...the devil's been so busy lately...
yes even God must get the Blues...
and this rain falls down from heaven,
it must be the angels cryin'
for all the sorrow in the world tonight.
(from JoDee Messina's song by the same title)
Havoc will either temper your spirit ...
or destroy you.
There wasn't no church in Havoc.
Twenty miles off the Pony Express Trail, this town had only had one delivery before... and that rider still lay in bed, barely able to move.
Somehow, Kid was aching to get there.
Ever since Simon Wicks had darkened the town of Rock Creek with his presence, Kid had been wanting to shoot something...someone. But he had kept his anger in check, not wanting to frighten Lou.
Teaspoon had made a special trip to see him off, "Now Kid, make your run, then turn around and come right back. This ain't the type of town you want to spend much time in."
Kid smiled and shook his head, "I'll be fine Teaspoon."
Teaspoon pounded his back, "I know Kid... I just don't want to lose you jus' 'cause y're achin' to put a hole in someone."
Kid sheepishly looked up at Teaspoon, "How'd you-?"
Teaspoon hitched up his pants as he stared into the mornin' light, "When you love a sweet little lady, you do anything ya can to protect her. Even though you didn't know Lou back then... my guess is y're feelin' guilty you weren't there to protect her."
Kid nodded wordlessly.
"Well.. mount up.. and ride safe. We all want you back in one piece."
Kid mounted Katy and smiled down at Teaspoon, "See ya in a couple of days Teaspoon. Ya!"
Katy and Kid flew out of the station in a cloud of dust.
Teaspoon turned back to the house, Lou stood in the doorway almost out of sight. She cried silent tears of worry as Kid rode out into the sunrise.
If Fenton was the gate of hell...
Devastation was the Devil's sittin' room.
Jimmy rode into the town of Devastation and no one noticed. Sundance ambled through the streets beneath him. His Colts were hidden beneath his coat. He finished his ride with lots of time to see the sights. Not that this town had any.
Six saloons, three gun stores, and one hotel. It made it real simple to know what the town was about. Jimmy felt kind of at home here, he knew people wouldn't be askin' any questions.
** KID **
Kid sat at the Bankers office for what seemed like hours. Mr. Radcliffe.. the bank manager came out of the back office the third time... his eyes tired. "Well, it looks like the return package won't be ready until evening..." He handed the rider a few bills.
"There's a restaurant and hotel down the street. Why don't you have lunch.. maybe they'll get here in the meantime."
Kid took the bills and tipped his hat.
It wasn't hard to find it...and once Katy was secured to a rail out front, Kid took off his hat and stepped into the hotel.
Ghost town was a better way to describe the little place. The lobby was empty except for an old man who looked more like he was part of the decorations than a guest.
He felt the odd sensation of someone staring at the back of his head. He turned and caught a young girl about his age peering out at him from the next room. She looked owl-eyed at him before disappearing, "Mr. Connor.. there's a man."
Kid moved closer to the door and nearly ran into someone. The man was older and balding. He had a sharp look about his face. He glared at Kid, "ain't got no work for you, if that's what you want."
"No sir," Kid straightened his stance, "Mr. Radcliffe sent me here... said I could buy lunch."
"Well, have a seat... it ain't gonna come get you."
Kid wondered for a moment if he shouldn't just go hungry.
"Please sir, have a seat." It was the same young woman who was lookin' at him before. He followed her to a table and finally got a good look at her. Her looks were plain and she had a quiet disposition. Her hair was pulled up under a cap that had been pristine white at one time. She wore a dark blue dress with long full sleeves and a high collar.
She leaned across the table to place silverware at his place. As she stretched her arm out, the cuff pulled back and he had to bite back a comment. Her wrist looked like she had rolled it in purple ink.. she had bruises covering her wrist. A quick glance confirmed her other wrist was in much the same condition.
She poured him a glass of water and was about to move away from the table when Connor called her name, "Lila!"
Her hand pulled back fitfully and the glass of water fell, splashing water across the old cloth that covered the table. "Oh God!" She took a towel from her apron pocket and was tryin' to mop it up when he came up behind her.
"What in b-blazes have you done now!?"
"I-I-I'm sorry Connor, it was-"
Kid stood up, "it was an accident sir, I startled her and the glass fell over, no harm done."
The man glared at Kid before he turned back to the cowering woman. He grabbed her arm and dragged her around the corner and out of sight.
Angry words were laid down and before he realized it, the sharp sound of skin strikin' skin was heard. Kid's hands gripped the table as she came back into view. She held another glass in her hand. She laid it on the table and picked up the pitcher, fillin' the glass with a hand shakin' in fear. She kept her face hidden from him, until he laid his hand on hers.
She gasped with surprise and turned to meet his eyes. Her left cheek had the unmistakable raised welt of a human hand imprinted on it. Kid started to rise from his chair and she grabbed his arm. "Please sir, he's my husband, let it alone-"
"He hit you!"
She nodded and looked back at him...her gaze stronger, "and I still beg you ... let it alone."
** JIMMY **
Jimmy had left the day after Kid, he had spent last night listening to Lou toss and turn in her bunk. He always found himself watching out for her, worrying about her, and not bein' able to do anything about his feelings was drivin' him insane. Bein' this far away from the Waystation, Jimmy took the opportunity to bend a few of the Express rules.
The bartender at the Twelve Gun Saloon didn't give him no hassles, just filled his glass and took his money.
It was late that night when the strangest man walked into the saloon. Strange... 'cause he looks... well, happy. Jimmy groaned as the man walked over to his table and sat beside him. He pulled his hat low over his eyes. This did nothin' to dampen the other man's spirits. He waved the nearest girl over and ordered drinks for both of them.
When the drinks were on the table, Jimmy's 'companion' lifted his glass toward him. "To this wonderful evening!"
Jimmy tossed back his drink, "What's 'wonderful' about it?"
"I'm getting married tomorrow."
Jimmy looked at him and called the waitress back over, "Two more."
"Thank you sir!"
"Ain't no sir, name's Jimmy."
The man picked his hand off the table and pumped it up and down. "Pleased to meet you Jimmy, I'm Daniel."
Jimmy set his glass down, and regarded his new friend, a half smile stealing across his face, "So if you're gettin' married tomorrow... won't your girl be mad at you for comin' here?"
Daniel laughed and winked at Jimmy, "Mad? NO, she'd be mad if I didn't come here.... she's the hostess." He leaned over to Jimmy and pointed at a petite blond with long curly hair. Her outfit was a bit ... well it was just 'a bit' there wasn't much else to imagine.
Jimmy looked at Daniel in askance.
Daniel shook his head... "I knew it looks bad, but this is just a job. After tomorrow, we're leavin' here. This is kind of her farewell party."
As the next round hit the table Jimmy found that his conversation with Daniel kept his mind off of his troubles at home. He plied him with drinks and Daniel continued to ramble on about his life.
They both watched as Cora sat down at a table with an older man dressed in a dark double breasted suit. She looked less than happy and voices raised
as their 'discussion' grew more heated. Daniel slid his chair back. "That's her boss, Arlen Mathers."
Jimmy put a hand on his. "She's okay."
"NO, there's trouble. "
"There'll be more trouble if you go over there drunk. You don't drink do you?"
"Not until tonight... I've had some catchin' up to do."
Jimmy's grip on his arm tightened, "Yes... and now you should sleep it off."
Cora stood and angrily shoved the man's hand away from her arm.
Daniel pulled his arm free and moved across the room, "Keep y're hands off her!" Cora balked and tried to get him to sit back down.
"It's alright Dan... Mr. Mathers here was just sayin' there's a bit of trouble with my pay."
"That's right Cora, you haven't found a replacement. So either you stay until one is found, or I dock you a day of pay for each day until I find one."
"No, " she argued, "There've been a score of pretty girls come in here to take the job... you just never hired anyone."
"Can I help it if I've come to appreciate your charms?"
Daniel tried to grab him, but found himself thrown back against the bar by two of Mathers' men. "You can't keep her here!"
"Can't boy? You don't tell me what I can and cannot do!"
"Yes I can, she'll be my wife tomorrow."
"Not unless I get a replacement girl before then."
"I've had it with you Mathers. We're gonna have to settle this once and for all!"
"Daniel!" Cora stood before him and tried to reason with him.
Jimmy shoved one of the men off of Daniel, and one look at the Colt he had strapped to his waist, the other took a step back. Jimmy held Daniel up to his face, "Listen up. You don't want to do this... you don't know what you're sayin'. He's not the type of man who would lose."
"But he'll never let her go!"
"There's got to be another way, you're no gunfighter."
"I've gotta make a stand. There are already too many men in town who think I ain't man enough for Cora."
She cried out as she listened to his ravings, "Damn it Daniel... you're man enough for me anyday... that's all that should matter!"
"Listen to her-"
Daniel turned a deaf ear to her pleas, "Nope," he turned to Mathers, "I'll see you center of town... noon tomorrow! I'm man enough to stand up to you Mathers, you'll see."
Cora ran off as Jimmy dragged the young man out into the cold night air and try to reason with him.
** KID **
All night long, Kid paced the length of his room. Round the early hours of the morning, he fell into a fitful sleep. He had taken a room in the hotel when Radcliffe had come to tell him that the notes would be ready in the morning.
The next morning he arose early and made his way to the bank. The notes were ready and he was ready to head back.
There had not been a moments rest for him all night long. All he could see in his mind were the bruises on her wrists. The purple marks patterned against her skin like marbles in a child's game.
He remembered her plea to 'let it alone'... deep down inside he knew he couldn't. He had no idea what to do... the Marshal could care less... he'd been told before and had ignored the problem. Kid threw his hat down on the bed as he considered, 'How do you stand up for someone who no one cares about.'
Teaspoon would say, "As long as you're on the side of the right, sometimes one person is all it takes."
He sank down in a chair, his head in his hands. He could see Lila's face in his mind, but as he thought of her, Lou's face appeared in his mind. God he missed her!
'I hid myself in the corner...' her words returned to his mind, streaking through it like wildfire, 'he pulled me up by my arms and tried to kiss me...'
Breathing was hard for Kid, 'when I wouldn't let him... he slapped me.'
He imagined, like he had a million times before.. the marks on her face, her arms, her........... body. Her voice whispered through his thoughts, 'I yelled and screamed .... I called for help... anyone...anything! No one came... they heard it.. I know they did.... no one did anything to help, even though they knew what was happening!'
Kid stood and strapped on his holster, securing it around his leg, "not this time," he told himself. "Not this time.. not while I can do something."
** JIMMY **
Morning came and Jimmy stood at the bar, conscious of all the murderous glances thrown his way. It didn't bother him much... it was something he had grown used to. Cora elbowed her way through the crowd and up to Jimmy, "I need to talk to you."
He shrugged, "Talk."
She snatched the shot glass out of his hand and slammed it on the counter. Jimmy's growl was low but audible. "Outside" she hissed, "I don't need the whole bar knowin' my business."
"Seems to me they heard an earful last night," Jimmy picked the glass back up, tossed back the liquor and set it back on the bar. He threw a coin on the counter and stepped away.
Cora grabbed his arm and they both headed to the back of the saloon. She lifted the bar on the door and the two walked out into blinding sunlight. "I need you to help Daniel see reason."
"Seems to me he's got a pretty good grasp of it."
"No! He'll get himself killed-"
"It's his choice..."
"How can you say that, Arlen's been pushin' him for weeks...I told him to stay out of it. He never listens!"
"Have you asked him why?"
"No, he should know I just want him safe."
"The man sees the woman he loves beaten up and you think he'll keep quiet about it. Do you want a man like that? 'Cause there's plenty of men like that 'come in that bar day after day... you want them?"
"No, please... I just want him ALIVE!" She began to sob and he put a hand on her shoulder as she shook in fear.
"Then leave with him...today. Put as much distance as you can between you and this town-"
Jimmy saw the sun explode in his eyes. He fell behind a pile of crates in the alley. He heard... from somewhere distant... Cora's screams as two men dragged her off.
"You my dear are goin' nowhere... you're worth too much to me."
His world faded behind the dark cloud growing in his head.
** KID **
Kid found his way to Lila's door. He looked around the hall... there was no one nearby. The servant's rooms were at the back of the hotel... behind the kitchen. He could hear voices and other noise coming from the dining room, but the hall was empty.
One hand lifted up to the door and he knocked softly. No answer. Again. Still no answer. One last look up and down the hall... and Kid knocked loudly. The door clicked loudly and swung open about a foot. The door hadn't been locked.
It was late afternoon and the light that filtered through the half boarded windows was focused on the floor. "Lila?" No answer, but Kid moved into the room. His foot hit and nearly tripped over the rug. It's corner had been turned over and left.
The air in the room was stale as if fresh air rarely had a chance to find it's way in. There was a stillness that Kid felt falling over his skin like a shroud. Most of the room was in shadow... and Kid quietly made his way around.
He could hardly believe that anyone lived in such darkness. He made his way to the desk in the corner... looking for paper to write a note. He paused as his eyes swept over the dingy mirror on the wall. He saw Lila, her arm visible from under the blankets.
The hand of fear gripped his heart as he turned to the bed. One hand peeled back the blankets and Lila's body was uncovered. Her face was nearly unrecognizable, a pattern of black and blue fist marks. Her fingers were swollen and finger tips crusted with dried blood. She had put up a struggle, but still....her life was gone.
Kid felt his knees buckle and grabbed on to the covers. He froze as he heard footsteps down the hallway. His hand flew to his gun and rested on the handle.
The door swung open and Conner stalked into the room. He stopped in his tracks when he saw Kid, kneeling by the bed, "You!" A sneer slid across his face, "You would be here. She's always been too uppity for her own good. She told me no....again! Told me NO!" Kid gripped his gun in the shadows, "She had some nerve last night....til I beat it out of her!" Good God, he sounded so proud of himself.
Kid felt his stomach rise up in his throat.. the mix of the smells in the room and this man's audacity made him sick!
"She was your wife-" he grated out.
"Good for nothing little snipe - she deserved what I gave her!"
"You deserve -"
"I deserve what?"
The muscle in Kid's hand twitched and he nearly drew his gun. "I'm goin' for the Marshal, you killed her!"
Kid made it just past Connor. As he reached out to grasp the knob of the door, Kid found himself slammed up against the wall. The wood scratched his face and the door knob dug into his hip. He struggled against the weight of his attacker, and felt his head pushed against the wall again. Stars filled his view as his eyes fell on Lila's lifeless body.
Connor slid Kid's gun free of its holster and drew it up to his head. Kid pushed back from the wall and pushed Connor's hand away from him. The gun went off and a blinding light surprized both men. It was almost a full minute before either men moved. Connor began to laugh. He stared at Kid with laughter in his eyes and evil triumph on his lips... they died there. His body slumped to the floor...
** JIMMY **
Jimmy woke up with the afternoon sun in his eyes. He looked around the alley through the heavy haze in his brain. He felt the hard ground beneath him... a nagging thought in his brain... what time-?
He moved to stand and fought through the pain that sliced through his head. A quick check and Jimmy knew he had a prize winnin' knot on the back of his head.
The street was a few feet before him. With all the strength he could muster he made it the end of the alley and stared out at the empty street.
Not totally empty... there in the middle of the town two bodies lay in the dust. Realization was cruel and quick. Someone had jumped him, and Daniel-
As Jimmy paced the street toward the body he noticed that every door up and down the street was closed and probably locked. Not a business was open or a person to be found. The Marshal's office was right across the street. It's shutters were closed and Jimmy ground his teeth together. 'Cowards'
When he stood over the bodies he dared to look down. Cora lay crying over Daniel's body. Fear stretched across his face, in his last moments he had known such terrible fear...and now he would go to his rest with that memory. Jimmy sank to his knees beside his friend. He leaned over and shut the man's eyes, "You've seen enough."
Cora looked up into the dying sunlight.. her eyes wild and tears coursing down her face. She pushed herself away from his body, struggling to stand in the middle of street she refused Jimmy's help to stand up. She turned a full circle, addressing the hidden eyes she knew were peering out at them. "That's right, hide behind the closed doors! That's all y're good for! Cowards.. you damn Cowards!"
"You turned your backs on him!"
Cora turned to Jimmy, "and where were you?" They both knew what had happened to him, but he understood Cora's grief. "Did you see what they did to him?" He looked down at the body for a long moment, evidence of the petty nature of the town plain to see. Unable to believe the callous nature of what they had done, he bristled with hatred.
Everything of any value.. anything that didn't have blood on it.. had been taken. His watch, buckle, even the buttons off his shirt had been taken right off his body. Jimmy noticed Daniel's bare feet layin on the dirt "His shoes?"
Cora nodded and screamed at the top of her lungs, raging at the town. "I bet you didn't even wait for him to die... did you? Or did you strip him of everything he owned as he lay here.. bleeding in the street.... I bet he begged you to stop... cryin' out his last breath as you robbed him blind. But that don't mean nothin' to you, does it?"
"You stripped him of everything he had of value. But the worst was you took his hope... you took that too!"
"My dear, you look so distraught?" Mathers appeared from behind the corner. "As he lay dying, clutching at his chest... he called your name over and over... I do believe he actually loved you."
"Loved me? Of course he loved me," Jimmy grabbed Cora and held her back, "Let me go."
"No, he's already killed Daniel... killin' you would be easy."
"I don't care!"
"Yes you do."
"He never would have made much of a husband..."
Cora pulled one of Jimmy's guns free. The next few moments would replay in Jimmy's mind for years to come. She turned to shoot, but Mathers already knew. He had already cleared his gun from its holster.
Jimmy fired as Cora pulled the trigger, both guns spat fire as Mathers' gun echoed the call. The recoil threw Cora backwards against Jimmy and she dropped his Colt.
Mathers fell forward onto his face... his gun still clenched in his fingers.
Jimmy turned Cora to face him... she clung to his coat crying into his shoulder, "It's over... it's over................... ............. my life is over."
He held her as she shook with her sobs... draining every last bit of energy from her body.
** KID **
As Connor's body collapsed to the ground lifeless...Kid sank to his knees in despair. He felt nothing for the man whose life he had just taken... there was only sorrow for the woman who lay dead.
He stumbled out of the hotel, taking his gun from Connor's lifeless fingers. Who were these people that believed that women deserved to be hurt when they didn't fill the expectations of men. Didn't they know that women should be treasured and loved? He left the hotel, his pack in hand.
Tears that he had held inside of him for weeks came flowing across his cheeks. So consumed in his grief he didn't notice the rain until he heard thunder crack and crash through the air. His eyes flew open and he watched in awe as lightning split the clouds and set fire to the hotel.
Unbidden, thoughts of Lou entered his mind. She bore no physical reminders of the bruises she got from Wicks, but there were bruises on her soul. Some that would never heal. Now the tears she shed the first time they made love..made some sense. He knew now that she had never known tenderness from a man, only pain.
Rain, thick and hot poured down around him. It washed away the tears that he shed and drenched him until his shirt hung from his body.
While trying to fight his own demons... Kid had done nothing to help her. The only thing he could do now...was to be there for her. Listen when she needed it. Hold her when she felt like it....and tell her again and again...for the rest of her life... that it wasn't her fault.
Lila would never have that... Connor had taken her life as he had taken her soul. Rape and violence has a way of stripping your soul bare and leaving you a shell of who you were. Only a few would ever 'fill' themselves again. Lou had, and surely the rain that fell today was for her as well. The angels, forever on watch, shed these tears for all the evil done in the world.
The rain continued as he knelt there in the street... people ran toward the hotel from all directions tryin' to save what they could. Kid collected his pack from the ground where he had dropped it and threw it over Katy's saddle.
He ignored the frantic cries of the townsfolk... he had to get home.
** JIMMY **
Fat drops of rain hit the dusty road, all around them. Each drop kicked up its own little cloud of dust and dirt.
The heat of the day was disappearing and Jimmy felt the rain hit his back. The sound was sweet in his ears like the soft rhythm of footsteps. Jimmy held out his open palms to the sky feeling the rain wash across his skin.
This should never have happened to a man like Daniel. What he had done, he had done with honor, but that didn't make it any better. A good man lay dead... and there had been no one to stand with him.
Cora moved away to kneel beside the body. Her hands moving over Daniel's face... her fingers lovingly caressed his lips and her fingers combed through his hair arranging it carefully.
"Thanks Jimmy - I'll be fine. I'm leaving here tomorrow - don't know where I'm goin' but anywhere is better than here." She turned away.
There was a deep and abiding sadness that lay over Jimmy like a blanket.. and the rain couldn't wash it away. Lou would've said it's because he was the one who kept it so tight around his shoulders. Lou. There was something about her that made things alright. Made life worth it. He envied Kid more than anyone knew.
He stood and made his way to the end of town. Sundance stood, tethered to a rail, waiting for him. He mounted with a heavy heart and turned the palomino away from the quiet little town. He paused for a moment thinking he should ride to some far off place where no one cared... he stopped himself, he could feel himself becoming like them and it killed him. He turned Sundance toward Rock Creek, "Let's go home."
** KID **
Kid rode into the yard like the devil himself was following him... there was hardly even time to call out, "Rider Comin'!"
Kid slid off Katy's back, throwin' the reins to Ike... Lou came runnin' out of the bunkhouse and threw herself into his arms...
He held her tight and kissed her cheek, not carin' who was watching. "I'm so glad to be back... I missed you so much."
She wrapped herself around him, "I missed you too." She let him pull back and looked up into his eyes, "We've been kind of avoidin' each other-"
" I know- and I'm sorry Lou, but I've just been tryin'-"
"To protect me, I know."
He looked in her eyes and was relieved to see she wasn't angry, "I've seen some things this last trip.. it put everything in place for me." He paused and put a finger to her lips, "I know I can't go back in time and stop Wicks from doin' what he did-" He looked at her.. and for the first time...she didn't look away when Wicks' name was mentioned. "but I'm here now. NO ONE is ever goin' to do that to you again. Not while I'm alive, not-"
She took his face in her hands and kissed him. His arms pulled her up against him, and he returned the kiss with all his heart.
** JIMMY **
He rode back to the station in darkness.. he wanted to be home more than anything. As bad as things were in Rock Creek... he knew that the riders were there for each other. Nothing like what happened to Daniel would happen there...if he had any say in it...
Jimmy walked his horse into the barn and groomed her. As he walked out he saw that the lights in the house were out and only a soft glow could be seen from the bunkhouse.
He hoped that the light inside meant that Lou was still up writing in her journal. He really needed to talk to her.
He stopped before he ever set foot on the porch. There in the shadows Kid held Lou in his arms. The two were asleep and holding each other. Jimmy felt his breath leave him. He was happy for his friends, but it didn't make it any easier for him.
He didn't want to disturb them and headed back out to the barn... Sundance would share her space with him. He laughed out loud, she'd share, but she was a damn sight worse company than Kid had.
As he spread out his blanket on the hay he looked up and saw the moon through a loose board in the wall. 'What a ride!' he thought. He started to lay down and then thought better of it.. there in the moonlit barn, James Butler Hickok knelt down on his knees, clasped his hands together and said a quiet prayer.
Somewhere, under that same moon, an angel looked up and smiled.