Chapter 37 Sleep in Heavenly Peace
After lunch it was Bret's turn to be questioned and cross-examined. Everything went much the same as Beau's testimony had until Hiram got to the part about Bret chasing Meyers and the Sanborns.
"So what happened when you got to Jackson Flats, Mr. Maverick?"
"The sheriff there told me that Rusty Meyers and Pete Sanborn had gotten into a drunken brawl with a local and spent two nights in jail, basically until they sobered up and the local man declined to press charges. They kept up a running discussion of this upcoming trial and led the sheriff to believe they were coming back to Silver Creek when they got out. I got a fresh horse and headed back this way."
"And when did Jack Sanborn rejoin his compadres?"
"About halfway between Jackson Flats and Silver Creek itself."
"And how did you happen to come across them?"
Bret didn't enjoy the idea of letting everyone in the courtroom know he'd missed the right road, but it was necessary. "I took the wrong turn and stumbled upon them concealed in a pine grove. I heard them before they heard me and listened as they discussed their plans."
"And what were those plans, Mr. Maverick?"
"They were going to wait in the area until this trial was over. They figured they were safe because nobody was looking for them. At least that's what they thought."
"What did you do then?"
"I stayed as quiet as I could and walked my horse back out of the grove. As soon as I was far enough away I headed for the jail and Sheriff Bowman."
"And what did Sheriff Bowman do?"
"He got a posse organized and went out after them."
"And I take it they haven't yet returned?"
"No, not yet."
Hiram started to turn around and walk back to the defense table, but he stopped one last time and turned back to Bret. "Tell me, Mr. Maverick, as the person who knows Bart Maverick best in this world, do you believe him to be capable of cold-blooded murder?"
There was no hesitation in Bret's answer or his voice. "No sir, I do not. Bart Maverick is NOT capable of cold-blooded murder."
"Thank you. That's all the questions I have at this time, Your Honor."
Albie Grayson rose from his seat slowly. He'd already been burned by Beau Maverick; he was more than wary of taking on Bret Maverick. Nevertheless, he began his questioning.
"Mr. Maverick, do you have any proof that the Meyers gang, as you call them, are anything more than outlaws in this territory, petty criminals that have become easy to blame for all the problems plaguing your brother?"
"Other than Marshal Cole's affidavit and my overhearing their plans?"
"Any physical proof of their deeds or intentions, yes?"
Bret was not pleased with the answer he was forced to give. "No, I do not."
"And as of right now, for all we know, you may have sent Sheriff Bowman out on a wild goose chase, correct?"
"Has the sheriff or his posse returned yet?"
"No further questions, Your Honor."
"You may step down, Mr. Maverick."
Bret was troubled by the way Grayson had phrased his questions but it was over now and there was nothing he could do. Since it was late in the afternoon and Hiram's last witness was to be the defendant, Judge Kincaid recessed court for the day. Deputy Willis wasted no time putting the handcuffs back on Bart and hustling him out the courtroom door. Bret turned to Foster and complained about the prosecutor's tactics.
"It was all designed to make the judge doubt you, son. That's what he's supposed to do." Hiram was as conciliatory as he could be.
"I know," Bret shook his head resignedly, "but it made me sound like I'd sent Mort out to chase his tail. What good would that do?"
"Well, it would appear you were doing anything you could to convince the judge there was an actual murderer out there to track down," Hiram stated matter-of-factly.
"But there is!"
"I know that and you know that, but the judge doesn't know that, son. Albie Grayson truly believes that Bart killed Edgar. Let's just hope the judge doesn't believe it too."
The two Mavericks and the attorney got up and left the courthouse. Georgia was waiting for them outside. "How did it go today?"
Beau was pleased; Bret disgruntled; Hiram was hopeful. Georgia took Beau's arm and said "I think Bart would be happy with two out of three."
"Did Jody come with you?" Beau asked his ladylove.
"Yes," her mother replied. "She went back to the jail with Deputy Willis and Bart."
Bret asked the most important question. "How did Bart look?"
"Encouraged. Like maybe things had changed a little and were going his way. I'm sure he knows that it all rests on his shoulders tomorrow." Georgia tried to sound hopeful.
"Unless Mort and the posse find Meyers tonight." Bret still sounded disgruntled.
Beau knew how worried Bret was; he tried to be more positive. "They have to, Bret. Even if the judge finds Bart not guilty things still won't be right until Meyers and the Sanborns are in jail."
Bret snorted in disgust. "You know how hard I expect Mort Bowman to look for the men that killed Pike? I think he'd like to come back without them just so he could shrug his shoulders and say 'I tried. I knew Maverick was guilty all along.'"
"Enough of this," the attorney interrupted. "Let's get down to the jail. We've got a friend to support."
Bart slept that night, glad to finally have arrived at the end of this travesty. One way or another it would all be over tomorrow. If Mort Bowman and the posse were successful Bart would be freed from jail. And if they weren't, the odds appeared to have swung in his favor. The judge was sympathetic and reflective, always listening to the testimony given and seeming to catch all the nuances that Hiram inserted into his questions.
He was more than ready for everything to be finished. This had dragged on far too long and he was so very tired. It was hard work, sitting in the jail cell day after day with no break, no respite, first from the worry over the actual execution of the crime, and then from the never abating terror that he would be found guilty of something he hadn't done. And hanged. There was the ever present threat of hanging, a fate that Bart Maverick was more than willing to forego. He'd thought about dying before, but never hanging, and the prospect of ending his life swinging at the end of a rope was not his death of choice. Better to die peacefully in his sleep when he was old and gray, hopefully a long time from now.
What would be was out of his hands. His brother and cousin had done everything they possibly could to exonerate him, even before they were completely certain that he was innocent. So too had Jody, his little sister, the one he was sure Belle Maverick would have given him if she'd stayed with them rather than leaving so abruptly. Hiram Foster never doubted his innocence and had become a trusted friend, almost closer than Anderson Garrett, who continued to write to him and encouraged him to believe in the truth. And then there was Georgia, whom he trusted enough to tell the story of the heartbreak and loss he felt when Caroline Crawford Maverick was killed and died in his arms. She, perhaps more than anyone, understood the vulnerable part of him that he kept private from the rest of the world, even Bret. He could not have endured the last six months of his life if it weren't for the friends and relatives who surrounded him.
So at last he slept peacefully, willing to face whatever the next day was going to bring.