TWENTY-EIGHT

He seemed lost in his imagination, caught by the spell of his own
diabolically dysfunctional mind. Kitty glanced toward Mutti pleading
with her eyes. She made a desperate motion toward the door, the old
woman answered in a silent nod. With the baby pressed to her bosom
she slowly moved toward the opening, praying the child would remain
quiet.

Katie Dillon could feel the tension in Mutti's hold. She could sense
the fear in the room. More than anything she wanted her mother's
arms, but some wisdom born of instinct kept her silent.

Distraction was Kitty's only ally, it was fortunate she knew men so
well, "Dear Harland, have you been to Europe, I imagine a man of the
world such as yourself is already known by kings and queens."

Scharpf rolled his eyes upward in remembrance, "Ah yes, when I was a
lad, I was sent on the Grande Tour, I found Great Britain and all of
Europe to be the very essence of the gentile and aristocratic
existence I so crave. That is what I desire for Yellow River. We
shall be masters of own empire."

Captivated as he was by his own charm, he didn't notice when Mutti
and the baby slipped out the door. Forcing her voice to sound calm
and soothing, Kitty said, "We must build a home suitable for a man of
your stature Harland, one worthy of an emperor."

Bending on one knee in front of her, he folded his hands in her lap
and rested his head on her breast, "Yes" he agreed. "I had thought
your home at Yellow River would suffice, but I see you are correct. A
mansion, a great mansion, a castle."

Holding her breath, she focused her eyes out the window. Over
Scharpf's bended head she saw Mutti and Katie disappear through the
trees. They were safe and she breathed a sigh of thanks, than turned
her attentions to her captor, "You've lead such an exciting life, I
don't know why I didn't notice it before Harland." Her voice was as
smooth as honey, but her eyes kept their sharp watch.

Scharpf talked faster in anticipation, "Our wedding will be the
grandest nuptial imaginable. The Governor will be there, perhaps even
the President of the United States." Overwhelmed by the prospect, he
threw his arms around her pulling close, and began kissing her. She
pulled back from him and said breathlessly "Untie me, so I may return
your embrace."

With his passion rising as rapidly as his ego, he hastily untied the
knots setting her free. He reached for her, but she pulled away. One
thought kept coming to the surface - she must lure him into the
front yard.

A brief visit of reality caused him to study her actions. He suddenly
became aware they were alone in the cabin. His eyes quickly darted to
all corners of the shanty. "Where is that Hermann woman, where is the
child?" His voice rose in pitch. "Where are they...?" He demanded. He
turned to Kitty, "What have you done with them?"

She stood, moving closer to him, hoping to buy Mutti and Katie
precious time, with forced seductiveness she said, "Dear Harland,
I've been tied up, I was unable to do anything. Forget about them.
You don't need them. You have what you wanted, Yellow River. And, if
you still want, you have me."

"You - what would I want with you!" There was anger in his
voice, "You have deceived me. I'll not be beguiled by your wicked
wiles." With out preamble he slapped her hard across the face. She
fell backward against the table. There was fear written in her eyes,
but he detected something else too. He saw a look of victory . The
muscles in his face began twitching as anger welled to the boiling
point. Wrapping his hands around her neck he spat, "You - are -
unworthy of me." She pushed at his hard muscled shoulders with her
hands while her body twisted and turned against the pressure of his.

It came to her, the knowledge he was going to kill her, and like a
wild animal caught by a hunter's trap, she fought with all her might,
with the last breath within her she spit in his face.

His hold increased until a veil of darkness closed her eyes. Her arm
desperately pushing him away slipped from his shoulder, the palm of
her hand hit his nose with full force.

He groaned in pain, momentarily increasing the pressure around her
neck, but when he saw blood drip from his nose to the faded blue of
her shirt, he sprang back. His hands flew to his injured nose.

"My nose, my nose, you've bloodied my nose..."His voice sounded
almost tearful. His eyes were watering. He pulled his hands away from
his nose staring at his own blood, shock and disbelief evident in his
expression. She was dizzy and fighting for her breath, but she rolled from the
table and stumbled out of the shack. With a vague sense of urgency
Scharpf looked up. One hand remained on his bloody swelling nose,
while with the other he pulled out his gun. "Stop!" he
ordered. "Stop, or I'll shoot."

She tripped down the uneven porch steps, falling to her knees in the
dust, she could almost feel Scharpf's breath on her back. Fighting
for her life, she pulled herself to her feet. The trees and a chance
of safety 30 yards away. She heard the hammer of Scharpf's pistol
click in place.

GS GS GS GS GS

Urgency had propelled the men from Yellow River. It had been Dillon's
thinking to take the upward trail, so he could survey the shanty and
Scharpf's activities from above. They rode through timber and brush
each saying a prayer that some form of guardian angel would look
after the woman he loved. As he topped the rise, Matt reined in and
studied the homestead below.

From the advantage of the horse's back, he could see in the distance
Scharpf standing on the porch with his pistol aimed. Dillon followed
the direction of the gun and saw Kitty running. He was too far away
for a clear shot and thus was unable to prevent the inevitable. He
became an unwilling witness to his greatest nightmare.
Scharpf's weapon discharged, it's echo reverberating throughout the
Sand Hills, as Kitty Russell disappeared from his view.

GS GS GS GS GS

Scharpf's perspiring, bloody face grew pale as tallow, she had
vanished and he couldn't understand it. One minute she was there and
the next she was gone. Quizzically, he studied his firearm, than
moved forward to examine the front yard. No sooner had he stepped
foot on the ground than he was attacked on either side by frying pan
and rolling pin. In an effort to protect himself he fell to his knees
covering his head in his hands, and begging, "Don't hurt me, don't
hurt me."

In a near panic, Matt had spurred his horse on, he pulled the animal
to a halt in a cloud of dust in front of Ma and Molly. He jumped from
the horse, as the ladies backed away from Scharpf allowing Dillon a
clear path. Brutally, he picked him up by the neck of his shirt and
punched him in the solar plexus with a force that would have sent him
flying, had Dillon not the good sense to hang on to the crazed
bastard. Pulling his arm back, he aimed again at the sniveling
coward. Without doubt Dillon would have killed Scharpf, as small
retribution for what he had done to his Kitty, but for the sound of
an indignant voice.

"Someone get me out of here!" He glanced at Molly and Ma his angry
face puzzled, then like a light in a dark room anger left his
expression replaced by a smile. He moved to hand his gun to Ma then
realized her frying pan had proved the better weapon. "Keep him
covered ladies."

Common practice among the hill folk was to surround their homes with
hidden pits, to trap unwanted visitors of the four and two-legged
variety. He remembered now, the Cathcart place featured several of
these pits. Running to the hole Dillon dropped to his hands and knees
and leaned over the opening. Like a starving man pleads for
nourishment, he said her name, "Kitty, Kitty." From the depth of the
hole her hand stretched up to grab his.

Her weight was next to nothing for a man of his size and strength,
she was quickly back to the surface, and into his arms. They stayed
that way, locked in each other's embrace for a time. Each drawing
strength from the other and becoming stronger for the bond. Finally
she released her hold and he stood up, and reached down to assist her
to her feet. He asked, "Are you sure you're alright?" She checked her
body over quickly while Dillon did the same. Bruises on her neck
brought forth renewed rage in the former lawman. "I think so." She
replied.

His forehead furrowed, "Where's Katie?" he asked, "and Mutti?"

She smiled, "They got out safe Matt, they must be in the woods, or
maybe on their way back to Dodge by now."

The brush near the woods parted, "Bow-bo!" Came a little squeak of a
voice from the clearing. The tiny voice brought forth an immediate
response from the man and woman.

Katie struggled in Mutti's hold, stretching her arms toward her
mother and father. The old lady had no choice but to set the baby
down. On toddler's legs she ran to her parents. She stopped in front
of her daddy, looking all the way up to his face, which had a smile
made just for her. "Bow-bo", she said again.

"Up, up," she demanded. Strong loving hands encircled Katie's waist,
lifting her high, so high she must surely have thought no harm could
ever come to her again. "Mama." she said, and Kitty moved close into
the circle of Matt's love. If anyone had accused Matt Dillon of
having tears in his eyes at that moment he wouldn't have been able to
deny it.

It wasn't long before Carl, Seamus and Johnny arrived on the scene.
Loving reunions were repeated until all had been united. In due time,
Scharpf was hog tied and prepared for toting back to Dodge, with
promises that unless he kept his mouth shut, he would be fed to the
turkey vultures as Kitty had threatened.

With only one backward glance at the Cathcart place, they moved out
on the trail. Katie secure in her father's arms astride the great
buckskin, Kitty riding close beside. Dillon gave his women a crooked
grin and said, "Ladies, I think its about time we head for home."

"Where is home?" Kitty asked, needing an answer from the man to whom
answers came so hard.

His eyes locked with hers, a simple act that had always been a
communion of kindred souls, "Home is wherever you and Katie are."
Matt Dillon replied, "Home is Yellow River."

The end