Years of his life, his happiness, given for the safety of another. He had had a choice, of sorts, if he had been less concerned with morality. He could have given her up. Could have let them take her. He knew she wouldn’t have survived. Theodora was too frail, and that life wouldn’t be kinder to a woman. He tried not to blame her.
Her crime, as Abraham saw it, was falling in love with the wrong man. That man had been the real criminal. She was just a hanger-on who’d been there when the law found him and his gang. But she was small and clever, and had slipped away in the confusion of the arrests. They tried her in absentia, figuring if she were so damn clever, she must have been helping the gang out all along. She was sentenced to work in the mines for the remainder of her days, but they never did find her. They tracked her to Abraham’s house, then charged him with hiding her – obstruction of justice, the sheriff called it – and fined him. He paid without a second thought, happy they weren’t aware of the mine tunnels under his house, dug by his mad great-grandfather. When the months dragged on and she didn’t turn up, they charged him with murder. Abraham’s mistake, as he saw it, had been in loving her, but that couldn’t be helped.
He was too big for the mines, but they needed soldiers, too.
For twenty years, he held her peace while she lived out her days, back with her family in
He wondered if she ever married. He wondered how many men he’d killed, fighting
for a flag he wasn’t sure he believed in.
Amelia, her sister, had sent word when Theodora passed on, taken by the coughing disease. You can’t protect her anymore, Abraham. She’s beyond all our reach. What will you do, now, I wonder?
He told the cavalry commander he was retiring. He’d been in twenty years, he said, and he had earned it. Besides, with his mount being recently put to pasture, if he retired now, they wouldn’t have to find him a new one and take the time to train it. Abraham didn’t remind the commander how he got in the military in the first place. That bit of information had been forgotten six commanders ago, at least. It was in his records, but who ever looked at those? It was a sunny October day when he walked away from
Bowie and back to Tombstone.
He had been a man of means, once. He still was, he supposed. His accounts had been held by the bank all these years, owing to the faith his cousin Annie had in his innocence, and the fact that she still owned the bank. So he had the means, just not the possessions. Back in
Tombstone there was property with his name on
the deed, complete with a house full of furniture, but he’d walked away from
all that twenty years ago. The house was boarded up, the furniture covered.
Theodora had taken care of that for him. It was the least she could do for him,
she had written feebly. Annie still checked in on the house every week, or sent
her son to do it. Abraham had gone there before leaving Tombstone. He’d meant to go back home. But
when he got to the gate, he couldn’t make himself go in. There was no use for
all that anymore. So he just kept walking.