Disclaimer - I didn't invent nor do I own these characters. I make no profit from them. I just like to make up stories.

Dodge City - Nighttime in Long Branch Saloon

Matt Dillon sat by himself at a table in the back of the saloon drinking a beer. He was watching an argument take place among 3 men who were standing at the bar. The argument was starting to escalate. He rose, thinking it had gone far enough and in three strides was standing by the men. He looked at one of them -

"Larry, I am really tired of you going into saloons and getting into arguments, riling people up and making threats."

"Aw Marshal Dillon, I ain't doing any harm."

Dillon picked the man up by the collar with two hands, unceremoniously carried him to the bat wing doors and tossed him out. "Larry, stay out of bars for the rest of the night. If you come back tomorrow behave yourself."

Matt walked back in and looked at the two other men. They looked at each other and without saying another word, quickly went back to their drinks.

Kitty had descended the stairs and was watching. She walked over to Matt, "You were a little hard on him, weren't you Cowboy?"

Matt shrugged, "I'm just tired of having to keep an eye on him in one saloon or another night after night. Maybe getting tossed will teach him a lesson."

Kitty smiled a little, "Hard day Marshal?"

Matt didn't smile back, "No harder than most. Kitty, I have to make rounds, I'll see you later." He turned and walked out the doors as Kitty watched him leave, puzzling over what was going on in his mind.

Much later that night, after the Long Branch had closed for business, Matt took the back stairs up to Kitty's rooms, and entered the bedroom he usually shared with her. She was already asleep, and he was very careful not to wake her. He slid into bed beside her. She stirred slightly but didn't wake. Matt found himself staring at the ceiling for hours before finally falling asleep.

The Next Morning

It was early morning, and Matt and Kitty were having breakfast at Delmonico's.

Kitty was chatting animatedly about the latest gossip when she noticed that Matt seemed not to be listening, "Matt, is something wrong? You've hardly said a word all morning."

Matt didn't answer, so Kitty tried again shaking his forearm. "Matt did you hear me? I asked you if something was wrong?"

Matt looked up sharply, "Kitty, I'm sorry. No, no nothing's wrong." He squeezed her arm looked into her eyes, "Really, nothing is wrong."

Just then Barney rushed over to the table, "Got a telegram for you Marshal."

Matt read the message, folded it and put it in his pocket, "Kitty, looks like I'm going to have to ride out this morning. Will you walk me to the stable?"

They finished breakfast and walked silently to the stable. Matt saddled his horse. "Kitty, I'll probably be gone a week or more, and I might not get to a town with a telegraph office."

Kitty help her face neutral, "Be careful cowboy."

Matt nodded, "I always am. See you later."

He mounted and rode off. Kitty watched until he was out of sight. As she walked back to the Long Branch she thought about Matt's behavior over the last few days. He seemed so preoccupied and distant. Over the years they had gotten into the habit of telling each other anything and everything, but Kitty had gotten the feeling that for the past few days, Matt wasn't telling her what was on his mind. She couldn't figure it out. She sighed. When he got back, she'd get him to tell her what was bothering him.

Five Days Later

Kitty, Doc and Festus were sitting at a table in the Long Branch.

Doc looked around, "Things have sure been quiet around here. It's always good to have a quiet spell when Matt's out of town."

Festus looked indignant, "Hold on thar Doc. I can take care a things when Matthew's out of town. Iffin I couldn't ole Matthew wouldn't leave me in charge."

Doc ignored Festus, "Kitty, Matt's been gone for five days, have you heard from him at all?"

"No Doc, but he said he probably wouldn't be getting near a telegraph office." She paused and thought before asking, "Doc, Festus - did either of you notice anything strange about Matt before he left – I mean for a few days before he left."

Doc rubbed his mustache before responding, "To tell you the truth Kitty, I didn't notice anything, but now that I think of it I wasn't seeing much of him. I guess we were both must have been busy."

"What about you Festus?"

"Well, Miss Kitty, he's been looking a tad tired to me, but nothing other than that. Why'd ya ask?"

Before Kitty could answer, Burke burst into the Long Branch, "Here's a telegram for you Festus. It's from the Marshal. Doc here read it." He thrust it into Doc's hands.

Doc took the telegram and read aloud, "To Festus Haggin. Resigned my position. Marshal Peter McMann to arrive as replacement. From Matt Dillon.

There was total silence at the table as everyone sat in total shock. Finally Doc broke the silence, "Burke, this is it? Didn't anything else come?"

Burk was as shocked as the rest of them, "Doc, that was it. I asked Barney three times."

Festus banged his hand on the table, "I jus don't believe it, I jus can't believe it. Matthew wouldn't just up an quit like that. What do you think Miss Kitty?"

Kitty stood up visibly shaken, "I don't know Festus, I just know something has been bothering Matt, really bothering him, and he hasn't been talking about it. It's late. I'm going upstairs."

Kitty went up to her rooms remembering how uncommunicative Matt had been the days before he left. Clearly he had something on his mind that he wasn't telling her. She always thought that when Matt finally resigned from his job, she'd be part of the picture, a big part of his life. Now she didn't know what to think.

Doc sat downstairs in the Long Branch staring at the telegram, reading the 10 word message over and over.