Reversal of Fate
I don't own these characters; I just like to spend time with them. No other profit to be had than that.
Author's Note: This follows the Season 15 episode 'Chato', original air date 09/14/1970. Written by Paul F Edwards, Directed by Vincent McEveety. I have used dialogue from the episode, in some cases verbatim, and in some cases slightly altered. A lot of the action from the episode is also described here.
Matt's head jerked up. That was Kitty's voice. Looking across the vast expanse of sand and rock he saw nothing in these untamed mountains of New Mexico, but he knew she was there. Somewhere. But how? She was supposed to be home, safe, in Dodge.
"Matt!" She called again. "Please Matt!"
He scanned the area around him. There above him, just behind some rocks, he caught a flash of red, then black. Chato stood up, pulling Kitty out in front of him. "You give me your guns, Lawman, agree to go home, and your woman can go with you."
Matt shook his head. Still not understanding how Kitty got out there, or how Chato had gotten a hold of her. It didn't matter though. Somehow, Matt had to get Kitty back and Chato under arrest.
Matt saw Kitty looking back behind him as though she saw something frightening. "Matt, look out behind you!" she suddenly screamed for his safety.
Matt glanced behind him, curious as to what Kitty was looking at. Hikirias! Whirling around, he threw himself to the ground and began firing at the riders, as they fired back. Dimly he was aware that Chato was firing as well, and wondered exactly who he was firing at.
When the last rider fell, Matt regained his feet and spun back around. His heart came to a stand still. Kitty was lying on the ground, Chato at her side. A bright red stain standing out starkly, against the white shirtwaist she had on. "Chato!" he screamed raising his rifle, certain that the man had shot Kitty.
But before Matt could even take aim, Chato had his rifle aimed squarely at Matt's heart. "I did not shoot her, Lawman. But she is hurt bad. She needs medicine."
"Let me have her Chato." Matt yelled. "I'll get her to a doctor."
Chato shook his head; his rifle did not move an inch. "No Lawman," he said. "Without my help, you can not leave this place. The Hikiria's would kill you before you got anywhere near the medicine she needs."
Matt stood still for a moment, realizing the renegade was right. He lowered his rifle but did not drop it. "What do you have in mind?" he asked. His gaze returning to Kitty's pale face, as she lay there bleeding into the rocky ground.
"I will help you get through this land, help you take her to the medicine. You give me your gun, and agree to go home once she is safe. Okay, Lawman?"
Matt considered his options and realized with Kitty's life at stake, he had none. "Alright," he finally agreed, "but if she doesn't make it, if she dies, all bets are off. You understand me, Chato? I will come back after you if she dies."
Chato looked at the grievously wounded woman then back at her man. "It is agreed."
They traveled some distance, Kitty sitting behind Matt, holding onto him with what little strength she had. Matt reined in when he felt her grasp of his arm weaken. "How far is it to the river?" he asked.
"We will be there by dawn." Chato answered, glancing at the wounded woman leaning against the law man's back and shivering despite the heavy blanket wrapped around her.
"We'll have to cross it to get her to the Ansonia station." Matt said, as he gently reached for her hand and held it tightly against him.
Chato thought about that. "To cross the river is not easy there. The Hikiria will be fast, they know we can not cross by day. But there is a place. If we come there unseen, we will be safe and your woman can rest."
Matt nodded and kicked his horse into a trot, following Chato as he led the way.
They rode further up into the mountains, and further away from the river, but for some reason Matt trusted Chato. He had a sense about the man. Chato really wasn't as blood thirsty as his reputation portrayed him.
Chato finally pulled to a stop. "Up there," he pointed to a cave set back into the mountain. "We can stay there until dark."
Matt nodded as Chato dismounted and came up beside him, reaching out to take Kitty from him, so that he could dismount.
Matt relinquished her for only as long as it took to reach the ground, before pulling her back into his strong arms and carrying her briskly into the cave.
Chato turned to the horses and pulled off Matt's bedroll, saddlebags, and canteens. Depositing them at the mouth of the cave, he looked up when Matt came to claim them. "I will be back in a moment. I need to hide the horses."
Matt nodded and went back into the cave. Gently he lifted Kitty's head, and placed his bedroll under it for a pillow.
Kitty was conscious, but he could see she was in a great deal of pain. She reached for Matt's hand. "I'm sorry for yelling like that, Matt." She said. "But I was afraid."
Matt shook his head. "Your warning saved me." He said, as he took her hand in his, softly stroking it with his thumb.
"Chato." She pressed. "He's smart. Strong. He could kill you."
Matt tenderly kissed her forehead and brushed a strand of her hair back. He was amazed at how she was afraid for him, when she was the one hurt and in pain. "Don't worry, honey. You sleep. Tonight we're gonna get you to a doctor."
Kitty looked sadly up at him. "Matt, if I should die…."
"Sshh…" he calmed her. "You will not die, Kitty. You won't die. You just close your eyes and sleep. It's going to be alright."
Kitty nodded and settled back against the bedroll, but she remained awake, watching him.
Matt finally left her side and went to stand beside Chato, at the mouth of the cave. A brief conversation and they settled on a plan. They would leave at dark, and try to make it across the river. It would not be easy, and they still stood a chance of being shot, but there was no other way.
Matt offered to take the first watch. Chato nodded and disappeared back into the cave, kneeling beside the woman with hair of fire. "How bad is it?" He asked.
She ignored the question and but looked up earnestly at him. "Chato, listen to me." She said urgently. "You won't break your word to Matt, will you? He trusted you, for me. For my sake he has given you his life. Please don't betray him."
Chato nodded. "He has my word. But when you are safe, he must leave. If he does not, I will kill him."
Kitty swallowed hard and nodded. "Then I hope I don't die. If I don't, he won't come back here."
"I hope not as well." Chato said. "For all of our sakes."
Matt was standing down a ways from the cave, trying for any glimpse of the bandits that he knew was there, when he heard the sound of moccasined feet, softly approaching.
Chato was there. "It is time. I will get the horses. You should wake her now."
Matt nodded, and turned to walk back to the cave.
Matt looked back at Chato, just as he tossed Matt's rifle to him as well as Matt's handgun.
"You might need these, Lawman." Chato said, pivoted, then walked away.
Matt understood Chato's meaning. They would be parting ways as soon as they crossed the river. Whether Kitty lived or died, the next time the two men saw each other, it would be looking over the barrel of a gun. He turned again and went into the cave.
Kneeling beside Kitty, he gently called her name, caressing her cheek, until she opened her eyes and looked over at him. "Kitty, it's time now. We're going to leave, and get you to a doctor."
Kitty blinked back tears as she looked at Matt. "I'm afraid Matt." She whispered. "Why did this have to happen? It's so hard."
Matt gently thumbed away the tears that had escaped. "Don't be afraid, Honey. It'll be alright."
She turned her head away for a moment. Matt carefully pulled her up into his embrace, brushing her forehead with his lips. "What ever happens, Kitty." He told her. "Remember this. We're together, and that's all that matters."