Chapter 13 The Promise
Once Bart started to regain his strength things got back into a routine. Bret and Beau spent a lot of their time at the saloon, playing poker and keeping things going. Georgia alternated between taking care of the day-to-day management and helping Bart. Jody spent the most time with Bart, helping him regain the mobility he had lost during his long recovery. They went on buggy rides and picnics, anything to get him out of the hotel room and moving. And his appetite came back as soon as his jaw healed and he started to regain some of the weight he'd lost. He began to look more like pre-beating Bart.
He and Jody became fast friends. She felt badly about the snooping she had done, especially in light of the fact that she never found what she was looking for. Jessie must have been mistaken when she told Jody that the Mavericks had it. She was bright and inquisitive and had a real sense of humor. She was a good poker playing partner, too, even if he couldn't beat her when they initially started playing. That skill came back to him a little slowly at first as he healed in both mind and body. Once he started beating her regularly she knew that he was well on his way back to 'normal', or as close as a gambler can get to 'normal.'
The day finally came when it was time to get back on a horse. Bret and Beau went to the livery to get their horses while Bart waited outside the hotel. It seemed strange to him to be getting back in the saddle; it had been months since the last time he rode. So much had changed, not just with Bart. Bret became the resident dealer in the high stakes poker game that was usually going on at the saloon; Beau and Georgia were 'sort of' seeing each other, or at least spending time together; even Harry had to hire and train another bartender. The lawsuit over the ownership of the saloon was put on hold indefinitely until all parties were well enough to appear in court. And Edgar Pike remained at his ranch and quiet as a church mouse.
Mounting his horse seemed to be no problem for Bart, but sitting in the saddle required the use of muscles that had gone untested for a long time. This was going to require an effort on his part, but a necessary one. Beau and Bret had discouraged the ladies from going with them on this first ride; they anticipated the destination that Bart had in mind. Both men hoped they were wrong, but Bart's temper had been simmering for months and he had been unusually quiet about it.
Of course they rode to the JP Ranch, after trying in vain to dissuade Bart from heading there. The only thing going in their favor was the fact that Bart wasn't wearing his gun. They rode in silence, no one speaking even after they opened and entered the gate on the road. Bart was in the lead now and there was no stopping him. When they arrived at the ranch house he dismounted and went straight to the front door. His knocking on the door certainly wasn't gentle.
"Come on out, Edgar, I know you're in there." His voice was even and firm, like he just wanted to have a pleasant chat with Edgar. Neither of the men staying mounted behind him had ever heard him this restrained. Bret had anticipated his temper rearing its head and Beau didn't know what to expect. Bart was polite, almost respectful.
Slowly the door swung open and Bart was looking down the barrel of a shotgun. "What do you want?" the little man barked at him.
"I just wanted to talk, Edgar," Bart remained calm and in control. "I never got a chance to introduce myself." He offered his hand to shake but Edgar didn't let go of the gun. "I'm Bart Maverick, the man you tried to have killed." He smiled at Edgar and a chill ran up Bret's spine. He'd never seen his brother like this.
"What do you want?" Pike repeated.
"Sorry it's taken me so long to get out here, Edgar, but I've been a little under the weather." The smile stayed on Bart's face. Anyone listening would have thought he was talking to an old friend. "I just wanted to let you know that we're going to go to court and beat you. You're never going to walk into that saloon again without knowing what you lost. And when we win we're going to sue you and take everything away from you that Aunt Jessie left you. Including the picture on your mantel that you showed my brother." His voice dropped to little more than a whisper and the smile left his face. Bret and Beau had to strain to hear the words and the murderous tone he spoke them in. "And when we've taken everything that you hold dear, Uncle Edgar, I'm going to come out here and kill you."