Chapter 42 Amore
Two more days passed, each one slower than the one before. Jody went by Doc Washburn's office on her way out to the schoolhouse, staying as long as she could and continuing to tell Bart stories from her childhood. As soon as school was over for the day she returned, bringing a fresh pot of coffee and her lesson preparations for the next day. Harry brought dinner at night, even Bret began eating small meals to go with the never ending supply of coffee that he drank. Georgia came up as often as she could, but she was basically running the saloon by herself and spent most of her time there. Bret and Beau spent most of their days helping Doc do whatever was necessary to keep a steady stream of medicine in Bart; when not occupied with that Beau would go visit the saloon and Bret wrote a lot of letters to Pappy. He'd never written much before, now he occupied his time asking all the questions he hadn't thought to ask. He'd gotten a telegram from Pappy simply stating:
Don't Let Him Die.
On My Way.
It was the signature that got to Bret. 'Love, Pappy'? He'd never heard Beauregard Maverick say that before in his life. That's when he started writing the letters. Maybe someday he would get answers.
Finally on the morning of the fourth day Doc had some good news for them – Bart's fever had broken sometime during the night. It was the first positive sign they'd had in almost a week. Later in the morning Doc suspected Bart might actually 'wake up' from whatever coma-like state he'd been in. Again the questions arose regarding his ability to come back from this latest attack – but no one dared speak them out loud. None of them cared what 'version' of Bart Maverick returned to them – just as long as he returned.
The whole day expired, however, and there was no change. The optimism of that morning faded with every passing hour; by evening each of them was once again hoping and praying for any improvement. Bret couldn't take the watching and waiting anymore and had to get out. He'd spent the most time at Bart's bedside and thought he might go crazy if he didn't get away for just a few minutes. The perfect solution seemed like the saloon, where the noise and activity would keep him distracted from thinking. After telling Doc, Beau and Jody where he was going he headed down the street towards 'The Three Mavericks.' He walked quickly and didn't see the man watching him.
Rusty Meyers wasn't taking much of a chance by coming into town; no one here knew what he looked like. He watched Maverick make his way down the sidewalk and wondered if they'd have been more successful with their attack if he'd been their target. Probably not, he figured. But he sure would have enjoyed it.
He and the Sanborns had been holed up on the far side of the JP Ranch, on the other end of Silver Creek itself. Once or twice they'd eluded the posse just by moving in circles; whoever was in charge of the posse wasn't much of a tracker. When they'd finally given up several days ago Rusty decided he was going in to town to find out what all the fuss was about. That's when he heard the story of the sheriff's return empty handed and the subsequent collapse of the accused murderer. He couldn't believe their good fortune; the only man who could identify them had been barely clinging to life since then and word circulated around town that he wouldn't make it.
So far everything was working out nicely. Meyers had to pat himself on the back for the 'little touch' with Edgar's photo; that seemed to have an impact on the trial. Only one way Maverick could have gotten it, gossip said – and that pointed to him as the murderer. Idle curiosity is what kept Rusty in Silver Creek longer than he'd anticipated. He wanted to see how this all turned out.
Bret entered the saloon without suspecting he was being watched. Everything looked normal; the bar was full, the poker tables were full, and the roulette wheel had a crowd around it. Since the gaming had taken on a 100% legitimate flavor, revenues were up higher than they'd been since Jessie died. Georgia certainly knew what she was doing running the business. He'd have to tell her how pleased he was with her management.
Harry was behind the bar, as usual, and they were so busy that Alvin was working with him. Where did all these men come from? That was a question that never crossed his mind when he was simply one more of them playing poker.
Harry caught his eye and signaled him over. "Boss man, " Harry's name for all three of the Mavericks, "Mr. Foster came in to see if either you or Mr. Beau was here. Said for you to come by his office if you dropped in here and you had a chance. Didn't want to barge in on you at Doc's."
"Thanks, Harry, one of us will get by to see Hiram tomorrow. Anything else?"
"Yes sir, Miz Georgia said to let her know if you came in. She wanted to see you."
"Me or Beau?" Bret asked.
"No sir, not Mr. Beau. Just you."
"Okay. Thanks." Bret stepped behind the bar and poured himself a coffee. Doc made terrible coffee at his office and they only got a decent drink when Georgia or Jody brought a pot. He thought of Bart, who'd stood behind the bar and felt like he belonged there. Then he took his cup and went to her office.
She was sitting behind her desk working on a column of numbers and didn't look up until he knocked on the door. "I'm sorry, Bret, I didn't hear you. Please come in and sit down."
He took a seat in front of her desk and she got up and closed the office door. "Private conversation?" he asked.
"Yes. I wanted to talk to you about Beau."
"Isn't this a conversation you should have with Beau?" Bret asked her.
"No." Georgia was fidgety and nervous, and obviously had something on her mind. "He said he loved me the other night."
Bret wasn't surprised at that, just that Georgia had shared it with him. "He does."
"I didn't say it back to him."
That remark made an eyebrow shoot up. "Oh?"
Georgia sat quietly and didn't say anything. So Bret asked her instead, "Why not?"
"I can't say it."
"You can't say it or you won't say it?" Bret needed some clarification before he went any further.
"I won't say it."
"Do you love him?" Here was the heart of the matter as far as Bret was concerned. And why was Georgia bringing this up to him? Oh right, she couldn't talk to Bart. Once again he wondered how much he'd actually missed when he was gone.
"Yeeeeeessssss." The longest, most drawn out answer ever given.
"Then why won't you tell him?"
She hung her head in embarrassment. This was more difficult than she'd imagined. "Because Jody says he's going to ask me to marry him."
"And that's bad?"
"No, it's not bad. Oh alright, it's terrible. It's worse than awful."
'Women. Love 'em but you'll never understand 'em.' "What's wrong with that?"
"We shouldn't be married. It would ruin his life."
Just what had Brother Bart said to this poor woman? She was obviously in love with his cousin but scared to death of marrying him. "Why would it ruin his life?"
"Because I'm not the woman he needs. Don't you understand? He wants to travel around, and I won't go. I'm too old for him. What if he wants children? I can't give him any. Because I love him too much." The answers just poured out of her, like opening the floodgates of a dam.
He waited until she'd run out of steam and then sat there an extra minute, just in case. "Georgia. The first thing you said makes no sense. You're not the woman he needs? Says who? You're exactly the woman he needs. I'm sure he'll have a plan for the traveling around thing. You're not too old for him. You're not that much older than he is. And Beau has never in his whole life said a word about wanting to have a child. And one last thing." He paused so that she would really listen to him. "You love him too much to marry him? What kind of sense does that make?"
"I don't know. I'm so confused!" With that she burst into tears.
"Oh, now stop." Tears. They got him every time. What a weapon tears made! They could bring the strongest man to his knees in an instant. He pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to her.
Georgia was not prone to displays of emotion so the tears stopped and dried quickly. "I don't know what to do."
The answer was obvious. "Nothing. You do nothing. Unless he actually asks you, this is all just speculation. Just wait and see what happens. You've both got common sense; you'll figure it out. But don't let someone else make the decision for you." He was about to say something more to her when there was a frantic knock on the door and before anyone could say anything, Harry burst in.
"Boss man, you better come quick. Somethin's happened up at Doc Washburn's."