Here it is! The final part of my story, "The Way Back Home."-Part 8. I'm thrilled you've come along for the adventure. If you missed the first seven parts, go here to catch up. Don't wait! It won't be available for free much longer. I hope to self-publish the story on amazon soon. When I do, there will only be a link to amazon available. Well, without further ado, let's finish the story.
"The Way Back Home"-Part 8
by Sandy Kay Slawson
Mrs. Howard huddled behind Violet. She kept a tight rein on her twins who were anxious for freedom. Their petitions for a glimpse of the "killed man" were rejoined by their mother's adamant refusals.
Mr. Stewart leaned near Violet.
"Here's my cane, if you want to poke him."
Violet reached for the cane, but before she took hold, the sound of another horse froze her and every other passenger. She shook off the fear, reached for the door and slammed it shut. They each resumed their earlier positions. Mrs. Howard shushed her sons' whimpers.
Violet pointed the revolver at the door, pulled back the hammer and waited. The sound of boots as they hit the ground reverberated through her body and soul. She blew slow puffs of air in a vain attempt at calm. Whoever had come moved around the stagecoach with more caution than the last fellow. They waited. One minute. Two.
Violet sprang towards the door, flew out and around the outlaw and into Trevor's arms. Trevor clutched her against him and she held on. The drain of adrenaline, left her weaker than ever before.
"I heard the shots. I-I thought I'd lost-" Trevor pressed his lips against Violet's cheekbone.
With reluctance, Violet extricated herself from Trevor's embrace.
"I'm alright. We all are, except the driver. I don't know if he's alive or not and this man...I shot him."
She pointed to the outlaw on the ground behind her with the revolver still clutched in her hand.
Trevor's attention settled on the gun. He took a gentle hold of the stock, and then uncocked it.
"Oh, my. How careless-"
"Shhh, you have a right to be a tad off kilter."
He guided her to the steps and helped her take a seat. Mrs. Howard remained in the stagecoach with her children, well away from the door, but Mr. Stewart stood by the outlaw.
"He's alive, Marshall. He has a brand spankin' new part in his hair, though. Better tie him up before he awakes more ornery than he started."
Violet's relief she hadn't ended the man's life, escaped in a silent prayer.
"Thank you, Jesus. I hope you'll help him use his second chance better than he did his first."
With renewed energy, she went in search of the driver, while Trevor restrained the outlaw with a length of rope. When she spotted the bottom of his boots above, she steeled herself for whatever sight might await her.
She grabbed the handle and struggled to reach the high step in her skirt, when a voice floated down from the platform.
"Dill. Call me Dill."
Violet cried out with joy.
Dill pulled himself upright and let his legs dangle over the side. He held a bloody bandana on his arm. He swayed, and then squinched his lids shut.
"Ain't nothing but a dizzy spell."
"But, you were shot."
"Mr. Dill, how bad is it? How may I help?"
"Alright, alright. Keep your bloomers-"
"Mr. Dill, one more word along those lines and you may see to your own wounds."
Trevor joined Violet at the front of the stagecoach.
"Pay this old codger no mind. It appears he'll live."
"'Course I'll live. It'd take more than a scratch and a knot on my head to get rid of me."
Trevor led Violet away from the whip and into the stagecoach.
"Don't worry. I'll check him out. The fella you shot is Wade James, he's the oldest of the brothers. I got him tied on my horse and wrapped his head. Dill can't drive, but I'll get us into town."
Violet grabbed his sleeve, before he walked off.
"Wait. What happened with the others?"
Trevor grimaced with a slow shake of his head.
"My men are fine, but the youngest James boy is dead. One knocked himself out on a limb, when he broke off into the woods. The other took a hit in his shootin' hand. My men will get them in the jail, besides the one passed. We'll get him to the undertaker. When I saw Wade sneak back this way, I left them and followed."
"I thank the Lord you did."
Three days later, Violet followed Mrs. Howard out of the courthouse. Mrs. Howard spun, threw her arms around Violet and held her tight. When she let go and retreated, she had a sheen of dew, which glistened on her lashes.
"You saved me and my boys, Miss Lawrence, and after I acted....the way I did. I'm in your debt. If ever you need anything-"
"Ma! Did they hang those outlaws?" yelled Luther as he and Lester dashed between them.
"Son, don't yell such a thing where the whole town can hear you. No, they haven't, but I imagine the gallows will be built soon."
Mr. Howard moseyed into their group. His arrival two day prior, had delighted Mrs. Howard and her boys. None of them were anxious for another stagecoach ride anytime soon.
"What's the verdict, Mabel?" he asked.
Mrs. Howard regaled him with the details of the trial, before she answered his question.
"Wade James, the one Miss Lawrence shot, will hang, but the younger James boys, Kurt and Chet will spend the next five years in prison. It seems Wade James, killed the ones who died and he's been the leader of the bunch."
"Well, I'm relieved the judge tried this case in quick order and we can get on home," said Mr. Howard.
"He wanted those outlaws off the road as much as anyone, from what Tr-the Marshall told me," said Violet.
"How 'bout we get some lunch at the hotel and head on home?" Mr. Howard said as he clutched Mrs. Howard's sleeve.
"Yay! I'm starved!"
"Woo hoo, we're home bound!"
Luther and Lester's cheers died as they both looked toward Violet.
"Will we see you again, Miss Lawrence?" asked Lester.
"Yeah, will we see you again?" mimicked Luther.
"I hope you will. We won't live too far apart for a visit now and then."
The happy faces of the twins fled from view as they grabbed Violet in a fierce hug. She patted their soft locks, and realized she'd miss them. She wiped wet drops from her cheeks when they released her.
Violet waved goodbye, as the family set off for the hotel. Mr. Stewart came out of the courthouse behind and stopped beside her.
"You forgot your valise inside, Miss Lawrence."
He handed her the valise, which had withstood the ordeal in the stagecoach. Stepped on, laid on, smushed and scrunched, it somehow survived.
"Oh my, I can't believe I forgot about it again. I appreciate it," Violet giggled as she remembered how careful she'd been with it at first.
"My son wired a message he'd gather me this afternoon. I think I'll wait over at the hotel. I've got a great story for him about a spit fire young woman who saved his Pa's life," Mr. Stewart winked with a grin.
Violet gave him a one armed hug and kissed his weathered cheek.
"Whoah, who's done stole my girl from me?" Trevor chuckled as he came from behind them.
"If I were fifty years younger, I'd give you a run for your money, son," said Mr. Stewart.
Trevor held Violet around her waist as they watched Mr. Stewart limp off, the click of his cane fading into the distance.
He pulled her close, and they regarded each other.
"Are you ready, Miss Lawrence?"
"Yes, I've been ready since you asked me the first time."
The increased sounds of a horse and wagon made her turn and step away.
The driver locked his wheels and hightailed it out of his seat and onto the street. When he drew closer, Violet sucked in a gasp and covered her mouth.
"Papa? Papa!" she flew into her father's outstretched arms. He held her in a fierce embrace and placed a hundred kisses on top of her bonnet.
"You had me worried slap silly, when you didn't show up at the station. When I heard what happened, I got here as fast as possible.
"I can't believe your here. It's perfect timing," said Violet.
Trevor moved forward and held out his hand.
"Hello, Mr. Lawrence. It's been awhile."
Mr. Lawrence gave Trevor's hand a hardy shake.
"Mr. Knox, about two years, since you became Marshall. Don't tell me you were involved in this mess?" "He and his men are the ones who captured the outlaws, Papa."
"With a heap of help from your daughter, sir."
Mr. Lawrence studied his daughter. A mixture of pride and sadness on his countenance.
"My little girl, isn't little anymore, I guess."
Violet and Trevor shared a glance. She nodded.
"Mr. Lawrence, I'm sorry I jumped the gun and didn't ask you first, but I've waited too long already. I couldn't wait another day."
Mr. Lawrence stared at each in turn. The questions which brought his brows low, left as realization lifted his brows high.
"I guess congratulations are in order. Although the life of a Marshall's wife won't be easy, Violet."
Trevor interjected before Violet, "This case was my last, sir. My older brother's been after me for awhile to come work on the ranch again. My Pa isn't as able-bodied anymore."
"It's a comfort you'll be close. When's the big day?" asked Mr. Lawrence.
"The judge awaits us as we speak, Papa. I'm thrilled you'll be here for it." Violet reached for his hand and squeezed.
He frowned at Trevor.
"It's kind of hasty, don't you think?" said Mr. Lawrence.
"Not to my way of thinking, sir. I've waited for nine years."
"And I have, too. Enough is enough," she folded her arms and tightened her lips with stubborn determination.
"But don't you want a wedding at home?"
"Papa, I have the two men I love most in the world with me. I am home."
Wade got a second chance, though short lived. We never know when we will have our last chance. If you've been living with the thought, you'll get right with God some day, maybe that day is today. Why wait? Why take the chance that there will be no second chance?
I am so glad you came! I hope you have a very Happy Monday and a Happy Thanksgiving! Next time I'll plan on telling you about the Writer's Conference I'm attending. Also, I'm working on my next short story, so stay tuned for that!
May the Lord God bless you and your families with Faith, Hope and Love. In Jesus' name.
I Appreciate You!!