Summary: Hoss gains possession of some counterfeit notes, which leads Adam and him to the town of Cross Roads and to trouble. (6th story in the series)
I wrote this series originally back in the early 2000s. This is a recently updated/edited version.
Rated: K (9000 words)
The Way Things Are Series:
The Way Things Are
History has a Habit
When you Least Expect It
There’s Always Something
The Choices we Make
Looks Can be Deceiving
One Thing or Another
Just One of Those Days
Nothing is What it Seems
You Can’t Keep an Old Lawman Down
Times Like These
The Nature of Life
Out on a Limb
A Time to Decide
The Company We Keep
When Opportunity Knocs
Looks Can Be Deceiving
“Alright I’ll have me one of them ones too.”
Frank Hedley nodded and continued to fill out the man’s order. Being the only storekeeper in this one horse town had its advantages. He got plenty of business from travellers who were passing through on their way to the larger towns that were within a day or two ride from Cross Roads, where his general store was located. Sure the town only had a few buildings, and whoever named it didn’t show much imagination but he didn’t care. All he cared about was making money and ever since he set up shop here, it had proven to be a wise investment. The opportunities that had come with so many strangers passing through were endless.
After filling the bag with the selected candy, he smiled at his latest customer. Frank surmised that this man was about one of the biggest fellows he had seen in a while. The fact that the man had a sweet tooth came as a bit of a surprise. As he talked with him, Frank had gotten to know a bit more about him.
“Is that all you want today, mister?”
Hoss Cartwright grinned. “Yup. I think so. How much do I owe you?”
Frank told him the amount and waited for the man to hand over the money. Hoss did so and as he waited for the storekeeper to give him his change he took a look outside. When the storekeeper cleared his throat, Hoss turned back to him and held out his hand.
Hoss frowned as he watched the storekeeper place the money in his hand. Something wasn’t right. He was supposed to get some coins not more notes. “Excuse me, but I think you made a mistake.”
“No, no mistake. I gave you the exact change.”
“But I got all notes. That don’t seem right to me.”
Nodding in understanding, Frank began to explain to Hoss what he had given him. “I haven’t got much in the way of coins and when I run out I use these things called Fractional Notes. They’re the same as coins except they’re notes. If you look carefully you’ll see one says fifty cents and the other twenty-five cents.”
Hoss looked at the notes carefully in his hand. Sure enough one of them said fifty cents and the other twenty-five. “These okay to use elsewhere then?” he asked hesitantly.
“They sure are. They’re legal currency. In fact the government is still printing them. Don’t tell me you’ve never seen or heard of them before. They’ve been around since the war.”
“No can’t say that I have. You say they’re legal? Well I’ll be…they sure are different.” Hoss pondered for a moment and an idea came to his mind. “How ’bout I help you out a little?”
Frank grew wary. “Help me out a little? What do you have in mind?”
After digging into his pockets, Hoss placed some more coins on the counter. “Since you said yourself that you don’t have much in the way of coins, how ’bout I exchange the coins I have for some of those Fractional Notes that you’ve got there.”
The look of surprise on Frank’s face was evident. He shrugged his shoulders. “Sure why not. Let me just count up what you’ve got there and I’ll give the same amount back in Fractional Notes.”
When Frank had finished exchanging the coins for notes, he thanked Hoss for his custom and wished him a safe trip. Hoss took the notes and put them in his wallet. As he walked out of the store he placed his wallet back into his inside vest pocket and got on his horse.
As he rode his horse out of Cross Roads, Hoss contemplated the journey ahead. He had nearly a day’s ride before he’d get home. That means I should be home in time for supper tomorrow night he concluded. Which was good as he could already taste Hop Sing’s cooking. Remembering that he had been away for two weeks and knowing that he didn’t have to go away again for a long time was all he needed to remind him of the need to get home as quickly as possible. Humming a happy tune, he continued on his way home.
“Well Hoss, I think you’ve well and truly done it this time. You’ve been taken for a ride and then some.”
“Awww, Joe. I’m tellin’ you the truth. These here Fractional Notes are legal currency. I can use them anywhere.”
Joe could see that his brother was dead serious. “Okay Hoss I believe you. But even you have to admit that it’s hard to comprehend that these notes can be legal tender.”
Hoss nodded. “Yeah Joe. I found it hard to believe myself, but when that storekeeper explained to me that they had been around since the war…”
“What’s been around since the war?”
Joe whirled around to see father come down the stairs. “Hi Pa. We were just talking about these Fractional Notes that Hoss managed to pick up on his way home.” He handed one of the notes to his father.
Ben examined the note and nodded. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of these. They usually only appear in places where coins are hard to get. As far as I know they’re still legal tender and the government still prints them.”
“Didn’t I just tell you that Joe. Pa just confirmed what I’ve been sayin’ all this time.”
Joe smiled sheepishly. “Ok I’m sorry Hoss for doubting you.”
Placing his arm around Joe’s shoulder, Hoss smiled. “That’s ok little brother. I don’t expect you to know as much as me and Adam.”
Going over what Hoss had said to him, Joe suddenly realised what he had meant and was just about to refute it when Ben chuckled.
Seeing that Hoss was only joking and knowing that Joe was not going to let it pass by that easily, Ben decided to step in. “Speaking of Adam…has he come home yet?”
After giving Hoss a stern look, Joe faced his father. “Adam said he’d be back in time for supper.”
Looking at the grandfather clock, Ben smiled. “That’s fine.” He sat down in his large red leather chair. “Well Hoss, tell me some more about your trip.”
Joe frowned. It looked like Hoss would win this game if he didn’t do something soon to distract him. As he contemplated what he could say to get Hoss’ mind off the game of checkers they were playing, a smile slowly crept over his face.
“Say Hoss, have you decided if you are going to keep one of those Fractional Notes as souvenir or are you going to get rid of them all in Virginia City?”
Adam’s head jerked up from the book he was reading. Fractional Notes? How on earth did Hoss get his hands on one of those and why haven’t I heard about it until now? Adam stared at Hoss, who was just about to answer Joe’s question.
“Well Joe I think I’m might just keep ’em all or I could spend them all. I haven’t decided yet. Why are you askin’?” Hoss had an idea of what Joe was really up to. He knew he was about to make the winning move and anything that Joe said or did made him mighty suspicious.
“I asked because if you I don’t mind I would like to keep one of them for myself. If you don’t want it, I’ll gladly take it off your hands.” Joe smiled innocently at Hoss.
The innocent smile he had received from Joe made Hoss even more suspicious of his brother’s motives. Choosing to ignore Joe, Hoss made his next move on the checker board.
Joe’s mouth dropped open. Shoot, he thought he had Hoss but it seemed his older brother had outsmarted him this time. He felt like crying as he made the only move he could make and watched helplessly as Hoss finished the game.
Hoss sat up straight with a smug and satisfied look on his face. He rarely beat Joe at checkers and every time he did it felt great. The best thing about it was at least he could tease Joe about it for the next day or so. The thought of that made him puff his chest up with pleasure.
Adam chuckled as he watched Hoss’ reaction to winning a game. It was evident that Joe wasn’t too happy with the outcome, as his youngest brother had slumped down into the chair he was seated in with a grim look on his face. Now that the game was over, Adam could ask Hoss about his latest find.
“Now that you two have finished playing, could you please tell me about these Fractional Notes that you managed to find?”
Hoss shook his head slightly. The euphoric feeling of beating Joe had gotten to him and he had almost missed what Adam had said. “Sure.” He then related the tale of how he came across the notes. After he had finished he got one of them out of his pocket and handed it over to Adam.
Flipping the note from back to front, Adam quietly studied it. Hoss started to wonder why Adam was taking such an intense interest in it. Raising both eyebrows, he came to the conclusion, that Adam must have thought it was rare find. Suddenly Adam got up, with a move that was so quick that it startled everybody in the room. They all watched in confusion as Adam made a dash upstairs.
“What was that all about?” Ben asked in a vain attempt that somebody would know the answer.
Hoss shrugged his shoulders. The confusion was evident on his face. “I dunno know. Must be somethin’ mighty important to get him to react like that.”
Ben nodded in agreement. Ever since Adam had told him about his life as a Secret Service agent, he had come to the realisation that Adam would be doing a lot of things that didn’t make sense. He also understood that there were things that Adam had done and was going to do that he would never know about. Still it was better knowing that at least it wasn’t anything that he could be ashamed of.
Joe, on the other hand, had a completely different perspective. He had no doubt that Adam was onto something, which meant that there would be an investigation of some sort. A smile slowly crept onto Joe’s face. After he had found out about Adam’s secret life a few weeks ago, Joe had been itching to get a chance to show off his own investigative skills. Now it looked like that opportunity had come. He looked over to Hoss, who didn’t look that happy.
“Joe, I don’t like that look you’ve got on your face. The last time I saw that look, I ended up gettin’ into a mess of trouble.”
Smirking, Joe leant over and placed his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Now how can you say a thing like that, Hoss? I promise you that you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.” Hoss grimaced.
Just then, Adam came back downstairs carrying a book. He took it over to the dining table and opened it. He then took the note that Hoss had given him. After flipping through the pages he came to the one he was looking for. Adam moved his head back and forth from the book to the note.
After a few minutes, and totally unaware that his family had taken an intense interest in what he was doing, he nodded firmly. “Just as I thought.”
“Just as you thought what?” Hoss stood up and walked over to Adam.
“Hoss. I hate to tell this but this Fractional Note is a counterfeit.”
“WHAT!” Hoss stared at his older brother. “You’d better not be foolin’ me Adam.”
“I’m not. This book proves it.” He showed Hoss the picture of a counterfeit note that was in the book. “This is the latest copy of ‘Heath’s Infallible Counterfeit Detectors’. It shows all the things to look out for.”
Hoss listened and watched as Adam explained to him what was wrong with the note. After the lengthy explanation, Hoss bowed his head.
Adam could see that Hoss, was not too pleased about this outcome but since it was only one note, it didn’t matter, unless… “Hoss, how many Fractional Notes do you have?”
Digging into his pocket, Hoss pulled out his wallet and placed all the Fractional Notes he had in possession on the table. “That’s all of them.”
After he had counted them, Adam continued, “That’s quite a few. Nearly five dollars worth.” He picked up each note and found the tell-tale sign that each one of them were counterfeit.
Joe shook his head slowly. “They sure did see you coming Hoss.”
“Yep they sure did. How could I have been so hornswoggled?”
Ben went up to Hoss. “It’s ok, son. It could have happened to anybody.”
“Yeah but somehow it always happens to me Pa.”
Ben placed his arm around Hoss. “I guess it’s the price you pay for being kind-hearted and trusting.”
Adam nodded in agreement. “Yeah Hoss, don’t worry about it.”
Hoss smiled weakly at Adam and Ben. “How did you know that there was somethin’ wrong with that note in the first place?”
Shrugging his shoulders, Adam smiled. “It’s something they teach us to look out for in our business. The counterfeiting of twenty-five and fifty cent Fractional Notes is big. The sooner we put a stop to it the better.”
“And are you thinking of putting a stop to it, Adam?” Joe smiled innocently.
Adam glanced at Joe. The kid was up to something. “Yeah I am Joe, and tomorrow would be a good time to start. Hoss, in the morning, we’ll head for the place where you got these from.”
Sagging, Hoss looked pleadingly towards Adam. “How ’bout I tell you where I got them from and you can go by yourself. I only just got back and I was hopin’…”
“No Hoss. I want you to come with me. I need your help.”
Knowing that he had no real choice in the matter, Hoss agreed. He began to warm to the idea of getting even with the fellow who had duped him.
“So what time are we leaving?”
Adam raised an eyebrow. “We? Joe, I didn’t say anything about you coming with us. In fact you’re not coming with us at all.”
“C’mon Adam. It’ll be great. The three of us investigating a crime.”
Hoss grabbed Joe by the shoulders. “Oh, no, you don’t Joe. I ain’t goin’ on any investigation with you. The last couple of times that I did, I ended up in jail and I know with Adam that ain’t gonna happen.”
“Well I guess there’s your answer, Joe. This is Hoss’ case and if doesn’t want your help then who am I to argue.” Adam smirked.
“Alright Adam, I’ll stay but don’t think I’m giving up that easily. There’ll be other times.” Joe quickly glanced over to the book lying on the table. With Adam out of the way, I might be able to get a good look at that book.
“Oh great. I’ll look forward to it,” Adam said sarcastically. Noticing that Joe had taken a sudden interest in his book, he made a mental note to make sure that he hid it someplace where it wouldn’t be found.
Hoss sighed an audible sigh of relief. He wasn’t too happy about having to go again so soon but at least it was with Adam. He knew that going with his older brother and not Joe, would mean that the trip would be relatively trouble-free.
“What time is it now, Adam?”
Adam shifted himself into a more comfortable sitting position on the cot and leant his head against the wall. “Ten minutes since the last time you asked me.”
“You think they’ll be feedin’ us soon?”
Adam put his watch back into his pocket. “Probably.”
“What do you think they’ll give us?”
Sighing, Adam closed his eyes. “I don’t know and as long as it isn’t cow fodder, I don’t care.”
Hoss turned to look back at his brother. “What makes you think they might be bringin’ us cow fodder?”
“Oh I don’t know. Seems nearly every time I go somewhere with you, there’s always cow fodder on the menu.”
“Now you can’t go blamin’ me for that Adam.”
Opening his eyes, Adam sat up straight. “No I can’t blame you for that but I can blame you for getting us put in here.”
“Now, how was I supposed to know that old fella was the sheriff of this here town?” Hoss turned back and tried to stick his face through the gap in the bars of the jail cell the both of them currently resided in. “If I hadda known he was the sheriff, I wouldn’t have hit him with that chair. Besides if you hadn’t of started that fight in the first place, neither of us would be here.”
Adam looked indignantly at Hoss. “I started the fight? All I was doing was using a little gentle persuasion on that man at the saloon to get some information out of him.”
Hoss turned to face Adam. “If what you were doin’ is called gentle persuasion, then I hate to see what would happen if you were really persuadin’ him. Grabbin’ that fella by his collar sure made his friends angry. What were you tryin’ to do anyway?”
“I told you. I was trying to get some information out of him and I would’ve too if it hadn’t been for his friend grabbing me and punching me in the face. I suppose that’s why you got into it.”
“Sure it was. I couldn’t let him get away with punchin’ ya. I had to do somethin’.”
Adam stood up and went over to his brother. “Well thanks anyway. I guess we’re both to blame. I got carried away and lost control.”
Placing his hand on Adam’s shoulder, Hoss grinned. “That’s okay. I wonder where lunch is?”
Just then the door to the sheriff’s office opened. The sheriff of Cross Roads walked in carrying a tray with two plates of stew on it. “Alright you two, step away from the door while I give you your lunch.”
Obliging the sheriff, both Adam and Hoss retreated to the back of the cell and watched as the sheriff opened the door and placed the tray on the stool near the door. After he had closed the cell door, Adam and Hoss went up, took a plate each and began to eat.
Sheriff Ezekiel Collins, watched as the two strangers ate. They had only been in town a day and had caused more trouble than there had been in the whole of the last year. He was extremely curious to find out what these two wanted.
When he had finished eating, Adam thanked the sheriff for the meal. Now that he had something to eat it was time to get out. “Sheriff? How long are you going to keep us here?”
Ezekiel raised a wiry eyebrow. “It depends on what your business here in town is?”
Hoss eager to get out as soon as possible, went up to the bars. “You see sheriff, me and my brother are here to get some counterfeiters.”
“Counterfeiters you say. How come you think that we’ve got some of those here?”
Before Adam could say anything, Hoss began to relate the story of how he came into possession of the counterfeit notes. When he had finished, he smiled at the sheriff. “Look here sheriff. I’m real sorry for hittin’ you with that chair, if I had known who you were I wouldn’t have done it.”
“That’s alright son. I understand and I accept your apology.” Looking at both men, he nodded. “I believe your story as well. That Frank Hedley has always had a knack of gettin’ mixed up in no good dealings. The thing is, what were you two going to do when you got information you were looking for?”
Hoss grinned smugly. “Oh that’s easy. My brother Adam here is a Secret Service agent. He would’ve just hauled them off to Federal prison.”
“Secret Service? You don’t say?” Ezekiel glanced over at the other man, who was now pinching the bridge of nose.
Hoss knew he had done something wrong, when he turned around and saw Adam’s reaction. Realising that he shouldn’t of mentioned the Secret Service part, he smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry Adam, I know you told us not to say anythin’. It kinda slipped out.”
Adam sighed. “It’s alright Hoss. What’s done is done.” Going over to his jacket which was lying on the cot, Adam pulled out his wallet. Taking a piece of paper out, he walked back over to where the sheriff was and handed him the paper through the bars.
After he had perused the piece of paper he had been given and satisfied that it was genuine, Ezekiel handed it back to the man. “I’m going to let you two out but only one condition.”
“What’s that?” Adam asked dryly.
“That you let me join you. I know everybody in this town so I figure I can help you out.”
Adam nodded once. “Sounds reasonable to me. We’ll be able to act under your authority.” He paused. “By the way, the part about me being in the Secret Service goes no further than here.”
“You can count on me to keep quiet about that. Now let’s see about getting you two out of there.”
Ezekiel Collins nodded his head. He was getting excited at the prospect of doing some real law work for a change. Cross Roads was a dull town and nothing much ever happened here. The only work around was rounding up the odd drunk and keeping them in the cell overnight. Now that these two fellows had shown, it confirmed the suspicions that he had been having about Frank Hedley for some time now.
The three of them were standing on the landing in front of the sheriff’s office, their attention fixed on Hedley’s store which was situated down the street to the right. It was late afternoon and most of the people that were around had already gone home and the town’s only saloon had just started to come to life.
Adam began to wonder if the person they were waiting was ever going to turn up. Sheriff Collins had told him that getting information directly from Hedley himself would be harder than getting blood out of a rock and he had acknowledged that. The most likely person would be someone who knew Hedley and his business personally.
Hoss tapped Adam on the shoulder. “I reckon that’s her now.” He pointed to a young woman walking down the street towards the store.
“Yep it’s her alright. Viola Hedley. Frank’s sister.” Nodding, Ezekiel turned to Adam and Hoss. “She’s a real nice, young, trusting thing. I reckon with a bit of sweet talk, she would tell a man just about anything. Now I would do it myself but she knows me and I’m too old anyhow.”
Seeing what Ezekiel was hinting at, Hoss thought for a moment. “Yep I can see what you’re gettin’ at Zeke. I could do it but I just don’t have the know-how.” Placing his arm around Adam’s shoulders, Hoss grinned. “Now, you big brother, you do have the know-how. I’ve seen how all those girls go weak at the knees by you just smilin’ at them. I guess it’s all up to you.”
“Hmm…well I suppose if I must.” Adam smirked. He had watched and studied Viola Hedley as she walked down the street. Originally he had hoped that it wasn’t going to be him getting the information out of Hedley’s sister, but now upon seeing her for himself, the idea was rather appealing. She had the kind of figure he liked on his women and from what he could tell she was rather pretty as well. He had already begun to imagine what it would be like to touch her auburn coloured hair, when Hoss had spoke up.
“So you’ll do it then?” Ezekiel asked.
“Yeah I’ll do it.” Straightening up, Adam smiled at Ezekiel and gave a quick wink to his brother. “Are you sure you saw Hedley ride out earlier?”
Ezekiel cocked his head to the right. “Yep sure enough. When he goes out on his daily rides, he don’t come back till well after dark.”
“Alright then. I may as well get started.” Walking off the landing and onto the street, he slowly turned back to the other two men. “This shouldn’t take too long. Wait here for me. I should be back in about a hour or so.” He then proceeded down the street towards Hedley’s general store.
Hoss glanced up at the clock in the sheriff’s office and frowned. It had been nearly three hours since Adam had set off to get some information out of Viola Hedley. He knew that Adam could look after himself but still not hearing from his brother, well and truly after the time that he said he would be back by had begun to worry him.
“Now don’t go worrying yourself over your brother. I’d say he’s probably gone well over and above the call of duty. He’s most likely found a lot of things to talk to Miss Hedley about.” Ezekiel smiled knowingly. “It’s your move, sonny.”
“Yeah you’re probably right.” Hoss grinned. Both Adam and Joe had a way with women that he sometimes wished he could have. That Viola Hedley looked mighty pretty and it figured that Adam would’ve stayed longer than necessary. Satisfied with that thought, Hoss turned his attention back to the game of checkers he was playing with Ezekiel.
After he had contemplated the move he was going to make, Hoss moved the piece he had chosen. As he waited for Ezekiel to make the next move, the door to the sheriff’s office slammed wide open. Hoss whipped around to see who it was and instantly a look of shock and disbelief crept onto his face. “Adam?”
He got up and went over to his brother, who staggered weakly into the room. Adam grabbed Hoss by the shoulders and would have collapsed if Hoss hadn’t have been there to grab hold of him. Hoss gently guided Adam to a chair and helped him down onto it.
Adam motioned that he wanted a drink and Ezekiel got a glass of water for him. Hoss carefully studied his brother as he sat there drinking. He could see that Adam’s shirt had been torn and that most of the buttons were missing. The shirt was hanging out as if it had been ripped out of his pants. What worried Hoss the most, was the look of fear on his brother’s face.
Hoss squatted down. “Dang Adam. What happened? You look like you’ve gone ten rounds with a grizzly.”
Adam stared at Hoss. “I wish it was a grizzly.”
Ezekiel rubbed his chin. “Who was it that beat you up like this? Some no good thieves I bet.”
As he shook his head, Adam closed eyes. “No it wasn’t anything like that it.” He paused for a moment. “It was Viola Hedley.”
Standing up straight, Hoss placed his hands on his hips. “Aww, c’mon Adam. Stop joshin’ and just tell the truth.”
“Does it look like I’m joking to you? That woman…” Adam looked at his empty glass. “Sheriff, you got anything that’s stronger than water?”
“Sure I have.” Ezekiel went over to the cupboard and took out a bottle of whiskey and handed it over to Adam. “Viola Hedley, who would’ve thought it.”
Opening up the whiskey bottle, Adam poured some of the amber liquid into his glass. After he had poured a more than generous amount he placed the bottle on the table. “Well I didn’t think it.” He picked up the glass and began to drink the contents.
Confusion had now gained a hold on Hoss. He couldn’t understand what had happened. “Adam, I just don’t understand how that young thing could make you look that plum scared.”
“Hoss, let me put it this way.” Adam took a deep breath. He was still trying to regain what was left of his senses. “Remember Abigail Jones?”
Abigail Jones? Hoss eyes widened at the memory. “Surely not again.”
Adam nodded slowly. “Compared to Viola Hedley, Abigail Jones was a pussycat.”
“Oh Lordy. I’m real sorry Adam.”
Scratching his head, Ezekiel had no idea what they were talking about. “Did you get the information you were looking for?”
By now Adam, had finished of his glass of whiskey and had started to pour another one. “Yeah I got the information we needed.”
Ezekiel smiled. “That’s good and dandy.” After Adam had placed the bottle of whiskey back on the table, he took it and put it back in the cupboard. “Time we went and had some dinner. I’m getting powerfully hungry.”
The mention of food made Hoss’ stomach grumble. “Now that sounds like a fine idea to me. How ’bout you Adam?”
“No…I’m afraid I’ve lost my appetite. You two go ahead. I’ll stay here and rest a little.” Adam looked longingly over towards the cupboard. The thought of finishing off that bottle of whiskey had begun to appeal to him greatly.
“That’s not what I meant, young fella. You’re coming with us.” Ezekiel could see where Adam was looking and he knew what the man planned. “Besides I ain’t letting you stay here by yourself. If what you’re implying about Viola Hedley is true, I have no doubt she will come here looking for you and if she finds you here…well there will be no-one around to help you. After all the local sheriff is the one who usually knows who’s in town and who isn’t.”
Adam sprang up quickly. “You’ve got a point, Sheriff. I say let’s leave right now. I can hide out in a room at the hotel.”
Hoss smirked. Knowing that Adam was alright, he had now started to see the lighter side of what had happened. “By the way Adam, I think you better change your shirt. I don’t want to be pickin’ up any girls off the floor after they see your…” Hoss casually waved his hand at Adam’s chest.
Adam glanced downwards and realised what Hoss was getting at. He grimaced. “Yeah I see what you mean.” He was still trying to come to grips of how he had loss control of the situation with Viola so quickly. At the start she seemed very nice and receptive to his compliments. During the first fifteen minutes, he had wanted to kiss her and when the time came to do so, he did. It was then the tables had turned on him. For nearly two hours he had been chased and cornered by Viola on a number of occasions. The thought of what had occurred still caused him to shudder in fear.
As they went out of the office, Adam cautiously looked all around. Satisfied that Viola was nowhere to be seen, he walked out but kept in close contact with Hoss and Ezekiel the entire time just in case.
The next morning, Hoss and Adam started to go over what they would do next. After a good night’s rest, Adam had started to feel a bit better about everything that had occurred the previous day. He had made up his mind that in order to avoid Viola Hedley he should probably stay as much as possible in the hotel room he and Hoss were sharing until Frank Hedley left for his daily rendezvous. Sitting on his bed he looked across to Hoss, who was still lying in his own bed, he smiled. “Well I think now that we have sorted out what we are going to do, it’s time we had some breakfast.”
Hoss immediately vaulted out from under his sheets and quickly sat up. “Yup. I think that it is.”
Adam grinned. He got up and began to get dressed. As he was just about to put on his shirt, he glanced at Hoss, who was staring intensely at him. “What’s the matter?”
“Umm Adam…I think you better take a look in that there mirror.” Hoss pointed to the mirror that was on the nearby dresser.
Forgetting his shirt for the moment and throwing it on the bed, Adam walked over to the mirror and looked into it. “Oh great! That’s just great!”
Immediately Adam began to inspect the mark that had formed on his neck near where it met his shoulder. After he made sure that it wasn’t a patch of dirt, Adam groaned and closed his eyes.
Holding back his laughter, Hoss went over to Adam. “Looks like she’s gone and done branded you Adam. It’s a big ‘un ain’t it?”
Adam sneered at Hoss. “That’s it. I’m definitely not moving from this room until it’s time to go. You can get them to bring my meals up to me.”
“Aww c’mon Adam. It ain’t all that bad.” Hoss bit his lip. It was getting harder by the minute not to burst out laughing.
“It’ll be days before this thing disappears and my shirts won’t cover it all.” As if to prove the point, Adam went over and put on his shirt. “See what I mean?”
“Yeah I see what you mean. It does sorta look like it’s climbin’ up your neck a fair way.” Hoss could still see some of the mark above the collar of Adam’s black shirt. “Shame it wasn’t any darker, then it would blend in with your shirt.”
The look that Hoss got from Adam in that instance, broke any resolve he had of holding back his laughter. Hoss began to laugh loud and long. “I’m sorry Adam,” he said in between laughs, “It’s just that you being such a ladies man and all…”
“Ok Hoss I get the picture. No need to rub in it.” Adam was trying to keep his emotions under control but the tone in his voice told otherwise. “Just go downstairs and have your breakfast and don’t forget to get them to bring something up here.” He was sure he could feel his face going red from the embarrassment he was suffering.
By the time Hoss had finished dressing, his laughter had died down considerably. Seeing his brother with a welt the size of at least two checker pieces sitting side by side was something he had never expected to see and now that he had, well it was just too funny for words. As he opened the door to leave, Hoss turned to look at Adam, and for a moment contemplated getting one last dig in. Deciding that it was better not too, he grinned widely at his brother, who just glared at him.
After he left the room, Hoss began to wonder what Joe would make of the situation, especially if they got home before that mark disappeared. He chuckled. It looked like there were going to be some mighty interesting times ahead.
Adam stretched his arms and got up. He walked over to the window and gazed out. It was late afternoon and the time that Frank Hedley was due to leave on his daily ride. If he hadn’t left already, he soon would be. Going back to the bed, Adam picked up his gun and holster and put them on. He was glad that at last something was about to happen. He had spent the entire day couped up in this room with nothing much to do but it was that or run the risk of being seen and cornered by her again. Meeting Viola again was something he did not want to do so soon after last night. In fact he’d rather avoid it altogether.
Hoss entered the room and smiled at his brother. “Looks like you’re ready to go. Good. Zeke says Hedley is over at the livery stable saddlin’ up right now.”
“We’ll head over to the sheriff’s office and wait until Frank leaves town. After we give him a few minutes head start, we start following.”
“That’s fine by me.” Hoss thought for a moment. “Which way are we leavin’?”
“We’re leaving by the back way,” Adam stated firmly.
Smirking Hoss, nodded once. “That’s what I figured.”
As they were leaving, Hoss stopped abruptly. “Hang a minute Adam. What if she’s waitin’ out back for you?”
Adam’s eyes opened wide. “I don’t want think about it Hoss.” He stopped. Suddenly he was unsure if he had made the right decision to leave by the back door. His whole body began to tense up. He still hadn’t fully recovered from his last encounter with her. “You don’t suppose she is?”
“Nah she isn’t.” Hoss grinned at Adam’s discomfort. “I saw her enter her brother’s store a little while ago. I think you’re safe for the time bein’.”
Relaxing, Adam smiled weakly and thanked God that he would be spared any further attention from Viola. With any luck they could be finished tonight and be out of town by noon at the latest. As far as he was concerned the quicker they got out of this town the better.
Hoss glanced at Adam and shook his head slightly. It was so strange seeing Adam plum scared of a mere girl. Whatever that girl did to Adam must have rattled his cage a whole heap. He wondered if he would ever hear the whole story of what had happened.
As they neared the sheriff’s office, Hoss’ curiousity got the better of him. “Hey Adam. You gonna tell me about what happened yesterday?”
“I don’t really want to talk about it Hoss. All I feel like telling you is that I was in a situation that I had no control over.”
“Ahh…” Hoss now started to understand what Adam was going through. Adam was the take charge kind of fella in most situations. He had always assumed that this was the case where women were concerned too. His oldest brother was the type to make advances to women and not have women make advances towards him. That’s why he made that reference to Abigail Jones. Well, one thing was certain at this point in time, he was extremely glad that it was Adam and not him who had come face to face with Viola Hedley.
Frank Hedley stifled a yawn. Every day he had to wait and he was getting sick of it. His contact always took his sweet time in arriving and then usually didn’t have all that much to say. All Matthews wanted was his share of the day’s takings. Frank was seriously thinking about changing the deal he had with the man. After all it was he who risked getting caught and not his tardy partner, Seymour Matthews.
A rustle in a nearby bush, caught Frank’s attention. He whirled around only to see that it was Matthews. Frank was still very much wary of the six foot tall man and even though he was of average build, he knew that Matthews was a force to be reckoned with.
“‘Bout time you got here Seymour. Been waiting on nigh nearly an hour for you to show your ugly face.”
Matthews grunted. There was no love lost between them and he wasn’t about to rectify the situation. Hedley was just another pawn in his game and one day soon he aimed to take him out of it. For now he needed Hedley and he was therefore willing to put up with any rot he got from him.
“Ok Hedley, where’s me cash?”
Frank went over to his horse and opened up his saddlebag. Taking a small wad of notes out, he casually walked back to Matthews and thrusted them into the waiting man’s hands.
Matthews grinned and nodded cordially to Hedley. As he was about turn to leave, Hedley grabbed his arm. “I’m not finished yet Seymour.”
“You will be if you don’t let go of my arm,” Matthews said angrily.
Knowing a threat when he heard it, Frank quickly let go. “I need some more scripts.”
“What do you mean you need more? The last lot I gave you should’ve lasted you a few weeks.”
“Well they didn’t. Some of them were fairly bad to begin with and I was able to unload a few more than I had planned on.”
Raising both eyebrows, Matthews looked questionably at Hedley. “Can’t help there being bad ones. You get what you’re given and so you got to expect to have the odd bad one in the bunch. What I want to know is how you got rid of so many in such a short time.”
Frank grinned and continued, “I had a piece of good luck. Had some stranger come in and exchange a whole pile of coins for the notes.”
Looking sceptically at Hedley, Matthews frowned. “I find that hard to believe. How do I know that you’re not fooling me?”
“Believe it Seymour. That stranger was the biggest sucker ever to walk this earth.”
“Alright then…but if I find out that you’re duping me you’ll know what’ll happen.” He took his saddlebag off his shoulder. Opening it, he placed the small wad of notes inside and deftly pulled out a fresh pile of script.
Frank took the notes and began to inspect them as it was still light enough to see. When he had finished he nodded once. “Yeah they look good to me. Now that we have concluded business for the day, I’ll being going.”
“Don’t forget same time tomorrow, Hedley.”
“I won’t,” Frank snarled at Matthews.
“Just a minute, gentlemen. I think neither of you are going anywhere.”
Matthews and Hedley both twirled around quickly to find that there was a gun being aimed at them, held by a man in black.
“What the heck!” Matthews shouted angrily and looked at Frank. Whacking Frank on the back of the head he yelled, “You stupid idiot. You were followed.”
Rubbing the back of his head with his right hand, Frank stared in disbelief at the man with the gun. “How was I to know that I was being followed? This is the first time its happened.”
Adam grinned. “I guess there’s a first time for everything.” With his free hand he motioned and called Ezekiel over. “Sheriff if you’ll do the honours.”
“You betcha I will.” Ezekiel went over to the two men. “Okay gents if you would like to drop what you have in your hands and place your hands behind your back I would be greatly obliged.”
Hedley and Matthews glared at each other as they did what the sheriff told them to do. As Ezekiel searched Hedley, Matthews began to formulate a plan of attack.
“I wouldn’t if I were you Seymour.”
Turning to face the stranger, Matthews could tell that the man knew what he was thinking. As he studied the stranger intently for a few moments, Matthews could tell that this fellow wasn’t one to tangle with. It was better to live and fight another day then to make a foolish move right now. Matthews’ whole body slumped in resignation.
When Ezekiel had finished his search of Hedley, he thanked Frank for his co-operation and proceeded to search Matthews.
Frank was sweating profusely by now. The indignation of being searched and the thought of what was going to happen to him played havoc with his mind. He didn’t relish the idea of spending the next few years in prison. With that in mind, Frank decided to make a run for it.
Not watching where he was going, Hedley ran straight into Hoss. Hoss took hold of the smaller man’s jacket lapels and thrusted him into the air. Hoss glared angrily upwards at Frank. “So I’m a sucker am I? Well for that remark I oughta throw you to the ground and…”
“Hoss will you please let him down.”
“Alright if you insist.” Hoss let go of Frank’s jacket and the man fell onto the ground in a heap.
Adam rolled his eyes. “You should’ve let him down gently.”
“If you wanted it gentle like you shoulda said so.” Hoss looked down at Hedley, who had recovered quickly from his fall and was now trying to crawl away. “Oh no you don’t” Hoss grabbed the back of Frank’s jacket and pushed him to the ground with his foot.
Shaking his head, Adam returned his attention to Ezekiel and Matthews. He could see that Ezekiel had begun to tie Matthews’ hands together. Since he knew that Hedley wasn’t going anywhere, Adam placed his gun back in the holster. After he picked up Matthews’ discarded saddlebag, he opened it and found the plates that the man had used to make the counterfeit notes. He smiled. It was pleasing to think that the job was done. Now all there was left to do was to escort the apprehended men back to the jail cell and notify the county marshal.
“Frank I can’t believe that father and mother raised you up to be so stupid.”
“Now look here Viola. There’s no need for talk like that.”
“No need! Why Frank Hedley if it weren’t for those bars, I…I’d…”
Ezekiel placed his hand on her arm. “Now Miss Viola. Calm down. Frank’s gonna pay for what he’s done.”
Viola cocked her head to look at the sheriff’s hand on her arm. Taking a deep breath, she nodded slowly. “Yes sheriff. Thankyou.” She gazed at her brother and smiled grimly. “Well Frank, I’ll try to come by again before the marshal arrives. I’ve got a store to run you know.”
“Yeah I know.” He watched as his sister bade him farewell and was taken outside by the sheriff. He went over to his cot and sat down. Placing his face in his hands he began to contemplate his miserable future.
Outside the sheriff’s office, Viola started to apologise for her brother. “I’m sorry Sheriff Collins for what my brother did. I plan to make restitution immediately.”
“There’s no need for that Miss Viola. Like I said before Frank will pay for what he done.”
“Yes I suppose he will.” Viola looked out onto the street. She paused for a moment as she watched a large man approach the office.
Hoss could see that Viola Hedley was looking at him as he neared the office. He once again pondered how such a sweet lookin’ lady like her could be as aggressive as Adam had indicated she was.
Tipping his hat at her, he smiled. “Ma’am.”
After tilting her head in acknowledgement, Viola faced the sheriff. “Sheriff I was wondering. Have you seen a tall stranger about town lately? He has black hair and is extremely handsome.”
Ezekiel quickly glanced at Hoss, who just looked up in the air. “No Miss Viola, I can’t say that I have. The only stranger I’ve seen recently is that man there.” He pointed casually at Hoss.
Hoss gave her a silly grin and shuffled his feet. Viola studied the man in front of her. After a few moments, she went over to Hoss. “Hmm…well maybe he’s still in town somewhere. I think I might just go over to the hotel and see if he is there.” She placed her hand on Hoss’ right arm. “You haven’t seen him have you?”
Hoss shook his head violently and told her that he hadn’t. Satisfied with his response, she smiled at him. “Well, if I don’t find him…I’ll keep you in mind.” She ran her hand slowly down Hoss’ arm. She then winked and smiled seductively at him.
Hoss gulped a few times and tugged at his collar. As he watched her leave, he thanked his lucky stars that he’d been long gone before she would come after him.
Ezekiel chuckled. “That Viola is something ain’t she?”
“Why do I have the feelin’ that I was just sized up like a piece of prime beef.”
Ezekiel laughed loudly. “Because you were sonny. Because you were.”
The door to the sheriff’s office opened and Adam poked his head out. “She’s gone I take it?”
“Yep she’s gone for the time being but she’ll be back. If not for you, then for your brother.” Ezekiel grinned widely.
Adam bewildered by this statement, stared at Hoss, who now looked a bit fearful at the thought of Viola coming back for him. “I think it’s time we were headed for home.”
“I couldn’t agree with you more. The horses are out the back and saddled up.” Going over to Ezekiel, Adam held out his hand. “Well old-timer I guess this is good-bye. The county marshal should be here by tomorrow to take Matthews and Hedley off your hands.”
Grabbing Adam’s hand and firmly shaking it, Ezekiel chuckled. “It’s been a pleasure young man. I haven’t had this much fun in ages. Shame you two couldn’t stick around. It’d be mighty interesting to see what happens.”
Hoss went over to Ezekiel and shook his hands. “No thanks Zeke. I’d rather be leavin’ now. Take care.”
The two of them left Sheriff Ezekiel Collins on the landing and went out to the back of the office. After getting on their horses, they started to ride out of town. Adam looked at Hoss. “By the way not a word of this to Joe, especially about Viola.”
Hoss raised both eyebrows at Adam. “What should I say if he asks ’bout that mark on your neck?”
Adam scowled. “You say nothing Hoss. Absolutely nothing.”
Next Story in The Way Things Are Series:
One Thing or Another
Just One of Those Days
Nothing is What it Seems
You Can’t Keep an Old Lawman Down
Times Like These
The Nature of Life
Out on a Limb
A Time to Decide
The Company We Keep