Jessie Maverick's Kin

Chapter 33 The Shadow

The night was quiet and as peaceful as it could be considering the circumstances. Doc was awake most of the night, checking regularly on a patient that seemed to be tranquilly sleeping. Jody tossed and turned on the uncomfortable cot and Beau was up, then down, then up again. Judge Kincaid sent back word almost immediately after Harry delivered his message that court would be postponed for twenty-four hours, minimum, to see if the defendant survived. Bart was the only one seemingly undisturbed, but Doc didn't know if he was drugged, unconscious or sleeping.

Sunrise brought Georgia with coffee cups and a pot of coffee. Deputy Willis was thankful to have someone else's coffee for a change and wandered back to the cell to see if the prisoner was still alive. He found Georgia pulling a blanket up over Jody and Beau pouring a cup. He wiggled the pot in Willis' direction and the Deputy brought his cup over. The coffee was fresh and hot and smelled delicious. Doc appeared to be examining Maverick.

"Any change?" Willis inquired.

"None that I can tell," Doc answered. "I'd feel better if he'd wake up."

Beau took his cup over to Bart's cot and stood over his motionless relative. "How long can this continue?" he asked Doc plaintively.

"I'd give you an answer if I had one, Beau. I just don't know."

Bart chose that moment to let out a small groan and moved slightly. Slowly, painfully, he partially opened one eye, then the other. 'What the hell?'

He was on the cot in his jail cell. There was daylight streaming in the back window, the way it always did in the morning. He tried to pull a blanket up over his head and discovered his wrist handcuffed to the cell bars. He blinked his eyes slowly and the bottom half of his cousin came into focus. He shifted his gaze slightly right and saw Doc Washburn sitting on the cell floor. 'What? Why?'

"Bart?" It was Doc. This time he recognized the voice.

"Hmmmmpf?" His mouth didn't want to work so he made the only noise he could.

"Bart, can you hear me?" That was Beau, interrupting his conversation with Doc as usual.

"Be — Bea —Beau?" It took a try or two but he finally said something intelligible.

"Bart, I'm here. We're all here. Doc, Jody, Georgia. Do you remember what happened?"

He searched his memory with little success. There were bits and pieces, but not much else. The sheriff brought him back to the jail, he talked to Hiram and Beau, everybody left. Ah, the pain and roaring in his head. Then – nothing. Until now.

"Not — not really." It was difficult to speak from the position he was in. Deputy Willis put his coffee cup down and unlocked the handcuffs from the cell bars, then from Bart's wrist. He didn't figure to try an escape with the way he was moving.

Bart struggled to sit up and he couldn't so he settled for rolling over onto his back. His wrist was sore where the handcuffs had been and he rubbed it cautiously. "What happened?"

Doc Washburn moved from the floor to the edge of the cot. "You had some kind of a seizure, son. Harry found you struggling to breathe and they sent for me." Doc let it go at that. He didn't need all the details right now.

Bart looked up at Beau and saw Jody and Georgia standing behind him. Georgia had a worried look on her face but Jody wore a smile that spread from ear to ear. He reached a hand out for her and she pushed her way to the front and grasped his. "Hey Bartley. You gave us quite a scare."

"Sorry, didn't mean to."

"I know. Doc will take care of you. I'm going home for a while. I'll be back later to see you."

"Good. Don't stay away." He let go of Jody's hand and looked toward Beau. "Bret?"

"Nothing yet. He'll be here soon, I bet. Must have a lead by now."

Doc Washburn insisted on examining Bart's eyes. He didn't like what he saw. He stood up and started to shoo everyone out of the cell. "Alright, get along home. Bart needs rest for now, not all you standin' around yammerin'. Go on, leave him be. You can visit later." He ran everyone else out of the cell, then turned back to Bart. "I want you to try and get some sleep, son. That's the best thing for you right now." Doc moved what had been Jody's bed out of the cell and closed the cell door behind him. Deputy Willis locked the door and went back to his desk. Doc pulled Beau, Jody and Georgia with him out of earshot.

"Still not exactly sure what happened, but the boy needs some sleep. See what you can do about keeping everybody away today. I'm gonna tell Willis not to let anyone in. I'll be back as soon as I get some things taken care of. Skedaddle now, all of ya."

Doc followed behind them to make sure they actually left. Just as he was about to leave Hiram Foster walked in. Doc took Hiram's arm and pulled him outside. They sat on the rocking chairs in front of the jail.

"What happened last night?" Hiram asked the physician.

Doc shook his head, again trying to explain the unexplainable. "Don't really know for sure. Best as I can tell he had a seizure of some sort. Partially caused by my darn fool testimony, not doubt. Thought I might lose him there for a while. He's sleepin' now." The doctor turned and looked at the attorney. "Understand the Judge gave us a reprieve on court for today?"

"Yes, he did. Is there any chance Bart's going to be fit to go to court tomorrow?"

"Probably not. But let's wait till a little later in the day before I give you a firm answer. He seems to recover from things pretty quick; maybe that's part of the problem. Outside looks well but inside doesn't really heal. Anyways, I'll know more after lunch. I'll come up to your office after I examine him."

"Sounds good, Doctor. Do what you can for him, will you? This year's been real tough on him."

Doc Washburn nodded his head vigorously. "You and me know that better'n most anybody else in the town. Bout time he caught a break."

The doctor and the attorney both stood and shook hands. "See you later, Hiram."

"I'll be in my office, Orin. Keep me apprised of Bart's condition."

"I will." Doc turned back to the jail. He still had to tell Willis not to allow Bart any visitor's today; he needed all the rest he could get. Hiram walked back up the street to his office.

A stranger in town watched all the action from a distance. He'd been in 'The Three Mavericks' last night playing roulette when the sheriff came flying through the swinging doors looking for Beau Maverick. He hung around the saloon long enough to find out what happened at the jail and then picked up his meager winnings and rode out of town to his campsite. He relayed the events to his brother and their friend and rode back into town this morning to find out what was going on. There had been some doubt as to the health and survival of the man currently on trial for murder but now it appeared that matters had settled down, at least temporarily. As far as he and his companions were concerned a good ending to all of this would occur if the prisoner died. So far, no luck.

Pete Sanborn rolled a cigarette and leaned against the hitching rail next to the hotel. Commotion had quieted down at the jail and looked like it might stay that way for a while. Court was postponed for today. No word yet about tomorrow. No sense in remaining here when there was nothing to be seen or heard. Pete mounted his horse and rode quietly out of town, back to the spot near Silver Creek where he, his brother Jack and Rusty Meyers had joined up again and made camp.

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