"Those pink flowers look nice in your red hair, Kitty," said Doc. "You look like a prairie nymph."

"A prairie nymph?" said Matt.

"Thank you, Doc. They're just wild asters," said Kitty. She didn't mention that Matt had woven them into her hair, his fingers surprisingly nimble. He never touched her any way but gently, yet she always marveled anew how gentle his touch was. She wanted to hide the memory in her heart, like secret treasure.

"How's Chester, Doc?" said Matt.

"He'll be alright. He's sleeping. I stitched the gash on his face and put him to bed in the other room. He's still mourning Carol, and fighting Dankworth was a little too much for him," said Doc. "You can look in on him if you want."

When Matt opened the door to Doc's bedroom, Chester stirred and woke. A piece of sticking plaster held the bandage in place on his cheekbone, and the other side of his face where Dankworth punched him looked red and tender. Matt and Kitty smiled at him and he sat up in Doc's bed, scrubbing his fingers through his soft straight hair.

"I'll fix us some coffee," said Doc.

"Chester. How you feelin'?" said Matt.

"Fine, Mr. Dillon. Miss Kitty."

"Dankworth turned himself in and confessed to Carol's murder. I got 'im locked in the jail there," Matt said.

"Oh. If that don't beat all," his friend said quietly. With the acute look that signaled Matt when somewhat troubled him, Chester regarded the marshal.

"What's wrong, Chester," said Kitty.

"Ah'm wonderin' if Dankworth wrote a false report to Washington that I done it 'fore he confessed to killin' Carol," said Chester.

"I asked him about that and he said he didn't write any report. I believe him," said Matt.

"Why," said Chester.

"I threatened to give him a hard beating if he did. He said I scared him. You have nothing to worry about now, Chester," Matt said.

"That eases ma head a sight," said Chester. "Wahl. I ain't gonna lay abed the day long. Got thangs ta do."

"What things?" said Kitty.

"Tellin' Doc to dump some chic'ry in the pot. He makes the coffee too pale." Chester got out of bed and limped in his socks to the front room.

"He'll get Doc's dander up sure," said Kitty. "After that horrid business with Dankworth and Sylvia, my nerves aren't up to Doc and Chester bickering. Let's wait in here 'til they run out of steam, Matt."

"This is my office, Chester," they heard Doc snap. "Don't tell me how to make coffee in my own office! What do you know about it, anyway?"

"Well, I could learn you a thing or two 'bout it, Doc. You don't put 'nough granyools in ta flavor one dinky teacup full."

"Granyools," said Doc.

"Yeah. You know, them grains makes up the coffee. Fer a whole pot, you gotta put in at the least—"

"Oh, shut up, Chester."

"Matt, Doc's bein' too hard on him in there. Doc said himself the whole thing with Carol's death and Dankworth was too much for Chester," said Kitty.

Matt grinned. "Sometimes Doc's bedside manner leaves somewhat to be desired. Don't worry about Chester, Kitty. The best medicine for him now is Doc yellin' at 'im."

"How's that?"

"Doc will jar him out of his shock, bring 'im back to normal. Chester will be himself again before we know it."

M.C.K.D. **********

Dodge City Times October 22, 1875

"Saintly Judge" Shows Mercy in Saloon Gal Murder

Reported by Rem Weston

Judge Gabriel "The Saintly Judge" Benedict, known far and wide for never condemning a man to death, granted leniency to a killer yet again, this time to prominent Dodge City Councilman Stokely Dankworth in the slaying of twenty-one-year-old Long Branch worker Carol Wren. Judge Benedict sentenced Mr. Dankworth to forty-two years at Kansas State Penitentiary for the murder of Miss Wren. Councilman Dankworth, who is thirty-eight years old, will not be eligible for early release until age seventy, having served thirty-two years of his sentence. Mr. Dankworth, who pleaded guilty to the murder, abducted Miss Wren from her room on the second floor of the Long Branch saloon, tied a bandanna over her mouth and dragged her onto the open plains late at night.

The councilman then begged Miss Wren to leave her job at the Long Branch to become his exclusive courtesan. "I had entreated her to do so many times, and she refused. Carol said she did not love me, and I hounded her so, that of late she said she'd have nothing more to do with me. She was in love with Chester Goode," Mr. Dankworth testified in court. (Mr. Goode is the Dodge City jailer, and assistant to Marshal Matt Dillon.)

Dankworth then engaged in forcible carnal knowledge with Miss Wren. "After I took her in the grass, she screamed that she hated me," Dankworth testified. "She called me a cruel barbarian. Then I started to strangle her. She was just a frail woman, and I was so enraged, her neck broke in my hands." Dankworth then broke down and wept in court. "Poor, sweet little Carol. She was so beautiful, and I loved her so," he said.

The councilman's wife, Mrs. Sylvia Dankworth, who remains devotedly faithful to her husband, visiting him nearly everyday at the Dodge City jail, petitioned Saintly Judge Benedict to spare "my poor Stokely" from spending the rest of his life in prison, knowing of course, as do most, that the judge has never imposed the death penalty. Mrs. Dankworth cited her own culpability in Miss Wren's murder, stating that she encouraged her husband to kill Miss Wren, "to stop the unceasing torment the girl's very existence inflicted upon Stokely".

Miss Wren worked with Miss Kitty Russell, Long Branch hostess. "Carol was a kind, warm young woman. She didn't deserve to be killed," said Miss Russell. "But Dankworth and Sylvia both deserve hanging. Can you believe she's free as a bird? A hawk, more like. The marshal never even arrested her."

This journalist explained to Miss Kitty that Mrs. Dankworth is a woman, not subject to the violent passions of men and deceived by her very love for her husband as Eve was deceived by the serpent, unlike Adam, whose eyes were opened to his sin.

"That may be," said Miss Kitty. "It doesn't change the truth that Sylvia Dankworth is herself a serpent. As for the councilman, I'm all for showing mercy, but times His Honor Benedict is too soft-hearted. If I knew Dankworth could get out of prison when he's seventy if he doesn't rot away to an early grave which is his due, I might've shot 'im through his worthless heart myself."

Dodge City physician Doc Adams attended Councilman Dankworth in jail for nervous prostration and melancholy. "Sad business all round," said Doc Adams, shaking his head. "I've never seen a man more remorseful than Stokely Dankworth. His guilt consumes him. If his obsession for Carol in life tormented him, that's nothing to the agony he suffers for killing her. What do I think of his wife? She's as obsessed with Stokely as he was with Carol, and still is with the death and memory of Carol. Yes, Sylvia bears blame in her death, but nowhere near as much blame as her husband. When she told him to kill the poor girl, I don't think Sylvia could help herself."

This journalist also spoke with Chester Goode, beloved friend of Miss Wren, who, so folks are saying, was herself obsessed. With Chester. "Carol was the nicest prettiest girl," Chester said. "Like a yellow 'n white flower with sparkly emerald eyes. I weren't in love with her, though." When asked if he had any thoughts to share about the Dankworths, the marshal's worthy assistant answered, "No. I got no feelin' 'bout them. Dun like 'em neither one."

Marshal Dillon investigated Miss Wren's murder, jailed the councilman and took him to court. He will also escort Mr. Dankworth to the penitentiary at Leavenworth. "Gabriel Benedict is a fine judge and good, brave man," the marshal stated, when asked if he thinks Dankworth got off easy. "I'm not one to question his decisions.

"Dankworth's wife has a strong attachment to her husband, but not a wholesome one," Mr. Dillon went on. "Sylvia's too cold and selfish, too iron-willed and fond of her own way to give an imprisoned, mourning and guilt-stricken husband much comfort. And the councilman will likely die before long. He sentenced himself to relentless misery. The noose would've been a more merciful punishment for Stokely Dankworth."

END