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Midnight Hour

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Chris awoke with a start and stared around the room in confusion as the old grandfather clock chimed away the last of the notes for midnight. The full moon was shining through the small window, illuminating the room around him in a reddish hue rather than bright silver light. He knew this room. He had slept in this room, in this bed, a thousand times. He recognized the dresser, the moonlight picking up the shining silver handle of a hairbrush and reflecting back from the mirror set atop. He saw his holster hanging on the bed post close at hand, his gun with its stag grip snugly fitted. Chris turned onto his side, leaning up on one elbow, and blinked back tears when he found Sarah lying with her head next to him, her fiery auburn hair spread out across her white linen pillow, more beautiful to him now than on the day they first met. He reached out, letting his hand hover scant inches from her creamy skin, afraid to touch her in case it awoke him from this amazing dream.

She stirred, sighing softly as her sleepy eyes opened, and she smiled up at him. With all his heart Chris wished this was real and the cold world without her was the dream, the nightmare from which he had finally awoken.

"Trust him. Don't trust her, my love," she whispered.

"Trust who?" he asked, finally letting his fingers drift towards her only to see them pass right through her.

With a snap he was wide awake with Ella lying fast asleep on the pillow next to him. Quietly he moved off the bed and pulled on his pants, no longer wanting to lie naked beside her while his mind was filled with memories of Sarah and the love they had shared. The familiar bedroom of his old homestead was gone, replaced by Ella's gaudier curtains and bed coverings. Hours passed while he was lost in memories, recalling the sound of Adam's baby laughter and Sarah's green eyes smiling, memories he once feared he had lost forever.

Don't trust her, Sarah had said, and so had Vin earlier that day when they had argued. Could he be the 'Trust him'?

The moon was setting and with dawn fast approaching he felt a need to see into the room Ella kept locked, stealing away the key as she slept, and making his way along the corridor with a single candle to light his way.

None of it made sense. The photographs of him alone or with Sarah crossed out, and a newspaper article about the fire that killed his wife and boy. He found his missing razor on the shelf, and other items that were commonplace and yet familiar. Light glinted off silvered metal turned almost yellow-gold in the candle light and he picked up a locket containing a single photograph of him. Sarah's locket; the one she had always worn.

The curtain parted and Ella was standing before him, her words of love, of obsession finally penetrating the fog of memories and confusion, leaving his mind reeling as the full extent of her madness sank into him.

All hell broke loose outside and he grabbed a rifle as he ran onto the porch, her words of insanity following him.

****

Days later he sat on the boardwalk wrapped in a blanket. Nathan had dug out the bullet and the boys had been out for days looking for Ella but Chris wasn't surprised when Vin came back to tell him they had found no trace of her. Silently he agreed with Vin, wishing he had taken the chance to shoot her down when he had the chance but the letter in his hand proved she had not finished with him yet. Her madness would bring her back into his life and, next time, he would take his revenge on her for Sarah and for Adam.

Vin settled on the steps in front of him, both of them staring out across the dusty street for several minutes in silence, not needing words to give and accept comfort. Chris spoke softly, knowing his words would reach only Vin's sharp ears.

"Had a dream the night I found out about her. Clock struck midnight and I was back at the homestead. I saw Sarah, and she warned me not to trust Ella."

"Saw her trophies, Chris. Lot of bad in that house, and a blood moon that night. A night when the dead come calling on the living."

It seemed as good an explanation as any, and one Josiah would likely agree upon too. Chris pulled the locket out of his pocket and held it tight in his hand as he carefully placed his memories of her and Adam back into a quiet corner of his heart and mind. Ella would be back, and she had already threatened to kill anything or anybody standing between them, but Chris couldn't let her poison ruin what he had found with Vin.

Trust him, Sarah had said, and he knew instinctively she had meant Vin. He had her blessing, and he would do everything in his power to honor her request too.

END