The Unforgiving Past (by Tessa)

Summary:  Sheriff Roy Coffee asks Adam to help investigate the murder of the jury foreman; on which Joe is a juror as well as a friend of the victim.
Category:   Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated: G
Word Count: 28,755


 

Outside of Virginia City – Tuesday Night

This was not a good time for Roy Coffee to be riding the terrain. But the duties of his job called for him to leave the comfort of his office and ride into the night. The moon was only a quarter full with a thin covering of clouds over its surface. It didn’t offer any help in lighting Roy’s way. His eyes were getting older. He knew he would have to rely on the common sense of his horse to maneuver their way through the bushes, trees, and rocks. Judge Nathan insisted that Judd Wilson be informed that he would be needed to meet with the Judge before the trial resumed tomorrow morning.

The Wilson ranch was a few miles out of Virginia City. It was just off the main road that would take a rider across the valley floor and eventually to the Ponderosa. The ranch was plain with a small cabin, a barn, and a corral. It had some trees for shading, but it wasn’t the landscaped property like some of the small ranches nestled in the foothills.

When he approached the front of the cabin, he felt an eerie quiet that seemed to permeate the area. The entire ranch gave the appearance that no one was home. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that there had been an evil presence there or maybe it still lurked in the darkness. The hair on Roy’s arms stood up. Everything seemed so dark with only a small lantern that burned inside and the front door stood wide open.

Roy tied his horse off to the side so he wouldn’t be directly in front of the house. He cautiously approached the front door with his gun drawn and ready to fire. He stood with his body on the outside of the doorframe for cover. He then stretched his neck around the door and peered inside. His eyes strained to see what might be there. It took a few seconds before his eyes adjusted to the dim light. But when they did, Roy couldn’t see anything obvious.

“JUDD?……..JUDD WILSON?” Roy shouted, but didn’t get an answer. The barrel of his gun was pointing inside the cabin while Roy’s finger rested on the trigger.

Roy then slowly stepped into the cabin. After taking a few steps, he could see the lifeless body that lay on the other side of the room in the dim light. The lantern flickered on the table next to the man who used to live there, but now lay dead. He was on his back, legs slightly a part, and his arms down to his sides. There was a large amount of blood and debris around his head.

Roy knew who this was although the left side of the face had a gaping wound that made the victim unrecognizable. It was Judd. Roy felt a slight sickness in his stomach at the recognition of his victim. He had seen the crudeness of death many times in his lawman years. But this was someone he knew. This was a man he had seen alive yesterday, but now had experienced a violent death. These circumstances made it harder on Roy than if the victim had been unknown.

He walked around the lifeless body cautiously and as quietly as he could. He tried to control his breath as it came in and out irregularly from being nervous. He was uneasy because the killer could still be around. It spooked Roy to think that someone so horrible knew every movement he made. Roy’s ears strained to try and hear the slightest movement. But all he could hear was his own breathing. The light inside the cabin had been so dim that it created several places of darkness that could hide anyone. He knew the killer could come out of the darkness anytime. He aimed his gun at no particular target, but ready to fire. Roy’s intention was not to be the next victim.

It took a good half hour to check the inside and outside of the cabin. But Roy could now be confident that he was the only living being there. He knew the killer was gone and he was not in any danger. Roy holstered his weapon, but his breathing stayed irregular. The horror of the crime stayed with him.

Questions without answers kept penetrating Roy’s brain. Who would kill Judd? Who would take his life so violently? Did it have anything to do with the trial? It had to be something like that. Judd was a quiet, well-liked man without any known enemies. So who hated Judd so much that they would take his life so horribly?

He surveyed the scene for any obvious signs of evidence. Roy needed something. It didn’t appear that there were any witnesses. Without that, he needed some evidence. Something concrete. But it didn’t look like there would be much along that line.

Roy frowned as his thoughts talked to him, ‘this may be a tough case. But I won’t give up hope. I didn’t become a lawman so I could quit because things weren’t easy for me.’

Inside the cabin appeared neat and clean. The only thing out of place was a broken coffee mug lying close to the front door. The broken pieces lie in a small amount of liquid that had partially dried. The only furniture that was disturbed was a chair that Judd’s body knocked over when the impact of the blast forced him backwards. He could see the obvious weapon of choice for the killer was a shotgun that was used at close range.

Roy took a deep breath as his breathing returned to normal. He felt very sad for Judd. It didn’t appear that there had been any struggle before Judd’s life was ended. It didn’t appear that Judd was given any chance to fight for his life before he had to give it up.

Roy took his hat off and sat down in a nearby chair. He wanted to have a moment of quiet and reflect on the young man that he had seen around town. The men on the jury seemed very happy that Judd was the foreman for their group. In a short time, he had impressed the entire town with his maturity, his patience in sorting the facts out, and his sense of humor. He never gave any hint of problems in his life.

Roy figured he should take Judd’s body to town in a wagon. He didn’t want to bring Judd back to town over a horse. Even though the darkness of night had fallen, he just didn’t need people coming up and asking a lot of questions before he could ask his own. This death was going to upset a lot of people who liked this popular man.

He would investigate the first thing in the morning and try to get some information. If the killer was in town or still in the area, he wanted to try and find some information that could be valuable to him. Roy had a hard job ahead. Both his deputies would not be available to help him. He stood up, put his hat back on his head, and began the process of investigating, what could become, a hard case to solve.

*****

Virginia City – Wednesday Morning

Sheriff Coffee’s first obligation was to apprize Judge Nathan about Judd. He knew that he would find the Judge at his rented home located on the east corner of “A” and Taylor Streets. The Judge was always up early whether a case was being tried or not.

Judge Nathan was a man about fifty-three years old and was tall enough to look Hoss Cartwright directly in the eyes. His dark hair was peppered with gray showing his physical age was well beyond his youthful law school years. His physique stayed slim from his walking to get around town. He was easy going outside of the courtroom, but inside the courtroom he was all business and expected the attorneys to be professional in their presentations. He believed in fairness to all people no matter who they were.

The walk for Roy from “C” Street up a hill to the Judge’s house had him huffing. His love for pastries put extra pounds where he didn’t need them when hill climbing. As he stepped on the front porch, he could smell the aroma of fresh coffee escaping the house and filling his nostrils. The thought of Apple pie and coffee sounded good right now, but there just wasn’t time to indulge in his pleasures.

Mrs. Nathan opened the door and escorted Roy into the parlor where Judge Nathan sat behind a massive legal looking desk made of dark cherry wood. The chair he sat in was made of rich brown leather. The Judge looked a little surprised as he was expecting a visit from Judd Wilson, foreman on the jury for the case being tried at the time.

“Good morning, Roy,” Judge Nathan began to stand up.

“No, no, please sit down, Judge. I’m not happy to bring you the news that I have this morning. I think it’s best you be seated.” Roy sat in a chair on the other side of the Judge‘s desk without being asked to sit down. He wasn’t concentrating on his manners as his mind was fighting for the right words to tell the Judge the news.

The Judge stayed quiet to allow Roy time to give him whatever news he had. “I went out last night to the Wilson ranch to talk to Judd as you asked me to do,” Roy stared at his lap briefly not wanting to immediately look into the Judge’s eyes, “When I got there, I found Judd dead from a gunshot wound. He’d been murdered.” Roy now looked up at the Judge. He waited for the Judge’s reaction as he used his fingers to curl the edges up on his hat that he held in his lap.

“What? Judd Wilson? It doesn’t sound real.” A look of horror and confusion stayed on the Judge’s face, “Roy, I never got any feeling or heard anything that would indicate that Judd had problems with anyone.”

“I know, your Honor; even though my eyes were looking at his body, my mind did everything it could to push out the idea of the victim being Judd. It was dark, but I looked for anything that would indicate this was an accident.”

The Judge stood up and began to pace around his chair. “And I was just thinking that this trial would wind up by the end of this week.” The Judge stared at the books on the bookshelves. His logical mind was fighting some emotion that wanted to pour out of his heart. There was some hurt in his shock. He, too, liked Judd and liked him a lot.

“I need to know what you want me to do, Judge. What should I tell the members of the jury?”

“Nothing! Let them gather at the courthouse as usual. I’ll inform them as a group.“ The Judge stared at Roy with a look that he still didn’t believe what he had heard.

“Roy, are you sure that it wasn’t an accident or a suicide? Judge Nathan’s logic wanted to make sure that nothing was overlooked. Judge Nathan’s emotions hoped something was.

“No, your Honor. It didn’t look like it. I looked for a weapon and not a nary one was found. This is not a trouble-making boy with any kind of violence in his history that I know of.“

Roy left the Judge still standing in his parlor. He headed towards “B” Street. He passed the opera house where he knew he’d find Adam and Joe Cartwright in Martha’s Café next door. The boys usually ate there each morning as Joe loved the food and commented that he thought it was like home. Roy felt the outside air already warming. He would welcome the coolness inside the cafe.

Roy knew the Judge didn’t want the jury members told individually of the news and Joe was on the jury. But the Cartwrights were his friends and he needed to talk to Adam. He needed Adam’s help in his investigation since both of his deputies were unavailable for a couple more weeks.

When Roy poked his head into the door of the café, he saw Adam and Joe at a table in the corner. Joe was hunched over the table finishing his breakfast. Adam looked satisfied leaning against the wall in his chair sipping on coffee. Adam noticed as Roy approached that his appearance was stoic and his eyes looked strained.

“Hey Roy, you had long night in town?” Adam queried as he righted his chair.

Roy put a hand on Joe’s shoulder, “Joe, I need to talk to Adam for a moment. Do you mind, son?”

“Not at all. I need to go to the room before I head over to the courthouse. Adam, I’ll meet you at court. Oh, and thanks for breakfast.” Joe gave Adam a big grin as he told Adam earlier that he would buy Adam breakfast for a change.

Roy sat down near Adam and leaned slightly over the table so Adam could hear his lowered voice. “Adam, I got some real bad news. I trust Joe, but the Judge wants the jury to hear the news at the same time. I need to honor that request.”

“Sure, Roy. Joe wouldn’t expect you to dishonor a Judge’s request.”

“Adam, Judd Wilson was murdered last night.” Roy sat up real quick as the waitress bought him a cup of coffee. Adam waited until she left to respond to his news and tried to hide his look of surprise.

“What? Joe and I talked to Judd yesterday afternoon and nothing seemed to be bothering him,” Adam said.

“I know, Adam. Believe me, your eyes can see things so fast, but it sure takes your mind a long time to trust them,” Roy answered, “Adam, I’m gonna need your help whether I deputize you or not. I’ve got Wally Morgan to help me at the jail and do my normal town duties. But I need you to help me in this investigation.”

Adam recognized worry in Roy’s voice. “Sure Roy, I’ll do what I can. What can you tell me?”

“Well, after I looked around a bit, here’s what I kinda figure. Judd was inside his cabin and looked like he was reading and having some coffee or somethin’. Possibly a knock on the door happened and Judd got up and opened it. The gunman had the gun pointed it at Judd and just walked in causin’ Judd to back up.” Roy stopped for a moment to take another sip of coffee and then he went on. You could hear him softly slurp.

Adam leaned closer to Roy as the few customers in the café were leaving. None of the patrons seemed to pay any attention to either of them.

“Now, from here, I’m not too sure what exactly went on.” Roy slightly tilted his head and stared passed Adam as if he was looking at the small floral pattern on the wall for the exact answer.

Adam broke Roy’s concentration, “How’d he die, Roy?” Adam asked with a hard frown on his face. None of his family would want to hear about Judd’s death, but Adam knew that Little Joe liked Judd and they were both about the same age.

“It was pretty dark last night, but it looks like a shotgun at close range. From the looks of the wound, I figure the shooter might have been about 4 to 5 feet away from Judd. Don’t really need to get that close, but I figured that was about the distance.”

Adam drew in a deep breath. “At least at that range, he went quick.”

Roy then continued to fill Adam in on what details he had. “Adam, we need to see what the Judge is going to do with this case. But then I want us to ride out to the Wilson ranch and look over the scene in daylight.”

“All right, Roy, I’m with you. But right now, I’m gonna head over to the courthouse. I wanna be there when Joe gets the news.” Adam got up, put his money on the table, and left with Roy trailing silently behind him.

Before Roy went to the courthouse, he stopped by his office.

*****

Inside The Courthouse, Same Morning

When Roy stepped inside the foyer of the courthouse, he saw Adam about to enter the courtroom. “Adam,” Roy approached him while pulling out a shiny badge, “you can wear this or keep it in your pocket. You know the words and I know you’ll swear by ‘em.” Adam took the badge and both walked in together sitting near the front.

The men of the jury were just getting seated. None seemed to notice or be concerned that only eleven chairs were filled at this time. When Joe saw Adam sit down, he smiled at him and Adam smiled back not wanting to alarm Joe that something was wrong. Something was very wrong and the smile on Joe’s face was going to go away and a look of disbelief and hurt would replace it.

The defense attorney, Ralph Conway, and the defendant, Cord Phillips, were seated at the front. The prosecuting attorney, Simon Duncan, was seated next to Wally, and he sat not far from the defendant. The Judge was seated behind the bench, but kept quiet until everyone was in their seats. The audience, this early in the morning, consisted of only a few of the town’s people. Most worked in the stores or the mines and were not present.

In a corner all by himself was Arthur Parrish, a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise. His sole assignment was to cover the trial.

The Judge turned to the members of the jury to begin what he had to tell them. “Gentlemen, I greet you this morning with a thank you for your patience on this jury, but I have some sad and serious news to tell you.” The Judge paused briefly. Adam couldn’t help but watch Joe’s reaction as the Judge continued.

“I’ve been informed that our foreman, Judd Wilson, has been killed sometime last night.” The Judge wanted to come right out with the information, but stopped again to let the jury absorb what he just said.

Various expressions of shock and grief appeared on the jury members’ faces. Joe particularly had a deep frown as he stared at the Judge. His emotions stirred and his breathing became faster. His head tilted slightly back when the Judge said this. It was like his words were a powerful force hitting Joe in the head and pushing it backwards.

“I know this has come as a shock to all of you as it did me when I was informed.” The Judge stood up. Sitting down when handing out grave information wasn’t something he liked doing. For some reason, standing made him feel more in control of the situation.

The entire room was quiet. The Judge continued, “This case will continue in spite of the tragedy that has come to us as the defendant is entitled to a proper trial and he deserves for it to continue.” The Judge put his hands into his front pockets as he walked around to the front of his bench. “Although Judd was on this jury, there is nothing to indicate at this time that it has any connection to this case. If there are no objections, I will be choosing a new jury member and this court will resume later today at 2 p.m.” He looked at the defense attorney and his client. “Do you have any objections, Mr. Conway?”

“No, your Honor,” the defense attorney stated with a grim look on his face. The defendant sat still as his face showed no emotion at all.

“Thank you, Mr. Conway,” the Judge then looked at the prosecuting attorney, “Mr. Duncan, do you have any objections?”

“The people have no objections, your Honor.”

The Judge now turned his attention to the jury, “Gentlemen, this court will recess until 2 pm this afternoon. We will reconvene with my announcement.”

The Judge then exited the courtroom while most people left the court without saying anything to others.

The reporter from the Territorial Enterprise wrote notes on his piece of paper frantically and then rushed out of the courthouse down to “C” Street to his office. Later the headline of the afternoon edition screamed, “JUDD WILSON BRUTELY MURDERED AS TRIAL CONTINUES.” This paper always out sold the other newspapers in town, but today’s headlines doubled what they normally did.

The jury scattered and left the room while Joe just sat in his chair. Adam approached him, “Joe, I’m sorry about Judd. I know you liked him.”

Roy came up behind Adam to talk to Joe over Adam’s shoulder, “Joe, “I figure since I saw you with Judd more n’ anyone else, you just might have somethin’ to offer. Somethin’ that Judd may have said that would shed some light on this whole matter.” Roy watched Joe hoping the younger Cartwright had something that might help.

“I’m sorry, Roy, nothing is coming to me right now,” Joe said, but looked very sad as he now slouched in his chair. His elbows were propped up on the arms of the wooden chair and his chin rested on his fisted hands.

Adam could see how bad Joe felt, but tried to help Joe recall his past conversations with Judd. “Joe, when you had a beer with Judd, what did you talk about?”

“Oh, we would exchange greetings out of tryin’ to be a good neighbor. He was interested in building a small horse ranch and usually wanted to ask me about horses. That was about all our conversations would cover. Sometimes, we shared fishin’ stories.” Joe looked at Roy, “Sorry, Roy, but I just can’t think right now.”

“I understand, Joe, maybe later when all this becomes more like reality. Right now, I wanna go out to the Wilson ranch and look at it in the daylight.” Roy ended the conversation.

Inside, Joe was hurting and wanted to scream out. The more Joe got to know Judd, the more Judd became a good, solid friend. Joe worked at his façade of handling this. Inside, this news was killing him. He knew he had to stay strong. This was not the time to fall apart.

“Joe? You O.K.?” Adam was interested right now in Joe and how he was than anything else. Joe’s act of being O.K. might fool most people, but Adam was his brother and Adam knew different.

“Yeah, Adam, I’m O.K.” Joe tried to give Adam a smile, but it was forced.

Adam leaned closer to Joe and spoke softly as if he only wanted Joe to hear him, “You want me to go with you somewhere? Want to go have a beer and talk?”

A natural small chuckle came from Joe. He knew Adam never touched anything stronger than coffee this early in the morning. Adam drank beer in the afternoon hours or to wash down dust that would collect in his throat after a long ride on the trail. So this offer was a big sacrifice on Adam’s part, as far as Joe was concerned.

“Thanks, Adam, I appreciate your offer. But I think I’d like to just go back to the room and rest a little and, you know, think.” Joe’s smile this time stayed on his face.

“I’ll go with you,” Adam reassured him.

“No, Adam, but if you would go with Roy and try and help him, I know I would like that. Maybe the two of you could find something. I’m afraid, right now, I wouldn’t be much company.” Joe got up from his chair and Adam put his hand on Joe’s shoulder giving him a little supportive pat.

Adam watched Joe as he left the courtroom. Joe walked a slow pace and held his head in a downward position. He had to deal with a friend’s death. Right now, he just wasn’t in the mood to lift his head up and face life in the same way he did before this grievous news.

*****

The Wilson Ranch – Wednesday Afternoon

The temperature was still warm, but a Nevada breeze began to blow. As Adam and Roy rode up towards the front of the house, a dust devil frantically whirled in front of them. It scared Sport a little making him stop and begin to rear, but Adam was able to keep him under control and calm him. The men reached the front of the cabin and dismounted.

The sound of boots hitting the wooden boards was heard as the men bounced up onto the porch. When they reached the door, Roy pointed to the doorframe. “See, Adam, no force to the door. It had to be either open when the killer arrived or Judd opened it after a knock.”

Adam put his hand on the doorframe to see if it wiggled at all from being loose. But he found the doorframe intact and tight. “Yeah, you seem to be right about that.”

Adam walked inside the house looking around as he did. He took his hat off and dropped it onto a nearby table. On his third step forward, he felt something under his right foot and heard a faint crunching sound. When he looked down, he could see broken pieces of a cup. Adam stopped and stared at the pieces.

“Don’t worry about that, Adam; that doesn’t have much value to us.” Roy walked over towards Adam, “Now, I figure with that coffee pot on the table near where Judd was settin’ that he was having some coffee.” Roy rubbed his chin and sat down in the same chair he had the night before. His left eye squinted partially shut as he spoke, “When the shooter came in with the gun ready, Judd most likely had nothing to defend himself and just threw the coffee cup as some kind of spontaneous defense. I’ve seen that before.” Adam nodded in agreement.

Adam walked over to where Judd had laid and looked around the floor area. He stooped down to get a closer look. He could see the tiny lead pellets lying around the floor and embedded in the nearby furniture. This indicated the weapon was a shotgun. It was close range, as Adam recognized the spread of the pellets was a tight pattern with most of the force hitting Judd.

Adam was very knowledgeable about shotguns. He recalled one time when he took a shotgun to a meadow and fired at pig fat from different distances. When Adam saw this pattern, he remembered that a full-choke shotgun would deliver a pattern of a thirty-inch circumference at forty yards. If the killer was only 4 to 5 feet from Judd, then why a shotgun, he asked himself? His background knowledge on this provided a foundation for the theory he just developed. Adam began to share his theory with Roy.

“You know, Roy,“ Adam stood up and lifted his eyebrows as he turned to face Roy, “a shotgun is interesting, isn’t it?”

“What’d you gettin’ at, Adam?” Roy quizzed. He was not quite sure where Adam was heading.

“Well, when we were riding out here, I couldn’t help but think about the weapon.” Adam rubbed his chin as if he were still in deep thought while he turned to pace, “I think it’s logical that the killer would come here at night so darkness would hide him and Judd wouldn’t be able to see him coming. Whether Judd knew him or not.”

“Yep, but what about the weapon? Ya got my interest.” Roy was anxious to know and knew Adam was smart enough to pick up on something important.

“If you knew you were coming out here to kill a man, you’d probably just use your revolver. You wouldn’t need a shotgun because close range with a revolver could kill a man… provided…” Adam was silent. The expression on his face revealed that his brain was active in critical thought. Adam walked in Roy‘s direction. “Provided that you were a good shot with a revolver. Some people just aren’t good with a revolver, so a shotgun would give them the confidence they would need to know their victim would die.”

Roy’s eyebrows wrinkled together as he leaned forward to make sure his ears captured all of Adam’s words, “Yeah, come on,” like a kid waiting for the ending of a good story.

“Roy, you and I wouldn’t need a shotgun to kill. We’re accurate enough to hit our target at close range in a deadly way if we meant to do that. But a shooter who, for whatever reason, wasn’t good with a revolver, but wanted to make sure he didn’t miss, would want to rely on something like a shotgun.” Adam rested his hands on his hips.

Roy was smiling and he knew he was looking at a smart boy who just gave him something to chew on. “Good thinkin’, Adam. Even if someone favored a shotgun over a revolver it wouldn’t be in his favor to carry a weapon he didn’t need. Shotguns don’t miss much, do they?”

“Nope, and they certainly cut a man’s chances of survival down to nothing,” Adam said matter-of-factly. He was confident that this supported his theory.

Roy then changed the direction of the conversation, “What the Judge is gonna want to know is this killin’ connected in anyway to the trial. Now, that’s what’s gonna be hard to prove without some evidence or a witness.”

“I’ll try and question Joe more on anything he might remember or know about Judd’s business. Off hand, I sure can’t think what Judd and this trial would have in common.”

“Let’s look around some more. I’ll check in here and you go outside and see if there is anythin’ of interest.” Adam agreed.

Adam put his hat on his head and walked to the door. He then noticed something that he didn’t see before. There was a small piece of light blue material wedged into some splinters of the doorframe.

“Roy, come look at this.” Adam stared at the piece of material. Roy walked over to him and both leaned closer to the item that was foreign to the doorframe.

“Well, look here. Now, what in the Sam Hill do you think this is?” Roy’s voice had a sign of optimism in it, “Light blue material maybe from a coat or shirt. It’s caught too high in the door to be from pants.”

Adam responded as Roy picked the material out of the doorframe, “Looks like the suspect wanted to get away fast after the shot, so his clothing swiped the doorframe enough to tear a piece off.”

“Things are sure gettin’ interestin’.” Roy continued his search inside.

Adam stood on the porch and looked around the immediate area, including the ground just off the porch. After a few minutes, he saw some footprints in the dirt near a water trough. Adam sat down on his haunches. The dirt had moistened from a slow leak from the trough. He saw partial shoeprints imprinted in the soft dirt. He pushed his hat back on his head and stared at the impressions looking closely.

The more Adam looked at the impressions, the more he noticed something a little different than he would expect. The visible print indicated that the boot didn’t have a pointed toe that most boots have. It had more of a rounded toe. A small circle was noticed cut or punched into boot sole near the edge.

Adam was studious in his examination of the impression. He saw a distinct wear on the heel. The owner of the boot appeared to walk heavily on the outside of his heels. The possibility of the owner being somewhat bow-legged was a strong one. Even if the bow-legged posture were slight, it would cause the person to put his weight on the outer edges of his feet when walking. If he could see the bottom of Judd’s boots, then he might have another clue if this wasn’t made by Judd’s boot. Adam took out a small pencil and a piece of paper and sketched the pattern he saw in the dirt that included the notch and the heel-wear.

Roy came out of the house, “Well, I sure can’t see anything inside that tells us anymore than what we were able to determine.”

“Look, Roy,” Adam pointed to the impression he found in the soft dirt. “Has more of a rounded toe than a pointed one. And see this? A notch in the sole that is almost perfectly round.”

“Looks like we have some possibilities and that’s better than what I had last night.” Roy looked satisfied. He had some leads.

“The cloth and this sketch of the impression will give us a little more solid evidence than the theory about the revolver. However, we need to hold onto that idea. Might become a tool for elimination,” Adam stated with a lawyer-like presence.

“I know you wanna keep a close eye on Joe since he’s on the jury. I’ll ask some questions around town with those I know that don’t carry revolvers while you check the shoe impression against Judd’s boots and anyone else you can think of.”

The ride back to Virginia City seemed like it took less time than it did going to the ranch.

*****

Virginia City at Martha’s Café – Wednesday Afternoon

By the time Adam parted Roy’s company, returned Sport to the Livery, and found Joe at Martha’s Café having some lunch, it was only an hour before the Judge wanted the trial to resume.

Joe looked up and saw his brother enter the café. He said nothing as he chewed his lunch. He was trying hard to continue his life in a normal way. Earlier, he grieved for his friend and cried a little. Judd wasn’t just a loss of life. Judd was someone who added to a person’s day. Judd could make Joe laugh or make him think about something more than Joe might normally do. By losing Judd, Joe’s world became lonelier. Joe had his family and his many friends. But the loss of Judd would impact Joe’s life for a long time.

Adam sat down across the table from Joe. “Joe, you know that if it’s going to be too hard for you to continue on this jury that Judge Nathan will excuse you from it.” Adam hoped that Joe would accept this idea.

Joe still said nothing, but shook his head vigorously to indicate a negative answer. He chewed a little more and then swallowed.

Finally, Joe responded to Adam’s comment. “Adam, this was my friend and I’m not going to quit just because something happened to him. That wouldn’t be like Judd. No matter what, he stuck to his goals and any duties he took on. If someone else had been killed, then Judd would still be the foreman and would carry out his duties.” Joe’s words had determination in them.

Adam was pleased with Joe’s convictions, but he still worried about Joe’s safety. “Joe, you knew Judd better than I did and I have to admire you for sticking in there. But I can’t help but think of Pa and…”

Joe snapped, “What’s Pa got to do with this?”

Adam turned a little sarcastic. “Well, Joe, besides the fact that he’s our father, he would expect me to look out for you.”

“I don’t need a nurse, Adam. I have responsibilities and I expect to live up to them. I’ve been in danger before.” Joe gave Adam an angry look. The same look that Adam and Hoss usually get when Joe feels a little smothered by his brothers.

Adam pushed his anger down that tried to surface. He took a deep breath. “Joe, can we work together on this? I can’t just push aside any thoughts or feelings Pa would have. You know that.”

Joe compromised. Not because he wanted to give into Adam, but Joe knew his Pa and knew Adam was right. “As long as you understand that I’m not removing myself from this trial.”

“I can see that. All right, I’ll go along with it. But I’m sticking with you like a saddle that’s strapped tight on a horse’s back,” Adam said in his parental way.

“Adam…” Joe started to protest a little, but Adam interrupted him.

“Joe, will you think about this?” Adam asked hoping Joe would see a little logic, “What if it were me in your position? Would you just sit back and do nothing?”

Joe spooned some dessert into his mouth. “No. I haven’t in the past and I wouldn’t do that now.” Joe was calmer. No matter what he was feeling now, he knew Cartwrights looked after Cartwrights.

“Actually, I don’t know if you or any of the others are in danger. There’s nothing, so far, to indicate why Judd was killed.” Joe looked curious at Adam when Adam said this.

“Wouldn’t it be assumed that Judd’s death and the trial be related?” Joe quizzed. He assumed that.

“It’s possible, but nothing really ties this to the trial. Judd’s death could have been caused by a drifter. We know that’s happened.” Joe listened and listed possibilities in his mind as Adam talked. “Think about the trial. Does it seem like it’s the kind of trial that would cause someone to kill someone else?” Adam went from big brother to now sounding like an attorney.

“Well, then the trial doesn’t have anything to do with the murder.” Joe wasn’t that sure. “Cord and Purity. Purity and Judd.” Joe shook his head on that last one.

“Judd and Purity as sweethearts doesn’t seem to make sense, does it?” Adam wondered.

“Nah!!! I tried to consider that myself, but thinking about how Judd was, he wouldn’t touch her.”

“From what I’ve learned about Judd, that makes sense,” Adam pondered possibilities.

“I know Judd was more interested in building his horse ranch. Women didn’t interest him, right now. Once he got his ranch together and going, then maybe. But I know she wouldn’t be like Purity.”

“Now, little brother, you hit on something interesting.” The man killing for a woman caught Adam’s attention. Joe had a “who me” look on his face. Adam continued, “I heard what you told me, but other than Purity, could Judd have been killed over a woman?”

Joe thought of something. “The only thing that comes to mind was the time I dragged Hoss out to the Wilson ranch with me to help Judd build that corral next to his barn. Hoss starts talking about some new woman in town who was quite attractive. Anyway, Hoss and I were laughing about it, but Judd made some kind of comment that he had met her. I remember he seemed bothered by the whole conversation.”

“Did he say anything about her or why he was bothered?” Adam’s eyes were pinned on Joe trying to help him remember.

Joe was in full concentration about what he just said. “He made a comment that he thought she was very strange. None of the other men said anything like that about her, but Judd did. And then he ended the conversation saying something like he was glad she was gone.”

“Did he mention what happened or where she went?” Adam thought he was about to find another lead as he helped Joe remember this conversation with Judd.

“No, never did. He didn’t mention her again and I seemed to know better than to ask. I just figured at the time that she might have liked him and was pushy and he didn’t like it,” Joe recalled.

Adam’s eyebrows went up and then down again into their normal position. “Yeah, maybe.” Adam dropped the subject, for now, but this was just as much a possibility as the murder being connected to the trial.

Joe wanted to end this part of the conversation and offered a final statement, “Adam, let’s see what happens. But try to understand why I can’t just quit and why I have to stay with this.”

Adam nodded in agreement and said nothing. He knew what Joe was saying. He’s been in the same kind of situation himself. Cartwrights don’t saddle up and ride off home just because a situation arises that’s difficult to solve. Joe was just being a Cartwright. Their Pa would expect this from both of them.

Joe then changed the direction of the conversation, “So, you and Roy find any interesting?”

“Uh-huh,” Adam nodded. “Very little, but it’s something that could lead to some possibilities. We found a boot print that’s a little different from a normal boot. Then we found a piece of cloth that had been wedged in the doorframe.”

“Now, all you have to do is match these things with a person,” Joe said to Adam. “Good luck.” Joe was feeling a little better. But he was also smart enough to know that finding evidence on a scene doesn’t always mean it leads to a suspect.

The brothers walked to court together.

*****

Later in the Courthouse

“Court is now in session,” Judge Nathan announced while he banged his gavel once on the top of the bench, “Wally, please escort the jury into the courtroom.”

The jury entered and, as soon as they were seated, he made his announcement. “After careful consideration in this matter, I have asked George Woods to become the foreman for the jury and we now have Calvin Ford as our new jury member.” No one in the courtroom objected to either and the Judge continued the trial without any further delay.

“Mr. Conway, I do believe, Sir, that it is your opportunity to call a witness.” The Judge leaned back in his chair and placed his reading glasses on his nose.

“Your Honor, I would like to call Miss. Purity Bridges to the stand.” Mr. Conway didn’t look at his witness as she made her feminine walk to the front.

All the men, including both Cartwrights, watched her sway under her skirt to the chair to give testimony. Her claim to singlehood wasn’t clear to most people, but her personality towards most men kept her a spinster. She never said, “I do,” unless it was her response to being sworn in on the witness stand. Didn’t matter. Men’s eyes still watched her walk around town, as all the petty skirts under her dress couldn’t hide the wiggle.

Mr. Conway began his questions with confidence. “Miss Bridges, I would like you to brief us regarding the incident.”

Purity sat straight and in a pleasant normal voice she began at the beginning.” Well, as I have stated before, I was a wake and couldn’t sleep when I heard a noise outside my bedroom window. When I got up to make sure the wind wasn’t just jarring it, I saw a man come climbing through the window and into my room.”

“Did you recognize the man or scream for help?”

“I…uh…No, I didn’t recognize the man. I didn’t scream because my uncle was ill and I didn’t want to startle him. But I did turn and I tried to run from the room.” Purity squirmed in her chair a little while the prosecuting attorney gave her a frown and noted her being uncomfortable.

“Go on, please.” Mr. Conway was trying to move Purity on and not have her dwell on details of her being inside the room. Purity had made some small changes in her testimony and he was afraid that these changes could give the prosecuting attorney something to use against her.

“Well, I left my room, as quietly as I could, so I wouldn’t disturb my uncle.”

“For clarification, Purity, how did you leave your room?”

“Oh, I climbed out the window. When we got to the small grove of forest, we went into this cave where we tied me up.” Purity’s expression froze on her face. She waited and hoped this would be over soon.

Joe was slightly slouched in his chair. His right index finger rested on his lower lip and he was focused on Purity. When she stopped her statement, he shifted his position, but kept his full concentration on her.

Something inside Joe told him her testimony was a little unemotional for such an event to happen. Most girls he has been with would be hysterical over something like this. Purity was calm and almost too prepared. Joe glanced over at Adam who glanced back at him. Right now, both minds were in the same place.

“I see,” Mr. Conway continued. “Did you see who the man was in the cave?”

“No, my eyes were blind-folded and I never saw him.”

“What about his voice, Purity; did you recognize the voice?”

“No, he talked very little, but when he did, it wasn’t Cord’s voice. I’m sure of that.” During this statement, Purity wasn’t looking at anyone. Her hands nervously moved around on her lap a little and she made no eye contact with anyone.

The trial continued with Purity Bridges fidgeting on the stand for almost the entire afternoon. It ended for the day about a half hour before the supper hour.

Just before the court was adjourned for the day, Mr. Conway made a request. “Your Honor, I ask the court that Mr. Phillips be released to my custody for this evening. He will stay at my residence. After all that has happened, I would like to spend time with him and go over this case. I will take the responsibility to see that Mr. Phillips is in court as he should be when it resumes.”

Judge Nathan looked directly at Cord Phillips, who seemed to be very good at hiding his emotions regarding anything. The Judge stated, “Mr. Phillips, I am willing to agree with your attorney and allow this with some restrictions.” Cord Phillips now looked directly at the Judge, “You will be in his custody which means that you will not leave his residence for any reason, you will obey his directions, and you will not socialize in any of the establishments in this town as you are just as much of a prisoner in this man’s house as you are in Sheriff Coffee’s jail.” The Judge was absolutely no nonsense and Cord Phillips knew that.

“Yes, your Honor, I understand and will agree to everything you asked of me.”

“Alright then, Mr. Conway, I’ll agree to this with the understanding that this is not something that I normally grant, but I do feel this is a special circumstance. If your defendant breaches any of these restrictions or leaves town, he will immediately be dealt with as any prisoner trying to escape justice.”

“We understand and agree to the terms, your Honor,” Mr. Conway answered for both he and his client.

The Judge made one last statement before the court was dismissed. “I’ve been informed that Mr. Wilson’s funeral will be held tomorrow. This case will rest the full day tomorrow and will resume first thing the following morning. This court is adjourned until Friday morning, promptly at 10 a.m.” The gavel struck and everyone left the courthouse.

*****

Sheriff Coffee’s Office – Wednesday Evening

Roy was alone in his office. Wally was more than happy to go post some wanted posters before the sun went completely down. Roy had just beat him at checkers. They didn’t play for money, but Wally wasn’t happy. Roy had a way of laughing at the end of a game he’d win that always made the opponent’s ego feel a little flat. Roy enjoyed winning and he didn’t mind showing it.

He got up from his desk and poured a cup of coffee to wash down the cold ham and cheese sandwich that was his dinner for the evening. Some of the testimony today bothered him and to eat in a restaurant wouldn’t give him the privacy that he wanted. He wanted to think and chew on what he saw and heard. After he posted some of the posters, Wally would go on home and Roy had the office to himself. Or so he thought.

The door to the office swung open and Adam’s tall slim body dressed in black strode into the office. His dark eyes peered from under the brim of his hat until he removed it and hung it on a nearby wall peg. Neither one said anything to the other as Adam headed for the coffee pot. Then he sat in the chair in front of Roy’s desk. Roy smiled while he chewed his sandwich and was glad to see him, but didn’t give Adam a formal greeting. Instead, he began to speak to Adam as though Adam had been in the office for a while.

“Yep, I was gettin’ ready to mull this whole thing over.” Roy took another bite and chewed it at the side of his mouth so he could keep talking. “I’m havin’ a hard time puttin’ this murder with this trial.”

Adam leaned his chair back that he was sitting in and balanced it on the rear two legs while he sipped on fresh coffee.

Roy also leaned back in his chair and occasionally stared at the ceiling while he chewed and talked to Adam. “I always felt that this job was like a poker game. You don’t get cards of choice, but then you try to get cards to make a winnin’ hand. Evidence and witnesses, Adam, are like those other cards you need. Maybe you get ‘em and maybe you don’t. Yep, this job sure has a lot of maybes.”

Adam then remembered. “Oh, I got a chance to look at Judd’s boots. They don’t match the print we found. Now I find myself looking at everyone’s shoes as I walk down the street. I focus on the toe.” A task Adam didn’t enjoy, but understood its value.

“Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.” Roy took another big bite of sandwich. “Tryin’ to solve a crime means you use the logic your head supplies, along with your eyes, your nose, and your ears. Sometimes logic and theories just ain’t enough. So you look at everythin’ with your eyes, listen with your ears, and poke your nose into everybody’s business.” He bit again and glanced at Adam. “It’s all in the name of solvin’ a crime.”

Roy got up from his chair and got the coffee pot from the nearby stove. He filled Adam’s cup and then his own before he put it back.

Adam was still leaning in the chair with his feet on the floor keeping him from going back too far or forward. “What really rankles me, Roy, is people who think that they are the voice of the town and use their gun to just eliminate someone. Whether they personally know the victim or not.”

“Murder’s always personal. Even if the person is only a by-stander. As soon as that bullet hits a victim, it’s personal. But I know what-cha mean. Motive isn’t always what’s important. Just the fact that someone picks up a gun to solve a problem.”

Adam’s plain expression changed to a serious stare as he listened to Roy.

“You sip on that coffee, Adam, ‘cause I’m gonna fill your ears with a little theory. Somethin’ I’ve been thinkin’ about since the trial ended today.”

Roy sat down and this time, he shoved a cookie into his mouth. “Purity’s testimony. Now I think motive is real important here. Purity is no victim. I think she got kidnapped and taken to the cave, but I think she went willingly.”

Adam sipped some more coffee while he nodded his head in agreement. “Purity and Cord are in this together. When she testified before today, I got that feeling.”

“You got that right. She’s desperate for a man and he’s desperate for some money.” Roy grabbed another cookie and popped it into his mouth. The look on his face had some satisfaction in it. He was obviously thinking while he pushed a cookie at Adam.

Adam glanced at the chocolate on top of the cookie before he bit into it. “Roy, I don’t think this is any theory. I think it’s a fact that this case isn’t connected at all. I didn’t get a hint that Judd had anything to do with these two. Joe knows Judd and he didn’t think so either.”

Roy looked at Adam and smiled. “I agree. But this decision sure doesn’t move this murder investigation any further. I think Purity is going to make the prosecution’s case without his help.”

“It seems that all they wanted was to get some money out of her uncle. Probably neither thought they would get caught. Purity would just show up in town and claim the person responsible let her go and left town,” Adam commented.

“Yeah, I think so, too. For a credible witness, she was too anxious to me. Early in my career, a good ole Judge told me to always listen to what a person says and, most important, Adam, how they say it.”

Adam’s right eyebrow went up again and usually did when Roy said something that interested him.

“Yep, as she went over the incident, I heard a lot of changin’ words that kept botherin’ me.” Roy rubbed his chin and now stared across the room, “When she was talkin’ about bein’ woke up and bein’ taken from her bedroom, her testimony had a lot of “I” statements. Like she was actually alone or a participant. There was no ‘we climbed out of the window’ or ‘he forced me to climb out.’ Referrin’ to herself and Cord. Then when she talked about bein’ in the woods and taken into the cave, she changed to ‘we.’ As if she was then with someone.” Again, Roy leaned back in his chair to contemplate.

Adam now had that little smile on his face as if he was the cat that cornered the mouse and knew the mouse’s future. “I think she firmly placed herself in this scenario when she said that ‘we tied me up.’ That came out of her mouth before she realized what she said.”

Roy chuckled as he had picked up on that too, “Adam, it’s always in a person’s words. Some people can put on a face that can hide the truth. Some people practice that all the time if they just can’t help but walk through the door of trouble. I’ve seen it in some of my prisoners over the years. But you can find the truth in their words and the way they say it. That old Judge taught me a valuable lesson.” Roy washed the last of his supper down his throat with his coffee.

“Roy, although we agree with each other, I’d rather just put this case and theory off to the side, but not totally dismiss it. What if there’s a surprise down the road? Purity has surprised us once and she could do it again. Besides, I have a brother on this jury and we still don’t have any idea why Judd was a victim,” Adam said with determination.

“Good thinkin’. Let’s don’t start bein’ foolish and totally dismiss everythin’. You just keep that keen eye and mind open for somethin’ here in town as you go about your business.“

Adam then mentioned his earlier conversation with Joe. “Joe said something to me that was interesting. He told me about a woman that came into contact with Judd. The woman apparently bothered Judd. Sounds like before she left, she and Judd just might have had some kind of a disagreement.”

Roy’s face had a surprised, but interested look. “A woman? Now that kind of motive for murder has been a part of history for a long time. Maybe she was a little in love with him. He rejects her, she leaves, meets another man, and manages to eventually get him to kill Judd.” Roy was speculating, but lawmen do that.

“Could be.” That’s just what Adam had thought. Love situations can easily lead to murder when one is seen as betraying the other.

“I need you at the funeral tomorrow, Adam. Let’s position ourselves at different places in the church. We need to look into every face, listen to every word said, do what we can to move this case forward.” Roy told Adam seriously and Adam nodded in agreement.

Adam got up, took care of his cup, and retreated back to his hotel room. He wanted to think about things a little before Joe got back from his meeting with the other jury members and filled him in on all the details.

Roy called it a night. Tomorrow would be a big day in Virginia City. The whole town was taking some kind of part in Judd’s funeral.

*****

The Funeral of Judd Wilson – Thursday Morning

The funeral for Judd was held in the church on the south end of “C” Street. Everyone seemed to be happy that the funeral would be early in the day with the burial taking place before the high noon temperatures reached the cooking stage. It appeared as if the entire town was going to attend. The walls of the church bulged with people who were standing because the seating was all taken. Some had to stand outside the front doors.

The black shiny hearse stood out against the yellowish exterior of the church. The hearse was the best Virginia City had. The wealth of the Comstock made it possible for Virginia City to get one trimmed in 24K gold and sterling silver. Inside where the casket would rest for its final journey, the ceiling and walls were lined with red silk and rich mahogany was on its floor. The driver and his assistant would sit on a red leather bench at the front of the hearse and above the rears of the two horses that would pull it.

Inside the church just below the pulpit, was the casket. There were many sizes of bouquets of fresh flowers setting around the front of the church. The scent of the flowers could be smelt all over. A large bouquet of wild flowers graced the top of the coffin that was made of the finest pine. The wood used came from the lumber brought up from the Ponderosa. It was a fine grade and the people were happy with the donated lumber to build a fine casket. Inside where Judd’s mutilated body lay was cream colored silk. The only thing missing was Judd’s awareness of how much the citizens of Virginia City thought about him. How much they cared. Joe remembered Judd’s family was somewhere back east, but no one knew where or how to reach them. One attempt was made that didn’t get any results. It was unanimous. Virginia City became his family for the day.

It was only 10:00 a.m. and the church was already warm. The preacher had opened as many windows as possible. Many times Nevada would offer a brisk wind blowing through the City, but today the wind abandoned this town and the air seemed as solemn as the mourners inside. The choir had taken its place and was ready to start the service.

Roy stood against the wall to have a better view of the crowd. He and Adam agreed that they would watch for any unknown mourners or keep an eye out for anything strange.

Joe sat up front with the other jury members. All of them volunteered to be Judd’s pallbearers and those not carrying the casket would be escorts.

Adam leaned against the east wall at the rear of the church. He held his hat in his hands. While he waited, he slowly rotated his hat in a circle letting his fingers feel the leather band inside. He looked down at his hat and then occasionally looked up to watch someone in the crowd.

The choir began with a favorite hymn of Judd’s, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” with the clank of the fifteen-year-old piano accompanying them. The sound of crying could be heard with an occasional sniffle or blowing of the nose.

“…In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a sol-ace there.” As the choir sang this last verse, the preacher faced the crowd and raised his open hands towards the heavens. When the last note was silenced, he began his sermon. “What a friend, in deed, we have in Jesus!” he declared with excitement in his voice. A couple of “Amen’s” could be heard at different locations in the church. With his hands down, he walked over to the pulpit and stood directly behind it. “Our tears are tears that also flow from heaven. Oh, God! We are suffering in the loss of our brother, Judd Wilson. Help us cope with the tragedy that has befallen us. We know that you will not abandon us in our time of suffering.”

A couple more “Amen’s” were heard, along with the short cry of a baby and a gentleman’s cough.

As the preacher continued his sermon, Roy’s eyes began to survey the sitting members of the crowd. He noticed Millie Sayers crying. She was a saloon girl from the “Ace In The Hole” gambling hall on Sutton near “D” Street. Roy didn’t like this area much as a part of “D” Street was the embarrassment of Virginia City. A block or two was the “red light” district that kept Roy a little too busy when the cowboys got their pay. Roy noticed that people around Millie were also crying, but the depth of her crying was more intense.

His eyes narrowed a little as he focused on her across the room. ‘Judd wouldn’t hang around a saloon girl. But she cries like she knew him well,’ Roy thought to himself and was suspicious of anyone who did anything out of what he thought was ordinary. ‘I need to know why a saloon girl would cry over a man that only frequented bars when having a beer with a male friend.’ The whole town was grieving, but her hard crying was out of Roy’s sense of ordinary.

Adam began to move around passing through the men that jammed the rear of the church. He was looking at faces, hair, and clothes trying to see if anything was out of place. He had heard that some killers would show up after the crime to gawk at their results. Kind of like giving themselves an invisible reward for accomplishing their deadly goal. He slowly moved between the men and occasionally bumped someone’s shoulder because the space was too small.

“Praise the Lord,” the preacher belted out. “We know that you, Lord, suffer with us and that you cry because we hurt. Our Father has called him home.” The preacher wiped sweat from his forehead with a hankie before he continued. The people responded from different parts of the church, “Amen…Amen…Amen…”

Adam stopped briefly only to look into eyes and then returned to the spot where he started. Then he noticed something different. Something he thought was odd. Adam noticed someone standing behind one of the post on the North side of the church. He couldn’t see the entire person, but what caught his interest were the pants of the person. They appeared to be the same light blue material he and Roy found out at Judd’s ranch. Adam tried to move closer to see if he could reach the person, but there were too many people between him and the stranger. Adam persisted and pushed through until he reached the post. Adam sighed; whoever it had been was now gone.

Adam looked around to see where the stranger may have moved when he saw the door that led to the outside of the church. He made his way to the door after bumping into a few people. Adam opened the door and went outside to look around. He was sure that he saw something. Adam walked to the center of the alley, put his hands on his hips and swung his head from left to right. Suddenly, a pair of hands landed on his back and he was shoved forward. Adam lost his balance and tumbled forward into some crates stacked at the side of the next building. As he fell forward, he felt the rough edge of a wooden crate against the bottom part of his hand. He tried to use his hands to stop his head and upper body from crashing into the crates. But his efforts were lost. Another rough surface of a crate brushed his left cheek causing the skin to break and become red. He rolled over onto his back and drew his gun ready to fire. Adam looked around as he got up onto his feet, but whoever pushed him was gone. He was the only one in the alley. After he briefly checked the area and found no one, he placed his gun back into his holster, brushed the dirt off his clothes, and re-entered the church through the same door. Once inside, he made his way to the back of the church and this time stood at the church entrance.

As the preacher continued his sermon, a dead silence from the spectators prevailed over the room. Only the occasional cry of a baby would be heard. The only movement from the people was the mother patting her baby’s back and a few people fanning themselves with their funeral announcements.

The hour passed fast and the service ended with a prayer. The choir sang, “Amazing Grace” accompanied, once again, by the clank of the piano and sniffles of sadness. The pallbearers led by Joe Cartwright positioned themselves to lift the coffin and then carried it to the waiting hearse.

When the crowd inside the church began to leave, Roy stayed where he was against the wall. Millie was on the other side of the church and he would have to talk to her at another time. Roy could see Judge Nathan and his wife slowly maneuvering their way up the narrow aisle. When Judge Nathan arrived at Roy’s position, Roy began walking with them towards the doors to exit the church.

Adam was one of the first to leave the church. As soon as he was completely outside, he put his hat on low on his forehead. Adam then walked across the street to the covered sidewalk in front of the cabinet making business that had closed for the service. He leaned against the post while he watched the crowd pour out of the double doors. His eyes looked like he was in deep thought as they squinted from the brightness the sun created. He crossed his arms over his chest becoming comfortable in this position that was familiar to those who knew him. His eyes looked at the men standing outside like a hawk searching for prey.

It didn’t seem long until the hearse began to move down “C” Street. In this elegant vehicle, Judd Wilson headed for the cemetery that would cradle him in her Earth for his eternal sleep. Like a mother cradling her baby in a blanket.

Judge Nathan guided his wife towards their buggy. They weren’t going to attend the burial, as Mrs. Nathan felt ill from the heat inside the church. Roy shook the Judge’s hand and then followed the crowd of people who walked behind the funeral procession.

Adam decided not to attend the burial and knew Joe would be all right and do a proper job of being one of Judd’s pallbearers. He headed down the shaded side of the street towards the International House to wait for Joe. In all this madness, a little quiet time was welcomed and he would get together with Roy later.

The funeral procession moved slowly to the other side of town. People not attending the burial stopped on the wooden sidewalks and watched the procession go by. The wild flowers on top of Judd’s casket were beautiful through the window that was surrounded by the gold and silver trim. The procession turned right onto Carson Street that wound around a couple of curves and finally ended at the gate that was the entrance to his final home. The pallbearers carried Judd up a small hill where the open grave waited its occupant.

The pallbearers set the casket down next to the 6-foot deep hole. Joe stood up straight and smiled and kept his thoughts to himself, ‘If Judd could open his eyes he could watch the city and its people. He’d like that.’ He then took his place next to the other pallbearers. Today, they weren’t members of the jury. Today, they were just friends doing the right thing for their fallen leader.

When the short service was over, Roy turned to leave when he saw Millie. He walked over to her for an opportunity to talk.

“Millie,” Roy removed his hat as he greeted her, “Millie, I need to talk to you and ask a question.”

Millie wiped her red eyes that were puffy from her crying. “Sheriff, have you found anything that would tell us who killed Judd?” Her crying ceased as she sniffled with a runny nose.

Before he answered her, he took her by the elbow and led her out of the hot sun and into the shade of a nearby tree. “No, I’m afraid this is a tough one, but I’m always confident. In fact, I’m always talkin’ to people to see what they might know.” His look was more like a glare as he waited for her to say something.

“Well, I know I can’t help, but I sure wish I could. I wish I had the answer for you. It would be the least I could do to help poor ole Judd now.” She looked down at the ground as she said this and then she looked up at Roy.

Roy asked, “How did you know Judd?”

“I guess you think I’m an odd friend for someone like Judd.”

Roy cocked his head in curiosity. “Why would I think that?”

“Well, everyone knows he didn’t make a habit of hanging around saloon girls. But I met him one evening when I was walking home. Judd thought it was too dark for a woman to walk by herself. He escorted me to Palmer’s Boarding House where I stay. We talked and became friends. You don’t find friends like him just anywhere.”

Roy looked at her and could see that she was telling the truth. “I think everyone is feelin’ a real emptiness with his death. Men like Judd don’t come along all the time.”

“No, they don’t, Sheriff. When you’re a saloon girl, you don’t run into men who see you as a lady and treat you like one.”

Roy put his hat back on and left her with a “thank you and take care.” He had hoped that this would be a lead even if it had been a very small one. He believed Millie but her words were as useful to him as a fur coat to a grizzly bear.

Roy squinted as the sun hit him directly in the face. ‘This whole mess is like fishin’ and I keep throwin’ my line into the water waitin’ for the big fish I know is there.’ Roy took a deep breath and began his walk out of the cemetery.

It nagged him that good people can’t help, but those that can help won’t say a word. Sometimes the person with information is just afraid to say something. Sometimes the person with the information is just as evil as the perpetrator and won’t say a word to protect the guilty.

*****

Southeast Virginia City – Later the same afternoon

With the funeral over, Roy spend the rest of his afternoon talking to the people in town just in case he missed something or maybe someone would remember something they had forgotten.

He decided to visit Nellie Browne at her home. She was an elderly lady in her 70’s. She was petite, gray haired, and slim. Her blue eyes were as sharp as ever. When her husband, Peter, retired and closed their tailor shop, she continued to take in alterations in their home. Roy figured that after all the years she has spent using threads and materials, she just might be able to tell him something about the small piece of material.

Roy saw Nellie peek out her front window, as soon as his boots hit the wooden steps leading up to the porch of her two-story white trimmed in green Victorian home. He crossed the wide porch and Nellie opened the door and greeted him before he could knock.

“Roy! What a surprise to see you here. Indeed, a pleasant surprise.” That was Nellie. She always greeted her visitors with very cheerful and complimenting words.

His big grin displayed a row of white teeth that protruded below his salt and pepper mustache. He removed his hat. “Good afternoon, Nellie. I wish this were a social visit. I haven’t had a chance to talk to you or your husband in a long time. How is Peter?”

Nellie escorted Roy into the front room and retrieved some coffee and sugar cookies for their visit. Roy was surprised that the warm coffee was so refreshing with such hot temperatures outside. But Nellie managed to keep the front side of her house cool because of the way it was positioned on the property away from the sun.

“Nellie, I guess you heard of all the commotion in town with the death of the young man we buried this mornin’.” Nellie nodded as Roy went on, “Adam Cartwright and I are workin’ on this together and we found an interestin’ piece of material where the murder happen.” Roy finally took another sip of his coffee to wash down the bite of sweet homemade sugar cookie he couldn’t resist.

“What kind of material, Roy?” Nellie’s curiosity was always raised when someone talked about items of her craft, especially something as important as this sounded.

Roy pulled the small piece out of his pocket and gave it to her.

“Hmm,” Nellie’s eyebrows went up and Roy noticed, “An obviously fine grade of material, too.” Nellie looked at it very closely.

“How can you tell it’s a fine grade of material?”

“Well, Roy, when you’ve been in my profession for as long as I have, you come to know these things very well. I bet you can look at a gun and know immediately what its quality is.”

That got Roy’s attention and his eyebrows went up as his head tilted slightly to the right. “What can you tell me about that material, Nellie?”

“Well, I do wish it was a bigger piece, Roy. But it reminds me of the material that would be made back East or possibly in Philadelphia or New York. The tightness of the threads is what gives it quality. It’s tight because there are more threads used in making the garment than just a common piece.”

“Can you tell about a man who would wear something like that?”

“Well, not really. It doesn’t say that the man is from the East. He could have mail-ordered something nice like this. He could be a man that likes quality things in his life. If you were looking for someone who dresses in quality clothes, then I’d have to say your choices would be narrowed down a little. Not many men in Virginia City wear quality clothes on a daily basis. Most men here are working men and would only wear something like this to church or a special social occasion.”

“Hmmm.” Roy rubbed his chin, “Then if I find a stranger in town that wears quality clothing as his daily wear, then I just might find a torn shirt in his closet.” Roy’s expression demonstrated that his mind was full of ideas and he was sorting them out.

“Yes, it would be alright to think that. But, look at the color. The color is an obvious blue with a hint of green when you really look close. I’m so sorry, Roy, but that doesn’t help much.”

“It helps more than you think it does, Nellie. It’s become more than just a piece of material,” Roy assured her.

Footsteps were then heard coming from a nearby hallway and eventually Peter rounded the corner. “Roy, how nice to see you.” Peter extended his hand out to Roy as Roy stood and extended his. The men greeted each other with a shake of hands, “I hear you have your hands full lately with the trial, both your deputies out of town, and this horrible murder.”

“Yes, Peter, my life is sure challenged lately. I was just talkin’ to Nellie about a piece of material that was found out at Judd’s ranch. She’s been a big help or, at least, I have a little more to go on thanks to her.”

Nellie blushed and was pleased that she could do something for Roy. When elections came around, she and Peter always voted for Roy as Sheriff without any discussion of choices.

“May I see this material?” Peter asked and was handed the material. “Well, I’m not the expert that Nellie is, but this does remind me of something.”

“Oh!” came from Roy as he handed the piece to Peter.

“Tuesday night as I was heading for the Washoe Club, I decided to stop by the Delta Saloon. A new owner has taken over and I heard about how nice it is, so I wanted to see for myself. When I went inside, there was a Faro game,” Peter chuckled, “with the owner playing in the game. Not too smart. Uh…but I do remember seeing a man watching the game. He had on a shirt about this color. And I do remember one of the sleeves being torn.”

“Can you describe this man?” Roy had no doubt that dropping by the Browne home was a smart thing to do.

“Now, it was a little dark in there, Roy. But I can remember him being slim and having light colored hair. But with Nellie and I both being in the tailoring business for years, my attention went right to his shirt. As far as the color, it was hard to say because light can play on color and can make it change depending on the light that’s hitting it. But, being in the business, one notices tears and imperfections.”

“Interestin’, Peter. Did he eventually play in the game or just watch?” Roy needed to know as it might tell him whom to talk to next.

“I didn’t stay that long, Roy. Just wanted to look around the saloon a little. It’s just that his shirt caught my attention.”

Roy was still standing and was anxious to pursue this further. Adam would be very interested in this development. Then Roy remembered. “Peter, what about his boots? Did you, by any chance, notice the toe area of his boots?” Roy waited with tilted head again and mouth slightly opened.

”Boots? No, I’m afraid not. Just the shirt.”

Roy thanked both Nellie and Peter for their help and promised to drop by sometime when everything was settled down and back to normal for Virginia City. Nellie held the cookie plate out to Roy. He took one last cookie, winked and nodded at her as he bit into it, and then headed for the door.

Roy walked at a good pace down “B” Street and poked his head into Martha’s Café. He wanted to see if Adam was around. When he didn’t see Adam, Roy bypassed the hotel and headed straight for the Delta Saloon down on “C” Street. Sweat started slowly forming on his forehead from the heat, but he wanted to rush his walk a little and get to the saloon. He was anxious to talk to Black Jake, the new owner, and see if he might get a little more information on this mysterious man.

He walked into the saloon and saw that it was empty of customers. The bartender was wiping the top of the bar down and didn’t look up at all when Roy walked in. Roy removed his hat and enjoyed the cool air begin to dry the sweat.

“Hello there,” Roy greeted the bartender.

The man behind the bar glanced up at Roy and then immediately looked down again at what he was doing.

Roy reached the bar. “Excuse me, mister. I’m Sheriff Roy Coffee and I’d like to speak with the owner. I believe his name is Black Jake.” Roy smiled.

“What’d ya want with him?” No smile on his face.

“Well, I’m afraid son, that has to just stay between myself and the owner. Can you tell me where he is, please?” Roy was polite, but the bartender’s unfriendliness was starting to irritate him.

“That right? Well, you’re talking to him. So, what’s you business?”

“My business is the law.” Roy leaned on the bar and gave the man a piercing stare. The silent message that Roy was giving him was that he was there to do lawman business and wasn’t going to cater to rudeness during his investigation. “Now, you can stop cleanin’ and talk to me in this informal settin’ or I’ll invite you to my office where we’ll have a more formal talk.”

“How about if we set down at that table over there? Want something to swallow? It’s on the house.” Black Jake now looked at Roy when he talked. He opened his business to make money, not friends. But he sure didn’t want any trouble from the law.

“No, thank you. Just want to talk to you a minute.” Roy sat down. He wasn’t smiling. He shared enough of the pleasant side of his personality with this man. Now it was time for him to see Roy’s other side. The business side that wasn’t in the mood to take any nonsense.

Black Jake sat down at the table across from Roy. He was very tall and very slim. He had black curly hair and a mustache with ends that stopped below the opening of his mouth. His dark eyes were draped with a little extra skin on his eyelids making them look smaller than they were. He was in his early 40’s, but his life was obviously hard and made him look ten years older. Only his wife and kids saw him smile on rare occasions. None of his customers did. “So, what’s the interest in me? I just got the business open and I do what I can to make sure no trouble walks in here. If it does, I’ll do what I need to and get rid of it.”

Roy slightly reared his head back. “As far as I can tell, there’s been no trouble for you. But there might have been someone come in here I might be interested in.”

“Sheriff, a lot of people come in here. Your friend have a name? What does he look like?”

“Don’t know his name. I’d say he’s about average height. Light colored hair. And wears quality clothes. Had a blue shirt on the other day.” Roy baited his hook, threw his line in the water, and now he waited for the nibble.

“Oh yeah. I remember seeing someone like that. He’s been in a couple of times. Likes to watch a Faro game. “ Black Jake leaned his chair back on its rear legs.

“Did he just watch or play the game?”

“Always watches. Never talks to anyone, though. Just watches, has a couple of drinks, and then leaves quietly. Someone I need to watch our for, Sheriff?”

“No, I’m not so sure you need to be wary of him. But I’d sure appreciate it if you could let me know if he comes in again. I’d like to talk with him about somethin’.” Roy now had a smirk-like smile on his face, “Virginia City’s a good town with some good people. But every now and then cowboys like to get drunk and rouse people a little. You know, argue, fight, tear up someone’s saloon? I try to get to the trouble as fast as I can. Of course, I get there faster for bar owners who support the law.” Roy grinned real big. Yep! The fish was bitin’.

Black Jake didn’t need anyone to interpret what Roy was saying. He knew Roy was telling him to cooperate with the law. “I hear ya, Sheriff. I’m trying to run a clean business and I don’t want nor need any trouble. If I see your friend or hear anything, then you’ll get the word.”

Roy stood up and extended his hand for a handshake. He was happy. He didn’t get what he wanted, but what he got was good enough.

Roy walked out of the Delta Saloon, put his hat on, and headed for the International Hotel. His toothy grin was now a smile of satisfaction. He wanted to talk to Adam and give him the information he was able to gather this afternoon. That was one of their strategies. Keep each other informed.

A few steps down the walkway and Roy saw three men he knew. He stopped long enough to greet them. “Bob, Jim, Louis, how’s things with all of you?”

Bob Walker spoke up as the other two just nodded and smiled at Roy. “Hello, Roy. We were hoping to see you today. Saw you at the funeral earlier, but too many people to try and make it to your location.”

“Yeah, I know. I had the same problem with people I wanted to talk to.”

“Uh, Roy. We’ve been wondering…you know…uh…” Bob fidgeted as he tried to spit out the words.

“Bob, you look as nervous as a chicken starin’ at a fryin’ pan. Now what in tarnation is botherin’ you?” Roy stood with his hands behind his back and waited for this long-time Virginia City resident to say something.

“Well, Roy. We just want to know if you know who this killer is. We’re nervous for our families.”

“I can understand that. But Adam and I are workin’ on it all the time. If I were you, I’d keep my eyes open and watch my family just like I would do anytime, but don’t go getting’ yourselves all riled up. As far as I know, the killer was after Judd and no one else is in jeopardy.” Roy tried to reassure the men. That was another strategy between him and Adam…doesn’t indulge any information to anyone unless they have to tell it to find something out.

Roy tipped his hat to them, wished them well without giving them another chance to say anything, and continued on his way.

He climbed the easy broad steps of the hotel and entered through the “C” Street doors. A short look around the hotel and he found Adam in the men’s reading room making his way through one of those leading eastern journals. An empty bourbon glass sat on a table near Adam’s right hand. Adam didn’t see Roy until Roy was practically at his feet.

“Roy! I wasn’t expecting to see you this afternoon. Joe just finished filling me in on the burial and said he saw you talking to Millie Sayers.” Adam put his paper down. He was wearing his hat even inside a plush parlour as the men’s reading room. His eyelids were lined with dark chocolate-colored lashes and the light hit his pupils giving them a hint of gold. His five o’clock shadow began to show on the lower part of his face as the evening hours came closer.

Roy sat down near Adam and kept his voice down. The other men in the room weren’t paying them any attention and seemed to be fully engaged in business conversations. The room was filled with cigar smoke and the smell of fine bourbon. The hotel’s favorite was straight from Kentucky. “I talked to Millie just as a possible witness, but she was just a friend of Judd’s and only knew him as an acquaintance. Nothin’ else.” Roy leaned a little closer as Adam did the same, ”But I did get a little information regardin’ that piece of cloth from the Browne’s. Then I went over to the Delta Saloon and talked with the owner and got more information.”

Adam’s attention was glued to Roy. Roy continued his conversation telling Adam about the afternoon’s events and filling him in on all of the information he had. They agreed that they would walk around town more than they have and look for this man now that they have some kind of description of him. They also agreed to let Joe in on the information. Joe got around town a lot and would be a good “look-out” for them. Joe could be trusted, as he knew the value of this kind of secrecy.

“You gettin’ anywhere with round-toed boots?” Roy quizzed Adam, wanting to rib him a little. Roy was in a good mood after his fruitful afternoon conversations.

“No. I’m getting some funny looks as I pass people on the street after I look at their shoes,” Adam said dryly as he leaned over to one side of his chair.

Roy chuckled.

“Do you know me as someone who normally goes around looking at peoples’ feet?” Adam said very matter-of-factly.

“No, can’t say that’s your characteristic at all.” Roy’s chuckle continued.

“Well, neither do a lot of the townspeople. Seems like when I pass by them, I can look back where I’ve been and I have everyone looking down at their feet trying to figure out why I was so interested.”

Roy was having a good laugh. He could just imagine a whole street full of people standing there staring at their own feet as Adam walked by. “Yeah, I’d say most people know you as someone that looks at somethin’ when there’s a reason. I can just hear the dinner conversations at their homes.”

“Thanks, Roy, I needed your vote of confidence,” Adam said sarcastically as he knew Roy was enjoying this, but then he became serious again, “Sounds like we don’t need to worry about boot shapes right now. The cloth and the description of the suspect have a better chance to lead to something than the toe of a boot.” Adam thought Roy would comment on this.

After a short discussion on things, in general, Adam and Roy parted company. Adam let Roy know that he and Joe planned to have dinner in the hotel and just stay in. Tonight Adam would fill Joe in on his conversation with Roy about the developments. Roy told Adam that he was just going to stay in his office and then turn in somewhat early.

*****

International Hotel, Third Floor, Thursday Night

It was night and the Nevada weather finally offered a familiar wind that cooled the day temperature. Guests in the International Hotel could open a window in their room to dissipate the heat that had built up from the afternoon. It was a relief. To be able to sit in a chair or lie on the bed without building up a sweat was a nice change.

It wasn’t just the weather that changed that evening. Finally…the activity of the town seemed to be normal. All the saloons did a brisk business with happy sounds of laughter, clinking glass, and fingers playing the piano keys. These sounds didn’t indicate any worry by any of the city’s residents. Roy made his usual walk on “C” Street before he retired to his office.

Most of the men on the jury had gone to their homes for the evening. The day had been a big day for them and tomorrow would be the same. Most likely, Cord will take the stand for hours just like Purity had previously.

George Woods, the latest foreman on the jury, had two small adjoining rooms in the hotel. He preferred to stay in the hotel when he became the foreman, as his ranch was located just outside of Carson City. The ride to see the Judge each morning would just take too much time. To stay in town made it easier for him and less worrisome for his wife. She commented that he would be safer in the hotel with other people around him.

The small room at the front of his suite was dark. The adjoining room with his bed and a table was dimly lit. He was tired, his eyes were tired, and all he wanted to do was briefly go over his notes and then get a good night’s rest. As George sat down to read, he thought about the funeral and how pleased he was with the way all of the men on the jury handled it. He especially liked the way Joe Cartwright took a lead role and kept everything running smoothly.

George was a man in his early 60’s with most of his hair turning a soft gray. He enjoyed the finer things in life, especially food, as his weight was a good seventy-five pounds over what it probably should be. George wasn’t a man who really cared. When you had a wife that cooked like his, you didn’t pick at your food. His belly shook like Santa Claus when someone would tell a good story. He was intelligent as he had been educated in the finest schools back East. He moved to the West when he was young and began a business in contracting. He wasn’t a lawyer, but a businessman that helped many ranchers in the area find honest and suitable buyers and sellers for their cattle, horses, lumber, and some mining ventures. He knew Ben Cartwright for a long time and they had become good business friends who often consulting each other.

After about a half hour of reading, George decided to call it a night. He began to dress in his nightclothes when he thought he heard a noise in the darkened front room. George went to the doorway that separated his two rooms and peered into the darkness. He heard and saw nothing.

He went back in to his bedroom and continued what he was doing when he heard a loud thump as if someone bumped into a table.

George jumped at the noise that startled him and his breathing started to race. He went to the doorway and called out. No one answered. George wasn’t thinking when he stepped into the dark room. He immediately felt a hard hit on the upper back of his head. So hard that pain shot across his skull and immediately made him dizzy. The room was dark, but the hit made the room turn even darker as George fell and became unconscious before his body rested in a distorted position on the floor.

Way down the hall from George’s room, Joe and Adam were in their room. Joe sat at the table cleaning his gun. He hadn‘t shot it lately, but his father taught him to clean it every night and make sure all the parts were properly working. Adam did that same thing earlier and was now reclined on his bed reading a favorite book.

Suddenly, the silence of the evening was disturbed. A loud scream from a woman could be heard. Adam and Joe jumped up and ran to the door of their room. Adam was first and opened the door. With gun in hand, he ran into the hallway. Joe was so close behind Adam that he almost became a part of Adam’s back when Adam stopped abruptly. Both men were in their socks, pants, and opened shirts. They saw nothing, but heard the same female voice call for help again. They raced down the hall and turned a couple of corners. A woman stood in the hall staring into a room with its door wide open.

Joe immediately went to the woman to comfort her. She appeared very shaken.

Adam peeked into the open door to see what had upset her. When he did, the light in the hallway illuminated George’s body that was crumpled on the floor. Glass from a broken vase was scattered around the room. Adam held his gun ready to fire. As he raced into the room, his dark hazel eyes scanned it for movement. Nothing presented itself. He knelt down next to George and called George’s name. He did not get an answer. Adam put his index and middle finger on the side of George’s neck to check for a pulse. He was relieved when he felt the rhythmic pump under his fingertips. George was alive, but Adam could tell he was seriously injured. As Adam stood up, three men came out of their rooms to see what was going on.

The men carefully picked George’s body and carried him to Dr. Martin’s house at the edge of town. Joe went to his room to put on his boots and then ran to find Roy. Adam stayed with the woman to ask some questions. Joe had settled her down enough where she was able to give Adam some details. Not much, but she filled him in, as best she could.

“Did you see anyone come out of this room?” Adam asked the obvious question, as he wanted to keep her from just rambling. He needed to know exactly what she saw and didn’t need her excitement taking her on tangents.

“Yes,” she answered as her voice trembled and her body still had a little shake to it, “He was tall. He was…” she put her hand on her chest at the base of her throat trying to regulate her breath, “The look on his face was so full of evil.”

“Did he say anything to you?” Adam kept his questions coming.

“No. He just looked at me in a way that really scare me. I thought he might do something to me, too.” That made her giver an obvious shudder, as if a chill came over her.

“Can you describe him other than just being tall? How tall?” Adam pushed gently.

The woman looked Adam up and down for a moment then she answered his question, “He wasn’t quite as tall as you, but taller than the man that was with you when you first got here. He was wearing some blue pants and a white shirt. That’s all I remember.” She covered her mouth to fight a cry that wanted to come out.

“Can you tell me the color of his hair or eyes?” Adam wanted as much description as he could get.

“His eyes were dark and just…full of hate or anger. His hair? Uh, I think it was a lighter color, but I can’t remember for sure. I just remember being drawn to the evil in his eyes.” This thought made her begin to cry again and, this time, she made no attempt to stop it.

“You’re fine. No one is going to hurt you.” Adam put a comforting arm around her shoulder and tried to comfort her. The touch of his arm on her did calm her down and the tears went away from her eyes. She didn’t know who he was, but his touch made her feel safe.

One of the workers in the hotel came rushing up the hall that Adam recognized. “John, would you please see that this lady gets safely to her room?” The man Adam spoke to nodded and escorted the lady away.

Adam walked down the hall and turned the corner. He spotted a door partially opened. When he opened the door to see where it led, he noted that it opened to some stairs. The stairs led to the outside and would facilitate a fast get-away for someone. Adam turned and went back to George’s room, as he knew that, once again, the attacker was lucky and got away. But Adam knew luck only held for a person briefly. Luck in life or in cards only lasted for so long and then it could turn on the person counting on it.

Adam labored over his thoughts about a motive as he turned up the lantern to look the room over. Were the victims linked because they were foremen of the jury? If so, why? He and Roy were sure the trial wasn’t linked to these crimes, but why were both victims on the jury? Adam’s gut told him that George’s attacker was the same person who killed Judd. He was especially convinced of it when he found George’s wallet still in his jacket pocket and the jacket was undisturbed. It certainly wasn’t robbery. It was personal against George.

*****

Virginia City, Friday Morning

Roy was up early and felt rested. He slept well during the night and hadn’t tossed and turned like he had for a couple of nights previously. A knock on the office door brought a stop to his morning coffee. A messenger was sent to Roy asking him to come to Johnson’s Dry Goods on Sutton near “C” Street. When Roy walked in the front door, he was greeted by a small group of Virginia City citizens and businessmen. He stopped just inside the front door as soon as he saw the unfriendly, determined faces of his visitors.

“Roy!” Mr. Johnson began, who seemed to be acting as the spokesman for the group, “We want to know what’s going on and why hasn’t someone been caught?”

“Now, listen here,” Roy’s stress level went up. “All I’ve been doin’ is workin’ on this case tryin’ to get clues and evidence to find who is responsible. Now, Ed, don’t go pushin’ me with those kinds of questions.” Roy was a little angry and was a little afraid if he didn’t get a handle on these men, then a vigilante group just might find interest to form.

“We are pushing, Roy, and we’re going to keep pushing. One man killed, another seriously injured, and we’re not interested in just waiting around for the next person. It could be anyone of us.” Mr. Johnson’s voice raised and had that sound of fear in it. The others stayed silent, but the looks on their faces reflected the same fear. Instead of being scattered around the room, the group huddled shoulder-to-shoulder in one of the corners of the room.

“I understand you’re afraid. But the person we’re lookin’ for seems to be interested in the jury or this case, not just ordinary business citizens,” Roy tried to appease the men. He certainly didn’t need them going around and stirring up the town. He had enough to handle already.

“Roy, all we have seen you do is walking around town, meeting with Adam Cartwright, and attending the trial. No one has been arrested. Do you even know who might be suspicious?”

“No, Ed, I don’t have any suspects right now. And I’m not goin’ to answer to any of you as to what I might have. I’m the law in this town and I can’t do my job if I’m playin’ nursemaid to you and the others tryin’ to feed you information to keep you happy.” Roy stared right into Mr. Johnson’s eyes with his jaw locked in place demonstrating his strong stance on the issue at hand.

“We’re not babies, Roy, and I expected a more professional conversation with you. We’re the ones that put you in office and keep you there. We expect to know what’s going on and how we’re being protected.” Ed took a deep breath before he threw in a final statement, “Maybe Adam should take over?” Ed gulped hard as Roy would see this as an insult.

This drew an angry look from Roy and his voice backed up his look. “If you don’t think I’m doin’ my job, then next year you can take me out. Right now, I am the Sheriff and I am doin’ my job. I’m not obligated to tell you anythin’. Lettin’ information out could jeopardize anythin’ I’ve done or will be doin’.” Roy didn’t use hand gestures up to now, but his anger was elevated and he used his index finger in a poking fashion at Mr. Johnson to emphasize his next statement, “If you don’t think I’m a good Sheriff, then Ed, you better start lookin’ around for my replacement. But until you officially get me out of office, you stay out of my way. All of you. Any hints of vigilante acts and I’ll throw you in my jail for interferin’ with the law.”

“Now, Roy, we’re not getting anywhere. Let’s settle down.” Mr. Johnson cleared his throat. “We didn’t ask you here for a confrontation. But we’re just so upset and unsure of what’s going on or what’s going to happen.” Mr. Johnson gulped one more time and then showed signs of settling down.

“Listen to me, all of you.” Roy’s stance wasn’t so rigid as before. “Adam Cartwright doesn’t wear his badge, but he is still my deputy just like Wally. And he’ll stay as my deputy.” Roy put emphasis on this last sentence. “Now, we can use your help. We need you to keep your eyes and your ears open. Anythin’ you see or hear that’s unusual or even just different, we need you to tell us, as soon as possible.”

Mr. Johnson could see that Roy wasn’t going to budge on this matter. The choir of silent faces, who was supposed to be Johnson’s support group, froze. They were there in spirit, but none had the courage to face Roy on the issue of his duties.

Mr. Johnson spoke. “All right, Roy. We’ll do what we can. But understand that we’re going to keep our guns ready in our shops and homes. You can’t be everywhere.”

“Well, I reckon I can’t stop you from doin’ that. But you just make sure you know what you’re doin’ and stay within the law.” Roy left them quiet, but nodding their heads in agreement. He shook his head trying to get rid of some of the frustration he had felt.

Roy walked back towards Union on “C” Street. He hoped Adam would be at the hotel and wanted to drop by and talk to him. After that emotional confrontation, Roy needed to be in Adam’s company and his logic.

He was about three-quarters of a block from the International Hotel when he heard what sounded like the cock of a gun somewhere behind him. Roy jerked his body around, but he saw nothing. His gut told him to crouch down and draw his gun. He did. But just as he did, he heard the whiz of a bullet pass by the side of his head. One shot and then silence. Roy squinted as his eyes bounced around trying to search for movement. But everything stayed still. It came from somewhere behind him and that’s all he knew. He needed to hear a second shot in order to locate the shooter. He stayed crouched and waited. Another bullet came in his direction, but missed him again.

Roy darted across the street and took cover behind a large stack of crates at the entrance of an alley. He fired into a couple of shadowed places where he thought someone was hiding. He listened for that cry of pain when a bullet penetrates the flesh. But all he heard was his bullet echo, as it ricocheted off the walls of a building, not hitting any intended target. He stood still for a few moments before he moved deeper into the alley. He thought to himself, ‘What coward would fire at someone’s back and then hide, instead of facing his challenge?’

Nothing was seen nor heard, but he waited until he was sure whoever shot at him was gone before he came out into the open. All he could think about was that the killer was now after him. Roy continued his walk to the hotel. But this time, he was more cautious. The shooter just might be playing with him before firing and hitting his intended target.

Roy finally reached the doors to the hotel without further incident. He quickly walked inside. He took his time climbing the stairs to the second floor, as his age wouldn’t let him bounce up them like he did when he was Joe’s age. When he knocked on the door, Adam immediately opened it. Roy was happy to see him.

Adam looked like he was in the process of getting dressed as he was just wearing his pants when he opened the door. Adam let Roy in and then went back to putting on his socks, “Roy, I was going to come to your office before the trial resumed today. I wasn’t going to be there because I had something I wanted to do.”

Adam recognized the same strained, stoic look on Roy’s face as he did the morning after the Wilson murder. “You all right?” staring at Roy as he pulled on his right sock.

“Yeah, I just had two interestin’, but unwanted, events happen this mornin’.” Roy said in a soft voice and stopped a few feet into the room. He removed his hat.

Adam said nothing as he picked up his right boot and pulled it on. He waited for Roy to continue. “I was asked to come to Johnson’s Dry Goods. When I showed up, Ed and a few others were makin’ demands about gettin’ this case solved.” Roy’s expression was serious, but he smiled when he said the next statement. “Even threatened to take me out of office if a suspect wasn’t caught. I had half a mind to turn the whole case over to them right then and there and let these know-alls find out what bein’ a Sheriff was like.”

Adam smiled, as he knew Roy was only frustrated. Roy doesn’t turn his back on his responsibilities; in fact, he enjoys the challenges of his job.

“After I left the store, someone took a couple of shots at me. I fired back, but couldn’t find anyone in the alley where I know that’s where he was hidin’. I guess I wasn’t quick enough, ‘cuz he managed to get away.”

“You think the killer could be after you now?” Adam inquired and the concern on his face drew out some small veins in his forehead just above his brows. With both socks and boots on, Adam stood up to retrieve his shirt from the back of a nearby chair.

“I don’t know, Adam…probably. But, I’m pretty sure that Judge Nathan is goin’ to announce that this case stop until we can solve this or come up with somethin’ where people can resume their activities without fear for their safety.”

“I don’t see Duncan being too happy with the case being stopped. We agree that Purity was making his case.” Adam sat on the edge of his unmade bed as he buttoned his shirt.

Roy sat down in the chair a short distance across from Adam. Roy hadn’t been there for very long, but Adam could already see Roy relax a little. Talking to Adam was something that always put Roy at ease.

Adam saw Roy chuckle at his comment about Purity. Adam buttoned the last button on his shirt and then he started on his cuffs.

Roy said, “I don’t think, at this time, Judge Nathan will care. Two foremen havin’ somethin’ happen to them was two too many. Dog-gone, I wish the Judge had stopped the trial after Judd was killed.”

“Whoever this is has two very effective weapons.” Adam stood up to shove his shirt down his pants and then buckle his belt. “He has the gun he uses to do his dirty work and his other weapon is peoples’ fear.”

As Roy sat and talked to Adam who stood in front of him, his eyes had to look way up. “With me bein’ shot at this mornin’, one of our theories may have just died.”

“Which theory was that?” Adam walked to the mirror and now stood in front of it while he brushed his hair and listened.

“The one about the killer not usin’ a revolver to kill. I thought that theory held a lot of truth until the incident in the alley.” Roy leaned forward now resting his elbows on the top of his legs cupping his hands together.

“I don’t think the theory died, Roy. A revolver is easier to just holster or hide under a coat when trying to get away,” Adam examined the lower part of his face to make sure his shave was close enough. “It’s easier to blend into the normal town scene than it would be to try and cover up a shotgun.”

“We really need to sit down and go over what we know and try to narrow this whole thing down.” Roy stayed seated in his position. “I didn’t want to say anythin’ at the time, but I think Ed Johnson and his group had reason to complain this mornin’. We haven’t moved this case forward.”

Adam walked over to his unmade bed and sat down, again, on the edge. “Well, I just might be able to do that for us. Joe did something that, at first, made me quite angry with him. But when he explained what he had in mind, I reluctantly agreed with it.” Adam had a little worry in his look. “It’s a good idea, although it puts him in danger and I don’t like that.”

“Oh?” that got Roy’s attention. “What’s Joe got in mind?” Roy’s eyes were opened wide.

“From what we have gathered, the killer enjoys Faro, at least watching it, and he seems to favor the foremen on the jury for whatever reason. After Joe told you about George, he went directly to Judge Nathan’s house and told him. But Joe also talked the Judge into making him the third foreman.”

“Adam! I know Joe sticks his neck out sometimes, but this is just goin’ too far and I won’t let him.”

“Wait a minute, Roy,” Adam chuckled a little. “Come on, let’s talk about this over some coffee.” Adam picked up his hat and both headed for the dining room of the hotel.

As the men walked down the hall and then down the stairs, Adam kept his voice low so no one passing them would hear. “Here’s what Joe wants to do. There’s a Faro game at the Delta Saloon tonight. Right now, Joe is casually walking around town letting the word out that he will be going to the Ponderosa by himself early Saturday morning before sun up. Tonight, he will go watch the game and see if he can spot anyone suspicious, but also make sure that the word is out to those there.”

The men entered the dining room and took a table in the corner. There were a few diners, but no one close, which allowed the men to converse easily without unwanted ears nearby. They sat down and the waitress immediately brought them coffee. Adam had plopped his hat onto the table and leaned forward keeping his voice low. Roy leaned a little over the table while he stirred cream into his coffee.

Adam continued, “One way or the other, we hope the killer will get the information. Then when it’s still dark in the morning, Joe will go to the Livery to get his horse as if he is getting ready to head out by himself. We think since foremen seem to be the target, the killer will think this is a great opportunity to get Joe.”

Roy still wearing his hat as he quizzed Adam. “Don’t you think that the killer would go after him when he leaves the game?”

“No, neither of us thinks he will. I think if this guy has a choice, then he will pick the place where he really feels safe and in control. That’s more likely to be at the Livery. We’re going to set it up where he will think it’s just him and Joe out there.” Adam now leaned slightly over to his left side while his right hand took command of the coffee cup.

“I know you aren’t goin’ to leave Joe alone, but where do I fit in this?” Roy was interested.

“You and I won’t contact Joe once Joe leaves the hotel. But Joe will always be in our sight and I will always be within a very short distance from Joe all the time.”

“Maybe this was somethin’ we should have thought up earlier.” Roy rubbed his chin as he thought about this.

“We didn’t know at the time that there would be another victim.” Adam didn’t want to waste time on what they could have done as he was more interested in what will happen. “I thought you could position yourself around Mill and “C” Streets. That will put you in a position to see two sides of the Livery, including the corral. I’ll make my way down ”C” Street to Avery’s Gunsmith next to the Livery. I figure we’ll get in our positions a little after 4 before Joe gets into his position. We’ll be able to see any movement in that area. Once Joe is in the Livery, I’ll give you a little signal and then you come in closer. I will move myself into the Livery through the alley door.”

Roy pondered Adam’s instructions and knew he liked the plan.

“Joe and I think that if nothing happens, then he will just head back to the hotel. He and I won’t have any contact. If the killer is watching and sees us together, then he’ll know he was set up. If Joe goes about his business and just heads back to the hotel, it should look like Joe just changed his mind.”

“You and I shouldn’t have contact either. We’ll meet back at your hotel room and I’ll enter through the “B” Street entrance. Goin’ to my office might raise suspicion if we were seen.” Roy offered.

“Right now, Roy, take me to the alley where you believe the shot came at you this morning.” Roy looked at Adam with a puzzled look, and then Adam offered an explanation. “I’d like to look at the ground in that alley before other people walk in that same area. I’m willing to bet that we will find the same shoe pattern there that we found out at Judd’s ranch.”

As soon as they reached the alley, Roy pointed out where he thought the shooter had been. Adam immediately began to search the ground, being careful where he stepped. Roy stood back and let Adam do the search. Four feet tramping around on the ground wasn’t going to help Adam locate any footprints.

“Roy, here!” Adam stopped about three-quarters of the way into the alley. He kept his attention to the ground as he spoke to Roy. Then he stooped down to get closer. When Roy reached Adam’s location, he looked around Adam’s shoulder and saw what Adam had found. A shoeprint in the dirt just like the one they had found at the Wilson ranch. Adam pulled out the little drawing he made at the ranch. He made it a point to carry the drawing in his chest pocket. It paid off and when they checked the shoeprint in the dirt, both were convinced that the impression was, in fact, made by the same person. The marks were identical.

Roy was the first to speak. “Well, we knew that it was the killer that shot at me, but this really takes away any doubt or other possibilities that could come up in someone’s mind.”

Adam stood up putting the drawing back into his pocket. “It sure is, Roy.” Adam looked at Roy, “There are a lot of reasons why he missed you, but I think our theory still holds. It’s still possible that he missed you because he used a revolver.”

“I’m just glad I’m still around to have this discussion. If he killed me, then that theory would have died for sure.” Roy was looking around the alley as he stayed in one spot.

Adam grinned, “Roy, I like your logic. Come on, let’s see if there are more prints that can lead us somewhere.”

Roy followed Adam as they rounded the corner of the building. They were able to follow the prints for only a short distance. Then the prints began to blend in with many other prints in the dirt. It became impossible to see them separately. They had to give up.

*****

Virginia City, Friday Night

Joe took a slow stroll on the wooden sidewalk heading south a half block until he came to the Delta Saloon. He recognized the picture of the tiger on the poster that was tacked to the front of the business. He knew this was called, “Bucking the Tiger,” and informed those interested that Faro was played here. Joe had no intention in playing the game as it was too fast paced for him. Draw poker was slower and more to his liking. But he had a purpose for being there and playing a game had to wait.

Joe walked over to the mahogany bar and ordered his beer. He noticed that the place had been fixed up since he was last in it. The niches in the bar from broken bottles in fights or ricocheted bullets had been painted over. He could still see the marks left when Red Cooper broke a bottle of “Jack Daniels Whiskey” on the counter and challenged anyone to fight him. ‘Poor ole Red,’ Joe thought, ‘all Red got out of it was a headache and a long night’s stay in Roy’s jail.’ Joe’s eyebrows went up as he grinned to himself in his recollection of the incident. He wasn’t sure what was worse: The lump on Red’s head, when a stranger built like a big lumberjack accepted his challenge, or the loss of a fine bottle of liquor. “Jack Daniels” was considered by many to be the champagne of whiskey.

Joe also noticed that the cheap painting of the naked lady, which had hung on the wall for years, had been replaced with a large gilded framed mirror. Joe liked the changes and gave his unsolicited, silent approval.

The regular bartender was tending the bar this evening. He wasn’t someone Joe recognized before tonight. The bartender set Joe’s beer down in front of him, Joe asked him about the changes. “I see the place has been fixed up and I like it.” Joe took a sip of the beer.

“Yeah, a new owner bought it and is trying to make it look a little classier than some of the other bars in town. Notice the absence of saloon girls?” The bartender quizzed Joe while he wiped the bar with a damp cloth.

“Not until just now. I’m surprised I didn’t notice something like that. Why?” Joe questioned. Tonight he wasn’t interested in a woman’s company, but wanted to know so he could decide whether he wanted to make a return visit in the future.

The bartender laughed at Joe’s question. It wasn’t the first time this was asked when men were told there were no saloon girls in this saloon. “Well, the new owner, Black Jake, doesn’t like the reputation saloon girls can bring a business. Black Jake wants his customers to know that the Delta serves fine alcohol and is a place to play his favorite game, Faro, without any…uh…distractions.” The bartender winked at Joe had a big smile on his face.

“Sure!” Joe said with a skeptical sound in his voice, “Sounds like Black Jake wants to make sure the customers spend their time and money on the game and not other things.”

“Oh no, you’re wrong on that one, buddy. Faro’s not a game where the house has the advantage. In fact, it seldom does. But, Black Jake loves the game, the fast pace, and the challenge of playing it. You won’t see poker played here. Just a little roulette and a lot of Faro.”

“I’ll stick to poker and beer, myself. And I sure don’t find the saloon girls much of a distraction. I know a couple personally and I find them to be nice ladies.” Joe persisted in his sticking up for the saloon girls. The bartender laughed as he walked away.

Joe looked at different people in the saloon and then walked around greeting those he knew. In all of his conversations during this time, Joe made a point to bring up the fact that he was leaving early in the morning for the Ponderosa. He also made a point to let people know that Adam would be staying behind.

Joe remembered what Adam told him about rounded toe boots. He tried to occasionally focus on the boot toes of strangers. He did see that a couple of men wore boots with somewhat rounded toes, but he didn’t see anything that raised his suspicions. The men wearing these boots didn’t match the rest of the description he was given. But while he was there, Joe made a point to be aware if these men or anyone else was particularly watching him.

Although there were some men there that Joe knew, he found a table and sat down by himself. Joe began to observe the activity that was beginning to happen around the Faro table. Three men were already sitting at it. Two other chairs were vacant waiting for players to fill them. He didn’t recognize any of these men.

Joe watched the action as it happened. He saw two old miners standing in a corner near the game talking to each other. One kept pointing to one of the empty chairs while the other laughed and shook his head in the negative.

On the dealer’s side of the table, was a man fitting the description that he heard Roy tell when talking about the new owner of the saloon. He figured this was Black Jake.

Sitting directly opposite this man was someone known as, “the lookout.” His job was to keep tract of which cards would be played for the entire game. His movements demonstrated that he was confident in the duties he took on during a Faro game. Joe thought the man performing this function looked familiar, but couldn’t recall seeing him around lately.

Then two men came in together, but didn’t seem to know each other. At least, neither said anything to the other, but both walked right over to the Faro table without any hesitation. Each sat down in one of the empty chairs.

One of the men was obviously a professional gambler. His dress was impeccable and he carried himself like a confident gambler. Joe heard him introduce himself to Black Jake as John “Lucky” Speers from the Sacramento Delta area. Joe noticed a bright ring on one of his fingers. The ring appeared to have a lot of diamonds on it.

The other man looked like a businessman. He wore a tan broadcloth suit trimmed in dark brown. He was the only light haired person at the table. He looked like he was in his mid 20’s and had a soft voice when he introduced himself. Joe couldn’t hear him that well, but thought he called himself, Frank Hardesty.

Black Jake began to shuffle the cards several times as the men got comfortable. Lucky Speers retrieved a cigar from his inside coat pocket and lit it. They each had a pile of “checks” in front of them used for money in Faro. Joe noticed both of the men had tall stacks of checks. More than he has seen players have in this game.

‘This will be interesting,’ Joe thought to himself, ‘Black Jake will play in a game where he stood to lose a lot of personal wealth unless Lady Luck was his girl this evening.’ Joe was amazed that a new owner would get involved in a game unless he was very confident the odds favored the house.

After Black Jake shuffled the cards and cut them, he laid the deck face up and removed the top card, known as the “soda” card. The players placed their wagers on the different cards in the layout. Hardesty hesitated for a moment and hung onto his wager. If he let go, then he would have to leave his bet on the card. To hold onto it meant he could change his bet to a different card. Speers looked at Hardesty a little impatiently. Hardesty glanced at Speers and then moved his wager to the Five. Speers was non-reactive and just moved his cigar around in his lips.

Black Jake then drew the losing card, which was a Seven. No one had bet on the Seven and Black Jake couldn’t collect any of the wagers. He still wore his façade of confidence as he pulled the next card off of the deck. This card was the winning card and came up as a Six. Both Speers and Hardesty bet on the card. They smiled as Black Jake paid them. But that was all right as this was the beginning of the game and Black Jake felt his ability to win will be more obvious as the game progressed. One turn was completed.

The lookout pushed the beads to indicate the two cards played. Black Jake then discarded the next loser card, a Queen. Lucky Speers had two checks sitting on the Queen and Black Jake took no time to scrape it over to his side of the table. Tension left Black Jake’s body, but this relaxed feeling would only be temporary. Then a Three appeared as the winner card. Both Speers and Hardesty bet on the card. Black Jake paid the winners a large sum.

After about three-quarters of the game had been played, Joe started to get a little bored. Then he noticed things became interesting. Lucky Speers turned his ten-dollar checks in for one and five hundred-dollar checks. Sometimes he would place, as little as, two hundred dollars on a card and sometimes he would place up to three thousand dollars worth of checks on a card. Joe noticed perspiration bead on Black Jake’s forehead. He didn’t think that these men would bet that high and did not place a maximum on the wagers.

This left it wide open for the players to bet as much as they wanted. Hardesty, however, stayed with five and ten dollar checks. He didn’t let Speers intimidate him with his big wagers and new his chances were slim in actually coming out the big winner. The competition was definitely between Black Jack and his guest, Lucky Speers.

The two miners, who were watching, slowly moved towards the table. They looked like they expected some trouble and didn’t want to miss a thing.

Black Jake drew the next card, which was an Eight. Hardesty had five checks on the card, which he lost to the dealer. The winner card came up as a King. Hardesty had a good size bet on that one, but Speers raked in over two thousand dollars on this hand. Black Jake wasn’t prepared for such bets and had to issue Speers I.O.U.’s to pay off when the bank opened the next day. However, Black Jake was confident that Speers wouldn’t hold his luck as the night progress. A gambler’s skills were no good in Faro, because Faro was nothing but “dumb luck” for all players, including the dealer. Black Jake’s confidence came from his past experience of being very lucky in this game.

During the next turn, Lucky Speers placed a thousand dollars worth of checks on several cards. He then placed a copper penny on the entire stack of checks, but two. This was called “coppering” a bet. This made Black Jake very nervous. He wiped his forehead with a hankie before he continued. Lucky Speers appeared to be very calm and confident, at least, on the surface. Speers had a smirk on his face that was slightly clouded by a haze of his own cigar smoke as he slowly exhaled and stared at Black Jake. He ignored Hardesty and considered him a non-player. Hardesty’s wagers weren’t that interesting and definitely not competitive.

Then the final turn came. There were only three cards left in the deck to play. The players placed their bets on the cards they felt would be there. Lucky Speers told Black Jake that he wanted to “call the turn.” Black Jake looked ill, as he had already lost a lot of money in this game. Speers called the three cards: a King, a Six, and the last card an Ace. The first card revealed a King. The second card revealed a Six. Speers chuckled as the third card was about to be turned. The third and final card came up a Six. Not the card that Speers called. His laughter stopped, but a small smile was present. It was a split, so he was paid two to one, which gave him over four thousand dollars.

Joe was no longer bored and watched the expression of Black Jake, who seemed to be more confident than Joe thought he should be. Joe couldn’t believe this man’s confidence. Or, at least, what he displayed. Joe wondered what emotions were really present inside Black Jake.

Hardesty finally decided the game was getting too competitive with these high bets and left the building. It was now Black Jake and Lucky Speers, who were smiling at each other. Joe could hear Black Jake tell Speers that his luck was going to run out because this was his game and that he often won without any cheating. Lucky Speers appeared completely unmoved and nodded his head in approval. He was ready for another game and he had plenty of money.

A total of three games had passed. Black Jake’s confidence now wavered outwardly, while Speers was a little richer than when he first walked through the door. Joe had enough after he watched these games. He came to the saloon with a goal. That goal was accomplished and now it was time to go and get some rest.

It was now approaching 11 at night. He figured Adam would wonder where he was. The miners were still watching and looked like they were there until the end. Joe’s body began to feel heavy as the desire for sleep started to settle inside him.

When Joe left the saloon, only a few cowboys walked along the streets. Eventually he was alone, as the cowboys seemed to reach their destinations first.

He began his walk when he heard footsteps behind him. Joe slowed down and heard the steps cease. He couldn’t help but wonder if his plan was working too well and that he and Adam could have misjudged this man.

Gloomy shadows lingered in the alleyways and other places where the street lanterns’ light couldn’t reach. It was only a half a block to the hotel, but Joe tried to be watchful. He promised Adam he’d be careful and he intended to keep that promise.

He began his steps once more and after he heard his own steps on the wooden planks for a couple of paces, he could hear the echoing sound of someone else’s shoes again. He veered his path from the middle of the walkway to the side trying to hide behind the 4×4 post for some kind of safety. He squinted his eyes in hopes that his youthful sight could penetrate the darkness that was just beyond the lantern’s illumination and maybe he could see who was there. He hoped that a tired cowboy trying to make his way to a nearby room would emerge from the darkness and the feeling of being safe would return to him. But no one came forward and the sounds of someone’s shoes ceased again.

Joe waited. He stayed silent and watched.

Eventually anger washed over his face. Joe had little tolerance for a coward. He wished that the person would just come out and face him. Then this whole thing could be over. One way or the other. At the same time, Joe hoped the familiar face of a friend would push its way into a lantern’s light with laughter behind a teasing grin. But the only movement was a lantern’s dance in the air as the wind blew silently over its surface. He kept the palm of his hand on the butt of his gun holding it snuggly ready to grab and draw.

He waited.

Nothing.

There were no sounds at all. Just his own heavy breathing. But Joe could feel someone watching him.

Joe kept staring and then he heard footsteps on the wooden planks of the sidewalk disappear into the distance. He didn’t see anyone. But he heard them leave. Like a ghost that rattles an object and then leaves without being seen. Joe waited a few moments before he continued his walk back to the hotel. This time, there were no more footsteps behind him.

When he got back to the room, he found Adam sound asleep. ‘Good,‘ Joe thought as he made his way quietly to his bed. Adam wasn’t snoring, but his breathing could be heard. Joe peeled his shirt and pants off as Adam’s deep sleep sure sounded good to him. That’s exactly what he wanted, as soon as possible. Before he laid his head on his pillow, he yawned.

Joe brushed off the earlier incident. After all, it was probably just his fear taking advantage of his tiredness that made him think he heard something. As he pulled the sheets up to his chin, he thought that it’s not unusual for people to think they hear something in the darkness. Joe accepted this. He needed to if his mind was going to let him rest. The last thing he needed right now was wakeful thoughts causing him to toss and turn halfway through the night. He needed to get up early and be alert. Although Adam and Roy would be covering him, Joe still needed to rely on his instincts and ability to hear and see things. He didn’t need any of them clouded with drowsiness. Joe closed his eyes as he allowed sleep to come. His life could depend on it.

*****

“C” Street – Saturday Morning

Joe left the International House just as planned. He knew Adam and Roy were already in their places. Joe knew Adam wouldn’t let him down and would be where he said he would be. He walked at an ordinary pace down “C” Street towards the Livery. His ears listened for noises that were different from the sound of his boots hitting the dirt as he walked on the side of the road. This would keep him in Adam’s sight while he approached the Livery.

He could hear the birds chirp in some nearby trees, as the morning was waking and ready to greet the sun that would come up in the East. The coolness of the air brushed his face causing him to pull the collar of his jacket up to shield the back of his neck. Joe felt himself relax, although he stayed alert.

Suddenly a loud crash. Joe jumped. He spun around and drew his gun at a loud noise to his right. A bucket that sat on a nearby bench had fallen onto the wooden sidewalk. Was this it? Did the man they wanted to confront bump into the bucket? Joe felt vulnerable, as he had nothing to hide behind. Then he heard the distressed meow of a cat as it scrambled down the sidewalk. Joe shivered a little from the surprise. He holstered his gun and continued his walk.

Joe picked his pace up a little as the plan called for him to be inside the Livery before light. He entered the Livery and approached Cochise. He didn’t hear anything at the moment, but he could just feel Adam’s presence.

Roy was grateful for the cooler temperature as he waited. To hide in such a building like this one when it was as hot as the first of the week would be the same as sitting in a fully heated oven. He saw Joe enter the Livery a few minutes ago. Now, the only movement he could see was the shop owners beginning to stir and ready their businesses for the day.

Roy waited. He knew that soon he would see Adam signal that Joe was inside and he could move forward. But no signal came. No familiar face of Adam appeared to indicate that their plans were working as expected. Roy waited a little longer and then he decided to move in on his own. Roy would have to be careful, but to go ahead and move in as they planned. He didn’t understand why Adam didn’t signal. Maybe Adam just positioned himself differently than he intended. Maybe Adam didn’t need to signal because he and Joe had the man at gunpoint and Adam hadn’t let him know yet. Maybe. But still, where was Adam?

Roy felt an uncomfortable feeling inside him. His gun was ready and he was ready. Roy eased up to the North corner of the building. He stopped and listened. Listened for any noises inside that might let him know what had happened. But only silence prevailed. It was like a church when everyone was in prayer. Prayer. Now, maybe that wasn’t a bad idea.

Roy listened again. There were no shuffling of feet on the hay-strewn floor, no quiet talking between people, not even the horses inside were making any noises. Roy was concerned. He expected something as he approached the Livery, but what was happening. He didn’t dare call out anyone’s name. He stayed quiet with his gun ready in case something went wrong.

Roy pushed a door open and entered the building. He positioned himself against the wall and stayed there for a few moments as he continued to listen. The barrel of his gun was pointing into the air, but his finger was resting on the trigger. It was still quiet, but then he heard something. Without thinking, Roy moved deeper into the small room that was off of the area where the horses were stabled. A whinny from a horse was heard and then Roy heard a strange voice.

“Hold it right there, Mister. Mr. Foreman.” The voice was male. It sounded strained and emotional. It was angry and wasn’t familiar to him.

Roy peeked around the corner with the barrel of his gun now pointing in the direction of the voice. He knew it wasn’t Joe’s voice and it sure wasn’t Adam’s. For Roy, there was only one logical explanation. It was the mysterious person. But Adam didn’t emerge as he intended if the man did confront Joe. Roy was careful to stay quiet as he moved closer. He could now see Joe standing at the side of his horse. Joe stayed still with his hands upward resting on top of the back of Cochise, as if he were straightening the saddle blanket.

Then Roy could see a young man walk out of a corner where the darkness had covered him like a blanket. It had made him invisible until he stepped into the light. He held a revolver and had an angry look on his face. It was cool, but some sweat formed on his forehead.

Roy shouted, “Joe, look out!”

The gunman jumped as if he were startled by Roy’s warning and looked into Roy’s direction.

Joe threw his body to the right and dropped to the ground. During this same action, he grabbed the butt of his gun and drew it out. In an instance, he heard the firing of a gun. Joe knew it wasn’t his gun and expected to feel the forceful lead hit him from the fired shot. But nothing hit him. He heard another shot, but this one came from his right where he had heard Roy call out. Joe fired at his intended target and heard a pained gasp and knew his bullet hit.

Joe stayed on the floor for a moment and waited. All he could hear was the painful moaning that came from someone when they were injured. Then he looked up and saw Roy’s face staring down at him. Roy was holding his upper left arm and a small amount of blood was seen forming on the sleeve of his shirt.

“You O.K., son?” Roy managed a little smile for Joe.

“Yeah, but what about you?” Joe asked as Roy winched from some pain.

“I’ve been grazed with some of my skin missin’. But, I’m fine?”

Joe got onto his feet and both he and Roy walked over to the man who was crumpled on the floor and looking up at them. He lay staring at the floor and began to cry. Not from his wound, but from the torment he felt inside. Both the pain he had carried for years and the feeling of failure. Failure. Both of his intended targets were still alive. They were on their feet looking down at him.

“Joe, where’s Adam?” Roy quizzed and began look around the room. He expected the man in black to enter the room and have a satisfied look on his face because it was over and they were all O.K. But Adam wasn’t anywhere obvious.

“I don’t know. I talked to him before I left the hotel and he was going to be right with me.” Joe had holstered his gun. The threat to his safety was gone. What about Adam’s safety? Had it been jeopardized?

“ADAM!!!” Joe called out. Then moaning was heard again. But this time, the moaning came from a different location in the Livery. Both Joe and Roy looked into that direction. Adam stumbled forward, slightly humped over, and holding the back of his head. His face looked pale and his clothes a little dishelved.

Joe rushed over to Adam, “Adam, you all right?” Adam stood up straight, but still held his head.

“Yeah, my head will be sore for a few days.” Adam looked over at Roy. “I was in place and just about ready to signal you when I got hit on the head and blacked out.”

“I was wonderin’ what happened to you and afraid somethin’ was wrong. When I didn’t get the signal, I moved in on my own.”

“Just in time, too,” Joe responded with a grin.

Roy, Joe, and Adam now stood together in front of the man who sat on the floor. Roy spoke first. “Son, you killed Judd Wilson, didn’t you?” Roy quizzed and felt that now answers to his millions of questions could be realized.

The man looked up at Roy. His face full of anger and all three could see the evil in his eyes that the woman at the hotel when George was hurt spoke about.

“I hate you Roy Coffee. I wanted to kill you, but I wanted you to suffer so much before I ended your life.”

“Why? Who are you?” Roy didn’t recognize the man who carried such vengeance for him.

The man then looked directly into Roy’s eyes, “You probably won’t remember me, but I know you’ll remember the name of Theron Foster.”

Horror froze on Roy’s face. His body stiffened. Roy had forgotten the name and the entire incident, until now. Roy looked deeply into the young man’s face. Roy’s expression was serious and his eyes squinted while he tried to look into this face and see the past. “Are you Bobby, Theron Foster’s son?”

“Yeah, I’m Bobby,” he hatefully said. The rage burned inside him. Nothing he said to Roy was in a pleasant voice. “I should have made sure I killed you sooner. But I just wanted to ruin your reputation as this town’s Sheriff before I did. Just like you did to my father.” Tears ran down his cheeks. His emotional pain was stronger than his physical pain.

Roy was still horrified by what he heard and pushed his hat back on his head.

“Did you kill Judd Wilson at his ranch?” Joe queried, wanting to know, for sure, who killed his friend.

“Yes, and I meant to kill the man in the hotel. And then I was supposed to kill you.” the volume of Bobby’s voice rose as he spoke. “And then I was supposed to help Roy die a miserable death. He was supposed to suffer,” came the determined words from Bobby.

Adam then noticed the boots. He stooped down to take a better look and noticed the small notch in the sole. Just like the impression in the dirt at the Judd’s place and in the alley. The heels of the boot were both worn on the outside. Just like he figured. Adam started to ask a question of his own when Wally’s voice was heard outside the Livery shouting out for Roy.

“Roy! Sheriff!” Wally ran into the Livery, but stopped short in his running stride when he saw the crying man sitting on the floor.

Roy looked up at Wally. “What’s the matter, Wally?”

“Roy you better come quick. Black Jake’s been found dead. He shot himself,” Wally said in an excited voice.

“Well what in Sam Hill do you expect me to do? I hired you to take care of things like that,” Roy shouted at Wally in an angry voice for the interruption. Roy was trying to deal with this new development and now Wally wanted him to drop everything to handle this death.

Adam had recovered enough and walked over to Wally, turned him around, and escorted him outside the Livery. He knew Roy was upset and knew Wally just thought he was doing the right thing. Wally didn’t understand what was going on exactly, but just went willingly with Adam.

Once outside, Adam questioned Wally. “Are you sure that Black Jake shot himself?”

“Well, uh, there were a couple of people who were in another room when they heard the shot. They saw him go into the back office by himself.”

“How did you find his body?”

“He was sitting in a chair with the upper part of his body leaning over the desk. He had a revolver in his hand. The wound was to the side of his head and there were no other injuries.”

“Can you talk to the witnesses and get the undertaker over to the saloon to take the body?”

“Oh yeah, I can do that just fine. I thought Roy would want to know something like this.”

“Normally he would. But there’s been new development in this case we’ve been working on and Roy needs to tend to it. Keep this quiet for now, Wally.” The hit on his head took a lot of fight out of Adam at the moment. But that wasn’t the reason Adam’s voice towards Wally was tender. It was because he liked Wally and knew Wally was a good deputy.

Wally’s eyes were usually the size of a quarter, but after Adam’s comment about the development, his eyes went to the size of a silver dollar. “Sure, Adam. I’ll stay quiet. I guess I better go take care of business.” With that, Wally left the area with the same wide-eyed look he had when Adam gave him the news.

When Adam rejoined Joe and Roy, Bobby Foster was standing on his feet. “Roy, Joe and I will take him to Dr. Martin’s. You come with us and have that wound tended to.”

“Naw, Adam. I got somethin’ back at the office to put on it. That’s where you’ll find me.” With that, Roy turned and headed towards his office. It normally wasn’t a long walk, but after this morning, it seemed like it took him a long time to get there.

Bobby Foster’s wound wasn’t as serious as it first appeared. After he was bandaged, Adam and Joe escorted him to the Sheriff’s Office where he was placed into a rear cell. When they entered the office, Roy was sitting at his desk sipping on a cup of coffee. He gave them no attention and made no attempt to get up and help. He just sat there and let them take care of locking Bobby up.

Adam was last to enter the office from the cell area. He closed the door leaving the three of them alone in the office. Joe walked across the room next to the stove and sat down in a chair. The collar of his jacket was still flipped up against the back of his neck and his green eyes peered from under the brim of his tan hat. Adam didn’t sit right away, but walked up to the edge of Roy’s desk. He removed his hat and dropped it onto the desk as he gave Roy a curious concerned look. He was the first to speak.

“Roy, there’s some history here. Before we talk to Bobby, what’s the story behind all this?” Adam questioned. Joe sat quiet and listened.

Roy stared into his cup at the small amount of coffee. “Revenge. All this heartache and death because of revenge. Oh Lordy,”

Roy continued and looked over at Adam who was now sitting down. “It goes all the way back to my first job as a deputy. It was over in Coyote Flats. Theron Foster was Sheriff and gave me a chance to start my career as a lawman,” Roy glanced over at Joe with a small grin on his face. He went on. “Bobby was, oh, I’d say about eight years old when I first met his Pa. Theron seemed to be a pretty good Sheriff, at least, the people liked him and had confidence in him. Things went fine for my first year. Then Theron began to talk about some kind of investment. Something that he thought would bring him a lot of money. I wasn’t interested, but he was able to talk some people into joinin’ him in it. Well, about two weeks into this investment thing, Theron just up and disappeared. Money and all. Just left Bobby and his momma with no explanation. A few days later, I was made Sheriff. About two weeks from then, word came that some of the betrayed men formed a vigilante group, found him, and hung him. The Mayor and a Judge rode out about 20 miles east of town and found him hangin’ from a tree. I decided to move on and left a few days later. As I rode out, Bobby was standin’ in the street cryin’ saying he hated me because it was my fault.” Roy stopped for a moment as he reflected on his past and seeing Bobby crying. “I just thought he was just hurtin’ over his Pa and that time and his momma would help him handle all this. I had no idea.”

Joe broke his silence. “Why would he build such hate for you?”

Adam spoke next. “The only way a small boy is going to hold you responsible for his father’s death is by hearing it from an adult. Maybe his mother blamed you. If she believed it, then over the years as he grew up, it was probably something he heard her say over and over.”

“I reckon so, Adam, and he was told so much that it became an obsession to seek revenge. But why kill Judd and why attack George?”

Roy got up from his desk and walked towards the door to the cell area. Joe stood up and put his hand out to stop Roy. “Why go in there? He’ll get upset again and how will that help you?”

“I have questions, Joe, and I need to see if I can get some answers.”

Joe and Adam gave each other a somber look. They followed Roy into the cell area where Bobby was sitting on the cot in a slumped position. He kept silent and just looked up at the three men approaching him.

“Bobby, I swear I was not responsible for your Pa’s death. Why do you think I was?”

“My Pa came home lots of times and kept talking about how you wanted him out of office so you could be the Sheriff of his town. My Ma told me that we were having some money problems and that Pa was worried about his job. That some people kept telling him what a good lawman you were. One man even said you were better than my Pa. When those men went after him, you could have stopped them, but you didn’t. You wanted his job so bad, you let them hang my Pa.”

“Bobby, that’s not true, son. I was learnin’ how to be a good lawman from your Pa. I had intentions to move on after a couple of years to become Sheriff somewhere, but I had no intentions in takin’ over your Pa’s job.” Roy’s expression showed a deep frown as he hoped that Bobby would believe him.

Bobby got up onto his feet and faced Roy through the bars, “You’re responsible, Roy, and I’ll go to my grave believing that. I’m just sorry I waited to kill you. I should have done it sooner. My Pa’s reputation was ruined in the eyes of his townspeople. Then some of them hanged him. I wanted to make you look bad in the eyes of these people. I wanted people to remember you as an idiot Sheriff not being able to solve a murder. Then when they all hated you, I was going to kill you. Then my Pa would be revenged.”

“Oh Bobby.” Roy rubbed the top of his head and he swung it back and forth in a disbelieving manner, “If you were after me, why did you have to kill Judd and hurt George?”

“Oh, it’s too bad that they had to be victims. But I needed them. It’s one thing to kill a man, Roy. It’s another to make him die in shame. You had to die in shame.” After Bobby’s last statement, it was the only time he grinned big. But the grin was sarcastic.

“Were you the one that shot at me yesterday mornin’ from the alley?” Roy was trying to get in all of his questions.

“Yeah, that was me,” Bobby showed great pleasure on his face. “I was going to kill you. But…unfortunately, I’m not very good with a gun. Never learned how to use one. I couldn’t hide my shotgun as I carried it. So I tried to kill you with a revolver. I was going to ride out of town after that.”

“Why not come after me again? Why did you go after Joe?”

“Killing’s like lying. Once you do it, it just gets easier. That was the plan. Kill a couple of people. I picked honorable people. People on juries. Make it hard for you to figure things out. People who are afraid want their lawmen to solve killings. I knew it’d be hard for you and I knew eventually people would turn on you. I wanted you to look so bad. When you lost your dignity, I was going to kill you and make you suffer. I owed my Pa that.”

“Did your Ma believe I was responsible for your Pa’s death?”

“Oh yeah. She believed everything my Pa told her before he left. Then after he died, we talked many times about what happened. She said she’d get pleasure seeing you die and pay for what you did. My momma died when I was fourteen and I promised her you’d pay for my daddy. She never once told me that I shouldn’t do it.”

Roy got the answers to his questions, but all this made him feel exhausted. It wasn’t a long interview, but the answers tore the energy from his body. Instead of delighting in capturing someone for a vicious crime, he was as sad as he was the night he found Judd. Roy turned and quietly walked back into his office.

Adam and Joe followed him, once again, and then Adam took hold of the situation to try and console his friend. “Roy. Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Adam sat on the corner of Roy’s desk as he talked. “None of this is your fault. Foster made his own choices and those choices came from information he received from parents who carried resentment and hate.”

Roy looked up at Adam from his chair. Adam made a true statement, but Roy wasn’t sure what he thought about it.

“From what I hear, it doesn’t sound like Theron Foster had a strong sense of himself. That he wasn’t the success that he thought he should be, so you became his target. He was making himself look good by making you look bad.” Adam said what he felt, but he was more interested in trying to get Roy to see this truth and not bury himself in any guilt.

Roy answered him, “I know Adam. You’re good to have around because of your honest opinions. But it’s still hard to think that if I had only been more aware, then maybe I could have stayed in Coyote Flats long enough help straighten the boy, and maybe his mother, out.”

“I don’t know, Roy, hate is pretty hard to penetrate,” Joe offered, “As horrible as this all is, I agree with Adam. You have to put this behind you. You’re the Sheriff of this city and you have to help them get back to normal and just do your job.”

Roy listened intently to both Joe and Adam. It was what he needed to hear and wanted to believe. He knew, though, that he would always feel bad about that little 8 year old boy back in Coyote Flats. He’ll live with it the rest of his life.

“O.K., you two,” Roy smiled at Adam and Joe, “I guess I need to make sure that, no matter what, this boy will get a fair and just trial.” Roy was now smiling more, but occasionally, a deep concerned look would replace it like his mind was trying to keep out his negative thoughts, but sometimes couldn’t.

The sound of the door opening caught their attention. Judge Nathan walked in. After he shook all three of the men’s hands, he sat down to talk mainly to Roy.

“Roy, I hear you caught Judd’s murderer. Is he the same person that attacked George?” Judge Nathan’s voice was as serious and professional as he would speak in his courtroom.

“Yes, he confessed to both. Have you heard the story?” Roy sat up straight as he conversed more professionally with the Judge, instead of his casual slough position that he had been in.

Roy proceeded to go over the story with Judge Nathan informing him how he first met Bobby and Theron Foster, what happened to Theron, and what Bobby told him in the cell. The Judge listened to Roy and then made his decision.

“Roy, I think you are a good Sheriff, but I need to temporarily remove you from office.” Without looking at Adam, the Judge continued, “I’m putting Adam Cartwright in as acting Sheriff until this thing is over with.”

Roy’s eyebrows went up. It wasn’t what he thought he would hear from the Judge.

“You’re involved in this Roy, whether it’s voluntary or not; you were the intended final target. Because of his revenge for you, he came here to do his dirty little deeds. I want someone like Adam to handle the responsibilities of this office until Foster’s trial is over.”

Roy reluctantly nodded his head, as he knew the Judge was doing the right thing.

The Judge now looked at Adam. “I am going to do everything I need to do to get this trial going by Monday. Everything else will just have to be on hold. I’ll talk to John Templeton and see if he will represent Foster. You let him have all the time he needs to talk to Foster. If you need deputies, you got Wally and you can certainly deputize your own brother.”

With those instructions, the Judge got up and walked over to the cell doors. He peeked in and took a moment to look at Bobby Foster, shook his head, and closed the door.

“You want to go in and talk to him, Judge?” offered Roy.

“No, I think I will just go get everything in place and I’ll go talk to John first.” The Judge said nothing else and left the office.

Adam just stayed where he was and looked at Roy, “I wish you could just ride off and go on a little fishing trip, Roy. However, I can see Judge Nathan possibly wanting you for the trial.”

“Adam, I think the Judge picked the right man for this job. I’m gonna stay-low key, go to court if I am called, but mostly just enjoy my city. Try to walk around and settle some of the people down. They might need to just talk about things.” Roy gave Adam an approving look. He got up and left the office. He was hoping to restore some unity between himself and the townspeople.

*****

How It All Ended

The trial of Bobby Foster was over in two days. The Territorial Enterprise headline informed the city residents that he was found guilty for the murder of Judd Wilson and would hang early Thursday morning. A vicious killer had been captured and he’ll get his due by hanging. But no one was celebrating.

The city seemed to be back to its known normalcy, but it had a hint of being somber. After all of the shocking events that caused some unbearable tensions, everyone was happy about it all being over. But no one seemed to be happy that the town was going to hang a person.

Virginia City wanted to let people know that it was a city that offered the luxuries of the great International House with it’s fine dining and grand rooms. It wanted to entice visitors to enjoy the excellent performances often held at the Opera House. Virginia City wanted to stand out in the crowd by being the place to visit or live in. It was a city where justice was served and the law was honest and fair. But the publicity it was getting because it was going to hang someone wasn’t the attention it wanted. It wasn’t a city that rejoiced in someone’s death even if it was justified.

The trial of Cord Phillips didn’t continue. Purity’s uncle didn’t want to pursue any charges, especially after learning that his niece was involved and was more interested in the man than the actual money. Tensions were high for a while in the Bridges’ home, but eventually Purity was able to win back the affections of her uncle.

On the outside, there wasn’t much of a difference. Purity still carried a good wag under the petticoats and skirt. Men still stopped and watched her bounce along the sidewalks while shopping. Over time, people could see that Purity did change on the inside. The intimate times she spent with Cord led her to realize that she needed and wanted more than just the love from her uncle.

Cord didn’t go to jail, but was given a strong reprimand by Judge Nathan that he wasn’t going to forget for a long time. He decided that Virginia City wouldn’t be the best place to call home. And the thought of marrying Purity, with no money added, was enough to encourage the young man to saddle his horse, as soon as he could, and ride out of town never looking back over his shoulder.

Roy kept a low profile during the trial and the hanging. But many of the citizens were seen patting him on the back and making him smile once again. Roy was still known to annoy some citizens when he got into their faces and preached fairness and justice in his practice of law. Some long-time residents felt he should bend some “little” laws just for them. But the threat of taking him out of office died and the following year, Roy was overwhelmingly voted in for another term as their Sheriff.

Adam Cartwright carried out his responsibilities as acting Sheriff in a very professional manner. He saw that anything his prisoner was entitled was provided. The hanging was carried out on time. Bobby died with dignity, but made a last statement about Roy being responsible for his father’s death to an audience of only three. Joe and Wally stood by Adam and gave him whatever assistance he needed to fulfill his duties that he reluctantly accepted. When it was over and Judge Nathan’s orders were carried out, Adam gladly turned his badge and Sheriff duties back over to Roy.

George recovered from his injury and resumed his life as it was before the incident. When Ben Cartwright returned home, he would pay a long visit to his long-time friend.

The Delta Saloon was closed for a short time after the demise of its owner. It was learned that Black Jake killed himself because he couldn’t face his family. He had nothing left to give them and felt the best way out of the situation was to end his life and set them free to find someone better than he thought he was. Eventually, the Delta Saloon opened with a new owner and the business thrived.

The Cartwright boys were mounted on their horses by early Thursday afternoon. Roy wouldn’t see either Cartwright for about three weeks. Neither Adam nor Joe had any desire to leave the Ponderosa for quite some time. The smell, taste, and the sight of home were all they needed. The boys just wanted to enjoy the friendly conversations they would get from Hoss and the loving arm around their shoulders that each would get from Ben. The luxury of the International House couldn’t give them what home could give them. On their first night at the Ponderosa, Joe buried his head into the softness of his familiar pillow. Adam didn’t hesitate to snuggle into the covers of his own bed and smelt the familiar scents of his room.

When Ben rode into Virginia City a few times, he heard stories about his sons. Each time, a broad smile would beam across his face and his eyes would sparkle in delight. Once again, he had plenty of reason to be proud of his sons.

***The End***

Author’s Notes:

The hymn, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” was in poem form during the period this story takes place. The music wasn’t added until late 1800s. Time adjustment was made to use the hymn for this story.

The Delta Saloon was real in the early 1800s and still exists. Black Jake was actually an owner of the saloon and committed suicide after losing $70,000 in one night of business. The account of what happened that night and reasons stated for his death are my own. In real history, the Faro table in the saloon became known as the suicide table, as two other owners of the saloon committed suicide after losing in Faro.

Analyzing a suspect’s statement/testimony and shoe impressions are actual law enforcement tools. However, all crime scene investigative techniques in this story are treated very lightly and used for entertainment purposes.

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