This was his last day as a United States Marshal.
Matt Dillon was retiring after thirty five years as a lawman
He was fifty three years old and sometimes felt more like a hundred, as he stiffly got out of bed, trying to coax his scarred and arthritic legs to cooperate. Doc would slowly shuffle along the sidewalk with limping Matt, and would wryly chuckle and warn him about what age seventy held.
Normally, when Matt shaved each morning, he would routinely and unthinkingly go through the necessary motions, but this morning he stopped midway and studied his face. Kitty often told him how handsome he was, but all he saw now were the lines and wrinkles from years of squinting into the bright prairie distance, or intently watching the eyes and gun hand of a threat.
Stripped down to wash, he also took note today of the many scars across his arms and chest and torso and legs from the multiple attempts to kill him over the years. He had lost track of how many wounds he had survived, but his Kitty knew every one. She didn't know that he would awaken when she would trace each wound with feather soft fingertips as they lay together. He had felt her tears on his chest one night as he was still healing from a bullet that had torn into him, and she had whispered that she was crying because she always felt any pain that he did.
Combing his thick mop of graying curls, Matt noted the slightly receding hairline, but was grateful he still had a good head of hair. That was a subject he would periodically tease Doc about, with his now thin white hair on top of his head. Kitty still called Doc "Curly" affectionately, and Doc would glare at him when he had to stifle a laugh.
Slipping into a comfortable old, faded red shirt, Matt paused for a moment as he started to automatically put on his U.S. Marshal badge. Two permanent small holes were in the left breast of the shirt from the countless times he had pinned on the badge. He stared at the shiny silver badge in his big palm before putting it on for the last time.
When Matt reached the office for one last day there, he looked around at the familiar old desk, filing cabinet, and cot along the wall. Looking over at the ancient stove and equally ancient metal coffeepot on top of it, he thought of his old friend and loyal assistant Chester, and smiled, remembering all of the terrible concoctions of coffee he would try.
Chester had been gone from Dodge for a dozen years now, happily married to a perky young woman, and now running her father's restaurant in Topeka. In Chester's latest letter, he had proudly announced the birth of his sixth daughter. Matt smiled at remembering Kitty's tearful smile when she had read of the birth of their first daughter, now going on eleven, named Dillon, which quickly became "Dilly." She cried even more a year and a half later, when "Kathleen" was born.
Then there was Festus. Matt had depended on him and admired his wits from the first time Festus had teamed up with him. Only Kitty knew that every time Matt saw a mule in town, he thought of his old friend. Festus was as loyal, sturdy, and determined as a mule, and it was totally right that he now raised them on a farm outside of town that he and Abelia owned. As much a surprise to Festus as to his friends, he and Abelia had married four months ago. Festus was now sixty, and Abelia had convinced him that his days as a Deputy were over. He had grumbled and frowned, but was secretly relieved to change his life, especially when he found out Matt's retirement plans. Abelia's son and daughter had already loved Festus as a "Pa" and were thrilled to have him living with them.
Matt had already cleaned out the desk and removed all of his personal items from the office. The new U.S. Marshal would be arriving late tonight, and would take over officially tomorrow. Thad Greenwood was now in his early thirties, almost exactly the age Matt had been when he had first arrived in Dodge as Marshal, and had studied law before becoming a Deputy Marshal. Matt smiled at how things worked out in life sometimes, and he couldn't think of a finer man and person for "his" job.
Newly O'Brien would have been first in line for the job, but had decided to continue his medical education three years ago when his wife Patricia had died, and assisted old Doc full time now. Matt and Kitty were relieved that Doc had a good man to share his work load, and to watch over him, too. Seeing him slowly navigate the fourteen steps up to his office made them both worry and ache for him.
Matt's last full day as Marshal went smoothly and uneventfully. He ate breakfast at Delmonico's with Doc and Kitty, lunch with Kitty, finished clearing out and cleaning up the office and jail cells, then met Doc and Kitty again at Delmonico's for dinner. It was an unusual day when Matt could eat three relaxed meals. Kitty had been glowing with happiness, so much so that Doc had teased her.
"For heaven's sake, Kitty, you look like the proverbial cat that ate the canary!"
He loved her and was so glad that she no longer had to suffer through another injury to Matt. And he was pretty sure that she had a lot to do with Matt finally deciding to retire before it was too late.