And so the town of Haven began to watch the newcomer. Of course speculation ran rampant. Sean the butcher discussed her merits over the counter, wiping his bloody hands on yet another rag. Riders debated her horse with Owen while he re-shod their own mounts. Gio wrote an article for the Haven paper, outlining the legal situation to come. He wrote to Sheriff Thomas, summoning him and council to Haven’s court. He would not be surrendering the outlaw.
Women were almost unanimous in their support of her. One lady, as Mary was taking her measurements, said to her companion, “Ye know, even if she did shoot her husband, I reckon she’s no guiltier than any wife alive!”
“Except,” her friend rejoined, “She’s the heroine for actually doin it!” Both ladies laughed. When Mary told her husband that, she perhaps reassured she’d never shoot him. He laughed, but, she thought, with just a touch of fear.
The most curious, and curiously quiet, were the bar girls. As a few days passed, and Kelly grew more confident behind the bar, they talked to her rather than about her. They liked the new bartender with the dungarees and the smart mouth. She liked them, with their open honesty and unhurried curiosity. She knew they wanted to find out something: everyone wanted to find out something, and no one was sure what that something was. But the bar girls knew better than anyone how to keep bedroom doors closed.
They would sit on her stools and fill her in on the Haven gossip. “You might as well know, since every good bartender knows everything in town,” One said. “And if ye lose your trial, you’ll be dead and it won’t matter!”
Kelly had to laugh at that. Though, she did lay awake every night, listening to Jones softly snoring in the office below, wondering if Thomas would even let a trial happen. He might come to take her back regardless. Maybe he’d just kill her. He really wasn’t bright enough, or perhaps he was simply too desperate, to realize he would be the obvious suspect. She would lie there, rolling her wedding ring around her fingers, cursing herself for being 16 and thinking her husband and married life would save her.
Jones, if he listened above Gilbert’s snoring, could hear her pacing in the small hours of the morning. Gio would hear her restlessly rifling through her belongings when he came in. Morning after morning, she would find one or two things she did not need, and the rejection pile grew.
One morning, Gio came up to knock on Kelly’s door. “Kelly? You awake?”
There was a rustling, and the door opened. Kelly was still in her nightgown and morning robe she’d borrowed from one of the bar girls. “Yes, sorry, for runnin late.”
“S’alright, I have a solicitor here, best in Haven, wants to take your case.”
Kelly leaned on the door, knitting her eyebrows together. “How’s that? I haven’t written to any lawyers.”
“No,” Gio said, “I did.”
Kelly was quiet for a moment. “Thank you.”
“It’s nothing.” He did not say that he knew she wasn’t sleeping, that the circles under her eyes were growing with each sunrise, that he knew Sass had to force her to go home every night. She didn’t say she hadn’t contacted lawyers because she felt her case already lost, that she just managed not to skip town every night, that the only thing keeping her in bed were the faces of people she would betray in Haven. She didn’t say she had nowhere to go, that Haven was as good a place to die as any.
What she said was,” Right, tell him I’ll be right down.”
Gio nodded and went to offer the lawyer some coffee.
Presently, Kelly had changed and joined them. Gio noted that unlike her usual outfits, she had opted for a dress today. He assumed this was to humor the “wronged gentlelady” angle. She looked oddly different.
Kelly took in the strange scene before her. The sheriff was handing a cup of coffee to a tall, older man with the most magnificent mustaches, and shining military uniform. He was well built, and very animated of personality. Upon noticing her entrance, he bounded to his feet and gave her a bow.
“My dear lady, it is a pleasure to meet you, though grave given the circumstances. Admiral Aiden, at your service.”
Kelly glanced at Gio, smiled graciously, and said, “Wonderful to meet you, Admiral. Thank you for coming to see me.”
“Oh, no trouble, no trouble at all!” The three of them sat. “Your husband was a military man and a fellow defender of the law. Also, your case is intriguing; I greatly enjoy a challenge.”
“Well Admiral, that is exactly what I pose.” Kelly told him, accepting the mug of coffee from Gio. “I’m afraid my case is somewhat fatal.”
“Nonsense, no, I never think a case is over until the verdict comes down. Come now, it’s quite common to think you’re lost before you’re started. You are a sharp woman, and I,” the Admiral said, straightening his mustaches, “am an excellent lawyer.”
Kelly managed not to laugh. “There is also the issue of money. I have no money of my own, and I doubt my husband’s estate went to me, as I am his accused murderer.”
“Pish-posh, we’ll discuss my fee after the trial, my dear.”
Gio leaned towards her. “Why are you resistin this? If you lose, they’ll kill you.”
Kelly’s smile faded and she put a hand to her brow. She didn’t speak for several minutes, and when she did, it was in a brittle voice that startled both men. “Because I am going to a trial against a sheriff, a man with considerable power, and there is hardly any evidence at all. I do not know if it is worth puttin myself and Haven though that.”
Gio reached out and patted her hand still on the table. “You’re not puttin Haven through anythin it hasn’t seen before. And as for you, you have the best lawyer you could find, and I know for a fact that nearly all of Haven would rise to your defense if they could. So whatever you’re fearin the outcome to be, at least let us help your chances.”
Kelly seemed not to hear him. She was very still, almost not breathing. Finally, in the same brittle voice; “Alright.”
The sheriff breathed and leaned back in his chair.
“Brilliant!” The Admiral reached down next to his chair and brought up a briefcase, out of which he pulled a small writing pad. “Now then,” he said, putting pen to paper. Kelly inhaled deeply and lifted her head. “Who, what, when, and where?”
After several hours of exhaustive questions, Sam interrupted with the mail and a message from Sass asking if Kelly was to be expected. Gio sent him back an explanation and an apology. He tipped back in his chair, rifling through the mail as the others finished a discussion on the shot that actually killed Kelly’s husband.
“I shall subpoena the crime scene photographs, assuming they do those here,” the Admiral declared. “And if there are none, find the mortician.”
“Yes, he would have examined the body for burial. He could tell us the size and shape of the bullet wound.”
“Could he really?” Kelly asked, intrigued. “How would that help us?”
“Well my dear, you carry a shotgun and a small caliber pistol, am I correct?”
“Yes, as well as a knife.”
“My word, you do like to be prepared. As both of those guns have distinctive bullet patterns and sizes, we can be fairly certain whether they did or did not shoot the man. I could also write off to my friend, lovely man, detective at Scotland Yard. It would take some time, but those fellows are on the cutting edge of-”
“All out of time, Admiral,” Gio broke in.
“I mean, there is no time for a letter to England. This is from the Sheriff Thomas.” Gio held up a letter. “He’s comin to Haven.”
“What?” Kelly cried. “When?”
“It was sent a few days ago. He’ll not be two days.”
Kelly’s hands knotted together. “God above, that isn’t enough time. Admiral, how could we prepare an argument in less than two days’ time?”
The Admiral closed his briefcase, and strode around the table to clasp his client’s hands. “My dear,” he said with a smile, “we simply will.”