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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 62
Location : Camano Island Washington

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PostSubject: More Loose Ends   More Loose Ends EmptyThu Aug 18, 2016 11:20 am

More Loose Ends
“Mr. Finney,” Heyes said, as he enthusiastically shook the detectives hand. “It was a pleasure working with you again. Please, let me know anytime I can sit in on a poker game, to help you out.”
Finney smiled, taking note of the mischievous glint in the younger man’s eyes. “Oh aye, Mr. Heyes. I’ll be sure to do that. And if you’re ever on my side of the world, drop by Scotland Yard. I’d be pleased to introduce you around.”
“Ahh, would we get a friendly welcome?” Jed asked. “They might not take too kindly to a pair ‘a American outlaws comin’ ta’ visit.”
“No, no,” Finney denied, as he shook Jed’s hand. “After the caper we pulled off here, I think you can rest assured that you both would be quite welcome.”
“Yeah, okay.” Jed still sounded dubious.
“Thank you, Mr. Finney,” Heyes responded. “If we’re ever over your way, we’ll keep that in mind.”
“Fine, fine.”
The train’s engine let out a loud whistle, and the humming of the locomotive increased to a more urgent tempo.  Those people, who were still on the platform, quickly completed their farewells, and there was a sudden scurrying of passengers getting on board, before the conveyance chugged into motion.
“Time to board up,” Jed announced. “C’mon, Heyes.”
“Yeah, I’ll be right there.”
Jed nodded and climbed aboard. He disappeared inside the passenger car, going in search of Miranda, and leaving Heyes and Finney to say final farewells.
“We always seem to be saying goodbye at train stations,” Heyes commented.
“It is the place for journeys to begin, or end.”
“True enough,” Heyes conceded. “It was a pleasure to work with you, Mr. Finney. Although, it seems that Jed was more of an asset to you than I was.”
“Aye, he did a fine job,” Finney agreed. “I begin to see why you two gentlemen were so successful at your previous career.”
Heyes laughed. “Hopefully, we’ll be just as successful at our current one.”
“I don’t doubt it.” Finney hesitated, but then, knowing that they were running out of time, he pushed onwards. “I have to say, when your young friend has completed his thesis essay, I would very much like a copy of it. As I said before, it will make for some very interesting reading. Would you be able to arrange that for me?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Heyes agreed. “I have a feeling, there will be a few people wanting to read that, once it gets published.”
“I’m sure there will be.”
“You have my letter to Julia?”
“Safe and sound,” Finney assured him. “She’ll be pleased to hear from you.”
“Thank you. Oh, here we go.”
The train gave a gentle lurch and puffed into motion. Heyes grabbed hold of the hand railing and stepped aboard.
“Goodbye, Mr. Finney. Safe journey home.”
“And you as well, Mr. Heyes.”
Finney continued to stand on the platform for a few minutes, watching the train pick up speed as it headed away from the depot. A small smile tugged at his mouth, as he again thought how fortunate it was that he’d had other irons in the fire, the first time he had met Mr. Heyes. It would have been a shame, indeed, to have these two men as adversaries rather than allies.
Heyes walked down the aisle, swaying with the gentle motion of the train while keeping his eyes focused on spotting his travelling companions. He picked up on a sudden motion near the back of the car and smiled an acknowledgement to Randa. He made his way to their seats and sat down beside her, facing the Kid.
“Last leg of the journey,” he stated. “I’m ready for it.”
“Oh, me too,” Randa agreed. “It’ll be good to get home.”
“Uh huh,” Jed agreed. “But in the mean time, I’m gonna catch a nap. That was a long night, and I still ain’t caught up from it.”
“Hmm, I know what you mean,” Heyes reluctantly agreed. “A nap sounds like a good idea.”
Miranda sighed. Both men looked at her.
“What?” asked Jed. “You didn’t just spend all night, stayin’ awake and playin’ cards. Not ta’ mention, chasin’ thieves and conmen, and potential murderers up and down the hallways of the Brown Palace.  I’ve had a busy night.”
“You’ve also had a night since then, to catch up,” Miranda pointed out.
“Well, it ain’t enough,” Jed insisted. “Give me a nudge when we get ta’ Brookswood, will ya’?”
And with that, he stretched out upon the seat as much as it would allow, pulled his hat over his eyes and took himself out of the conversation.
Heyes yawned.
“Oh, you too?” his wife complained. “I guess I’m up for a quiet ride home.”
“Oh no,” Heyes said, as he stifled another yawn. “I’m awake.”
Miranda smiled at his sweet show of chivalry. “Don’t worry about. Get a nap. Goodness knows we won’t have much time for that, once Sally gets home.”
“You sure?”
“Well, I guess I could…”
Within minutes, the soft, rhythmic breathing of sleep had taken over their sitting area. Miranda smiled to herself and gazed out the window at the familiar scenic view, as the train kept up a steady clackity-clack, on the way towards their hometown. It was nice to be sitting there, in the quiet. Even the other passengers were settled and scene gazing rather than engaging in conversation. And, thank goodness, there were no small children on board!
She frowned, as she realized what she had just thought. What did that forebode? Here she was, expecting for the first time in her life, and she was thankful that there were no children around? What kind of mother was she going to be? Shouldn’t her maternal instinct be kicking into overdrive right about now? Shouldn’t she be lighting up with pleasure at every infant she saw? Instead, she was avoiding them, as usual. Oh dear, what had she gotten herself into?
The soft smile came back to her lips, as Hannibal shifted, and his head lolled gently onto her shoulder. She reached over and took his hand in hers, and gave it a loving squeeze. He sighed as she felt his fingers tighten on hers and then relax again. He was asleep.
Why had she married Hannibal? At the time of their engagement, both of them had still been deeply in love with someone else. And yet, they had been so strongly drawn to one another. It was as though some instinct, or intuition, or higher power, had known that they would be good for one another; that in this now, time and space, they were each what the other needed to continue on.
The after dinner gathering of the poker wives had raised some interesting questions in Miranda’s mind. At first, she had found the gossipy questions a little irritating. Just fluff and fantasy; nothing to do the with real situation at all. But then, she began to wonder. Why had she taken such a risk? Had she been so naïve that she really thought everything would work out fine? That there was no risk involved? And to take on a child, the same day of their marriage! Talk about locking herself in, without really knowing the risks involved.
What was it about Hannibal, that had made her trust him so completely? Some people say, that if you want to know what a man will be in his future, then take a look at his past. Ha! If she had studied that too closely, she would have headed for the hills. It’s one thing to know through the grapevine, who and what Hannibal had once been, but to actually study it, to become a part of it, would that have scared her off? She thought, whimsically, that it was likely a good thing, that Nathan Brenner was writing his thesis sometime in the future, rather than in the past. Knowing too much about Hannibal back then, would not have been a good thing.
But she had known enough. And the people who knew her best, knew that she was not a foolish woman who was easily seduced by a handsome man. She laughed out loud, then stifled it, when she received a few curious glances from other passengers. As she had told the poker wives, Hannibal had not been a handsome man, when she first met him, so it certainly hadn’t been that.
Could a person’s true soul really come through like that, upon first meeting them? Or was it because there had already been some connection between them? Some knowledge of one another that could not be explained in the physical world? It had certainly felt that way. She had known, instantly, even if she hadn’t wanted to admit it, that this man was going to be important in her life. And that knowledge had over-ruled any caution or doubt in her soul, even if her mind kept asking questions.
And now here she was, married to a wonderful scoundrel, with one child at home and another on the way. This was when the doubt hit her. Not about her husband’s fidelity, but about her own ability as a mother. This up-coming year was going to prove to be interesting.
Miranda gave her husband a nudge.
“Hmm,” he asked, groggily. “What?”
“We’re here.”
“Oh.” Heyes sat up, blinking his eyes against the sunlight. He looked out the window and saw that, indeed, the train was pulling in to the familiar Brookswood station. “I didn’t think I’d sleep the whole way.”
“Obviously, you were tired.”
“Yeah.” Heyes straightened and reaching over with his booted foot, gave his cousin a kick on the shin. “Wake up!”
Jed jumped, his hand going for his holster. The first thing he saw was his cousin’s ginning face, and he groaned as he straightened up. “When are ya’ gonna stop doin’ that?”
“Doing what?” Heyes asked, as his dimples dripped innocence.
Jed simply sent him a dirty look, then he stretched and yawned. “Wow. I guess I was tired.”
“Yeah,” Heyes agreed. “I can’t believe that ya’ slept the whole way.”
Miranda smiled but kept any comments to herself. Jed knew his cousin well enough to know when he was being teased and was quite capable of dealing with the man, himself.
“Yeah, like you didn’t,” Jed commented.
“Heyes, I know what ya’ look like when ya’ first wake up,” Jed pointed out. “You ain’t pullin’ one over on me.”
“Oh. Well, perhaps I did fall asleep there, near the end.”
“Uh huh.”
“Brookswood, Colorado, folks!” Came the porter’s announcement as he made his way down the aisle. He smiled as he noticed his regular customers. “Welcome back, Mr. Heyes. Ma’am. Have a good trip, did ya’?”
“Yes, we did, Martin,” Miranda told him. “Thank you.”
“Good to hear it.” He tipped his hat and carried on his way, continuing to announce the stop.
“Geesh,” Jed complained, as they all stood up to disembark. “He didn’t welcome me home.”
“You haven’t been gone a month,” Heyes pointed out.
“I know, but still…”
The friends gathered up their carry on luggage and stepped out onto the platform. It was rather quiet, being the middle of a week day, and no one else seemed to be getting off the train at this stop. Not really surprising, as Brookswood was still a relatively small town. It can get busy enough on the weekends, and on special holidays, but normally, the train only made a short stop and there was very little travelling activity.
They spied their heavier luggage being transferred into the depot and made their way over there in order to retrieve it.
“You’ll spend the night at our place, Jed?” Miranda asked. “We’ll be taking the buggy out to the Double J tomorrow to pick up Sally, so you can come out with us.”
“Yep, that’d be fine,” Jed agreed. “Oh! There’s Levi.”
The young deputy smiled as he spied the group. “Howdy folks,” he greeted them. “Sheriff Morin sent me over to collect your belongins’ for ya’. I got the buckboard right out on the street there. I can load your luggage up and take it wherever ya’ want.”
“Just to our home, would be fine, Deputy,” Heyes told him. “We’ll take Jed out to his place, tomorrow.”
“Ahh…” Heyes hesitated to ask. “Sheriff Morin?”
“Yeah, well, temporary, for now,” Levi explained. “Until we can get an election organized. Truth be told, I don’t see the point. Everybody’s just gonna vote for Joe anyways. Why waste money on an election.”
“I thought Joe wanted to go back East and study criminology,” Heyes commented.
“Yep, he does,” Jed confirmed. “But he don’t wanna leave the town short-handed, neither. I expect he’ll stay on, until the town can elect another sheriff. You and Max are workin’ out fine, as deputies, ain’t ya’?”
“Yeah,” Levi concurred as they started loading luggage onto the buckboard. “I expect we’ll both stay on, unless the new sheriff has other ideas. Hope not though, it’s a good job.”
“Who’s going to be running for the office?” Heyes asked, as he lifted the last of the cases into the wagon.
Levi shrugged. “Nobody, as far as I know. Joe, I mean, Sheriff Morin might just win by default. Whether he wants to or not.”
Heyes snorted. “He could end up getting life, if he’s not careful.”
“Maybe,” Jed agreed. “That’s what happens when people like ya’.”
“Ma’am,” Levi tipped his hat to Miranda. “Would you like to ride up front with me?”
“Yes, thank you,” Randa accepted.
Hannibal was quick to come around and help his wife up onto the seat, then he and Jed hopped into the back with the luggage, and the buckboard jerked into motion.
The fifteen-minute jog through town was filled with many residents calling out and waving their greetings to the returning honeymooners, and Randa was quick to smile and wave back. It sure was nice to be made to feel welcome in this town that they had chosen to call home. It really was a fine place to live.
“Oh! Tricia!” Randa called back, smiling with pleasure at seeing her cousin again. “Stop, Levi!”
“Whoa.” Levi pulled the team to a halt.
Tricia ran up to them and took her cousin’s hand in greeting. “Oh my goodness! Look at you! You’re all tanned, you floosy!”
Both ladies laughed.
“You’re looking lovely, yourself,” Miranda said. “It’s so good to see you.”
“Come to dinner, tonight,” Tricia invited them. “I’m sure you’re tired after your journey, and you’ll need some time to get your home up and running again. You and Hannibal will come, won’t you? And you too, Jed, of course.”
“Yeah, sure,” Jed accepted. “We got some news. But, maybe I should tell Beth first.”
Tricia’s eyes lit up with a mischievous sparkled. “What news?” she demanded to know.
“We’ll tell you over supper,” Heyes interjected. “It’ll be kind of hard to keep it a secret, now.”
“Oh, you evil people,” Tricia laughed. “And you’re going to make me wait until this evening, aren’t you!”
“Yep,” Jed concurred.
“How is David doing?” Heyes asked.  “Knowing him, I expect he was pretty cut up after what happened.”
“Yes,” Tricia agreed. “He’s doing better than he was, but he could do with the company of friends, right now. He’ll be pleased to see you.”
“We’ll be there,” Heyes told her. “Just give us some time to get settled in, and unpacked. We’re coming home with a lot more luggage than we left with.”
Tricia laughed again. “I’m sure you are; with all those wonderful places you went to. I can’t wait to hear all about it. Now, I must be off and finish shopping. See you later.”
“Bye,” Randa said, and waved, as her cousin stepped back up onto the boardwalk and continued on.
The buckboard jolted back into motion, and they headed for home.
“What’s all this?” Miranda asked no-one in particular, as they ascended the steps to the porch.
Their way was blocked by a number of boxes, a bassinette and a bouquet of flowers that was propped up against the door. There was an envelope nestled in amongst the blossoms, and Miranda picked it out of the arrangement and opened up the note.
Welcome home,” she read. “Here are some items that we hope will come in handy in your new life. The Brookswood Ladies Auxiliary.”  She smiled and looked back at the three men who were hauling the luggage up onto the porch. “Look at this!” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe it. How kind of everyone. Did you know about this, Jed?”
“Well yeah, kind’a,” Jed admitted. “But I was sworn to secrecy.”
“Wow,” Hannibal commented, as he opened a couple of the boxes. “Baby clothes, small blankets and some toys. Why would they do this?”
Jed shrugged. “This is how folks are, when you’re part of a community. It took me a while to get used ta’ it, too. But it’s nice. Most folks wanna help out. When ya’ ain’t usin’ stuff no more, well, then ya’ pass it on ta’ someone who can use it.  Besides, your house came in real handy during the fire. I guess everybody wanted ta’ thank ya’ for that, too.”
Heyes smiled and met the Kid’s eye. Being part of a community was a whole different way of life from what they used to consider normal.
“Oh, here’s some tea, and biscuits,” Randa announced when she opened up another box. “Perfect. I’ll put some on, while you boys get the luggage in.”
Miranda opened the door and entered her home. She sighed contentedly.
“Home,” she said. “It’s as if we’d never left.”
“All this luggage suggests that we went somewhere, and bought something,” Hannibal contradicted her. “I swear, we have twice as much now as what we left with.”
Miranda laughed. “Yes. Probably. Will you stay for tea as well, Levi?”
“Oh, no thank you, ma’am,” Levi declined. “I’m still workin’, and the sheriff wants me back at the office.”
“Oh, alright. Thank you for your assistance.”
“No problem, ma’am. Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry.”
“Well, thank you, Levi,” Heyes said. “Tell Joe, we’ll be over to pester him, once we get settled.”
“Oh.” Levi wasn’t sure how to respond to that. “Okay.”
Heyes and Jed got busy bringing in all the luggage and boxes, while Miranda pumped water for the flowers and the kettle. Tea was soon in the making.
Miranda opened the door of the Gibson household and the three new arrivals were instantly hit with the enticing aroma of pork roasting with herbs and sweet apples. After all the fancy restaurant food Miranda and Hannibal had been eating, a good country home dinner set their mouths to watering.
“Hello!” Miranda called out.
“Oh, come in,” Tricia responded from the kitchen, as she set a fresh salad down onto the table. “Are you settled in?”
“Somewhat,” Randa told her. “There are still a few new things we need to find a place for, but we’re getting there.”
“I’m sure,” Tricia concurred, with a smile. “David and Nathan are in the…” Her statement was cut off by the sound of running feet coming from the living room. “Oh, never mind.”
“Hi!” Nathan greeted the company. “Did you bring me anything?”
“Nathanial Gibson!” his mother scolded him. “You know better than that. Apologize for your rudeness.”
Nathan dropped his eyes and shuffled his feet. “Sorry.” Then his eyes lifted, as hope shone eternal.
Hannibal laughed. “As a matter of fact, we did,” he admitted, and handed the child a small box, tied with string.
Nathan’s already bright eyes widened with excitement, and snatching the package, he turned and ran back down the hallway, shouting a distracted “Thank you!” as he went.
Tricia sighed and slumped. “I swear, that boy is like a brick wall; nothing gets through.”
“Aww, he’s just got lots of energy,” Hannibal commented. “Always has.”
“Takes after his pa, I’d say,” Jed observed. “Always has.”
Tricia rolled her eyes.
“Hello,” David greeted their guests as he entered the kitchen. “I see you’ve already received the official welcome from the man of the house.”
“Hi David,” Heyes responded as a huge smile presented itself. The two men shook hands. “How are you doing?”
“Alright, considering,” the doctor told him. “A lot has gone on, since you two have been away.”
Miranda came up to David and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Yes, we know,” she affirmed. “What a month it has been. We were so sorry to hear.”
A sadness drifted across the doctor’s face, but he hid it quickly. “Yes, well. We can’t win them all.”
“No,” Randa agreed. “But he was a good man, and a friend. It’s a hard loss.”
“Here,” Hannibal said, as he stepped up and handed David a bottle. “Something to help raise the spirits.”
David accepted it with a smile and turned it to scrutinize the label. “Tequila!” he announced, and his smile broadened. “I haven’t had Tequila in years. We can’t get it here.”
“I know,” Heyes stated. “That’s why I thought you would like some.”
“Oh yes,” David was adamant. “I think I’m going to open it right now. We can all have some.”
Heyes and Jed grinned.
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Jed agreed.
“Yep,” his cousin seconded.
Miranda rolled her eyes, and as David opened a cupboard to find some glasses, she moved around the table to Tricia and handed her a bag.
“Here,” she said. “A little something I thought you might like. I absolutely fell in love with these things while I was down in Mexico.”
“Oh!” Tricia’s eyes lit up, and she smiled with anticipation. Digging into the bag, she pulled out a bundle of brightly coloured material that unraveled itself into a skirt. Tricia’s intake of breath could not be mistaken. “It’s beautiful!”
“There’s a cute little white blouse in there as well, and a pair of sandals,” Miranda informed her. “Come next summer, we can be scandalous and give all the old biddies heart attacks.”
“You’re wicked,” Tricia accused her. “I can hardly wait.”
Another knocking sounded at the front door and the conversation was interrupted.
“Come in!” David called, as he took down a forth glass from the cupboard.
“Hello,” Joe called from the alcove, and then he and Pansy entered the most important room in the house. “Wow. Something smells good in here.”
Tricia smiled. “Dinner will be about half an hour yet. Why don’t you gentlemen take your drinks into the living room, so us ladies can gossip.”
“Sounds like a plan,” David agreed. “Here, take a glass and let’s depart.”
“What’s this?” Joe asked.
“Tequila,” David informed him. “Hannibal brought back from Mexico.”
“Oh.” Joe picked up his glass and scrutinized the contents. “I don’t think I’ve ever had tequila.”
“First time for everything, Joe,” Jed told him. “Make sure you’re sittin’ down first.”
Joe cocked a brow at his friend, and the men departed the kitchen to settle in the back living room.
Not surprising to Hannibal, Nathan was sitting on the floor, totally mesmerized by the present that had been given to him. He sat, still as a cat, watching the four small brown beans that he had set out on the carpet. Suddenly, one of them began to tremble and then hopped two or three times and bumped into it’s neighbour. Nathan shrieked out his laughter and then watched again as a second bean completed the same task.
Joe frowned, not quite sure he had seen what had just happened.
“What in tarnation was that?” he asked no one in particular.
“They’re called Mexican Jumping Beans,” Heyes informed him.
David and Joe both looked at Heyes, waiting for further explanation.  Jed grinned. He already knew what these were all about. Trust Heyes to bring a bunch of ‘em home.
“Nathan,” Heyes continued. “Keep them in a box, with a wire mesh on top. Be patient and you’ll see something pretty amazing happen.”
David became suspicious. “Amazing how?”
“Well, what makes them jump,” Heyes explained, “is a larva inside. Eventually, it’ll make it’s way out of the bean and then metamorph itself into a moth.”
“Wow!” Nathan exclaimed, all excited. “Is it gonna do it now?”
“Not this instant,” Heyes told him. “It takes a couple of days.”
“Awww! I wanna see it now!”
David grinned. “Trust you to come up with something like this,” he accused Hannibal. “We’re not going to get over-run with moths, are we?”
“Only four,” Heyes assured him. “But keep the lid on, and the moths won’t escape into the house. You won’t do that, will you, Nathan? You won’t let the moths go in the house.”
Nathan grinned.
“Nathanial,” David cautioned his son. “Once they’re moths, you let them go outside, okay?”
Nathan slumped. “Yes, alright.” Then he brightened up. “Can I take them to school with me on Monday?”
“I suppose so,” David agreed. “I’ll make up a small box for them so you don’t lose them.”
Nathan grinned with anticipation and settled in to continue his study in observation.
“That’s amazing,” Joe commented. “I’ve never heard of those things.” He then, absent mindedly took a swig from the glass he was holding. Instantly, his eyes popped, and he coughed out a breath from his lungs. “Wow,” he choked. “What is this again?”
Jed took a sip, and grinned. “Tequila.”
“Okay.” Joe took another tentative sip and showed some appreciation. “It is nice, after you get over the shock.”
“It’s a very popular drink, south of the border,” Heyes informed him. “It’s distilled from a plant called a blue agave.”
“Geez, Heyes,” Jed complained. “Does everything have to be a history lesson with you? Why can’t ya’ just enjoy it?”
“I am enjoying it,” Heyes insisted.
“Hannibal has always had an inquisitive mind, Jed. You know that,” David reminded him. “Better that he uses it on positive things, rather than his pervious mischief. Don’t want him getting us all into trouble do you?”
“I’ll drink to that,” Jed announced.
“So will I!” Joe heartily agreed. “Especially now that I’m acting sheriff here.”
“To Hannibal, staying out of trouble!” David declared as he raised his glass.
Glasses clinked, and even Heyes smiled and went along with the teasing.
“Speaking of acting sheriff,” Heyes commented, once the toast was done. “You planning on staying on for the election?”
Joe sighed and thought about that for a moment.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I had intended on being back East by now, studying criminology. But it seems, things don’t always go has planned.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” Jed agreed. “But nothin’s sayin’ ya’ gotta stay here.”
“Yeah, I know,” Joe concurred. “But Clyde Logan and Al Ruffus are talkin’ about running for the office, and I can’t imagine either one of them making a good sheriff.”
“Hmm,” Heyes frowned. “You got that right. They’d be the kind of sheriffs we used to love running into.  Getting long in the tooth, and lazy in the attitude.”
Nods of agreement made the rounds.
“You’re gonna hav’ta make up your mind soon, Joe,” Jed told him. “You’ve been back and forth on this, for a while now. If yer gonna run fer sheriff, yer gonna hav’ta get started on it.”
Joe nodded. “I know. Besides that, Pansy wants to get married and start a family. She sure doesn’t want me to leave.”
“Oh yeah?” Heyes asked, as if this were new information. “Has she proposed, yet?”
David smiled, but Joe and Jed both sent him looks that suggested he should stop being an ass.
“No,” Joe answered, bluntly. “What I’m making as sheriff, I could save up and buy a ring for her, by Christmas. I could propose to her then. But, I’d pretty much be stuck here then, wouldn’t I?”
“Not necessarily,” David said. “You could always put in a term or two as sheriff, and then head East after that. Pansy could go with you, or stay here. Depending on your situation. People have done it before.”
“I know,” Joe agreed.  “It’d just be a lot easier to go to college, if I stayed single.”
“Then go to college first, and send for Pansy when you’re done,” David suggested. “Or come back here, if you want to.”
“Yeah,” Joe contemplated. “But then what’s from stopping her from marrying someone else, while I’m gone? Bernie and Kurt are both hovering around, waiting for me to get out of their way.”
“Then, get engaged, so she has that promise,” Jed suggested. “Go back East to college, then come back and marry her, when yer done.”
“Yeah,” Joe considered. “I don’t think she’d want to wait though. I don’t know what to do.”
“I’m afraid you’re the only one who can decide that, Joe,” David told him. “I think that if you stayed and ran for sheriff, you would get the position. People like you here, and you’ve proven your worth. But you have to do what your heart tells you, not what other people tell you. It’s not always easy.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
“Oh, that roast smells divine,” Miranda stated as Trish pulled it out to base. “You’re such a good cook.”
“That’s one of those abilities that comes with time,” Tricia informed her. “Cooking every day for a family, you learn how to do it. Speaking of which, I better get Eleanor up, or she won’t sleep tonight.  I’ll be right back.”
“Anything we can do?” Pansy asked.
“You could finish setting the table,” Tricia suggested. “That would help.”
The two ladies set about the task, while drinking tea and chatting amiably.
“You’re looking all aglow,” Pansy stated, enviously. “You must be so looking forward to starting your family.”
“We’ve already started our family,” Miranda pointed out. “This one is a continuation.”
“Oh, of course!” Pansy blushed at her mistake. “I didn’t mean…”
“I know.” Miranda smiled at the shy young woman. “This is the first time I have started one from scratch.”
Pansy appeared to blush even more, but she did smile and was relieved that she had not offended.
“I so want to have a family,” she stated. “but Joe doesn’t seem interested.”
“I wouldn’t say he’s not interested,” Randa countered. “He’s just young. He’s also had a lot handed to him, all of a sudden. He needs to find his footing, that’s all. Be patient and give him time.”
“But how much time?” Pansy exclaimed. “We’ve already been dating for over a year. If he was really interested, wouldn’t he have asked by now?”
“Not necessarily,” Randa stated. “I had to wait for Hannibal to make up his mind. But it was worth it, in the long run. Sometimes, I think that’s why it’s traditional for the man to propose marriage. Women often know quickly, when they’ve met the right person, so we’d be likely to move too fast, and end up scaring our intended away. If we are willing to wait until the man figures it out, and does the proposing himself, then we can feel confident that it’s what he really wants.”
“I suppose,” Pansy half-heartedly agreed. “I recall that Beth knew, very early on, and she had to wait a long time for Jed to realize it. Then they both waited until Hannibal was out of prison! Can you imagine?”
Miranda laughed. “Yes, that was quite an achievement. None of them knew how long that was going to take. But see how it all worked out? A little patience goes a long way.”
“But what if Joe decides to go back East?” Pansy asked. “He could be gone for three years. What would I do then?”
“Wait for him,” Miranda told her. “Just like Beth and Jed waited for Hannibal.”
Pansy allowed a heavy sigh to escape her lungs.
“Oh my!” Tricia stated, as she, with Eleanor in arms, returned to the kitchen. “Sounds like a serious discussion going on here.”
“Yes,” Randa concurred. “Pansy is concerned about Joe going back East to college.”
“Oh,” Tricia stated, as she settled her baby into the highchair. “Yes. Sometimes we women are put into the position of having to wait for our men.”
“But not you!” Miranda teased her cousin. “As I recall, you and David practically set the record for short engagements. Or did you just skip the engagement part and go directly to the alter?”
Tricia sent Miranda a look.
“Don’t be silly,” she said. “Of course we got engaged first. David did everything properly. I took him home to meet my parents, and the next day, he asked my father for permission.” Tricia laughed. “I think my Pa was so surprised that I was actually bringing home a beau, and one that I was willing to marry, that he said yes out of pure relief. So there you go. We were engaged. For about a week.”
They all laughed, including Eleanor, who, of course, wanted to join in on the girl-talk.
Again, Pansy sighed wistfully. “Oh, I wish,” she bemoaned. “I fear I will be an old maid by the time Joe gets around to asking me.”
“Maybe you should start dating someone else,” Tricia suggested, with a wicked glint in her eye. “What about Kurt Ferguson? He’s a handsome young man, and he’s certainly interested in you.”
“Oh, I couldn’t!” Pansy declared, adamantly. “Joe is the man I want.”
“I know,” Tricia clarified. “But what better way to get a man’s attention, than to back off and start dating someone else? It might just be what Joe needs to make up his mind.”
“Oh,” Pansy responded, her eyes lighting up with comprehension. “I never thought of that. Oh, but I couldn’t. That’s so mean.”
The two older ladies exchanged glances and shrugged.
“Well,” Tricia commented. “I suppose, if you don’t mind waiting until you’re an old maid…”
Dinner was soon ready, and everyone called to the table. Of course, it was a success. Roasted pork, with baked apples, mashed potatoes and a fresh salad made for a fine meal.
“David,” Miranda began the conversation. “Now that I think of it, an Apache woman down in Texas gave me some herbs for nausea. Hannibal is suspicious of it, so I agreed to let you check them out, before I used them. Would you mind?”
David sent Heyes a questioning look.
Heyes shrugged. “After all that misadventure with Amy, I didn’t want to take any chances.”
David nodded his understanding. “Oh yes. Of course. Certainly, I’ll check them out, Miranda. Drop them off with me tomorrow, and I’ll put them through their paces.”
“Thank you,” she beamed. “And if they don’t work out, do you have anything I could use instead?”
“Yes. I’ll get something put together for you tonight,” David offered. “Are you having problems?”
“Not lately, no,” Miranda admitted. “It was mostly the heat, down south, that did it. I might be fine from here on in. But just in case, it would be nice to having something on hand.”
“Good plan,” David agreed. “Why don’t you come in tomorrow for a check-up anyways. I’d like to see how you’re progressing.”
“You walked right in to that one,” Heyes teased her.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” Randa countered. “It’s probably a very good idea.”
David smiled, feeling vindicated. “See, Hannibal? Not everyone scorns my efforts.”
“Just don’t expect to see me knocking on your office door.”
“No?” David asked. “How are you doing? Any more seizures?”
“No! I’m fine.”
“So,” Tricia intervened, before things got away from them. “You’ve kept me in suspense, long enough Miranda. What’s the news you were going to tell us about?”
“News?” David asked. “Don’t tell me—you’re expecting!”
“Oh David!” Miranda almost threw her napkin at him. “Don’t be silly. Actually, it’s more Jed and Hannibal’s news, than it is mine.”
“Oh yes?” David asked. “Was your assignment a success?”
“Oh yeah,” Jed agreed. “Better than we could’a hoped.”
“You were able to weed out the culprit?” Joe asked. “Was he actually in the game?”
“No,” Heyes admitted. “He wasn’t playing in the big game. It was actually Jed who found him.”
“Jed?” David asked, his brows rising.
“You’re kidding,” said Joe. “It was Jed who caught him?”
“Well, don’t all sound so surprised,” Jed griped. “I’m part ‘a this team too, ya’ know.”
“Oh, well, of course,” David assured him. “It’s just, I suppose, we all assumed that Hannibal would catch him in the game. That was what this was all about.”
“Yeah, but it didn’t go down that way,” Heyes explained. “I spent my time losing money for the first half of the game, because I was focusing too much on trying to single out our culprit. Then it turned out, he wasn’t even there. Apparently he got wind of an undercover agent being planted in the game to trap him, and he withdrew.”
“Oh no,” Joe commented. “So how did you finally catch him?”
“He and his partner were out playin’ blackjack,” Jed told them. “I noticed his partner actin’ kind’a funny, so I got Finney’s attention, and we both started playin’ ‘im. He was just a young fella, so I didn’t think he was who we were after, but he was up ta’ somethin’, so we kept on ‘im. Turns out he was the nephew of the man we were after. That man was in the game for a while, but then retired, and we kind’a forgot about ‘im. We managed to get the nephew ta’ slip up and make a run for it. He made a dash up the stairs of the hotel, and I lost ‘im. Then I heard gunfire on the floor beneath me, and ran down just in time to find the two of ‘em just about ta’ throw Finney over the bannister. They’re both coolin’ their heels now, in the Denver jail, awaitin’ extradition.”
“Wow,” Joe stated. “Good job, Jed. Maybe I should hire you as my deputy.”
Jed laughed. “Thanks Joe, but I got a job.”
Only Miranda and Tricia noticed Pansy’s eyes light up from Joe’s comment. Was he considering staying in town, and running for sheriff, after all?
“Well done, Jed,” David agreed, and raised his wine glass. “To Jed. First class, undercover agent.”
Everybody agreed, and toasted Jed, much to his pleasure and embarrassment.
“Yeah, but that ain’t all of it,” he informed them. “Tell ‘em the rest of it, Heyes.”
Heyes smiled, and the depth of his dimples let everyone know how pleased he was with the upcoming news.
“Well,” he began. “After losing every hand during the first half of the game, and still not being able to find our man, I decided it was time to change my focus. I had to start playing to win, or I was going to be in debt to Scotland Yard, and I sure didn’t want that. I was confident that our man would show his true colours eventually, so I changed my tactics.”
“How did that work out for you?” David asked.
Heyes’ smile grew even deeper.
“I won,” he announced.
“That’s hardly surprising,” David commented. “Once you put your mind to it, you usually do win. I can understand you being relieved though, not to be owing Scotland Yard any money. That would be inconvenient.”
“No, David. You’re not getting the whole picture,” Heyes informed him.
“Oh? What else?”
“David, I won the game,” Heyes explained. “The biggest game in the West. I walked out of that room with $130,000.”
Silence followed this announcement. Even Eleanor stopped her cooing and banging her spoon, and waited in anticipation of what was to come.
“What?” David finally asked.
“Oh my goodness!” Tricia stated. “You’re rich!”
“And they say crime doesn’t pay,” Joe commented, but smiling all the same.
“Yeah, but this wasn’t criminal,” Heyes pointed out. “I won it. Fair and square. Of course, I paid back Scotland Yard, and a third of what’s left is going to Jed. Another third is going into our business. The rest, well, we’ll see what comes.”
“Oh Jed, that’s wonderful,” Tricia congratulated him. “Does Beth know?”
“Not yet,” Jed admitted. “I wanna tell her in person. She’ll know tomorrow.”
“No wonder you were so excited,” Tricia stated. “This will definitely be a life-changer for all of you.”
“Yep,” Heyes agreed. “Life is good. I can’t wait to tell Kenny.”
Jed’s loud guffaw took over the room.
The following morning, the Heyes household was up and about early, in anticipation of a busy day. Jed made coffee while Miranda went out to the cooler to retrieve the eggs and bacon she had purchased the previous day. A major shopping to replace the basics was due, and once they got home from picking up Sally and their string of horses, errands would be taken care of.
In the mean time, there was enough food for a hearty breakfast, and even the cat put in an appearance.
“There you are,” Miranda stated as Mouse murred and wrapped herself around Miranda’s ankles. “Don’t worry, you’ll get some breakfast too. I hear you had plenty of company while we were away.”
Hannibal came into the kitchen to pour himself a coffee. “Yeah,” he concurred. “She came in and told me all about it, last night, after you went to bed.”
“Really?” Miranda asked. “That’s why you were so late coming in. Midnight rendezvous with another woman.”
Heyes grinned, and came up to give his wife a kiss on the back of her neck. A raucous, verbal complaint from the area of their ankles made everybody laugh. Mouse was not impressed. Flicking her tail, she trotted from the kitchen in a huff. She would show them. She would plan her next entrance, just in time for the bacon to hit her dish, and no sooner.
Jed laughed. “You’re a brave man, Heyes. Filling your house full ‘a females. It’ll be interestin’ ta’ see what the diva has to say about your extended absence.”
“Hmm,” Heyes raised his brows. “Yeah. Not sure what to expect there.”
“We’ll know soon enough,” Miranda stated. “How are we getting out there? All our horses are at the Double J.”
“Gov’s here,” Jed announced. “I rode him in and left ‘im at Eric’s place. We can hitch him up ta’ your buggy. I’ll just toss my saddle in the back.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Heyes agreed. “It’ll be nice to see everyone again.”
As had become their routine of late, Pansy met up with Joe at the sheriff’s office, and the two of them went to have lunch together. But this time, sitting in their usual table in the corner, there was a noticeable strain between them. Both had something they wanted to say, but neither seemed able to get it out.
Finally, as shy as she was, Pansy, in her resolution, took courage and was the first to speak.
“Joe, there’s something I need to talk with you about.”
“Oh,” Joe perked up, relieved that a conversation was finally beginning. “Yeah, me too. But you go first.”
“Okay.” Pansy took a deep breath, and began. “I’ve been thinking. You’re under so much strain right now, with all that has been going on. I know that losing Sheriff Jacobs the way we did, has been hard on you, and now there’s a lot of pressure on you to stay as the new sheriff. I also know that you want to go back East, to study. So, I just think that, maybe we should back off things for a while. Give you a chance to sort out what you really want.”
“Oh.” Joe felt a tingle of fear go through him. “Well, I…”
“I’m not really sure anymore, either,” Pansy lied. “A break might be good for both of us. Max Robinson has asked me out, and…”
“Max Robinson!” Joe reclaimed. “But he’s my deputy!”
“Well, if you go back East to college, you won’t be the sheriff here, so he won’t be your deputy then.”
“Yeah, but I was thinking that I wasn’t going to go back East, yet,” Joe insisted. “Don’t you think I’ve noticed how them other fellas are looking at you, and secretly hoping that I’ll leave town? I’m not a fool, you know.”
“No! I mean; you’ve really noticed that?” Pansy clarified. “I thought all you were thinking about was your career.”
“Well, no. I ain’t blind,” Joe reminded her. “I mean, I can’t really afford to buy you a ring until Christmas, but I was thinking, if you were agreeable, that I would still go and ask your pa for permission. But if you’re not sure, now…”
Pansy felt a rise in panic threatening to take over her.
“Oh no!” she declared. “I’m sure! I didn’t think you were. Your head always seems to be somewhere else.”
“Yeah, I know,” Joe admitted. “You’re right about one thing; I’ve had a lot to deal with lately.  I guess I haven’t been giving you the attention you deserve. I apologize about that.”
“It’s alright,” Pansy assured him. “Everything has been so up in the air. I just didn’t want you to feel pressured.”
“Yeah, I appreciate that,” Joe told her. “But I think I’ve decided to stay on here for a while longer. If I’m voted in as sheriff, great. If not, then I can go East and start college. As long as you don’t mind, living that kind of life. Either way, it’s not easy. Look what happened to Sam’s mother. Damn, look what happened to Jacobs. This is suppose to be a quiet, civilized town, and yet…”
Pansy put her hand on Joe’s. “I know,” she said. “It can be a dangerous life. But I got through it, when you were off with Jed and Hannibal on that silly horse chase. That ended up being dangerous, didn’t it?”
“Yeah, it sure did,” Joe agreed.
“And I survived it,” Pansy pointed out. “I didn’t go run away and hide. I know what I’m getting into, and you’re worth it. Whether you stay here as sheriff, or we head East, I’ll be happy, as long as I’m with you.”
Joe smiled. “Then you’ll marry me?”
“Of course, I will.”
“Okay,” Joe said, his smile growing into a grin. “I’ll go talk to your pa, tomorrow.”
Pansy clapped her hands, and practically jumped up and down in her chair. “I’m so excited,” she exclaimed, needlessly. “When shall we do it?”
“Well,” Joe contemplated. “We get officially engaged at Christmas, then we can plan the wedding for spring. How’s that?”
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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 62
Location : Camano Island Washington

More Loose Ends Empty
PostSubject: Re: More Loose Ends   More Loose Ends EmptyThu Aug 18, 2016 11:22 am

“Almost there!” Jed called back from the driver’s seat.
Hannibal and Miranda were sitting in the back, enjoying the view. Heyes rolled his eyes at Jed’s announcement.
“We’ve haven’t been gone for that long, you know,” he reminded his cousin. “Not five years, like the last time.”
“Yeah, I know. But it’s fun ta’ announce it,” Jed commented. “Oh, look who’s galloping out to meet us!”
The couple in the back leaned around in order to see ahead of the driver, and saw the familiar sight of their daughter, riding Fannie full speed ahead, towards them.
“Mama! Papa! You’re back!”
The parents grinned at the sight of their energetic daughter. Her dark red hair was tied behind in a pony tail, but that didn’t prevent strands of it from flying around her eyes, nor did it do much to hide the dirt smudges covering her joyful face. Dressed in one of J.J.’s old shirts, and a pair of dungarees rolled up to display bare calves and dirty feet, she reminded Heyes of the first time he had met Bridget and Beth. Tomboys to the core.
Miranda loved that her daughter wasn’t letting herself be pigeon-holed into early expectations of girlhood. She was given the freedom to explore her own idea of who she was, and enjoying every minute of it.
“Hi Sweetheart!”
“Hello Darlin’,” Heyes greeted her. “Who’s that with you?”
Sally pulled Fannie to a halt and swung her around so that she was now headed in the same direction as the buggy. The blue dog that had joined in on the greeting festivities, trotted around the horse and then the buggy, a big smile on his face, and the occasional excited bark escaping from his tongue-filled mouth.
“That’s Blu,” Sally announced. “He’s my dog.”
“Yeah, Heyes,” Jed concurred. “Remember I told ya’, ya’ had a dog.”
“Oh yeah,” Heyes did recall that.
He and Miranda exchanged concerned looks. How were they going to manage a bundle full of energy, like that blue tick hound, in their small home? How were they going to introduce him to Mouse? Then his attention was diverted by the herd of horses who were grazing in the main pasture beside the roadway.
A few heads came up as the new arrivals entered the yard, and Daisy, who had bonded with Gov as her main pasture mate, sent out a welcoming nicker. Karma was too busy grazing underneath the willow tree to bother with any sort of acknowledgement.
Miranda smiled. “It seems that Karma wasn’t too worried about your absence, after all.”
“I don’t know,” Heyes commented, sounding dubious. “I think she’s giving me the cold shoulder. I don’t think I’ll ride her back to town, after all. We can tie her to the back of the buggy and give her time to get over her snit.”
“You coward.”
“Hey, I’m not getting any younger,” Heyes pointed out. “And I want to get back home, in one piece.”
Jed brought the buggy to a halt by the first barn, and Sam was there to take Gov’s head.
“Hi!” he greeted the couple. “Welcome back.”
“Hey Sam,” Heyes returned the greeting as he stepped out of the buggy and offered a hand to his wife. “I hear there was some excitement around here, while we were gone.”
“Yeah, I’ll say,” Sam agreed. “You picked the perfect time to be away.”
“Hello, Sam,” Miranda greeted him. “How is everyone doing?”
“They’re fine, on the most part,” Sam informed her. “My ma is still kind of down, over what happened. But she’ll be alright.”
“I’m sorry, Sam,” Miranda told him. “Your mother’s been through enough already, she didn’t need this as well.”
Sam shrugged. “Yeah, I know. I tell ya’, the Bairds sure ain’t welcome in this town, after all that. Isabelle’s probably better off livin’ in Denver, at least for a while.”
“I don’t think she’ll be coming back to live here,” Heyes surmised. “Part of her objective in getting married, was to get out of Brookswood.”
“True enough. I sure don’t envy Briscoe any, though.”
Heyes smirked.
“Joshua! Miranda! Hello!”
“Belle!” Miranda returned the greeting, as she hurried towards the front porch. “Good morning!”
Hannibal’s smirk turned into a grin, as he followed his wife over to their friend.  “Hello, Belle. How are you making out?”
“Ohh!” Belle rolled her eyes. “What a time we’ve had. But we’re still here. Come on inside. There’s coffee on, or tea, and we’ll get lunch going here soon.”
“Oh goodie!” Sally exclaimed as she jumped up and down, beside her father. “Can we have apple pie?”
“My goodness, child,” Belle teased her. “Haven’t you had enough apple pie? Next thing you know, you’re going to be growing branches, and we’ll be plucking the apples off of you.”
Sally giggled, and hugged her dog, who never seemed to be far from the child. “Can Blu have some too?”
“No,” Belle declined. “Now come inside, and get cleaned up.”
“Hold it!” Jed called from the barn. “Why is there a horse standing loose in the middle of the yard?”
“Oh.” Sally looked sheepish, and almost began running her big toe through the dirt, but she stopped herself just in time. “Sorry, Uncle Jed.”
“Tend to your horse,” Jed told her, for the umpteenth time. “You might as well put her in the pasture with everyone else. I doubt you’ll be headin’ home right away.”
“Well, off you go,” Heyes told her. “Do what your uncle tells you.”
“Yes, Papa.”
The child ran off to collect her mare, who was still standing patiently in the same spot where Sally had left her. Giving Fannie a pat on the nose, Sally picked up the reins and trotted the old mare over to the pasture gate. Fannie then lowered her head, so Sally could easily pull the bridle over her ears, and then again, waited patiently for her young mistress to unlatch the gate and push it open.
“Come on, Fanny. In you go.”
Fanny snorted and then casually sauntered through the gate and over to the other horses.
Heyes smiled at his daughter’s antics, and the gentleness of his old mare.
“Nobody’s told her yet, that you’re suppose put the horse in the pasture, before you take off the bridle,” he observed. “Fanny sure is being good with her.”
“Yes,” Miranda agreed. “You were right. Fanny really does look out for her.”
“I’ll say,” Belle stated. “Did Jed tell you about how that mare got Sally out of a very dangerous situation, out at the Baird’s ranch?”
“Yes,” Heyes said, with a frown.
“What a fright, that gave us,” Belle continued. “There is nothing like an inquisitive child, to keep you on your toes.”
“I hope you let her know how much she worried you,” Miranda said. “She needs to understand that.”
“She understands,” Belle assured them. “She got a good lecture from Jed, from me, from Jesse, and then again at school the next day. I think she’ll think twice before doing something like that, again.”
“Good,” Heyes said. “It’s also a good thing, that those responsible are locked up, or worse. I would have done my best, to make their lives miserable.”
“Then it is a good thing, that it’s all been taken care of,” Belle said. “You didn’t need to come home to that. Come on inside. Jesse is looking forward to seeing you again. I’m afraid, he’s bored to tears these days.”
Coming into the home, they found Jesse in his usual place at the dinning room table. Papers were spread out and he and Beth were going over the numbers for the ranch. Both smiled a greeting as the visitors entered, and Beth stepped lively to come over and give them welcoming hugs.
“Welcome home,” she said. “You both look like you had a great time. And Miranda! Look at you. I’m sure I have some dresses that will fit you, as long as I get them back. I don’t think I’m finished with them yet. Although, the one you have on now is lovely. Where did you get it?”
“I got this at one of the shops in Denver,” Randa informed her. “It is nice, isn’t it? And it even has an expanding waist so I can wear it all the way through.”
“An expanding waist?” Beth’s eyes lit up with surprise. “What will they think of next? I’ll have to get me one of those!”
“Well, when you’re in need again, you can have this one,” Randa offered. “These clothes do tend to make the rounds, don’t they?”
“That’s for sure,” Belle agreed. “Both of my daughters used my confinement dresses for everyday wear. They never go out of fashion. They simply wear out!”
The three ladies laughed, and headed towards the kitchen to continue with their visit.
Heyes sighed with relief, and then came around to Jesse, and shook his hand. Once again, Heyes noticed how much older his friend was looking. But perhaps it was just the after affects of suffering such extensive injuries. But there was no denying the weight loss and the minor sunken appearance under his eyes, and in his cheeks. This summer had been hard on the patriarch.
“Hi Jesse,” Heyes greeted his mentor. “How are you doing?”
“Slowly getting better,” Jesse told him. “It’s still going to be a long road though. Even David doesn’t think that I’ll be riding much, anymore. Dammit.”
“Yeah.” Heyes pulled out the chair that Beth had vacated, and sat down. He smiled, wistfully. “This kind of reminds me of when we first met. You were in a wheelchair then, too.”
“Ha!” Jesse laughed. “That injury was nothing compared to this one. No, I did it up right, this time.”
“From what I hear, you’re lucky to be alive,” Heyes commented. “That must have been some fire. We saw some of the damage, coming in on the train.”
“Yes,” Jesse agreed. “And that’s just the tip of it. We’ve lost acres upon acres of timber, not to mention livestock, and people too, unfortunately. We still don’t know what happened to Ben, but whatever it was, he’s damn lucky to be alive, as well. That young man is still in the hospital, and will carry scars for the rest of his life.”
“Yeah,” Heyes agreed. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here to help, Jesse. If I had been free to do so, I would have come back, but by the time that sheriff in Yuma released me, the fire was done. Both David and Jed said that there was no need for us to return.  But still—I feel that I should have.”
“No, no,” Jesse used his good hand to wave the sentiment away. “They were right; there was no need for you to come back. You two had waited long enough for your honeymoon and you deserved it. We   had plenty of help.” He smiled, mischievously. “And your house came in very handy. I hope it is none the worse for wear.”
“It’s fine,” Heyes assured him. “It didn’t look as if anyone had been using it, while we were away.”
“Oh, it got used,” Jesse insisted. “Every spare space in Brookswood got used. It was like a war zone.”
“Well, at least we contributed that much.”
“How are you doing?” Jesse asked him. “You went through quite an ordeal in Yuma. Any more problems with that?”
“Not yet,” Heyes assured him. “I’m hoping that the sheriff down there will keep things civilized. He was a life-saver. Funny, now that I’m a free man, I’m running into more and more decent lawmen. Where were they when we were being hunted?”
Jesse smiled. “I’m sure they were out there, Hannibal. You can’t expect to be treated with kindness and respect when you’re living your life as an outlaw. Besides that, I’m sure you had a rather prejudice view on the matter, back then.”
“Ha! Yes, I suppose you have a point.”
“I’m glad that the sheriff down there was helpful to you,” Jesse continued. “What about the other issue. Any more seizures?”
“No. I’m good, Jesse. David and I discussed what he thinks triggers them. If I can avoid those types of situations, then I doubt I will ever have another seizure.”
“Really?”  Jesse asked, showing interest. “What are they?”
Heyes shrugged. “Well, stress for one,” he said. “And apparently I have a problem with forced confinement, especially in small, dark places.”
“Really,” Jesse stated, with just a hint of sarcasm. “I can’t imagine how you developed that phobia.”
“Yeah,” Heyes snarked. “Can’t imagine. So, if I can avoid those types of situations, I should be able to control the seizures. No more problem.”
“Good,” Jesse agreed. “Sounds like a positive attitude, on more than one level.”
“I’m trying.”
Conversation was interrupted by the front door opening again, and Sally ran through, quickly followed by Jed and Sam. Sally kept on going towards the kitchen in anticipation of apple pie, but Jed and Sam joined the others at the table.
“How’s the paperwork coming?” Jed asked. “You able to make sense of it?”
Jesse rolled his eyes. “Thank goodness for Beth. I don’t know where she comes by it, but she does know how to keep this ranch running in the black. It’s going to be tight this winter, but we’ll have enough to get through till spring. Don’t you dare ever leave here, Jed. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
“That ain’t likely ta’ happen, Jesse,” Jed assured him.  “I like it just fine, right here.”
“Oh, I donno,” Heyes put in. “Apparently Uncle Mac is looking for a private investigator to be on his payroll, full-time. I recommended you.”
“Ha! If I didn’t know you were jokin’, Heyes, I’d brain ya’!”
“What?” Heyes asked innocently. “A good steady pay cheque, a reasonable boss…”
“Yeah. Ya’ got me, right there. No thanks.”
“That’s what I said, too.”
“Speaking of undercover work,” Jesse inquired. “How did your game go? Did you break the house?”
Heyes and Jed exchanged smug glances.
“Ah,” Jed began. “We’ll tell ya’ about that, over lunch.”
“Oh?” Jesse perked up and was suddenly, very interested.
Any further enquiries were terminated by the timely return of the ladies, each carrying trays laden with goodies.
“Jesse, clear off the table, so we can have lunch,” Belle insisted. “You can get back to your paperwork later.”
“Let me do it!” Beth instantly stepped up. “I want to keep those papers in a certain order, so we’ll know where we were when we start up again.”
True to her word, she set the platter of sandwiches down on a clear spot on the table, and quickly began stacking the sheets of paper in her own special order. As she cleared space, Belle set down the tray of cups and plates, and Miranda did the same with the tea and coffee pots, and condiments.
That done, everyone pulled out chairs and settled in for lunch.
“Where’s J.J.?” Heyes asked. “Doesn’t he usually put in an appearance for meals?”
Belle and Jesse exchanged humorous glances.
“Not for lunch,” Belle answered. “Breakfast and supper seems to be the only times we see that boy. During the week, he’s in school, and on the weekends, he’s off doing something, somewhere. I think Todd is with him today.”
“Yeah, he is,” Sam concurred. “They both disappeared right after the morning chores were done.”
“That’ll be changing soon,” Jesse commented. “That boy is getting old enough to be helping out around here a lot more than he is. Especially this year. I won’t be able to hire as many extra hands as I usually do, so we’re all going to have to step it up.” He frowned when he remembered his own situation. “What a time for me to invalided.”
“Don’t worry, Papa,” Beth assured him. “We’ll manage.”
Again, the silent communication between the cousins took place. Jesse and Belle cocked brows at one another, wondering what was coming up next.
“Ah, I might be able ta’ help out a bit with that, Jesse,” Jed offered.
“Since you do have a share in this ranch, I expect you to help out,” Jesse informed him.
“Yeah, I know,” Jed agreed. “But, I’m meanin’…well, that job in Denver was more successful than any of us were figurin’ on.”
“I take it, you caught the culprit?” Belle inquired. “Was he in the game?”
“No,” Jed explained. “I mean, yeah, we caught him, but he weren’t in the game. He was out playin’ blackjack with me and the fella from Scotland Yard.”
“You caught him?” Beth asked, her eyes alight with pride. “That’s wonderful. And what a boost for your new company.”
“That’s great, Jed,” Jesse congratulated him. “But how does that help us?”
“It just so happens, that I did break the house,” Heyes took over. “I won the game, Jesse. Walked out of it with $130,000.”
Heyes never got tired of the reaction that this news always created in his audience. Cups and sandwiches stopped in mid-journey as all eyes focused on Heyes.
Then Sam whistled.  “You won $130,000 playing poker?”
Heyes grinned, glowing with pride. “Yep.”
“Oh my goodness,” Jesse exclaimed. “Right now, you’re richer than this ranch.”
“Yeah, but this ranch is part of it, Jesse,” Jed reminded him. “Just like the Medgar’s place is part ‘a it. We’re taking Beth’s advice on how to pay ourselves and the company with whatever profit we get in. So Heyes and I are each getting a third, and the company is getting a third. So that means, the company is in a position right now, ta’ help ya’ out this year, if’n ya’ need it.”
“Let me take a look at the books, first,” Beth insisted, before anyone else could step in. “We certainly won’t take any money from the company, if we don’t need to. But it is lovely to have a back-up plan. This is wonderful news.”
“You won $130,000 playing poker?” Sam asked again.
Everyone broke up laughing. Then Jed, who had been a bit disappointed in his wife’s reaction to the news, thought that he should clarify something.
“I’m thinkin’ that you ain’t getting’ the whole picture, Darlin’,” he said to her.
Beth turned questioning eyes towards him. “You and Hannibal won enough money for the company that you can back the ranch up, if needs be. I’d say that’s wonderful news.”
“Yeah, but Darlin’, I also got a third ‘a that money,” Jed pointed out. “Just like Heyes did, and like the company did. I ain’t dirt poor no more, Beth.”
Beth had been so relieved about saving the ranch, that it took a moment for this additional information to sink in. Everyone saw it happen when it did, though. Her jaw dropped and her eyes lit up even more than they already were.
“Oh, Sweetheart!” Belle exclaimed. “What a wonderful surprise!”
“Oh, you mean...?” Beth stammered. “Oh my…we actually…Oh Jed!”
Jumping up from her chair, she embraced her husband in a smothering hug around his neck, and planted kisses upon his curly head. The sound of his laughter could be heard from somewhere within this encompassing embrace.
Then, much to Heyes’ surprise, Beth ran over and have him the same treatment.
“Oh, Hannibal! Thank you. I can’t believe it! What news!”
“You’re welcome,” Heyes responded, through his laughter. “But your husband is just as responsible as me. We’re a team, remember.”
“Oh yes, I know! But, oh my. Miranda! You must have been thrilled!”
Beth’s exuberance was contagious and Miranda was laughing along with everyone else.
“Yes,” she agreed. “I was a wonderful close to our honeymoon.”
“What’s everybody so excited about?” Sally asked. “I thought we were always rich.”
“You’re right, Sweetheart,” Miranda told her. “But this is good news for our whole family, not just for us. It’s going to make things a little easier, that’s all.”
“Oh, yes,” Beth agreed, as she began to calm down and returned to her chair. “I’ll have to really do my homework now. Hannibal, once you get settled, get me all the numbers. Exactly how much each third works out to, what all the expenses are, that kind of thing. It’s so easy to go through money, if you don’t keep track of where you’re spending it. But yes, if we’re all careful with it, this is going to bring about a lot of changes for us.”
T.J. let out a loud, indignant wail from the bedroom under the stairs. Apparently he had heard all the commotion and decided that in bed was not the place he wanted to be.
“Ah oh,” Jed commented. “It sounds like Thaddeus wants to join us. I’ll go get him.”
“Thank you,” Beth said as Jed departed. Then she sighed and took a sip of tea to calm herself. “Oh my. I’m all aflutter. This is going to take some getting used to.”
“Don’t worry,” Heyes assured her. “It won’t take long. When I think of how many times Jed and I have gone from rags to riches, and then down to rags again, it scares me. I like to think that we’ve both grown up a bit, from those days, and, with Beth’s help, we’ll manage this windfall a whole lot better than we have done in the past.”
“Your priorities are different now,” Jesse pointed out. “You both have families and a business to maintain. I can’t see either one of you being irresponsible with it now. Money that comes easy isn’t valued. You and Jed have both worked hard to get to where you are, and now, it’s paying off. Good job.”
Heyes smiled. Praise from Jesse meant more to him than all their ill-gotten gains from the past.
“Thank you, Jesse. We won’t let you down.”
“I know you won’t. Now, Sam!”
Sam woke up from his fantasies. “Yessir.”
“Between you and Deke, you two have pretty much taken over the running of this ranch,” Jesse pointed out. “Considering our changed circumstances, I think it’s time that both of you got a raise in pay.”
Sam lit up. “Oh! Yessir, thank you.”
“You’ve both earned it. It’s not going to happen right away. We have to let Mrs. Curry here, get her hands on the books and let us know exactly where we stand. But I don’t doubt that it’s going to be a sight better than where it was yesterday.”
“Yes, Papa,” Beth agreed. “It will be.”
“And now,” Jesse continued. “Hannibal, why don’t you reach up to that top cupboard and bring down the bottle of brandy. I think a toast is warranted, after all this.”
“Yessir,” Heyes agreed, as he stood up to do as bidden. “And I even brought out a bottle of tequila for you, for later.”
“Tequila!” Jesse exclaimed. “Oh ho! I haven’t had tequila in years. You’re a good man.”
Jed returned to the table, with T.J. in his arms. The baby was still struggling to wake up, but he was determined to be a part of what ever the celebration was all about. He cooed and laughed excitedly, as Jed bounced him gently on his knee. Grabbing a spoon off the table, he began to rap it against the wood and shriek with pleasure at his contribution.
Beth got out glasses, and as Hannibal filled them, she handed them out to all the adults at the table. Sally looked disappointed.
“Can I have one, too?” she asked.
Hannibal’s first reaction was to say no, but before he did, he found himself second-guessing it. Well, why not? Her curiosity is only going to get bigger, so might as well nip it in the bud right now.
“Okay,” he said. “Beth, will you get Sally a glass?”
Both Miranda and Beth gave him a look, but Belle and Jesse smiled at the new father’s wisdom. Jed and Sam sat back to watch the experiment unfold.
Surprise was Sally’s main reaction. She had completely expected to be refused. She looked with wonder and delight, at the glass with a small amount of brandy in it, as it was placed on the table in front of her.
“Well, here we are, again,” said Jesse, once everyone was seated with a brandy. “This seems to be a regular thing in this family now, to be congratulating you two young men, on a job well done. You’re part of this family, and I’m proud of you. Both of you. You’ve come a long, long way, but you’ve proved yourselves, over and over again, in your commitment to making your new lives successful. To Beth and Jed. To Miranda and Hannibal. May you continue to be happy in your marriages, and prosperous in your lives. Cheers.”
“I agree,” Belle put in. “We couldn’t be more proud. What a wonderful family this has grown into.”
“Thank you, Jesse, and Belle,” Heyes said. “And I couldn’t agree with you more.”
“Yeah,” Jed concurred. “We couldn’t ‘a landed in a better place.”
Glasses were tapped all around, even if it meant standing up and leaning over the table to reach Jesse’s.  Then Jed and Hannibal locked eyes and made their own silent toast to one another. No words needed to be said on that one.
Everyone took a drink and sat down, again.
“Mmm,” Heyes commented. “Very nice.”
“It’s the good stuff,” Jesse agreed. “Saved for these special occasions.”
Admiration for the brandy was interrupted by a strangled gasp coming from the youngest partaker. All eyes went to Sally, who was looking anything but appreciate. Her face was a picture of pure shock and disappointment, as her eyes watered, and her nose began to run. Another rasping cough erupted from her lungs and her face went from red to puce, as she fought for every breath.
“Oh dear,” Belle stated. “I should have had a glass of water ready for that. Come along with me, Sally. Let’s go get you a drink.”
Sally latched on to her grandma’s hand and the two of them hurried off to the kitchen. The men at the table smiled appreciatively at the reaction, while Miranda shook her head and stood up.
“Oh, you men,” she stated, in mock disgust, and followed her daughter into the kitchen to give support.
“That’ll cure that for a while,” Heyes stated triumphantly. “I doubt she will show much interest in anything alcoholic for at least another ten years.”
Jed smirked, trying hard not to break out into a laughing fit. Sam looked thoughtful.
Time to head back to town eventually came upon them. Percy and Fanny appeared eager to head for home, and came to stand by the gate as soon as preparations were in the making. Karma, on the other hand, continued to be aloft. Try as Hannibal might, the mare wouldn’t even look at him, let alone come to the gate to be haltered.
Percy was all harnessed up, and Sally’s belongings loaded into the buggy, while Hannibal was still out in the pasture, trying to entice his mare. Even the bucket of oats wasn’t getting her attention. Heyes knew she was really in a snit, when she allowed Daisy, Buck and Gov to come over and help themselves to the oats that should have been hers.
Finally, Heyes slumped and gave it up. 
“Fine!” he said. “Be like that. You can just stay here and be a brood mare. I’ll go buy myself another horse, and I’ll make sure it’s a GELDING this time!”
A dark chestnut ear flicked his way, but the eye refused to come around.
Heyes shook his head, then turned to stomp back towards the gate. Jed, who was leaning up against the fence to watch the contest, smiled as his cousin approached.  Heyes snarled.
“Nothin’,” Kid lied. “I’m sure Eric would have a real nice geldin’ for ya’.”
“Goddam, bloody mare…” Heyes griped as he opened the gate and then slammed it closed behind him. He tossed the now empty grain bucket at his cousin. “Here! Do something useful and take that back to the barn.”
Jed’s grin broadened. “Uh huh.”
Then Heyes came up short, as he recognized another problem in the works. Sally was sitting up on Fannie, waiting with everyone else to head for home. Sitting on the ground beside her, was that blue tick dog. His mouth was open, and his tongue lolling out in a happy smile in anticipation of heading back to town with his family.
“Aw, Sally,” the father began. “Don’t you think that dog would be happier living out here, with all this room to run around on?”
Sally’s expression dropped, and her lip trembled in anticipation of tears to come.
“No!” she insisted. “He’s fine at our place.”
“What about Mouse?” Heyes asked. “I don’t think she would…”
“They get along great!” Sally countered. “They even play together. Please Papa! He wouldn’t be happy out here, I know he wouldn’t!”
“But Darlin’, he’s a ranch dog, not a town dog,” Heyes tried to be reasonable. “And your grandparents really need a new ranch dog. It would be perfect for him.”
Now the tears began in ernest, and even Blu was beginning to look concerned.
“No! He wouldn’t be happy out here.”
“Ah, Heyes,” Jed intervened. “We already tried that. It didn’t work. When Sally and J.J. started going to school again, we put the dog in the barn, thinkin’ that once she was out of sight, he would settle. Nope. As soon as we let ’im outa the barn, he took off for town. Somehow, he knew she was at the schoolhouse, cause that’s where he spent the whole day, waitin’ for her.”
“Well, maybe if we…”
“Nope,” Jed said. “Tried that too. He howled and barked the whole time, until he found a way out’a the barn, and again, headed for town.”
“Then we can…”
“Nope, he chewed through the rope.”
“Then tie him up with a…”
“Nope. He’d have ta’ stayed tied up all the time. Then what good would he be as a ranch dog?”
“Oh.” Heavy sigh.
“That dog’s miserable without her,” Jed continued. “He follows ‘em in to town every day, waits on the schoolhouse porch, and then comes back out with her in the afternoon. I told ya’, ya’ had a dog, Heyes. You ain’t gonna get rid ‘a ‘im.”
Heyes looked at the dog, who was looking at him with ears up and a hopeful expression in his eyes. The human sighed. He looked back at his mare to find that the liver rump was still pointed in his direction. Shaking his head, he threw up his arms in defeat.
“Alright! Fine. Let’s go home.”
Blu jumped up and danced for joy. He made one galloping loop around Fanny’s legs, then made a bee line for Heyes, and smiled up his thanks and gratitude. 
Heyes gave him a pat on the head and then was forever smitten. He did, after all, always like dogs.
Heyes stepped up onto the seat, beside his wife and nodded to Jed. “See ya’ later, Cousin.”
“Yep,” Jed answered. “I’ll be back in town in a couple ‘a days. See how things are goin’.”
Heyes nodded. He glanced at the front porch, and seeing Belle and Beth, and Jesse on his crutches, all waving goodbye, he waved back, and then clucked Percy into motion. He didn’t give Karma a second glance. Two could play at this game.
Sally wiped away her tears and smiled a thank you to her uncle. She then gave Fanny a nudging, even though the mare was already following the buggy, and the family, with the dog bringing up the rear, headed for home.
Jed nodded farewell and then headed back to the barn. He’d hardly gone two steps however, when he heard a shrill whinny coming from the pasture. He turned to see Karma looking somewhat agitated.
The mare’s head was up, and her ears were pricked in the direction of the disappearing buggy. That wasn’t suppose to happen! What did her human think he was doing, leaving her here again? No, no, no. With an irritated snort and a toss of her red mane, she dug in her heels and galloped head long, towards the fence.
Jed wasn’t sure if she was going to put on the brakes, or go through it. But she did neither. Gathering her hind quarters up, underneath her, she dug in deep, and in flying colours, pushed her bulk up and over the fence. Landing on the ground on the other side, she gave a squeal, and a buck in triumph and then took off at a full gallop towards town.
Jed smirked as he headed back towards the barn. Yep, Heyes and that mare deserved one another.
As soon as Harry and Isabelle returned to Denver from their honeymoon, the first friends they visited were Steven and Bridget. This was not done out of any feelings of affection or loyalty, but born out of a need for answers.
To say that Isabelle was livid, upon hearing the fate of her family, is an understatement. Sheriff Jacobs had been one of the few people in town who had made any effort at all, to support her. He had shown her understanding and compassion for her situation when many others simply turned their backs upon her. The fact that most weren’t even aware of the abuses that she had undergone throughout most of her life, did not appease her resentment and bitterness towards the town folks.
But Sheriff Jacobs had been different. To learn that he had not only been killed in the line of duty, but that it had been a member of her own family that had done the deed, was more than she could tolerate. When Steven had told her of the fate of her father and eldest brother, she hadn’t even tried to hide the small smile that pulled at her lips. To her, this was Sheriff Jacobs parting gift; to free her from the family ties that had only brought pain and misery into her life.
“Are you going to defend Seth and Courtney?” she asked Steven, as they sat in the parlour, drinking tea.
“No,” he admitted. “I’m not permitted to.”
“Why not?” she asked him. “You’re the best lawyer in town.”
“I’m too close to the case,” he explained. “And there are other fine lawyers in town. In fact, the courts have already assigned one for Seth, and I’m sure there will be others assigned for Courtney and for Mr. Shuster.”
Isabelle snorted. “I couldn’t give two hoots about Courtney or ‘Luke the Lowlife’! But Seth. I’m sure he was simply following along with Pa and Emmitt.  They’re bullies, both of them! But that’s not Seth. I’ll sell the ranch and get Seth a good lawyer, but Courtney and Luke Shuster can fend for themselves.”
“Oh now, Peaches,” Harry soothed her. “I know you and your sister don’t see eye to eye, but that doesn’t mean you can turn your back on her now. She is family.”
Isabelle snorted. “Family! That cow was never there for me; always running off to our aunt when things at home got too rough. I don’t owe her anything.”
“The courts might see that differently,” Steven informed her. “If you sell the ranch, then you are obligated to pay for the lawyers defending your siblings. If you refuse to the sell the ranch until after the trials, then the courts have the right to seize it, in order to cover the fees. One way or another, if the family has the money to pay for their defences, then you are obligated to pay it.”
“That’s not fair!” Isabelle declared, and would have stamped her foot, if she had been standing. “Courtney never put anything into that ranch. I don’t care what crimes she has been charged with, she deserves to go to prison for the way she’s treated me all my life! I’m hardly going to waste my money on her defense.”
“But it’s not your money,” Steven pointed out, patiently. “The ranch belongs to the family. You are each entitled to a share of it. Now, in circumstances like this, the court will lay first claim on it. Then, anything that is left over will be split up between the three surviving members. They, of course, being you, Courtney and Seth.”
Isabelle huffed in frustration. “Harry, isn’t there anything you can do about this? You know the law. There must be something you can do.”
Harry looked panicked at this odd request. He and Steven exchanged glances, then Harry gathered himself and came to his own rescue.
“Well, certainly, I understand the law, Sweetness,” he concurred. “But I’m afraid my hands are tied in this matter. As fine an agent as I am, I still can’t over-ride a court ruling. The judge always has the final say.”
Isabelle huffed again. “Fine!” she finally rescinded.  “The ranch will be put up for sale, along with all the livestock. I doubt we’ll get much for it, the place is a shambles. Once the court and lawyer fees are covered, I probably won’t get anything. Still, it might be worth it to get away from that place, and that town, and those people! Thank goodness we have a lovely townhouse right here.”
“Yes,” Bridget tried to smile about that. “You are well situated. We can go shopping together, and get together for tea.”
Isabelle looked at Bridget through a blank expression. The two of them associating on any regular basis was the last thing she had any intentions of doing.
Though feeling insulted at the slight, Bridget also had to acknowledge a sense of relief wash over her. Obviously, this was one bridge that she would not have to cross over, too often.
Then, much to Bridget’s relief, Sylvie put in an appearance and smiled brightly at her mistress.
“Shall I bring in more hot water, for the tea?” she asked.
“Oh.” Bridget tried to cover her hesitation. “Yes, that would be…”
“No, no,” Isabelle cut in. “I have the answers I need. The next step is to get that ranch up for sale.” Then she slumped with disappointment when another thought hit her. “I suppose I should go and visit Seth and Courtney over at the jailhouse. How long before their trials get under way?”
“It depends on how long it takes to get everything organized,” Steven told her. “The court has already assigned a fine lawyer to prosecute, by the name of Mr. Bailey.  A Mr. Maxwell as been assigned to Seth’s case and will likely be assigned to Courtney and Shuster’s cases as well. I admit though, money to help grease the wheels will get things moving along, faster.”
“Fine,” Isabelle stated. “Perhaps I can get a loan at the bank, using the ranch as collateral, until it sells. The sooner we get this nonsense over with, the better. But…I’m not paying for Luke Shuster’s lawyer. It’s bad enough having to waste money on family, let alone help that shyster. He can sink or swim on his own.”
“Understandable,” Steven agreed. “You are under no obligation to cover the expense for a non-family member. The sooner you can get the loan application started, the better. You still have time this afternoon to get that arranged.”
“Then we’d best get to it,” Isabelle announced, as she stood up. “Come along, Harry. I suppose I’ll need you to sign the paper work.”
“Coming, my peach,” Harry responded.
Everyone came to their feet and the small group headed towards the front door.
Once there, Harry turned and shook Steven’s hand.
“Fine advice,” he praised the lawyer. “It’s good to have a lawyer in your back pocket, I always say.”
Steven cocked a brow, but chose to ignore the backward compliment. Harry meant well, he couldn’t help it, if he was socially inept.
“Of course,” Steven responded. “Always happy to help out.”
“Fine, fine. Well, come along, Peaches. Still lots to do.”
The front door closed upon the departing guests, and the resident couple breathed a sigh of relief.
“What a pair!” Bridget announced. “This is one case I’m glad you’re not taking on.”
“Likewise, my dear,” Steven concurred. “I earned my rights by walking through fire, now it’s young Mr. Bailey’s turn. He’ll be a much better lawyer, once he gets through these three cases.”
Bridget laughed.  “That’s cruel!” She accused her husband. “You’re not going to leave him to deal with that family, all on his own, are you?”
“No, I suppose not,” Steven relented. “Nobody deserves that.”
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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 62
Location : Camano Island Washington

More Loose Ends Empty
PostSubject: Re: More Loose Ends   More Loose Ends EmptyThu Aug 18, 2016 11:24 am

October came in like a lion. The leaves were still sporting their fall colours when the first snowfall came down and covered their brilliance. Everyone buckled down and prepared for winter. The Baird ranch lay quiet and empty. No one in the area was interested in purchasing the run-down and ill-fated property. Too many ghosts, they said. Too much blood in the ground.
Fortunately for Seth, his trial was short-lived, and cut and dry. Evidence showed, beyond a doubt, that it was Emmitt’s gun that had fired the shot that had killed Sheriff Jacobs. Seth was still found guilty of conspiracy in the murder, and was sentenced to five years in the Colorado prison. Steven figured that he would get out in three. Where his life took him after that, was anyone’s guess.
The trials of Courtney Baird and Luke Shuster, charged with aiding and abiding, and attempted kidnapping, not to mention, the additional attempted murder charge against Shuster, were a little more involved. Despite the inclement weather, Sally, Jed and Joe all were requested to appear as witnesses for the prosecution, and by requested, one could assume that insisted, was closer to the truth.
Sally saw it as a grand adventure. Jed, on the other hand, dreaded stepping into a courtroom again, even if he was going as a witness this time, rather than the defendant.
“You’re going to have to get used to this,” Hannibal told his cousin, as he was packing for the trip. “In our new profession, it’s highly likely that we will be called in to court on many of our cases.”
“Oh great!” Jed grumbled. “Ya’ never mentioned that, when we discussed starting up an investigation company.”
Heyes shrugged. “I thought it was obvious.”
“Well, it weren’t to me, Heyes,” Jed complained. “I thought all we’d have ta’ do, is catch the bad guys. All that lawyer stuff would be up ta’ Steven ta’ work out.”
“And it will be,” Heyes concurred. “With our help.”
Jed groaned.
Heyes grinned and slapped his cousin on the back. “C’mon. After our last court appearances, this is going to be a walk in the park. Besides, I’ll be there as well, for moral support.”
“You’re there to give moral support to your daughter,” Jed pointed out. “And rightly so, I guess. Since Miranda ain’t goin’.”
“Yeah.” Heyes looked crestfallen. “She’s not feeling up to the trip. Those herbs that Apache woman gave her in Texas, are helping, but they also make her tired, so she doesn’t feel up to a train trip in the winter time.”
“I can understand that,” Jed agreed. “She’s better off stayin’ home. Ahh, I’ll be fine, Heyes. It’s no big deal, really.”
“Nope,” Heyes agreed. “Not for us.”
It wasn’t until Sally arrived at the court house in Denver, that she became a little nervous. The large, red brick building was intimidating for a young child, and Heyes felt his daughter’s hand tighten slightly upon his, as they ascended the front steps. Her eyes were wide with awe, and her curiosity soon took over from her nervousness. As they entered the front hallway, her gaze went everywhere, taking in everything. She even tripped over her own feet while she was gazing up at the impressive ceiling.
Hannibal chuckled as he prevented her from falling. “I know, this is all new to you, but you do have to watch where you’re going, Sweetheart.”
The only response he got from Sally, was a face, filled with wonder, briefly looking up at him and then breaking away, once more, to scan this amazing environment.
This time, it was Jed’s turn to chuckled. “I gotta admit, whenever I’ve been in one ‘a these places, I ain’t never taken the time ta’ appreciate the design of the place.”
“Yeah, me too,” Heyes admitted. “Usually had too many other things on my mind. Ahh, through the eyes of a child.”
“Uh huh.”
“Oh, here’s the courtroom,” Heyes announced. “I think this is where we need to go.”
The trio approached the large open doors of the courtroom and were met just inside the entrance, by an official looking court bailiff.
“Good morning,” Heyes greeted him. “My daughter is here to testify in the Baird case. Is this where we need to be?”
“Yessir,” the bailiff assured him. “What is your daughter’s name?”
“Sally Heyes.”
The bailiff scanned down his list of witnesses and then nodded when he came across it. “Ah yes, there you are. You may take a seat down at the front, on the left hand side. Anywhere in the first two rows.”
“Thank you.”
“Thank you,” Sally repeated to him.
The bailiff smiled down at her. “You’re welcome, young lady.”
“Ah, I’m here as a witness, as well,” Jed said. “For both the Baird case and the Shuster case.”
“And your name, sir?”
“Jedidiah Curry.”
There was a slight shift in the atmosphere as the two names registered with the bailiff. He was a young man, but obviously not so young as to not have heard of the infamous pair. He handled himself professionally though, and merely scanned his list of witnesses again, until he found the required name.
“Yessir,” he confirmed. “You may all take your seats, up front. The Baird case should be starting shortly.”
“Yeah, thanks.”
“Did Deputy Joe Morin accompany you?” The bailiff asked, as he caught that name also on the list, and from the same hometown.
“Apparently, he’s not due to testify until tomorrow,” Heyes explained. “He’ll be coming in then.”
“Ah yes. That’s fine.”
Walking down the aisle, between the rows of benches, both Heyes and Jed were casually scanning the other people in the room. There wasn’t that big a crowd, and most had already taken their seats, though some were still standing and discussing points of interest with other attendees.
“I don’t see Isabelle or Harry here,” Jed commented.
“Yeah, I noticed that,” Heyes concurred.  “I know the two sisters don’t like each other, but you’d think Isabelle would at least put in an appearance.”
“I guess there ain’t no accountin’ for family.”
“Hmm. Oh, there’s Mr. Bailey.”
The lawyer was a young man, blond hair, blue eyes, and an average build. Though he didn’t quite have the same spark that Steven had, he still exuded confidence and intelligence, even this early on in his career. Still, this case hardly had the same high profile as the Heyes and Curry trials, so Mr. Bailey was not having to deal with the same pressure that Steven had had to, so early on in his career. Steven had done well in a no win situation, and he had proven his worth. Hopefully this young lawyer would accomplish the same.
Mr. Bailey spotted them and came to meet them half way.
“Good morning, Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry,” he said, as they shook hands. “You’re just in time.” Then he squatted down to be on eye level with Sally and he shook her hand as well. “Good morning, Miss Heyes. How are you feeling today?”
“Good morning,” Sally answered him and smiled nervously. “I’m okay.”
“Good,” he said. “Because there is nothing for you to be nervous about. When you are called to the stand, you just go up to that chair over there. I’ll ask you the same questions that I did yesterday, in my office. You answer them like you did then. Okay?”
“Okay. Now, Mr. Maxwell, the defending attorney might want to ask you some questions as well. Just answer them as simply and precisely as you can. Don’t offer up information if he doesn’t ask you for it. Just answer the question. Okay?”
“You already told me that,” Sally pointed out. “Don’t worry. I’m fine.”
Mr. Bailey smiled. “I know you are.” He stood back up and nodded to Heyes. “She’ll do fine.”
“Mmm hmm,” Heyes agreed.
“If you want to get settled, I’ll be joining you over there, shortly.”
“That’s fine, Mr. Bailey.”
The small group headed to the first row of seats and sat down.
Jed sighed, dramatically. “Here we are again. I hate sittin’ up here. Brings back too many bad memories.”
“I like it!” Sally announced. “I can actually see what’s going on.”
The two adults smiled at each other, over the child’s red hair. She seemed to be handling the situation better than they were.
Then Heyes felt a tapping on his shoulder, just as something caught Jed’s eye, and he glanced back, behind them.
“Hey, Harry,” Heyes greeted him. “We were thinking you weren’t going to make it.”
“Peaches was doing her best not to,” Harry explained. “But I finally laid down the law, and insisted we come. She’s none too happy about it, though.”
All three men looked back to the center line of seating, and the storm cloud hovering over Isabelle’s face could not be mistaken.
“Yeah,” Jed agreed. “I can tell.”
“I put my foot down,” Harry continued. “Despite hard feelings, this is her sister. She needs to put a show of support.”
“Good for you, Harry,” Jed complimented him. “Sometimes ya’ just gotta be the boss.”
“Exactly, Kid,” Harry agreed. “Besides, we gotta keep track of where the money’s goin’. If we’re not careful, the loan we got from the bank is gonna exceed what we get for the ranch. Gotta be careful about these things. Gotta stay on top of that defence lawyer. Whatever his name is.”
“I think it’s Maxwell,” Heyes commented.
“Yes, you’re right,” Harry concurred. “Very good, Heyes.”
“Thanks, Harry. That means a lot coming from you.”
Harry puffed up with his own self-importance, and he gave Heyes a pat on the shoulder.
“Praise given when it’s deserved, Heyes. Given when deserved.”
“Uh huh.”
“Now, I better get back to Peaches,” the detective observed. “People are beginning to move away from her.”
“See ya’ later, Harry,” Jed told him.
Harry nodded and made his way back to where his seething wife was stoically sitting.
“He’s gonna have trouble with that one,” Jed commented.
“Hmm, yeah think?” Heyes concurred. “The best we can hope for, is that they don’t reproduce.”
Jed snorted.
Sally looked back at the couple, then up at her father. “Why is Miss Baird…I mean, Mrs. Briscoe, in such a bad mood?”
“Oh well,” Heyes thought fast. “I’m sure she’s just worried about her sister.”
“Oh.” Sally nodded her understanding and settled in to wait.
Once the trial got underway, it didn’t take very long to come to a conclusion. The only witness for the defense was Isabelle’s aunt and since she was becoming feeble of mind, her testimony didn’t amount to much.
It was a relief to all when Jed was called to testify, because, at least his narrative was coherent and logical.
“Mr. Curry,” Mr. Bailey addressed the witness. “Could you please give the court an account of what you, yourself, witnessed in these events.”
“Sure,” Jed agreed. “My first indication a’ trouble was when I went to the pasture ta’ get my horse and I discovered that Sally’s mare was missin’. There were also indications that Sally was the one who had taken her. I rode back in ta’ town ta’ let Sally’s grandma know that somethin’ was up, and that I was gonna try and follow the tracks, an’ find her.”
“You let her grandmother know?” Mr. Bailey asked. “Why not her parents?”
“Ah, well, her folks were on their honeymoon,” Jed explained. “Sally was in the care of her grandparents.”
There was some speculative mumbling from the peanut gallery concerning the timing of these events, and Mr. Bailey thought it would be good to clarify. Didn’t want to leave people with the wrong impression.
“Is it safe to assume that this was a much delayed honeymoon?” he asked the witness. “Considering the fact that they already have a child.”
Jed felt a slight irritation at this line of questioning, thinking that it had nothing what-so-ever to do with the case. But then taking a look at the assembly and noting the expressions of disapproval coming back at him, he agreed with Bailey, that some clarification might be required.
 “Yeah, it was delayed,” Jed concurred. “But not by as long as you’re thinkin’. Ya’ see, Heyes and Miranda adopted Sally on the day they got married. Life kind’a took over for a while after that, so they didn’t get around ta’ a honeymoon until recently.”
The reaction from the assembly, to this information, was double-sided. Some smiled and nodded their heads in approval, while others slumped in disappointment. Those people had been hoping for a scandal in the making.
“Of course,” Mr. Bailey accepted the explanation. “Carry on, Mr. Curry. What happened next?”
“I rode back out to the pasture and picked up Sally’s trail from there,” Jed continued. “It didn’t take long ta’ find her, neither. I was about half a mile from the Baird ranch, when I spotted her mare, with Sally aboard, gallopin’ towards me.
“Even from that distance, I could tell that Fannie was runnin’ scared, and I wondered why Sally wasn’t doin’ nothin’ ta’ bring her under control. I got my horse in position ta’ cut the mare off and get her stopped, and that’s when I saw that Sally’s hands were tied to the saddle horn…”
Heyes didn’t realize that he had tensed up with anger at this narrative, until he felt his daughter’s hand on his arm.
“It’s alright, Papa,” she whispered to him. “Fannie looked after me.”
Heyes relaxed and smiled down at her. “I know, Darlin’,” he whispered back, as he squeezed her little hand. “Fanny did a good job.”
Sally grinned and nodded.
“…She was scared ta’ death…” Jed continued.
“I wasn’t that scared,” Sally whispered in her own defense.
“…and kept repeatin’ that they had tried to kidnap her.”
“They, as in who?” Mr. Bailey asked.
“It was a man and a woman,” Jed explained. “She only named the woman as Courtney Baird. Sally didn’t recognize the man.”
Heyes saw Courtney’s back tense when Jed spoke her name out loud. Mr. Maxwell leaned over and whispered something in her ear, and she relaxed again.
“Alright,” Mr. Bailey accepted that. “What happened next?”
“I got Sally back to her grandma as quick as I could,” Jed carried on. “Then me and Joe, ah Deputy Morin, we packed up some supplies and headed back to the ranch ta’ see if we could pick up their trail. Sally had said that they were plannin’ on meetin’ up with Courtney’s pa in order ta’ give ‘im some money. We were both pretty keen on catchin’ them two, and we did. It was durin’ that time, when Luke Shuster took a shot at me.”
“Yes, Mr. Curry,” Mr. Bailey interrupted. “You will have the opportunity to testify at Mr. Shuster’s trial. For now, please stick to the events surrounding Miss. Baird’s case.”
“Uh huh,” Jed conceded, though he couldn’t really see how to separate them.
“So, did Miss Baird actually meet up with her father at this time?”
“Yeah, she did. And gave him some money.”
“Is this when you and the Deputy made the arrest?”
“No,” Jed answered. “We was hopin’ Ole man Baird would lead us back to his sons, but he didn’t have the chance. True ta’ form, Baird became angry over somethin’ and made the move to hit Miss Baird, and then all hell broke loose. Turns out that Wheat Carlson, who had been ridin’ with the posse, had followed Baird to this clearin’, and took a shot at ‘im. He missed, and Baird grabbed his daughter ta’ use as a shield.”
Grumbling of sympathetic disapproval rose up from the assembly.  Those who had come with a pre-conceived opinion of Courtney Baird’s guilt, now found themselves viewing her as a helpless victim under the control of a brutal man.
“I think we was all tryin’ ta’ get in a shot at Baird, but none of us could chance it,” Jed continued. “Now, not wantin’ ta’ combine the two cases, mind ya’, but it was then that Shuster took his shot at me. I was distracted…” Quiet laughter from the assembly. “…and I turned to deal with that threat. I shot him in the arm and took ‘im out’a the situation.  I was aware ‘a more shootin’ goin’ on in the clearin’, but I was focused on Shuster.
“It turns out that Deputy Morin got his clear shot at Baird, and he took it, killin’ ‘im where he stood. Courtney ran back toward us, and Deputy Morin caught her. He put her and Shuster under arrest.”
“Alright. Thank you, Mr. Curry,” Mr. Bailey said. “No more questions.”
“Mr. Maxwell,” the judge moved things along. “Do you have any questions for this witness?”
“Yes, I do, Your Honour,” Mr. Maxwell stood up and approached the witness. “Mr. Curry, that was a very interesting narrative. But it is still simple hearsay that Miss Baird attempted to kidnap the child. Is there any actually proof of this?”
“Yeah,” Jed insisted. “Sally’s hands tied to the saddle horn, for one. Her word, for another. Not ta’ mention both Shuster and Miss Baird acknowledged it, each in their efforts to accuse the other.”
“So Miss Baird openly admitted to the attempted kidnapping of Miss Heyes?”
“Did she openly admit to being the instigator of that attempt?”
“Luke Shuster accused her of bein’ that.”
Maxwell chuckled, and shrugged that off.
“Of course, he’s going to try to shift the blame,” he pointed out. “How do you know that he was speaking the truth? Obviously, Miss Baird, by your own witness, has been the victim of abuse from her father. A young woman who has grown up in that situation is easily swayed by a man’s opinion and wishes. Do you not think it likely that Mr. Shuster was the one who instigated the attempt to kidnap the child, and Miss Baird only went along with it because she feared retribution, if she refused?”
Sally was just about to jump up to deny that suggestion, when her father stopped her.
“I know it’s hard,” he whispered. “But you’ll have your turn to say what happened. Be patient.”
Sally let loose a huge sigh, but settled back into her seat to await her turn in the witness box.
Jed smirked at the suggestion. “Neither of them sisters is wiltin’ flowers, Mr. Maxwell,” he pointed out. “The abuses they suffered at the hands of their pa, didn’t make ‘em submissive, it made ‘em tough. Some might even say, mean.”
“Oh come now, Mr. Curry,” Mr. Maxwell pushed. “Do you really think that a woman, even one who has had the unfortunate up-bringing that Miss Baird has had, would intentionally do anything to harm a child?”
Jed came close to loosing his professionalism with this enquiry, and only held on to his self-control by the skin of his teeth.
“Yeah, Mr. Maxwell, I do!” he came close to shouting. “My wife and I lost our first baby because of a woman who was quite capable of harmin’ anyone, includin’ a child, in order to get what she wanted! They ain’t all filled with maternal love! They can be just as cold and ruthless as any man, and some, even more so. So yes! I do think a woman is capable of it!”
A heavy weight fell upon the assembly at this explosive testimonial. The men tended to feel a strong sense of masculine protection towards the fairer sex and told themselves that there must have been something terribly wrong with a woman who would do such a thing. Or better yet, that the witness was mistaken in his accusation. Being over-come with grief at the lose of his child, he placed blame on the most convenient person, who, in his case, was an unfortunate woman.
The ladies, however, tutted their sympathy over the lose of a child, and even though Courtney wasn’t the lady in question, support for her situation was beginning to wan in that quarter.  Though most of the men were being manipulated by Mr. Maxwell into thinking that a woman was not capable of such treachery, the women were not buying into it.
Heyes felt his heart constrict while listening to the raw emotion in his cousin’s outburst. It didn’t matter how much time goes by, or how many other children you have, you never get over the loss of that one. He felt his own throat tighten with memories over that devastating event and knew that Jed was feeling the same thing.
Again, it was the touch of his daughter’s small hand on his, that brought him back to the present. He smiled down at her and nodded.
“I’m alright,” he assured her.
Sally accepted that, and went back to listening to the proceedings.
“I am sorry for your loss,” Mr. Maxwell responded. “But you cannot allow the grief of that one event to cloud your judgement of this woman and her situation.”
“I ain’t lettin’ it cloud my judgement,” Jed insisted. “I’m simply tellin’ ya’ what happened.”
“Alright, Mr. Curry. I have no more questions.”
“Fine, Mr. Maxwell,” the judge stated. “Mr. Curry, you may return to your seat. Mr. Bailey, do you have any more witnesses for the prosecution?”
“Yes, one more for today,” Mr. Bailey announced. “I would like to call Miss Sally Heyes to the stand.”
“There you go,” Heyes whispered. “It’s your turn to shine. Just answer the questions and tell it like it is.”
“Yes, Papa, I know,” she said. “Don’t worry; I’ll be fine.”
Heyes smiled and sent his daughter on her way.
Jed sent her an encouraging smile as they passed one another. He then sat back down and sighed, heavily.
“Damn, I hate bein’ up there,” he admitted, again. “And I gotta do it again for Shuster’s trial. How do we get ourselves inta’ these situations, Heyes?”
“I’m not the one being called up as a witness,” Heyes pointed out. “This is all on you, cousin.”
“Yeah, thanks.”
Heyes grinned. “Anytime.”
Sally got herself seating in the witness chair and allowed herself to be sworn in, even though she didn’t really understand the significance of it.
“How are you, today, Miss Heyes?” Mr. Bailey asked her.
“I’m fine,” Sally responded. “How are you?”
Chuckling from the assembly was quickly terminated by the judge, and the proceedings continued.
“I’m fine,” Mr. Bailey told her, with a smile. “Are you ready to answer some questions?”
“Good. Can you tell us what happened that day, and why you decided to skip school and ride out to the Baird ranch all by yourself?”
“Yes,” Sally agreed. “I got a message from the dog, Blu, who lived there, that he needed help.”
“The dog sent you a message?” Mr. Bailey questioned. This was a new one on him.
“Yes,” Sally confirmed. “And it was important too. He was scared and desperate. I needed to get to him, even if it meant breaking the rules, and skipping school.”
“Okay,” Mr. Bailey accepted that, putting the statement down to a child’s fantasy. “What happened after you got out to the ranch?”
“I was finally able to get Blu to come out of hiding,” Sally explained. “He was very scared, you see, and didn’t want to come out at first. But he was hungry, and I coaxed him out with my sandwich. But while I was feeding him, inside the barn, I heard people arriving outside. Even though I recognized Miss Baird, I didn’t think it was safe to go out, so I stayed hidden. I overheard them talking.”
“And what were they talking about?” Mr. Bailey prompted her.
“Miss Baird was angry,” Sally continued. “There was a man with her, who I didn’t know, and they didn’t seem to like each other. Miss Baird was giving him money to take even more money to a place called Deke’s Canyon. They seemed to be arguing a lot. Then Fanny whinnied, and they knew I was there. The man grabbed me, and pulled me out of the barn. Blu tried to protect me, but Miss Baird was his rightful owner, so he had to listen to her.”
“So, this man pulled you out of the barn, against your will?” Mr. Bailey asked her.
“What happened then?”
“They started asking me what I had over-heard,” Sally explained. “Then they started arguing over what to do with me. The man didn’t seem to know, he was just mad. Then Miss Baird suggested that he take me with him, when he went to meet up with her pa. When he didn’t want to do it, Miss Baird then suggested that they just kill me.”
“Excuse me?” Mr. Bailey interrupted her. “I don’t think the court heard the last part of your statement. Could you please repeat it, louder?”
Sally swallowed down her tears at the memory of this incident, but she nodded bravely, and continued on.
“When the man didn’t want to take me with him, Miss Baird told him to just kill me, instead.”
Heyes’ jaw tightened and he felt his fists begin to clench all on their own. His angry gaze bore holes in Courtney’s back as this new information sank in. No matter what the outcome of this trial, that woman better never show her face in Brookswood again.
“I see,” Mr. Bailey responded, as he sent a quick glance back at the defendant. “And what did the man say to that?”
“He didn’t want to,” Sally continued. “He said that the last thing he needed was an angry Hannibal Heyes on his trail. I don’t know what he meant.”
“Yes, well…” Mr. Bailey sent another quick glace back, only this time it was to the father. The look on Mr. Heyes’ face was enough to convince Mr. Bailey that Shuster had, at least, shown some wisdom in that decision. “So then what happened?”
“The man, she kept calling him Luke, decided to take me with him,” Sally continued. “They brought Fanny out of the barn and found a saddle for her. I tried to tell them that it was okay to just let me go home, and that I wouldn’t tell anyone that I had seen them, but they didn’t listen to me. He lifted me up into the saddle and tied my hands to the horn. He used baling twine, and it hurt.”
Sally sniffed, as the memories of that event brought tears to her eyes. She looked to her father, and Heyes smiled at her, and nodded. Taking comfort from that, she took a deep breath and continued.
“The man was leading Fanny over to his own horse, when Blu attacked him.” She smiled with the memory of this event. “Blu grabbed hold of his ankle and wouldn’t let go. The man dropped Fanny’s reins, and she decided that it was time to leave. She got into a gallop right away, and though they tried to stop her, she was too fast for them. I called for Blu, and he came with us, and we got away.”
“And that was when you ran into Mr. Curry?”
Sally looked at her Uncle Jed, and smiled. “Yes. I don’t know what Miss Baird and that man did, after that.”
“That’s fine, Miss Heyes,” Mr. Bailey assured her. “I think we have a good enough idea of what transpired after that. Now, one last thing. Are you positive that the woman you saw out at the ranch that day, was indeed the defendant, Miss Courtney Baird?”
“Yes.” Sally was adamant.
“Is she in this courtroom?”
“Can you point her out for us?”
Without hesitation, Sally pointed directly at Courtney.
“Thank you, Miss Heyes. I have no more questions, Your Honour.”
“Thank you, Mr. Bailey,” the judge responded. “Mr. Maxwell, do you have any questions for this witness?”
“Yes, Your Honour,” Mr. Maxwell stood and approached the witness. “Miss Heyes, how old are you?”
“Ten,” Sally answered.
Heyes cringed. Don’t start lying now.
“Ten?” Mr. Maxwell questioned.
“Well, almost,” Sally admitted.
“Well,” Mr. Maxwell nodded with satisfaction. “So, almost.”
“You’re young and impressionable, Miss Heyes,” Mr. Maxwell continued. “Could it be that your dislike of the defendant might have tainted your view of the events that transpired out at the ranch that day?”
Sally frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Well,” Mr. Maxwell smiled. “’Almost’ doesn’t really cut it, in a court of law, young lady. If you’re not sure of your own age, perhaps you’re not so sure of what you witnessed that day, either. Is it not more likely that the man, rather than the woman, would have been more inclined to suggest the kidnapping and murder of a young child?”
Sally’s frown deepened. “No. She is the one who said it, not him. He didn’t want to.”
“Perhaps there was more going on there, than what you could understand,” Mr. Maxwell continued. “Could it not be possible that Miss Baird was feeling threatened by her male associate, and was simply agreeing with him, in order to protect herself?”
“I object, Your Honour,” Mr. Bailey stood up and announced. “This is pure conjecture, and it goes completely against what the witness has already stated.”
“I concur,” the Judge agreed. “Mr. Maxwell, please drop this line of questioning. The witness has already stated that it was the defendant who suggested the activities.”
“I am merely trying to show that the witness, being so young and impressionable, may be mistaken in her view of what happened,” Mr. Maxwell argued. “She has already shown confusion as to her own age.”
“This is ridiculous,” the Judge countered. “I have yet to meet a child who does not exaggerate their age! For some reason, they are all in a hurry to grow up. Please move on.”
“Yes, Your Honour,” Mr. Maxwell grudgingly agreed. “Miss Heyes, could you tell the court again, why you were out at the property in the first place? The ranch had nothing to do with you, or your family, so why were you trespassing?”
Sally sighed in frustration, trying to deal with this obtuseness. “Like I said, Blu called to me, and told me that he was in trouble. He needed my help.”
“He called to you?” Mr. Maxwell repeated and then smiled with indulgence. “How did he do that, from such a distance?”
“I don’t know,” Sally shrugged. “He just did. I could hear him in my mind.”
Heyes groaned. This was the last thing they needed. People who had never experienced Sally’s intuitiveness would never understand it. Damn, he didn’t understand it, but at least he had learned to accept it. But would a court of law accept it? Highly doubtful. Indeed, after what Heyes had experienced with the local doctor in Yuma, he would not be surprised if there were those here, who might end up accusing the young child of witchcraft.
But how do you tell a nine-year-old not to discuss such things in public? To her, it was just as natural and normal as carrying on a verbal conversation with her friends.
“You could hear him, in your mind?” Mr. Maxwell repeated, and smiling broadly, he turned to looked back at the assembly. He picked up on different emotions from the group, going from skepticism to outright worry, but very little acceptance. Thinking that he finally had a way to discredit this young witness, he went for the throat. “Perhaps you could give us an example of this ability, here and now?”
Sally sighed again. This was getting boring.
“I don’t really like you, Mr. Maxwell,” she admitted, and a few chuckles arose from the gathering. “But I am still sorry for your loss.”
“Excuse me?” Mr. Maxwell asked her. “What loss?”
“You were just thinking that if your son were still alive, that he would be about the same age as me,” Sally explained. “I’m really sorry that he died.”
Silence settled over the proceedings until a suspicious murmuring began to grow. Both Heyes and Jed were ready to pounce at any suggestion that Sally might be in danger. Mr. Maxwell stood transfixed, his shocked expression locked onto the girl in front of him. The judge rapped his gavel and insisted on order in the court.
“Mr. Maxwell,” he said, as everyone quieted down. “You are looking decidedly pale. Would you like to call for a recess?”
“No. No, Your Honour, that’s fine,” Mr. Maxwell responded.  “I’m fine. That’s very impressive, young lady,” he continued. “I’m sure you were given that information, as it is hardly a secret. As it is, I have not more questions for this witness.”
At which point, Mr. Maxwell turned on his heel and retreated to his place beside Miss Baird.
“Thank you, young lady,” the judge said to Sally. “You may return to your father now.”
“Yessir,” Sally said, and quickly stepped down and went back to her seat.
“Did I do something wrong?” she asked, feeling concerned.
“No, Darlin’,” Heyes assured her. “You did fine.”
“Yeah. Ya’ did better than me,” Jed concurred. “Ain’t many people can cause a lawyer ta’ get caught flat-footed.”
The judge’s gavel brought everyone’s attention to the front of the courtroom.
“Court is adjourned for the day,” he announced. “Those witnesses who have already testified need not return unless you are specifically requested to. I thank you for your contribution. Everyone else, court will continue at 9:00 am tomorrow morning.” Another bang of the gavel, and the session was closed.
The courtroom was in a sudden flurry of activity as everyone stood up and made their way towards the exit.
“That’s it for us, I think,” Heyes stated as Mr. Bailey collected his papers. “Unless you want Sally back for the Shuster trial.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary,” the young lawyer informed him. “We have her statement now concerning what happened. That should do it. But stay in town, just in case. You did a fine job, Miss Heyes. Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”
“No sir,” Sally agreed as she and Mr. Bailey shook hands. “I don’t mind coming back again, if you want.”
“Thank you.”
Bailey straightened up and looked at the Kid. “You’ll be here for Mr. Shuster’s trial, I take it?”
“Yeah,” Jed concurred with disappointment. “I guess so.”
“Attempted murder is a serious charge,” Mr. Bailey reminded him. “We will need testimonies from both you and Deputy Morin if we want to get a conviction. Mr. Morin will be here for that, won’t he?”
“Yeah, he’ll be here. I expect he’ll be here tonight, in case ya’ need ‘im for this case,” Jed assured him. “Oh, and its acting Sheriff Morin now. Not deputy.”
“Oh. Yes, of course. Well, Mr. Heyes, thank you for your assistance, and to you as well, Miss Heyes. Mr. Curry, I will see you again in a couple of days.”
“Oh!” Heyes announced as he noticed Mr. Maxwell getting ready to leave the courtroom. “I’ll be right back.”
Jed frowned in confusion. “Yeah, okay, Heyes.”
Heyes hurried over to intercept the defense attorney.  “Mr. Maxwell! Can I have a quick word?”
Maxwell turned to him, looking slightly put out. “What is it, Mr. Heyes?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Maxwell. I won’t keep you,” Heyes responded. “I just wanted to make sure that you meant what you said, concerning my daughter’s testimony.”
“You mean about her comment concerning my son?”
“Of course. It’s common knowledge that my son was killed in a riding accident four years ago,” Maxwell informed him. “Personally, I think it was a low blow to use a child in that way. I can’t blame the child, but I do blame the lawyer. Obviously both of you were in on it.”
“And what about her statement that you had just been thinking about your son?” Heyes pushed. “What do you accredit that to?”
“A child’s very vivid imagination!” Maxwell snapped. “It would be impossible for her to actually know that.”
“So, you weren’t thinking that your son would be the same age as my daughter, had he lived?”
“Of course not!” Maxwell insisted, his face becoming pale and tight with anger. “And I have no more to say about it. Excuse me!”
“Thank you, Mr. Maxwell,” Heyes grinned. “That’s all I needed to know.”
“What was that all about?” Jed asked, as Heyes joined up with him and Sally again.
“I just wanted to make sure that Mr. Maxwell wasn’t going to start spreading nasty rumours,” Heyes explained. “It seems, thank goodness, that he is a man of little imagination.”
The following day, Joe put in an appearance. His testimony went a long way to collaborate what Jed and Sally had already stated. Things were not looking good for Courtney Baird, that is, until Mr. Maxwell put his client on the stand.
The senor Miss Baird approached the witness chair with her eyes red-rimmed with crying, and her hands shaking with emotion. She sat down with a sniff and dabbed at her moist lashes with an embroidered hanky given to her by her dear, sweet, aunt.
Heyes, Sally and the Kid had joined Harry and Isabelle in the assembly seating now that they were no longer required to testify. Isabelle’s comments throughout the proceedings were more entertaining than the testimonials, themselves. She started her assault with a roll of her eyes, as her sister made her way to the stand, and she didn’t let up, until Courtney was finished with her narrative.
“Are you alright, Miss Baird?” Mr. Maxwell asked her. “Do you think you are up to answering some questions?”
“Oh yes,” Courtney meekly assured him. “I shall do my best.”
Isabelle sighed. “Oh c’mon,” she grumbled. “You live for a captive audience like this. Just get on with it.”
Heyes and Jed exchanged smiles. Courtney was even better at playing the poor, helpless female than Clementine was, and that’s saying something.
“Fine,” Mr. Maxwell continued. “Just relax and take your time. Just begin telling the court what happened that day your father and brother were killed.”
Much to her sister’s disgust, Courtney tried to stifle a shuddering breath and then began her narrative.
“I’m sure you can all imagine how upset I was, when I heard about what had happened,” she began. “I couldn’t believe that my family were being accused of such a horrendous crime. I still firmly believe that my father and brother are completely innocent of any wrong-doing, but, I suppose there’s nothing we can do about that now.”
“You believe that your brother was innocent of murdering Sheriff Jacobs?” Mr. Maxwell questioned her. This was new.
“Of course!” Courtney expostulated. “Why, my family felt nothing but friendship and respect for Sheriff Jacobs. For Emmitt to be accused of murdering him, in cold blood is simply too shocking to be believed!”
Isabelle sighed. “Oh please!” she whispered. “Most of the conversation around the dinner table, was about what a nuisance the sheriff was, and that the best thing that could happen for our family was for someone to take him out.”
“Who do you think murdered him?” Mr. Maxwell asked his witness.
“How should I know?” Courtney answered defensively. “Maybe it was Jed Curry! He’s a notorious gunman. Or maybe Deputy Morin. He always did covet the sheriff’s position!”
“What!” Joe reacted a bit too strongly and Mr. Bailey tried to settle him.
“Silence in the courtroom!” the judge insisted, as the gavel came down. “Your testimony has already been noted, Sheriff Morin.”
Joe shook his head with the unmitigated gall of the witness’s statement, but realized the futility of reacting to it now.  He nodded to Mr. Bailey and settled back into his seat, again. “My apologies to the court,” he said. “It won’t happen again.”
“Fine,” the judge accepted that. “Please, continue, Mr. Maxwell.” 
“Yessir. Now, Miss Baird, my apologies. I got you off track with that last question,” Mr. Maxwell stated. “I realize that it must have come as quite a shock to hear about what happened, but please keep in mind, that it has already been proven in a court of law, that your eldest brother, Emmitt Baird, fired the weapon that killed Sheriff Jacobs.”
Courtney snorted, looking and sounding very much like her sister. “I don’t believe it,” she said. “Is was all just mumbo jumbo dressed up to look like evidence. Why, if I truly believed, for just one moment that my brother and father were guilty of such a terrible crime, I would never have tried to help them.”
“Yes, of course,” Maxwell agreed. “Certainly, if you thought they were innocent, it’s only natural that you would try to help your own family.”
“And Mr. Shuster, how did he come into this?”
“Oh well, Luke Shuster has been a friend of our family for many years,” Courtney explained. “A fine, upstanding, gentleman.”
Another sighed from Isabelle. “He was a low-life vagabond. Only came around when he needed money, and did as little work as he possibly could, in order to get it, too.”
“Kind’a sounds familiar, don’t it, Heyes?” Jed whispered.
Heyes was trying hard not to laugh. “Yep.”
Courtney continued. “I contacted him as soon as I heard about our family troubles, and we made arrangements for him to take my life’s savings up to Deke’s Canyon, and give it to my father.”
“Did you not realize that such an action is against the law?” Maxwell asked her.
“I realize it now!” Courtney snapped, and then the tears started to come and the hanky came into play. “All I was trying to do was help my family. Isn’t that what a good daughter is suppose to do?”
“Yes, of course,” Mr. Maxwell agreed, just in an attempt to calm her down. “So, what happened out at your ranch?”
“Well!” Courtney huffed up with indignation. “Mr. Shuster tried to swindle me! All I wanted him to do was sign for the money that I was giving him. He refused! Can you believe it?”
“Perhaps he refused because he knew that what he was about to do, was illegal.”
“Then why did he agree to do it, in the first place?” Courtney demanded to know. “And then that child showed up!”
“You mean, Miss Heyes?” Mr. Maxwell clarified.
“Yes!” Courtney confirmed. “What that child was doing, hiding in our barn, is beyond me. I don’t know what awful rumours that girl had been listening to, but she acted as though she had fallen into hades itself. She was in an absolute panic, ranting and raving about how we were going to kill her, and throw down the well. Can you imagine? The poor thing was so confused.”
“So, you and Mr. Shuster did not attempt to kidnap her, or threaten to kill her?”
“Of course not!” Courtney insisted. “What kind of a woman, do you think I am? We were trying to calm her down, but she got away from us and took off towards town, screaming blue murder. Well! I was already aware of the poor opinion that those town folks had of me and my family, so I decided to get out of there while I still could, and take the money up to my father myself.”
“And Mr. Shuster, what did he do?”
“Obviously, he followed me,” Courtney stated, with a hint of sarcasm.
“Yes, he did,” Mr. Maxwell agreed. “So, you were able to meet up with your father and give him the money?”
“And was he pleased with the amount you brought?”
“Well,” Courtney hesitated. “He had hoped for more, but he realized that I brought all that I had, and he thanked me for that.”
“And yet, both Jed Curry and Sheriff Morin have testified that your father attempted to hit you, is that correct?”
“Well,” Courtney shuffled. “He was upset, and under a lot of strain. And well, he did have a bit of a tempter. But, we really are a loving family.”
Isabelle snorted this time. “She really is laying it on thick. Loving family, my ass.”
“Peaches, please,” Harry scolded her. “No need to speak like that in public.”
Isabelle smiled at her husband, and patted his hand. “Yes, of course. I’m sorry.”
Heyes and Jed exchanged looks. That was different. Maybe Harry was making headway.
“Is it not true,” Mr. Maxwell continued. “That your father was a brutal man, and could be quite harsh in his punishments where you and your sister were concerned?”
“Is it not possible, Miss Baird, that you were afraid of your father?”
“Afraid of him!?” Courtney repeated, and puffed herself up with indignation. “Afraid of that old bag of…”
“And might that not be why you took that money to him?” Mr. Maxwell quickly cut her off. “Because you knew that if you defied his wishes, he would find some way to punish you for it? And that is why you chose to break the law and attempt to help him, in his escape from justice.”
“Object, Your Honour!” Mr. Bailey announced, as he stood up. “Mr. Maxwell is deliberately leading the witness.”
“Agreed,” the judge stated. “Mr. Maxwell, please allow your witness to state the situation in her own words.”
“Of course, Your Honour. My apologies.”
But the seed had already been planted. Courtney’s eyes lit up as she realized the out that she was being offered, and she jumped on it like a pro. In an instant, her eyes filled with tears, and a shaky hand brought the hanky up to dab at eyes, and wipe a nose.
“Yes, you are correct, Mr. Maxwell,” her quivering voice admitted. “You found out our family secret. My father was a brutal man. I was very much afraid of him. Not only for myself, but for a younger sister as well.”
“Oh please,” Isabelle grumbled. “That’s why you always took off to stay with our aunt, leaving me there alone to fend off that brute. I swear, Courtney should be on the stage.”
“That’s why I took the money to him,” Courtney continued. “I knew that he would find me, somehow, and maybe even kill me, if I did not. He always found a way to punish us. He was a cruel, cruel man, and my older brother was no better! I had to do what he told me. I was so afraid of him. I would never have dreamt of breaking the law, otherwise. I feel absolutely terrible now, about the whole thing.”
“Yes, I’m sure you are,” Mr. Maxwell consoled her. “I have no more questions, Your Honour.”
The defense attorney turned back to his chair, and a quick scan of the assembly told him that he had made an impression. Tight-lipped men were shaking their heads with disgust at a father who could be so brutal, and many of the ladies had their own hankies out and dabbing at moist eyes.
“He sure do know how to spin a tale, don’t he?” Jed commented.
“Yeah,” Heyes agreed, sounding dubious. “But it just might get Courtney the sympathy vote. A lot of people have a hard time believing that a woman can be that treacherous.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” Isabelle told them.
“Mr. Bailey,” the judge continued. “Would you like to question the witness?”
“Oh yes, Your Honour,” Mr. Bailey accepted. “Thank you.”
Mr. Bailey approached the witness and smiled at her.
“Miss Baird,” he greeted her. “Are you feeling up to continuing?”
Courtney attempted a soppy smile, and with one final sniff, nodded agreement.
“Fine,” Mr. Bailey continued. “There is one detail that I’m a little fuzzy on. I’m hoping that you can clarify it for me.”
“I’ll certainly try to.”
“In the matter of Sally Heyes, you stated that you did not threaten to kill her, or even to take her captive, is that correct?”
“Yes,” Courtney insisted. “I mean, you could all see for yourselves, from the child’s testimony yesterday, that she has a wild imagination, and tends to believe her own flights of fancy. She panicked, that’s all. We were only trying to help her.”
“Then why is it,” Mr. Bailey questioned, “that when Mr. Curry found her, her hands were tightly bound with bailing twin, and tied to the horn of her saddle?”
Courtney’s expression turned blank, and her mouth dropped open in anticipation of speaking, but no words came forth.
“Miss Baird?”
“Oh! Well…that was…because…she was in such a panic!” Courtney finally sputtered out. “We tied her to her saddle to prevent her from hurting herself. She was out of control, running in circles, and screaming. We had to do something.”
“I have had a number of conversations with Miss Heyes over the last few days,” Mr. Bailey pointed out. “She struck me as an extremely intelligent and articulate young lady, and hardly one to being prone to hysterics.”
“Well, she was very upset, that day.”
“But why would she be?” Mr. Bailey pushed. “She knew you, and aside from being frightened at having been found hiding in your barn, there was no reason for her to become so terrified as to behave in the manner that you have described. Indeed, if you were concerned about the child’s welfare, why not simply scold her for trespassing, put her on her horse, and send her on her way?”
“Because she over-heard us talking!” Courtney blurted out. “I was all for letting her go, despite the danger that it could put us in, but Luke Shuster insisted that we could not. It was him all along! He was going to kill her, to keep her quiet, but I was able to talk him out of it. I convinced him to take Sally as a hostage instead, that she could be a good bargaining tool, if the posse caught up with my father. I was only trying to save her life. Luke Shuster is a cruel, cruel man! He wouldn’t have hesitated to kill her, if I hadn’t stepped in.”
“Miss Baird, you are aware that you are under oath, are you not?” Mr. Bailey asked her.
“Yes, of course!” she insisted through her new round of sobs.
“I just wanted to make sure,” Mr. Bailey explained. “Since your story seems to change with every passing moment.”
Courtney broke down completely, she wailed like a baby and complained bitterly through her tears.  “I’m going to go to prison just for trying to help my family!”
Mr. Bailey sighed and turned away from her in disgust. “I have no more questions, Your Honour.”
Later that evening, the group of friends, Hannibal, with a sleepy Sally in tow, Jed, Harry, Isabelle, and Joe were seated around the large table at the restaurant, having supper. Isabelle was still not happy.
“Six months!” she snarked. “I can’t believe that is all she got.”
“I’m not surprised,” Heyes said. “We’ve seen this kind of thing, before. You get an all male jury, and none of them are willing to come forward and state that a woman is capable of such treachery.”
“Yeah,” Jed agreed. “And you can bet that Luke Shuster won’t get off that lightly. Everythin’ is gonna wind up bein’ his fault.”
“That’s not fair,” Sally commented over a yawn. “She was the one making all the decisions, not him.”
“We know that, Sally,” her father assured her. “But often juries don’t see things the same way.”
“Is that why you went to prison, Papa?” she asked innocently. “Because the jury didn’t see things the way they really happened?”
“Ahh,” Heyes hesitated.
 Jed waited to see what the genius came up with.
Finally, Heyes sighed and gave it up.
“No, Darlin’,” he had to admit. “I’m afraid I can’t lay claim to that. In my case, the jury saw things pretty clearly.”
“Oh.” Sally thought about that for a moment. “Well, I’m glad.”
“You’re glad that your pa went to prison?” Isabelle asked her, not quite believing her ears.
“Yes!” Sally insisted.
“Because if he hadn’t gone to prison, then he would never have met me,” Sally’s logic ran forth. “And I’m really glad that he met me.”
Smiles made their way around the table, and Heyes gave is daughter a hug.
“I’m glad I met you, too,” her father told her. “Now, finish up your supper. It’s been an eventful couple of days for you, and I know you’re tired.”
“Yes, Papa.”
As things turned out, Jed’s prediction was bang on accurate. After a rather short trial, Luke Shuster got saddled with full responsibility for Courtney’s actions. The jury was far more comfortable believing that a man could be ruthless enough to harm a child, than admit that a woman would even dream of such a thing.
So, even though Courtney got six months for aiding and abetting, Luke got ten years for aiding and abetting, attempted kidnapping and attempted murder. If he was lucky, he might get out in eight.
Neither one of them showed their faces back in Brookswood again.
To Be Continued.
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