This is the thirty-third part of a fiction serial, in 760 words.
Daddy came over on his crutches. “Phin, take up their pistols. I want you to fire both of them a couple of times, then put them into their hands like they were holding them when they got killed”. I did as he asked, firing Black Hat’s into the log walls of the cabin, and Smiling Man’s across at the crop fields behind me. “Now saddle up and ride into town for the Marshal. Tell him there’s been a shooting here, and two cowboys are dead. He should want to get out here before dark”.
Henry shook his head. “Why don’t I just dig a hole and bury ’em? Let the horses go, and they’ll find their way home”. Daddy had a hard expression on his face. “No, not that way, Henry. I want them to know what happened to their men. That way they will know what will happen to any others who come riding in here looking for trouble”. He turned to me again. “Phin, you be sure to tell the Marshal that these fellas came riding in here, and started shooting as soon as they saw you. Me and Henry dealt with them before they could drop you”. I nodded, still hardly believing what had just happened.
Marshal Meagher didn’t look none too pleased when I told him my story. Wyatt Earp was in the office. He smiled and shook his head. “I reckon those two had it coming, and didn’t expect no farmers to put up a fight, Marshal”. Meagher left him in charge, and rode back with me to the homestead, after arranging for the nearby undertaker to follow on with his buckboard, and two plain coffins.
I suppose I had expected the lawman to write stuff down. Maybe tell us we had to go to court, even lock us up for a spell until we did. But there was none of that. He listened to the story again, told by Daddy and Henry. They didn’t mention the suspicions about Walter, as there was hardly any point with no proof. After looking at the bodies and shaking his head a few times, Meagher waited until the undertaker arrived, then walked over to his horse. “Fuller, you may have started something here today. I hope you’re prepared to finish it. Don’t expect any help from me and my men now, you’re too far out of Wichita for that to happen”. Daddy just nodded.
The strange thing is, we never did have any more trouble. Even when I was in town, those cowboys never spoke to me. And none of them ever came to the house again.
I had to admit that daddy had done the right thing. Life went back to normal once again, and Susan told me she was sure she was expecting. She seemed very happy about that. But all through the winter, she never seemed to get much bigger. When she was carrying Sophia she had swollen up, but this time she looked much the same as when she wasn’t expecting. Then one stormy night I had to go out and help Henry secure one of the barn doors, which was almost blown off its hinges by the wind. When I got back in the house, Susan was sitting on the floor in front of the fire. “Phin, you gotta go fetch Doctor Frazer. Tell him it’s real bad”.
In the light from the fire, I could see she was sitting in a pool of her own blood.
Poor Lizzie was pushed to her limit that night. As soon as I roused the doctor, I turned straight round and galloped her back home. I had got Henry to sit with Susan while I was gone, and daddy had come over too, covering her with blankets as she was shivering so. The doctor told us to go out while he examined her, and he was in there a good while. “I’ve got her back to bed, Phin. She’s lost the baby, I’m afraid. I don’t think it ever grew, to be honest. But when it came away, it made her bleed bad, and she is going to need plenty to eat and drink, and lots of rest. I can ask a woman from town to come in tomorrow to nurse her if you want”. I was just glad she was alive, and agreed with anything he said. Then as he was walking to his horse, he spoke quietly to me.
“I doubt she can ever carry any more children though. Another baby might kill her”.