Chapter 16 Promises to Keep
In less than twenty four hours it was all over town that Bart had threatened to kill Edgar Pike. Everyone that came into the saloon was talking about it, and the sheriff even showed up to see Bret and Beau. Since neither of them told anyone about the previous day's visit to the JP ranch they assumed that the gossip came from Edgar himself.
Sheriff Bowman walked into the saloon with a chip on his shoulder. It was obvious that his investigation of the Maverick beating hadn't satisfied them, so they took matters into their own hands. So he went to put the fear of the Lord into them.
Bret was in the manager's office talking to Georgia about the month's receipts when Beau came to get him. "We've got a problem out front. Named Sheriff Mort Bowman. And he's not happy."
"About what?" Georgia asked before Bret could.
"About yesterday's visit to Pike."
She looked at Beau, then at Bret, then back at Beau. "You didn't say anything about going to see Edgar."
"My dear, I thought it best left unsaid."
Bret ignored the exchange and looked straight at Beau. "Has he heard?"
"Heard what?" Georgia interrupted.
Beau ignored her question, too. "He has."
"Oh my," Bret answered. "Well, I guess we better go get Bart out of the mess he's made."
"What mess?" Georgia was becoming agitated that both of them ignored her.
"We'll explain later," Beau finally addressed her unanswered questions.
Bret got up from his chair and both men left the room. Georgia sat there, frustrated that they'd brushed her aside so easily. They walked out to the front of the saloon and Bret offered his hand to the sheriff, who shook it and then said, "Mr. Maverick, I heard something disturbing today."
"Sheriff Bowman, why don't we sit down over there?" Bret pointed to an empty table away from the bar. "Would you like a drink?"
"No thank you," Bowman replied. "But I could stand some coffee if you've got some."
"Always, just like Jessie did." Beau signaled Harry over and he brought the pot and three cups.
Once the coffee was poured Bret turned his attention back to Mort Bowman. "Sheriff, what can we do for you?"
"I know that you weren't happy with the results of my investigation into your brother's beating. But I don't see why it was necessary to take things into your own hands."
Bret looked positively confused. "I'm sorry, Mort, what are we supposed to have done?"
Sheriff Bowman looked at Bret glumly. "You went and threatened to murder Edgar Pike."
Bret shook his head. "We, sheriff," he indicated Beau and himself, "did no such thing."
"That's right, Sheriff Bowman. We didn't speak to Mr. Pike," Beau added.
Mort Bowman made an unhappy sound as he looked from Bret to Beau. "Then your brother did."
"You know Mort, I was too far away to hear anything. I don't know what Bart may have said to him."
"As was I, Sheriff."
This was going nowhere fast. If it was the Mavericks intention to make Mort Bowman look like a fool they were well on their way to accomplishing just that. He wasn't going to let them get away with it. "Your brother Bart threatened to murder Edgar Pike."
"Now, sheriff, are you sure he threatened murder?" Bret asked innocently.
"Yes, don't you think he possibly said 'kill' rather than 'murder'?" Beau added, just as innocently.
They were playing with semantics. "I don't care which word you use, he threatened to make Edgar Pike DEAD." A thought suddenly occurred to Mort. "I thought you said neither one of you heard anything?"
"Oh, we didn't," Beau answered. "We're just guessing. People very often think 'murder' when they actually mean 'kill.'"
"There's no difference!" Mort shouted.
"Why sheriff, I'm surprised to hear you say that. There's a big difference between murdering something and killing something. I'm sure you know that," Bret added innocently.
Bowman was about to kill both of them. "The point is he made a threat against Edgar."
Bret tried one more thing. "Are you sure he didn't make a promise rather than a threat?"
Mort had enough of this nonsense. He stood up and pointed at them. "Here's the bottom line. If anything happens to Edgar Pike and he turns up dead Bart Maverick is the first person I'm coming to see. Is that clear enough?"
The cousins knew when they were defeated. "Yes, sir. We'll make sure that Edgar remains very much alive." Beau started to add "At least for now" but Bret stopped him.
Mort Bowman, sheriff of Silver Creek, having been totally humiliated by the Mavericks, turned on his heel and left. Bret and Beau burst out laughing and then stopped and looked at each other.
"Can we keep Bart out of trouble?" Bret asked seriously.
"Of course," Beau answered just as seriously. "We just have to make sure that Edgar stays alive."
"Could be a problem. He's not the most popular fella in town, you know."
"What's the alternative?"
Bret thought for just a moment. "Don't leave Bart alone. That way if something happens to Pike he'll be in the clear."
"He'll never speak to us again, you know."
"He'll be alive and well," Bret retorted. "I think you better go explain everything to Georgia. And have her tell Jody. We made need their help. He's not gonna be happy but that's not my concern right now. He's been through enough since we've been in this town and he doesn't need any more trouble. I just want him to be safe."
Beau nodded agreement and got up to return to Georgia's office. She wouldn't be pleased with him for withholding information but he hoped she would understand. Her feelings had become too important for him to ignore.
Bart was not happy about having 'baby-sitters' again and let everyone know it. Bret tried to convince him it was for the best and it was his own fault anyway – if he hadn't threatened Edgar none of this would be happening.
There were no blinding headaches for two or three days and Bart started to relax a bit. Maybe his head was finally healing inside. He rested in bed another day and then decided that he needed to get away from everything for a bit, any amount of time, so a trip to Barker Corners was in order. The town was about one-third the size of Silver Creek and was only half a day's buggy ride away. Since Bret and Beau insisted that he not go alone and Jody had committed to doing something at the church in town, Georgia volunteered to go with him. She had a friend in Barker Corners and welcomed the distraction. The relationship with Beau was becoming increasingly complicated and she thought they could use some time apart.
On a Tuesday morning Bart walked over to the livery stable and picked up the buggy, then drove to Georgia's to collect her and her suitcase. The trip to the little town was pleasant; the day was bright and sunny and although there was more than a hint of fall in the air it was still warm enough to be enjoyable. When they arrived Bart dropped Georgia off at her friend's house, left the horse and buggy at the livery and checked into the hotel. It felt good to be someplace different, after all the time spent in one town. Bart didn't realize how much he missed being a 'roving' gambler until he'd been away from it for a while. It was exciting and stimulating to know that he had a whole afternoon and evening to himself and that he wouldn't see Georgia again until the next day. He almost felt good. The ringing in his ears had begun to fade in intensity and the ache in his head was as dull as it had been in weeks. So when he walked into the Barker Saloon and Gambling Hall he didn't anticipate any trouble.
He'd found a poker game easily enough and his skills, while not as sharp as they usually were, were more than adequate to handle the local players. He'd been at it for several hours when he noticed a man at the bar watching him. He paid little attention at first but kept an eye open just in case and was wondering who the man was and why he looked familiar. There was something about him that didn't sit well with Bart.
The cowboy continued to watch him on and off for another hour or so before finishing his drink and leaving. Bart racked his brain trying to place him but simply couldn't. They'd probably played poker against each other at some point and that would explain the familiarity. Once he left Bart didn't give it another thought.
The cowboy, whose name was Pete Sanborn, left the saloon and went straight to a little cabin outside of town. There he met with his brother Jack and their friend Rusty Meyers. Pete was quite agitated by his long distance encounter with Bart and needed to talk to the other two men.
"I tell ya, it was him," Pete insisted once he got inside. Jack was skeptical and Rusty downright didn't believe him.
"It couldn't be," Rusty answered. "Edgar paid me to get him out of the way and that's what I did."
"You mighta put him down but you sure didn't take him out," Pete insisted. "I'm tellin' ya, it was him. Same guy – thinner, looked older than he did before, but the same guy."
Rusty shook his head. "With the pistol whippin' I gave him, no way should he still be alive. Much less walkin' around here in town."
"I'm tellin' ya, he's alive and in the saloon playin' cards."
"You been drinkin'?'" Jack asked.
"One crummy drink," Pete defended himself. "If ya don't believe me, go see for yerself."
Rusty thought about it a minute, and then shot back, "Okay, I will." He pulled on a coat, went outside and mounted Pete's horse. Ten minutes later he walked into the saloon in town and went straight to the bar. He ordered whiskey and then snuck a glance at the poker game going on in the corner. 'Son of a gun' Rusty thought. 'It is Maverick. I thought for sure I killed him. Tough bastard.' He wasn't taking any chances. He kept his back turned to the game and the first time that Bart's attention was somewhere else he hightailed it out of the saloon. He rode like a maniac back to the cabin and burst through the door. "Jesus, Pete, you were right. It was Maverick. Let's get out of here before he can spot us."
With that they packed their meager belongings and left. Time to find out if Edgar Pike wanted the job finished.