Summary: Joe is offered the chance to buy a hotel in Virginia City. As he sets about raising the finance he needs to buy it, he discovers that he isn’t the only one answering opportunity’s knock. (17th story in the series)
Rated: PG 6,300 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 KNOCKS
“Well whaddya reckon?”
Joe Cartwright tipped the front of his hat up and nodded once. “Not bad. Not bad at all.”
“What did I tell ya.” Aaron McSween smiled as he patted the shabby, round seat situated in the middle of the foyer. “You won’t regret it one bit.”
“Looks like some work will need to be done in order to get it up to scratch.”
“You know how it was Joe with Pa being sick and all. Any extra money we had went to his medical bills.”
“Yeah I know.” Joe smiled reassuringly at the man who stood opposite him. “Still I can see the potential it has. Nothing that a lick of paint and a few sticks of furniture couldn’t fix.”
“You’ll buy it then?”
“Are you sure you still want to sell? You’d have no problem getting her back in good working condition.”
Aaron shook his head slowly. “No.” He paused for a moment before he continued. “This hotel was Pa’s dream – not mine. I miss the way Virginia City was back in the old days just after the Comstock Lode was discovered. You remember how it was, don’t you Joe?”
“I remember. All the hustle and bustle of all the buildings going up. All those people comin’ and goin’. It was exciting but I kinda like the way it is now too.”
As he sat down on the round bench, Aaron smiled slightly. “Yeah, the place is nice and civilised now. Not much chance of being a pioneer anymore. I want to go some place where there’s still a lot of new frontiers to explore.”
“I guess that’s why you want to sell up in a hurry – you’ve already found somewhere to go.”
“Yep sure have.” Aaron grinned. “I heard Australia’s the place to be. It’s still a young country with lots of places just waiting for an enterprising man like myself to take advantage of.”
Joe laughed. “I can understand that – being an enterprising man myself.”
“I take it that we have a deal.” Aaron stood up and looked at Joe with an expectant look on his face.
“We have a deal.” Joe held out his hand, which Aaron grabbed and shook it heartily.
“That’s great. You won’t regret it one bit,” Aaron said excitedly.
After another quick glance around the building, Joe smiled nervously. “I sure hope I won’t.”
A frown crept upon Joe’s face as he once again started to work out his financial situation. The most he could muster up at short notice was about three hundred dollars – a long way short of the two thousand that Aaron had asked for the hotel. He glanced over to the clock that was on the chest of drawers in his room. It was nearly midnight and tomorrow would be Tuesday. There wasn’t much time left to find the rest of the money as Aaron had plans to leave on the Friday morning stage to San Francisco.
Joe thought back to earlier in the day and smirked. Aaron had been so sure that he was going to say yes that he already had a contract drawn up in advance. Was he that predictable? Willing to take advantage of any opportunity to make money when it came up? If he was truthful with himself the answer would be yes. He had always had a talent for finding ways to make money.
Still, his talent wasn’t going to help him right now. He had to have the money ready one hour before the stage left on Friday or Aaron would sell the hotel to the bank. Deep down he knew the hotel would give him an opportunity to stand on his own two feet financially. He chuckled at the thought that no matter how old he got, the stigma of all those other ventures that he had botched up would always come back to haunt him.
As he got up off his bed, he stretched and walked over to the window. The night was clear and the moon shone brightly. He snorted as he thought about that even at his advanced age he still wanted the approval of his family in everything he did. Sure he had it in most things like his expertise with horses and the other stuff he did on the ranch. So why, were there times that they still made him feel like he was the baby of the family? Maybe this was just the ticket to get himself on an equal footing with brothers in the financial stakes.
After a few more moments of deep contemplation, Joe felt that it was time to get some sleep. He had changed into his night clothes a few hours ago with that intention but he had become so engrossed that the time had quickly gone by. As he cleared his bed of all the paper that was on it, extinguished the lamp and got into bed, his mind went over the only option that was left. He had to find a willing partner or partners.
Adam was the first one that had come to mind but Joe immediately quashed that one. Adam would no doubt want a say in everything that happened with the hotel. Joe wanted to run this one on his own. What he needed was a silent partner. Candy was out of the question and he couldn’t go to Pa. Pa had problems of his own ever since that incident with Kendall and now wasn’t the time to approach him with the request for a large financial loan. What he needed was someone who had a lot of ready cash and would easily agree to be the silent partner. A smile crept on Joe’s face as he realised that there was only one person he could go to.
Hoss Cartwright lifted his head as soon as he heard the horse approach. He smiled as he put down the leather straps he had been working on. As he slowly got up, he stretched a little and then made his way down from the front porch to greet his brother. “Hey, Joe!”
Joe grinned as he pulled Cochise to a stop. “Hoss.”
“What brings you out here?”
“Oh nothing much,” Joe said casually as he alighted from his horse and walked over to the hitching rail. After tying up Cochise, he quickly looked around the yard and then to the front of the house. “Looks like you’ve made some improvements since the last time I was here.”
“Yup. Brought that there rockin’ chair just yesterday.” He pointed to the chair. “Annie also got some new curtains made up for the front parlour.”
“They sure look good, “ Joe replied as he leant slightly to his left to see for himself. “By the way is your good wife around?”
Hoss sighed. “’Fraid not. She’s gone to visit her folks for the day. Won’t be back until near supper time.”
“So she’s left you to fend for yourself?”
“Nope. Got some leftovers that I plan on havin’ for lunch.” Hoss paused for a moment as he studied his younger brother.
Joe shifted uncomfortably. He needed to choose the right moment to bring up the reason why he had come today. One thing he had to make sure of was that he didn’t sound too desperate or too eager – that might put off Hoss straight away. He smiled nervously as he realised Hoss had been silent for too long. “You okay?”
“Yup, I’m okay. I was just wonderin’ if there was anythin’ wrong with you?”
“Anything wrong with me,” Joe replied with a hint of caution as he quickly put his hand to the centre of his chest. “Nope nothin’ wrong me.”
Hoss’ brows knitted. “You sure?”
“Yeah I’m sure. What makes you think that there’s something wrong.”
“Let’s just call it the ol’ Cartwright intuition. I gotta feelin’ that you’re here for more than just a friendly visit.”
“I haven’t said anything to give that impression.”
“You don’t need to say anythin’. I can tell by the way you’ve been actin’.”
Joe looked up as he methodically went through everything that he had done since he had arrived. After a couple of minutes, he shrugged his shoulders. There wasn’t anything he could think of that would make Hoss suspicious. The only conclusion he could come up with was that Hoss was just joshing. However, a small part of him knew that there was a remote chance that Hoss did suspect something.
Seeing that he had no choice in the matter, Joe nodded. “Alright, I did come by for more than just a visit.”
A wide grin flashed on Hoss’ face. “So Adam was right.”
“Adam was here a couple of hours ago. He said that you were up to all hours last night.”
For a brief moment, Joe wondered why Adam had been up so late. He laughed as he realised that the only reason was probably one of necessity more than anything else. “I should’ve known that someone was bound to notice.”
“You got that right little brother. Now how about we go and sit on the porch and you can tell me all about it.”
Joe followed Hoss’ lead and as he took his seat, he took a deep breath. “Aaron McSween is leaving to go to Australia and wants to sell his family’s hotel. He gave me first choice. I’ve got to come up with the money by Friday morning.”
“How much is he askin’ for it?”
“Two thousand dollars.”
Hoss raised an eyebrow. He could see what was coming. “And how much do you have?”
“Three hundred dollars.”
“I suppose you’ve come to ask me for the rest?”
“Yes and no.” Joe stood up. “I want to ask you come in as my partner – a silent partner. I need somebody who’d be content to let me run things as I see fit.”
A knowing look crept onto Hoss’ face. “And that’s why you haven’t gone to Adam with this.”
“Yep.” Joe looked at Hoss with an expectant look. “How about it?”
Hoss leant forward as he began to think about it. He already knew what his answer was going to be but he wanted to Joe to wait it out for a little while. It still amazed him that he was so willing to help Joe out in this way despite all those other times he had lost out in some wild scheme that Joe had dreamt up. A body would think that he would’ve learnt his lesson by now but family was family. He turned his head to face Joe and nodded.
“Great.” Joe went over to Hoss, grabbed his hand and shook it vigorously. “You won’t regret this Hoss, I promise you. Now after you give me the rest of the money…”
“Hang on a minute. There’s somethin’ I think I ought to tell you.”
Joe let go of Hoss’ hand and stood back. This didn’t sound too good. “What?”
“I’m still goin’ to help you out but,” Hoss shifted uncomfortably for a moment. “Well, you see it’s like this. Most of my money is tied up in investments and all I have available is about $500.”
A small exasperated sigh escaped from Joe. “Well, I suppose it’s a start. Thanks.”
“I’m real sorry that I couldn’t help you out some more.”
“That’s okay Hoss. It just means that I’ll have to be more resourceful than I thought I would have to be.”
“I have no doubt that when it comes to resourcefulness little brother you’ll have no problems.”
Joe smiled. For the rest of his visit, he and Hoss worked out the particulars of the partnership.
Wednesday afternoon found Joe walking down the main street of Virginia City. He had spent a good part of the day trying to convince various friends and acquaintances about the merits of becoming partners with him in the hotel. To his dismay, he found that none of them were willing to partake of their hard earned cash. It seemed his reputation for getting involved in hair-brained business schemes had proceeded him.
As he stopped in front of the Silver Dollar he wondered if it was worth it. Was going into business as a hotel proprietor the right thing to do? However before he could answer the question, Candy walked out of the saloon with a huge grin on his face.
Joe smiled. “Looks like you’ve hit the jackpot.”
“You could say that.” Candy put his hand in his pocket and drew out a wad of notes. “I just won myself two hundred dollars in a poker game.”
“Two hundred dollars, “ Joe said in a slow and even tone. All of a sudden his face lit up. “What do you plan to do with your sudden windfall?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Might buy myself a new outfit – hey wait a minute! I know that look and the answer is no.”
“C’mon Candy. All I’m offering is a stake in a very profitable business venture.”
“I don’t want to go into the hotel business.”
“Now Candy what sort of attitude is that? Besides, I bet you haven’t even thought of the benefits owning part of a hotel can bring.”
Candy eyed his friend suspiciously. It looked like Joe was about to go in one of his speeches. In order to avoid a long one, he sighed. “Ok, what are the benefits?”
“How about the fact that you would have free room and board every time you stayed overnight in town?”
“Alright, that’s a good point but other than that I don’t see anything that would make me want to go into the hotel business.”
“I can think of plenty of good reasons.”
“Name three others.”
Joe frowned. He had to think of something that would appeal to Candy and convince him to become a partner.
A smile started to appear on Candy’s face. He knew that Joe was going to have a hard time trying to find three good reasons. After a little while, he decided to speak. “Well having any luck?”
“Just give me a few minutes and you’ll have your three reasons.”
Candy shook his head and placed his hand on Joe’s left shoulder and patted it. “Sorry ol’ buddy but your time is up. Besides, I’ve got plans for this.” He held up the hand which held the cash.
“Hey, you didn’t even give me a chance to…”
“I can’t help it if you’re not quick enough. It’s a tough game being in business. Now if you don’t mind, I…” Candy’s voice trailed off as he stared over Joe’s shoulder. A look of confusion mixed with surprise quickly replaced the smug look that had just been there moments before.
Not missing what had just happened, Joe’s demeanour immediately changed to one of concern. “Candy? You okay?”
After a brief shake of his head, Candy grabbed Joe’s hands and placed the money into. “Here take this as my share of the hotel.”
Before he could reply, Joe watched in complete amazement as Candy took off down the street. He looked down at the money in his hands and then back to Candy. His eyes continued to follow Candy until the man turned down into one of the side streets.
For a moment he was tempted to go after Candy to find out what the problem was. Then he thought that it would be wise not to. If Candy wanted help he would have asked for it. No doubt he would hear about it at some point. Joe just shrugged his shoulders and turned his mind to what was in his hands.
Candy’s two hundred dollars now made the total at one thousand dollars. He was halfway there but getting the rest of it was going to be a challenge. At least he still had the rest of today and all day tomorrow to come up with the difference.
“How did it go?”
“We cleared it up and also made sure that it wouldn’t happen again.”
Ben nodded. “That’s good Adam. Was there any trouble?”
“No, no trouble,” Joe said slowly as he undid his gun belt. “Adam dealt with Thompson and his bunch. I took care of the others.”
“Thompson was a handful but after a while, he listened to reason.” Adam moved away from the sideboard and then stretched a little. “I’m starved. How long till dinner’s ready?”
“Not long. When Hop Sing heard you two ride up, he went back into the kitchen to finish it off.”
After he had taken off his gun belt and jacket, Joe made his way over to the settee and sat down. He leant back and closed his eyes. That mess up at the timber camp had taken all day to sort out. It had been unexpected and had put a big dent in his plans. There would be only a few hours in the morning to find the rest of the cash he needed to give to Aaron before he left.
Adam glanced at Joe as he made his way over to one of the red leather chairs. He could see that his brother was in a quandary about something and he knew exactly what it was. It was only a matter of time before Joe would have to come to him.
Joe opened his eyes and looked around the room. He reminded himself of the reasons why he couldn’t go to his father for a loan and he definitely didn’t want to ask Adam for it, so he decided to remain silent as he continued to work out his options.
A few minutes passed before Ben decided to break the silence. He could see Adam every now and then take a quick look at his brother as if he was waiting for Joe to speak up at any minute. Joe’s brows were knitted tightly as he sat there in what was obviously deep thought. Ben took a deep breath. “Joe. Hoss tells me that you’re looking at buying a hotel.”
For a moment, Joe’s face showed mild surprise. “Umm…that’s right Pa. Aaron McSween is leaving town tomorrow and he offered to sell me his family’s hotel.”
“Hoss said as much. He also told me that he bought a stake in the hotel as well.”
“Yep.” Joe smiled a little. “You know he’s getting to be a pretty astute businessman. There was a time I could’ve talked him into anything and he’d just accept it with no strings attached.”
Ben chuckled. “I take it he’s finally learnt his lesson.”
“He sure has. He made certain that we’d signed a partnership agreement before he gave me any cash.”
“Sounds like a good move to me.” Adam leant back in his chair a little. “Do you have any other partners?”
Joe looked at Adam warily. He knew exactly where Adam wanted to take this conversation. “As a matter of fact, I do. Candy bought a share as well.”
“Candy,” Adam replied in a slightly tensed voice. “Where on earth would he get enough money to do that?”
“I caught him outside the Silver Dollar yesterday. He’d just won big at a poker game.”
“Well, I’m glad to see that men are using the time I gave them off to good use.” Ben’s face showed the humour his voice had held.
“They sure are.” Joe grinned a little. “For a moment I was sure he wasn’t going to help me out but then something set him off. He shoved the money into my hands and then took off down the street. I haven’t heard from him since.”
“I haven’t seen him around today so he must be still in town.”
“It must have been big – I don’t think I’ve ever seen him move that fast.”
Tired of the talk about Candy, Adam decided it was time to steer the subject back to the issue of the hotel. “So Joe, how much have you raised so far?”
“Nowhere near what I was hoping to get to by the end of today.”
“I take it that you’ve got a lot of money to find but little time to do it.”
“You got that right big brother.”
Adam leant forward and clasped both of his hands together. “You do know that I would be willing to help you out.”
Joe nodded slowly as he replied in an all-knowing tone. “Oh believe me I do.”
“Then all you have to do is ask.”
“I know but that’s not the problem. The problem that I have is that, and correct me if I’m wrong, that you would want to have a say in how things are run.”
“Only in accordance with how much of the hotel I own.”
“And there lies my problem.” Joe stood up abruptly. “With the way things are at the moment, you would own half the hotel.”
“Half the hotel?” Adam’s eyebrows lifted up in mild surprise. “I thought you had gotten more than that.”
As he walked around to the back of the settee, Joe shook his head. “Unfortunately I haven’t.”
Ben noted Joe’s disappointment and felt a little sorry for him. “How badly do you want this hotel?”
Joe turned to his father and smiled apologetically. “Bad enough. I wanted to do this on my own but I didn’t think I would have this much trouble.”
“You know you can still have it.”
“Yes, I know.” Joe walked over to Adam, who stood up as he approached and placed his hands on Adam’s shoulders. “You’re my brother and I love you but how long would it be before we’d be doing things your way?”
A wide grin appeared on Adam’s face. He placed lifted his right arm and patted Joe on the back. “I understand perfectly.”
As he watched his two sons, Ben smiled warmly. It did his heart good to see that his sons knew and understood each other. He could also see the admiration that each had for the other and in the light of recent happenings, it was important that he told them. Life was too precious to let it go by without telling others how you felt. Going over to his sons, he placed an arm around each of them. “I’m proud of you both.”
Adam and Joe quickly gave each other a brief look of concern before they returned their gazes to their father. Ever since that mess with Kendall, both had noticed a change. Lately Ben had been more expressive in his feelings towards all of them. It seemed that whenever the slightest opportunity presented itself, he would tell them how much he loved them. Both Joe and Adam knew that there was more to this show of love than met the eye.
The moment was broken by the sound of Tom as he made his way downstairs. He went over to greet his father in his usual, respectful manner. Adam was glad to see that Tom had begun to relax over the last few weeks, but it worried him that his son was still reserved in a lot of ways. As he returned the greeting, Adam smiled. “Ready for dinner?”
Tom nodded. “Yes, sir.”
Joe smiled. Perhaps after he got some food into him, he would be able to think more clearly. “You know dinner sounds mighty good to me. I hope Hop Sing’s made plenty as I’ve worked up a powerful bit of a hunger.”
As if on cue, Hop Sing came out with a platter full of vegetables. The four of them all looked at each other and grinned as they made their way to the table.
The next morning Joe found himself seated on the bench outside the post office. He scratched the back of his neck in frustration as he contemplated his situation. In less than an hour, he had to meet Aaron outside the Virginia City Bank with the money for the hotel. At this point, he had no way of getting the one thousand dollars he still needed. He had tried in a vain to convince a couple of other friends to come in as partners but they weren’t interested as most of their spare cash was tied up in other ventures.
For the last twenty minutes he had tried to work out various options that would allow him to get the money and he soon realised that the only one left to him was to go to Adam. He shook his head. Just maybe Adam would let him have complete control – just maybe. It was worth one more try anyway.
Just as he got up from the bench, he heard his name being called out. He turned to the direction where he had the voice come from and was surprised to see Leslie Whitaker approaching him.
“Joe! I’m glad I caught you in time,” Leslie said as she managed to catch her breath.
“Mrs Whitaker what can I do to help you?”
Leslie shook her head. “No, I don’t want your help. I came here to help you. I had to find you as soon as I heard.”
“Heard what?” Joe gazed at her questionably.
“It’s not as bad as it sounds.” She took a seat on the bench and motioned Joe to join her.
Not wanting to be disrespectful, Joe sat down next to her. “I’m sorry if I’m being a bit forward but considering the situation between you and Adam…”
“Adam is part of the reason why I’ve come to help you.” She smiled a little as she watched the confusion appear on Joe’s face. “Let me explain. I was just talking to Myra Monroe and she tells me that you are looking at buying the McSween hotel.”
“Yes, that’s true. I suppose Clarence told her that I had approached him.”
“He did. Clarence also told her that Aaron McSween was leaving today and that you had to have the money or he was selling the hotel to the bank.”
“That’s right.” A slight grin appeared on Joe’s face. “I guess there are no secrets between a husband and his wife.”
“Believe me there can be,” Leslie replied in a tone that was wistful but before Joe could remark upon it, she changed her demeanour. “Well let’s get to the matter at hand. I’m here to make you an offer. I’m willing to give the two thousand dollars you need.”
Joe’s eyebrows flew up. “You want to give me the money? I have a hard time believing that it’s as simple as that.”
“You’re right, it isn’t that simple. I’m willing to lend you the money – interest-free. You can pay me back whenever you can afford to do so. All I want in return is some information.”
“Some information and that’s it?” Joe scratched the back of his head. It sounded too good to be true and that worried him. What information could he possibly have to warrant such an offer?
Seeing that Joe was in a pickle, Leslie decided to elaborate some more. “It’s a win-win situation as far as I’m concerned. I get the information I need and you get the money. You can use what you’ve raised so far to do whatever you want. You could put it back into the hotel and fix a few things up before you re-open.”
“I suppose I could but,” Joe stood up. She had mentioned Adam earlier as being the reason for her coming to him. He needed to know exactly what she meant. “This information you want – does it have something to do with my brother?”
Leslie sighed. She had no choice if she wanted to get the information. “Yes, it does.”
“You expect me to sell my brother for two thousand dollars?”
“No! That’s not what I’m wanting you to do.” She got up and grabbed Joe by the arm. “Come with me. We need to talk in private.”
Confused by the way Leslie was acting Joe reluctantly decided to let her lead him to an alley near the post office. As soon as they got there she let go of his arm and quickly looked around to make sure that there was nobody else was there. When she was satisfied, she turned back to Joe. “What I’m about to tell is to be kept in strict confidence between you and me. If Adam was to know that I told you, let just say he wouldn’t be happy.”
“Alright, I’m listening.”
A few moments passed before Leslie spoke up. “Before I start I want to say that my offer of the money still stands. I won’t lie and say that what you could tell me isn’t that important because it is. I’ll tell you why and what I want to know. Then you can decide for yourself if you want to tell me.”
Joe nodded. “Sounds fair enough.” Curiosity had gotten the better of him. Besides, he was interested in learning more about what was going on between Leslie and Adam.
“First of all, I know that Adam has asked you for your help in a certain matter sometime in the future.”
Not wanting to give away too much, Joe decided to play it safe. “Yeah, he’s asked me to help him out on a number of occasions. He’s family after all.”
Leslie stared at Joe. “Is this some sort of Cartwright trait? You’re playing games just like your brother.” She let out an exasperated sigh. “Look – at our last meeting Adam told me that he had asked you to help out.”
“Your last meeting with Adam?” Now he was confused. “As far as I know you and Adam haven’t been seen within ten feet of each other without going at each other’s throats.”
“Yes I know but we do manage to tolerate each other during the meetings we have in private.”
“Why the heck would you be meeting with Adam in private if you can’t stand him…” A light suddenly went on inside Joe’s head. “You’re working with Adam.”
“I am and that’s why I need to know this information.” Leslie took a deep breath. “This mission is very important and a dangerous one. I can’t go into the details but the fact is, even though Adam and I don’t get on well with each other we have trust one another. That also means we have to keep an eye for any trouble the other may get into.”
“And you think that Adam could be in trouble?”
“Unfortunately I do. Living in town you hear a lot of interesting gossip.”
“I have no doubt that you do.”
“That leads me to ask you what I want to know.” Leslie lowered her head and closed her eyes briefly. She then raised her head and spoke in a clear and controlled voice. “I want you to tell me everything you know about Adam’s relationship with Jane Talbot.”
“Jane Talbot? What does she have to do with anything? She left town months ago.”
“What!” A look of utter surprise appeared on Joe’s face. Jane was back – that would explain Candy’s behaviour the other day. “I had no idea.”
Leslie smiled. “I can see that. I heard things about what happen between her, Adam and your friend Candy. There’s a number of interesting stories going around. That’s why when I heard from Myra that you were still after help to buy the hotel I decided to take the opportunity to find out the truth. Adam definitely isn’t going to tell me and I know how close you all are, so I thought the money might convince you to tell me what you know.”
Joe sighed heavily and went over to Leslie. He placed his hand on her shoulder. “The bribe wouldn’t have worked.”
“Deep down, I know that. You see it’s important that I know of anything that could jeopardise this mission. I was willing to try anything.” She smiled weakly at Joe and felt a bit of remorse. One day he would know the full story and hopefully, he would understand why she wasn’t completely honest with him now. “I’m sorry that I even tried to do it.”
Satisfied with what she had told him, Joe leant against the right wall in the alley. He needed a few minutes to think about what he was going to do next. Leslie was right in saying that Adam wouldn’t be happy if he knew that they were having this conversation. With Jane back in town things between Adam and Candy could heat up again and that could put Adam in a dangerous position.
If he told Leslie, he would be safe in the knowledge that it would go no further but something told him that there was still more to this than met the eye. Maybe it was that ol’ Cartwright intuition Hoss had mentioned. There definitely had to be something more to Adam’s feud with Leslie. Every time her name was mentioned a scowl always appeared on his brother’s face.
The sound of Leslie, as she politely cleared her throat, brought him out his reverie. There was little time left before he had to meet Aaron and he had to still decide if he wanted to take up Leslie’s offer. As he quickly made up his mind, Joe smiled at Leslie, took her arm gently and escorted her out of the alley.
As the stage disappeared around the corner, Joe smiled. Aaron would have the time of his life in Australia and a part of him wished he could join his friend. Deep down, however, he knew his roots were firmly planted in the Ponderosa. He would never leave and now he had something that would further tie him to his home.
After he had left the alley, he had told Leslie that he would take her offer of the money on the condition that they drew up an agreement to keep it on a strictly business level. He had even insisted on an interest rate for the loan. He grinned. Maybe a bit of his family’s business sense had rubbed off on him.
Initially, Leslie had been adamant that he didn’t have to pay any interest but after he had convinced her that it would be for the best, she had relented. It was better to do it this way just in case, in the future, Adam got the wrong impression. By the looks of it, it was going to be hard enough to keep things separate just the way they were.
Upon their arrival at the Virginia City Bank, they were greeted by Aaron who was there waiting for him. His friend was pleasantly surprised to see that Joe had obtained all the money for the hotel. The three of them had then gone into the manager’s office and finalised the deal. Now that Aaron was safely on his way, he was off to Leslie’s lawyer’s office to sign the loan agreement.
He was about halfway there when he saw Adam coming out of the Lending Library. A look of dismay came over Joe’s face. So big brother knew that Jane was back.
As soon as Adam saw Joe he made his way over and smiled. “Did everything go as planned?”
“Yeah, it did. I’m now the new owner of the McSween Hotel.”
“Congratulations.” Adam patted Joe on the back. “I knew that you would find a way.”
“Thanks,” Joe replied in a relieved tone. “No hard feelings that I didn’t involve you?”
“I have faith in you even though you may not think it at times.”
Joe smiled. “Thanks again.” He paused for a moment before he continued. “I have to admit that I’m a bit surprised to see that you’re in such a good mood considerin’ that you were just in the Lending Library.”
“And why shouldn’t I be?”
“Well, I just thought seeing Jane again might not have been a pleasant experience.”
The look that had appeared on Adam’s face, threw Joe for a minute. His brother had no idea. “I thought you knew that she was back.”
“No, I didn’t.” Adam’s body had tensed up – this was definitely not in the plan. Jane should have never come back so soon. She should’ve stayed away until all this was over and he had dealt with Leslie. His voice became calm and controlled as he held his anger in check. “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll see you at home.” With that, Adam abruptly walked passed Joe and off down the street.
As he glanced back, Joe was a bit perplexed by the way Adam had reacted to the news. It seemed that his brother wasn’t at all pleased to hear that Jane was back. He knew that in some way it had to do with the assignment that both Adam and Leslie were working on but there were other things. Things like what was the true nature of Adam’s and Leslie’s relationship? Did Jane’s re-appearance really complicate matters that much to cause his brother to react in the way he just had? There were other questions he wanted to ask and only one person who could answer them.
Originally he had planned to tell Leslie what he knew about Adam’s relationship with Jane with no other strings attached. Now it was vital that he knew the whole story. He would make sure that Leslie told him it – whether she wanted to or not. Both Leslie and Adam had bought him into this and therefore he had a right to know. With the way things were headed, Adam would need someone to be there just in case it all came apart.
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