Chapter 46 It's All Over Now
Bang, bang, bang. "Court will now come to order. Judge Horace Kincaid presiding."
Everyone stood as Judge Kincaid entered the courtroom. Everyone except the defendant, who looked like he might topple over at any second if he stood up. The defense table now held Hiram Foster, attorney, Bart Maverick, defendant, and Orin Washburn, Doctor, just in case. Right behind the table sat the Mavericks, Bret, Beau and Beauregard, Bart and Bret's father. Jody Mayfield sat between Bret and Beau.
"Would the defendant please retake the stand." That in itself was going to take some doing. Hiram Walker helped Bart to his feet and he leaned heavily on his attorney and the cane Doc had given him to stand and walk to the witness chair. "Please remember that you are still under oath, Mr. Maverick."
Bart nodded. How could he forget? Albie Grayson rose from his chair and walked to the witness stand. "Mr. Maverick, when Sheriff Bowman returned to this courtroom almost two weeks ago I had just asked if it was you that killed Edgar Pike. I believe the court is still waiting for your answer."
Bart sat as straight as he could and said in a clear voice, "No, Mr. Grayson, I did not kill Edgar Pike."
"Are you sure, Mr. Maverick? Because the last time I asked that question you couldn't answer me."
"Objection, your Honor. The question has been asked and answered."
Judge Kincaid concurred. "Sustained. Move on, Mr. Grayson."
"Yes, your Honor. Mr. Maverick, what was it about Sheriff Bowman's arrival in this courtroom that caused your physical impairment?"
"I'm . . . I'm not sure what you mean."
"Why were you upset when the sheriff returned alone?"
Bart struggled to put his exact answer into words. He looked over at the row of seats behind the defense table and Pappy and Jody were both smiling at him, trying to give him the extra energy he needed to make himself clear. "Because I knew there were three wanted men still out there, and at least one of them was a murderer."
"And who would that be, Mr. Maverick?"
"Rusty Meyers and Pete and Jack Sanborn." Was talking always this difficult? Bart felt like he was about to pass out from exhaustion.
"Ah, the elusive outlaws. That no one but you has seen. And what do they look like, Mr. Maverick?"
"Objection, your Honor, is this really necessary? My client has only seen these men one time, the night they almost beat him to death." Hiram's voice sounded annoyed.
"Yes, Mr. Foster, I believe it is. Objection overruled. You may answer the question, Mr. Maverick."
Pappy had a death grip on the courthouse railing in front of him. He hated lawyers. And lawmen. And bullies. And cheaters. Right now he hated Albie Grayson most of all.
"Well . . . . Pete and Jack are brothers. Kinda tall, sandy haired. Thin side. Younger, maybe 24 – 25. Not much of a resemblance to each other. Meyers is shorter, stockier, older. Red headed, that's why 'Rusty.' Strong as a bull. Mean look in his eyes. Gets pleasure out of other people's pain." Bart was struggling to breathe, but it wasn't like before during questioning. He simply hadn't talked this much in weeks. "That's the best . . . .best I can do with a description. But I'd know 'em if I'd see 'em."
"Sounds like half the men in this town. Are you sure they're not in this courtroom right now?"
A ripple of laughter rang through the courtroom. Bart lowered his head and closed his eyes for just a moment. "No, Mr. Grayson, they aren't here." In the very back corner of the room someone stirred and pulled his hat further down over his eyes. No one noticed the faint flush of red that crept slowly up his cheeks.
"Alright, Mr. Maverick. One more thing. Why was it so important to you that the Sheriff find these men and bring them in?"
Would answering truthfully get him hung or set him free? He had to play the hand. "Because finding them is the only way I can prove I'm innocent. I know all the evidence is stacked against me. But I didn't kill Edgar Pike. One of those three did. I'm betting it was Rusty Meyers. And they're the men that framed me for his murder."
There was nothing left for Grayson to say after that. "No more questions, your Honor."
"I want you to do something for me, Jody." Bart hadn't asked her for anything except her time when he was recovering from the beating, so she was surprised that he asked for something now. The trial was over; both sides had rested their cases. Everything was in Judge Kincaid's hands.
There was that darn name again. Why couldn't you just let it go at 'Bart', Pappy?
"I want you to promise that you'll do this before I tell you what it is."
She tossed her head like a young filly. "Phooey! How can I promise before I know what it is? What if it's something I don't want to do and I've already promised?"
She made Bart laugh. She always made Bart laugh, in a way that he hadn't experienced before meeting her. The way a sister would make him laugh. "Promise."
"Oh, alright. I promise that I'll do what you ask me to do."
They laughed again. He looked at her and knew he was doing the right thing. "If this goes the wrong way, and I don't get to stay around and watch you get married, I want you to take my share of 'The Three Mavericks' saloon. As yours. No questions asked."
She shook her head 'no' and there were tears in her eyes when she looked at him. "Don't you even say that, Bartley. You're going to be around for a long time. My children will climb all over you and make Uncle Bart wish he'd never met them!" She grabbed his hand and held it tight. "No, absolutely not. I take back my promise."
"Too late," he laughed at her unwillingness to face the possibility of a conviction. He wanted to be certain that she was provided for, if the worst happened. Bret would probably eventually sell his share of the saloon and Beau might actually settle down there with Jody's mother – at least until the wanderlust took possession of him again – and Bart needed to be sure that Jody had something of her own. He had talked to Hiram about a will, just in case. The only other possessions he had of any value were the cufflinks his mother left to him when she died, and those were for Bret.
"You made me a promise, Jody. You gave your word. A Maverick's word is their bond."
"I'm not a Maverick, Bartley."
"In everything but name, Jody." Bart pulled his hand away from her. "Time to go now. Beau will be here any minute and there's some things I need to tell him."
"Alright. You just remember what I said about my kids, Uncle Bartley."
He laughed once more. "I will. And I'll hold you to those kids."