Chapter 27 Gun, Gun, Who's Got the Gun?
When you play poker for a living you learn to exist on limited sleep. Laying down for two hours or less was nothing new to Bret and he felt better after even that limited amount of rest. He did his best to get the trail dust off of him and changed clothes. Then he went down to the dining room, grabbed coffee and left for the jail.
As always in the morning, Deputy Willis was minding the store. He looked surprised to see Bret. "Mr. Maverick, I see you got back from Sundown."
"No, Willis, further than that. Can I go on back?"
"Sure. Your brother's still in the same place."
Bret smiled at that. "I didn't think he'd be moving without letting me know."
Bart was watching something out the cell window and didn't turn around. "Good morning, Cousin Beau."
A familiar voice responded. "Not Beau. Would you settle for me instead?"
"Bret!" Bart whirled around, glad to have his brother back. There was a merry twinkle in Bart's eyes as he responded to the return. "Uh, were you gone long? Time flies by so fast in here that I lose track of people."
Bart seemed in much better spirits than he had when Bret left. Funny what finding out you weren't a murderer could do for your psyche.
"I can be gone longer if you'd like," Bret responded.
"No, thank you Brother Bret. That was just fine. Back in time for the trial."
"You don't seem too worried about that."
Bart laughed out loud. "Oh, I'm plenty worried. At least I know I'm innocent."
Bret smiled at his brother through the bars and didn't say anything. It took Bart a minute to realize that Bret wasn't talking. "Wait a minute. I am innocent, aren't I? That is what your telegram meant, isn't it?"
"Well, let's put it this way. You didn't kill Edgar Pike. How innocent you are remains to be seen."
Bart ignored his brother's jest. "Tell me what you found out."
Bret pulled the 'visiting' chair over to the cell door and sat down. Bart did the same. "Rusty Meyers."
"That's the name?"
"That's the name," Bret replied.
"Description? Location? Anything else?"
"Undistinguished. Forty-ish, your height, heavier, dark hair, clean shaven, mean look in his eyes. Nothin' on the location. Hangin' out with Pete and Jack Sanborn, brothers, no description. I spent an afternoon with Marshal Cole in Sundown, he's arrested 'em before. Knows Rusty's gun; had it in his possession when he arrested 'em. Gave me a description that fits that carved lightning bolt in the bottom of the grip real well. I've got a signed affidavit from the marshal swearing that it's Rusty's gun we found you with."
"Is that all?"
"Isn't it enough?"
"For Bowman, no. He'll have forty different ways from Sunday that I could have traded guns with Meyers. Not one of 'em will be true but that doesn't matter. You're gonna have to bring him in to get me outa here."
Bret nodded his head at Bart's pronouncement. "Yep, that's what I figured on."
"So why are you here talkin' to me?"
"Because our momma told me to take care of you. That's what I'm doin'."
Bart smiled at the reference to Belle Maverick. "Where you gonna start?"
Bret told his brother what he'd told Georgia. "Out at the ranch. See where that leads me. I may not be here for the start of the trial; you'd be better off if I could find Meyers and stop it."
"Do what you need to do. I know where you are. Beau'll be there. And Jody. And most likely Georgia too."
"She's not sleepin', ya know. I mean Georgia. I got over to the saloon about four this morning and she was still there. Told Harry she can't sleep. Worried about you like you were her kin. How'd you get as good a friend as Georgia Mayfield?"
"I told her about Caroline," Bart answered quietly.
"Oh." Nothing further was needed. Bart really must trust Georgia if he told her the story of his young deceased wife. Had he filled her in on the six months after Caroline's death when he was missing from the face of the earth? Bret fervently hoped so. The younger Maverick would never really be over it until he discussed the months immediately following the killing with someone instead of keeping it bottled up inside. Now he better understood the bond that had developed between Bart and the Mayfield women.
"I better get to riding. Who knows where I'll end up today? I'll come by when I get back."
As Bret stood to leave Bart reached through the bars and grabbed his arm. "Bret?"
"Yes, Brother Bart?"
"For being my brother."
Beau awoke with a start. How long had he been sleeping? From the way his body felt when he tried to move it had been a while. He stretched and yawned and attempted to stand up. Every part of him hurt. Ho looked out the window and realized the sun was up. He'd slept all night! It had been a little after midnight when he put his head down on the desk for just a few minutes rest. He's heard nothing after that.
The saloon was deathly quiet. Beau left the office and walked down the stairs to the main floor. Funny how a place this still could get so loud when it was full of people. He looked over at Georgia's office and the door was closed. Good, that meant that one of them slept in a bed last night.
He wondered if Bret had gotten back yet. Surely he would have woken Beau if he was home. One way to find out for sure. Go by the hotel on the way to his normal morning visit to the jail. He locked the saloon doors on his way out and wandered up the street to the hotel. The desk clerk greeted him with his usual "Good morning, Mr. Maverick," and then continued with "Your cousin is back from his trip."
"Bret?" Beau asked, then realized of course it was Bret. "Is he in his room?"
"No sir," came the reply. "He was here for two or three hours and left again. Last time I saw him he was headed out of town."
"Headed which way?" Beau questioned.
"Towards the JP spread. That must have been an hour or so ago. Said he'd be back later and if you came in to tell you to go see Mr. Bart Maverick in jail." As if there was more than one Maverick in jail. Was that what the town hoped for? Or had they become part of the community?
He decided not to worry about it and headed back out to the street. It only took a couple of minutes to make the customary walk and step inside. By now he was as familiar with the inside of the jail as he was the saloon or his hotel room. "Morning, Willis," he told the deputy as he went past the desk.
"Morning, Mr. Maverick," Willis called after him. "Coffee?"
"Sure, I'd love some," Beau answered as he turned the corner and saw Bart in his normal place – in the jail cell looking out the window. This time Bart turned around before speaking.
"Glad to see it's really you this time."
"What?" Beau was confused.
"Last time I said good morning to you it was really Brother Bret."
"So he was here?"
"Yes he was, Cousin Beauregard, he was here in the flesh. Then he was riding out to the JP to see if he could find – " Bart stopped in mid-sentence.
"To see if he could find who?"
"Don't you mean whom?" Bart was laughing now and it wasn't funny. Of course, Bart laughing was a lot better than the last time Beau was there to visit him.
Beau stood patiently and waited for Bart to quiet down. "Now, let's try this again. Who was Bret going to find?"
"The real killer of Edgar Pike. The man who tried to kill me. Rusty Meyers."
"And he went out to the JP?"
"Yep. Gotta start somewhere."
Beau finally pulled the well-used chair over to the cell. "Did he say anything about me?"
Bart sat down inside the cell and shook his head. "Not a word. Where were you when he rode in?"
"Asleep. At the desk in what was supposed to be your office. Instead of in a bed."
Bart swept his hand past the cot as if putting it on display. "Welcome to my world. Why were you at the saloon instead of the hotel?"
"Georgia was still there working. I couldn't leave her there to walk home, at night, in the dark. I just closed my eyes for a moment."
"And woke up how many hours later?"
Beau looked rather sheepish although he had no cause to. "Several. And I presume Bret or Harry walked her home."
"Of course they did. Neither would let her go home by herself. You know that."
His cousin's head nodded. "At least Bret came back with something. Did he tell you what the evidence is?"
"Marshal over in Sundown identified the gun you found me with as one belonging to Meyers. Signed an affidavit to that effect."
"I don't suppose we can get you out with that?"
Bart scowled at the question. He'd just told Bret that wouldn't be enough evidence. That's why Rusty Meyers had to be found.
"I don't see how. There's too many ways I could have gotten the gun. Besides, with the trial this close nobody but the judge or the prosecutor could dismiss the charges, and they're not due in town until tomorrow."
Beau sighed. He'd hoped that Bret would return with enough evidence to set Bart free. Instead, Bart was still in jail and Bret was already gone again. Wouldn't this ever end?
Almost as if Bart could read Beau's mind, he offered, "Just gotta play the cards we were dealt, cousin. Even if it is a shaved deck. We've been in worse spots."
Beau started to say, "Yeah? When?" but thought better of it. Bart was at least hopeful, and Beau wasn't about to take that away from him. Instead he offered "Yes we have," and let it go at that.