the Aftermath

Fan-fiction, not for profit.

The following fan fiction story is based on the Gunsmoke episode "The Hostage" (12/11/'72) written by Paul F. Edwards.

My very first attempt at writing fan fiction, the Aftermath, was originally written in spring of 1999, and could never have been accomplished with out the advise and encouragement of my good friend Bonnie.


"Every time you think of that woman-and what happened to her - you'll remember Virgil Bonner!"

The words echoed through Matt Dillon's head, until it was all he could think about. He picked up the report he'd been trying to write, crushed it into his fist, and threw it at the wastebasket in silent rage. He got up from his desk, walked to the window and stared out blindly at the street. Tension defined his body, like a rattler ready to strike. The problem was there was nothing to strike at - at least not for a man with a badge pinned to his chest.

Marshal Dillon was all badge, everyone knew that. He was of that particular breed of lawman who never let personal matters get in the way of doing his duty. Married to the job some called it, and he'd have been hard pressed not to agree. He'd pledged an oath more sacred than a sacrament. He'd sworn to preserve and protect, within the law. The law - a burning taste worked its way up the back of his throat and he tried to spit it away to no avail.

Jude Bonner's words had proven a curse. The very core of him was shaken, always a man of action, this was one crime Matt Dillon was helpless to resolve.

The jangle of Texas spurs on the boardwalk outside signaled Festus Hagen's approach, the door opened and closed. Dillon remained motionless, his face set in granite, his stare fixed. The deputy cautiously approached him. He went squinty eyed, trying to take a reading of the Marshal's mood before relaying his message, "Judge Brooker said he's ready to see you, Matthew ... whenever you're a mind to."

Dillon gave an unconscious wince before he pulled himself together. He answered with a nod.

When his circuit rounds brought him to the area, Judge Brooker's temporary chambers were in the Dodge House.

Howie, the desk clerk pulled his eyeglasses in place to watch as Dillon climbed the stairs to Brooker's private rooms. A thin balding man Howie was a longtime observer of town life. He reckoned he knew the comings and goings of the Dodge inner circle about as well as anyone. He didn't like what he saw now; he shook his head and muttered, "Tske, tske," before going back to his perusal of the latest copy of Century Illustrated magazine.

Judge Caleb T. Brooker was seated before a table in the middle of the room. The scattered papers and files in front of him included written documents pertaining to the case of the State of Kansas v. Jude Bonner. The Judge was busy writing, but looked up when the lawman entered. "Matt. Good to see you. How are you doing?" the older man asked as he studied Dillon's shadowed face.

"I've been better," Matt replied honestly.

"I understand. Let me assure you I'll do everything in my power to keep Miss Russell out of this trial. To that extent we will be holding the procedures in Hayes City."

A fraction of the tension left his body. One of his greatest concerns had been that not only would Kitty be forced to testify - worse still she would have had to endure the circus-like atmosphere a trial this sensational would attract.

"I've read your report and Dr. Adam's description of Miss Russell's injuries. I really have no further official questions." Matt nodded his thanks, and as he turned to leave the Judge asked, "How is she doing?"

He stopped in his tracks and turned to face the older gentleman. The sadness was so apparent in his eyes that the Judge frowned.

"She's recovering from her injuries - we almost lost her. She developed an infection and then pneumonia. But she's..." he couldn't finish the sentence. Kitty wasn't better. He felt like he was losing her more and more each day. He looked down at the Stetson in his hand, fingering the rim. He waited for the words to come but they wouldn't.

The Judge examined Matt for a moment, before looking back to the document in hand. Brooker's own memories of his late wife Sarah had been stirred by Kitty Russell's tragedy. He wanted to offer advice to the younger man, but he was afraid it wouldn't be welcomed. Dillon had always been such a private person when it came to his personal affairs. `Just as well,' the Judge decided, for even a brief reflection to his recollections was painful. In the end he said only, "Well ... these things take time, Matt. She's been through a lot."

"Yeah," Matt agreed. "Well, thank you Judge." He turned and left the room without another word.

The Judge stared at the closed door for a moment feeling the pang of his own deep emotional ache. The hurt, which had dulled over the years, had become acutely painful again. Reaching a decision, Brooker stood and put on his hat and grabbed his walking stick.

Dr. Galen Adams was sitting at his desk filling pills. It was a tedious job, which he detested and one that required his old eyes to strain with the effort. Nevertheless it fell to him to do. As he worked, he passed the time giving thought to his friends Matt and Kitty as they each tried to cope with Kitty's recovery. Knowing he had exhausted every medical tool available to him, the seasoned physician had decided to pay a call on Judge Brooker just as soon as he'd finished his chore. He figured between their two old brains they could perhaps come up with a fresh idea. He looked up over his spectacles when he heard the door open. "Why, Judge Brooker!" he said in surprise. "Come in! I've been planning on having a little talk with you. How about some coffee?"

As Doc poured the steaming coffee, the Judge eyed him sheepishly. "I suspect you know why I'm here Dr. Adams ... Doc?"

"You talked with Matt," he answered astutely.

Brooker nodded. "You might say we talked - although - neither one of us said what was on our mind. This kind of thing is hard to talk about. But I could tell from just one look - you know it's killing him." He paused and then added. "How well I remember."

"They're both struggling with this, Judge. In some ways this has been as hard on Matt as it is on Kitty. She's sinking into a deep depression and he's powerless to help her. He has always been there to rescue her - but not this time. If you could just talk to him about you and Sarah - how you finally found your way back to each other ... I think it would give him some hope."

"Like I said, Doc … it's hard to think about - much less talk about. But if you believe it will help. I'll give it a try." To the physician, the man's inner pain was audible in his voice.

An hour later Judge Brooker sat at the worn worktable in the U.S. Marshal's Office. He took a sip of the coffee Matt had offered him. Unlike Dr. Adams coffee, this brew had the consistency of something scraped off the Arkansas River bottom and undoubtedly tasted even worse. Dillon sat across from him, clutching his tin mug of coffee as if bracing himself for a blow. Both men sensed the other's discomfort and wished they were anywhere but where they were. They knew the words they were about to exchange would be as painful to say, as they were to hear. After an uneasy silence the Judge ventured, "Has Kitty talked about what happened?"

"No." Matt stood and moved towards the window with his back to the Judge. "She can't and I won't force her. I just want her to forget this ever happened, and go back to the way things were before …"

Both men were quiet and the silence was awkward as each waited for the other to say something. After several uncomfortable beats the Judge asked, "Do you remember Mrs. Brooker?"

He gave the Judge a quick glance before returning to his blank appraisal of Front Street, "Of course, Judge. She was a fine woman."

"I've never spoken about this to anyone - although it's not a secret what happened all those years ago - some ways it seems like it was just yesterday she was taken captive by those Sioux renegades - we searched for her for months. I thought I would lose my mind with the worry and hate I felt."

Matt Dillon gathered his courage and turned to face Brooker, feeling a new sense of kinship for what the other man had endured. The Judge ran a shaky hand over his eyes and then continued, "when we finally found her - well - Sarah wasn't the same. You see, what happened, what they did to her - it changed her. I remember she had nightmares that would send her screaming into my arms, only to discover she was in my arms. Seems that was the last place she wanted to be." He studied the coffee for a moment, "everything would be fine for one minute - and then out of the blue something would happen. She'd either hear something, or see something, and the whole thing would flash through her mind. She once told me there was no way she could escape what they done to her, it was always there." He paused again and swallowed hard. "She didn't want anything to do with me - that's for damn sure. It was like she was afraid of me. Afraid of me, for God's sake!" All these years later he still found it hard to understand. "For a long time - I just didn't know what to do. I walked on eggshells around her. Like you, I just wanted her to forget about it. I wanted to pretend it never happened. But, she couldn't forget and she couldn't pretend. Then it came to me - I decided maybe I should try courting her again, kind of like starting over - fresh."

"What are you saying?"

"I had to make her remember what it was like between us - before all of it happened -what we were like together. I had to make her ..." the Judge hesitated, trying to find a delicate way of explaining, "... want me as much as I wanted her." He turned and looked directly at Dillon. "Does that make any sense to you?"

Matt nodded, his eyes narrowed and some of the grief lifted from his face.

He stood at the swinging doors of the Long Branch Saloon. He knew right where she would be - always at the far end of the bar, her bookkeeping forming a fortress in front of her. `By golly, she's beautiful - but so thin now,' he thought. She reminded him of a statue he had seen once - hard and cold - nothing of the soft prettiness his mind and body craved. He wanted that Kitty back. She seemed to instinctively know he had entered the saloon, for she looked up. The smile on her face did not reach her eyes. It was her eyes, which told the real story. The fear seemed ever present in them.

"Hello Matt, can I buy a beer?" she asked as he approached her end of the bar. The scar on her cheek had faded, and she was expert enough with makeup to make it almost invisible, but he knew it was there, and it brought Virgil Bonner's prophecy back to mind.

"No thanks. I just wanted to let you know, I talked with Judge Brooker. The trial is going to be up in Hayes. There is more than enough evidence against Bonner, so there's no need for you to testify."

She breathed a sigh of relief, but said nothing. He noticed the strain in her body lessened. He decided it was time to implement Judge Brooker's advice - such as it was. "Kitty," he smiled. "How about a picnic? We could ride out to Silver Creek this afternoon. I'll stop by Delmonico's and have them pack a basket?"

"I don't know. I have a lot to catch up on here," Excuses, she had a lot of excuses lately.

"Look, Kitty - I'm not going to make any demands on you. It'll just be a nice picnic - a chance to get out a little and enjoy the sunshine," he coaxed.

She shook her head and retreated a step, "No, I don't feel up to it. Maybe some other time." Her spine straightened slightly in defiance.

Matt leaned forward on the bar and looked squarely into her eyes. "I'm not taking "no" for an answer, This will do you good ... and I promise ... you don't even have to talk to me if you don't want to."

For every relationship there is a special place - a safe haven, where lovers go to relive the past, enjoy the present and look towards the future. For Matt and Kitty, Silver Creek was that sanctuary.

The late summer day was beautiful; the kind from which memories are formed. He had brought the fishing poles and so the two of them sat in silence on the blanketed bank of Silver Creek, each with their own thoughts.

Matt recalled the sweetness of the first picnic they had shared, He remembered the blue ribbon she had tied in her hair, and how he had taken it from her. He knew she would be surprised to know he still had that ribbon.

He smiled broadly at the thought.

The memories running through Kitty's mind were not sweet, for it had been a day just like this two months earlier when she had lay on the ground trying to fight off the Dog Soldiers. Just the thought of it made her flesh crawl and she fought to suppress the urge to scream.

Matt was true to his word. He made no demands and gradually, he felt her hard contours soften. They hadn't had so much as a nibble on their hooks, but Dillon didn't care. He had Kitty beside him and for now - that was enough. The bite on her line took them both by surprise. He offered advice, "Work the line, Kitty! Easy … easy … that's it, now pull him in!" The big catfish was a warrior and Matt finally jumped into the creek with the net in hand and captured the fish. "By golly! You caught a real prize, Doc and Festus `ill be jealous!"

She watched as the fish struggled desperately for life. "Let him go, Matt," she ordered.

"But Kitty, he's a real keeper!" Matt reasoned.

Trapped by the net, the fish continued it's thrashing about and it matched the struggle going on within Kitty Russell's soul. She grabbed his arm, "Matt, please..." she begged.

He glanced at her. She was growing more agitated and he wondered what was going on in her mind. "It's just a fish …" he tried to pacify,

Something inside her snapped, "I said let him go!" she shouted.

He stared at her. It was as though he no longer knew this woman. He released the catch. As the freed fish swam away, Kitty turned and walked back to the buggy. "I want to go home," she said simply. She sat stiffly silent on the ride back, making sure her body was as far from his as the carriage seat would allow. At the door of the Long Branch she said, "Thanks for trying, Matt." She walked away and up to her room. No one saw her the rest of the day.