A/N: As always, thanks so much for the faves, reviews and follows! You do make an author happy! IMPORTANT! I have a present-day epilogue completed for this story. Do you, my faithful readers, think I should end the story here and post the epilogue, or write another couple of chapters? I'm torn. (Yes, Jenny, I know you don't want it to end, ever! LOL.) Please let me know in a review or a PM. And now, on with the show! Enjoy!
IMPORTANT! I have a present-day epilogue completed for this story. Do you, my faithful readers, think I should end the story here and post the epilogue, or write another couple of chapters? I'm torn. (Yes, Jenny, I know you don't want it to end, ever! LOL.) Please let me know in a review or a PM.
And now, on with the show! Enjoy!
Chapter 16: Hope and Justice
Summer had come to Colorado again, and Glenn and Ellie were back at the Charpiot, but their visit wasn't as happy as it was the previous June, when they first met. Dashell's trial was finally on the court docket, and of course, they would be called as witnesses. Glenn had been going into town on payday to read law with an older attorney looking for a younger partner, and he had every expectation of a position once he sat for the bar exams.
Ellie was glad for warmer weather and sunshine. It lifted her mood, darkened by a miscarriage in April. She didn't know if she would ever be able to carry a child to term. As always, Glenn was wonderful, kind and supportive, but she was still sad. But the sunshine helped, as did doing some work on the ranch. Glenn found a sweet mare for her, and they often rode out together of an early morning before he had to start working. Occasionally, they would slip out of the house at midnight and walk or ride for an hour or so.
Now, they were in the sitting room of their hotel suite as the Colorado state's attorney, Alton Henderson, prepared Ellie to testify.
"Now, Mrs. Barton, remember: when Dashell's attorney asks you anything, please try to keep to single-word answers. 'Yes' and 'no'. If he asks you to elaborate on any point, make it as brief as you can. You do not want to give him any hooks to hang other questions on. Don't open any doors."
"Of course. I understand."
"Good. I'm fairly sure Dashell's lawyer won't be that aggressive, lest he antagonize the jury, but he will come at you about being a saloon girl - as if that somehow makes you a woman of loose morals or some such nonsense. Please try to stay calm. Remember, you're not on trial here. And I'll remind the judge if necessary. But I want to ask you the kinds of questions he probably will, so you'll know what to expect."
"All right. I'm ready," Ellie said. Glenn was sitting on the other side of the room, looking anxious. Ellie caught his eye and nodded reassuringly. He would be there in the courtroom as she testified, and as long as Ellie could see his face, she would be fine.
The attorney cleared his throat. "Now Mrs. Barton, how did you meet your husband?"
"At my place of employment."
"And that place was The Eagle's Nest - a saloon?"
"You were a maid or a cook?"
"What did you do?"
"Served drinks, danced with the customers, talked with them."
"You were what's known as a saloon girl then?"
"And did you offer any other services to the customers?"
"No courtesies of a personal or more intimate nature?"
Mr. Henderson smiled at Ellie. "Excellent. That's exactly how I want you to answer on the stand. Cool, calm, reasoned. Remember you've done nothing wrong, and have nothing to be ashamed of. You're a respectable married woman and your husband works for a man whose name is well known and respected in this town. Don't think I won't be bringing all that out, either."
"Thank you, Mr. Henderson. I appreciate your efforts," she replied.
"My pleasure. Now Glenn, it's your turn. I have to call you and Fowler will want to cross-examine you. But - and here's something to remember when you have your own law practice - if we deal with some of these issues in direct, then he'll have much less ammunition to use in cross-examination. So we get these out of the way and present them as we want them to appear. First impressions are always the most important, and we need to get our side to the jury first. That way, Fowler will be playing catch-up the whole time."
"I understand. Fire away."
"All right. And Mrs. Barton, that's true for you, as well. I believe I'll be asking you most of the same questions I did just now, because I want to present your story from our side, and not allow the defense to twist it around." He turned to Glenn. "Ready?" Glenn nodded.
"Very well. Mr. Barton, how did you meet your wife?"
"At her place of employment."
"The Eagle's Nest saloon, correct?"
"And were you there as a customer?"
"Did Mrs. Barton serve you drinks?"
"Dance with you?"
"Talk with you?"
"And what did you talk about?"
A grin touched Glenn's face. "Art, music, books."
"Indeed? You found you had common interests right away, then?"
"And your other engagements - were they ever of an intimate nature?"
"You met at the Charpiot Hotel?"
"And what did you do there?"
"Had dinner in the main dining room."
"Where you and Mrs. Barton were visible to anyone in the room."
"But why the Charpiot? There are other restaurants in Denver."
"They have the best chef in town."
"Any other reason?"
"It's a gracious establishment and I wanted her to be able to enjoy it."
Mr. Henderson smiled. It was obvious Glenn was smitten with Ellie from the beginning, and it was absolutely natural to want to impress a young lady in such a way. He led Glenn through the ordeal of the kidnapping and his subsequent actions where Dashell was concerned. Ellie could see her husband becoming more agitated, but prayed he would keep his head on the stand, especially under cross examination.
Finally it was over. Mr. Henderson put his hand on Glenn's shoulder. "You did well. Take just that attitude in court, and you'll be fine."
Glenn nodded. "I'll do my best. You don't think there's a chance they could acquit him, do you?"
Henderson shook his head. "No, no. The reason his attorney will attempt to sully your character and Mrs. Barton's character is to get a lighter sentence. The facts are not in question. Trying to make it seem as if Mrs. Barton went willingly because she didn't scream for help in the streets doesn't wash because she knew her life was in danger if she did. Mrs. Marsden was injured by that scoundrel. No reason for that, certainly. This is simply a ploy to get him a lesser sentence, that's all."
"I hope the judge sentences him to the maximum," Glenn said.
"At hard labor," Ellie added. "God forgive me, but I do. I'd love to see him work for once in his miserable life."
Henderson chuckled. "Mrs. Barton, remind me not to get on your bad side. I suspect you'd make a formidable opponent."
Ellie grinned at him. "Oh, I'd try, that's for certain."
"Well, I'll take my leave now. Tomorrow will begin a busy day. The jury is empaneled, so opening arguments start early. May I suggest, Mrs. Barton, that your dress is not too bright? I realize it's summer, but we wish to impress on the jury early that you're a sober, respectable matron."
"I understand Mr. Henderson. I'd already come to that conclusion. Don't worry. I've also told my friends from the Nest who might come to court not to wear anything that suggests the saloon."
"Thank you very much indeed for taking that precaution. Glenn, I'm assuming we can expect Mr. and Mrs. Grissom to court?"
"I'm sure. Our foreman can handle things for a few days." Jimmy, Leroy and Drew would also be called as witnesses. Ellie was glad of that. The more friendly faces she saw in the courtroom, the better.
"Excellent. I'll bid you good evening. Try to get a good night's rest."
"We will, and thank you, Mr. Henderson," Glenn said.
"You're most welcome." He left the suite and Ellie collapsed into a chair.
"Glenn, I'm dreading that trial. I don't want to be in the same room as that lunatic."
"I know, but that's how it works." He drew Ellie up from the chair and into his arms. "I know you're not fond of hard liquor, but would you like a dram of brandy to settle your nerves and help you sleep?"
She nodded. "That might be good. Maggie's already laid out my dress for tomorrow. It's that dove gray with navy trim. I think it should be matronly enough. Hardly has any embellishment on it. It looks more like a military uniform," she chuckled.
"I'm sure it will be very appropriate," Glenn said. He poured a measure of brandy in a glass and handed it to her. "Here."
"Thank you," she said, sipping the liquid and making a face. "I don't know how you drink this."
Glenn smiled at her. "I'm accustomed to it."
"You'd have to be," she grimaced.
When they were in bed, Glenn held Ellie as close as he could. "Tomorrow, that piece of filth faces justice."
"I know, darling," she said. "I'm glad I drank that brandy. I don't think I could sleep otherwise." She snuggled to his chest and tucked her head under his chin, her arm around him. The warmth of Glenn's body, the scent of him, his even breathing, finally lulled her to sleep.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Barton. I didn't intend to mislead you, but your husband cannot be in the courtroom when you testify. He's also a witness and cannot be influenced by your testimony." Mr. Henderson was dismayed by Ellie's reaction when she found Glenn couldn't be in the courtroom while she was on the stand. She clung to her husband and cried. Glenn settled for glaring at the state's attorney.
"Just don't look at him, sweetheart. Jack, Annabelle, Ben, Delilah and Louisa will all be there. Look at them. You know they'll be cheering you on," he reassured her.
"I know. But I thought I'd have you in there with me. This is going to be much more difficult, now."
They were in a small consulting room in the courthouse and Glenn looked at Henderson. "May we have a moment?"
"Oh, of course," he said and left the room, closing the door behind him.
"Now Ellie, look at me," Glenn said, raising her chin so he could meet her eyes. She did and he took his handkerchief and dabbed her eyes. "You're a strong, brave woman and you can do this. I don't have to be there. You're well able to tell your story, answer questions and show that scoundrel you're not afraid of him. You've survived war and poverty, among other things. You can do this, too." He kissed her softly and then took her in his arms and held her.
She sighed into his shoulder and he kissed her forehead. "I love you, Ellie."
"I love you too, Glenn," she said, not wanting to let him go, but knowing she had to.
They went into the hallway and Glenn tucked her hand into the crook of his arm. Mr. Henderson led them to the witness room, where Cynthia sat, also - with Leroy, who was telling her some outrageous story. Ellie sat on the sofa in the room so Glenn could sit close beside her. Drew sat on her opposite side. "You can do this," he said softly to her, and she patted his hand gratefully, but leaned into Glenn's side.
Jimmy came from across the room. He kissed her cheek. "You'll do fine, Miss Ellie."
"Thank you, Jimmy," she managed.
"Your Honor, and esteemed gentlemen of the jury, this not a complicated case we've come to try. Indeed, even among the several charges brought against the defendant, you must only decide on two basic issues: did James Fuller Dashell, in fact, abduct Mrs. Glenn Barton from here in Denver, and while in commission of that heinous act, did he also assault Mrs. Cynthia Marsden in her place of business, beat her about the head and leave with Mrs. Barton, against her will, then take her across state lines for evil purposes? If you say he did, then you must adjudge him guilty on all charges.
"I submit to you, gentlemen, the defendant came to Denver from Mississippi to abduct or in some way bring Mrs. Barton into his sphere, because she rebuffed him in Mississippi and left her home to come this long way to be out of his vicinity. Mrs. Marsden was merely in the way and might hinder his purpose, so he thought it proper to assault her so she couldn't raise the alarm when he took Mrs. Barton.
"Gentlemen, scoundrels like James Fuller Dashell have no place roaming about where they can harm innocent people - particularly defenseless women - at will. He's like a rabid dog, and short of being put down, should at the very least be confined where he can hurt no one else. The state will prove, therefore, that he is guilty of every charge brought against him, and that he has no business mingling with decent people."
Henderson seated himself and the defense attorney began an opening argument that the state's attorney thought was as well done as it could be, considering the case he was defending. Lem Fowler had a hard row to hoe in this case. He had an odious defendant who would be a loose cannon in direct testimony, so it was risky to put him on the stand where he could be cross-examined vigorously. His only real chance was to show Ellie as some kind of immoral slut, just because she had been a saloon girl. Henderson hoped to take that ammunition away in his direct examination, but one could never tell.
Ellie sat huddled against Glenn in the witness room, when the bailiff opened the door. "Mrs. Barton, please come to the courtroom."
Glenn and Ellie stood, and he gave her a tender kiss on her cheek. "Look at your friends. Don't look at him." Ellie nodded and allowed the bailiff to lead her into the courtroom. When she went in, she passed the defense table and couldn't help it - she looked over at Dashell. His smirk was obscene, but it chased her fear away, replacing it with simmering fury. She narrowed her eyes at him and made her way to the witness stand. The bailiff swore her in, she took her seat and once more, sent a look of pure hatred in Dashell's direction.
Fowler watched Elinor Barton make her way into the courtroom. She looked terrified until she saw his client. Then, he could see the anger rise in her face. He had the feeling she wouldn't be an easy target. He hoped she'd give him something to chew on: her dress, her hair, her demeanor - something. But no. She wore an entirely appropriate dress and hat, her hair in a subdued chignon, her gloves matched her gown, and there wasn't a trace of paint on her face. Her whole bearing was that of a lady. There was nothing brazen or forward in her manner. It was a little frustrating.
Mr. Henderson, on the other hand, was delighted. He glanced at the jury. Their expressions were respectful, as befitted gentlemen when regarding a lady.
"Mrs. Barton, thank you for your willingness to testify. I know it isn't easy for a lady to do such a thing."
"You're welcome, Mr. Henderson."
He led her through the same questions as he did the night before. But there were a few additions. "Mrs. Barton, why did you venture to Colorado from Mississippi alone, with no one to look after you?"
"I came with the possibility of being a bride to a man who advertised for one, but it wasn't a suitable arrangement."
"Why did you desire to leave Mississippi, the state of your birth, where all your family lived?"
"To absent myself from an undesirable situation."
"And what was that situation?"
"My mother remarried after my father's death in a federal prison camp during the war. The man's son wished to marry me and forced himself on me in order to bring that about."
"Indeed, and might that person be in the courtroom now?"
"He would be. It's the defendant."
A buzz ran through the courtroom and Fowler objected. "Your Honor!"
Mr. Henderson looked at the judge. "No charges were brought against him in Mississippi, Your Honor, but it certainly goes to motive."
"It does, but tread carefully, Mr. Henderson. We're not here to try him in Colorado for an incident in Mississippi."
"Of course, Your Honor. Thank you. Now, Mrs. Barton, did you have any communication with the defendant after you left your mother's home?"
"None. The day after it happened, I went to Corinth to stay with my aunt. She paid my way to come to Denver."
"I see. How long were you in Denver before you sought employment at The Eagle's Nest?"
"Less than a week. I was at a boarding house for unmarried young ladies, and the owner told me about The Eagle's Nest. She said the proprietor was very careful about the safety and good names of her employees, and she knew Mrs. Brown was looking for someone. I went to see her and was hired then. I moved into the employees' residence and lived there until I married."
Mr. Henderson silently applauded Ellie's choice of words. She carefully avoided the words 'saloon' or 'saloon girls', so the jury wouldn't be in any way disposed to think of her as anything other than a woman of good reputation. She had a sharp intelligence and he was glad to have someone on the stand who could help her own cause instead of hindering it. Anyone who thought women were somehow inferior to men intellectually never met Ellie Barton.
"How long before you married did you meet your husband?"
"We first met in June of last year, and we married in January of this year."
"I understand you were one of Mrs. Brown's employees who helped out at the Lazy J during a measles outbreak."
"I was. Mr. Barton had fallen ill himself, and with 15 hands sick, Mrs. Grissom needed people who could come and help care for those who were sick. I was with five other girls from The Nest, and we stayed in a cabin separate from the bunkhouse. Mrs. Grissom made sure two or three girls were working during the day, and generally, we worked with two at night. We helped dose them for fever, gave them water, helped feed them - whatever we needed to do to keep them comfortable."
"I see. And how long were you and Mr. Barton married when you were abducted?"
"Three weeks. We'd planned to leave Denver the day after I was abducted. We were going back to the Lazy J to live."
Mr. Henderson questioned Ellie on the abduction and what happened when Glenn showed up. She wasn't sure how a cross-examination could possibly be worse, since she'd already told everything she knew about what happened when she was taken. She couldn't say more than she already had. When Mr. Henderson took his seat, Ellie looked nervously at the defense table. Mr. Fowler tapped his pencil against the table a couple of times.
"Mr. Fowler, your witness," the judge repeated. Still, the man hesitated. "Mr. Fowler, do you have any questions for this witness?"
He stood briefly. "No questions, Your Honor."
Judge Fordham looked hard at the man, then at Ellie. "You may be excused, Mrs. Barton."
"Thank you, Your Honor," she said and exited the courtroom with a huge sigh of relief. When she went back into the witness room, Glenn was up immediately. He took her in his arms and she sighed. "He didn't ask me a single question. The defense attorney. Not one question."
Glenn assisted her to sit down. "I'm so glad." He kissed her temple.
Cynthia was called and gave her testimony as well. She came back to the witness room saying Fowler hadn't asked her any questions, either.
"He's saving it all up for me," Glenn predicted darkly. "He doesn't feel right hammering you or Cynthia, but Fowler will hit me and the boys extra hard because of it."
Leroy leaned back in his chair and stretched. "Let him. I ain't afraid of his questions. Or of that two-by-twice piece of trash he's defending. Anybody who'd do what he did ain't no kind of a man."
About that time, the witness room door opened and Jack entered.
"What are you doing here, Jack?" Glenn asked.
"That state's attorney decided to call me as a character witness for you polecats!" Jack sat down in a chair. "So I get to cool my heels in here. But Annabelle will remember everything that happens in there. She's good like that."
Then, it was Glenn's turn. Ellie so wanted to be in the courtroom for his testimony, but since she could be recalled, it wasn't allowed.
Glenn wished his wife were in there, too, but when he walked into the courtroom, in his black suit, white shirt and string tie, impeccably groomed, the men on the jury were impressed and the ladies in the gallery nudged each other. Mr. Henderson hid a smile at both Glenn's demeanor and Dashell's naked fear. It wasn't alleviated one bit by the cold stare he got from blue eyes turned to ice chips. Mr. Fowler knew if Dashell ever walked outside as a free man again, he'd better stay the hell away from Glenn Barton if he wanted to live any length of time. Barton had killed once, Fowler knew, and that was also over a female. But that girl was a whore. This woman was his wife.
The bailiff swore Glenn in and he took his seat at the witness stand.
Mr. Henderson led Glenn through mostly the same questions as he asked Ellie, focusing on their very public relationship. Then, knowing he had to bring it up first, he said, "Mr. Barton, why did you leave Michigan?"
"A judge advised me to leave."
"Why is that?"
"I killed a man who was molesting a woman. It was judged justifiable, but I still left."
"And that woman, was she your wife or intended?"
"No, she was a line girl. A man outside the saloon was accosting her. She screamed for help and when I intervened, he came at me with a knife. I broke his neck."
Mr. Henderson nodded. "I see. Have you had any other run-ins with the law?"
"Only with Judge Fordham. He fined me $25 for depriving a man of two teeth after he drunkenly insulted a young lady and her mother on the street. That was three years ago."
Henderson glanced at the jury. They were nodding in agreement. They'd have probably done the same thing. None looked shocked. Now, Fowler would be on the defensive the whole time.
"Did you want to kill the defendant?"
"Wanted to? Badly. But my wife asked me not to. She said she didn't want to see me on trial for murder."
Henderson nodded. "So what did you do?"
"Used my knife to make sure his social life would be lacking for some while, begging the pardon of the ladies present."
"Do you know what you actually did?"
Glenn shook his head. "I don't. And frankly, I don't care. He survived to stand trial."
"He did. Well, that's all I have Your Honor," Henderson said, nodding at Glenn.
"Your witness, Mr. Fowler," the judge intoned.
The attorney stood and buttoned his coat. He approached Glenn and the two looked keenly at each other. Fowler did not like what he saw in Glenn's eyes. They were the eyes of an intelligent man, and just now, they held a predatory gleam that made the attorney nervous. But he had a job to do.
"Mr. Barton, isn't it true you have something of a nasty temper?"
"Depends on what made me angry," Glenn smoothly replied.
"Of course. But it would be safe to say your temper is easily roused when someone insults a woman in your presence?"
"That'll do it," he answered.
"Would you say your actions where my client is concerned were overly harsh?"
"No? Delicacy with ladies present forbids me from mentioning the damage you did with your knife. He may never recover completely."
Glenn raised an eyebrow. "Sorry to hear that."
"Do I hear some sarcasm in your tone, sir?"
Glenn shook his head. "Some? No, Mr. Fowler, you hear a lot of sarcasm in my tone. That - individual - forced himself on a defenseless young woman, in her own home, at knife point…"
"Objection, Your Honor! My client has not been charged with any crimes in Mississippi!"
The judge sighed. "Sustained. Mr. Barton, please confine your answers to the matter at hand. The jury will disregard that statement."
Fat chance, Glenn thought, as he gave the judge a sidelong glare. "Of course, Your Honor. At any rate, he came a thousand miles after her, abducted her and took her to Dodge City for God only knows what purpose. When I found her, she still had a black eye and swollen face from his abuse. Perhaps I'm a little dim, but no, I don't think I was overly harsh at all. But for the intervention of my wife, you'd have found his body staked out for the buzzards and coyotes. He's alive. He should be grateful."
The approving buzz from the jury box confirmed to Fowler that he was fighting a losing battle in making Glenn look like an unpredictable hothead. Any of them would have done the same and not thought twice about it.
"You'd have tormented a white man like a heathen Indian?" Fowler said, deliberately trying to bait the jury into thinking Glenn was worse than a loose cannon - he was a barbarian.
"In a heartbeat. He abducted my wife, brutalized her, and would have raped her, had I not found her that day. As I said, he should be grateful to be breathing." Glenn's tone was solid ice.
"So you have no remorse whatsoever for your actions?"
"None. And I'm not on trial here, to save Mr. Henderson the trouble of objecting to that question."
Judge Fordham cleared his throat. "Do you have any more pertinent questions, Mr. Fowler?"
"None, Your Honor, although I reserve the right to recall this witness."
"Noted. The witness may be excused."
Glenn stood and walked from the courtroom, but the look he shot Dashell made the man wonder if he might be attacked again right there in front of God and everybody.
"I'm calling a fifteen-minute recess," Judge Fordham said and pounded his gavel.
The jurors filed out, and Mr. Henderson heard one say, "Bastard's lucky. If he'd done that to my wife, I'd have cut his privates off while he watched and burned them." The other men chuckled in agreement. Henderson went into the witness room.
"Glenn, the jury liked you. They're solidly on your side. I don't think Fowler shook them even a little. I may just call you, Jack, as a character witness. I don't think we'll need anyone else."
Jack shook his head. "I know we've got to have law, but why we have to jump through all these hoops is a mystery to me. I know, fair trial and all that, but that bastard better be glad he's alive to go to prison." There were nods all around the room.
When the recess was over, Henderson called Jack to the stand and the bailiff swore him in. He stated his name and residence for the record.
"All right, Mr. Grissom. How long have you had the Lazy J?"
"Registered the brand in 1868 with the Denver Cattlemen's Association. Mine is the third brand in the books. Only Arthur Tarpley's T-Bar Connected and Chantry McAllister's Triple Deuces are older."
"I see," Henderson answered. "And what's your approximate herd size?"
"Oh, I run about fifty or sixty thousand head, on average. Some years more, some less."
"So you're one of the bigger outfits in this area."
"Bout the same size as the T-Bar."
"And how many hands do you employ?"
"I average about fifty or so. Depends on the time of year. I can always use a hand who's willing to work."
Henderson nodded. "And as a result, you're a well respected man in this area."
Jack shrugged. "Man ain't got nothin' but his word and his good name to have people respect him. If people respect me, it's because my word is good and I earned their respect."
"Of course. And how long has Glenn Barton been working for you?"
"Five years. He hired on in Fort Worth when I was selling a herd."
"Has he been a good employee?"
"He still works for me, don't he? Glenn's a top hand. Steady, dependable, does his job and then some. Gets along with the rest of the boys," Jack said lazily.
"But he's not your foreman. Why is that?"
"I had a foreman when he hired on. If Micah ever quits, I'll consider Glenn for it, if he's interested."
"So you trust Mr. Barton."
"Absolutely. He gave me his word he'd work hard, and he's lived up to it. Never lied to me that I know of."
"Were you aware of his actions in Michigan?"
Jack nodded. "He told me, first thing. He's not the first man to come West to get a new start. Not the first one to kill a man in self-defense. Probably a few in this courtroom."
"Objection!" Mr. Fowler yelled. "The witness cannot know that!"
"Sustained. The jury will disregard the last statement. Proceed, Mr. Henderson."
"Thank you, Your Honor. So, Mr. Barton's actions were not a deterrent to you hiring him?"
"I quizzed him pretty good about it, and he was honest with me. So, no. If I stopped hiring hands who'd broken the law at some point, I'd have an empty bunkhouse." A chuckle ran through the jury.
Henderson hid a grin. "I see. So as far as you're concerned, Glenn Barton is a man of good character."
"You'd better believe he is."
"You'd have no reservations asking him to look after the ranch if you were away and your foreman couldn't do it."
"Wouldn't hesitate a second. And besides that, my wife likes him, and if Mrs. Grissom likes a hand, that settles it for me." More chuckles in the courtroom.
"An excellent recommendation, indeed," Henderson said, then to Fowler. "Your witness."
Lem Fowler knew there was nothing that could save his client, but the fool was too stubborn to plead guilty, since he thought he would somehow be acquitted. So, he had to continue the farce. "Mr. Grissom, you said your wife liked Mr. Barton."
"And you would have no reservations about leaving him in charge of the ranch in your absence, even though your wife might be all alone?"
"None. What are you driving at, anyway?" Jack was getting more agitated.
Fowler shrugged. "Only that you have a lot of faith in a man who's admitting to killing another man - over a woman, yet."
"Objection! Does this line of questioning have a point, Your Honor!" Henderson exclaimed.
"Sustained. Mr. Fowler, make your case, if you please."
"Of course, Your Honor. Mr. Grissom, I don't know that I'd have such faith in this man. You don't worry about your wife's safety with Mr. Barton?"
"No, I don't. I'd worry a hell of a lot more with that jackass you're defending, that's for certain!" he snorted.
"Objection!" Fowler snapped.
Judge Fordham sighed hugely. "Once again, the jury will disregard the statement. But Mr. Fowler, you're on thin ice, here. Mr. Barton is not on trial, in spite of your best efforts to put him there. Get to the point or excuse the witness."
The defense attorney looked defeated. "No further questions."
"The witness is excused."
When Jack got out of the room, Mr. Henderson stood up. "The prosecution rests."
Judge Fordham looked over at the defense table. Fowler stood. "The defense also rests." Fowler knew he couldn't come up with a single mitigating circumstance, and putting Dashell on the stand might well worsen his case. He could tell the jury didn't like his client as it was.
"Very well. Mr. Henderson, I'll hear your closing arguments, and then Mr. Fowler's."
Henderson nodded. "Thank you, Your Honor." He faced the jury. "Gentlemen, you've heard quite a sordid story today. You heard how a disreputable man followed an innocent girl from her home where she left under undesirable circumstances. You heard how he tracked her down, and knowing she was married, abducted her for immoral purposes, and in the commission of this crime, seriously injured a respectable ladieswear shop owner.
"You heard how her husband, half-mad with grief and rage, gathered his friends, and went after his wife. You heard how this faithful man, out of love for his wife, did not kill the defendant, although most would say he was well within his rights to do so. You heard how the defendant was injured, but lived to stand trial. And you heard repeated attempts to portray this gentle lady as some kind of harlot, and her husband as a reckless murderer.
"But you gentlemen can see the truth with clear-eyed vision and you know exactly what transpired. You can see the evil we have in this very courtroom. So, gentlemen of the jury, I charge you to find a verdict of guilty on all counts and to pray the court will impose the maximum sentence on this man who has no remorse for his crimes. The good people of Colorado should not have to fear he will be walking free anytime soon. Thank you."
Fowler looked glum as the state's attorney seated himself. He sighed and stood. "Gentlemen of the jury, you have indeed heard a sad story, as my honorable colleague has outlined. And if true, certainly, the penalty should fit the crime. But you must ask yourselves is there any point in this narrative that seems unlikely or confusing? Is it not possible that Mr. Barton and his wife precipitated their nuptials a bit early? They wouldn't be the first over-eager couple in history. And if so, does it not throw some doubt on the rest of the story? Gentlemen, I think taking this story at face value would be a mistake. I ask you all to consider all the facts as they have been presented to you.
"Consider where Mrs. Barton was employed. Consider Mr. Barton's prior actions, which are well known among these persons. Consider his actions when he found his wife. Could he not as well have allowed the marshal in Dodge City to handle the case, once his wife was safe? Was he not a little reckless?
"You must consider each aspect of the case in order to find for guilt or innocence. You must consider all you heard, not merely what seemed to be a likely story. You must consider all the facts in this case in order to render a fair and just verdict. I charge you to find a verdict that most closely considers every point, every fact, every possibility. Only then can you say you considered with wisdom and due concern for the process of law. Thank you."
Henderson smiled a little. It was a good closing argument, especially coming from a man who knew his client was guilty, and knew a guilty verdict on all counts was all but a certainty. He had to commend the attorney for mounting as vigorous a defense as could be made, considering the circumstances, and the noxious creature he had for a client.
Judge Fordham charged the jury and they filed out. The court was dismissed, to reconvene when the jury had a verdict. Henderson went into the witness room. "Well, I think you all did a fine job," he said. "I doubt we'll have to wait too long for a verdict. They'll mostly be talking over sentencing, is my guess."
"What's the worst he could get?" Jimmy asked.
The attorney shrugged. "Hard to say. Some of it depends on the jury's recommendation. But under the law, if found guilty on all charges, he could be in jail for as long as twenty years, possibly with hard labor."
"Sounds about right to me," Leroy said. The others nodded.
"I'm just glad Fowler decided not to drag this on all day. He made a wise decision in not putting Dashell on the stand. That could have blown up the whole works," Henderson commented.
A knock sounded on the door and Henderson opened it. Several of the girls from the Nest were standing there. "Mr. Henderson, sir? I'm Louisa and these are Ellie's friends from The Eagle's Nest. We've brought you all some dinner."
The attorney smiled. "Oh, thank you, Miss Louisa. Please come in. I know it will be welcome."
Delilah took a dinner pail to Glenn and Ellie. "Bridget has a big jug of lemonade and cups. It's just sandwiches, pickles and crackers…"
"It sounds wonderful, Delilah. Thank you so much!" Ellie exclaimed as she opened the pail and handed Glenn a sandwich. "We were getting hungry, but didn't want to leave in case the jury came back."
"I know it. We've been on pins and needles out there, wondering when they'd have a verdict," Delilah answered. She grinned at the picture in the corner. Jimmy and Louisa were sitting close as they ate, and had eyes only for each other. "Wish they'd get it over with. Hate to have Louisa go, too, but I guess that's life. I'd say marriage agrees with both of you," she said to Glenn and Ellie.
Ellie blushed as the raven-haired woman winked at her husband. "We're very happy," she answered.
"Never would have noticed," was Delilah's dry reply. "Micah had to stay behind?"
"Somebody has to run the place," Glenn said with a grin.
The girls kept the room lively for the next hour or so, until the bailiff looked into the room. "Jury's back," he said.
Mr. Henderson stood. "Well, let's see what they have to say." He gestured for Glenn and Ellie to precede him into the courtroom. They all went into the room and seated themselves. The jury filed in and then the judge followed them.
After everyone was seated, Judge Fordham looked to the jury. The foreman gave the bailiff a paper and he took it to the judge, who looked at it and nodded, then handed it back to the bailiff, who returned it to the foreman. "Has the jury reached a verdict?"
"We have, Your Honor."
"Will the defendant please rise?" Fowler and Dashell stood. "Mr. Foreman, what say you on the first count, that of the abduction of Mrs. Glenn Barton?"
"We find the defendant, James Fuller Dashell, guilty," the man said.
Glenn squeezed Ellie's hand as she sighed in relief. The jury found him guilty on all counts, to no one's surprise, but it was still a feeling of vindication for Ellie. Finally, that scoundrel was facing the consequences of his actions.
"The jury has recommended the maximum sentence and I'm inclined to agree with them. However, I'll set a date for sentencing. Until then, Mr. Dashell will be in the custody of the Colorado State Penitentiary. The court thanks the jury for their service. We are dismissed." He banged his gavel and when he left the courtroom, the crowd stood, talking excitedly about the case.
The officers started leading Dashell away when he screamed, "You convicted me because I sniffed around that bitch in heat?" They attempted to drag him to the door, when they were stopped by Glenn, Drew, Joe and Jimmy.
"Don't worry, officers," Glenn said. "I won't lay a hand on him." He approached Dashell. "You owe your miserable life to that lady. But for her, you'd have died ugly outside Dodge. There's not an Apache living who would've done to you what I planned to do to you. And if you ever get out of prison, I'd better not see you within a mile of my wife. If I do, just know: I'll have had years to meditate a little more on what else you deserve. I have a list, Dashell. Remember that. I certainly will if I ever see you again." He stepped back, satisfied with the look of horror on Dashell's face.
The officers led Dashell from the courtroom, cursing and protesting the injustice of the world.
"Damn, Glenn," Leroy chuckled. "You sure 'nuff put the fear of God into that bastard."
"Good," Glenn replied. "That's the idea."
The boys laughed and they went outside the courthouse. Ellie stood with Jack and Annabelle and was also talking with the girls from the Nest.
Glenn had a hug for each of the girls. "Thank you so much for standing by Ellie. I appreciate it so much. Your support has meant everything to her."
Ellie said her good-byes to the ladies and she and Glenn went back to the hotel. Jack, Annabelle, and the boys would be joining them for supper there. The idea made Leroy and Jimmy nervous, but Glenn assured them they were more than welcome.
Supper was a success and Jimmy vowed he would bring Louisa to dine there, as long as he could find a menu in English. He knew he wasn't Glenn or Drew, hadn't been raised with money, but that didn't mean he couldn't treat his girl like a lady.
"Well, that's that, then," Glenn said. He brought in their mail from his trip to the post office in Kiowa and was reading a letter.
"What is it?" Ellie asked.
"See for yourself." He handed her the letter. It was from Alton Henderson, state's attorney.
"Dear Mr. and Mrs. Barton,
I hope this finds you both well. I am writing to let you know that you will not need to plan another trip to Denver for Dashell's sentencing. He was murdered by two prisoners last week. I am sure you will be relieved to hear he will never be a threat again.
"I look forward to seeing you as a colleague in the courtroom one day soon, Mr. Barton.
Alton S. Henderson, Esq."
Ellie looked at Glenn. "I could almost be happy at this news. But I'm not. I'm just glad I'll never see him again."
Glenn nodded. "I feel the same way. I talked to Mr. Darnell and he says he feels I'm ready to sit for the bar exams. They're offered again in August." Josiah Darnell was the older attorney who was helping Glenn study for the exams.
"That's wonderful! I know you'll pass them with flying colors. And I have a bit of news myself." Her face was lit with joy.
He looked keenly at his wife and grinned. "Sweet Ellie. Are you expecting?"
"I think so. My monthly is about six weeks late, by my count. So we'll see. I do hope if I am, that I'm able to carry to term."
Her face was so hopeful. Glenn knew how heartbroken she was in April. But maybe this time would be different. He went to her and held her, kissing her tenderly. "I want this baby too, Ellie. You know I do. But whatever happens, I still love you more than anything else in this world."
"I love you too, Glenn," she answered, returning his kiss.
Well? Please leave a review, even if you haven't reviewed before!
Also, the references to Native Americans in the story do not reflect my views, but rather the commonly held views of the time. You can consult any contemporary sources for confirmation of this. (Heck, just watch "The Searchers.") I'm not into revisionist history. I'd like to think we've progressed since then, however.
Remember: please let me know whether I should include a couple more chapters before the epilogue or not. I appreciate any and all feedback! Thank you!