Chapter 7 Mr Pike's War
Bart went to get Beau while Bret went to get horses. It was easier and faster to procure three mounts than to rouse Beauregard Maverick from his sleep. By the time Bart managed to wake Beau and get him dressed, Bret had been waiting in front of the hotel for almost half an hour. Finally they were mounted and on the road.
Since Bret had been to the JP Ranch previously he led the way. Where before the road led right to the ranch house, now there was a large fence with a gate blocking their path. And a posted sign that read: "Trespassers Keep Out - You Will be SHOT ON SIGHT." They pulled their horses up and looked at each other.
"We can't be trespassers," Bart reasoned. "We're kin."
"No, we're not," Bret stated. "We're Jessie's kin, not Pike's."
"I don't know about you two," Beau rejoined. "All I see is 'SHOT ON SIGHT.' That's enough for me."
"Are you gonna' let a little sign scare you off?" Bart was indignant.
"I don't see anything little about 'SHOT ON SIGHT.' The words look plenty big to me."
When they were kids, Bart would have stuck his tongue out at his cousin. Now he just looked at Beau and shook his head. Bret reached down from his horse to unlatch the newly built gate. Then he rode on through, not bothering to see if Bart and Beau were following him or not. Sometimes one or the other of them carried the cowardly act just a bit too far, and this was one of those times. It didn't take long to determine that they were still with him.
They rode on to the house. Everything was as still and quiet as it had been on his first visit. Bret dismounted and knocked on the door. Bart and Beau stayed on their horses with their guns drawn, just in case. There was no answer. Bret knocked again. "Mr. Pike, it's the Mavericks. We need to talk." Still no answer. Bret handed his horses reins to Bart and walked around the back of the place. The little graveyard looked the same as before, nothing had changed. There was no sign of any human being or animal anywhere.
Bret walked back to the front, took the reins from Bart and remounted. "Guess we made a trip for nothing." They rode back to town in silence, each formulating a plan for their next move. Bart went to send a telegram to Pappy. Bret went to talk to the sheriff. Beau went back to the saloon to check on Georgia and make sure there had been no trouble in their absence.
Bart's telegram to Pappy read:
Pike threatening to sue.
Something not right.
Anything you didn't tell us?
It was a desperate attempt to gather any information available. Something was going on here that Bart didn't understand, and he could only hope that Pappy might be able to shed some light on the situation. It seemed reasonable to assume that they hadn't heard the whole story from Pappy and Uncle Ben, given the years that they kept Jessalyn a secret from their sons. He left the telegraph office and headed back to the saloon.
Bret didn't have any more luck with the sheriff, who already knew most of what was going on. The only bit of information he could give Bret that the Mavericks didn't already have was that Edgar Pike had left town last night on the train to Denver. He went alone and didn't tell anyone why he was going or when he would return. Once Bret was sure that the sheriff had nothing further to share with him, he made his way back to the hotel.
Beau walked in the swinging doors to 'The Three Mavericks' and found the place about half full, a respectable amount of business for late afternoon. Georgia had gotten the roulette wheel replaced and the croupier had a small group gathered around the table. There were two poker games going and Lettie was sitting on the bar talking to one of the ranch foremen. She winked at Beau and smiled. He smiled back. He walked to the Manager's office and found Georgia busily checking ledger entries for the past week. She was glad to see him and asked what happened at Pike's ranch.
"Nothing," Beau told her. "He wasn't there. We need a new plan." He paused for a moment. "Actually, we need a plan."
"Hiram Foster came by to see Bart. Said he had something important to tell him. Said he'd be at his office until 5 o'clock and if Bart got back to send him over. Is he at the hotel?"
"No, he went to send a telegram to Uncle Beauregard. He should be here any minute. Foster didn't leave any kind of message?"
Georgia shook her head no. "Just wanted Bart to come over."
Beau nodded and asked Georgia, "Do you want me to walk you home? You've done enough for one day."
"That would be very nice. Thank you." She got up and locked the ledgers in her desk. Both of them left the office and Georgia closed the door behind her. Just as they were about to leave the saloon Bart walked in. Georgia told him about Hiram Foster's visit and Bart pulled out his watch and looked at the time. 4:30 p.m. He turned around and walked back out the swinging doors with them. Beau and Georgia turned left, down the street towards the Mayfield house. Bart turned right, up the street towards the attorney's office. He started across the street to the other side and just as he did so a shot rang out. It came from the direction that Beau and Georgia were headed, the second time today that shots had been fired at the Mavericks. Or was it? As Bart took off running towards his cousin and saloon manager the thought raced through his mind that both times Georgia Mayfield had been involved in the incident. Perhaps she was the target. But why?
Beau had immediately pushed Georgia into a doorway, stepped in front of her and pulled his gun. No one. And no further shots. Another warning, perhaps? He turned to Georgia, who was visibly shaken. "Twice in one day?"
Bart came running up, gun drawn. "Did you see anything?"
Beau shook his head 'no.' He looked right at Georgia and asked "Anyone mad at you?"
There was a truly perplexed look on their manager's face. "No." Everything remained quiet for a few minutes and Beau holstered his gun. He looked at Bart, who slowly holstered his. "Better get back up to Foster's office before he leaves. We're headed for the house."
"Yup." Bart turned back up the street. If he hurried he could still catch the attorney.
Hiram Foster was waiting for Bart when he got to the attorney's office. "I heard the gunshot and wondered who was shooting. I came out to the front of the office but couldn't see anything. Anyone hurt?"
"No, probably just a warning. Don't know if they were shooting at my cousin or Mrs. Mayfield. Anyone holding a grudge against her?"
Foster looked incredulous. "Against Georgia Mayfield? Are you serious? The only person to ever say a bad word about Georgia was Edgar Pike, and he's in Denver. That's what I wanted to talk to you about. Come back to my office."
Bart followed Hiram down the hall. Once inside the office, Hiram closed the door behind him and they both sat down. Attorney Foster wasted no time. "I got a telegram from Jeffrey Gladstone this afternoon. That's Mr. Pike's attorney in Denver. Edgar has filed a lawsuit against all three of you, claiming common-law marital status with Jessie and derivative ownership of 'The Three Mavericks.' He is asking that a judge put an immediate halt to your assumption of the day-to-day operations of the saloon."
They sat in silence for a moment while Bart digested this news. "What are the chances of the judge ruling in his favor? About the day-to-day operations, that is?"
A self-assured look came over Foster's face. "Very slim. At best. The will deeding the three of you outright ownership has already been approved by the probate court and all the legal technicalities of that decision are in process. I can't imagine any judge overturning their ruling based on any existing evidence. His lawsuit against you may proceed, but he almost certainly can't force you out of currently running the business. At least not legally."
Good. At least officially they were on solid ground. "Thank you, Mr. Foster. You've been very helpful." Bart paused. "And informative. My family and I much appreciate your counsel." Bart stood to go and shook Foster's hand. "Is there anything that we should or shouldn't do in the meantime?"
"Nothing that I can think of. I'll have my clerk bring the papers for the lawsuit to you at the hotel once I've received them." Foster paused, then added with a chuckle, "Try not to get shot."
Bart shook his head but didn't laugh. "We'll try." He left Hiram Foster's and headed up the street, back to the hotel. It had been a long day and he was worn out. Time to rest and do nothing for a while.