louisiana," she answered. "I've heard some good things about the town of St. Roch." She leaned back and re-positioned her hat on her head so that it shielded her eyes.
"Well, good luck down there," the sheriff said.
She nodded and again stared at Amos, smiled and then turned her horse and headed south out of town at a trot.
Amos did his last double check on Redding's handcuff and then helped him get on his horse. Holding on to the reins of his prisoner's steed, Amos mounted his own red stallion.
"Thanks for your help," Amos said. He smiled broadly. "I don't think I ever got your last name, sheriff."
The sheriff smiled. "No, I don't think you did. It's West. Walt West."
Amos nodded. "Well then, thanks for your help, Sheriff West. My best to you and your boys." As Amos turned his horse, Sheriff West went back into his office.
"... and then without looking back, I led my prisoner east out of town at a slow walk to Fort Smith," John said. He glanced at Shayera as he added meekly, "Then I woke up."
Shayera looked amused as she leaned back against the headboard of the bed and said, "That was quite some dream you had."
"Told you it was weird." His back was starting to ache. He needed to stand.
"Well it certainly was that, but you got her name wrong."
John frowned. "How could I possibly get a name wrong? It was my dream and I just told you about it." He got out of bed, stood and flexed his shoulders.
She shook her head and got out of bed and stretched. "I don't doubt it was your dream, but you got her name wrong just the same. Her name was Cinnamon, not Cimarron." She smirked.
John rubbed his eyes. Now he had a headache. "And just how do you know that?"
She opened her mouth to answer, but said nothing as her face suddenly ran a whole gamut of emotions in an instant. Her eyes had widened as if in horror as she finally said softly, "I ... I don't know."
She was silent and clearly distressed. After a pause she shook her head and said, "I don't know ... I just know ... but I don't know how I know. Does that make sense?" She looked away and said softly, "Her name was Cinnamon, not Cimarron, and she never left St. Roch." She looked back at John.
They stared at each other for a long moment, before Shayera finally said, "You don't think that your dream actually happened and that we --"
"For God's sake, don't finish that thought," he said cutting her off. "Because I really don't want to think about anymore possible 'reincarnation' scenarios. As it is, I'm already starting to feel weird about this."
"Okay," Shayera said, too quickly and too easily he thought. She turned and headed toward the bathroom. "Let's get dressed and go get breakfast in the cafeteria. It's your turn to buy."
"My turn? It's your turn. I bought dinner last night." They'd made a practice of alternating who paid for the meals whenever they had the opportunity to eat together.
"Yeah, but now I think I'm ready for you to pay me back for that beer," she said as she closed the bathroom door behind her.
He could hear her laughter as he grabbed a pillow off the bed and flung it at the door.