Two more long weeks passed before the stagecoach arrived in town and a man dressed in black climbed from it.
Amelia heard gasps from people in the street, followed by murmurs. “Judge Reinhardt, the hanging judge.”
Several ladies looked Amelia’s way before raising their noses in the air and passing by.
Amelia’s legs went weak and she felt faint. A strong arm wrapped around her waist and held her up.
“Luke, where have you been? I haven’t seen you around lately.”
“I had something to take care of.”
“Judge Reinhardt just arrived.”
“So I heard.” He saw the fear in her eyes. “Don’t worry. Cade will be all right.”
“But doesn’t a hanging judge already have his mind made up before a trial? How will Cade’s trial be fair?”
Luke’s eyes met hers and she saw what – resolve, determination?
“He might be a hanging judge, but he won’t be hanging Cade.” He scowled and walked away.
That evening Amelia was extremely quiet during dinner.
“Something on your mind, Amelia?” Her father leaned toward her.
“I’ve always known you to be a fair man. Until now.” She formed a tight, thin line with her lips.
“My job in this town is to uphold the law, but I have a more important job, and that is to protect you.”
“So you bring a hanging judge to be sure that Cade Jeffries can never be a part of my life.”
Her father lowered his eyes. “I didn’t ask for Judge Reinhardt, but he just finished a trial in Jasper. So he was closer to town than any other judge, and he was available.”
“You’ve had Cade in your jail for a month. Did you ever speak to him with an open mind, or have you had your mind made up about it from the start?”
“Amelia, he’s been riding with the Brody gang for six years. A young man can’t possibly be in the company of outlaws for that long and not be affected.”
“I take it that means you’ve had your mind made up from the start. I’m disappointed in you, Daddy, and if.” She took a deep breath and willed the tears not to start. “If this judge hangs Cade, I’ll never forgive you. Now if you’ll excuse me.”
Amelia went to her room, flung herself onto her bed and sobbed into her pillow.