Chapter 1 We Have a What?
"What do you suppose Pappy wants now?" That was the question posed by Bret Maverick to his brother Bart and cousin Beau as they smoked cigars and waited outside the house. Bart shrugged idly and Beau pretended not to be interested. He was so happy to have gotten back into Beauregard Maverick's good graces that it didn't matter what his uncle wanted him for, just as long as he was wanted. The three cousins, having been raised together and spent most of their adult lives together, were closer than most brothers. All three were professional gamblers and all three were gathered on the front porch of the small ranch in Little Bend, Texas, waiting to find out just why they had been summoned home. Inside the house were the three most important people in the world to them: Pappy, Beau's father and Beauregard's brother Bentley, and Lily Mae Connors, Bentley's long time housekeeper. They had been in there for some time and the 'boys' out on the porch were getting restless.
All three had been quite surprised to get a telegram from Pappy calling them back as soon as possible. Bret was in Kansas City winning at poker and Bart and Beau were in New Orleans with Bart's friend Anderson Garrett having a grand time. Anderson believed in living in luxury and the cousins were more than willing to share in the good fortune of his indulgences. None of them had been particularly happy to get the 'return home order' from Beauregard, but Pappy was the head of the family and not to be ignored. In the due course of a day or two all three had begun making their way south, back to the place they were raised.
Now they found themselves standing like schoolboys outside the house, wondering what was so urgent that their endeavors to make or spend a living had to be interrupted. They'd already been waiting a long time and they were restless. And hungry. That might have been the reason for Lily Mae's presence since all three swore by her cooking and never missed a chance to eat one of her meals.
Finally the door to the house opened and Uncle Bentley appeared. Without saying anything he motioned them inside. Each cousin entered, hat in hand, and greeted Lily Mae. As usual she was more than happy to see 'her boys', though they had long since ceased being boys. There were five chairs placed around the table and they each took an empty seat. Lily Mae shuffled back into the tiny kitchen to stir something that smelled delicious. Pappy cleared his throat and waited impatiently for them to get settled, just as he had when they were young. He scrutinized each of them in turn, with a look of pride aimed first at Bret, his oldest, then Bart, his youngest, and finally at Beau, his namesake. Top-notch gamblers all, each one taught the art of poker by him and Bentley. They were a fine looking group, even if he had to say so himself. Ben finally gave Beau a glare and Pappy got down to business.
"You all know your Uncle Micah, back in Charleston. Micah is just fine and cantankerous as ever. But you didn't know your Aunt Jessie in Montana." Pappy paused for effect and the young men looked at each other curiously. Who was this Aunt Jessie? Was she a Maverick or kin to one of their deceased mothers? They didn't have to wait long for an answer.
"Pappy?" Bret queried. "Aunt Jessie What?"
"Or who?" asked Bart
"Or whom?" corrected Beau.
"Jessalyn Victoria Maverick," Bentley stated. "Our only sister."
The cousin's looked at each other in bewilderment. All these years there had been no mention of any other closely related Maverick besides Uncle Micah. And now, all of a sudden, an Aunt Jessie. Where did she come from? Who was she? And why had she been such a secret all these years?
Pappy and Bentley took turns 'unspinning' the yarn. Four Maverick children grew up in Louisiana – Beauregard, Bentley, Micah and Jessalyn. Micah was a hard working young man who had a head for business and was destined to do well. Beauregard and Bentley were trouble from the start, learning the wicked ways of gambling and avoiding real work at all costs. It was hoped that young Jessalyn, or Jessie as she was called, would take after her brother Micah rather than Beau or Ben. It was not to be. Whatever wild, free spirit infected the two oldest Maverick children was also inherited by the youngest. Jessie was a sight to behold, with silken dark red hair and the most beautiful blue eyes ever seen in the south. Ma and Pa Maverick couldn't contain her, and no one was surprised when she vanished at age 15. Rumors were heard of her as far away as the Wyoming territory, and the two older boys delighted in spreading the crazy tales they heard about their sister. Jessie seemed to outgrow her wild ways in her twenties, and wrote to her family about settling down and getting married. That wasn't to last long, however, as her husband died young and she received a small sum of money from his estate. Ma and Pa were gone by that time so Micah tried to persuade her to join the brothers in Texas. Instead she went to the Montana territory and opened a saloon, where she lived the rest of her life. She met a man named Edgar Pike and while she wouldn't legally marry him she lived the with him in a common-law marriage. Which brought them to the reason for the hastily called family summit.
"Jessie passed recently in Montana. She was sickly as a child and caught everything when she was younger," here Pappy looked at Bart, "and we hoped that she'd outgrown that tendency, but it looks like something got her." Beauregard and Bentley exchanged knowing looks. Bret tried to hurry the tale along. "What about Edgar Pike?"
"Oh, he's still alive."
"In Montana?" was Bret's next question.
"Yes, son, in Montana."
"And?" All three looked at Pappy in exasperation. Surely there was a reason for this tale.
"And Jessie left a will when she died."
Bart and Beau watched Pappy with nervous anticipation, but Bret was already a step ahead of his father. "And the saloon?"
"Jessie never had any children. She left the saloon to her nephews."
Everyone at the table fell silent. An Aunt they didn't know. A saloon they'd never heard of. And unexpectedly they were business owners.
"Is it worth anything?" asked Bart.
"Can we sell it?" asked Beau.
"What does Mr. Pike have to say about it?" asked Bret.
"Practical questions, all. Yes, maybe, and not much. Mr. Pike, I am told, feels that the property should be his after 20 odd years together. Not an unexpected opinion. An incorrect one, however." Pappy looked around the table at his boys. They'd spent so much time together that both Beauregard and Bentley tended to think of them all as sons. Having two fathers almost took the place of having no mother.
'Where is this saloon, Pappy? And what's it called?" Bart asked.
"In Silver Creek, near the Wyoming border. Booming little town. Jessie always seemed real happy there. The saloon must do well; it's been there over 20 years. She named it 'The Three Mavericks Saloon' after us three black sheep. You boys need to hightail it up there, find out what it's all about. See if you can make it work. Or see if you can get rid of it. Keep Pike from getting his hands on it."
The three younger Mavericks looked at each other knowingly. Pappy had a point; they were the new owners. At least for the time being. It was certainly worth a trip. Besides, how much trouble could they get into?