Chapter 45 The Arrival
Bart's recovery was slow and painful; his speech came back in pieces but sometimes he reached for a word that wasn't there. Jody stayed by his bedside, patiently re-telling him all the stories she'd relayed before when he was unconscious
Two days later Judge Kincaid arrived on the stage from the county seat and was greeted by Sheriff Bowman. Bart had been moved from Doc Washburn's exam room to Bret's hotel room and Deputy Willis was posted in the hall outside to ascertain that there would be no escape attempts. An hour after the Judge's arrival, Bret was summoned to the jail. It was the first time he'd been there since Bart's trial was delayed.
When he reached the jail he found Doc Washburn, Hiram Foster and Albie Grayson all in attendance. Grayson had remained in Silver Creek while the Judge was called away; he was well versed in everything that had happened and verified Doc's account of it all. Grayson was the first to speak. "Mr. Maverick, we realize what an ordeal your brother has been through and we don't wish to make his recovery more difficult. Both the Judge and I have other obligations that will necessitate our returning to the Fergus County seat within a matter of weeks. If we don't restart the trial within the next few days Judge Kincaid will be forced to declare a mistrial."
"Would the case be re-tried?" Bret asked.
The Judge answered him. "Yes Mr. Maverick, there was enough evidence presented to warrant a retrial. That would entail seating a new judge and presenting all evidence from the beginning over again. That is our concern. Would your brother be strong enough within a week to resume proceedings?"
Bret wanted to make sure he had this straight. "So Bart has two choices – either restart the trial with you presiding, Judge Kincaid, or go through this all over again with a new Judge? The whole trial?"
"Yes, Mr. Maverick, the whole trial."
"I can't ask him to make a decision like that, Judge."
Kincaid looked at him with sympathy. "That's why we've come to you, sir. You need to present the options to your brother or make the decision for him."
"Let me get this straight – you want me to decide for him?" Bret's tone was incredulous. He couldn't believe they were asking this of him. He turned his attention to Hiram Foster. "Mr. Foster, can I speak with you outside?" Hiram nodded yes and the two of them walked outside.
"What am I supposed to do, Hiram?"
"I can not make the decision for you Bret, but I would ask you some questions that may make your choice easier. How long do you think it will be before Bart can sit through another trial? And hear the same testimony over again? And what will happen to him if he has to reside in jail for months while he tries to regain his strength?"
The attorney made good points. It could be a long time before Bart was capable of going through this circus again, and even then he might not be able to handle the strain. And if Bret didn't succeed in getting him out of that jail where he could be cared for while attempting to heal he didn't stand a chance. Hiram was right; he had made the decision easier. "Are you ready to resume?"
"We were almost done, Bret. I can't imagine Grayson having any more than a few follow up questions, then our side rests. It should all be over in two more days at the most."
"Alright, then let's get it over."
Hiram again nodded. "I think that's the best choice."
They walked back inside, the decision made. "Judge, we think it best to proceed with you at the helm. When do you want to get started?"
"On Monday. Thank you both for understanding the urgency for the decision. I will allow the defendant to remain at the hotel with Deputy Willis posted as guard. It is my belief that he poses no flight risk or threat at this time. Sheriff Bowman, please continue to make whatever accommodations necessary for Mr. Maverick's recovery. I will see everyone in court on Monday." With that Judge Kincaid stood, shook hands with Grayson, then Foster, and finally with Bret. Sheriff Mort didn't look happy but said nothing.
Doc grabbed Bret's arm and pulled him aside. "I think that's best. No sense draggin' this out, he needs time to get well, not time sittin' in a jail cell."
Bret noticed that Doc assumed a not guilty verdict. He sighed, wishing he could assume the same. "Thanks, Doc. I hate having to decide something that shouldn't be my decision to make."
"Yer doin' fine, boy. You can make decisions fer me anytime you want."
Mort Bowman approached the two men. "Maverick, Willis'll stay at the hotel long as I've got nobody else in jail to worry about. That changes we'll have to make other arrangements."
Bret said nothing to the sheriff, simply turned his back and walked away. Foster walked back out of the jail with him. "A word to the wise, Bret," Hiram offered once they were outside. "Don't do anything to aggravate Mort further."
That was like asking him not to breathe. "I can't help it, Hiram. I don't like lawmen to begin with, and Mort's a special case. All he has to do is his job. Is that too much?"
Hiram's answer was thoughtful and ambiguous. "Depends on whose definition of the job we're talking about."
For someone who'd known the Mavericks less than a year, Hiram Foster seemed to have a pretty fair idea of who they were. As for lawmen – protect the women and children and get out of my way. That applied in spades to Mort Bowman. Bret had to chuckle at the realization.
"Mr. Foster, you're a good man. Glad you're on our side." Bret shook hands with the attorney and turned to walk back to the hotel. Just then the stagecoach from Denver pulled into town. Bret wouldn't have paid much attention normally but something caught his eye and he stopped in his tracks. The driver threw down a single bag and the coach door opened. Out stepped an older, grayer, more elegant version of Bret himself. Beauregard Maverick had arrived.
Pappy was as sharply dressed as ever. His hair was whiter, his body a little thinner than Bret remembered, still he looked reasonably good for a man who'd traveled all the way from Texas to find out if his youngest son was dead or alive. He stopped to light his normal cigar and wait for Bret to come and escort him. The oldest son did just that.
"Pappy, you're looking well. I take it the trip wasn't too difficult?" Bret picked Beauregard's suitcase up and took it with them. They started down the sidewalk with only one thing on Pappy's mind. "Of course I'm well, Bret, what did you expect? And what's been going on up here? How's your brother?'
Bret was relieved to be able to tell his father the entire story, from beginning to end. They had to stop and sit in the hotel lobby to allow enough time for him to conclude the tale; he wanted the story of the last year finished before going up to see Bart. That way Pappy could pepper him with questions and concentrate on Bart when they got upstairs. "And Jody is with him now, you say?"
"Yep, I got called to the jail this morning and Jody stayed with Bart. He's not well enough to be left alone yet."
"Why did they want you at the jail? And where's your cousin Beau?"
That part of it was not going to be pleasant to explain. "They're going to restart the trial on Monday. I met with the Judge and the attorneys. And Beau is down at the saloon, running the place. He's quite the manager, Pappy. Place is making money."
"Should be. Takes after his father. Why do they persist in continuing the trial?"
"Bart made himself a mess, Pappy, and we're gonna have to get him out of it. The sheriff and posse couldn't dig up any trace of Meyers and the Sanborns; Beau and I are gonna find the rabbit hole they disappeared down and haul their sorry butts back in. Are you ready?" Bret hoped that Pappy was really prepared for his visitation with Bart.
Suddenly Pappy looked ten years older. He stood up, straight and tall and announced, "Yes son, I am. Let's go."
They climbed the stairs to room 211 and Bret opened the door. As usual, Bart sat by the window wrapped up in a blanket, with Jody at his side reading from 'Moby Dick.' She stood as soon as she saw Pappy; there was no mistaking that this was the infamous Beauregard Maverick. Pappy glanced at Jody quickly and then had to stop himself from staring at her. 'Jessie,' was the first thought that ran through his mind. He focused instead on the pale, thin shell sitting on the chair. It was only the eyes that gave any hint to the fact that this was what there was of his youngest son.
"Bart!" It was a strangled cry that escaped his mouth as he rushed forward. "Bartley." Jody's familiar greeting issued forth from Pappy's lips. He hurried over to the gaunt figure and threw his arms around his son, his boy. 'Dear God,' his mind raced, 'I thought Bret was exaggerating. This is worse than I could have imagined.' Bart struggled to extract his arms from the blanket and wrapped himself around his father. They stood that way for minutes; father standing, son seated, Beauregard willing himself not to sob at the poor, pitiful sight before him. What had he been through to leave him looking so, so . . . . demolished was the only word that came to mind.
Bret set the suitcase down inside the room, took Jody's hand and led her out into the hall where Deputy Willis stood guard. He'd seen Pappy upset and miserable before; the day of their mother's death came to mind. But not like this. Never like this. It took all that Bret had to keep his emotions in check and his voice steady. "They need some time, Jody."
She nodded her head as tears came to her eyes. "Yes Bret, they do. Let's go get some tea."
The dining room was practically full but they found a table. Bret ordered his usual coffee and tea for Jody and they sat in silence waiting for their drinks. "You look just like him, you know."
Bret nodded his head. He'd heard that all his life. "I think that's what made it so hard on Bart. I looked like Pappy, Cousin Beau favored his mother Abigail. Bart didn't look like anybody."
"Like Jessie," Jody volunteered.
"Ah yes, but we didn't know Aunt Jessie existed. If it weren't for his temperament and card playing abilities, Bart might as well have belonged to the blacksmith. It was tough on him growing up. But he's got the Maverick wanderlust and the card sharp skills that brand him irrefutably one of us."
Jody knew what it was like to grow up as a misfit. "None of us ever understood why I looked more like Aunt Jessie than mama. That's just the way it is, I guess."
Just then Beau came running into the dining room looking for them. "Uncle Beauregard is here?"
"Yep. Upstairs with Bart. Have some tea, Cousin Beau?"