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Authors: Debbie Macomber

Montana (36 page)

BOOK: Montana
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“You beat her.” The words were full of anger and accusation.

“All right, all right, I beat her,” Maynard confessed, “but I wasn't the one who killed her, I swear it.” As he spoke, he swung around toward Russell.

Instinctively Sam knew what Maynard intended and with a wild cry leaped toward him, wanting to knock him off balance before he could fire. But a gun exploded before Sam was two inches off the ground.

Gene Maynard slumped down. Rearing back, he aimed at his cousin, but Sam used the momentum of his leap to kick the gun out of his hand.

Slowly Russell walked toward the moaning sheriff. His eyes burned with hatred as he leveled his weapon at the man's chest.

Whimpering for mercy, the sheriff twitched and tried to crawl away.

“Don't do it, Russell,” Sam said. “He isn't worth spending the rest of your life in prison. Let
rot there, not you. The inmates will have a field day with him. Let them dole out the punishment.”

Russell blinked and Sam knew his words had found their way through his hatred and into his mind. “I want him to suffer.”

“He will,” Sam promised.

“No!” Maynard shouted. “I didn't kill Pearl. I swear it.” Blood flowed from his wound as he stared up at them with glazed eyes. Russell hesitated for the first time. “Why'd you want the Broken Arrow Ranch?”

“It was for the militia—the Loyalists. We were going to use it ourselves, build our training grounds here. This place and the one next to it. Two old people about to die…”

“Burns is involved, as well, isn't he?” Russell asked, and it was clear from Maynard's reaction that he was surprised the attorney knew it.

“Yes,” he moaned.

“He's losing a lot of blood,” Sam warned.

“Let him. I want him to rot in hell.”

“She was a hooker, man! Why do you care?” Maynard asked, clutching his wounded shoulder.

“I cared,” Russell said slowly. “I cared.”

“Sam…Sam!” The lights went on and Molly raced across the yard. He caught her in his arms and hugged her fiercely.

“Tom,” Sam said to the older boy, who'd followed his mother out, “call for an ambulance. After that I'll contact the authorities in Missoula.”

Molly continued to hug him, as if she was afraid to let him go. “It's all right, sweetheart, not to worry,” he murmured. “I'm fine.”

“Sheriff Maynard?”

“I'm afraid so.”

“But why?”

“It's a long story.” He kissed her, then removed the pistol from Russell's fingers. “How'd you know it was Maynard?”

Russell's smile was infinitely sad. “You might say Pearl told me.” His face darkened with pain and he looked from Molly to Sam. “I hope the two of you will be very happy.”

“We already are,” Molly said gently, and smiled up at her husband. “And that's not going to change.”


olly gave birth to a healthy baby girl the afternoon Gene Maynard, alias Monroe, Lance Elkins and David Burns were sentenced. They were convicted on a number of federal charges and would spend the rest of their natural lives in prison.

Sam had gone into the delivery room with Molly and coached her through the final stage of labor. When the baby was born, the physician had placed her in his arms for the first time. As Sam held his daughter and stared awestruck at her beautiful face, his eyes filled with tears.

The emotion he felt today far surpassed what he'd felt when he won the silver buckle—his rodeo triumph.
triumph, the birth of his child, made his rodeo accomplishments seem hollow. The buckle had attained a new meaning for him, though—because Molly had given it back to him. When he looked at it now, what he thought of was her love.

“She's perfect,” he whispered, his voice hoarse with emotion. “Just like her mother.”

Exhausted by the long hours of labor, Molly smiled contentedly.

“Welcome to the world, Cassie Marie Dakota.” Sam gently kissed her brow. “You have two older brothers who're gonna spoil you something terrible.”

“And a daddy, too.”

“Oh, Molly,” Sam said, gazing at his wife. “How did a saddle bum like me ever get so lucky? I have you, Tom, Clay and now Cassie. My heart's so full it feels like it's about to jump out of my chest.” He stroked the baby's face. “Hey, Cassie. Your Grandma Dakota's gonna love you. And your aunts and uncles…” Sam had called his family Christmas Day; they'd come to visit a week later, just in time for New Year's. Another new beginning. They'd be back, all of them, once Molly and the baby had settled into a routine.

Molly's eyes drifted shut.

“I love you so damn much,” Sam added.

“I love you, too, sweetheart…but right now I have to sleep….”

While she was wheeled into the recovery room, Sam took Cassie into the nursery and handed her to a nurse.

When Molly woke up, she was in her hospital bed, and Sam was asleep in the chair beside her. Clay and Tom tiptoed silently into the room. “How d'you feel, Mom?”

“Wonderful,” she assured them.

“We just went to see Cassie. For a girl she's not bad-looking,” Clay said, then gave a small sigh just so she'd know he was only a
disappointed she hadn't given him the brother he'd requested.

Tom claimed he'd wanted a sister all along and beamed her a proud smile as if she'd purposely ordered a girl on his behalf. “The way I figure it, she'll need an older brother to look out for her.”

“Hey, she's going to need two older brothers,” Clay said. “You're not her only brother, you know.”

“What about changing her diapers? Will her older brothers be willing to do that?” Molly asked.

“Sure,” Tom said, sending Clay a sidelong glance. “
be more than happy to help change poopy diapers.”

Molly laughed, and Sam opened his eyes. Stretching his arms high above his head, he looked around the room. “I'm certainly glad you boys gave me a little practice in this fathering business,” he said with a grin.

“Hey, glad to do it,” Tom teased. “Cassie will thank us later.”

“You willing to do this again?” Clay asked. “Next time, get me a little brother, all right?”

“Anything you say, son.” Sam reached for Molly's hand. He brought it to his lips and gently kissed her palm. His eyes were bright with love. “I wish your grandfather were here.”

“He's here, Sam,” she assured him. “I'm as sure of that as I am of your love for me. Both my grandparents.” She closed her eyes and could almost hear her grandmother whisper to her beloved husband.

“Walter, you chose well for our Molly. You chose well.”


As Russell sat in his office reading, the door opened and two men dressed in dark suits stepped inside.

“I'm sorry,” he said, “we're already closed for the day.”

“Come with us,” the first man said without explanation.

Russell stood. “I beg your pardon?”

“You're to come with us.”

The second man pulled out a badge and flashed it, but Russell wasn't able to read the identification card. All he knew was that these two men worked for the federal government.

“Where are we going?” he asked as he followed them out the door. Neither one answered. “Should I call someone?”

“That wouldn't be advisable.”

Not that there was anyone to call. His mother had died that past Thanksgiving, and the only close friend he had these days was Sam Dakota. Molly had come home from the hospital the day before, and he'd been out to visit her and hold Cassie. The infant had immediately charmed him; he'd found it difficult to leave.

One man drove and the other sat in the back seat with him. They'd been on the road twenty minutes, still refusing to answer his questions, when Russell realized where they were headed. His cabin. This puzzled him even more.

A little later they pulled into the driveway and parked in his usual spot. A second car was already there.

“We'll wait for you here,” one of the men told him.

“I'm to go inside?”

“That's right.” This was said as if it should have been obvious.

Not knowing what to expect, Russell walked into the house. A woman stood at the far side of the living room, at the window that overlooked the valley. The first thing he noticed was how familiar she seemed.

“Hello, Russell.”

Not until she spoke did he recognize her. His voice nearly failed him.

“It's a shock, isn't it?” she asked softly.

Her hair was different and she'd gained a few pounds; the hollowed places in her face were filled out. She'd been pretty before, but there was a gentle beauty about her now, a serenity.

His knees were too weak to hold him and he sank into the first available seat.

“I'm sorry to do this to you,” she said. “I didn't think I'd ever see you again, but now that the trial's over, they said I was free to contact you.” Her voice wavered a bit and she stopped.

“The trial?” His head buzzed with questions.

“I was the one who got in touch with the FBI,” she explained. “They staged my death…. I couldn't tell you, Russell. I couldn't get you involved.”

“But all that blood?”

“It wasn't mine.”

“The body? They found the body.”

“That was…fortuitous. Some poor murdered woman—I feel terrible about that. She still hasn't been identified….” Her voice trailed off.

Anger propelled him to his feet. “You let me believe you were dead!”

“I didn't have any choice.”

He whirled around, away from her, while he thought this through.

“Monroe…Gene didn't know I could read,” she whispered. “He…he left information around without any fear that I'd read it and understand. But then you taught me and I was able to tell the authorities the Loyalists' plans. I remember almost everything I've read—I have a good memory. Please, oh, please, don't be angry with me.”

What was the matter with him? Russell mused. He had Pearl back. It was far more than he'd dared hope, more than he'd dared dream.

“I love you,” she whispered, tears shining from her eyes. “Now you know why I did what I did.” After an awkward silence she bowed her head. “You can go now if you want—the agents will take you back to town.”

“I'm not going anywhere without you,” Russell said, walking toward her. He wrapped his arms around her and she clung to him, weeping softly. “Not ever again.”

“You'll have to give up your life as you know it. Take on a new identity. Become part of the Witness Protection program.”


“And love me for the rest of your life.”

“Done,” he whispered brokenly. “For the rest of my life.”

“And mine,” Pearl said, smiling up at him, her eyes bright with tears.

ISBN: 978-1-4268-2848-5


Copyright © 1997 by Debbie Macomber.

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher, MIRA Books, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.

All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.

MIRA and the Star Colophon are trademarks used under license and registered in Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, United States Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries.

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