The Color that Divides

by Linda T.


Judge Travis took his customary seat at the head of the room and immediately brought the rumbling chatter to a gradual halt by presence alone. The path from the door to the table that served as a judiciary bench for Travis to hear the case felt like a line drawn between the supporters and the detractors of Nathan Jackson and the Magnificent Seven. On one side of the room, Walt Simonson, Hiram Neuhaus, Jonas Conklin and Alderson's family represented the ill feeling in Four Corners for the accused and his companions. On the other, Mary Travis, Nettie and Casey Wells, Inez Rocillos, Virgil Watson and Gloria Potter were a few of the faces that saw the seven for all the good they did and felt strongly that Four Corners would simply go to hell without them. Although Mayor Weston sat on this side, all those present knew that he was a neutral party and his choice of seating had to do with availability more than his loyalties. Weston was interested in seeing justice done and had no particular preference for one or the other parties in this issue.

Unfortunately, the hopes of keeping the trial under the purview of Travis' judgment alone had been discarded with the amount of public interest in the case. For the sake of quelling public sentiment that Travis might rule in favor of the defendant, the Judge had little choice but to appoint a jury and those men composed of citizens from Four Corners now held Nathan Jackson's future in their hands. For the seven, it was an uneasy feeling as they stared at the faces of men they had seen on a daily basis in Four Corners, with no idea what those men might think of Nathan Jackson.

"I call this courtroom to order," Travis said after the sound of his gavel against the wood had died away, bringing everyone's undivided attention to him. "United State Territorial Circuit Court is now in session. The matter being the people versus Nathan Jackson. How does the defendant plead?"

Gareth Winstanley glanced at Nathan instructing him to remain seated. It was his lawyer's place to answer that question. The quiet, not particularly impressive Englishman rose to his feet and replied quite succinctly, "Not guilty."

His response ignited a rumbled reaction from some of the spectators that was immediately silenced by another hard bang from the judge's gavel. "Order!" Travis demanded loudly. "Anymore outbursts and I'll clear the court."

Once the room had settled, Travis turned to James Lightfoot. "Mr. Lightfoot, your opening statement."

Lightfoot glanced at Jason Alderson and then at Nathan Jackson before he crossed the floor to the jury and observed the faces before him. He had scoured this little victory of a jury trial and was confident that he could manipulate them into seeing Nathan Jackson the way he needed them to. Taking a deep breath, he began speaking.

"Your honor, gentlemen of the jury, today you sit in judgment of an issue of murder, though slightly different from most kinds of murder. The people will prove that Nathan Jackson, a 'supposed' healer did willfully under the guise of administering medical aid, maliciously end the life of Bill Alderson by withholding the correct treatment required for Mr. Alderson's recovery. A man who kills while pretending to heal is a creature that must be removed from society in the most expedient way possible lest he attempts to do it again. Gentlemen, Nathan Jackson has no qualification to show that he is capable of healing anyone. Would you place your lives in the hands of a man who may be incompetent or worse yet, a murderer?"

His statement sent ripples of shock throughout the courtroom, mostly because to hear a crime that they had been arguing the last few days displayed so starkly was rather disconcerting. Even Chris felt himself flinching at the stirring remarks of the lawyers and asked himself for the hundredth time how he could have let this entire situation with Alderson reach this point.

"It is just legal showmanship," Ezra who was sitting next to Nathan whispered in the healer's ears.

"It's got my attention," Nathan whispered back, bristling at the accusation and almost on the verge of standing up to defend himself. However, an instinctive hand on his shoulder by Winstanley to restrain him convinced Nathan to let his lawyer handle things.

Winstanley rose to his feet and wiped his glasses with a handkerchief as he proceeded to the jury box. Unlike Lightfoot's overpowering demeanor, Winstanley was rather reserved and understated in comparison. He paused in front of the man and met each of their eyes directly.

"Murder," he stated first and foremost. "Mr. Lightfoot bandies that word about rather frivolously even though he has no hard physical evidence to back that claim other than the angry word of a bereaving son. Mr. Jackson has been a resident of Four Corners for two years now and he has been practicing the healing arts for most of the community. The defense does not deny that Mr. Jackson is not a certified physician, but can prove, most irrevocably that he is qualified in every sense of the word to administer medical treatment in lieu of a doctor being available. We will offer the court the testimony of people he has provided medical services to and we will examine the case of Mr. William Alderson who died under his care. Gentlemen, we will prove that Mr. Alderson's injuries were so substantial that it was simply beyond the capability of my client or any doctor present to administer aid. Mr. Alderson is dead and that is a tragedy, but it was an act of God, not a act of murder."

A small burst of applause followed the end of speech, finding its origins from Casey Wells who was not about to hide her belief in Nathan's innocence for anything. Her show of support gained solidarity from Inez, the Andersons and a few other members of the community before Travis' gavel brought silence to the court once more. Chris looked over his shoulder and gave the young lady a little wink, bringing a tinge of red to her cheeks. He turned to the front and saw Winstanley taking his seat again. It was good to know that they had someone able to argue for Nathan, but somehow Chris knew it was going to take more than words to see this end the way it should.

Unfortunately, this was just the beginning.

+ + + + + + +

The witnesses for the prosecution were called first.

Simonson swore on the bible and took the oath to tell the truth even though almost everything that came out of his mouth was an outright fabrication or an embellishment of what truly happened that night. His remarks were laced with innuendo and gave Lightfoot what he needed the most; a motive for the murder of Bill Alderson. With Alderson's feelings towards Nathan spelt out in garish detail before the jury at how Alderson blamed the abundance of non-whites in the Territory for their inability to become a state, Lightfoot wove a convincing tale of vengeance given opportunity. Alderson's injury had put him under the mercy of Nathan who had taken advantage of his critical state and killed him.

Winstanley, however, challenged most of this in the cross-examination, forcing Simonson to admit that Alderson had begged for Nathan's help when he had discovered the extent of his injury. The defense attorney ensured that there was corroborating evidence provided by witnesses, other than the seven, who had been at the Standish Tavern during the fight. Eventually however, Chris Larabee had to be called to the stand, mostly because he was the man who had actually pulled the trigger on Alderson.

Chris had everyone's undivided attention when he was sworn in and gazed at Nathan, issuing a silent promise that he would try to do his best for the healer. As Chris was Winstanley's witness, the defense attorney had the opportunity to question Chris first. After Chris had gone through the formalities of identifying himself, the questioning began with Winstanley taking the opportunity to present the incident the way it had actually happened.

"Mr. Larabee, can you state for the record to your best recollection what took place on the night that William Alderson was killed."

"Sure," Chris said simply and let his gaze move past the lawyer into the faces watching him closely. He saw Mary offering him a silent wish of luck before turning back to her note book where she had been scribbling notes for the Clarion's coverage of the trial.

"Alderson and Walt Simonson were already at the bar when all of us were together," Chris began.

"By all of us, you are referring to yourself, Messrs. Buck Wilmington, Josiah Sanchez, JD Dunne, Ezra Standish, Vin Tanner and the defendant?" Winstanley interrupted.

"Yes, that's right," Chris nodded and then continued. "We were having a few drinks, congratulating Nathan on a baby he had delivered."

"Objection, your honor," Lightfoot spoke up immediately. "We do not need to hear the nature of their drinking session, just the events that followed." He capped the statement with a smile any of the seven would have loved to wipe off his face.

"Your honor," Winstanley sighed, as if he were dealing with an impertinent child in Lightfoot and continued. "Mr. Lightfoot is the one who has introduced my client's competency as a healer into this case. I have the right to make rebuttal."

"Objection sustained," Travis said shortly. "Carry on."

"Thank you," Winstanley replied graciously and turned back to Chris, not even bothering to see for himself the glowering expression on Lightfoot's face. "Please continue, Mr. Larabee."

Chris offered the lawyer a little smile, deciding that he quite liked Mr. Winstanley and that usually took some doing. "As I was saying," he glanced at Lightfoot with a satisfied smile on his face. "We were congratulating Nathan on the baby he delivered when Alderson who was more than a little drunk starts going on about statehood. He claimed that the reason the Territory hadn't gained statehood was because of all the non-whites that lived here."

"Is that how he described them?" Winstanley interrupted again.

"No," Chris shook his head, disliking even to say the words himself. "He called them 'niggers', spics and Injuns."

The response from the courtroom was instantaneously with a mixture of booing and jeering intermingled with cheers. It was a riotous mix that demonstrated perfectly the contrasting views on the case. Judge Travis brought the room to order again and the questioning resumed at Winstanley's prompting.

"I decided to put a stop to the situation. There were people in the saloon who would take offense to what he was saying, my men included. I didn't want things to get ugly so I told Alderson that his opinion was his own business but he should keep it to himself in public."

"How did he react?"

Chris stared directly at Jason when he answered. "He tried to shoot me when my back was to him."

"That's a lie!" Jason stood up and shouted angrily. With him, the rest of Alderson's family and supporters made similar cries of outrage. This incited the other half of the courtroom to explode into similar displays and soon Travis was pounding his gavel on the bench trying to bring order to the courtroom. It took several minutes before the questioning could resume and Chris concluded his testimony by admitting he had shot Alderson in self defense, a statement already corroborated by the witnesses that had been called earlier in the day. When it was all said and done, Chris felt pretty comfortable with what had been said and was glad that he had been able to speak the truth on Nathan's behalf. However, before his testimony could be concluded, he would first have to endure Lightfoot's questions."

"Mr. Larabee," Lightfoot asked staring at Chris like a lamb about to be slaughtered. "Do you know anything about repairing arteries."

Chris' jaw tightened but was forced to answer. "No."

"No?" Lightfoot latched on the answer in triumph. "So you have no idea what Nathan Jackson did to Bill Alderson when he was 'supposedly' treating him for his injuries?"

"No," Chris answered, feeling a sour taste in his mouth as he spoke.

"Thank you, Mr. Larabee," Lightfoot retorted, contented that he had made his case. "You are excused."

Chris started to rise from the chair, never feeling a more powerful need to put a bullet in a man than at this moment. However, before he could, Winstanley spoke up once more. "Your honor, I have a final question for the witness, if it pleases the court?"

"Go on," Travis replied.

"Mr. Larabee, how did my client react following the death of Mr. Alderson?"

Chris understood what Winstanley was getting at and answered without hesitation. "He was pretty broken up about it. He had said that he wished that he knew more so that he could have helped Alderson. I know my friend and I know when he's hurting. It hurt Nathan to see Alderson die, just the way it hurts him to see anyone die because it is simply beyond his power to stop it."

Chris met Nathan's eyes and smiled, wanting the healer to know that his words had come from the heart. It was rare that he spoke up for anyone in this manner, but the situation definitely warranted it and he hoped it would help Nathan's case.

"Thank you, Mr. Larabee," Winstanley said, pleased with his response. "You are excused."

As it was getting rather late in the day, Judge Travis called an adjournment until the following day where other witnesses would be called. All in all, it had been a good day in court with Nathan's innocence being laid out for all to see despite Lightfoot's innuendoes and venomous claims. Whether or not it would make a difference to the jury was another thing altogether.

+ + + + + + +

That evening the seven gathered in the Standish Tavern with Winstanley present since he had proven himself to be the man of hour for being able to play James Lightfoot's ugly games with equal, if not superior, expertise. Nathan felt gratified that he had dared to give this inexperienced lawyer a chance because the man was providing him with a superior defense in court. Inez had closed the tavern early that day, not wishing to have any of the ugliness in court spill out into this room after she had cooked these men who were dear friends, some dinner.

On the house, of course.

"Mr. Winstanley," Ezra said raising his glass. "Might I say that you were definitely worth the sum of my new saloon."

"Is that what you were saving that money for?" Buck looked at him with a chuckle. "After the last time?"

"I learn from my mistakes," Ezra said haughtily. "This time it will be different."

"And if it is not," Inez remarked as she brought over a new round of drinks. "I can manage that saloon too."

This resulted in a burst of laughter as Ezra frowned at Inez's pleased smirk as she withdrew into the kitchen.

"Seriously, Mr. Winstanley. Ezra resumed his congratulations. "I do love the way you made Mr. Lightfoot flinch."

"Thank you," Winstanley replied graciously. "His case is based on very little so it required a modicum of my talents to accomplish it."

"Hell Ezra," Vin remarked. "He talks just like you."

"Only with modesty," Josiah added, chuckling.

A little bit more laughter followed before Winstanley turned to Nathan who was feeling at ease for the first time in days. "Mr. Jackson, chances are Mr. Lightfoot will attempt to get you on the stand tomorrow. I would prefer that you do not."

"But I've got nothing to hide," Nathan said automatically. "If I don't go on the stand and speak for myself, people will think I'm guilty."

"Nathan maybe you ought to take Winstanley's advice," Chris replied. "He seems to know what he's doing."

"I know that," Nathan stared at his lawyer, not wanting to think that his feelings were based on any disparagement on Winstanley's ability. "It's just that I have to live here when it's all said and done. Even if I do get off, I don't want people looking at me as if I had secrets to keep because I wouldn't testify in my own defense."

"Man's got a point," Josiah agreed.

"He has a moral point," Winstanley countered. "But not a legal one. As our attorney, I advise you against it."

"I'm sorry," Nathan let out a deep breath, understanding that Winstanley's concern was for him personally but he simply had to do this. "I have to speak for myself. I will not go through my life in this town ashamed of what I did. He was hurt and he needed my help. I did the best I could. When push comes to shove, that's gotta count."

Winstanley's frown indicated he thought otherwise but Nathan was his client and if he could not change the healer's mind, he would have to abide by Nathan's decision.

"So what's next tomorrow?" Buck asked, in an effort to break the mood of tension that had fallen across the table following that discussion. "Other than Nathan that is."

"Well," Winstanley took a sip of his drink and considered the question. "I've seen Lightfoot's witness list and I'm assuming that these are people who will have something negative to say about you. I have profiled most of them so there are no surprises coming our way. I have character witnesses of our own. The Andersons have agreed to testify, as well as a few other townspeople you've administered medical treatment to. Lightfoot has a doctor coming from Sweetwater."

"A doctor?" Vin exclaimed. "You mean a real one?"

"Yes." Winstanley nodded and noted the worried expression on their faces. "It is routine in these cases. I actually think that it will be more beneficial to us rather than damning actually."

"How so?" Nathan asked, feeling tendrils of fear at what a proper doctor might think of his abilities.

"I have been consulting with the doctor in Bitter Creek by telegraph regarding Mr. Aldersons' condition to provide quite an effective cross-examination," Winstanley explained. "There's nothing to worry about, I assure you."

Nathan hoped so too because he had no wish to be hung if Winstanley was wrong.

+ + + + + + +

Winstanley was right.

There were no surprises when it came to the testimony of Lightfoot's witnesses. Hiram Neuhaus took the stand, taking everyone, including JD Dunne who wore a stony expression throughout the man's testimony, through the painful ordeal of his wife's death. Annie had been shot fatally by JD during a foiled bank robbery and despite Nathan's efforts to keep her alive, she had died nonetheless. Although it was hard to prove that Nathan had been incompetent in his inability to save her, Lightfoot nonetheless alluded such to the jury. Winstanley did an admirable job of repairing the damage but unfortunately, the jury remembered what they heard.

Other witnesses came and went. Some were in his favor and some were not. An uneasy balance of views were placed before the jury who took everything in stoically, giving no indication of whether they were being affected by the words and faces that came before them. The two lawyers argued their cases and examined their witnesses with equal vigor. The attendants at court were often reminded to keep their personal feelings subdued and Jason Alderson spent the entire day glaring at Nathan as if the outcome of the case was merely a formality and that he would soon have his vengeance. Nathan's attention was focussed on the widow Alderson who appeared sad and aggrieved, not for the loss of her husband but for the public forum his death had caused. He had a feeling she was tolerating this for her son and not over any quest for justice.

It was almost to the end of the day when Nathan finally took the stand to testify in his defense. Despite the fact that Winstanley had protested this action almost until the point Nathan had left the table, Nathan was adamant in speaking up for himself. Four Corners had to hear him speak or else they would never be sure that he was entirely innocent even if he was found so by a jury. Winstanley was clearly unhappy to have him on the stand but performed his duty nonetheless. His questions to Nathan firmly established that the healer had acted to help Bill Alderson despite the man's odious behavior earlier on in the night.

"They're just words," Nathan had said to the jury. "Words don't hurt you unless you let it them and I certainly don't think that they're worth killing for."

All in all, he had felt he explained himself rather adequately and the approval he saw in Winstanley's eyes and the reaction of his friends seemed to indicate that they felt the same as well.

Then it was Lightfoot's turn to question him and everything went to hell.

"Mr. Jackson, where did you acquire your skills?" Lightfoot's initial question had been easy enough, Nathan had no difficulty answering it.

"I was a stretcher bearer for the Union Army during the war," he stated firmly.

"For how long were you employed in this activity?" Lightfoot questioned again.

Nathan waited a second to answer because his attention was captured momentarily by Winstanley who had a puzzled look on his face. Throughout the trial, his lawyer had presented a facade of utter confidence in what was transpiring. Even the negative testimonies had been accepted by Winstanley with almost stoic deliberation. This troubled expression on his lawyer's face suddenly made Nathan feel a corresponding anxiety.

"Three years," he answered, remembering that he was being spoken to.

Next to Winstanley, Ezra leaned over to the lawyer and asked beneath the hearing of anyone else. "What is the point of this?"

"I do not know," Winstanley responded in a whisper, experiencing a premonition of something terrible coming their way. There was no reason for Lightfoot to be probing into this part of Nathan's life. The man's ability as a healer was no longer in dispute after all the evidence given by witnesses who had been healed by Nathan in the past. There was no reason to revisit this subject unless there was something to be revealed that was previously unknown.

"Three years," Lightfoot nodded as if ruminating his response. "Did you care for both Union and Confederate soldiers during that time?"

"Yes," Nathan nodded, becoming just as perplexed as his lawyer.

Your honor," Winstanley spoke up, deciding enough was enough. "Is there a point to this line of questioning? Mr. Jackson was a stretcher-bearer who was probably under the supervision of field army doctors. I do not see what relevance this is to our present case."

"Mr. Lightfoot?" Travis turned to the lawyer. "I am forced to ask the same question."

"Your honor, if you just indulge me, I am getting to the point of this line of inquiry," Lightfoot responded.

Travis took a deep breath and replied with an unhappy rumble. "Get to it soon."

"Yes, your honor." He faced Nathan once more. "Tell me Mr. Jackson, how many Confederate soldiers did you have access to during your time as a stretcher bearer?"

"All of them," Nathan answered readily. "There were not enough nurses and doctors to go around," he explained. "We all helped our where we could."

Lightfoot smiled, his teeth pulled back in an almost leering expression. "How many did you help die?"

"OBJECTION!" Winstanley fairly exploded. "You have no evidence whatsoever to take this turn. Nathan you are not required to answer that question!"

"Why not?" Lightfoot demanded. "Is it that many? How do we know that his penchant for preferential treatment of his patients didn't begin that far back? He was a Negro and a newly freed slave. Are you telling me he would not have harbored perhaps a modicum of ill feeling towards the Confederacy who was the symbol of slavery, the symbol of his previous bondage? Did you know that Alderson fought for the Confederacy with the Calvary, Mr. Jackson?" He shouted at Nathan.

"NO, I DIDN'T!" Nathan roared back angrily, unable to believe this was happening. His tenure as a stretcher-bearer in the Union Army was one of the proudest moments of his life. It was where he had learned that healing a man was so much greater than killing him. How could Lightfoot take and destroy it so blithely?

"I put to you that you knew that Alderson was a Confederate when he was injured and that you took the opportunity to take your vengeance on all Confederates the way you did during the war. I put to you that you murdered him because he represented everything that kept you from being a real doctor!"

Winstanley was screaming his objections by now. "Your Honor, this entire line of questioning is based on supposition and a blatant attempt to cast aspersions on my client's character by implicating him in crimes that do not even exist! It has no basis in fact and it's completely hearsay and I might add entirely the opinion of the prosecution!"

The courtroom was in similar uproar with voices crying out loudly, supporting Lightfoot's claims and condemning his lies at the same time. The two lawyers were battling it out, throwing legal jargon at each other while in the center stage, the peacekeepers saw their friend taken apart brutally by the mere suggestion of such crimes. Nathan appeared dazed with astonishment at the vile suggestion flung against his credibility by James Lightfoot.

"MR. LIGHTFOOT!" Judge Travis roared angrily and shattered the pandemonium with the crack of his gavel against the table. "Your attempt to introduce inflammatory material into this court room will not be tolerated. You have no evidence of any kind to suggest that Mr. Jackson was responsible for any of the crimes you alluded to. If you try this again in my courtroom, I will have you thrown in jail for contempt, do you understand me?"

"Yes your honor," Lightfoot replied, not all repentant because he had accomplished exactly what he had set out to do.

Travis tried not to show how furious he was at the lawyer's behavior. He turned to the jury and spoke in a taut voice. "The jury will disregard Mr. Lightfoot's statements. I want it stricken from the record."

But it was too late and they all knew it. The jury had heard and they would remember.

+ + + + + + +

"That son of a bitch!" Buck cursed out loud after Travis had called an adjournment and the seven and Winstanley were alone in the courthouse. "Where the hell did that come from?" The big man was pacing the floor in an effort to control his rage.

"He just made it up," Chris answered smoking his cheroot. "He knew he had no proof but he was playing the jury."

"We should have never agreed to this!" Vin snapped, infuriated that Nathan was in this position and they could not do a damn thing to help their friend. Vin was at his most volatile when he was at his most helpless.

"Mr. Lightfoot has no real evidence," Winstanley attempted to be the voice of reason among these passionate friends who were liable to do something foolish if their anger was allowed to continue unchecked. "His entire case is based on public opinion and today's display was a desperate effort."

"Unfortunately, it was a rather prolific one," Ezra replied, taking a good swig of whiskey from the metal flash he kept on his person for occasions such at this. He handed it to Josiah, gesturing to the preacher to pass it around in order to assuage the hot tempers that were presently flaring out of control in the room.

"How bad did he hurt us?" JD spoke up, asking a sensible question in Chris' opinion.

"Bad enough," Winstanley frowned. "Tomorrow, the doctor will testify and I will regain some ground. I am hoping that the jury is able to see what Lightfoot was attempting and disregard his attack as the judge ordered."

"And if they don't?" Josiah asked.

Winstanley could not bring himself to answer.

"Nathan, are you alright?" Ezra turned to the healer following that less than encouraging response from the lawyer. Throughout all their discussion, Nathan had not spoken a word but they all felt for him, even if they could not imagine what he was thinking at this moment.

"You know, I was proud to be a stretcher bearer," Nathan said softly. "Until then my whole reason for joining the army was to have somewhere to go after I left the plantation. Being North was no better than being in the South and I had no place in either. So I joined the Union Army hoping that if I couldn't live a free man I could at least die like one. Waking up in that hospital was the first time I realize that there was more to me than just being a colored slave who was free. I could help people and when I helped them, it made no difference what color I was, they just saw someone who could take their pain away. It was a good feeling. I was proud of what I learnt as a stretcher bearer. It made me what I am and I was grateful because no matter happened, they couldn't take that away from me." He shook his head and his voice betrayed the tears that were trying to shatter his composure. "Until today."

With that, he walked out of the room, leaving the others silent and angry and so damn helpless.

"Ezra," Chris ordered without looking up. "Go after him. In his state, I don't want to know what he could do to himself."

Ezra could only nod and follow.

+ + + + + + +

When Mary Travis heard knocking on the door to the Clarion News office, she wished she could tell whomever it was to go away. After the courtroom proceedings today, she had no wish to see anyone. Even though she would have probably been told it was foolish, she felt entirely responsible for the situation Nathan Jackson found himself at present. If she had not convinced Chris that a trial was a necessary step in proving his innocence, he would not have endured the hell he had been put through today by that damned Mr. Lightfoot. She was tempted to write a scathing editorial but told herself it would probably do more harm then good at this point. Besides, she had meddled enough in the affairs of the seven of late.

Muttering under her breath, Mary went to open the door following the gentle tap she had heard. Swinging it open, she almost slammed it shut again when she saw James Lightfoot standing before her.

"What do you want?" she said in less than a friendly tone as she stared at the man who had taken a part a dear friend a piece at a time on the witness stand.

"I came here to thank you of course." Lightfoot stared at her, somewhat puzzled by her hostility.

"Thank me?" Mary blurted out in astonishment. "What on Earth for?" she demanded. "If I had my way, I'd round up a posse and run you out of town after what you did today."

"Madam," Lightfoot straightened up in response to her rebuke. "What did you expect me to do with the information you provided? If you did not want precisely the result you received today in court, you should not have brought it to me."

"Excuse me?" Mary stared at him in astonishment. "I brought you nothing!" She hissed. "How dare you?"

"You came to my hotel room the night before the trial was to begin and gave me the information about Mr. Jackson," he insisted. "I saw you!"

Mary slapped him hard across the face. "Mr. Lightfoot," she hissed, her rage and temper getting the better of her all at once. "I do not visit the hotel rooms of odious men such as yourself and I certainly did not pass on inflammatory information that has no basis in fact!"

Lightfoot clutched his stinging cheek and started to understand that he had been tricked, but by whom? He had to confess that he had thought it extremely peculiar that the idea of Nathan's complicity in Confederate deaths during the war had come from Mary Travis. She had always been an ardent supporter of the seven peacekeepers and would not knowingly implicate them in anything. Now that he saw her reaction, he understood that he had been played like a fool.

"Mrs. Travis," Lightfoot swallowed hard. "I apologize for my inference but you must believe me when I tell you that the night before the trial, a woman dressed in a heavy cloak approached my door, claiming to be you and passed me this information."

Mary started to see that he was not lying to her and genuinely believed that she had been the source of his scandalous information. "I can assure you it was not me. The night before the trial, I was entertaining my father in law, Judge Travis."

"It appears that we have both been the victim of someone else's scheme," the lawyer answered. "I shall trouble you no further."

Mary watched him go and felt her shock and confusion give way to anger. Someone impersonating her was enough to infuriate her to no end, but someone doing so while giving Lightfoot the means to slander a close friend? Well, that was war and she knew just the man to wage it for her.

Chris Larabee.

Continue

Comments to: scribe32oz@optusnet.com.au