Chapter Fourteen—Happiness and Justice

     I didn’t let Missy move the rest of the day. She didn’t especially feel like doing so, but I didn’t want to take any chances. The next day, I allowed her to stand up and walk a little, but I held on to her because she was weak and shaky. I tried to keep a clean covering on her wound and I doctored it with medicine. The swelling was subsiding and the redness had lessened so I was guardedly optimistic that the worst was over. But just to be sure, I insisted we stay another day.
     “Thomas,” she said with some angst, “I need to get home. Grandma will be so worried about me. And you know…she isn’t in good health…”
     “We’ll go home tomorrow, I promise,” I told her. “Provided you don’t have any setbacks tonight.”
     She was certainly getting stronger each day, but was still weak. She slept a lot, but when she was awake, we had a chance to get to know each other.
     “So you lost your memory? Your name is really Thomas Foster? You’re Dan’s brother?” She wasn’t dumb, of course, she was just repeating the things I told her to help settle them in her mind.
     “Yeah. I was beginning to be afraid I’d never get my full memory back. I don’t know what happened, but the whole tense situation with Sert…” I shrugged. “It just snapped my memory back into place. I don’t guess there’s any explaining of it.”
     She had a far off look in her eyes, as if amazed by the whole thing. “Wow,” she said. Then, “I’m glad you’re ok.”
     I smiled at her. “Thanks. You, too.” And I leaned over and kissed her. She blushed but said, “You can do that…any time you want to.”
     I took her up on that more frequently than I probably should have, but she never seemed to mind.
     "Thomas,” she said at one point, with a concerned expression on her face, “do you think Sert will really go straight?”
     I had significant doubts about it, but I said to her, “I think he will, Missy. He sure seemed like a changed man at the end.” That pleased her, I could tell.
     As noted, we wiled away a lot of the time by talking. Now that my memory had returned, I could tell her all about myself. “I was born and raised in Colorado. Dad and mom owned a farm in the eastern part of the territory, and Dan and I helped work it. Neither of us really took to farming, so we both started drifting when we reached our early 20s. He was several years older than me. He left home long before I did and headed up this way. We heard he’d gotten into law work and had become the marshal of a town up here. Mom didn’t especially like that, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. Well, about 10 years ago, dad and mom both died of cholera. I didn’t want the farm, so I sold out, sent half the money to Dan, and kept the rest myself. I didn’t have anything to do, but I was a natural with a gun and a knife. So I took after big brother and got a marshal’s job down in Colorado.” I shrugged. “I stayed down there and never saw Dan again. I got a wire several weeks ago that he had been killed in an accident and would I be willing to come up to Silver Creek and be the new marshal? I was ready for a change of scenery, so I accepted the job. I was on my way up here when I ran into a problem.” I told her about how I got amnesia. “It all came back to me right when before Sert and I had that shootout.” I gave her a half smile. “Easy come, easy go, I reckon.”
     “Well, I’m so glad you’re all right,” she said. “I didn’t really think I’d ever see you again after…what happened at the trial.”
     I shook my head. “That wasn’t what concerned me. That whole trial was a farce and you were caught in the middle of it. I just thought you and…Tillman were…well, you know, a couple…” I let it drift.
     Missy’s eyes got big. “Oh, no, it was never anything like that. I mean, he’s really nice and sweet, and I guess, if you hadn’t come back, he and I might have gotten married.” Then she realized what she had said. “Oh. I didn’t mean to imply…you may …be married…you didn’t say…I just assumed…”
     I laughed at her uneasiness. “Well, let’s get this settled right now. No, I’m not married. So…Missy, will you marry me?”
     Tears came to her eyes. “Do you really want me to? I don’t know…if I’m good enough for you…”
     In one sense, that was the funniest thing I had ever heard in my life. There wasn’t a man on this earth worthy of this woman and she thought she wasn’t good enough for me. But then, Missy…was Missy. I didn’t laugh, but I did smile. I loved this woman more than human words could describe.
     “I think…maybe I can condescend to live with you…for the rest of my life…that is, if you’ll have me.”
     She could tell I was being playful, but she burst out in tears. “Wow,” I said. “I didn’t realize that proposing to you was so awful that it would cause you to cry.”
     Missy threw her arms around me and said, “Yes. Yes. Yes, I’ll marry you. Today, tomorrow, next week, whenever you want me to…”
     I held her…and held her…and held her…and never, ever intended to let her go…

     Sert Oldham was happy, too. He was going to start a new life. I wisht Missy coulda come with me, but she way too good fer the likes of me…I’ll just start over in Californy, and I won’t never break my promise to her. I’ll be good, get a decent job, maybe even find me a woman, have a family…don’t see how I could ever find a woman as good as Missy, though…
     He was traveling through Idaho late one afternoon and the weather started getting rough. It was cold, but not cold enough to snow. But it started to rain. And rain hard. As the evening wore on, there was thunder. Lightening. Severe. Sert decided it was time to find some cover. In a flash of lightening, he saw a cave, so he headed for it. It turned out to be an old abandoned mine shaft. The timbers at the entrance seemed a bit rickety, but they’d hold. He found some wood scattered inside the shaft, built himself a fire, heated some coffee, and munched on some jerky. The rain was coming down in sheets, and the thunder and lightening were tremendous. Sert smiled. Good sleepin’ weather…
     So he moved about 100 feet back into the shaft, cleared off a spot, and spread his blanket. He watered his horse, then slipped off his boots and climbed under his blanket, wrapping it around him for warmth. He smiled lazily, listening to the rain and thunder. He thought about where he would go in California. North, I think. I heard there was lots o’ ranches up there…surely somebody will need a good hand…then he thought about Missy…an angel…nuthin’ but an angel…the good Lord broke the mold when He made her…I’m a-gonna keep my promise to her, never go bad again…and I’m gonna pay that marshal back the $250 he lent me, too…he’s a good man to let me go like this…not gonna disappoint him, neither…maybe I’ll write Missy a letter in a year or so, let her know what I’m doing…and with that thought, Sert Oldham fell into a deep, deep sleep. Perhaps the best he had ever had, because his conscience was finally clear.
     And it also happened to be his last sleep on earth.
     The storm was relentless. The lightening was striking the earth with regularity, and about midnight, a couple of hours after Sert had fallen asleep, a sharp lightening bolt hit one of the upright timbers at the opening of the shaft. The BOOM of the lightening striking woke Sert up, but he smiled.  Musta hit just outside...I sure am glad I'm in here...and in a couple of minutes he was asleep again.  But the wood of that support post was old and weakening. The lightening bolt shattered it. Without that support, the cross beam and other pillar simply weren’t strong enough to hold up the weight of the mountain. They slowly gave way. When they collapsed, other supports for the shaft began to fail, too. With the lightening and thunder, and his deep sleep, Sert never noticed the loud cracks of the wooden supports of the mind shaft as the timbers snapped and broke….
     Finally, untold tons of dirt and rock descended on the sleeping form of Sert Oldham. He never knew what happened.

The End

I will say, that when I was planning this story, I had intentions of Missy dying at the end of the gunshot wound--let the angel go home where she belonged.  It might have been a more appropriate ending, as sad as it would have been.  But I just couldn't do it.  So I wrote the happy ending instead.  Thank you, dear reader, for sharing some of your time with me and this story.  I hope it was time well spent for you.  Please overlook any errors you might have noticed.  I have a full-time job, thus don't always have time to check every possible historical or factual reference.  I hope that, if you did find some mistakes, they did not detract from your enjoyment of the story.

I told you that you would love Missy, didn't I.

Mark K. Lewis