Chris left Mary sleeping in his bed. She had been exhausted from the way that Liz had treated her and from the stress of his injuries. As long as Rafe was out there , he knew that they weren't safe. He wanted to protect her and maybe be able to tell her that he had her in his heart. But as long as the maniac was out there, he couldn't risk telling her his true feelings for her. He went in to check on her one last time and saw a strand of hair fall from her face. He brushed it aside with a light touch and went to the nearby book shelf. Some of them were his father's old books written by Jock Steele. He remembered a selection of westerns that his father had read to him as a boy and found the one he was looking for. The title was “A Good Old Fashioned Western.” It was just the thing to put him to sleep, or so he thought.
The man in black stood in the middle of the street and looked into the eyes of a kid half his age. He was tired of the gun battles but knew that they were part of his job. He had kept the peace in this town with a few others for a number of years. The man couldn't have been more than 16, if that, but he had made advances on Nettie, the seamstress, who had been approached by the kid's father.
Nettie only had eyes for the man in black. She had pined away for him for years. She knew of his wife's death at the hand of Indians. But she also knew that he could find the way back to love and she would lead him there. She just didn't expect this to happen. The lad was only a boy. She saw Matt looking at him and hesitating. She heard the gun go off and screamed as his best friend, Ben, and Dr. Quinn, tended to his wound. She
wanted to run to him but knew better. Instead, she stood there dumbfounded and felt the tears run silently down her face and into her blond curls..
Dr. Quinn dusted off her hands and had Sully and Ben lift him and took him to her nearby clinic. There she was greeted by her assistant, Mac, a freed slave who
readied the table for the still form of the gunslinger. Nettie stood in the doorway.
She froze when she saw the blood oozing from the wound. 'Why, Matt, why did you hesitate? Damn you and your honor', she thought as she would have yet another vigil by his bedside. Mick looked at Nettie and nodded for her to come in.
“He should come out of this fine. It missed his vital organs and came out the back” she said as Mac placed a chloroformed filled rag over the man's mouth and nose. Mick started sewing and felt the chloroform take effect.
Nettie stood by watching and praying. The young sheriff named Billy was busy with the young man who had shot
the man in black. He placed him in a cell despite the protests of his father, who had stood by and seen it all. Despite the fact that his son had drawn first, the older gentleman still clung to the boy's innocence. Billy washed his hands of it and went to see how his friend was. He saw Doc sewing him up and that he was out from the chloroform. He stood by Nettie and touched her arm briefly. She was frightened when he didn't stir. Doc had Sully and Mac take him to an upper room and make sure he was comfortable. The woman who had stood by him all these years,
sat next to the bed.
Chris yawned as he thought of Mary and all the times she had sat by his bed waiting to see his eyes flutter as he felt his droop. She tossed about in her sleep and he draped the blanket over her once more. There was a serenity in her face that she seldom showed when she was awake.
He longed to tell her how he felt, but his fear was justified by the scars on her face. He sat in the chair next to the bed and placed his feet up near where her's lay. He'd rest his eyes for just a moment. He opened them when he heard the sound of a cat nearby.
He found himself dressed in black with a cat rubbing between his legs and was tempted to drop kick the beast when he noticed a woman pick the creature up and pet it. In the bed before him was a mirror image of himself, covered with a quilt and unconscious. He did a double take and took a closer look at the woman before him. “Mary?” he asked.
“You have me mistaken for someone else. Are you his brother from Billings? You sure look like him” the woman replied.
Chris stood there dumbfounded “What?”
“I asked if you were his brother. My name is Nettie. I assumed you came to see him before he got shot. I saw you standing when that boy took aim and he had to have glanced at you. Otherwise he would have at least tried to defend himself” she said in a soft voice. She went back over to his bedside and laid a hand on his brow. The cat placed herself near the man's feet.
Chris nearly stumbled into the chair behind him and looked at the man in the bed once more. What the hell is going on?, he thought. He needed to get a better perspective. He got out of the chair and opened the door hoping to find anything even remotely familiar. He was back in the Old West, complete with all the smells and lack of amenities that went with it. He walked down the stairs and onto the boardwalk where he bumped into what appeared to be Vin.
“Vin?” he asked as he looked at the man clad in buckskin.
to be continued