Undercover Justice: The Conclusion

Carolyn McBride
13 min readJan 18, 2022


In taking care of Kennecot, Hart reveals her true identity

Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash

Chapter Seven

Hart got up as soon as she heard Lita stirring the coals in the flat-topped wood stove. She dressed quickly and was tucking her shirt in as she came into the main room.

“Morning,” she greeted Lita. “I’ll go see if there are any eggs.”

“Thank you,” Lita replied without turning around. “The basket is on the bookshelf there.”

When she came back inside, Hart had retrieved eight eggs. She set the basket on the table and looked around for Lita.

“She’s out milking the cow,” Emmett said as he came out of his room.

“Ah.” Hart nodded and took the cast iron frying pan down from its hook on the wall. “It’ll be nice when I don’t have to hide away anymore. I’m looking forward to hunting and bringing back a nice haunch of venison.”

“Tired of stew already, Hart?” Emmett chuckled.

“What will you do for milk when the calf is grown and the cow dries up?” Hart changed the subject.

“Trade for it I suppose, or buy it from someone,” Emmett shrugged.

By the time Lita came back in with a bucket of milk, Cassius was up too and rubbing his eyes as he sat at the table. Hart had cracked all the eggs into the large pan and was stirring them slowly.

“Hey, Cassius, where’s the salt?” Hart asked him.

The boy pointed to a shelf near the stove where a wooden box sat.

“Ah. Thanks, Little Man.” Hart nodded and sprinkled a pinch of salt over the pan of eggs. She put the saltbox back up and turned to the meat safe. After cutting slabs of ham off for everyone, she turned back to tend to the eggs.

“I should have added a bit more wood I guess. The stove is taking longer to cook the biscuits this morning,” Lita said as she set the table. “Have you noticed how well we work together like this?”

“I have,” Hart nodded as she stirred the eggs in the big black pan.

“Even Cass seems to like you, and he doesn’t warm to strangers.”

“Oh, that reminds me!” Emmett snapped his fingers. “Cassius, go get your picture that you drew at the store yesterday and show your Mama.”

Cassius’ face lit up with a bright smile and he pushed away from the table in a hurry.

“No running inside, Cass,” Lita admonished.

The boy came back from his room carrying a large piece of butcher paper, which he set in front of Lita.

He had drawn Lita, Emmett and Hart, and Bear, with himself in front of all of them.

“He did that with a piece of charred wood from the stove,” Emmett explained. “I thought they were good likenesses. He even caught your smile just right, Sis.”

“That he did!” Lita studied the drawing carefully. “You did a great job, Son, I’m very proud of you,” Lita wrapped one arm around Cassius and hugged him, smiling warmly.

Hart leaned over and took in the artwork as well. “That’s the best drawing I think I’ve ever seen,” she reached out and tousled the boy’s hair. “Bear will be pleased when I tell him that you included him in your picture.”

Cassius seemed to grow an inch with pride.

Soon enough, they were all sitting down to scrambled eggs, slabs of ham, biscuits and buttermilk.

“I was thinking, Emmett, one of the hens has stopped laying, the one with the single brown feather on her back…”

“Thinking of roasted chicken dinner?” Her brother responded.

“I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d enjoy something besides stew,” Lita replied.

Emmett and Hart looked at each other and chuckled.

“Hart and I were talking about going hunting and bringing back venison,” Emmett explained.

“I’d like that,” Lita said softly before blushing and returning her attention to her plate.

After everyone had finished eating and Emmett and Cassius had left for the day, Lita and Hart were alone.

“I wondered if you could do a favor for me?” Hart began. “I’d like to send a letter and a telegram, but I’m guessing if I sent them myself, I might attract a bit of attention. Could you send them off for me? I’d be happy to pay you whatever they charge here.”

“Of course,” Lita nodded. “Whenever you have them done, let me know…”

Hart rose from the table and came back with an envelope, a folded piece of paper and a sock in hand.

“You want to send a sock, too?” The corner of Lita’s mouth quirked.

“Judge Harding might have that attack he keeps threatening if I mailed him my sock,” Hart replied with a grin. “No, the sock has a hole in it and I was wondering if you might lend me your needle and thread so I could fix it.”

“Here,” Lita reached for the article in question. “Hmm, I can fix it, but you really need a new sock.”

“Know anyone who makes them?”

“I make all of ours. One of the things my Mama insisted on before I went away to medical school was that I knew how to make socks.”

“That’s a useful skill to have. How do you do it?”

“Knit it on very small needles with very fine wool.”

“No wonder they cost almost as much as a new saddle,” Hart grumped. “I guess I’ll have to start saving for a new pair.”

“So the telegram is to a judge?” Lita asked.

“Yep. Old family friend. I thought I’d see if he could do anything about Kennecot,” Hart answered.

Lita nodded. “Your letter…folks back home?” She indicated the papers with her needle before returning to the sewing.

“My aunt. She brought me up, like you’re doing here with Cassius. She has a ranch. I haven’t written in quite a while, and I thought she might appreciate hearing I’m still alive.”

“Did she teach you how to read and write? You have very fine penmanship,” Lita glanced toward the envelope again.

“She insisted that I learn. I hated school…I think she has plans for me to take over the ranch.”

“The coffee sounds like it’s ready. Would you pour?”


“So once you’re healed enough to travel, what are your plans?” Lita asked.

“Don’t know yet.”

“You could always stay on here,” Lita said softly, watching Hart’s back as she poured coffee for them. “Cassius and Emmett like you, and I…appreciate the company.”

“You might change your mind once I stop hiding, you know,” Hart brought the cups to the table and set one in front of the doctor.

“Well, Kennecot isn’t fond of new folks. He’s known for his…methods of persuasion.” Lita tied off her thread and used a small knife to cut it. “There you go. That should hold for a while.” She passed the sock back.

“Thank you. That’s mighty fine work. You sew very well.” Hart took a drink of her coffee before continuing. “Kennecot is almost out of men. Things will resolve themselves soon, I think.”

“You know something I don’t?” Lita asked.


“Do I want to know what it is?”


“Okay then.”

They drank their coffee in companionable silence after that.


Lita brought a reply to Hart’s telegram later that afternoon. “Well, I had to promise Mr. Rains homemade bread for a couple of weeks, but he won’t tell anyone I sent a telegram signed with only an H. You have an answer,” Lita held out a slip of paper, on which Mr. Rains had written the judge’s reply.

Use your authority. I’ll stand behind you’ Hart read silently, folding the sheet and putting it in the pocket of her vest. “Well…”

“Not the answer you wanted?”

Hart shrugged one shoulder. “The Judge always did what was best before. This may be the right answer.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I’ll leave you to your secrets. I have to get back to the clinic. Emmett finally found the cloth I need for bandages,” Lita rose from the table and aimed for the door.

“Lita…” Hart reached out and caught the doctor’s arm. “Do you trust me?”

“We haven’t known each other for long, but yes, I do. I wouldn’t have offered you my home to heal in otherwise,” The doctor studied Hart with a curious expression.

Hart let go of Lita’s arm and held on to the back of a chair. “Just wondering.”

“I’ll see you later,” Lita flashed her a small smile and left the cabin.

Hart sat there trying to stop her stomach from flipping.


Later that afternoon, Hart was trying to think of something to make for dinner that was not stew when Cassius burst in the door.

“Cass, you know your mama doesn’t want you running…”

Cassius slapped a note on the table and looked up with wide, tearful eyes.

‘Emergency. Lita needs you NOW’

“Did Emmett send this?” Hart asked the boy.

Cassius nodded rapidly.

“Okay, hold on…I guess it’s time to come out of hiding,” Hart strode to her bed, reached under and pulled out her saddlebags. In the corner of her eye, she could see Cassius approach cautiously. When she unwrapped her gun belt, she glanced at him.

He watched her every movement. She unwrapped her revolvers then and quickly capped the nipples on the cylinder. She strapped the guns on and reached into the saddlebags one more time. When she pinned the Marshal’s badge to her chest, Cassius’ eyes were wide.

She put her hat on her head and turned to the boy. “Let’s go help your mama.”

They didn’t have to go very far. In the middle of the street, just down from the clinic, Kennecot was shaking Lita with his back to them.

“Something’s going on here and I think you know what it is! If you want your brother and that bastard you’re raising to continue to live, you’d better start talking,” He backhanded her once to get his point across.

Cassius started toward Lita, but Hart reached out and caught his shoulder. “You let me take care of this, okay? You go keep Emmett out of danger.”

Cassius lifted his eyes to her, then glanced at the star she wore before glancing down the street.

“I’ll make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone ever again. Go on, now.”

Once Cassius started across the street for his uncle’s store, Hart turned her attention to Kennecot.

“Hit her again and I’ll put a hole in the middle of your hand!”

That got his attention. Kennecot turned toward her but kept a firm grip on Lita

“Who the hell are you?” Then he squinted at her. “You’re a sheriff? This is my town and I am the law!”

“Wrong on both counts,” Hart said. “This is no longer your town. You are hereby ordered to leave this town quietly, with the understanding that you will never set foot here again. And the same goes for Mr. Courtright.”

Kennecot laughed. “By whose authority?”

“Mine. Marshal Hart.”

“You’re a Marshal?” Kennecot laughed again. “Bullshit. You’re just some kid with a gun. Go now and I might convince Courtright to let you live.” Kennecot jerked his chin toward the porch of the saloon where his man stood laughing.

Hart pulled her gun and shot Courtright between the eyes before either man could react.

“I believe that makes it an even fight now, Kennecot. Let the doctor go,” she called out.

Kennecot looked at the saloon porch in amazement. “You shot him!”

“Mighty astute powers of observation, you got there.” Hart lowered her revolver but did not holster it. “I believe it’s in your best interest to let the Doc go and surrender.”

“Bullshit!” Kennecot turned toward Lita, raising his hand again.

Hart’s gun fired again and Kennecot shrieked.

“You shot me, you bastard!”

“I did say I would if you raised your hand to the doctor again,” Hart glanced to the other side of the street to make sure Cassius was safe. Emmett had both of his hands on the boy’s shoulders. “And for the record, I am fully aware of who my Pa was, so I’m no bastard,” Hart said as she returned her attention to the bully in the street.

Kennecot pushed Lita away from him and pulled a white handkerchief from his pocket to wrap around his bleeding hand.

“Too bad the only doc in town won’t fix you up. As I understand it, that sort of wound never heals right anyway.”

“No matter, I can shoot with both hands,” Kennecot said as he shifted his gun belt with his good hand.

“You alright, Doc?” Hart called out.

Lita nodded as she scrambled to her feet and made for her brother’s store.

“Surrender, Kennecot, and I’ll let you live. You don’t have to die this way.” Hart tried to reason with him, even as she doubted he would take the easy way out.

“Go to hell, Marshal!” Kennecot yelled as he drew his weapon.

Two shots rang out, and for a moment, two figures stood in the street. Then slowly, Kennecot crumpled to the dirt, his gun falling from his hand.

Hart strode toward him, revolver lifted to shoulder height. She cocked the hammer and the spent cap fell from the cylinder. The townspeople that had gathered on porches and balconies watched her walk toward him, no one moved or spoke.

When she reached his crumpled form, Hart kicked his gun out of reach, in case he was playing possum. But one look at his eyes and the hole in the middle of his forehead told her all she needed to know.

“Kennecot is dead. Doc Knight, would you come and pronounce, please?” She called out as she holstered her gun.

Lita extricated herself from Cassius’ fearful grip and joined Hart in the street. As she reached the Marshal’s side, she said quietly, “Clearly, you and I have to discuss secrets later,” Then she knelt and felt Kennecot’s neck for a pulse.

She shook her head and straightened up to face her neighbors. “He’s dead!”

“Looks like the law finally came to town!” The young man known as Spence called out.

The townspeople exploded into applause and cheers.

Overwhelmed with relief, Lita hugged Hart before she seemed to remember they were in the middle of the street. When she let go, her ears were an interesting shade of pink.

“Spence,” she said to the man who’d called out, “get someone to help you take their bodies over to the cemetery.”

Hart headed for the saloon. She needed a drink.


That evening, Lita, Emmett and Cassius all came home together to find Hart sitting at the table reading.

“Go wash up, Cass, then we can pick up reading where we left off,” Lita said. She slipped her shawl off and stood facing her guest. “We lost track of you, where did you get to?”

“Needed a drink.” Hart closed the book and shrugged. “Slipped out the back door after that and came back here.”

“Too bad.” Emmett grinned. “There was an impromptu town meeting called. There was a motion put forward to ask you to stay on permanently.”

Hart looked up at Lita, who had a smile so wide her teeth showed.

“So, what do you say, Marshal Hart? Interested in staying in Kennecot?”

“Only if the town gets renamed,” she replied, adding a grin of her own.

“Well then, you’ll like this next bit of news. Before Kennecot took over, the town was known as South Pass. There was a motion to reclaim that name. So, welcome to South Pass, Marshal,” Lita said as she stuck her hand out.

Hart rose and shook it, secretly revelling in how soft the doctor’s hands felt.

“Thank you. So now that Kennecot is gone, does South Pass have a mayor?”

“Yep!” Emmett continued to smile widely. “You’re shaking her hand! The folks around here all knew what Lita did to keep the town from suffering Kennecot’s wrath, so it was an easy vote.”

“Well, congratulations then, Madame Mayor,” Hart said with a smile of her own.

“Thank you,” Lita replied softly before reclaiming her hand. “I was hoping you’d agree to stay. As one of my first official acts, I called for names to build an office for you, with an attached jail. It won’t be finished for some time, I’m afraid, but you’re more than welcome to stay with us for as long as you like.”

Just then Cassius came darting from his room, wrapped his arms around Hart’s waist and looked up at her with imploring eyes.

“Looks like you have his vote,” Emmett said. “Mine too.”

“Mine too,” Lita said. “But no more secrets, please?”

“In that case, ma’am,” Hart said as she wrapped one of her arms around Cassius’ shoulders. “Allow me to formally and properly introduce myself. Back home at my aunt’s ranch, they call me Miss Afton Hart.”

“A woman marshal?” Emmett chuckled. “That alone might have killed Kennecot if he’d known. How did I not know?”

Cassius looked up again and smiled wider than anyone had ever seen.

“It makes me a target, so I don’t let just anyone know,” Hart said seriously.

Emmett chuckled. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. But I do hope our new marshal can hunt. I’m getting mighty tired of stew.”

“Oh, a few of the…women at the saloon…sent over some chili and cornbread for you in gratitude. Apparently, Kennecot was pretty harsh with them, too. If you know what I mean.” Lita said, finally lifting a basket to the table that she had set on the floor when they had come in.

“I’m so hungry I could eat a field of radishes,” their new Marshal remarked. “Oh, tomorrow, I’d like to talk to you about your garden out there,” She ruffled Cassius’ hair, and he finally released his grip on her.

“It’s been fallow for a long time, Hart…I mean, Afton,” Lita stumbled over using Hart’s given name. “I just didn’t have the time to keep it up, and a lot of my patients pay me in preserves and meat, and so on. But if you’d like to give it a shot…”

“I would.”

“It’s yours then,” Lita nodded and turned to her son. “Alright young man, go pick out a book while Afton eats her supper.”

The End…For Now

Final Thoughts From The Author

This is not the last we’ll see of Afton, Lita, Emmett or Cassius. There is a series of short stories planned as they carve a life out together. I hope you’ll ride along with us.

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Carolyn McBride

I’m a self-sufficiency enthusiast, an author of novels & short stories, a reader, a gardener, lover of good chocolate, coffee & life in the woods.