The author borrows characters and plot from the classic radio and television series, Gunsmoke, making no profit from this effort other than the benefit of her own amusement. This tale is fiction, the characters and events are not real, nor should this be considered in any way, shape or form a lesson in history. Also, comma use is purely at the whim of the writer and should not be considered grammatically correct and should not be used as a guide by other fan fiction writers. - Gstales
Cupid wore a Moustache
In my heart a place is waiting
Come and enter there this day
Cupid King of love and mating
Wants to guide you on the way
- Verse from a Victorian Valentine
Commitment was a luxury the young Matt Dillon denied himself. It made his job and life less complicated - having no one needing him, at least not in the persons of a wife and family. As for depending on him, he guessed he had a whole territory praying he was fast enough and honest enough to do right by them. At any rate there was no room for romance in his line of work and that suited him just fine. Lest his circumstances be misconstrued, he was not without female companionship; it is just that he sought lady friends with no strings attached. To his way of thinking pretty girls were a dime a dozen, or more accurately two bits and a modicum of sweet talk. They expected nothing more than he was willing to give and what they got suited them just fine. Oh yes, they were more than satisfied with the affections Dillon graced them with.
A new craze was sweeping the nation back in the early 1870s, preprinted greeting cards for every occasion, syrupy notes with a Victorian sentiment; the pricier ones imported from Germany and embellished by ribbons and lace - signed with a flourish and dropped in the mail at a penny a pop. Matt Dillon had seen them at Christmas and New Years, displayed in the mercantile. Now, in February the cards were decorated with hearts and chubby cheeked cherubs armed with bows and arrows, which they aimed at everything from love birds to pictorials of Martha and George Washington. Nothing more than a passing glance had brought them to his attention. He had no reason to give it more thought than that. He certainly was not about to start handing them out to his favorite ladies of the night. It did however register in the back of his mind that Valentine's Day was coming up leaving only a feeling of vague annoyance in its wake.
His annoyance turned acute when he was the one on the receiving end of the greeting cards. You must understand Matt Dillon was a very attractive young man. His entire aura was steeped so deep in masculinity that the sight of him roused in the heart of every woman in Dodge City both young and old an adoring passion. The idea of sending these cards of love to this man of epic proportions might have been deemed inappropriate before this fad came to light, but now it seemed just another way to celebrate the holiday. And so within the past week, an avalanche of the heartfelt greetings had turned up in his daily post, slid under the door or tied to the jailhouse barred windows with red or pink ribbons. Even though the young Marshal possessed not a romantic bone in his body, it seemed somehow wrong to toss these tributes to his desirability in the waste so he kept them in the bottom side drawer of his desk. He gave each a perfunctory perusal before sliding them from desktop to drawer. He hardly glanced at the signatures or the loving messages scripted daintily on the cards. However, he had noticed an oddity about the Valentines, which disturbed his logical and practical mind. Cupid! Every card seemed to feature the little fellow with bow and arrow, in some cases the cherub looked like an angelic baby, sometimes a young boy or girl, other times he more resembled an aging devilish imp of non-specific gender. It appeared the greeting card industry could not agree on a cut and dried image for the armed winged love warrior.
* GUNSMOKE *
December and January had been plagued by a series of minor blizzards, which blew in off the plains and covered the prairies in white waves of drifted snow. A February thaw had come, melting the snow and turning the streets of town to mud. One farmer had been overheard to state his pigsty was a sight cleaner than Dodge City's Front Street. The fact it had been raining for the last two days did nothing to improve the quality of the main drag's appearance. It was a depressing sight and one, which failed to endear the town to the passengers of the morning stage as they slogged into the fabled Kansas cow metropolis.
"We'll be in Dodge about two hours folks. Delmonico's is across the street if you're hungry. Mercantile is a few stores down, if you need any supplies. Don't be late getting back on the stage or we'll pull out without you."
Four of the five passengers riding the crowded conveyance made their way across the street, the three gentlemen headed toward a saloon while the fourth, a prim, severely corseted woman in her forties scurried in the direction of the general store. The fifth passenger, a young woman with striking red hair stood firmly next the stage. She wore an azure blue velvet traveling suit, the hem caked with mud from a week's worth of wear. On her head was plopped a once elegant Gainsborough style hat, trimmed by two large ostrich feathers. In their damp state the feathers no longer curled attractively around the brim of the hat, but rather, hung limply in the girl's face. She took a gulp of air and blew the plumes out of her eyes. With her hand on a hip, she called up to the driver. "I'd like to take my bag with me."
"But lady, you don't want to drag your carpet bag all over town now do you?"
"Listen Mister, everything I own is in that satchel, I'm not about to risk having it get lost. Now, please just hand it to me."
Grumbling under his breath the driver handed the woman her bag, which she accepted with a less than gracious "thank you." Bag in tow, she started walking toward the restaurant. Starved half to death, she hoped she could fill the ache in her empty belly for less than the twenty cents she figured she could spare. The mud seemed possessed of its own malevolent mindset and half way across the street it grabbed her foot and would not let go. With the awkward weight of her carpet bag throwing her off balance, she turned her ankle in the mire. She let out a yelp of pain - halted abruptly by the sight of a farm wagon barreling in her direction, so despite the hurt she hobbled onward to the boardwalk.
Even from out side the restaurant she could smell the enticing aromas. She righted her clothing the best she could and adjusted the ostrich plumes on her hat and limped inelegantly into the busy dining hall. There was a small table toward the corner and this was where she sat down. She felt something akin to a drowned rodent who'd just escaped from a rat trap. Her ankle was already throbbing and only modesty of the day kept her from lifting her skirts to examine the damage. "Coffee, eggs and toast." She requested of the waiter when he at last came to her table.
* GUNSMOKE *
Once upon a time, Doc Adams had felt much the same as his youthful friend Marshal Dillon. However, as the years passed he had begun to second guess his life choices. Now, in his later years he often wondered what his life would have been like had he sought the comfort of a wife and family. It was too late for him, but there was still time for the lawman to alter his course. He had been giving this a great deal of thought as of late and even begun a sort of screening process for suitable applicants for the position. Of course he hadn't shared the nature of his mission with the Marshal, but the young man was beginning to suspect the Dodge City physician was up to something.
They were sitting at a side table in Delmonico's that morning, each going through their mail, coffee cups in hand as they waited for breakfast to be served. The lawman's post was significantly greater than the doctor's and as such the old man finished his task in short order. Being a creature of organization, Matt had formed three piles as he sorted through envelopes and Wanted Poster packets. It was the third pile which garnered the doctor's attention. He chuckled and scratched at his moustache before picking up the greeting cards.
"Lavonia Carter." He said and waited until Dillon looked up from the official U. S. Marshal Office mail he was reading.
"What about her?" Dillon asked with a scowl.
"You got a cupid card from her." Doc said as he studied the message.
"Humpf." Matt grunted.
"She's a pleasant sort." The medical man continued.
"She's got buck teeth and a flat chest."
"Her father has a growing ranch. A man could do worse." Adams waited for a moment to see if his comment had spurred an interest. He saw none and proceeded with the next card in the pile.
"Look at this one Matt, Evelyn Portzke. I don't think I've ever seen hand writing as perfect as that. She's smart too. Speaks Latin.
"The school marm?" Dillon questioned. "Teacher shouldn't be sending out those things. You'd think she'd have more sense than to waste her money like that."
Teeth as straight as a picket fence. She's a fine figure of a woman too, no flat chest on her Matt."
Dillon sighed, "She's got a cross eye and looks like she's expecting a blessed event."
The next card was from the enterprising young woman who operated the Scarlet Pillow, one of Dodge City's premier bordellos. Even the worldly physician raised his eyes as he scanned the inappropriate proposition scratched at the bottom of the card. Matt looked up from the letter he was reading. "Who's that one from?" He asked, observing the crimson blush on the M.D.'s face.
"Miss Lillee Ima Dillee." The doctor stated as he tossed the card into the reject pile.
Dillon grinned. "Nothing wrong with her figure. What did she have to say?"
"Just drumming up business, seems she's got a special going on this week."
Matt reached for the card, to read the details but the doctor diverted his attention. "Huey's coming with your flapjacks."
The little waiter's face was nearly obscured behind a tower of steaming pancakes.
Across the way the red haired young woman had been studying the pair for the past ten minutes. She was on her fourth cup of coffee and in need of a visit to the convenience. She also had a good idea the management of the establishment was getting ready to ask her to leave, as she had occupied the table far longer than eggs and toast deserved. However, to this young lady sitting in one place was a luxury she wasn't eager to forfeit.
She had been traveling by stage for over two weeks. Weather causing delays in the travel and putting a drain on her very limited resources. She had no destination in mind and was too tired to map out a future. No one looking at her would guess she had been the toast of San Francisco just a month earlier. Her gambling prowess and beauty had become legendary in just a short time, of course, it had also been her downfall. Now her expensive traveling suit was wearing thin in the elbows and in need of a good cleaning as was the rest of her. Her fine leather slippers, which had once been the best the bay area had to offer, were now crusted with mud both inside and out.
Fishing around in her handbag, she located a coin and placed it on the table. She stood up ready to leave. However, as she tried to put weight on her injured ankle, she yelped in surprised pain.
Being a medical man, Adams looked up from his oatmeal to the direction of the cry. A random burst of sunshine, the first in many a day, shown through the window and outlined the dirty beauty in a halo of light. Dillon looked up too. His eyes locked with the woman's for an instant, before he returned to his pancakes. The physician however rose to his feet to offer assistance.
"I'm a doctor young lady." He said coming up to her table. "May I help you?"
"Oh, it's nothing, nothing really. I turned my ankle walking across that darn muddy street." She was not given to using crude language except when tired and angry and today she was a little of both. "I'm sure it will be fine."
Adams was kind, it was part of an inherent bedside manner which took over whenever he was confronted with a medical situation or damsel in distress and today this young lady was both. "Why don't you let me be the judge of that. Come up to my office. I'll take a look at your foot, maybe wrap it up, be easier to walk that way. My name is Dr, Adams, but everyone calls me Doc."
"Well, I don't want to impose Dr. Adams and my stage is leaving shortly.
He smiled in such a warm and paternal way and after being on her own looking after herself for so long, the idea there was someone who cared what happened to her was too good to ignore. "Well," she hesitated for just a moment longer. "All right.
"Here, lean on me." The old man offered as she tried to put weight on the offending foot once again. The ankle gave way and she had to sit down abruptly to keep from toppling over. The doctor sat in the chair next to her and lifted the mud spattered skirt hem high enough to study the ankle in the flimsy shoe. It appeared to be on it's way to doubling in size.
Adams glanced across the way to where Dillon sat; working in a seemingly mindless fashion on his pile of pancakes. It astounded Doc that the big oaf did not seem aware of this lovely young woman or the circumstances of her plight. It suddenly came to him too, that in this young woman Matt Dillon might certainly meet his match.
"Where did you say you were headed young lady?" he asked.
"I didn't." She bit her lower lip before confessing, "I guess that's because I don't know. I'm just traveling hoping I'll know when I come to the right place to settle down before I run out of money."
"Well, it's my considered opinion that ankle of yours is badly sprained and is in no shape for travel, not for a while anyway. You rest here for a moment." Doc patted her hand and then left to return to his own table for a quick word with the Marshal.
Standing before him, Doc tugged at his ear before speaking. "Say Matt, we could sure use your help over there. That is, if you can tear yourself away from filling your face."
Wiping syrup from his lower lip with his napkin, Dillon looked up innocently and asked, "Sure, what is it?
"I need to get that girl up to my office, she's got a bad ankle and can't walk and I can't carry her."
"You want me to carry her? That hardly falls under the job description of U. S. Marshal."
The old man's voice reflected his crotchety exasperation. Neither does about twenty other things you do around this town, but that don't stop you. Now quit stalling and get over there and help that girl.
Dillon got up from the table with a grunt, "Well, all right but you can pay for breakfast.
Adams groused his replay, "I always do."
Sir Galahad could not have looked any more noble than did the tall lawman as he took off his hat and gave a nod of his head in front of the girl. "Ma'am, may I offer my assistance, name's Dillon, Matt Dillon."
She held out her hand to his and returned with a slight catch to her voice, "Kitty Russell, Mr. Dillon I'm afraid you find me at a disadvantage. Dr. Adams says I've sprained my ankle. It has swollen so badly, I can't walk on it."
Up close she was the prettiest thing he had ever seen. It was an uncommon beauty too, reddish curls framed a face characterized by fine bone structure, a dusting of freckles and brilliantly blue eyes. But it was her full red lips - so kissable that he nearly lost his train of thought and took his breath away. He ran a nevous tongue over his own. He who was never ill at ease in front of women, suddenly felt like a schoolboy.
He cleared his throat, "If you will allow me, I'll carry you up to Doc's office."
Without waiting for a reply, he picked her up from the chair. She was slender, but not petite, in fact she towered over many men, but in this man's arms she felt like a featherweight.
"Better get her bag Doc and don't forget the mail on the table." Matt directed and with Dillon and Miss Russell in the lead, the old man followed, grinning from ear to ear. Adams entered his office just as Dillon was placing the girl on the end of the exam table.
"Like I was saying ma'am, Ma Smalley has clean rooms and she charges half the price of the Dodge House."
"Thanks Cowboy." The redhead replied, "I'll keep that in mind."
"Come back in about half an hour Matt and you can escort Miss Russell to Ma's." The old man suggested. "Maybe this evening we can convince her to join us for dinner at Delmonico's "
Matt hadn't been aware he had a dinner date with the doctor, but was definitely agreeable to the prospect of having the red head as a table companion, especially when she smiled at him with those lovely red lips. He tipped his hat at Kitty and for the third time in less than an hour their eyes locked. This time the jolt hit him like the sting of a miniature arrow and it required an effort to pull himself away. As he did he caught the twinkle in Doc's eyes. "I'll …ah, I'll see you later." Dillon stammered, backing his way out of the room, he bumped into Doc's desk chair, nearly toppling it over. He righted the chair, tipped his hat again, smiled self-consciously, blushed, and made a hasty escape before he could embarrass himself further.
* GUNSMOKE *
In his own office, Matt Dillon poured himself a cup of coffee to steady his nerves. He wondered fleetingly at the cause and decided it must have to do with the fact he'd only consumed half of his daily nutritional requirement of flapjacks. That must have been it. Except, the thought of that pretty little thing in Doc's office kept popping up in his brain.
He organized his mail once again. A pile for official business, a pile for posters, a pile for the Valentines. He opened up his bottom drawer and was ready to push the new batch in with the old when the cupid on the top card caught his attention. The little guy looked vaguely familiar and Matt pulled out a pencil and began doodling on the picture, adding eyebrows, glasses and finally a small fringe of hair on his upper lip. The resemblance was uncanny and the lawman threw back his head and laughed. It came to him then, with only a touch of surprise. He knew the answer the greeting card manufacturers had yet to discover. The love king wasn't some chubby cheeked cherub flittering about on angelic wings. Heck no, he was a grumpy old geezer, who carried a medical bag and lived in Dodge City, Kansas and what's more, Cupid wore a moustache!