The Heir Comes Home-Part 7 (Last Episode)--Parts 1-6
by Sandy Kay Slawson
Regina swept the floor of the mercantile storeroom while Kathleen arranged several new reams of fabric on a table out front. Kyrk took the day’s earnings to the bank, while the two women handled the closing chores.
After their first encounter, Regina never dreamed she’d come to care for Kyrk. Kathleen, too. They’d become family to her in these few short weeks. Kathleen like a sister, and Kyrk… no… not like a brother, but she didn’t want to give it a name. Not yet. Not when she had no idea what the future held. And not when he’d made no declarations.
The bell on the mercantile door jangled and a grin lit Regina’s countenance at Kyrk’s return. Though she might not admit her deep attraction to the man, she’d enjoy his presence when the opportunity presented itself, which didn’t happen as often since Kyrk and Kathleen moved into their own home.
Regina swept the pile out of the rear entrance. Strange voices drew her attention. Not Kyrk, and no one she recognized. She left the door wide open and went to investigate. A muffled noise… a scream?… sent a chill of apprehension down Regina’s spine. She gripped the broom handle tighter and tiptoed past Mr. Scotty’s room, then past the storeroom until she reached the curtain which separated the back from the front of the store. When she peeked into the mercantile, the blood drained from her face.
It took every ounce of fortitude inside not to turn and flee as she had the night her family died, but she’d not run and leave Kathleen alone with those wicked men. Help us, Lord. Regina retreated with quick, quiet steps to Mr. Scotty’s room and prayed his rifle remained in the place he’d said it would be when not in use.
Regina opened the door just enough to squeeze through. Two more inches and she knew it would squeak loud enough to alert the men to her presence. The same as it used to alert her when Mr. Scotty entered or exited his bedroom. The Enfield rifle stood in the corner nearest his bed as it always had. She grabbed it by its cold metal muzzle and wished he’d owned a less complicated weapon.
The cartridges and caps lay in an open box in the same corner. Regina grabbed a handful, then dropped all but one of each in her apron pocket. With as much care as possible, she tore off the paper on the powder end of the cartridge and poured it into the barrel. Then she put the bullet side in and snapped off the extra wrapper. Regina removed the rammer and tapped the bullet down to the powder, and replaced the rammer. Next, she half cocked the hammer, and replaced the spent cap with a fresh one.
The entire process took less than a minute, but every second mattered, for Kathleen’s sake. Thank the Lord Mr. Scotty prepared her for this moment. With rifle in hand, Regina retraced her steps to the curtain. One man held Kathleen by her hair with a knife to her throat. The other rummaged behind the counter. She supposed for the money Kyrk took to the bank.
The man with the knife pulled Kathleen’s head farther back and a thin line of blood seeped onto the lace collar of her dress. Kathleen moaned, but didn’t beg for her life as some might. “For the last time, where is she?”
“I’m right here, you filthy, lily-livered woman and child killer,” said Regina, with the rifle aimed at the man’s head.
“Well, well, well, look’ee what we got here, Rufus. The bane of our existence. The little gal who’s kept us hide’n and search’n for better’n two blasted years,” said the man with the knife. He dropped Kathleen to the floor and faced Regina fully.
“Wha’d ya let the other girl go fer, Hiram? She can identify us now, too,” said Rufus.
“We’ll deal with her next. I’ve been wait’n too long to get my paws on this one as it is.” Hiram waved his Bowie knife in front of him with a sneer. “You fix’n to shoot me Miss Waters. You ain’t no killer. Why not put that gun down and let’s talk like civilized human beings?”
“If you were a civilized human being, I might consider it, but you’re no better than a rabid dog who has to be put down,” said Regina.
“Watch out, Hiram, she might pull that there trigger on accident.”
“Even if she does, ain’t no way this little gal can aim a man’s gun like that well enough to hit the side of a barn. I doubt it’s even loaded. Tie up that other perty lady and let me handle this one.”
Rufus grumbled under his breath, but moved behind Hiram toward the place Kathleen laid. More grumbles and then curses filled the air along with the taint of men’s unwashed bodies.
“What are you caterwaul’n about?” said Hiram as he turned to scowl at Rufus.
“She ain’t here.”
“You ignorant ox. She couldn’t have gone far. Find her.”
Regina waited for Rufus to disappear through the curtain, then took advantage of Hiram’s distraction to swing around the rifle, part his hair with the stock of the gun, then watch him crumble onto the wood planked floor. She kicked the knife out of his opened fingers and under a display cabinet, then swiveled toward the curtain with rifle aimed and ready to greet Rufus when he returned.
Regina glanced at the man who’d murdered her mother and brother. Though blood pooled under his head and marred the swept clean floor, his chest rose and fell. Still alive. Maybe he’d face the hangman’s noose after-all.
A commotion brought her full attention onto the curtain. A second later, Rufus came through… with his arms raised. Behind him with a worried frown, Kyrk entered with the barrel of his Colt revolver pressed into her father’s killer’s upper back.
Kyrk’s gaze found Hiram sprawled out on the floor and his brows disappeared under the brim of his Stetson. “Are you alright? Did you shoot him?”
“I’m fine, and no. I hit him. He’s still breathing, for the time being, anyway,” said Regina as she pointed the gun toward the floor. Though her voice sounded calm, Regina knew better. She reached for the wall to steady herself.
The bell jangled, and the Marshall flew in with his revolver drawn. Kathleen raced in behind him, and several other townsmen followed.
In a matter of minutes, the killers were bound and carted out under the direction of the Marshall, and Kathleen left with a couple of townswomen to have the minor cut on her neck tended. Before the Marshall closed the door of the mercantile behind him, he said, “I apologize, Ma’am. I tracked those varmints here, but not fast enough to save you this trouble.”
“It’s alright, Marshall. If you’ll take them away and lock them up, all will be forgiven,” said Regina with a hint of a smile.
“Yes, Ma’am. Those two won’t bother you again. I give you my word on that.”
Regina nodded and prayed the Marshall’s boast wouldn’t prove false.
“I’ll apprise you of the court date, as soon as one’s set, Miss Lakeland. Until then, I guess you can go home.”
“I am home.”
The Marshall tipped his hat and left Kyrk and Regina alone.
Kyrk took the Enfield rifle and his Colt and set them aside, then pulled Regina into an embrace. His lips pressed to her neck, her cheeks, her mouth and she held on through the unexpected onslaught of caresses. In response, she gave him the last vestiges of the fear, doubt, and grief carried since Hiram and Rufus destroyed the life she’d once loved. Then let her passion communicate the hope, happiness, and love which overflowed in her heart for him.
When Kyrk broke the embrace, he led Regina to the stool behind the counter and helped her take a seat. “You’re shaking, my beautiful, brave girl.”
Regina laid her forehead against his vest, closed her eyes, and thanked the Lord that her ordeal had come to an end.
“Did you mean it?” said Kyrk.
“Do you intend to stay… here… with us?”
“If I still have a job after the turmoil I’ve caused.”
“You have more than a job. You have a home with us… with me, if you want it.”
“With you?” Regina lifted her chin until she met Kyrk’s intense regard. “What do you—”
“Marry me. Marry me today. I can’t stand the thought of being separated from you ever again. When Kathleen came down the street with news of you saving her… and holding off those two murderers with one gun, I’ve never been so scared in my life. Then I saw that scoundrel leave through the back door. I feared the worst. But then I came in and saw you with rifle aimed and ready to confront whatever came through the curtain and I knew I’d love no other woman as much as I love you. Ever.” Kyrk pulled Regina to her feet before he bent onto one knee. “Say you’ll marry me, Miss Regina Lakeland, and make me the proudest, happiest man in the west.”
Regina placed her palms on Kyrk’s strong shoulders, then knelt in front of him. “Yes, Mr. Kyrk Stewart, I’ll marry you. When you caught me in your arms, I prayed you’d one day hold me and never let go. Today is a good day for an answered prayer.”
I hope you enjoyed The Heir Comes Home series, If so, I'd love to here from you, and feel free to share it with others you think may enjoy the story. Also, stay tuned, August 8th begins my new series, The Backstory, where you'll meet some of my favorite secondary characters from my novel Hope for Charity. I am definitely excited to revisit some of my old friends and share their stories with you.
May the Lord God bless you and your families with Faith, Hope, and Love. In Jesus' Name.