I don't own these characters; I just like to spend time with them. No other profit to be had.
Matt walked into the courtroom, back stiff and head held high. He wasn't sure what would take place in court today but he felt it important that he maintain a calm outward appearance of strength.
Sitting down at the defendants table, he took his hat off and carefully laid it on the table in front of him, keeping his eyes forward and his expression neutral.
A nameless, faceless man came in and sat down next to Matt. It was his attorney. Matt was fairly certain, the man, whose name he couldn't quite remember, was no more pleased to be at the table than Matt was.
A door to the left opened and twelve men filed in, sitting down in the chairs provided for them. The jury was no more his peers than the prosecution. But they were there, sworn to listen and give a fair verdict, based on the testimony.
Another door opened and the judge came in. "All Rise!" The bailiff cried.
All in the room rose in respect as the judge completed his entry and sat down behind the bench.
"Be seated," the bailiff cried again.
All in the room took their seats.
"We are here today," the judge intoned from his lofty seat, "to hear the case against Matthew Dillon in respects to his actions regarding one Kathleen Russell."
Matt's face drained a little of its color at the mention of her name.
"Mr. Prosecutor, are you ready to begin?" The judge asked the fleshy man seated to the right in the courtroom.
"I am, Your Honor," the prosecutor answered.
"You may begin," the judge informed him.
The balding, pot-bellied man with a wisp of hair on both his head and chin stood up, chins giggling and flab rolling as he waddled to the front of the courtroom and turned and faced the jury.
"Gentlemen of the Jury," he began in a loud obnoxious voice. "Matthew Dillon is by all regards and to everyone who knows him, a stellar lawman who has always upheld the law honorably. Even outlaws that have come up against him, and lived anyway, would tell you that Marshal Matthew Dillon is a paragon of decency and forthrightness when it comes to his job."
The heavily jowled head turned then and stared straight at Matt, a look of contempt on his face. "However, Gentlemen," he continued, "you are not here to determine how good he was in his job. The task before you today is much weightier, much more important. Today you have been charged with determining how good Matthew Dillon was as a man, more specifically Kathleen Russell's man."
A murmur spread across the courtroom as the spectators listened to the prosecutor and stared at the back of Matt's now bowed head. The judge banged loudly with his gavel several times before regaining control and silencing the room.
"You may call your first witness," the judge notified the prosecutor.
"I have but one witness, Your Honor." The prosecutor said with the hint of a smile on his piggish face. "I call Matthew Dillon to the stand."
A roar went up in the gallery and once again, the judge banged his gavel until at last he had acquired quiet in the room.
Matt stood up and walked slowly to the witness stand, refusing to meet the gaze of anyone in the room. Raising his right hand he solemnly swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help him God. Finally he took his seat as his eyes rested on an empty seat directly behind the one he just recently occupied. The one Kitty would normally have been sitting in.
"Now, Mr. Dillon," the prosecutor drew his attention away from the vacant chair. "As I said in my opening remarks, there is no question as to your abilities as a lawman, so I will not ask you many questions in regards to your career. However there are a few things that I believe are important for the jury to know."
Matt gave him a level stare, displaying no emotion.
"You have been a lawman now for several years, have you not?" the prosecutor asked as he paced in front of the witness stand.
Matt nodded. "Yes."
"And during that time you have racked up an impressive list of arrests and kills in the line of duty."
"Have you ever shirked your duty, Marshal? For anything? Anyone?"
"No," the prosecutor repeated rather gleefully. "So you don't deny that there were times you missed occasions, special to Miss Russell, in order to attend to your duties as a US Marshal?"
"No, I don't deny it." Matt answered dismally.
The prosecutors grin widened as he nodded his head. "Moving on," he said making sure to maintain eye contact with as many jurors as possible. "You and Miss Russell have been 'friends' for some time now, haven't you?"
"More than friends?"
Matt hesitated, his natural inclination towards secrecy concerning his private life warring with his oath to tell the truth. "Yes" he finally answered.
"In fact," the prosecutor droned on, "you have a sexual relationship with Miss Russell, do you not?"
Matt's face reddened but he nodded. "Yes."
"But you and Miss Russell are not married. Am I also correct in that?"
"No, we are not married."
"Was that your choice or hers?"
Matt hesitated again. "Mine"
"And was it your idea or hers that your relationship remain a secret?"
"How about the decision to keep things on a non-committed basis? In other words, you and she, despite your physical relationship, are free to go when and where you wish and with whom you wish. That your idea as well?"
"In fact, all of the decisions made in your relationship with Miss Russell were yours, is that not true?"
"Did Miss Russell want to marry you?"
"She never said," Matt answered truthfully, though he knew what she wanted.
The prosecutor recognized the tactic for what it was. "Would she have said yes, if you had of asked?"
"You would have to ask her?" Matt glared at the man. He noticed his defense attorney wasn't doing much so far in the way of defense but he wasn't surprised. In his heart he wasn't sure he had a defense.
The prosecutor smiled, aware he was pushing the big man and intending to do more. "Now, on May 6 of this year you were asked to escort a young woman to Hays City, is that true?"
"Did you agree?"
"Not at first."
The prosecutor turned and looked rather puzzled at Matt. "Why, Mr. Dillon? Was there something wrong with this young woman? I believe her name was Sheila Murray."
"No," Matt answered. He had an idea where this was leading.
"Then why did you say no?"
"Her request was not exactly within the realm of duties of a US Marshal." Matt answered simply.
"Not exactly? The truth of the matter is, they weren't at all part of your duties, were they, Mr. Dillon?"
"Did you have other plans for this period of time?"
"Tentative plans, yes."
The prosecutor grinned and looked squarely at Matt, unflinching in his gaze. "Plans with Miss Russell?"
"And yet, regardless of the fact that escorting Miss Murray wasn't your job, and you had plans to spend time with Miss Russell, you eventually went ahead and went with Miss Murray to Hays City. Is that correct?" The prosecutor's voice rose in volume.
"Yes," Matt answered quietly.
"What was Miss Russell's response, Mr. Dillon? Did she willingly agree that you should go?"
Matt shook his head, remembering their argument over the subject. "No," he spoke softly.
"She was in fact quite upset that you were breaking off plans with her in order to be with another woman, wasn't she? She was jealous and demanded that you stay with her and ignore Miss Murray. She demanded your undivided attention regarless of all else. Correct?" His voice got louder and more insistent with each word.
"No!" Matt's head came up with the volume of his voice. He wasn't about to let this pig of a man cast Kitty in a poor light. "It's true she didn't want me to go, but it had nothing to do with jealously, or even breaking off plans with her. She…" he broke off, remembering how she had pleaded with him to be careful as she didn't trust Sheila Murray. "She was worried about me." He finished, dropping his head, tears stinging the corners of his eyes.
The prosecutor beamed at the confession. "While you were gone, some men rode into Dodge, did they not?"
Matt sat up and cleared his throat. "Yes."
"What did they do, Mr. Dillon?"
"They robbed the bank, shot the bank clerk and kidnapped Miss Russell."
"They did more than kidnap her, didn't they? In fact, they beat her up and she was shot as a message to you. If I remember correctly the bandits hurt her specifically because she is known as your woman, is that not so?"
Matt bowed his head and nodded, a mutinous tear slipping down his cheek as he thought of Kitty, lying over at Doc's office, her survival still in doubt.
The prosecutor slipped closer to the witness box, lowering his voice slightly. "Is Miss Russell going to live, Mr. Dillon?"
Matt looked up balefully. "I don't know. Even Doc doesn't know."
"Do you want her to?"
Matt was stunned. How could anyone ask him such a question? "Yes," he seethed. "Of course I want her to live."
"Why, Mr. Dillon?" the prosecutor smiled wickedly. "I mean, you've already testified that you and she have no commitments between you. You have not asked her to marry you because you don't wish to marry her. So what would it matter to you if she lived or died? Surely you can't love her. I mean if a man loves a woman he wants to marry her, correct?"
Matt glared murderously at the man before lowering his gaze and looking away. He didn't answer.
The prosecutor didn't expect an answer. "Mr. Dillon, the whole purpose of this trial is to determine your culpability in the things that happened to Miss Russell since she became associated with you. From the reports I have obtained from your own Dr. Adams, as well as others around this town, she has not fared well in that association. Do you concur?"
Matt dropped his head again and nodded glumly.
"In fact, other than financially, Miss Russell has done very poorly indeed, is that not so?"
Matt stared fixedly at the floor refusing to answer.
"From what I gather," the prosecutor continued, unfazed by Matt's lack of response, "Miss Russell has been kidnapped, beaten, held hostage and threatened quite a few times over the years. True, not all of these incidents are directly related to your relationship with her, but the fact remains if it were not for that relationship, Miss Russell would not be here in Dodge and therefore would not be subjected to the things she has had to face."
"Objection!" Matt's defense attorney finally found his voice, albeit late. "Is the prosecutor asking for testimony or giving it?"
The Judge banged his gavel again. "Sustained," he said sternly. "Mr. Prosecutor, please restrain yourself."
"I apologize, Your Honor," the fat man said smugly before looking back at Matt. "Mr. Dillon, as you have already testified, your entire relationship with Miss Russell has been on your terms, correct?"
Matt nodded. "Yes."
"And when it comes down to a choice between her and your job or something else you want to do, she comes last, is that also true?"
Matt swallowed hard. "Yes."
'Then you admit you're guilty? You admit you are the reason she is lying over there in Dr. Adams office right now fighting for her life. If not for your decision to take a woman you didn't know and had no responsibility for to Hays, Miss Russell would not have been hurt!" With each word the prosecutor's voice rose and he inched closer to Matt until he was an inch in front of his face as he all but shouted the last word.
Matt dropped his head, unable to bear the overwhelming feeling of guilt.
The defense attorney was on his feet, yelling to be heard above the roar of the spectators and the Judge's gavel. "I object, I object!" he almost screamed.
After several more bangs with his gavel, the judge finally regained control and looked down sternly at the prosecutor. "I warned you, sir, to behave yourself. Now anything more like that and I will hold you in contempt. Is that clear?"
The prosecutor nodded, a smile just barely evident on his jowly face. "I understand, Your Honor, but there is no need for such action. I am through with this…this... witness." He said, his voice dripping with disdain.
The judge took a deep breath and nodded. "Very well, then. Does the defense have anything for this witness?"
"I do," the small bespectacled man said as he stepped around the defense desk and approached the witness stand.
"Mr. Dillon," he looked kindly to Matt, "should Miss Russell live, and from Dr. Adams report that is still in question, is there anything you would change about your relationship with her?"
Matt sat quietly for some time, silently considering his response. Finally he raised his head and nodded. "Should she live, I would ask her to marry me," he answered.
The defense nodded, his voice softened even more. "Are you saying that out of guilt or do you really feel that way, Mr. Dillon."
Matt looked up at him, tears shining in his sad blue eyes. "I never thought I would say this but I mean that. You see I love Kitty Russell. I guess I never really realized how much until now, but I do love her. And if God grants me one more chance, I swear I will spend everyday of the rest of my life trying to show her just how much."
The young man in front of him adjusted his wire rims and smiled kindly at Matt. Looking up at the judge the attorney gave a curt nod. "The defense rests, Your Honor."
The judge looked down at Matt for several moments before bringing his gavel up and banging on his desk one last time. "Very well," he said. "Then as both the prosecution and the defense have rested their cases, I will now pass this case onto the jury so that they may decide your fate."
Just then the door to the courtroom burst open and Doc came running into the proceedings. "Matt! Matt!" he called. "Come quick, it's Kitty!"
Matt jerked upright and looked around. He was no longer in a courtroom, but in the jail. And instead of a hard chair on a witness stand he was laying on his lumpy cot, sweat pouring from his body.
Sitting up, he ran a shaky hand across his face. Looking around he took a deep breath before getting up and getting dressed. Grabbing his hat he hurriedly left the jail and made his way swiftly down to the Long Branch nearly running up the back steps and letting himself into her room with his key.
She was lying in bed, shining red hair fanned out on her pillow, and beautiful azure eyes closed in sleep. Gingerly he sat down on the side of the bed and reached for her hand. "Kitty, Kitty."
Sleepy blue eyes opened and regarded him curiously. "Matt? What's wrong? What happened?"
"Nothing happened," he hastily reassured her. "But I needed to talk to you, Kitty. It's important."
Kitty glanced over at the window noting the inky darkness beyond it. "At this time of night, it'd better be important. What time is it anyway?"
Matt shrugged. "I don't know. But I do know this couldn't wait. I had to talk to you to now."
Kitty sat up quickly in alarm. "What do you mean? What's wrong, Matt, you're scaring me."
Matt reached over and pulled her to him, hugging her tightly for a moment before releasing her and sitting back to look at her. "I'm sorry. I really don't mean to scare you, Kitty but I…well…I wanted to let you know I won't be going to Hays in the morning like I planned. I'm going to stay here and maybe take you to that dance tonight, that is if you haven't already made other plans."
Kitty looked at him in total confusion. "I thought you had to go." she said. "You said it was important for your prisoner to get up to Hays as quick as possible. What changed?"
"Nothing changed," Matt answered, "but I did. It's kind of hard to explain, honey, but I realized that just because Sheila Murray has to go it doesn't mean that I have to be the one to take her. I'll send Festus with her. He won't mind. Besides, I don't want to go. I want to be here with you."
Kitty was stunned. Never had Matt shirked his duty as a lawman to take her to a dance. "Matt, if this is about what I said last night, I'm sorry. I was just upset and worried about you. But I understand, really I do. You have a job to do."
Matt nodded. "Yes, I do. But it's not nearly as important as you are. Kitty, I can't explain it all right now, but believe me, I realized something else tonight."
"What?" she asked, unsure what Matt was getting at.
"I realized how important you are to me. I realized that in all the years we've been together, I've been the one to set the rules and you've been left out of the decision making process most of the time. And I realized that if something was to happen to you, and I hadn't told you how much I love you, I wouldn't be able to live with myself. I love you Kitty Russell. I have never loved anyone the way I love you, and I want you and the rest of Dodge City, Kansas to know that."
Kitty smiled uncertainly at him. "I love you too." She said. "I have since I first laid eyes on you. And I know you love me. I've never doubted that."
Matt gently cupped her shoulders, looking deeply into her eyes. "I'm glad to hear you say that," he said, "because I have a question for you."
"Kitty Russell, would you marry me?"