Chapter 30 Loose Ends
The stage from the county seat arrived the next day with Judge Horace Kincaid and Prosecuting Attorney Albie Grayson on board. Very rarely had there been a need for either a judge or a prosecutor in Silver Creek so when it was necessary they were dispatched from Lewistown in Fergus County. The judge had been in Silver Creek once before, the prosecutor had not. Attorney Hiram Foster met them at the stage and took them to the hotel. He had brief meetings first with Grayson and then Kincaid and then returned to the jail to see his client.
As usual, Foster had a captive audience. Bart had been in the cell for so long that he wanted something to happen; anything to happen. Enough of this waiting and the nightmare of a ten foot by ten foot cell. Hiram and Bart sat in that cell to discuss last minute details; Hiram was not a happy man.
"I don't have good news. The Judge is convinced that a jury could not render an impartial verdict, so the results will be decided by the magistrate himself." This was the thing that Hiram feared most of all; the town folk were more than sympathetic to the young man who had been so severely beaten and decidedly prejudiced against the deceased. Whatever advantage Bart would've gained by a jury trial had just been taken away from him by the ruling. Attorney Foster tried not to let his displeasure show around Bart; it was going to be hard enough to keep the defendants spirits up without acknowledging the added difficulty of not having a jury to decide the outcome. In addition Foster had been informed that the prosecutor would be seeking the maximum penalty, since Bart had openly threatened Pike's life. Bart's only reaction to that news was, "Great. At least I'll get out of this cell, even if it's only to go to the gallows."
"Don't think like that, Bart. Bret is looking for the real killer and there's still a good chance I can get you off on the lack of hard evidence."
Bart chuckled at what he perceived to be the absurdity of the situation. "Sure, Hiram, just because I was found with the murder weapon and blood on my hands doesn't mean I killed Edgar."
"I'll prove extenuating circumstances." Hiram was adamant.
"Yep. I wasn't in my right mind."
"Bart, stop it. We're not going to let you hang."
"I don't think it's going to be a choice, Hiram."
Once again there was resignation in Bart's voice. There was no way to keep his anxiety from getting the best of him; he careened between absolute hope and absolute despair. His ever changing emotions were causing him to experience daily headaches again. And the sleeplessness had returned with a vengeance. None of this he told his attorney.
"Have you talked to Bret since yesterday?"
The prisoner walked over to the jail cell window, a practice with which he had become accustomed. There was always something going on outside to temporarily distract him. "Nope. I assume he hasn't gotten back from Barker Corners. I don't know whether that's good or bad."
Hiram shook his head glumly. "I sure wish he'd hurry. It's always easier to prevent a trial from starting than to stop one when it's running."
"Hiram, I have no doubt that Bret will find Rusty Meyers and bring him back here. The only question is whether he does it before or after they hang me."
"That's not funny, Bart."
"I didn't mean it to be."
There wasn't much the attorney could say after that. The defense was as prepared as it could be given the circumstances. All they could do now was wait.
Bart Maverick's trial for the murder of Edgar Pike was set to begin the next day; Bret hadn't returned from Barker Corners and Beau still hadn't talked to Georgia. Nothing seemed to be going right.
By the time Bret reached his destination he felt like he was ready to drop. Still, he pushed himself off his horse and inside the Barker Corners Arms. After some back and forth with the hotel clerk and the exchange of a twenty dollar bill Bret was allowed to see the hotel register for the night Bart was there. No names that he recognized, so he kept looking. Almost two weeks after Bart's visit, he found what he was looking for. Pete and Jack Sanborn, for three nights, sharing a room. Two nights after they first registered Rusty Meyers checked in. They resided for almost a week and then all three checked out.
They were staying in Barker Corners when Edgar was murdered. It all made sense. Barker Corners was no more than a two hour ride from the JP ranch, taking the route behind Silver Creek itself and through the brush land. It would be a small task to check in here, make sure that you were seen around town, and slip off to Edgar Pike's ranch to commit murder. You'd have a hotel receipt to prove you were here all along. Once you were in the clear it would be easy enough to dispose of the receipt. In an old stove in a dilapidated cabin in the woods, where no one would ever find it.
Except Bret had found it. Now all he had to do was find them.
What Beau didn't know was that Georgia had gone to visit the ranch she and Holt Mayfield owned while they were married, and then on to spend time at his grave. There was a serious battle raging inside her and she needed to be with the man she'd loved for so many years. She sat in her buggy outside the cemetery and talked everything over with him. Surely he would understand her dilemma.
She'd never met anyone like Beau. There were plenty of gamblers in the saloon, most charming, slick and dishonest. Beau was none of those. He was truly a gentleman and a gentle man. He courted the façade of the disreputable card sharp but he certainly didn't fit the mold. None of the Maverick 'boys' did.
It was confusing for Georgia to feel this way again. She was sure when Holt was killed that her life would go on but her days of loving someone were over. Then Jessie died and the Mavericks came to town and her whole existence was upended. She told Holt everything that Bart made her consciously aware of and knew that it was all true. But the uproar in her soul raged on; she was older than him, she couldn't give him children, she had no intention of roving from town to town for the rest of her life. It wasn't supposed to be this way, but it was. She loved the man; there was no denying it. What was she going to do about it?