Summary: WHN for Desert Justice. Adam and Hoss accompanied Dave Walker to Los Angeles to make sure their friend arrived alive for trial. When Walker escapes from jail, Marshal Emmett Dowd enlists the Cartwrights’ help to track Walker down.
Word Count: 5437
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, setting, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Adam signed the guest register at the hotel then drummed his fingers on the counter while he waited for the room key.
“Nevada, huh? You’re a far piece from home,” said the clerk.
“Yeah,” was Adam’s response. He knew his voice sounded as irritable as he felt. He and Hoss had spent a couple of days traveling by stagecoach from Virginia City to Los Angeles to make sure one of their hands, Dave Walker, made it alive. When Marshal Dowd had arrived on the Ponderosa, he’d made it clear he preferred Walker dead. Adam and Hoss had accompanied Dave to make sure the marshal didn’t dispose of his prisoner, since he’d beaten Dave once the man was handcuffed and locked up in jail. It was only at the remote stage station on the journey that Dave had showed his true colors by conning a young lady, Andrea Strasser, into removing his chains then trying to escape. Adam knew at that moment Dave had to be guilty of the charges and brought in for trial.
“Anything else I can do for you, Mr. Cartwright?” the clerk asked as he handed over the key.
“My brother will be joining me. He’s a big man with a big hat. There’s no mistaking anyone else for him. Just send him up when he arrives.”
“Are you expecting any bags, Mr. Cartwright?” asked the clerk.
Adam stopped on the stairs. “No. We’re traveling light.”
He entered the room and took in its shabby furnishings before hanging his hat on a peg near the wash stand. The water in the basin was tepid but he cleaned the dust from his face. Afterwards, he sat on one of the beds and ran a hand through his hair.
The marshal had been left with broken ribs and a broken collar bone when Dave’s accomplice ran the stage horses out of the barn. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, Adam had agreed to help the marshal get Dave from the station to the jail. Afterwards, Adam had gone to the lawyer’s office to get back the one thousand dollars his father had wired for Dave’s defense. Adam figured there was no point in wasting the money on defending a man he didn’t want back at the Ponderosa. He had accompanied the lawyer to the bank and then to the telegraph office to let his father know the lawyer’s services were no longer needed.
While Adam had taken care of business, Hoss had escorted Dr. Strasser and his daughter to the dock to board their ship. That had been hours ago. Adam figured Hoss was holed up in a cantina eating all the beans the place could cook up.
Adam was on the verge of sleep when Hoss entered the room.
Hoss tossed his hat on the bed, and set two brown bottles down on the washstand. “Miss Strasser and her pa are on the boat. Sure hope this trip won’t leave a bad taste in their mouths for America.”
Adam sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “It’ll give them something to talk about when they return to Austria. What’s in the bottles?”
“Why did you waste your money on that?” Adam asked.
Hoss squinted at his reflection in the scratched-up mirror. “I saw a good-sized crowd on the way back from the dock and stopped to see what was goin’ on. Turns out it was a medicine show.” He turned his head this way and that, studying the barren pasture on his head. “That dadburned medicine drummer promised this tonic will make hair sprout up in a week or so. He even said to keep it away from ladies ‘cause it’ll grow hair on their chests.” He studied the label, which showed a man with a magnificent mane of flowing hair. “I reckon when God created us Cartwrights he saved up all the hair for Little Joe.”
Giving up on his hair for a moment, Hoss pulled a small book from his vest pocket. “The drummer threw this here book in for free.” Hoss read the cover. “’The True Story of Life in the Garden of Eden by Adam, the First Man.’ That drummer said it was an honest-to-God diary, kept by Adam, long sought after by folks wantin’ to know about him and Eve’s life before they were cast out.”
“That’s the same noise a feller behind me made. Turns out he was a reverend and he done threatened to stone both the drummer and me for blasphemy. I figured I ought to get away from there before the reverend found a rock and tried his aim.”
“Missing you would be like missing the side of a barn,” said Adam.
Hoss nodded and forgot about the bottles and book. He sat down heavily on the opposite bed.
“Adam, if you’d known Dave was guilty of the crimes Marshal Dowd accused him of, would you have defended him? Would you have insisted on going along to make sure the marshal didn’t kill him on the way?”
“Dowd hid behind the power of his badge.” Adam rubbed his earlobe between his thumb and forefinger for a moment as he thought. He shook his head. “If Dave hadn’t been a friend, I don’t know.”
“Yeah. I suppose it would’ve been different if we hadn’t known Dave.” Hoss scratched his head, causing wispy hair to stand up like the straw Adam and Dave had been forking into the wagon when Marshal Dowd had arrived on the Ponderosa.
A few minutes of silence passed between the men.
Adam tugged off a boot. “Guess we should get some sleep. Pa will expect us back home within a week. Or sooner.” He turned his back on his brother and tried to settle in on the much-worn mattress. “You gonna be up all night reading that?”
“Nah,” said Hoss. “Only ‘til it gets to Adam’s recollections about Eve.”
Adam Cartwright sighed through his nose and closed his eyes.
Adam grabbed for his gun belt as pounding on the door threatened to separate it from the frame.
“Who is it?” he yelled in his gruffest voice.
“Dowd. Walker’s escaped.”
Adam turned up the lamp as Hoss sat up rubbing the sleep out of one eye. Adam draped his gun belt over his shoulder but kept his pistol in hand as he opened the door.
“Come in before you wake everyone up.”
A disheveled Dowd stepped into the room. His half-buttoned shirt had been hastily yanked over his head and his craggy face still bore the stubble of the stage ride from Virginia City.
“Sheriff Thompson won’t give Walker a chance. Folks around here mete out their idea of justice at the end of ropes.”
“My brother and I don’t know this country,” said Adam. “If the sheriff has gathered a posse and is already on Dave’s trail, we’ll be searching for a needle in a haystack while they’re stringing him up.”
“A lawman walks a thin line between murder and justice. You showed me killing Walker would make me just like him—a cold-blooded murderer.” Dowd reached into his shirt and adjusted the sling that took pressure off his broken collarbone. “Chances are Walker’s headed south. For the Mexican border. It’s rough country so the posse won’t make good time, even with a head start.”
“Neither will Dave,” Hoss muttered.
Adam paced from one side of the room to the other before stopping in front of Dowd. “Doesn’t John Forster live in these parts?”
“He does – at the old mission at San Juan Capistrano. You know him?”
“Our pa does,” said Adam. “He met him through my grandfather, a New England sea captain.”
“How far a ride you figure it’d be to the mission?” asked Hoss.
The marshal scratched his stubbled chin. “A hard day’s ride on the stage road. I figure Walker’s likely to lead the posse on a merry chase into the mountains but, if you can get to the old Capistrano mission, Forster might outfit you and lend you some men. Despite being English, Forster has no love for Anglo law, probably because his wife is Mexican and his brother-in-law is the governor.”
Adam raised an eyebrow as he tugged on a boot.
“How do you figure we’ll get there?” asked Hoss. “We don’t have horses.”
“I’ve outfitted two from my string. They’re out back.” Dowd adjusted his slinged arm again. “The livery man didn’t ask many questions as he saddled them.”
“Are you planning to deputize me again? Or is it still good?” asked Adam.
Dowd shook his head. “If you can hold Walker, I’ll take him into custody. I’ll take the stage to Capistrano. It leaves at eight and will get there this evening. I won’t be much help tracking Walker down but I’ll make sure he gets back to Los Angeles for trial.”
“What about Forster?” asked Adam. “You said he doesn’t think highly of the legal system.”
“I’ll worry about that,” said Dowd. He set a large hand on Adam’s shoulder. “Just bring Walker back.”
Hoss dithered over the bottles of hair tonic and his book. He finally squirreled the book in the inside pocket of his vest and ignored the bottles as he followed Adam out the door.
The horses were lathered in sweat by the time Adam and Hoss reached the old Mission San Juan Capistrano. They’d been tempted to stop in the nearby pueblo to wash the grit from their mouths with a cool beer and a plate of beans but they didn’t want to lose any time they might have gained on the sheriff and his posse.
Adam and Hoss approached the old mission with caution. They were met with suspicious looks from two men branding a calf at a firepit in the yard. One of the vaqueros yelled a command and a girl set down a watering can and ran for the house. Adam hoped their father’s name would gain them an audience with the formidable Englishman, Don Juan Forster.
A man clad in simple clothes but with an air of dignity met them at the door. After Adam invoked the don’s name, the man led them into a room with a large desk, shelves of books, and two leather chairs separated by a side table. The man spoke in Spanish to a gray-haired man sitting in one of the chairs.
Adam spoke without waiting for an acknowledgement.
“I’m Adam Cartwright and this is my brother, Hoss. Our father is Ben Cartwright.”
John Forster set his glass of brandy down on the side table and studied the two strangers before him. He steepled his fingers as he looked them over. “You have the look of Ben Cartwright,” he said, pointing at Adam with both forefingers. “You,” he said gesturing at Hoss, “do not.”
“We’re half-brothers,” said Adam. “My mother was from New England; my brother’s mother was from Sweden.”
Forster tilted his head as he continued studying the two men. “New England? You are Abel Stoddard’s grandson?”
Adam smiled and held back a sigh of relief. “Yes, sir. Did you know him?”
“I met him when I sailed for my uncle. Our paths crossed several times. That’s also how I met your father. When he was employed by your grandfather.” Forster visibly relaxed and picked up his glass. “How is that old seadog, your grandfather?”
Adam looked down at the floor and blinked several times before meeting Forster’s gaze again. “My grandfather died a few years ago.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Forster. “He was a good man.” He took a sip of brandy and set the glass back down on the table before getting to his feet. “What is it I can do for you?”
“One of our hands was brought to Los Angeles to stand trial for the murder of a paymaster and a marshal’s wife.”
Forster nodded. “Ah, yes. David Walker. If he’d killed my wife, I would have had him executed.”
Adam traded a look with Hoss. “That’s what Marshal Dowd had in mind when he tracked Walker to the Ponderosa.”
A young woman tapped against the door then entered with a tray bearing glasses and a pitcher of water. Forster thanked her after the glasses were served then he dismissed her with a wave.
“My wife is visiting her brother, General Pico, and I am accustomed to her seeing to our guests’ refreshment. Fortunately, she has trained our servants well.” Forster sipped from his glass as he studied his guests.
“Why is it you wish my help to find Walker? He’s committed no crime against you or your family. How is it you are involved with this matter?”
“We didn’t know Walker was a wanted man when he hired on at the Ponderosa,” said Adam. “My brother and I escorted him on the stage to make sure he would get a trial.”
“Why not let the law in Los Angeles track him down?” asked Forster.
“I fear the sheriff will kill him rather than bring him back for trial,” said Adam.”
“If he were sentenced to serve time in prison, that would be no guarantee that justice was done. Men have been known to serve their sentences then resume a life of killing once freed. Would it not be better for everyone if the sheriff tracked down Walker and killed him?”
Hoss and Adam traded an uneasy glance.
“Mr. Forster,” said Hoss. “It ain’t right for one man to be judge and jury.”
Forster walked over to the window and gazed at his vaqueros’ sons playing in the yard. “I am the law here. My hands and the people of Capistrano trust me to see justice done. If someone commits a crime, he is brought to me and I decide what his punishment will be.” He turned back to his guests. “However, I acknowledge times have changed since California entered the United States and the law to which I was accustomed to enforcing is not always in agreement with the law of our larger country.” He turned to face his guests. “What is it you wish of me?”
Adam suppressed the urge to sigh in relief. “Marshal Dowd told us you might outfit us with horses more suitable for the terrain.”
“The posse you spoke of will need a distraction. I’ll see to it they are diverted.”
Forster crossed the room and poked his head out of the door, speaking in Spanish. Hoss gave Adam a confident nod, sure that whatever orders Forster had given would be carried out without question.
“You’ll spend the night.”
Adam realized it wasn’t a question but a command.
“Marshal Dowd is on the stage for Capistrano,” Adam said. “He said he’d take custody of Walker once we find him and make sure Dave gets back to Los Angeles for trial.”
“Very well,” said Forster. “I’ll tell one of my men to wait at the station for his arrival and escort him to one of the inns in Capistrano. Dowd will be brought here in the morning, before you leave.”
Forster extended an arm in welcome and ushered his guests into the large entry. He gave instructions to a servant who muttered but did as told. The only words Adam distinctly heard were “La Señora.”
“Please excuse me while I make sure all is ready for company.”
Another servant escorted Adam and Hoss to a large room with two beds. “Guess it ain’t their best room, but it looks right homey,” said Hoss as he took in the quilts on the beds and a painting of a desert sunset on the wall.
A young woman brought in a washbowl and towels then said a few words before leaving.
Hoss looked into the bowl after the woman left. He wrinkled up his nose at the sight of pink rose petals floating in the water. He plucked up one and asked, “You suppose she’s givin’ us a hint we stink?”
Adam brushed at the dust on his clothes and hoped he’d be presentable for supper. “I’d say it’s more than a hint.”
The rose water had only been the beginning. Hot baths were drawn for Adam and Hoss and ill-fitting clothes were provided.
Supper had been multiple courses followed by dessert and glasses of port. Forster regaled his guests with reminiscences of Abel Stoddard and spoke of the man with great feeling in his voice. Adam appreciated the stories of his grandfather but was eager to pick up Dave’s trail.
When they returned to their room, their trail clothes were laid out on the beds. The garments had been brushed free of dust and looked presentable.
“Sounded like your granddad left a big impression on Mr. Forster,” said Hoss.
Adam nodded. “I’d thought of my grandfather as larger than life, from the stories Pa told about him when I was a boy. When I went to college back East and finally got to meet him, he wasn’t the giant I’d thought him to be. Just a man.” Adam set his boots by the bedside and said, “Times changed for him, too, and I think he’d had a hard time adjusting. Kind of like our host.”
“Guess we’d best get some sleep,” said Hoss. He stretched his arms wide, happy to be free of the shirt he’d feared he’d rip if he stood up straight or reached too far during supper.
“You got to the part about Eve yet?” asked Adam as Hoss set the book by the washbowl.
“No. That first Adam sure seemed to spend a lot of time fishing.”
Adam suppressed a laugh and hoped for a good night’s sleep.
In the morning, Adam and Hoss were permitted to inspect several horses before choosing their mounts. Food and boxes of ammunition were stuffed into saddlebags.
Forster returned to his house as Adam and Hoss gave their mounts one last check.
Dowd entered the yard as Hoss and Adam led the horses to the hitching rail.
Hoss looked the lawman over. “Your arm up to this?”
The marshal shrugged his good shoulder. “I’d rather bide my time in a cantina, waiting for you to bring Walker in trussed up like a Christmas goose.” He added, “I’ll keep up,” at a skeptical look from Adam.
Dowd gritted his teeth against the pain as three men began their journey.
They rode along the foothills rather than into the mountains. When the sun was straight overhead, they stopped for lunch.
Dowd accepted help getting off the horse and sat heavily on the ground as Hoss handed him a canteen. The marshal took a swig of warm water and then spilled a little into his hand to wipe his face.
“Maybe you should take one of them siestas,” Hoss said as he adjusted the sling holding Dowd’s arm immobile.
Dowd shook his head.
“Might as well argue with a mule,” Adam muttered. He pulled a packet of tamales from his saddlebag and distributed them.
Hoss pried open the cornhusk and inspected the contents with a loud sniff. He took a careful taste and his eyes lit up in delight. “How come we don’t have these back home?” he asked as he licked his fingers.
Adam shrugged a shoulder but scanned the area while he ate. He glanced over at Dowd and knew the heat was sapping the lawman’s strength. If it came down to a fast ride or a climb into the rocks, they’d have to leave him behind.
As if he’d read Adam’s mind, Dowd lurched to his feet with a groan. “We’d best be on our way.”
“Hoss and I can’t watch you and keep an eye out for Dave. Just stay here,” said Adam.
Dowd hauled himself into the saddle and glared at Adam. “Daylight’s burnin’.”
The Cartwrights mounted up and the three men headed south at a trot. Dowd did his best to keep up but the jostling was soon too much for his ribs.
“Go on. I won’t be far behind,” said Dowd as he reined his horse to a stop.
Adam turned his horse back and he shot the marshal a skeptical look but preferred not waste his breath arguing. Many a man had made it just on the sheer grit of determination. “Fire two rounds and we’ll come back.”
Dowd nodded and nudged his horse to walk.
Adam and Hoss urged their mounts to lope and they were soon nothing more than specks on the shimmering horizon.
“You think we’re in Mexico yet?” asked Hoss after a while of riding in silence.
They slowed their horses to a trot even though the animals still seemed eager to prove their stamina.
“We’re probably still a long way off,” said Adam.
“Maybe we should turn back,” said Hoss. “If the sheriff and his posse catch up to him and hang him it’s not our fault.”
Adam shifted in the saddle and scratched a bug bite on his cheek. “Every man deserves his day in court.”
“Even if we know he’s guilty?”
“The law gives every man the right to a jury trial. It’s not up to us, or the posse, to deprive Dave of that right.”
“I reckon so,” muttered Hoss.
Adam’s horse squealed as its legs buckled and Adam threw himself from the saddle to avoid being crushed as the animal went down.
Hoss hit the ground with a heavy thud as the rolling echo of a another shot drifted in the still air.
Adam belly-crawled to Hoss and winced at the sight of the reddening hole on the back of his brother’s vest. Adam pulled his bandanna out of his back pocket and snaked his hand down into Hoss’s shirt to stuff the wad of cloth against the exit wound.
“Stay with me,” Adam muttered as he frantically calculated the distance to the rocks.
“Just let me go!” yelled Dave.
Adam checked his brother’s pulse and was satisfied with the steady thump.
“I can’t do that!”
A bullet pinged off of a nearby rock.
“This isn’t your concern!”
“You’re not giving me a choice!” yelled Adam.
Hoss mumbled something and Adam pressed a hand against his brother’s arm.
“You’ll have to kill me, Adam!” yelled Dave. “I’m not going back.”
“I’ll try to make this quick,” Adam whispered. He grabbed Hoss by the legs and dragged him towards the rocks, ignoring his agonized growls.
A bullet kicked up a spray of sand in Adam’s path but he didn’t stop.
Adam panted from exertion as he propped Hoss up against one of the rocks.
Hoss gulped shallow breaths as black spots clouded his vision. “Just . . . gotta . . . rest.”
Adam ran his sleeve across his face to wipe sweat out of his eyes as he tried to figure out his next move. His rifle was in the saddle scabbard but trapped between the ground and the horse’s body. Hoss’s horse had run off and Adam figured it was well on its way back to Forster’s stable.
“I’m sorry I hit Hoss. I didn’t mean it.”
“Come on out, Dave.”
Adam holstered his pistol and stepped away from the safety of the rock. He raised his hands, hoping Dave wouldn’t put a bullet in his head or heart. “You’ve got to stand trial. You’ll probably be sentenced to a few years in prison.”
“You don’t know that! Dowd will see to it I’m strung up.”
Several minutes of silence passed. The hairs on the back of Adam’s neck prickled.
Adam turned as Dave’s voice sounded as if it were coming from a different location. “Hoss will be okay if I can get him back to Capistrano. Help me.”
“I can’t! If that posse catches me, they’ll hang me. Your word as a Cartwright doesn’t carry any weight around here.”
Adam felt his temper rising but knew he wouldn’t be able to hold it in check if this standoff continued. “Hoss and I protected you. Even after you admitted to killing Dowd’s wife, we stayed with you to make sure he didn’t shoot you and dump you somewhere out in the desert.” He played the card he thought would draw Dave out into the open. “I never figured you for a coward, Dave.”
The crunch of boots on rocky soil told Adam he’d played the card well.
Dave stepped into the open, covering Adam with his pistol. He knew from his time on the Ponderosa that a wrong against one Cartwright was a wrong against them all.
“You’re always harpin’ about the law, Adam. Quotin’ from those books of yours, sayin’ the law makes men civilized. I’m not a savage. You know that. But the law doesn’t treat every man equal.”
“You fled to the Ponderosa without finding out. A jury might have recommended manslaughter instead of murder for Dowd’s wife.”
Dave shook his head. “Not with Dowd as a witness. He would have convinced them I’m a woman-killer when he was the one who shot her.”
Adam slowly lowered his arms but kept his palms facing towards Dave. “What if Hoss dies? Can you live with his death on your conscience?”
Dave craned his neck to see around Adam. Hoss looked like he’d soon be a meal for the buzzards. An odd look swept over Dave’s face then was gone. “You’re the only witness, Adam. Who’s to say it wasn’t some bandit?”
Adam regretted holstering his gun. He had one of the fastest draws in the Utah Territory but didn’t know if he could get off a shot before Dave fired.
“John Forster knows Hoss and I are on your trail. If we turn up dead, no one between Mexico and Sacramento will believe any tale you weave. Forster will see to it you’re hanged.”
“Sounds like you’re passing judgment,” said Dave. “I think you only believe the principles of law when you’re on the right end of a gun.”
Words were useless. Adam pulled his gun free of the holster before Dave fired, but his shot went wild as the impact knocked him backwards, his back colliding with the rocky earth as a searing pain coursed through his arm.
Heavy bootsteps approached and Adam struggled to open his eyes.
“I’m sorry it’s come to this, Adam. You were a good friend.”
Adam tried to speak but no words came out.
He flinched at the sound of the gunshot. The breath was knocked out of him as Dave’s body fell across his. Between the pain and the lack of air, Adam’s world turned black.
Adam awoke in a dimly-lit world. He took a deep breath and regretted it. He tried to move his arm but it wouldn’t budge so he cautiously moved his head for a look. His arm was held to his chest with bandages. His head fell back against the pillow and he closed his eyes.
At a gentle caress against his forehead, he opened one eye and saw a young woman. “Hoss?” he asked in a raspy voice
She turned his head so Adam could see his brother was in the other bed. After a few words in Spanish, she held a glass of water to his lips. She picked up her sewing and left the room, partially closing the door behind her.
Adam heard a man and woman on the other side of the door.
Dowd entered the room and took the recently vacated chair. “Welcome back among the living.”
“You missed the excitement,” said Adam in a sarcastic tone.
“I arrived for the grand finale,” Dowd said. He raised his hand to stop Adam from speaking. “I rode as hard as I could to catch you up. It just wasn’t hard enough.” One corner of Dowd’s mouth turned up in a wry smile. “Messing with you Cartwrights is like poking a caged bear.” The marshal poured a glass of water for himself and took a long drink. “Your brother must have a deep reserve of strength. He shot Walker when you went down.”
Adam snorted a harrumph.
Dowd shrugged a shoulder. “I didn’t say he killed him. Walker will just be parting his hair different for a while.”
“Where’s Dave now?” asked Adam.
“Shackled and under heavy guard in the jail at Capistrano. I’m taking him back to Los Angeles in the morning with a few of Forster’s men as guards. Wouldn’t want my prisoner making a break for it again.” Dowd straightened in the chair and stretched his back. “Walker’s going to stand trial even if I have to hogtie him in a jail cell until his court date.”
Adam’s eyes clouded with confusion. “How did you get us all back here?”
“Forster’s men. One of your horses ran past me like it was high-tailin’ it for home. I figured a search party would be sent out so I set up camp. A couple of Forster’s vaqueros showed up during the night with a wagon.”
Adam unsuccessfully tried to stifle a yawn.
The marshal winced as he stretched his neck. “I’d best let you get some sleep.” Dowd rose to leave but stopped his hand on the doorknob. “You’d make a fine lawman, Adam.”
Adam awoke the next day to the smell of coffee. He cracked open an eye, which didn’t go unnoticed by Forster.
“Buenas dias,” Forster said.
Adam took as deep a breath as was comfortable and returned the greeting.
“The doctor assures me you and your brother will be fit for travel in about a week.”
“We don’t wish to be a burden.”
“Nonsense,” said Forster. “La Señora would be angry with me if I turned out injured guests. You wouldn’t want to cause a rift between my wife and me, would you?” Forster added a wink.
Adam chuckled and said, “I wouldn’t want news of that to get back to my father.”
“Good man,” said Forster. “Speaking of your father, I sent him a telegram this morning to let him know you’re under my care and will return home when you feel up to the journey.” He set his cup in the saucer and placed it by the coffeepot.
“Gracias, Señor,” said Adam as he settled into the pillows.
“El placer es mío,” answered Forster.
After several days of doting, Hoss felt he could get used to life on the Forster hacienda. The señoritas fussed over him and took great delight in spoon-feeding him from large bowls of stew.
Adam grew more restless each day, ready to put this behind him and return home. He knew the señoritas must be disappointed he didn’t enjoy being waited on as much as Hoss.
The brothers spent part of an afternoon playing checkers on a patio shaded by climbing roses. A young woman hovered nearby, ready to freshen either man’s glass if one took a sip of lemonade.
“Dave sure fooled us all. We’d have never known he was a cold-blooded killer if Dowd hadn’t showed up.”
Adam jumped three of Hoss’s pieces, two of which he was certain he’d removed minutes ago. “Proves no man can run from his past forever.”
Hoss slid a piece forward then back to its starting point. “I couldn’t let him kill you, Adam.”
“It would have been self-defense, not murder.”
“Seems a thin line between the two,” Hoss said.
Adam changed the subject. “You finish that diary about the first Adam?”
“Yeah. Eve didn’t show up ‘til the last page. That Adam sure had a lot to talk about for not having her around.”
Adam chuckled and said, “Women do make the world more interesting.”
“They sure do,” said Hoss. He drained his glass then smiled at the señorita with the lemonade pitcher.
By the end of the week, Adam declared he and Hoss were fit for travel back to Nevada.
Forster walked them to the waiting buggy that would take them the short distance to the stage station in San Juan Capistrano. “I regret we didn’t meet under more pleasant circumstances. You must come back someday.”
“Thank you for your hospitality, Señor Forster,” said Adam. “Our father is in your debt.”
“Not at all,” said Forster. “He would have done the same for my sons.”
A chorus of feminine voices called out, “Adios, Señor Hoss!” once the Cartwrights were seated in the vehicle.
Hoss waved to the ladies then settled back for the ride. “If only Joe could see this.”
“If Joe were here, they wouldn’t be waving goodbye to you,” said Adam. He smiled and waved at the ladies, not the least bit disappointed they were so taken with his younger brother.
The suits were: Location (clubs); Person to be avoided at all costs (hearts); object desired or coveted (diamonds) and calamity (spades)
The words dealt were:
Mission San Juan Capistrano
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