Summary: What Happened Next for the episode “The Ride”
Word Count: 3550
The minutes were ticking down and if Adam didn’t arrive soon he’d prove that Bill Enders could not have made the ride from Goat Springs to Virginia City in enough time to establish an alibi for killing Toby Barker. After his insistence that Enders was the killer, despite being unable to see his face or any other distinguishing characteristic, the only thing Adam would prove if he was late is that he was stubborn in his wrong-headed conviction and that he wanted his business partner out of the way because he was determined to steal his wife. Any man who wanted another jailed for a crime that he couldn’t have possibly committed had to have an ulterior motive of his own.
Ben and Roy checked their watches even though a minute had not yet completely passed since their last glance. Only a few minutes left and Ben had doubts that his son would make it. He wanted to believe that Adam was right, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that his eldest was too insistent in his accusation against Enders.
Roy knew if Adam arrived within one-and-a-half hours that would only prove that it was possible to make the ride between Goat Springs and Virginia City if a horse was pushed to the limits of its endurance; it wouldn’t prove that Enders had killed Toby. If Enders had robbed the way station as accused, he’d have the money that Adam said was taken. Neither Enders nor his wife had spent above their means in the past few days.
The sheriff thought of Mary Enders’ tearful accusation of Adam’s attempted seduction. Maybe he should have arrested Adam right away, but Bill Enders didn’t seem inclined to press charges.
Bill Enders emerged from the Nugget Saloon and checked his watch—two minutes left. He adjusted his hat and joined the waiting crowd, his hand on the butt of his pistol, his thumb absently stroking the hammer. Even if Adam arrived in time, this business was going to be settled today. He wasn’t going to live with an unfounded accusation hanging over his head; Mary’s honor was also at stake. How could he maintain his standing in the community when his business partner accused him of murder with no evidence and then tried to cuckold him? Why couldn’t everyone see that Cartwright was the one who should have to prove his motive?
A shout drew everyone’s attention to the rooftop of the hotel. “He’s gonna make it!” a man shouted as he pointed.
The crowd parted to make room for the horse that was sure to be barreling through town.
A dark look crossed Enders’ face as he again checked his watch. “Cartwright better have the strength to stand behind his accusation,” he thought.
Ben and Roy checked their watches one last time as a dust cloud blew through town. Adam was going to make it with seconds to spare.
“Well, Ben, yer boy’s gonna make it, but it still don’t prove that Enders killed Toby.”
“It does prove that Enders would have arrived from Goat Springs in enough time to be seen by Mrs. Kramer and her daughter.”
“Jes’ because it’s possible fer a man to ride from Goat Springs to Virginia City in one-and-a-half hours don’t mean it’s proof that Enders killed Toby.”
Thundering hooves were heard on the edge of town and Adam quickly appeared on Main Street. His horse, lathered in sweat and blowing hard, was eager to end his run. Adam, covered in dust, quickly dismounted and took in the applauding crowd. Were they happy to see him make the ride within the time limit or were they acknowledging his tenacity in proving that Enders was Toby’s killer?
Ben approached his son and slapped his shoulder, raising a small puff of dust that drifted on the slight breeze. “Congratulations, Son.”
“Well, boy, ya did it. Ah didn’t think it was possible, but ya proved everyone wrong.”
“You’ll arrest Bill now?”
Roy shook his head. “Ah still ain’t got proof that Enders killed Toby. Unless you can deliver that, Ah cain’t lock him up.”
Adam and the crowd turned to see Enders in the middle of the street.
“We’re gonna settle this once and for all right now! You got people thinkin’ I killed a man for no reason just because you got here in one-and-a-half hours. Unless you’ve got proof, you’re a liar!”
Adam wearily shook his head. Removing his hat, he wiped the sweat from the inside as he said, “I saw you, Bill. You pulled the trigger.”
“You made love to my wife with your fancy words and promises! You can accuse me of murder all you want, but you can’t stand there and deny what you did to Mary!”
A gasp went up from the crowd. Adam really did want Bill Enders out of the way so he could have his wife, free and clear.
“I demand satisfaction, Adam! Right here, right now!” Bill pulled his coat back so it was behind his holster.
Adam look to Roy to put a stop to this.
“It’s perfectly legal, son. Bill has a right to defend his wife’s honor.”
Ben squeezed his son’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, son. You’ve made accusations you can’t support.”
“I didn’t seduce Mary.”
“It’s your word against hers. Why would she lie?”
“To protect Bill and give him a motive if something happened to me.”
“That’s pretty far-fetched,” said Roy.
“You don’t mind accusin’ other people without proof but ya want to turn your back when someone’s got proof against you! Stand like a man and prove ya didn’t do any of those things to my wife!”
A woman in the crowd fainted. What kind of an animal was Ben’s eldest son? Was he so high-and-mighty that he thought anything was his for the taking?
Adam wearily strode out to the middle of the street and faced Bill. He would have to put away all feelings of exhaustion in order to outdraw Enders. His opponent was fast, and deadly, with a gun. Adam hoped Bill’s anger would throw off his aim.
Roy walked down the side of the street until he was halfway between both men. “Ah’ll count ta three.”
Bill removed his hand from the butt of his gun and his fingers twitched in anticipation. Adam flexed his hand a few times to work out the tightness from gripping the reins for so long.
Bill’s eyes narrowed as he sized up Adam. He was going to get his revenge for those false accusations and his Mary’s honor would be restored.
Adam took in a deep breath and adjusted his stance. He licked his lips and thought he’d at least die with the satisfaction of knowing that Bill did have time to make it to Virginia City after killing Toby and be seen by someone who’d give him an alibi. He’d stood by his convictions, regardless of what others said.
Both men drew their guns in a blur of motion and the crowd heard what sounded as one shot.
Hoss and Joe arrived in Virginia City as Adam fell backwards to the packed earth of the street, his smoking gun in his hand. Enders gripped his arm as blood leaked between his fingers.
Hoss gave Chubb a furious kick and the horse sprang forward with a loud whinny. He bore down on Enders and knocked the man to the ground with an outstretched leg. Chubb reared as his rider pulled him to a sudden stop and then spun on a hoof to head back up the street.
Mary Enders rushed from the boarding house to her husband’s side. She helped him to sit up and then buried her face in his neck.
Hoss dismounted and joined his father and brother. A pool of blood was soaking into the street as he knelt down and cradled Adam’s head in the crook of his arm.
Adam’s eyes opened a fraction and he reached for Hoss’ face. He gasped out, “Family. . .pride.”
A long sigh escaped Adam’s lips as his arm hit the ground and his body went limp. Dr. Martin knelt down, put his fingers to Adam’s throat, looked into Hoss’ tear-filled eyes, and gave a small shake of his head.
Hoss felt a hand squeeze his shoulder and heard his father say, “It was his decision.”
“It’s all my fault!”
Joe knelt down, laid his arm across his brother’s broad shoulders, and rested his cheek against his beefy upper arm. “There’s nothing we could have done.”
“No!” Hoss wished he could take back that crack he’d made yesterday about Adam being scared of Enders. If it hadn’t been for him and his callous remark, Adam would still be alive. “It’s all my fault!” he sobbed out.
He couldn’t see who had him by the shoulders as he sobbed for his brother. His fist balled up so he could punch them for shaking him so hard.
Someone was forcing his arm down so he couldn’t let his fist fly.
“Hoss! Wake up!”
After more shaking, Hoss’ eyes flew open and he took in his surroundings with some confusion. The dim light from the lamp revealed the safe confines of his room. He looked at his older brother and touched his bare chest where the bullet hole should be.
“I. . . dreamed Enders killed you.”
“That would be pretty amazing since he’s in jail.”
Hoss sat against the headboard for support and rubbed a large hand over his eyes. “Ya made that danged ride in time and Enders shot ya down in the street.”
“He shot me off my horse?”
“No, he outdrew ya.”
“At least it was a fair fight.”
Hoss gripped Adam’s shoulder tightly. “I got a bad feelin’ about tomorrow.”
“Everything will be in the jury’s hands. If they convict Enders for attempted murder of a law officer, he’ll be sent to the Territorial Prison. He can’t deny that he shot Roy.”
“I still got a bad feelin’.”
“Shouldn’t I be the one who’s worried?” asked Adam, trying to reassure his brother.
“Probably. I jest cain’t help it, though.”
“Why don’t you go back to sleep, Mother Hen?” Adam asked with a glint of humor in his eyes.
Adam patted Hoss’ shoulder and went back to his own room. Everyone on the street, not just a Cartwright, saw Bill shoot Roy; there was no possible way for Bill to deny that charge. Plus, the jury should have all of the evidence it needed for Toby’s murder — Mary’s conscience hadn’t allowed her to cover her husband’s deeds with lies and she’d given Roy a complete confession.
Hoss tried to leave his uneasiness in the bed as he sat in the rocking chair by the window. He deeply inhaled the pine-scented night air to clear his head. Uneasiness settled around his shoulders like a shawl and he tried to shove the image of his dead brother from his mind.
Breakfast would have been a quiet meal if it hadn’t been for Joe’s chatter. “Bill Enders deserves whatever the jury gives him. Maybe he’ll get hard labor. I bet that’d be a shock if he had to use those pretty hands of his.”
“Tell the truth, Adam — you knew Bill was the triggerman in that holdup because of his hands.”
Adam came close to snorting coffee through his nose. “It wasn’t his hands. Bill’s just one of those men who can’t disguise himself. Like you.”
“Do you plan to buy out Bill’s interest in that mine?” Ben asked.
“No. Mary will need an income while Bill’s in prison. I’ll have to make some good investments on her behalf.”
Hoss picked at his third helping of scrambled eggs, half-listening to the conversation. He was going to keep a close eye on Adam and a closer eye on Enders. That cloud of uneasiness refused to be dissolved by the sun breaking over the horizon.
“What’s wrong, Hoss?” asked Joe. “There’s still bacon on the table.”
“Nothin’s wrong. I’m gonna get our horses ready.”
Ben watched his largest son’s retreat from the table with an eyebrow raised in concern.
“I’ll go help,” said Adam, wiping his mouth with his napkin.
“Leaves more bacon for us,” said Joe with a smile. “Want anymore, Pa?”
With his cup poised at his lips, Ben said, “No, son, help yourself.”
The ride into town was a quiet one but each joined in conversation upon reaching the courthouse. Spectators had come from outlying ranchers, Carson City, and even Placerville to see someone as wealthy as Bill Enders convicted of a crime.
At ten o’clock sharp, the judge’s gavel banged on the desk. “Order, everyone! Order!” People rushed to find a seat while the Cartwrights walked as a group to a bench near the front. The jurymen filed into the box, the foreman holding a piece of paper.
“Will the defendant please rise?”
Enders and his attorney stood as directed. Bill turned to steal a glance at his wife. She was dabbing at the corner of an eye with a lacy handkerchief.
“Have you reached a verdict?”
“We have, Your Honor.” The foreman unfolded the paper, its crackling the only sound to be heard in the courtroom. “We the jury find the defendant, Bill Enders, guilty of the charge of murder in the first degree of Toby Barker. We find the defendant, Bill Enders, guilty of the charge of armed robbery of the Goat Spring’s Way Station. We find the defendant, Bill Enders, guilty of the charge of attempted murder in the second degree of Sheriff Roy Coffee.”
Bill’s shoulders slumped after the foreman finished. He hadn’t thought Mary’s confession would hold any weight with the jury.
The judge absently scratched at his beard and then turned his attention to the accused. “This court finds the defendant guilty on all charges and sentences the defendant to ten years hard labor.” The judge’s gavel could barely be heard over the noise in the courtroom.
Mary’s body shook with her sobs. She wanted to rush to her husband but Roy was placing manacles on his wrists.
The crowd began flowing from the courtroom, many of the men intent on doing some saloon lawyering at the Nugget or the Bucket of Blood. A few men were already debating whether or not Adam had seduced the confession from Mary.
Ben squeezed his son’s shoulder and said, “You stood by your convictions. That took strength.”
“The jury needed more than my ‘strength’ to see that Bill killed Toby.”
“C’mon, Adam, beer’s on me,” said Joe.
As the Cartwrights left the courtroom, Adam stopped to say a few words to Mary. Enders’ eyes bored a hole in Adam’s back.
Mary stood, turned her tear-stained face to her husband, and then looked away quickly. She took Adam’s offered arm and left the courthouse.
“Let’s go, Bill,” said Roy.
The lawman and his prisoner walked up the aisle side-by-side. Reaching the door, Roy adjusted the brim of his hat. Bill noted that Mary was across the street, practically running to the boarding house — alone. Adam’s back was to him, presenting a perfect target. Enders quickly shoved into Roy, pulled the sheriff’s pistol from its holster, and leveled it.
All four Cartwrights turned at Roy’s cry and Hoss screamed in rage as Adam fell to the ground, a pool of blood soaking into the street. The large man ran at the cuffed prisoner, crossing the distance between them with the speed of a grizzly bear intent on its prey. Bill had no time to react as Hoss’ bulk slammed him to the ground.
Roy tried to hold Hoss’ fist back but wasn’t strong enough. Joe leaped onto his brother’s back, hoping his weight would throw Hoss off balance.
Hoss regained his feet and whirled to dislodge his passenger. His momentum stopped so suddenly that Joe was flung to the ground. “Adam?”
“I’m all right, Hoss,” said Adam, getting to his feet as blood trickled through his fingers. “It’s just my shoulder.”
Forgetting Enders, Hoss strode over to his older brother and tore his shirt aside, resulting in a wince and a groan. The bullet had gone clean through the shoulder.
“I’ve had worse,” said Adam in what he hoped was a nonchalant voice. His knees buckled as he looked into his brother’s relieved blue eyes; the tension from the events of the past few weeks leaving his body along with his blood.
“Let’s get ya to the Doc’s,” said Hoss, pulling his brother up in a fluid motion.
Ben and Joe watched as Hoss half-dragged a protesting Adam through the small crowd to Doctor Martin’s office.
“Nothin’ ta see here, folks,” said Roy, helping Enders stand. “Come on,” he said with a hard jerk to his prisoner’s arm. “I think the judge’ll be more’n happy to add some extra time to yer sentence fer that little stunt.”
Joe accompanied Roy and his prisoner to the jail while Ben went to the doctor’s office. Adam was lying on a couch, his face pale as the doctor worked to clean the wound. Hoss stood by the door, arms folded across his chest, practically daring Adam to try to get up.
“How is he?” asked Ben.
“I’m fine,” said Adam through gritted teeth.
“He’ll be back to fixing fences within the month,” said Dr. Martin, putting the bottle of iodine back in the cabinet.
Ben exhaled a deep breath in relief. If nothing else had proved Enders was a murderer, that shot at Adam surely did.
Hoss leaned further into the doorframe and watched his brother trying to be stoic as his arm was maneuvered into a sling. Now he was glad Adam hadn’t given in to Enders’ goading that afternoon in The Nugget; Enders would have probably back-shot Adam without a second thought. What a sure way for Bill Enders to get away with murder if Adam was out of the way.
Joe entered the office and asked, “Can you ride?”
“It’s my arm. Of course I can ride.”
“Make sure he takes it easy,” ordered Dr. Martin, handing a bottle of laudanum to Ben.
“We’ll make sure of that,” answered Hoss.
“How on earth can he sleep with all of that racket?” muttered Adam as he pinched the bridge of his nose.
Ben entered his eldest’s room to check on him before heading to his own room. He took in his son’s glassy-eyed appearance and worried he was developing a fever. Reaching out to feel his forehead, he was briefly surprised by the swat he received, but attributed it to the medicine.
“Do you think he’ll stop snoring if you give him the laudanum?”
“Why don’t you take a spoonful? Maybe it’ll help you sleep.”
“I’d take the whole bottle if it’d do that! Make him stop, Pa.”
Ben tried to stifle a low chuckle. “Why don’t you do what Joseph does? Sleep with a pillow over your head.”
“Ha-ha. I don’t know which is worse — his nightmares or his snoring. They’re both so noisy!”
“I think he’s just relieved that this whole business with Enders is over. Maybe he’ll be more productive working fence tomorrow.”
“Maybe I’ll be able to sleep with him out of the house.”
“Good night, Adam.”
Adam tried to get comfortable but having his arm in a sling made it nearly impossible. He took his copy of Herman Melville’s Typee from the nightstand to pass the time. After two paragraphs, his eyes closed and he relaxed into the pillows.
Adam was minutes away from successfully making the ride from Goat Springs to Virginia City in an hour-and-a-half. Chubb and Cochise loped in Adam’s dusty wake.
“Ah think he’s gonna make it,” Hoss said to Joe.
They heard a shot from town and urged their horses to pick up the pace. They rounded the corner to see Adam being cheered by the crowd for doing what everyone had believed to be impossible.
Hoss saw Enders trying to slink off towards the livery stable. “He’s gonna get away!” he yelled, pointing in the direction Enders was heading.
Roy and several men in the crowd gave chase, pulling their quarry to the ground. The sheriff cuffed Enders and dragged him off to jail.
Hoss suddenly awoke, not sure what brought him to the surface of awareness. After sniffing strongly to test the air and clear his nose, he stretched and got out of bed. He tip-toed next door and saw light coming from under the door. Quietly opening it, he peeked in to see his older brother sprawled across the bed, head flung back, mouth open, and snoring.
No wonder he woke up! All that racket would keep anyone from sleeping. Hoss silently crossed the room, gently pried the book from Adam’s hand, and tenderly placed him against the pillows, mindful of the injured shoulder. Pleased with his work, Hoss smiled to himself and turned down the lamp.
Returning to his room, he wormed his way under the covers and fell into a peaceful slumber, dreaming of Adam riding fence and making repairs in record time.