The Weddin’

With that John nodded in goodbye and joined his bounty hunter friends again.

Before he followed them in through the doors, he sent a pleasant smile over his shoulder at Isobel. What an interesting duet.

Cody held his arm out to his bride. He didn’t get to freshen up, still looked scruffy, but he was happy. He was about to marry the lady of his dreams. She looked so beautiful to him at this moment.

Mattie pushed aside any thoughts she had about bringing Bart Starr in, or about how mean spirited a person Mrs. Larsen could be. Right now, the only thing that mattered, the only thing that would ever matter was about to become a legally wed part of her life.

The two followed Judge Dowd to his chamber behind the bench. Judge Dowd did something decent at that time. He took the mangled cigar from his mouth and placed it on his desk.

He looked at the two of them. “Marriage is a solemn thing,” he began. “It is also a difficult thing. Two people coming together as one can be a challenge. Are you both sure you are ready for this challenge?”

Cody looked at Mattie. There was no doubt in his mind. He loved her. That’s all there was to it. There was no one he’d rather spend with the rest of his life. It had to be easier than Judge Dowd spoke. It was he and Mattie. Cody shook his head in the affirmative. “I know I’m ready to be married to Matilda Hicks.” He smiled as he used her official name. “Also known as Mattie Hicks or Angel Eyes!”

Mattie cringed at the use of her given name, but brightened as he said the name she used. Angel Eyes, he wasn’t the first to use the term, but he was the only one who mattered. “I ain’t never been surer of nothin’ Judge Dowd. I wanna be hitched to this man, Cody Franks, my Bucky.”

Judge Dowd smiled at their answers. They seemed so sure of themselves. The judge believed that marriage was too tough for himself, especially with traveling from town to town and putting outlaws in jail or to their hanging. It would be too rough for a woman to handle. He never married, knowing he couldn’t hold it together. He rarely met folks that could out here. These two had the advantage of working and traveling together. It just may work for them.

“That’s mighty fine,” Judge Dowd affirmed. “Cody Franks, do you take Matilda Hicks to be your lawful wife?”

Without hesitation, Cody responded, “I do! An I wanna add some things.”

Judge Dowd looked at Cody. He never had the request before. “Alright. Go ahead.”

“Sweet Mattie,” Cody began, “I ne’er knew love til I met you. You are the sunrise to my day. I cherish e’erthing moment I have with you. You’ve taught my heart to risk lovin someone. It has brought life into my soul, fillin a void I ne’er knew I had. I pledge to you this day, to love you always with every ounce of my bein. No matter what happent in the past, no matter what happens in the future, I will love you. Nothin can or will change that. Not e’en if’n I die.”

Judge Dowd thought he couldn’t have said it any better. He had to pause to make sure Cody had finished. Then, Dowd turned to Mattie. “Matilda Hicks, do you take Cody Franks to be your lawful husband?”

“I do. My sun rises and sets around you, Cody. I never met no one I wanted to give my heart to afore. It beats for you an’ only you. You make every day better an’ I don’t ever wanna go a minute knowin’ what it’s like to not have you, not to love you or have you love me. I wanna be with you always, now til I take my very last breath.”

Judge Dowd stood with his mouth agape. He should write these words down. He could use this in the future. They were lovely, even for an unsentimental old Scrooge as Dowd.

“Well,” Dowd hesitantly proclaimed, “No finer words could have been enounced to proclaim the love between two hearts.” He looked at the two of them, seeing a sparkle in each of their eyes and Dowd did something he rarely did. He smiled a true smile. Perhaps these two did know what love was. How it would be a sacrifice. “ By the authority vested in me by the United States as a Federal Judge, I pronounce you husband and wife. You now shall be known as Mr. and Mrs. Cody Franks.” Dowd turned to Cody. “You may now kiss your bride.”

Cody stepped toward Mattie. Mattie Franks. He wrapped his arms about her waist and gazed into those angelic eyes. Then Cody leaned down to kiss her full on the lips. It was the first of many to come as Mr. and Mrs. Cody Franks. The kiss was his seal that he would love her above all else forever. Unconditional.

Mattie returned Cody’s kiss and could’ve gotten lost in him right then and there, but there was still bounty hunting business to attend to. “Judge, first, thanks for performin’ the ceremony, meant a lot coming from you, seein’ as we always have found your justice swift and fair. We heard that Bart Starr was captured in Denver, an’ that a party was gonna be sent to get him. Mr. Franks -- my husband, was wonderin’ if you could deputize us to go an’ help out the lawmen? We ain’t expectin’ no bounty or payment. Just want to do our part, Sir.”

Cody was countin on being alone with Mattie tonight. Now, there’d be no alone time. He was disappointed. Not sure if it was the timin or the fact that lately Bart Starr was a hauntin he and Mattie. It was a bounty hunters life. The life he’d chosen with Mattie. A life he couldn’t do without.

The judge agreed to swear Cody in, but Mattie took the oath right alongside him. Though normally he wouldn’t deputize a woman, he justified it by thinking she’d just be helping her husband, like in his bounty hunting endeavor. Bringing him coffee and such. He near chuckled at the idea. Mattie on the other hand, was on cloud nine. She married the man of her dreams, was sort-of sworn in as an official deputy, and was going to help bring one of the west’s most wanted fugitives to justice. Nothing could bring her down -- until it did.

Marshall Tucker came into the office. Judge Dowd knew he had sent for him and was expecting it. However, Tucker had an air of official business about him.

“Mr. Franks?” he inquired. “Do you recognize this knife.”

It was a large knife with an ivory handle. Carved into the handle was an arrow, painted red. Judge Dowd readily identified it as the knife he had handed Cody that morning. Cody realized it was the knife he had carved the heart and his and Mattie’s initials with. Then he remembered. He’d left the knife in the post.

“That’s Kirby’s knife, ain’t it?” Mattie asked.

“I’d left it in the post,” Cody added.

“I gave it back to you this morning when I released you,” Dowd recollected.

Tucker turned the knife around in his hand, showing the blood on the business end. “I can’t rightly say that it’s Kirby’s seein how it was pulled outta Kirby. Any explanation how a knife you possessed ended up killin Kirby Decker?”

Cody was speechless. He couldn’t find words for a few seconds. He looked to Mattie, not fully understanding what Tucker was implying. Finally he was able to say, “I left it stuck into the top of the post at the coral.”

Mattie figured it out the minute the words left Tucker’s mouth. “Cody couldnta killed no one. We been together. You kin’ see where he put our initials, I show you where he done left it.”

“There wasn’t a moment you two were apart?” Judge Dowd asked.

Cody’s shoulders sagged as the realization hit him. They thought he had done it. He fought Kirby last night and they thought he had killed Decker today. “Mattie, we were apart. Just afore the judge called us in. But I didn’t do what yer sayin.”

Judge Dowd hung his head. He had believed in these two. Dowd reached for his cigar and clamped his jaw down on it. It was disappointing.

Tucker shook his head. “I’m sorry to hafta say this Cody, but I’m gonna hafta arrest ya fer murder. I got the evidence right here. I’ve got people puttin it in yer hands. Both last night and this mornin.”

“What?” Mattie asked. “No - He didn’t kill no one, Judge, you gotta believe that. And if Kirby’s dead - well - he’s a red arrow, former Starr Gang member.”

“Don’t know nothin ‘bout him bein a Starr,” Tucker stated. “If’n he did ride with the Starr’s it twere a while ago, afore the posters came out. The Red Arrows are a new gang ‘round here. We haven’t been able to identify them yet. But this here knife with a red arrow on it was in yer bosses possession. It was taken from him last night an returned to him this mornin. I’ve got many tellin me this was yer knife Cody. I’m gonna hafta ask ya ta come with me peaceful like.”

Cody looked to Mattie. He didn’t know what to do. He was helpless. Suddenly, he was that eleven-year-old boy again, hearing the gunshots that killed his parents.

Mattie took Cody’s hands. “Cody -- I’m gonna prove it weren’t you that did it. Don’t you worry. I promise you. I’m gonna find who did it and I’m gonna prove they did it. I ain’t gonna stop til I find them, I swear to you, I’ll find out.”

Dowd nodded to Tucker, who took Cody by the arm and led him through the side door leading to the jailhouse. Cody turned to look back at Mattie, a tear in his eye. He knew the penalty for murder. He remembered his vow. “E’en if’n I die,” he mouthed to Mattie. “I will always love you.”

“I will find them!” Mattie swore back. Any thoughts of Bart Starr’s capture were even further pushed aside, nothing mattered now, nothing except saving Cody.

(OOC: A Joint Post brought to you by Blitzen and mdman.)

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