Chapter 36 Testimony Interruptus
When court convened that morning the Mavericks were together for the first time in weeks. Bret and Beau were cleaned and dressed in their finest, to appear 'respectable' to the townspeople and Judge Kincaid. Bart looked almost skeletal but at peace, knowing that his odds for surviving this farce had increased considerably with Bret's location of the real perpetrators. Albie Grayson was not pleased to see the oldest Maverick brother in the courtroom but thought him a minor disruption at best. Once Judge Kincaid actually started the proceedings Hiram Foster was much happier than he had been early that morning. He was pleased that Bret was back in town; the morale boost that it would give his brother was undeniable. It also gave him an additional eyewitness to question.
Beau was the first witness called for the defense. He took the stand and was sworn in and Hiram began with the usual questions. Foster wasted no time getting to the day of the visit to the JP Ranch.
"Were you part of the group that rode out to the JP Ranch on the morning of August 26th?"
Beau answered quickly. "Yes, I was."
"And who rode out there with you?"
"My cousins Bret and Bart Maverick."
"And what was the purpose of the ride?"
"Just to get my cousin Bart out of the hotel and back in the saddle. He hadn't ridden a horse for months and we all thought it was time."
"You all? Does that include his doctor?"
"Yes sir, Doctor Washburn thought it would do him good to get some exercise that didn't require his walking. So he suggested horseback riding."
"Was there a destination in mind?"
"None in particular."
Hiram paused before he asked "Where did you go?"
Beau took his time in answering. He didn't want it to seem like there was only one destination, although, in fact, there was. "Actually we took the road out of town to see Silver Creek itself."
"And where did the ride take you?"
"Well, we took a wrong turn and ended up at the JP Ranch."
"The ranch owned by Edgar Pike?"
"Originally by our aunt, Jessalyn Maverick, but willed to Mr. Pike when Aunt Jessie died."
"And did you stop at the ranch?"
"Why is that, Mr. Maverick?"
"Well, we'd been riding for quite a while and my cousin was getting tired. He hadn't had a chance to meet our 'Uncle Edgar' due to his assault and wanted to apologize for not getting out there to visit any sooner."
"And who knocked on the door?"
Beau smiled pleasantly and addressed the judge. "Like I said, we'd been riding for a while and Bart needed to stretch, so he dismounted and knocked."
"Did Mr. Pike answer the door right away?"
"Yes, almost as if he'd been watching us ride up."
"And was he pleased to see you?"
"No, sir, he didn't seem to be. When the door opened Mr. Pike had a double-barrel shotgun in his hands. Which he pointed at Bart."
"Could you hear what was being said?"
"No sir, I couldn't. Both gentlemen spoke very quietly."
"And you didn't hear any kind of threat by one party or the other?"
"No sir, as I said I couldn't hear what either man said."
"Could you see their faces?"
"Yes sir, I could."'
"Did either man look upset?"
"Yes, was either man angry?"
"Bart certainly didn't appear to be. He looked quite pleasant, actually."
"And Mr. Pike?"
"As I said earlier, Mr. Pike came to the door with a shotgun in his hands. He didn't look like he would have been happy to see anyone."
"And you're sure you couldn't hear what was said?"
"No sir, I couldn't hear a word."
"What happened next?"
"Well, Cousin Bart finally turned to leave and mounted his horse. Then we rode back to town."
"Did you discuss anything on the way back to town?"
"No sir, no one spoke on the ride back."
"No sir, it was a beautiful day and we were enjoying the ride. We were just glad to be all together."
"And when you returned to town, what did you do?"
Beau paused a moment, as if remembering. "I took the horses back to the livery and Bret and Bart went and had lunch."
"You didn't join them?"
"No sir, I went back to the hotel and indulged in a nap."
"And when did you next see your cousin?"
"When I went down to 'The Three Mavericks' saloon later that evening. Bret and Bart were already there and Bart was playing poker."
"And did you have a conversation with your cousin about his brother's behavior earlier in the day?"
"We talked about Bart, yes."
"And what did you talk about?"
"Just general things. How well he seemed to be doing. How good it was to get out and ride again."
"Yes sir, that's all."
"Switching your attention to the next morning. Didn't you and your cousin Bret have a conversation with Sheriff Mort Bowman at 'The Three Mavericks' saloon?
"Yes sir, we did."
"And didn't Sheriff Bowman at that time ask you if you had threatened Mr. Pike?"
"He did, sir. I said we had done no such thing."
"And what else did he ask you?"
"If my cousin Bart had threatened Mr. Pike."
"And what did you tell him?"
"That I wasn't close enough to hear what was said by either my cousin Bart or Edgar Pike."
"And what did Sheriff Bowman do?"
"He told us that if anything happened to Mr. Pike he was coming to arrest Bart."
"Whether he had evidence or not?"
"He didn't mention evidence."
"Now, the morning of the murder. Did you stop at your Cousin Bart's hotel room on the way to the saloon?"
"Yes sir, I stopped by to collect Bart and walk him to the saloon with me."
"And did you get a response from him when you knocked on the door?"
"No sir, I knocked and there was no answer. So I used the spare key to unlock the door."
"And what did you find?"
"I found Bart on the floor, unconscious."
"Unconscious or asleep?"
"I ran down the hall to my Cousin Bret's room and got him to come back to Bart's room with me. We picked Bart up off the floor and laid him on the bed. When he came to Bret pointed out he had his gun in his hand."
"And what was Mr. Bart Maverick's response?"
"He immediately said it wasn't his gun."
"Was there any other gun in the room?"
"No sir, I looked around the room and found Bart's holster and gun belt, but there was no other gun."
"And what did the room look like?"
"It was a mess. Personal possessions were all over the floor and a lamp from the table had been knocked over. And the window was open."
"The window was open?"
"Yes sir, wide open."
"Was it unusually warm that night?"
"No sir, if I remember correctly it was quite chilly."
"Does your cousin like to sleep in a cold room?"
Beau chuckled slightly. "No sir, he's the one who's always complaining about a chill in the air."
"Did you see the picture of Jessie Maverick and her kin anywhere in the room?"
"No sir, I did not."
"Were the saddlebags on the table?"
"Yes sir, they were."
"Is that where they usually were kept?"
"No sir, the last place I saw them they were in their normal spot, in Cousin Bart's closet. He's kind of fussy about everything being in place."
"So it wasn't normal for the saddle bags to be out on the table?"
"No sir, that's not where they belonged."
"And then what happened?"
'Sheriff Bowman pounded on the door and arrested Bart for Pike's murder."
"Thank you, Mr. Maverick. No more questions, Your Honor."
Albie Grayson rose from his seat. "Mr. Maverick, do you really expect us to believe that you were less than ten feet away from your cousin and Mr. Pike and you didn't hear your cousin threaten Mr. Pike with murder?"
"That's the truth, sir." Listening to Beau on the stand, no one could doubt his sincerity.
"And you didn't discuss the threat that your cousin made to Mr. Pike when you spoke to his brother later in your saloon?"
"No sir, because there was no threat."
It didn't take Grayson long to determine that this line of questioning was going to get him nowhere. If Beau Maverick was lying he was certainly an expert at it.
"And did you lie to Sheriff Bowman when he questioned you and Mr. Bret Maverick the next day at your saloon?"
"No sir, we told the sheriff the truth."
At this point Albie Grayson was frustrated by the gambler's sincerity. He knew that Beau Maverick was lying through his teeth but there was nothing he could do to shake the man's testimony. 'Cut your losses, Albie,' he thought to himself.
"Moving on to the morning of the arrest, when you found your cousin on the floor, was he dressed?"
"Yes sir, fully dressed."
"And wasn't that unusual?"
"Not for a gambler, Mr. Grayson. Many times I've returned to my room in the small hours of the morning and gone to bed without getting undressed."
"And you say Mr. Maverick was unconscious?"
"How do you know that?"
"Because Bret and I tried to wake him and he wouldn't wake up. It was like he'd been knocked out again."
"Couldn't he have been pretending?"
"To be unconscious? After he was pistol whipped and almost beaten to death? Not even my cousin Bart is that good an actor."
The courtroom burst out laughing. Grayson was losing ground rapidly, at least with this witness. He switched gears again.
"Mr. Maverick, does your cousin have a temper?"
Beau answered without thinking. "Of course. Doesn't everyone?"
"Was he angry after the attack he suffered in his room earlier in the year?"
Beau looked at the prosecutor skeptically. "He wasn't happy about it."
"No, I mean wasn't he really angry?"
"He almost died, Mr. Grayson. I don't think even you would be happy about it."
"Who did he blame for it?"
Beau bit his lip. He'd walked right into that one. "I believe he blamed the man that beat him."
"No, Mr. Maverick. I mean who did he blame for hiring the men that almost killed him?"
Beau sat silently, trying desperately to remember if Bart had ever expressed his feeling that Edgar Pike was to blame. He had, at least once, the day he threatened Edgar. Beyond that Beau couldn't remember. But he must have, why else would Grayson ask the question?
"I don't know, Mr. Grayson."
"Didn't he blame Edgar Pike?"
"I don't know. I don't remember him ever saying that to me."
"But he may have?"
"I don't remember, Mr. Grayson."
The prosecutor finally had to admit defeat. He couldn't make headway with this Maverick, no matter what he did. So he did the only thing he could think of. He wrapped up his questions and quit. "That's all the questions I have for this witness, Your Honor."
Beau breathed a sigh of relief. He'd survived. He looked down at Bart, who wore an almost pleased expression on his face. Hiram Foster was pleased, too. Albie Grayson hadn't been able to shake Beau's testimony. Score one for the Maverick side.
Judge Kincaid was hungry and tired. He recessed the trial for lunch. The entire courtroom, with the exception of the Mavericks, Foster and Grayson, headed for food of one kind or another. 'The Three Mavericks' saloon. Grayson occupied himself with his notes for the next witness, Bret Maverick. Deputy Willis put handcuffs on Bart but allowed him to remain seated at the defense table with everyone else.
Hiram Foster was the first to speak. "Good job, Beau. You never let him rattle you."
Beau was concerned with the point that Grayson made about Bart blaming Pike. "Did you ever accuse him to anyone else?" Beau asked pointedly.
"I don't remember," Bart answered. "I really can't remember."
"Let it go, gentlemen," Hiram proclaimed. "If he has a rebuttal witness he'll call them later. For right now the judge knows that Grayson hasn't been able to prove you threatened Edgar in any way." He turned his attention to Bart. "I don't suppose I could convince you to eat something, could I?"
"You ask that question every day, Hiram, and every day the answer is the same. Coffee. Black."
Bret turned to his brother. It was the first time all morning he'd spoken. "Can't you eat anything, Bart? Something small?"
Either it was the tone of his brother's voice or the mere fact that Bret was there that made Bart reconsider. "Alright. Something small."
Hiram called Deputy Willis over. "Go get two sandwiches from 'Mavericks.' One for yourself and the other for the prisoner. And hurry, man."
Willis started to protest and the attorney stopped him. "Where is he going to go? He's handcuffed." The deputy hurried off down the street. "Gentlemen. We've a long way to go. And where is that damn sheriff?"