This is a fan fiction story based on characters from the Lonesome Dove television show,
which belong to Rysher Entertainment and Hallmark. No infringement on copyrights is intended.


The Weight of Responsibility
by Meluivan Indil

Part 4: Earning Respect

As the next two weeks went by things were quiet in Curtis Wells. Bethany visited Austin as he recovered many times. "I donít understand something Beth." Austin said during one of his visits.

"What is that Austin?" She asked.

"Pardon me mentioning bad times, but how did Kentnerís men know you were going to be on that stage? And that Mercer, he said that there wasnít supposed to be anyone riding shotgun. How did they know Luther was sick? The only thing that makes sense is that they had to have someone in town giving them information." Austin said thinking aloud.

"Iíve been thinking that too, but with Mercer and Kentner both dead, the others just donít seem to know much." She said agreeing with his idea.

Doc Cleese was in the room writing notes in Austinís chart. He heard their words, thinking himself. He turned to them. "Well if it helps you any I didnít think to mention this before, but I figured out what was wrong with Luther."

"What do you mean Doc? I thought he just had an upset stomach from something he ate or drank." Bethany asked.

"Well in a way yes. But I noticed a distinct odor when he was being sick. I think someone put syrup of ipecac in his drink the night before the stage was to leave." The doctor suggested.

"Someone made him sick on purpose so he couldnít go on the stage." Bethany started to understand. "Doc have you seen Luther today?"

"Yes he over at the Dove a short while ago eating." The doctor answered.

Bethany rose to leave. "Iím going with you." Austin said pushing the blankets off.

"No your not." She said.

"Yes I am. We are getting close to something here, and I want to find out who set us up as much as you." Austin demanded.

"Doc. Stop him." She said turning to Cleese for help.

"Well honestly, he is well enough to be up, just as long as he doesnít overdo it." The doctor suggested.

ĎBut heís a hotheaded man.í She thought to herself.

"See." He said pulling his shirt on stiffly as his muscles still ached from the beating. She also noticed that he strapped his gun belt on.

She just shook her head leading him down the stairs, and then on to the Dove. She saw Luther sitting at one of the tables near the door and they joined him there. "Beth. Austin." He greeted them. It seemed funny to see them together, with the way Mosby felt about the man.

"Luther we were wondering about something." Beth started.

"Yes." He said placing his silverware down, not sure what the look in her eyes meant.

"The night you got sick, who did you eat with, and drink with?" She asked.

"Well thatís a funny question Beth. Letís see. I ate here at the Dove with Call." Beth immediately ruled out anything going in his food. "Then I had a couple of drinks at the No 10 with him."

Beth shook her head. Call wouldnít do anything to hurt her or Luther. "Are you sure you didnít drink with anyone else that night?"

Luther began to shake his head then remembered something. "Oh yeah. After I left the 10, I came up to the Ambrosia hoping to see you, but Dwight said you had turned in early. Thatís when he bought me a drink."

"Dwight?" Bethany couldnít imagine the bartender she had become friends with being involved.

"No. Stinson. He was standing at the bar, and offered to buy me a drink. Heís a nice enough guy, so I thought why not. We talked for a while and then I turned in." Luther said matter-of-factly.

"Stinson. I should have guessed. He was conveniently gone when they rode out to find you after Call brought me back." Austin said as realization hit him.

"Your right. He knows everything that goes on in Curtis Wells. Clay would have certainly told him that I was going to be on the stage." She said nodding her head.

"And he tried to convince Marcus not to let me ride shotgun." Austinís eyes turned icy as he remembered the comments the sheriff had made. It seemed funny that in the few months he had been sheriff he had never once said a word to Austin, but then all of a sudden he was insulting him.

"What are the two of you talking about?" Luther asked in confusion.

Bethany started to answer him but was startled as Austin stood quickly. He left looking like a man with purpose. "Oh god Austin. Come with me please Luther." She said taking off after him.

Austin saw one of Stinsonís Deputies outside the Ambrosia, and knew that the man followed him around like a lost puppy. He made his way up the street stopping in front of the Ambrosia. "Tell Stinson I want to talk to him." Austin ordered the Deputy.

"Tell him yourself." The Deputy said leaning on one of the posts in front of the bar.

Austin drew his pistol, aiming it at the man. "My argument is with Stinson, but it could extend to you if you want it to." He threatened.

The Deputy turned and walked into the bar. Beth and Luther came up then, standing on the sidewalk a few feet from the door. They could see Austin standing in the middle of the street staring into the Ambrosia.

Stinson and his Deputy along with Clay exited the bar. "What is going on here Austin?" Clay asked first.

"Why donít you ask your sheriff about that?" Austin answered staring at the man in question.

"Heís drunk Clay. Iíll have my Deputy lock him up." Stinson said motioning to his Deputy.

"Iím not drunk. Iím dead sober, and you know why Iím here. I suggest your Deputy stay out of this if he wants to live." Austin warned. The deputy stayed where he was. He wasnít very brave.

"Clay someone in this town tipped Kentner off about Beth being on that stage, and I know who it was." Austin said coolly.

Clay laughed at the notion that Stinson would do such a thing. But his attention was drawn to the side as Bethany stepped forward. "Heís right Clay. You need to listen." She said quietly.

Clay turned back to Stinson. "Stinson. Do you know about what heís saying?"

"Clay I have no earthly idea." Stinson denied.

Bethany drew his attention with her words. "Clay Doc Cleese says someone put syrup of ipecac in Lutherís drink the night he got sick. Luther only drank with two people that night. Call and Stinson. We both know Call would not work for Kentner. Stinson tried to stop Austin from riding shotgun on the stage, and he was nowhere to be found when it came time for you all to ride out to get me. There are too many coincidences." Bethany explained. "And besides how many people knew I was going to be on that stage? Just you and Stinson."

Austin didnít mention that he and Amanda knew, but he knew Amanda had nothing to do with it, so who else could it be?

"Stinson were you working for Kentner?" Clay asked. He began to deny it when Clay drew his pistol and placed it under his chin. "The truth."

"I want a piece of him Clay." Austin yelled.

Stinson looked from Clay to Austin, knowing that he had no chance to live with the man holding a gun at his chin.

"Yes, I worked for Kentner. Please Clay let me at least defend myself." The man begged.

"Itís more than you deserve." Clay said pulling his pistol down. "But young Mr. Peale does deserve some opportunity at revenge." ĎAnd if he doesnít finish you I will.í He added silently.

"Stinson." Austin said motioning towards the street.

The sheriff stepped into the street making his way to about twenty feet from Austin, then faced him.

Bethany wasnít sure she liked the way this was going. Austin was still very weak, even though he did not show it. "Clay I donít know if Austin is up to this." She whispered standing beside him.

"Angel he needs to do this." Clay whispered back.

"And if he kills Stinson?" She asked.

"Then he will have done this town a service." Clay answered.

She watched as the two men stared each other down. Time was slowed, and she watched as Austin waited. She could see that he waited for Stinson to draw first. She was holding her breath. It lasted but a few moments. Stinson fired hitting Austin in the left arm, but Austinís aim was true hitting Stinson in the chest. Stinsonís body slumped to the ground. Austin stared for a moment and then turned heading back down the street to Cleeseís office. Bethany thought about following him, but thought better of it wanting to speak to Clay.

She waited until the crowd had cleared and she and Clay were alone. "Clay you need to do something about him."

He turned to her with a confused look. "Who?"

"Austin."

"I donít understand." He answered. She knew he wasnít telling the truth.

"Clay he is a good man. He needs more than the life heís living." She said not letting him avoid the subject.

"What do you want me to do about it? What do I owe him?" He asked in an exasperated tone.

"You owe him nothing, but I owe him my life. If he hadnít tried to come after me, none of you would have known I was gone for days. Clay he could have died, and all he could think about was helping me. You owe him nothing, but youíre the only one who can give him back his respect, and thatís what he needs. For once can you please do something for nothing, just because itís right." She was angry at his bullheadedness. She didnít wait for him to answer her. She turned away and went back down to the Dove.

Clay stood watching her, thinking of her words. A long sigh escaped his lips as he turned following the men carrying Stinson off so he could make arrangements for the burial.

 

Austin sat on the bed at Doc Cleeseís looking out the window looking at the stars. He wondered how his life had ended up like it had. It was a far cry from a newspaperman to a sheriff and then to the town drunk. Had it only been a little over two and a half years since he had helped his father and Hannah run the Montana Statesman? It seemed like forever.

He did not turn when he heard the knock on the door. It was probably Cleese checking on him again. He had never seen the doctor mad before, but when he came in with the gunshot wound after being told to take it easy, he thought the doctor was going to tie him to the bed. "Come in."

"Well Mr. Peale. That was fine shooting this afternoon." He heard from a voice by the door. He turned realizing who it was.

"Mosby." He said nodding in greeting.

"Bethany was quite worried that you werenít up to a gunfight yet. Iím glad you were." Clay said leaning against the doorjamb.

"Are you?" Austin asked.

"Austin, you rid this town of a piece of trash that I had the misfortune to have hired. You corrected a mistake I made. For that I thank you." Clay said.

"The great Clay Mosby made a mistake. Thatís hard to believe." Austin said sarcastically.

"Austin, I have made a few mistakes lately that have cost both I and the ones I loved too much." Clay admitted.

"Why are you telling me this?" Austin asked.

"Because you can help me correct another mistake if you are willing." Clay answered.

"I donít know what you think I can do." Austin was getting tired of mincing words with him.

Clay reached into his vest pocket and pulled out something. "If you want this it is yours." Clay said tossing the item on the bed before Austin.

Austin stared down at the sheriffís badge. He didnít know what to say. He would never admit that it had hurt him more than anyone could imagine when Clay had taken the badge away. But would his pride allow him to accept it? He looked up at Clay. "Why should I accept this?"

"There are many reasons why you should. You should because you were meant for the job. You should because it was a mistake when I took it away. You should because the town needs you. But most of all you should because itís what you want." Clay answered.

"How do you know what I want?" Austin asked skeptically.

"Well I know a very perceptive young woman, who tends to convince me to think things through more now than I used too. She has urged me to fix some of my past mistakes, not in those exact words, but I understood her meaning." Clay explained. "Basically she told me to quit thinking about myself, and do the right thing."

Austin chuckled at those words. He could see Bethany saying just that. "She can be rather persuasive canít she?"

"Yes very. Anyway I will leave that with you. When you decide could you please let me know." Clay began to leave but thought of something he should say. He hated to do it, but as long as he was being so gracious he should at least go all the way. He turned back to Austin. "And Austin, thereís something else. When I accused you of betraying me, and tried to hang you, well I wasnít myself. I wish I could explain further, but I donít know how. I just wanted to say I apologize."

Austin had never expected an apology from Clay Mosby. But he did understand him. He had seen the lost look in his eyes on the day he was going to hang him. "We all have our demons Clay, and I understand more than you might think."

"Good." Clay nodded and then left the room.

 

Later that night Austin was standing outside the Dove looking up and down the street. Cleese hadnít caught him sneaking out thankfully. He was holding the badge rubbing it with his thumb. He had never had to make a harder decision. He heard noise coming from the Dove as the door opened. "Austin." He turned to see Call standing behind him.

"Call." He said.

"Does doc Cleese know your lose?" Call asked.

Austin smiled shaking his head. "I guess you heard about this afternoon."

"Yeah. I wish I could have seen Stinson go down. Never did trust those Pinkerton guys." Call answered. "What are you doing standing out here alone?"

"Thinking." Austin answered. Normally he would have never have confided in Call, but the overwhelming urge to ask for advice over came his natural dislike of the man. "Mosby gave this to me." He said tossing the badge to Call.

"Mosby?" Call said in shock.

"Yeah. He said it was mine again if I wanted it." Austin said looking away from Call. He didnít want Call to see the emotion that was clouding his eyes.

"Do you want it?" Call asked turning the badge over in his hand.

"I want to be sheriff again yes. But I donít want to be Mosbyís lackey." Austin answered.

"So be what you want to be. As far as Iíve seen nowhere in the law does it say you have to be anyoneís lackey. Not even Mosbyís." Call suggested.

"If I donít he may take it away again." Austin said sighing at his predicament.

"He can try. But whoís to say you canít fight for it. If you do your job well, he wonít have any excuse to take it away. Now will he." It seemed so black and white when he put it that way.

Austin looked at Call realizing that he was right. If he was strong enough he might be able to keep it. That was his problem before. He hadnít been strong, and thatís why Clay had been able to use him, and then take it away from him. "Thanks Call."

"Welcome." Call said moving on down the sidewalk towards the Ambrosia. He wanted to find Beth and have some drinks like they always had before.

Austin followed slower, making his way to the Ambrosia. He stood at the door and nodded towards Clay. Clay made his way to the door and they stepped outside.

Bethany had seen Austin at the door and stared as Clay followed him. Call had just joined her at the table she was sitting at. She nervously watched the two of them move away from the door. "Do you know what that is about?" She asked Call.

"Yep." He answered, grabbing a deck of cards and dealing them a hand of poker.

She looked at him realizing he wasnít going to tell her. "Well?"

"Youíll see." He answered. "How many cards you want?" She hadnít even looked at the cards heíd dealt her. She picked them up but paid little attention to the game.

 

"Well Austin, should I start addressing you as Sheriff Peale again?" Clay asked.

"You can." He answered placing the badge on his chest. "But Clay, things are gonna be different this time. Iím no manís lackey. Iím going to do it right and honest this time. If you canít accept that you better tell me now."

"And if I canít?" Clay answered.

"Clay I want this badge. Iím not gonna hide that fact. But I wonít lose my self respect for it again." Austin vowed.

"I wouldnít have it any other way." Clay said surprising him. "Now would you join me inside so I can make an official announcement? Iíll buy you a drink."

"Iíll join you Clay. But Iím not drinking anymore." Austin said.

"Good. Come." Clay said leading him back into the Ambrosia.

 

Bethany saw the star on his chest as they walked in. Her breath caught in her throat. She heard Clay call for everyoneís attention.

"Good citizens of Curtis Wells. Most of you saw today that the town sheriff was found to be in cahoots with some unsavory types, which led to his dismissal." She heard the snickers as those that had seen his Ďdismissalí heard the word. "Well the man who discovered the problem and corrected it has agreed to take on the job as sheriff again. I give you Sheriff Austin Peale." Clay said motioning to Austin.

There were quite a few congratulatory comments made, and only a few protests, which were quieted by others. Austin saw her and Call playing poker and decided to join them. He sat across from Call with Beth on his right side. Call dealt him in.

Beth couldnít believe how things had turned out. Yes she had been working towards trying to heal the rift between Clay and Austin, but for Clay to make him sheriff was better than she had ever dreamed.

"Did you have a talk with Mosby?" Call asked.

"We have an understanding." Austin said looking over his cards.

"Work the way you wanted it, then." Call said.

"Yes. He said he wouldnít have it any other way." Austin answered.

Call dropped his cards looking at Austin. "Now thatís surprising."

Bethany watched the conversation, with only a hint of what it concerned. Austin turned to Beth. "Not really. Someone I know sort of led me to believe that he would agree." Beth looked at him with unanswered questions in her eyes. "You were right at the way station Beth. Iím not going to disappoint anyone this time around, especially not myself."

~ THE END ~

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