"Kitty, where are you, Kitty?"
Bolting awake, I realized that I had been dreaming. The subject of my dream lay curled up next to me so why was I imagining she was gone. Images so real that I reached out to make sure she was indeed there. I needed the feel of her soft silky skin close to me to relieve my troubled mind. Thankfully, she didn't awaken. I didn't want to have to explain how upset I was over a vision.
It was almost dawn so I decided I had better get up. I hated leaving, but didn't want anyone seeing me coming down the back stairs. Rounds and paper work needed to be done before our breakfast at eight. Dressing quickly, I leaned over kissing her lightly then headed for the door. Looking back I saw a smile on her lips as she rolled over hugging my pillow. I smiled myself remembering the passion from just a few hours earlier.
I picked Kitty up around eight and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast together without any interruptions which was a miracle.
"Cowboy, how is it you slipped out without me knowing this morning."
"I guess I wore you out last night, Red."
"I know you did, mister, but I am not complaining. It sure was nice." Kitty said looking around to make sure no one was listening. "Hope you have a little energy left for your work today."
"You don't have to worry about that, ma'am. I have plenty of energy and more for what lies ahead tonight, if the lady is willing."
"Oh, she's willing, looking forward to it as a matter of fact. I have a few plans of my own for you. You may be the one needing an afternoon nap." She laughed.
As we walked back to the Long Branch, I had trouble keeping my eyes off of my beautiful lady. The nightmare images were still fresh in my head and I constantly needed to know Kitty was okay.
"Why do you keep looking at me, Matt? Did I grow horns or something? I noticed you doing the same thing in Delmonico's."
"Can't a guy look at his gorgeous lady? You sure are beautiful, Kit. That's why I can't take my eyes off of you."
I leaned over and whispered in her ear. "I love you, lady. You make me hot just looking at you."
Kitty just looked at me and grinned.
"Same here, handsome."
I left her at the door of the Long Branch with the promise of seeing her later in the afternoon. I headed back to the jail to talk to Festus and then was headed out to the Rawling's ranch to check on possible cattle rusting. I really didn't think there was anything to it, but needed to check it out anyway. I felt nervous leaving town. I still had uneasy feelings about Kitty. This badge was starting to become a nuisance lately especially when it came between me and my lady. I never thought I would have those thoughts, but they were coming more often particularly when I had to leave town. I was giving some real thought to our someday as Kitty put it. I was thinking it would come sooner than later.
When I got back into town shortly after noon, I went straight to the Long Branch. I stopped at the batwing doors and was looking for a certain redhead. Sam was behind the bar talking with Doc, but I saw no signs of Kitty.
"Well, if it isn't our overgrown civil servant gracing us with his presence."
"Doc, is that all you have to do? Here it is the middle of the afternoon and you're standing at the bar."
"I came looking for a lovely lady, but she seems to be out at the moment."
"That beautiful lady happens to be spoken for, Doc."
I think my statement surprised Doc, but he just smiled and said nothing. Sam grinned too at what I said. Both men were well aware of mine and Kitty's relationship and I knew what was seen and heard by them would not go any farther.
"So, Kitty isn't around."
"No, marshal, I am not sure where she is. She went back to her office to do some bookwork. That was shortly after she returned from breakfast. When I went back to tell her Doc was here, she wasn't in there. I checked the cellar and her room, but didn't find her."
My thoughts turned to the nightmare of the early morning hours, but quickly put it out of my mind and told myself there was nothing to the dream. She probably just slipped out for a few minutes and didn't bother to tell anyone. She didn't do it often, but it wasn't uncommon for her to do it either. If she were here, she would say "I'm a big girl and I can take care of myself and chide us for worrying."
"Where have you been Matt?" asked Doc.
"I had to ride out and check out some rumors about cattle rustling, but there was nothing to it. "
Even though she hadn't been seen since midmorning, I wasn't too worried. I waited about fifteen minutes and decided I had better get back to the jail and finish my paperwork.
"Sam, tell Kitty when she gets back that I was in and that I will be back around suppertime to take her to Delmonico's."
Over the next few hours, I got called to the Lady Guy for a shooting over a saloon girl. Thankfully no one was hurt. The shot had gone into the ceiling, so I just ran the cowboys out of town. After that, it was just a series of little things popping up that kept me busy and by the time I got back to the Long Branch it was after seven. I figured Kitty would be plenty mad at me for being over an hour late.
For the second time that day, I walked up to the swinging doors and looked over them for Kitty. Again, she was nowhere in sight.
Entering, I walked over to the bar where Doc and Sam stood talking. The place was quiet for a change with only one table of poker and a few men scattered here and there drinking with Kitty's girls.
I could see both men were in an excited discussion as I walked up.
"What's going on Doc?"
"Matt, Kitty still hasn't shown up. I just came back from visiting a patient expecting to find her here, but Sam hasn't seen her. I am really starting to worry. She wouldn't just leave and not tell anyone if she was going to be gone long."
"Marshal, it has been busy in here up until just about thirty minutes ago. Since I was the only one here, I couldn't get away to come tell you. I guess I should have sent someone for you, but I didn't."
"Sam, that's okay. I have been busy myself until just a few minutes ago. Have you checked her room and office again?"
"Yes, but nothing has changed."
"Did Kitty say anything about going somewhere?"
"No, when she came back from having breakfast with you she was smiling and said she was going to her office to work. She still had last night's receipts to count and prepare for a deposit."
With what Sam had to say, I headed toward her office. As I walked through the door, my gaze went to her desk. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Her pen was lying on the desk, but the ledgers and cashbox were nowhere to be seen. I assumed they were in the safe. Just then, Sam and Doc entered the office.
"Sam, could you open the safe for me. I want to see if the cashbox is there."
Sam did as I asked and there it was. I asked Sam to count the money knowing he would be aware of the amount from last night's receipts.
"The money is all here, marshal. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
"No, Sam, that's about it for now. I think I will go up and check Kitty's rooms."
I took the back stairs two at a time and used my key to enter Kitty's suite. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She was meticulous about how she kept her rooms. Everything was in its place with no sign of search or struggle. Her clothes were all there. I was baffled as to where she could be or where to begin looking.
Coming back down the backstairs, I thought back to the night before and to our conversations this morning both at breakfast and on the walk back to the Long Branch. Kitty hadn't mentioned anything about going visiting. In fact, with the little innuendos we had both made, I knew we were in for another night of passion. So where was she?
I went back into her office and then I noticed something I had missed earlier. On the shelf next to her desk lay her reticule and on the floor was the hat she had on this morning. I knew immediately that something was terribly wrong, because she would have never gone anywhere willingly without either.