Two weeks later, Dulcey was the happiest she had been for a while. With Kip and Reilly both in jail, it seemed that things were finally beginning to settle down around Cimarron.
Francis was better. Dulcey could tell he had finally accepted the fact that Samantha really never liked him, that the Samantha Ashley he knew was a fake. However, she wasn't so sure he was over her yet. He seemed to like the real Samantha just fine.
"As foolish as this sounds, I'm really going to miss this place." Said Samantha Lawrence. She sat beside Francis on a bench at the Cimarron train depot. She and Jed were returning home today; a trip well over-due for Samantha. A judge had pardoned her crimes, and she was now on her way home, free as a bird.
"Well, come back and visit sometime." Invited Francis smiling, he took her hand in his and squeezed it. The smile soon faded, however, when he got a frown from the marshal. Dulcey knew Marshal Crown preferred as few people in the town as possible; Especially those with criminal records.
"Maybe," Samantha looked up at her brother, who stood behind her, "But I don't think I'm going to want to travel for a long while after all I've been through."
Jed smiled at her and squeezed her shoulder.
"Oh! Before I forget, here." Dulcey quickly handed Samantha the small bundle she had prepared for them that morning. "Some food, for your journey."
"Thank you, Dulcey." Samantha smiled at her and took the bundle.
When the train pulled up moments later. Everyone was ready to bid their goodbyes to the pair: Dulcey especially. She hated the way her friends looked at the beautiful woman. She doubted they even remembered what trouble she had made for them.
"It was nice meeting you, Dulcey." Samantha said shaking her hand.
"You too." As much as Dulcey hated to admit it, she didn't mind this new Samantha either. She was almost a new person. Dulcey was sure Samantha had done a lot of soul searching in that damp cold cellar and had changed for the better.
MacGregor said his goodbyes and then Francis.
Dulcey could tell the goodbye was awkward for the once-been couple; More so for Samantha than for Francis whom Dulcey could tell wanted to continue where the two of them had left off.
"Goodbye, Samantha." Francis dropped her hand, obviously realizing that his hopes were unrealistic.
Marshal Crown shook Jed's hand. "You folks have a good trip."
"Thank you, Marshal and thanks for everything. I have my sister's life to thank you for." Jed smiled at him and then the trio. "God bless all of you." He picked up their luggage and then turned to his sister, offering her his arm.
The Lawrence's walked off the platform and on to the train. Once they got seated, they waved from the window. Dulcey and her friends waved back as the train's whistle blew and it began to pull out.
"Boy, am I going to miss her!" Francis said softly and Dulcey looked to him. He smiled back at her awkwardly and she gave him a sympathetic look. Poor Francis. Maybe he wasn't totally cured. Actually, that reminded her of something.
"By the way…" Dulcey looked to her three companions after the train had disappeared from sight. "What ever happened after Francis left me in the barn? How did you get the drop on Kip?"
The three men sheepishly exchanged glances. Dulcey could tell this was one story she may never get out of them. The events were probably too embarrassing.
"Let's just say, alls well that ends well?" Suggested Francis.
"Why? Did something go wrong?"
MacGregor looked to the marshal.
"Well, Dulcey." Crown took her by the arm and began leading her back towards the Wayfarer's. "Even the best thought out plans have their rocks."
"Aye." Agreed MacGregor. "Like when Francis hit his head on the window."
"I thought we weren't going to mention that?" Said Francis as he and MacGregor pulled ahead and began arguing.
Dulcey tried to hide her smile.
"Yes, Jim?" She turned to the marshal and they both stopped walking. By the look on his face, she knew he was trying to say something that was extremely difficult for him. If she didn't know better, she'd think he was going to apologize. Something she felt was well over-due. Actually, MacGregor also owed her an apology. Hadn't she been right about Samantha all along?
"I just wanted to say…"
She looked at him expectantly.
"Thanks." He seemed uncomfortable; a rarity for the marshal.
"Keeping an open mind about this entire situation."
"Oh." Disappointment seemed like such a small word for what she was feeling. She supposed she could take this as an apology, but it just didn't seem right. "So, you were happy to see that I had come to your rescue?"
He began walking back towards the Wayfarer's Inn. "I didn't say that."
She felt flustered. "Oh but, Jim!" She called after him, but he didn't stop.
She sighed and allowed her shoulders to slump. It looked like it'd be another one of those times when she'd feel so underappreciated. But that seemed to be her life after all. Right or wrong she knew her friends would never admit they were wrong. Never.
Especially not Marshal Crown.