Chapter Eleven—Sert Oldham’s Trial

     Tillman was waiting in the foyer for Missy at church the next morning. He asked if he could sit with her. Oh, I hope HE’s not here…then a pang in her heart. Of course, I want Thomas to be here, what am I thinking?…Oh, God, please forgive me…
     She agreed to Tillman’s request and as they walked down the aisle together, she overheard, “They are so lovely together…” Missy cringed a bit, but mainly her eyes were searching the building. She hated herself that she felt a little relief when she didn’t see Thomas. This was turning out to be one of the greatest spiritual struggles of Missy’s life.
     No Thomas on Sunday. No Thomas on Monday. Did he leave town? Even Marshal Dugan was wondering that.
     “Have you seen Thomas Monroe around town lately?” he asked Missy Monday night when she came to bring food to Oldham.
     “Not since Saturday at the dance.”
     Dugan appeared somewhat concern. “Well, I hope he shows up for the trial tomorrow. I don’t think he’s really needed; your testimony should be enough. But his would help.”
     “He’ll be there,” Missy responded, and was almost sure that he wouldn’t be.
     She talked a few minutes to Sert. “Trial’s tomorrow, little Missy. You changed yer mind ‘bout testifyin’ agin me?”
     Missy smiled sadly. “No, Mr. Sert, I haven’t. Everybody is expecting me to, and what you did was wrong. I can’t understand why you do such things. I know you aren’t a bad man, deep inside you. Maybe I can get the judge to be lenient.”
     Sert grunted. “I hear the judge is Anson Commerce. He’s worse’n Martin Wayne. May have to plant Commerce, too, if he sends me back to jail…
     “He’ll be merciful, I know he will.”
     “I’d feel a lot better, little Missy, if’n you just wouldn’t say nuthin’ bad about me.”
     Missy went silent. There really wasn’t anything else to say. As distasteful as the whole thing was to her, she was going to testify. Finally, she said, “I’ll be glad when it’s over.”
     Sert smiled. “Me, too. Maybe I’ll be acquitted an’ you an’ I kin head for Californy.”
     Missy gave him another sad smile, and Dugan appeared and said her time was up.
     She stood up. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Mr. Sert. I’m sorry things are the way they are, I really am.”
     He smiled again, and nodded. “Thankee for bringin’ me food. Nobody has ever been very nice to me before.”
     Dugan opened the door and said, “If you’d be nice to other people, Oldham, you might find that they’d be nice to you.”
     “Gone to preachin’, huh, Marshal?”
     Missy left the cell and Dugan closed and locked the door. “You might want to hear a lot more of it after the trial tomorrow.”
     Sert grunted and turned away. “I doubt that. Bye, Missy.”
     “Bye, Mr. Sert.” And sad…sad…sad…Missy left the marshal’s office and walked home.

     The trial began the next morning at 9 AM. It wasn’t supposed to last long, because everyone figured it to be cut and dried—Sert Oldham assaulted Missy with the intent to rape her, everybody knew it, and the judge would throw the book at him, giving him a life sentence without parole. That was the anticipated scheme of things. Short and sweet.
     There was no way on earth to find an impartial jury of 12 people in Silver Creek—everybody loved Missy, remember—so Judge Anson Commerce decided that he’d pass judgment himself. This has been Martin Wayne’s jurisdiction so it was Judge Commerce’s first trial in Silver Creek. He didn’t know either Missy or Oldham, so he believed he could be more unbiased. And it saved the time and hassle of selecting a jury. Might not have been legal, but nobody was going to complain about it.
     The prosecutor was a man named Randolph Simpson and the defense counsel was a local lawyer named Adolf Jenkins. Jenkins was in his mid-40s and a pretty sharp cookie, but nobody figured he’d put up much of a defense. Not even a slimeball lawyer would want a disgusting woman-beater loose in society. Would he?
     Simpson was only going to call three witnesses—Dr. J. T. Morgan, Missy, and Thomas Monroe. There wasn’t anybody else to call and that should be sufficient anyway.
     It was a lovely day, mid-50s, sunshine, soft breeze. The courtroom was packed, and there were people standing outside and hanging in the windows. Of Silver Creek’s population of 350, probably 250 of them, including women and children, were milling in or around the courthouse. This was a great event, mainly because….everybody loved Missy…and wanted to see Sert Oldham fried for what he had done to her.
     “Still think we should have lynched ‘im,” one old timer was heard to say.
     “Don’t worry, Slim, Judge Commerce’ll put ‘im away for life.”
     “Hmph. Needs his neck stretched…”
     At 8:55, Marshal Dugan brought Sert Oldham—handcuffed—into the courtroom via a side door. Prosecutor Simpson and Counsel Jenkins were already in the room. Which was already filled, except for three seats on the front row, right side—seats left for Morgan, Missy, and Monroe. All of which were empty at the moment.
     About two minutes before 9, the back door of the courtroom opened and Dr. Morgan and Missy entered. Everyone got quiet as they watched the two of them walk down the aisle and take their seats. Missy’s heart was thumping. She glanced over at Sert; he was looking at her, his eyes a little dangerous. Missy shivered.
     “Where’s Monroe?” somebody whispered just loud enough for the whole room to hear. Nobody answered.
     Missy was sure she knew the answer. After Saturday night, I’m sure he left for good…
     Tillman Slaughter sat right behind Missy. He touched her shoulder after she was seated; she glanced back. He smiled and winked, and she smiled back. A bit strained.
     9 AM. “All rise.” Command obeyed.
     The judge entered from a door at the back of the courtroom. He was a round faced man, stern looking, thin, receding black hair, early 50s probably. He sat down in his chair, banged his gavel, and waved everybody to sit down. Command obeyed.
     The bailiff, one of Marshal Dugan’s two useless deputies, read out the charges. Judge Commerce explained how the trial was going to be conducted--though everybody already knew--and then looked from Simpson, the prosecutor, to Jenkins, the defense counsel. “Either of you got a problem with any of that?” he asked them.
     Jenkins stood up. “Your Honor, may I approach the bench?”
     “No, sit down and shut up. I’m sure you’re a long winded bag of hot air anyway-- like most lawyers—so you’ll have plenty of time to say what you want.”
     Jenkins didn’t look very happy about it, but he sat down.
     Judge Commerce looked at Simpson. “Call your first witness.”
     Missy glanced around, somehow expecting to see Thomas Monroe. He was still a no-show.
     Simpson stood up and said, “Call Dr. J. T. Morgan to the stand.”
     Dr. Morgan went up, was sworn in, and gave his testimony. It was fairly short and sweet. He described the bruises and lacerations on Missy’s face.
     “And, in your professional opinion, Dr. Morgan, what do you think caused these bruises and lacerations?”
     “Objection!” Jenkins stood up. “Personal opinion only. We should be dealing in facts.”
     Commerce looked at Jenkins with annoyance. “He’s a doctor, for crying out loud. I want to know what he’s got to say. Objection overruled.”
     Morgan replied that, in his professional opinion, the marks on Missy’s face were caused by repeated blows of a human fist. “She was hit—very hard—several times. A few more blows like that and he probably would have killed her.”
     There were some gasps from the crowd, but Jenkins stood up again. “Objection! How does the doctor know it was a ‘he’?”
     “Sustained. The gender of the assailant has yet to be established, Dr. Morgan.”
     It was the doctor’s turn to be annoyed.
     “I have no more questions,” the prosecutor said.
     “Your witness,” Commerce said to Jenkins. “Do you have any questions for him?”
     “Yes, I do,” Jenkins replied, and approached the doctor. “Dr. Morgan, you say it is your…professional opinion…which, mind you, I have the highest respect for, that the marks on Miss Jacobs’ face were caused by a human fist.”
     “Yes. I’m sure of it.”
     “How many times in the past have you seen such marks on a human body?”
     “Many times, Mr. Jenkins.”
     “Were they always caused by a human fist?”
     Morgan hesitated. “Well…not always, I suppose.”
     “Then what makes you think the marks on Miss Jacobs’ face were caused by a human fist?”
     There was some mumbling in the courtroom. Judge Commerce banged his gavel. “Hush. Answer the question, Dr. Morgan.”
     “Well, I was asked for my professional opinion, and I gave it.”
     “But, with all due respect, your opinion could be wrong?”
     “I don’t think I am. Indeed, I’m sure I’m not.”
     “That wasn’t the question, Dr. Morgan. Could those marks on Miss Jacobs’ face have been made by some non-human instrument, something that was, accidentally, mind you, self-inflicted?”
     Morgan was uncomfortable. “Well, I suppose so, but—“
     Jenkins interrupted. “That’s sufficient, Dr. Morgan. Thank you for your honesty. I have some more questions for you. You know, I’m sure, Miss Jacobs’ grandmother, Judy Boatner.”
     Missy frowned. What’s she got to do with this? Everybody else in the room wondered the same thing.
     And so Dr. Morgan asked, “Yes, I do. But what’s she got to do with this?”
     “I’ll ask the questions, Dr. Morgan. Thank you. Now, I understand that Miss Boatner has a certain…mental…condition that…causes her some distress.”
     “Objection!” Simpson stood up. “Miss Boatner’s health is wholly irrelevant to this trial, Your Honor. Why drag her into this and caused this angst for Miss Jacobs?” Fortunately, Judy wasn’t in the courtroom.
     Commerce looked at Jenkins. “Is this necessary, Counselor?”
     “Bear with me, Judge, I believe this is very relevant to this case.”
     “Well, it better be. I don’t want to miss lunch because you started chasing rabbits to try to confuse me.”
     “No confusion, Judge, I promise.” Jenkins looked back at Dr. Morgan. “Can you please describe for the judge Miss Boatner’s condition?”
     Morgan didn’t like this at all. He appealed to the judge. “This is confidential, Judge Commerce. Doctor and patient.”
     Commerce shook his head. “Sorry, Doctor. If it’s relevant to the trial, I want to hear it. If it isn’t, we’ll shoot Jenkins later. Answer his question.”
     Morgan sighed. Missy was in agony. Her fists were clenched so tightly that her fingernails were digging into her palms. “Miss Boatner has a mental condition—the popular term is ‘senility’”.
     “And what kinds of behavior does this mental condition create?”
     Morgan described Judy’s conduct, which has been catalogued in some detail earlier in this story.
     “I see,” Jenkins replied. “So, at times, she literally doesn’t know what she’s saying or doing, or even where she’s at?”
     “Yes, that’s true.”
     Jenkins nodded his head, and with a thoughtful expression on his face, walked away. Then, after a few moments, he turned back to Morgan and asked, “Dr. Morgan, is this condition inheritable?”
     There was a stunned silence in the courtroom for a moment, then everybody deduced the lawyer’s meaning. There was an eruption. “How dare him…” someone shouted.
     Judge Commerce banged his gavel several times. “Quiet! Quiet!” He finally obtained the silence he demanded. “Another outburst like that and I will clear the courtroom. We will have silence and respect in here. Is that clear?”
     No one said anything, so it must have been. Or might not have been—because no one said anything.
     Commerce looked at Jenkins. “What are you getting at, Mr. Jenkins?”
     “I would like to discover from the doctor, Judge Commerce, if it is possible that perhaps Miss Jacobs could have, and perhaps has, inherited some of her grandmother’s tragic traits. This could be important in her testimony.”
     The judge frowned, but nodded.
     “Doctor?” Jenkins turned back to Morgan.
     Dr. Morgan looked at Missy. Her head was down. “Yes. It is inheritable. But—“
     “Thank you, Dr. Morgan. No more questions.” Jenkins walked back to his seat. And 50 pairs of eyes—the audience in the courtroom—stared daggers at him. Sert Oldham was smiling.
     “You may step down, Dr. Morgan,” the judge said.
     Morgan tried. “Judge Commerce, may I say something? Miss Jacobs has never--”
     “I didn’t ask you anything, Dr. Morgan. Take your seat or you’ll be in contempt of court for delaying these proceedings.”
     Morgan sighed, shook his head, but walked back to his seat.
     Missy looked around. Still no Thomas Monroe….
     “Call your next witness, Mr. Simpson,” the judge ordered.
     “I’d like to call Missy Jacobs to the stand.”
     Missy was trembling, but she walked up to the chair, took the oath, and sat down as bravely as she could.
     After obtaining the required personal information, the prosecutor said, “Now, Miss Jacobs, in your own words, will you please tell us what happened on that fateful day?”
     Missy glanced at Sert. He was looking at her, a soft smile on his face. She looked away and began. “I…was on my way to the widow Walters’ house. She lives about three miles outside of town. She was ill and I was taking her some soup and was going to do some cleaning and washing for her.”
     “Very noble,” the prosecutor said, when Missy paused for a breath. “Please continue.”
     “Well, about a mile from her house, I saw a man sitting on a horse in the middle of the road. I stopped and we talked and then he…pointed a gun at me and told me that I was to go with him.” Missy lowered her head, then burst out. “I really don’t think he’s a bad man, he just needs—“
     The judge interrupted. “Miss Jacobs, please confine yourself to answering the questions asked. I don’t care in the least what you think about anybody. That is wholly immaterial. Proceed with your testimony.”
     Missy grimaced, but before she could say anything else, Simpson asked her, “Miss Jacobs, is that man in the courtroom right now?”
     The room was dead silent. Even outside there was no noise. Missy lowered her head again, and spoke, barely above a whisper, “Yes.”
     “And can you point him out to the court?”
     Missy nodded, still looking down. “The defendant.”
     “Sert Oldham?”
     “Yes.” A tear rolled down her cheek. A slight murmur from the audience.
     “Thank you. Please continue with your story.”
     Missy took a deep breath and sighed. “Mr. Sert demanded at gunpoint that I go with him, wherever that might be. He indicated possibly California.” Gasping from the crowd. “About an hour after we started off—he had two horses, and he made me ride one of them—we stopped at a clearing.”
     “Did he force you to stop?”
     “So you were acting wholly involuntarily.”
     Missy grimaced again, but nodded her head. “Yes,” she replied softly.
     “What happened at the clearing?”
     “He wanted me to…get undressed.” More gasps and some angry murmuring. Judge Commerce banged his gavel and scowled. The room went silent.
     “Did you…perform this action for him?”
     “No.” Missy’s head was down, her voice was barely audible, and probably wouldn’t have been except for the absolute silence in the room.
     “So what did he do?”
     Missy seemed to be in torment. “He started to…” She looked around the room, agony on her face. “Do I have to tell you?”
     “I’m sorry, Miss Jacobs, I know this is very difficult for you, but the judge must know exactly what happened.”
     Missy closed her eyes, sighed, dropped her head again, and replied, in a stronger voice, “He began to beat me. He hit me in the face several times, and in the stomach once.”
     More angry murmuring, even though everybody in the courtroom already knew what Oldham had done to her. But to hear her say it angered them even more.
     “I see. So he assaulted you, with the intent of raping you.”
     “Objection!” This from Jenkins. “The witness has no idea what was intended by her assailant.”
     Judge Commerce looked disgusted. “Yeah. I’m sure he intended to play patty-cakes with her. Overruled. Continue, Mr. Simpson.”
     “Let me rephrase the question, for my good friend Mr. Jenkins. When Mr. Oldham asked you to disrobe, you believed his intentions were…less than honorable.”
     Missy, head down, just nodded.
     “And when you would not accede to his request, he beat you.”
     Again, Missy nodded.
     “So it was your belief that Mr. Oldham intended to…”
     “We get the idea, Mr. Simpson,” Judge Commerce interrupted. “We don’t need all the gory details. Assault with intent to rape. You made your point.”
     "Yes, Your Honor. I just wanted to make sure the court knew what crimes had been committed, or intended.”
     “I’m not that stupid, Mr. Simpson.”
     “Of course not. I never meant to imply such.” Then, back to Missy. “Ok. Mr. Oldham beat you. Why did he stop?”
     Missy then told the court of Thomas Monroe’s intervention, the resultant shooting, and how the incident ended. “We brought Mr. Sert back to Silver Creek,” Missy concluded, “and Dr. Morgan operated on him. He was then taken to jail.”
     After a few more questions to sum up and for minor clarifications, Simpson said, “Thank you, Miss Jacobs. I have nothing further.” He looked at Jenkins. “Your witness.”
     “I have no questions at this time,” Jenkins said.
     Judge Commerce raised his eyebrows, but nodded. “You may step down, Miss Jacobs.” Missy walked back to her seat. She didn’t look at Sert when she went by him. “Do you have another witness?” the judge asked the prosecutor.
     “Yes. Well, I did, but he doesn’t seem to be here—“
     “I’m here,” a voice at the back door said.
     Missy—and everybody else—turned to look. Her heart soared. Thomas!

     I had been a gnat’s whisker away from not going to the trial. Love her or not, I didn’t want to go back and see Missy with Slaughter. I wanted to get on with my life—find out who I was, where I came from, where I was going, did I have a family of my own…a thousand and one questions. My frustration continued to build and that just made things worse. Seeing Missy again, as I would have at the trial, would just complicate matters. And I didn’t need that.
     So I almost didn’t go.
     But I did.
     I had to make sure that Oldham was convicted and sent to prison. If I could play a part in that, then…I needed to go.
     That’s what I told myself as to why I went back.
     But the real reason I went back was that I wanted to see her. Slaughter or not. I still remembered her eyes on that last occasion I saw her—Saturday night at the dance. Pleading with me? I was sure I was mistaken, but…I had to be sure. I…had…to be sure.
     I arrived in the courtroom just as the prosecutor was saying I wasn’t there. “I’m here,” I said, and every face turned to me. I didn’t look at Missy. I just couldn’t. Yet.

     He won’t even look at me. Why did he come back? Why?

     I did look at Oldham. And he looked at me. And if looks could kill, I would have dropped dead.
     Prosecutor Simpson called me to the stand. I was sworn in and sat down. Somehow…this all seemed very familiar to me…
     “State your name, please,” Simpson said.
     “Thomas Monroe.”
     “And what is your relationship with Missy Jacobs?”
     “I hardly know her, and had never seen her before in my life until the day I saw that thug over there beating her almost to death.” I pointed at Oldham. He scowled.
     Jenkins jumped up. “Objection!”
     “Sustained,” the judge said. “Mr. Monroe, please keep your assessment of the defendant’s character to yourself, please.” Then, he narrowed his eyes and looked at me carefully. “Do I know you from somewhere, Mr. Monroe?”
     “Lord, I hope not.” And the whole room laughed. Even the judge smiled.
     “Continue, Mr. Simpson.”
     He nodded. “Please, Mr. Monroe, in your own words, tell us what happened.”
     So I told my story. “I was traveling, riding along a road towards Silver Creek. About two hours out. I was tired, my horse was tired, so I thought I’d stop at the next clearing. My horse smelled something, nickered, and got a response from another horse. I investigated. Came up to the clearing and saw the defendant, Mr. Thug, uh, Sert Oldham”—I saw a lot of smiles—“beating Miss Jacobs. Brutally.”
     “Objection! The witness’s opinion of the severity of the beating is prejudicial.”
     The judge considered. “Sustained. The language was pretty strong, Mr. Monroe.”
     I gave him, and Jenkins, an annoyed look. “All right. What I saw was the defendant’s fist moving with what I considered to be an excessive amount of speed and force against Miss Jacobs’ face. Enough force to snap her head back each time his fist connected with it.” I paused and looked at Jenkins. “I could be wrong, of course, but I never got the impression that the defendant was simply practicing his right cross by shadow boxing and that Miss Jacobs deliberately moved her face in the way of his fist several times.”
     “Sustained. Do not be flippant, Mr. Monroe.”
     “Sorry, Your Honor. Anyway, Oldham was beating Missy with sufficient force that I was appalled. I called on him to stop. He tried some excuse on me, that she was his wife, had been cheating and stealing from him, and he was teaching her a lesson, something of that sort, I don’t remember his exact words. I had my gun pointed at him. Miss Jacobs was still conscious and, from the ground, pleaded with me not to hurt her assailant. I was a little dumbstruck at that and I looked at her. While I was looking at her, the defendant drew his gun. I took that as an aggressive action towards my person and shot him. I helped Miss Jacobs, we patched up Oldham and brought him into town. The doctor, not doing the world any favors, saved his life.”
     “Sustained. Mr. Monroe, I won’t tell you again to refrain from superfluous, prejudicial comments.”
     “Yes, Your Honor.” I looked at Simpson. “That’s about it.”
     “You are sure that it was the defendant who was beating Miss Jacobs?”
     “Thank you, Mr. Monroe. No more questions. Your witness,” he said to Jenkins.
     I glanced around the room. The crowd seemed relaxed. My testimony, to them, was the nail in the coffin. I finally looked at Missy. I couldn’t read her eyes. I watched the defense counselor approach….

     He’s so…calm…cool…nothing seems to faze him…he seems almost bored with the whole thing…Who is he??…WHAT is he?…his eyes…I can’t read anything…Thank you for coming back, Thomas…thank you…

     Jenkins began to question me. “You say your name is Thomas Monroe?”
     I may have looked cool to Missy, but inside I was sweating. This guy could ask me a bunch of questions that I couldn’t answer without making things up. And that’s very dangerous around a slick lawyer. I’d have to be very careful.
     “And you say that you just happened to be traveling along that road, at that particular moment. Your horse stopped, nickered, you heard another horse, went to investigate and allegedly saw the accused beating a woman.”
     “That’s what I said. Except that I didn’t ‘allege’ anything. I told what I saw.”
     “Yes, of course. Mighty lucky for Miss Jacobs that you happened along at just that moment.”
     I shrugged. “Call it what you want.”
     “Where were you going, Mr. Monroe?”
     "The next town.”
     “I see. And where were you coming from?”
     “The last town.” A few laughs.
     The judge spoke. “You’re being flippant again, Mr. Monroe.”
     “I don’t mean to be, Judge Commerce. I’m traveling at the moment.”
     “Where are you from originally, Mr. Monroe?” Jenkins asked.
     “California. Foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.” I wasn’t sure if that was true, of course, but I’d had flashes of snow-capped mountains. It was as good an answer as any and one that he couldn’t disprove.
     “And where were you going?”
     I shook my head. “I don’t know. Not to put too fine a point on it, Counselor, I’m a saddle tramp at the moment. I don’t have a job.”
     “What is your profession?”
     “I’ve done this and that. Carpentry work and cattle, mostly.” Why not? I knew what a hammer was and I knew what a cow looked like.
     “Objection!” This from the prosecutor. “Your Honor, I fail to see the relevancy of all this. Mr. Monroe has given his testimony. Mr. Jenkins’ questions should relate to that.”
     “Your Honor, I’m simply trying to establish the credibility of this witness. We know nothing of this man, and frankly, we aren’t learning a whole lot. He appears out of nowhere, from nowhere, going nowhere, doesn’t have a job—who is he? Why should we believe anything he says?” And then, he paused for effect. “But, Your Honor, I do know something about him, I don’t like what I know, and I don’t trust him.”
     He had Judge Commerce’s interest. “Objection overruled. Continue with your questioning.”

     Missy was a little anxious. What’s he driving at? What does he know about Thomas that nobody else knows?…

     I was sort of curious about that, too.

     Jenkins turned to me. “Ok, Mr. Monroe. You say you are from California. We’ll have to take your word on that. You’re traveling, without a job, no particular destination. You happen upon a certain scene and shoot a man because of what you see…”
     “No, I shot him because he drew his gun on me. I don’t go around arbitrarily shooting people.” At least, I don’t think I do…
     “But you do shoot people.”
     “Not if I can help it.”
     "But you do. In fact, you’re very good with a gun, aren’t you, Mr. Monroe. Very good. Better than most men. In fact, better than anyone I’ve ever heard tell of.”
     He had everybody’s attention now.
     I shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t know what all you’ve heard.”
     “Tell us what happened in the town of Ronan a few days before you happened upon the…events…in the clearing.”
     I looked at him. I knew what he meant. “I bought some groceries.” That wasn’t what he meant.
     “I’m sure you did, but I had something else in mind. I’m sure you know the name Tiny Flynn.”
     “Yeah. A little runt.”
     “You met Tiny Flynn in Ronan, didn’t you.”
     “Yeah. Not somebody I’d take home to meet my daughter. Maybe my pet rattlesnake…” The place was absolutely quiet again. Everyone knew of Tiny Flynn, so this story was enthralling.
     “How did you happen to meet him?”
     “He wanted to buy my horse.”
     “But you didn’t want to sell?”
     “Why not?”
     “I didn’t think $11 was a good enough price.” There was some commotion in the courtroom.
     “So what happened?”
     I shrugged. “He insisted. I objected.”
     Jenkins sighed. “Do I have to drag it out of you, Mr. Monroe?”
     “Well, I don’t know. It depends upon what you are trying to drag out of me.”
     “Please don’t be coy, Mr. Monroe. You know exactly what I mean. Tiny Flynn challenged you to a shootout and you outdrew him and killed him.”
     There were several gasps in the crowd. I glanced quickly at Missy. Her narrow eyes were as big as I had ever seen them, staring at me. Total shock.
     “Tiny had a bad day,” I said.
     “Sounds to me like he ran into a gunslinger.”
     I looked at Simpson, expecting him to object. He didn’t. He was as fascinated as anyone else and apparently had forgotten what his job was.
     “Not everybody who can fire a gun is a gunslinger, Counselor.”
     “Perhaps. But not everyone can outdraw Tiny Flynn. In fact, no one could, until you came along.”
     The judge was a little perplexed. “What’s the point, Mr. Jenkins?”
     “Your Honor, I don’t believe this man’s testimony is credible. Or at best, it’s questionable. He’s obviously very good with a gun. That, in and of itself, is not conclusive. But…a drifter? No job? Outdraws Tiny Flynn? Shoots a man in the stomach because he says the man was about to draw on him…” He shook his head. “I’m not saying he’s not telling the truth. But it sounds awfully suspicious to me. Who is this man and is he really believable?”
     Well, I had to give the guy credit. He was bucking a stacked deck. Missy had clearly testified that Sert was the one who had assaulted her. I confirmed it. My testimony was really superfluous; it just provided some support for Missy’s. Even if he did succeed in creating doubt as to my statements, I don’t see how he could overcome Missy’s.
     Anyway, the judge nodded. “Ok. I see. Proceed.”
     “I have no further questions of this witness, Your Honor,” Jenkins said.
     Judge Commerce said to Prosecutor Simpson. “Do you have any further questions for Mr. Monroe?”
     “No, Your Honor, I do not.”
     Commerce looked closely at me one more time. “Are you sure we’ve never met before, Mr. Monroe?”
     “Maybe I better skip town before you remember, Judge.” Some nervous laughing.
     Commerce appeared a little irritated this time. “Yes, maybe you should. You may step down.”
     As I stepped down, I said, “We’ve never met, Judge. I’d know. I never forget anything.” I thought that was a pretty good joke. I went and sat down next to Dr. Morgan. Missy was on the other side of him. We didn’t look at each other.

     Missy had looked at Thomas, the whole time he was on the stand and when he walked back to his chair. He hardly ever looked at me…who is he?

     The judge ignored my last comment. Speaking to Simpson, he said, “Do you have any more witnesses to call?”
     “No. The prosecution rests.”
     The Judge nodded. “Mr. Jenkins? Do you wish to call any witnesses?”
     Jenkins stood up. “Yes, Your Honor. I’d like to call Sert Oldham to the stand.”
     That got some murmurs from the crowd. Judge Commerce even raised his eyebrows. “Mr. Oldham, you are not required to testify. That is your choice.”
     “I want to, Your Honor. I want the truth t’ get out before this court. I ain’t heard nothin’ but lies so far.”
     Lots of murmuring. “Your choice,” the Judge said.
     Oldham was sworn in. Jenkins approached him.
     “Mr. Oldham, you just spent 15 years in prison for armed robbery, is that correct?”
     “Yes, sir.”
     “And you were just recently released?”
     “Yes, sir.”
     “And do you want to go back to jail?”
     “No, sir. I do not. I had all o’ that place I wanted. I fully intend to go straight, never break the law agin. And now here I am, on trial agin, for somethin’ I didn’t do.”
     “Would you please explain what happened and clear the record for the court?”
     “It was jus’ like that feller said, ‘cept the exact opposite. Fer the most part. I was the one traveling, mindin’ my own business. I hear the horse nicker, but ‘specially I heerd a lady cry out. O’ course, I went to ‘vestigate. I saw that Monroe feller—‘cept that ain’t his real name—beatin’ real bad on Miss Jacobs. Poundin’ her real hard with his fists. Even kicked her in the stomach.” A gasp from the audience. “Well, I hollered at him to stop, but he turns around and shoots me. That’s the last I remember till I woke up in the doctor’s office.”

     Missy could hardly contain herself. When Oldham finally stopped, she cried out, “No, no, no! That’s not what happened! It’s not…”
     The courtroom erupted and the judge banged his gavel several times. “Enough! Quiet!” Finally, the people in the room settled down. Judge Commerce looked sternly at Missy. “Miss Jacobs, we will have no more outbursts like that. If you do, I will hold you in contempt of court.”
     Missy lowered her head and shook it. Softly, she said, “That’s not what happened.”

     I was amused at the whole thing. Surely people had enough sense not to believe the nonsense Oldham was spouting…

     Commerce looked at Jenkins. “Continue, Mr. Jenkins.”
     “Thank you, Your Honor.” He spoke to Oldham. “You say you know Thomas Monroe, and that is not his real name.”
     “Nope, shore ain’t.” He had caught my attention with his “’cept that ain’t his real name” comment, and now I was paying very close attention. Does he really know who I am?
     Oldham continued. “I run into him down south, in New Mexico long time ago. Took me a little while to recognize him, but I know who he is. That’s Felix Hargrave, shore enough. Has to be. Not only do I recognize ‘im, but he’s the only feller in the country who could outdraw Tiny Flynn.”
     Multiple gasps in the courtroom. The judge stared at me hard. Felix Hargrave was a notorious outlaw, known all throughout the west. And yes, he had the reputation of being exceedingly quick at the draw. I thought about it a moment. Am I Felix Hargrave? Then I dismissed the notion out of hand. Somehow I knew the name Felix Hargrave. And I knew it wasn’t my name. I also knew something else…somehow.
     “Felix Hargrave is dead,” I said.
     The judge said, “Do not speak out like that, Mr. Monroe. Or whatever your name is.” He was still looking at me very closely. In fact, most of the eyes in the courtroom were staring at me….

     Felix Hargrave? No! He can’t be. He’s so…nice…thoughtful…he’s not an outlaw…oh, please don’t be Felix Hargrave, please…Missy closed her eyes, trembling.

     It was a good play by Oldham, I’ve got to admit. Hargrave operated down south, in New Mexico and Arizona, so he wouldn’t be known, by face, in the Montana territory. But, as noted, his reputation was notorious, and stretched from sea to sea. And it would be hard for me to prove I wasn’t Felix Hargrave, especially since I had outdrawn Tiny Flynn.
     I frowned. This doesn’t get me any closer to who I really am…
     “Anyway,” Oldham continued, “Miss Jacobs, she’s been real nice to me since I was throwed in jail here, bringin’ me food ever’ night. And I think she done it ‘cuz she knows I’m innocent. That scoundrel, Hargrave, I bet he ain’t been seen around here hardly at all since he shot me.”
     Jenkins had done his homework well, and he had prepped Oldham extra well. I just wondered if he was going to call me back to the stand, but I was more concerned that he was going to call Missy. He might have been right about her having a bit of her grandmother’s crazy blood in her. She seemed like she was about to crack.
     The prosecutor objected to Oldham’s last statements on the grounds that “the witness cannot possibly know what was in Miss Jacobs’ mind, or where Mr. Har—Monroe was over the past week.” The judge sustained the objection, but the damage was done. Everybody knew that Missy had been at the jail feeding Oldham, and that I had made myself fairly scarce, though not totally. I certainly hadn’t been blowing a trumpet announcing my presence.
     Jenkins asked Oldham a couple more innocuous questions, and then turned the questioning over to the prosecutor. Simpson was so flustered by this turn of events—he thought he had an open and shut case—that all he could say was, “I have no questions.”
     The judge looked at him with apparent disdain, as if implying he hadn’t done his homework. Which was probably the truth. Then he asked Jenkins, “Do you wish to call anyone else to the stand?”
     “Yes, Your Honor. I’d like to recall Miss Missy Jacobs.” Shuffling in the courtroom…

     Missy flinched. She didn’t want to go back to the witness stand. But she had no choice. She stood up a bit shakily and walked up to the chair.
     “Let me remind you, Miss Jacobs, that you are still under oath,” the judge said.
     Missy nodded. “Yes, sir.” It was plain for everyone to see that she was in extreme angst.
     Jenkins was “nice” to her, but relentless. “Miss Jacobs, we now know the true identify of…that man”—he pointed at me—“and that he is a notorious outlaw. Mr. Oldham recognized him, and it was obvious during cross-examination that he is hiding something and that if he spoke too freely, he would give away who he really is. Certainly nothing he says can be believed.”
     Missy looked at Monroe. Hargrave? How can he be? He’s always been so nice. But he outdrew Tiny Flynn…and I’ve always thought he was hiding something…is he really Felix Hargrave?…oh, he can’t be…Monroe/Hargrave was watching the defense attorney.
     Jenkins continued. “Given that these facts have been established, it is undeniable that Mr. Oldham’s account of events is the true one. I would like to give you an opportunity to change your previous testimony and perhaps explain why you are defending a heinous murderer like Felix Hargrave.”
     Missy grimaced. “I’m not…I didn’t lie. I told the truth—“
     Jenkins interrupted, coming over to Missy, his voice getting harder. “When did you meet Felix Hargrave, Miss Jacobs?”
     Missy was trembling. “I…never saw him before—“
     “Let me remind you, Miss Jacobs,” Jenkins was very aggressive now, “that you are under oath. That if you do not tell the truth, you will perjure yourself and that is a criminal offense for which you can be sent to jail for many years.”
     There was uneasy shifting in the crowd.
     Jenkins continued, pressing Missy hard. “Now, tell the truth, Miss Jacobs. When did you meet Felix Hargrave? Why are you protecting him?”
     “I’m not…I’m not…I’m telling the truth,” Missy was almost in tears.
     Jenkins then backed off, hesitated a moment, and walked around the courtroom, his face thoughtful. Then he walked back over to Missy, and very tenderly he said, “Miss Jacobs, I don’t know when you met Hargrave, of course, but I’m convinced you met him long before the events at that clearing. I’m convinced that you are trying to protect him, even though he beat you so ruthlessly. And I’m now convinced I know why.” He paused a moment. The courtroom was absolutely still and silent. Then he asked her, “Miss Jacobs, are you in love with Felix Hargrave?”
     There were some gasps in the room, but everybody’s eyes, including mine, were on Missy.
     Oh, no, don’t ask me that…not that question…Missy was trembling. Her mind was in a whirl. She didn’t know what to think any more. Is he Felix Hargrave? Am I protecting him? No…he didn’t do it…but I don’t want Mr. Sert…he’s not a bad man…
     Missy’s head was down and she didn’t reply while all these thoughts were going through her head. Jenkins gently prodded her. “Miss Jacobs, the court awaits your answer.”
     Tears were streaming down Missy’s cheeks. The girl was psychologically incapable of telling a lie, but she had never been so confused in all her young life. She shook her head. “No….yes…I don’t know…oh, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know…” And she put her head in her hands and wept audibly.

     I stared at Missy, stunned. Tillman Slaughter rose and walked out of the room. The courtroom was abuzz and the judge didn’t call for silence.
     “Leave her alone, you brute,” somebody shouted.
     “Remove that man from this room,” the judge said. It took a few seconds, but it was done.
     Finally, there was quiet. Jenkins then held his hand up placatingly to the courtroom audience. “I think the answer to my question is fairly obvious. I also remind you of Dr. Morgan’s testimony that Miss Judy Boatner’s condition is inheritable and I think it’s fairly obvious that her granddaughter, tragically, has the beginnings of her grandmother’s malady. I do not believe that Miss Jacobs is lying or perjuring herself. I seriously doubt that she remembers what happened at that clearing.” Then he walked over and looked at me, sternly. “This man, now clearly identified as Felix Hargrave, has over 25 killings to his credit. Yet, he is a fairly handsome man. He obviously took advantage of his charm and looks and deceived the young, innocent Miss Jacobs into falling in love with him. But it appears that his charms were not successful enough to enable him to get what he really wanted from Miss Jacobs”—here he looked at the audience—“do I have to be explicit as to what the scoundrel wanted?” He didn’t to anybody there. Then he looked back at me. “And when he could not fulfill his lustful, lecherous desires on this pure, innocent angel, he began to beat her, brutally, and had not Mr. Oldham showed up, at best he would have raped Miss Jacobs, and at worst, he would have killed her. And then ridden off without a qualm of conscience.” Then he turned to the audience again. “My fellow citizens of this fair city, instead of trying Mr. Oldham for a crime he didn’t commit, you ought to be thanking him for preventing a worse one. And trying the real criminal, Felix Hargrave.”
     I was angry, but I shook my head. There were so many holes in Jenkins’ story that a horse could have been ridden through most of them. I leaned forward and whispered to the prosecutor, “Are you going to cross-examine or not?”
     He stammered, “I don’t…this is new. I wasn’t prepared…” I just threw my hands up in disgust and sat back. How did this idiot ever get a law degree?
     Jenkins was summing up his statement, speaking to the judge. “Judge Commerce, the decision is yours. I realize that Sert Oldham has spent time in jail for crimes he committed. But he paid his debt to society, and by his own testimony, wants to go straight. His reputation is against him, but as you know, being a wise judge, you cannot condemn a man for having a reputation.” Then Jenkins pointed to me again. “That is the man who should be on trial here…” He yada yada’d some more. I tuned him out and looked at Missy. She had quit crying, but it was obvious that she was absolutely miserable. I almost felt sorry for her. But she was young, had never been in this kind of situation before, and she, well, she cracked under the pressure. It was almost certain that Oldham was going to be acquitted. And I might be lucky to stay out of jail.
     When Jenkins finished, the judge asked Prosecutor Simpson if he had any further questions for Missy. Simpson hesitated, then nodded. He walked up to Missy, who closed her eyes and grimaced. It was obvious that she didn’t want any more questions.
     Simpson simply asked, “Miss Jacobs, please tell this court again who it was who assaulted you.”
     Missy’s head was down. She slowly shook it back and forth. Barely above a whisper, she said, “He didn’t do it…”
     “Who didn’t do it, Miss Jacobs?”
     Missy didn’t answer for a few seconds. “Thomas. He…he…would never…”
     Jenkins was going to go a long way as a lawyer, He immediately jumped up. “Objection! How does the witness know what ‘Thomas’, aka, Felix Hargrave, would ‘never do’?”
     “Sustained. Just answer the question, Miss Jacobs.”
     Missy was visibly trembling. “Can I go now?” she asked.
     Simpson glanced at the judge, who nodded. “You may step down, Miss Jacobs.”
     Missy got out of the chair and slowly walked back to her seat. She never looked at me…

     He’ll hate me now, I know he will. Oh, Thomas…I didn’t mean…oh, are you really Felix Hargrave?…I’m so sorry, Thomas…I’m so sorry, I know I let you down…

     Neither the defense attorney or prosecutor had any more witnesses to call. Simpson gave his summation first, and actually, had gotten enough control over his stupor to put together a fairly good speech. The defense attorney had never really disproved Missy’s testimony, and the only evidence that I was Felix Hargrave came from Sert Oldham, a man who was hardly credible. The only evidence the defense had brought forth that Oldham hadn’t beaten Missy was his own testimony, while there were two testimonies—Missy’s and mine—that Oldham had indeed assaulted her. “Why would Thomas Monroe—for I am far from convinced that he is Felix Hargrave—beat Missy Jacobs, shoot Sert Oldham, and then help Missy bring Oldham back to town for treatment? If she is truly in love with Monroe, why didn’t she just run off with him and leave Oldham to die?” I thought those were fairly good questions, and Jenkins had not touched them. Simpson should have asked Missy those questions when he cross examined her the second time, but I think he didn’t want to put her through any more agony. Regardless, Simpson suggested that the defense had thrown up a lot of mud, but when it was all said and done, had not overturned the clear testimony presented by Missy and myself. The obvious verdict was guilty.
     Jenkins’ summation was pretty much what he had already given. My ambiguity over my identification was clear indication that I was hiding something; Oldham’s recognition of me as Felix Hargrave and my shooting of Tiny Flynn was conclusive evidence that I was indeed a infamous outlaw and could not be trusted to tell the truth. Especially when Missy couldn’t decide whether she was in love with me or not—“and it’s obvious that she is”—and thus was protecting me to keep me from going to prison. As to why Missy and I brought Oldham back to Silver Creek for treatment, “I should think that fairly obvious, too—to pin the crime on him.” I wondered if anyone else asked themselves why I didn’t just grab Missy and ride off with her and leave Oldham in the dirt to die. As I said, there were plenty of holes in Jenkins’ argument, but Simpson apparently wasn’t good enough on his feet to spot them. And after all, he was the prosecutor of a podunk town in the middle of nowhere. We aren’t talking Blackstone here.
     Jenkins finished his speech with an appeal to the judge to acquit Sert Oldham and give him the opportunity to prove what he wants to prove, i.e., that he can be an honest, productive member of society. Then he sat down.
     Everyone looked at Judge Commerce. He cleared his throat and spoke. “Normally, I would recess the court while I pondered a decision, but this case seems fairly clear. The family history of Miss Jacobs and her apparent confusion over certain matters does lessen the impact of her testimony. I have no doubt that she believes that what she said is true, but all of the circumstances, including her relationship with the prosecution’s other witness, leads to some doubt as to the accuracy of her statements. As to Mr. Monroe’s testimony”—he looked at me—“or Mr. Hargrave’s, whoever he might be, I agree with the defense attorney that it is hardly credible. While I am not convinced that he is indeed Felix Hargrave, I’m not convinced he’s not. And yes, the vagueness of his identification of himself leads to further doubt as to his truthfulness. Mr. Jenkins’ theory about he and Miss Jacobs having some sort of relationship is not impossible. Given all these factors, and a few others I won’t mention because I’m hungry and want something to eat, lead to my conclusion that the prosecution did not prove the guilt of the defendant without a shadow of doubt—which he must do—thus I rule in favor of the accused. Not guilty.” He banged his gavel. “This court is dismissed.” He rose…
     “All rise.” Nobody did. Everyone was too stunned.
     Commerce harrumphed and left the courtroom.