Summary: A WHN/alternate ending for the episode The Quality of Mercy. Joe goes to see Seth Pruitt in jail.
Word Count: 613
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author Note: The cawing of a crow (for those of a superstitious nature) means that death is nearby.
Epilogue: The Quality of Mercy
The figure on the cot didn’t turn; instead, he kept staring through the barred window of his cell at the newly built gallows. “They’re gonna hang me in the morning,” he replied, voice devoid of emotion.
“Yeah,” I said softly, fingers fiddling with the brim of the tan stetson in my hands, “Yeah, I know. I was in the courtroom when the judge passed his sentence.”
A crow cawed in the ensuing silence; the rasping croak sounded so much like death, it caused a shiver to trip down my spine.
“Have you talked to Sara?”
“Not recently, no. She’s gone to live with her uncle in San Francisco for a while.”
“To get away from me, right?” He shifted about until he was facing me. Light blue eyes locked with my hazel ones, and I nearly flinched at the deadness in them.
“No, she…look, Seth, Sara’s mother died when she was just a babe in arms. Her father was all she had—”
Suddenly, he stood, knocking the cot over in his haste. “That’s not true; she had me!” He ran a hand through his mussed, brown hair, and let out a hollow laugh. “We were gonna get married, make a life together. Everything was gonna be perfect.”
“Until you killed her father,” I said.
His head snapped up and a cold fury lit his eyes. “He said I wasn’t good enough for her, that he was gonna talk her out of marrying me.” He wrapped his fingers around the bars of his cell so tightly that his knuckles turned white. “So I did what I had to.”
“Oh come off it! Be honest with yourself here, just this once. You didn’t do any of this for Sara. If you even knew her at all you would know she couldn’t have care less if you were the richest man alive or poorer than a church mouse. No, you just got greedy.”
“So what if I did? Joe, you know me. All my life I’ve worked from can see to can’t see with nothing but a handful of blisters to show for it. That silver mine was gonna be a new start for me and her. No more worrying about where our next meal was gonna come from, or if we could afford to visit the doctor when one of us was sick. That money was gonna fix everything.”
I shook my head in disbelief, “If you truly believe that, then you’re even more of a fool than I took you for.”
His face contorted into a mask of hatred. “What do you know about it? Nothing! You’re one of those high and mighty Cartwrights. You’ve never had to worry about money a day in you’re life. Everything you have was given to you on a silver platter. Well, all I wanted was a little something of my own.”
He shook the bars of his cage like a man possessed, spittle flying from his mouth with each bit of vitriol he spewed. “This is all your fault, Joseph Cartwright! If you had just kept your trap shut, Sara and I would have been married and on our way to a better life.”
Turning on my heel, I headed for the door that separated the cells from the sheriff’s office. “This is all your fault, Joe. Do you hear me? This is all your fault!”
Hand on the doorknob, I halted and glanced at the stranger I had once called friend. “No, Seth, it’s yours.” Opening the door, I closed it behind me. I said my goodbyes to Roy, and headed for home. Not once did I stop to look back.