Yes, a rather quick update, I know! I'm going to have a very busy weekend, so I have to supply y'all with some Blood Trail before that weekend happens. And for those of us in the U.S. and Canada, just a few short days until Devil's Cherry!
Luther, Minelli, and Peter went to bury the body, lifting the charred remains from the still too warm spot on the ground and carrying it out of the wagon circle. Amanda, Grace, Summer, and a few other young women tended the minor burns of Madeline, Craig, Dumar, and Tobias, who were near the wagon when it exploded. Bertram stood near them, looking suspiciously at the injured pioneers.
"Does he think that one of them did it?" Teresa asked, cocking her head.
Jane shook his head slowly. "I don't know…though it would have to be someone who was near the wagon."
"Madeline?" Teresa said, raising an eyebrow.
As if in answer to her question Bertram addressed his servant. "Didn't you tell me that Johnson threatened your girl, Maddie?" he asked.
"He did," Madeline said, smiling at Amanda as the girl quietly finished wrapping her hand. "He told me that he thought Mimi shouldn't be on the trail without a father or a husband and he was fixing to make himself the latter."
"She's a child," Grace said, a hand on Craig's. Teresa raised an eyebrow a fraction. Being engaged was definitely making her daughter feel grown up.
Madeline's eyes flashed. "I know."
"You were probably angry enough to…say…" Bertram folded his arms. "…let his wagon go up in flames?"
Madeline folded her arms in the same way. "Hardly."
"Well, I certainly didn't do it," Dumar said, spitting into the dirt.
"Craig didn't do it, that's for sure," Grace said, clinging to his arm.
"You've got to be kidding me," Tobias said. "Me or her? I'm thirty years old and been a law abiding citizen all my life. I didn't set fire to nobody."
"I've never broken a law either," Madeline said. "I was angry at Johnson, it don't mean I killed him. He was prowling around asking if anyone of us knows about Red John. Maybe someone does, and they killed him to keep him quiet."
"Did you know about that?" Teresa asked Jane.
"I might have been the one to give him the idea."
"Jane!" She hissed. "You can't send people to do your bidding like that."
"Oh please," Jane said. He looked around, then took his wife's wrist and led her away from the group. "The man didn't look shocked when we found that body, clearly he knew about it, but he was uncomfortable enough when discussing it the next day that while he knows Red John Bandit, he isn't very high up in his circle of friends. But there is another friend in this group, one that is. I simply made him a bit paranoid, so he'd go looking around. And now he has."
"And now he's dead," Teresa said.
"Let's not play cop, Teresa," Jane said.
"He's dead and Madeline is being blamed for it," Teresa snapped. "They'll hang her high come noon tomorrow if we don't figure out who is actually doing this. And I know you're fine with catching Red John and his friends at any point down the road, but Madeline needs us now."
"Carbon Monoxide," Jane repeated.
"Carbon Monoxide," Jane said again. "That's what Johnson said right before he died."
"He's a chemist," Teresa said. "Chemists…like that stuff."
"Or it's a clue," he said. "A clue as to who killed him."
Before going to their tent for the night, Teresa made sure that each of her children had a gun. "Hang tight to these," she said. "If anyone crawls in here in the night that isn't me or Jane, shoot them. I don't care who it is. Understood?"
"Yes," the boys chorused. Grace, sleeping in her brothers' tent that night for safety, took her own gun quietly and nodded.
Teresa crawled into the tent and laid down near her husband. "This is more dangerous than I thought it would be," she said. "And we're not even at the bad part of the trail yet."
"No, we're not," Jane said quietly.
Teresa put a hand to her forehead and sighed. "I know Madeline didn't do it. She would kill for her children, but she wouldn't set someone on fire. She'd guard her children like a bear and when someone came near them, she'd shoot them. Or stab them. She wouldn't light them on fire while they slept." She tilted her head. "Would you agree?"
"Oh yes," Jane said. "She's not that type."
"God, Jane," she said, her voice sounding almost pained. "That 'trial' that they say they're giving her in the morning…it's just a formality. They'll string her up from that tree before breakfast is over. And there's nothing we can do."
They lay in silence for a while. Teresa stared up at the darkness. Between her husband forgetting her, the brutal confirmation that Red John was indeed ahead of them on the trail, the realization that Red John had friends following him in this train, and the stress of her friend's almost certain death, and the overall wear on her body and mind from the trail itself, her stress levels had been high recently. Her mind hadn't stopped racing in nearly a week, and it was exhausting her, but not in a way that she could sleep.
"Are you going to sleep tonight?"
"Hmm," he said, giving a short laugh. "Not likely."
Her hand moved from her stomach to hit the back of it against his shoulder. "Then get over here and distract me."
He was still for a moment or two, and then she heard him exhale and roll on his side, scooting closer to her. He leaned over, put an arm on either side of her, and kissed her on the mouth. "Just after giving Grace the speech on being careful on the journey?" he whispered, sounding somewhat amused.
"The danger is much greater for Grace," Teresa said.
As Teresa predicted, people began to gather for Madeline Hightower's 'trial' before sunup. Teresa went to him and asked if she and Grace could take Hightower to the small river running a quarter mile south of their camp so she could wash up. After a moment's hesitation, he agreed. Craig opted to go with them, saying that if Hightower was a murderer, he did not want his girlfriend and her mother alone with her.
Teresa's belief that Madeline was innocent was shared by some of the people in the camp, though none seemed thrilled about placing the blame on any of the other suspects. Jane sat near the oxen, Teresa's sons near him, thinking about what Johnson had said. Carbon Monoxide. It had to be a clue. Jane was not familiar with chemistry, but he know that Carbon Monoxide was made with Carbon and Oxygen, and that it was discovered nearly fifty years earlier. None of the suspects were near fifty, and Hightower was probably the nearest to that anyway.
Kimball noticed Summer walking around near her grandfather's wagon and got up, a hand on his back, and walked toward her. Wayne was aimlessly drawing in the sand, a wagon with an oddly shaped ox in the front. He labled it "WM".
Jane jumped to his feet, fear finding him and consuming him in a split second. He ran for the opening in the wagon train, Wayne on his heels shouting what was wrong.
"Patrick Jane!" Minelli scolded when two of his cows spooked at the running man. "What in the devil is wrong with you?"
"The words," he said, his voice not sounding like himself, "Johnson said 'Carbon Monoxide.' C.O. C.O is the abbreviation," he panted. "Johnson was telling us who murdered him. C.O. Craig O'Laughlin. He couldn't say it because O'Laughlin was there. Madeline Hightower didn't murder him." Jane looked south, where, out of sight, his wife and his step daughter, as well as another innocent woman, were alone with the man who had set Johnson on fire. He stumbled forward, gaining momentum and picking up the pace. "It was Craig O'Laughlin." He looked behind him; Wayne was hot on his heels and Minelli was making a break for Bertram's wagon. "Craig O'Laughlin!"
So as you can see, this is a storyline on the show that can't go down the same way that it did in canon, being one hundred and sixty years earlier. But I'm making it as close as I can while still laying groundwork for the future chapters.
Hope you enjoyed it, and as usual, I love reviews!