Summary: Refuge in Australia becomes a chance for Adam to change into the man he wants to be, but there are those who become obstacles to his success. At home, Ben is pushed into change too when Hoss and Joe force him to face some truth he would rather deny. Eventually events bring the two together to see if they can reconcile.
Rating : T WC: 24,267
Storming from the house, the door banged several times in Adam’s wake because of the furious exit. Anne winced and watched his stiff-legged walk down the street hoping his temper would cool before he reached his job site. They needed the money he could earn there, and getting fired would only make getting another job that much more difficult. She had not meant to incite him that way, but he had seen the extra supplies of flour, potatoes, and other vegetables and had asked why she needed so much. She couldn’t lie to him.
“John suggested that if I made more of those pasties, the workers on the construction site would buy them for their lunches too. He said the price I’m charging is too low and said I could charge twice that much because at the mines they go for at least that or more. No one would object if I raise the price.”
All the while she had been talking, she had seen the signs of his temper rising and knew why. John had suggested it was one reason. She would be making more money than he was bringing in and that was another. In general, he was angry and frustrated by what had happened since they arrived in Sydney, and this only aggravated what was already a difficult situation. He hadn’t said anything except they would talk later and then stormed from the house. He didn’t have time to argue or he would have been late to work. A month or so earlier, Anne would never have expected such a situation to have developed.
The trip to Australia had been mostly uneventful except for one storm. Even that had not been too bad except for the seasickness. They had ended up sitting on the floor of the tiny cabin with Adam holding as she was sipping sugar water and waiting for the storm to subside. To pass the time and try to ignore the rolling of the ship and the noise of the storm, Adam told her to close her eyes and talk with him. It worked remarkably well. They talked about many things.
The main surprises had to do with Adam and Anne talking about their future and their pasts. With so much leisure time, Anne told Adam about growing up in Michigan and how her father had worked there and then worked in Minnesota until killed in a raid by Indians upset that agreements made were broken. She realized that they had never discussed her family and how she had ended up in the west. Adam had a great deal of sympathy though for the Native Americans even though they had caused a tragedy for her family.
“That has happened so much. Usually the Indians are condemned for their actions with no regard for why they struck back at what was being done to them.”
“It’s what happened when my father was killed too. Some of the ones who did it were caught and hanged, but I don’t think they actually caught the ones who did the killing. They caught members of that tribe. I would guess some of them were in the raid, but probably some were not. The story was that the others headed further west. I guess they had no other choice, but at the time, I didn’t care. My family suffered a great loss.”
“I’m sorry. My stepmother, Inger, was killed by Indians too. At the time, I thought all of them were dangerous and couldn’t see them as people. Over the years, I’ve come to understand what was going on and forgiven them. I hope you can do that too. What happened to you and the rest of the family then?”
With little to say to that, Anne did finish her story. “That’s when I started working. We had no money and no way to support the family so I did what I could. It meant I was giving up any chance at getting married and having a family. After a while, even my own family didn’t want to be seen with me.”
“What? But you were the reason they were able to survive after your father was killed.”
“Yes, they took the money and the supplies I brought, but were ashamed of how I got them. I was forbidden to attend church with them or even at all. In general, I was seen as a fallen woman. I was sixteen.”
“That was a terrible way to have to live. You must have felt so alone.”
“I did. Two years later, a cholera hit out small town. My mother and several in my family died. I didn’t even see them before they were gone. Two of my brothers survived and decided to head west. There was nothing holding me there then. I took the money I had and headed west too. In the mining camps, I found out that saloon girls were expected to do more than I intended to do so I moved on until I got to where you met me. In towns, I had more of a choice as to what I wanted to do. I still couldn’t get a respectable job, but I wasn’t controlled by men either.”
“Hangtown was a rough place back then, wasn’t it? We used to pass through there. I probably saw you in a saloon on one or more of those trips.”
“Yes, it was a rough place, but people who lived there, and most of the men who traveled through were men who showed respect for women, all women. You know, I probably saw you too, but we never made a connection.”
“I guess there is one thing to thank my imposter for. He did bring us together.”
Tom Burns who had impersonated Adam and taken money from his bank accounts and purchased items using his name was never mentioned by the two by name. It was a sore point so it was avoided. Any reference to him was related usually to the search for him that Adam made that brought him into his initial contact with Anne.
“Yes, he did, but it took a lot to bring you back to me.”
“We’ve talked before about some of the obstacles.”
“Do you think my background still bothers your father? Is that why he seemed so disapproving when we saw him in Sacramento?”
“I don’t think that was it or not entirely. I guess if he had his choice, he would not have picked you to be my wife. Listen, there is so much more to it. I don’t think my father was willing to see me be successful without his help. He wanted to be the one responsible.”
“I think your father may be as jealous of you as you are of him.”
“I am not jealous of my father.”
The denial and the glare let Anne know to drop that topic entirely. She did, but it came up on occasion over the next few years. Each time, Adam’s angry reaction told her that he had the same suspicion but didn’t want to face it. She wasn’t going to let him off the hook though and brought it up on when she thought he needed to consider it.
Meanwhile, they had more pressing concerns of food, shelter, and clothing when they got to their destination. They had investments and a letter of credit with them but not much money. Adam was going to need to work.
“I’d feel more confident of moving forward if I had a better plan of what we would do when we reach Australia. I had some ideas of going there one day but never researched it or did any real planning. I never expected to go on such short notice, but we needed a place where we wouldn’t be found. I didn’t want to take you to Europe. I know how volatile things are there now, and the men I was going to testify against are working with an English corporation so England likely wouldn’t have been safe either.”
“But the English control Australia.”
“Yes, but the company we have to worry about has no ties to Australia. It is not the English government we have to fear. They probably have as much concern about these criminals as we do. Now back to the main problem. I don’t want to sell off our investments. I want to find a way to make money in our new home. I’ll have to try to find a job. The money we have is probably enough to get a place to live and furnish it, get clothing and items we need, but not much more than that.”
“Not enough to start a business of any kind.”
“I don’t think so. I’m sorry. We lost a lot in that fire.”
“I did get my jewelry out that you bought for me.”
“I don’t want you to sell any of that.”
“All right.” Anne could tell that was too important to him for her to argue the point. However she did have another idea in mind. It was something she would have to check into when they were settled. Meanwhile Adam’s employment was going to be their first priority.
“What kind of job?”
‘I hope something where I can use my mining, engineering, or architectural skills or at least my construction experience. We’ll have to see what’s available. I do know the population there has exploded in the last fifteen years or so which means there should be a lot of building going on in the cities.”
“That should mean someone like you would be in great demand.”
“I hope so.”
“Adam, I always dreamed of being on a great adventure, and now I am.”
Sailing into Sydney Harbor after rounding those giant natural bulwarks that guarded it made for a grand entry. The harbor itself wasn’t particularly impressive but it was bustling which certainly made it seem as if economic opportunity must be boundless. It also meant that housing was at a premium and their resources were stretched to get housing and necessities. They were finally able to rent a small house and were settled in so that Adam could start a hunt for a job in earnest. His first efforts had been fruitless but he hoped a more concerted and organized approach would yield a better result. Each night at dinner, the conversation was about the same though.
“What’s your education? Who did you study with that we know? Who did you work under that we know? What projects did you work that we know? Of course none of my answers are satisfactory because I’m American, but of course they knew that when they asked them. They’re so damned polite in how they reject you and let you know they’re rejecting you before they actually have to say it.”
“Do they ever say it?”
“Damn them, no. They go on with their questions until I am humiliated enough to take my leave. They have these smirks that make me want to smash my fist into their mouths and wipe them away.”
“Maybe you could try for something else?”
“Like what?” He snapped at her but at least he didn’t tell her to shut up that time. He had done that a few times too. It was a side of him that Anne had no idea existed until this frustration had hit him so hard. She didn’t know what to do, but she at least still had ideas.
“Well, you still know a lot about building. They must need people to supervise building projects. You certainly have experience working with crews building all sorts of things and working on all sorts of things. Wouldn’t that count as experience that should impress them?”
It was a glimmer of hope, but it didn’t last. Soon, it was dinner in the same tone as Adam faced the same kinds of interviews as he got when he went into offices looking for employment in firms who designed buildings. Only now he was applying with construction firms, and they were not as polite. He came home with a blackened eye and split lip after less than two weeks of searching for employment as a construction foreman. He was angry and after telling his story, he found more reasons to be angry.
“I tried to tell the bastard running the shop about my experience and was told in no uncertain terms what he thought about any American who set foot in his office. I was going to tell him what I thought of him, but two large men came to throw me out, so I told him what I thought of Australians in general at that point. They proved that point for me.” As Adam talked, he saw large bunches of vegetables, potatoes, and flour on the counter. “What’s all this? I couldn’t possibly eat this much.”
“I make those pasties like my mother taught me, and it turns out the people here are very familiar with them. There are a lot of Cornish people here although most work in the mines. Well, they like pasties, and the neighbor ladies say mine are especially good.”
Getting suspicious, Adam frowned. “And what does that have to do with these mountains of extra supplies?”
“I thought I could make extra and sell them to bring in a little extra money.”
Silent and fuming, Adam stood, pulled on his coat, put his hat on his head with exaggerated care, and then walked out the door without saying a word. He didn’t come back for hours. When he did, he had some money and threw it on the kitchen table. It wasn’t a lot but it was more than he had when he left.
“These blokes aren’t very good poker players. All right, if you have to make pasties so we can eat, then I will swallow my pride and take whatever job I can get. I guess I may be back to digging holes and making fences.”
Turning without saying anything more, Adam went to the bedroom and lay on the bed. Anne put her head down on the kitchen table and wept softly. She hadn’t been sure he would come home, and now that he had, she wasn’t sure she wanted him there. About midnight, Adam walked out and put his arm around her.
“Come to bed. I’m sorry I’m such a jackass. I’ll try to be better.”
She didn’t want to give in so easily again, because she always did and said so. But his velvety voice and his soft caresses as he kissed her neck and then her shoulder and then more and she forgot about being angry at least for the next hour. Actually it was more because they fell asleep exhausted then by the emotional and physical toll of the day. In the morning though, the memory of the angry words had left another mark on their relationship.
“You can’t keep doing this and then saying you’re sorry and it’s all supposed to be forgiven and forgotten. It can’t all be pushed aside as if it didn’t happen. I was afraid last night that you wouldn’t come back this time.”
Shocked at that, Adam had to hold what he had been about to say and follow her line of conversation instead. “I would never leave you. I’m not that kind of man.”
“How do I know that when you storm out like that with no word where you’re going or when you plan to return. I had to sit and wait and wonder and worry while you apparently had a good time with no thought of me here.”
“I didn’t leave to have a good time. I didn’t have a good time. I walked to stop myself from saying cruel things because of my temper. I have trouble controlling what I say when I’m angry and I am angry so much lately.”
“And who is it you are angry with? It’s not me, is it?”
“Of course it’s not you.”
“Then why am I getting the brunt of it?”
Adopting more the look of a contrite schoolboy, Adam tried charm. “I did mention that I was going to try to be less of a jackass, didn’t I?”
“It’s not going to work. I want a serious discussion of this. I want to clear the air about all of it. We’ve come too far to act like this.”
“You mean for me to act like this, don’t you?”
When Anne didn’t answer, Adam had his. He had a choice then. Leaving would be satisfying in some ways but would confirm what she had implied about him. Staying meant admitting what he didn’t want to admit. She had been right all along. He sat down at the kitchen table and asked for coffee. Coffee was harder to get and they had adopted more of a tea habit, but at that moment, he wanted coffee. Preparing it would buy him time to think and formulate his answer. Anne knew it too. She reached for the tin of coffee and set about making some without saying anything even if her looks toward him were as meaningful as words. When the conversation started, it was Anne who opened up first.
“I promised to stand by your side when I married you. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I’m not some girl from Minnesota who doesn’t know her way in the world, and I knew the man I was marrying, and what those vows meant. But sometimes I think you forget what they meant. I will always stand by your side, but you have to remember that I am. I am your wife, your partner. I love you, but there are times I don’t like you much and lately that’s been too much.”
“I know.” Adam’s voice was soft and almost sounded like a confession, and then it was. “I think I was trying to punish you for being right.”
“Every office I walked out of after being rejected, I felt that my father would be looking at me with that look that said maybe I could do better next time, but really said he was disappointed in me, he expected more. Then I began to realize it wasn’t pleasing my father I wanted so much as to have what my father has. I want people to respect me, to want me to be part of what they’re doing because they think I have something to offer. You were right. I am jealous of my father. I was so tired of living in his shadow and being obscured by it. I wanted to throw my own shadow. I wanted to impress people. Then when I thought I was on my way to doing that, it all came crashing down and I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what I did wrong.”
“Don’t talk like that. You have to stop taking blame for it. You can’t always blame yourself for things that go wrong. It wasn’t you.”
“You sound pretty sure of yourself.”
“Adam, think about it. It was a secret that no one let slip until your family visited. You told me you told your family and told them to keep it quiet as there were people all over listening for information to identify the witnesses so any mention of what you said would put your life in danger.”
“Yes, that was so they wouldn’t say a word of it to anyone.” Adam put his head down then and felt terrible. “So it is my fault. One of them must have said something when it could be overheard. All those people died in the fire because I trusted my father and brothers not to say anything. I should have kept my mouth shut, but we were so close to bringing down that conspiracy and stopping that JHY, whoever that is. If I could have testified against those men, they might have cooperated and told us who their boss was. I wanted my family to understand why I could not go see them and had to stay in town. I had to be there for the trial. I wanted them to see why it was so important.”
“Yes, and it means they are not perfect either. You keep measuring yourself against a false standard. Now, how about measuring yourself against yourself. You have done so much. We have survived more than many could have survived, and yet we are here and I am sure there are better days ahead.”
“All right. I will be a better husband. If you can trust me to be back in a few days, I would like to go to the mines near here to see if I can find anyone willing to hire an American with no experience in Australian mining practices. I know it’s a long shot, but I have to try.”
“And if it doesn’t work?”
“I’ll go sign on with a construction crew. I can build and there’s always construction work. I doubt they will say no to a man who can use tools and build things.” After a pause, Adam was hesitant but had to ask one more question. “Regardless of what job I get, when I start bringing home money, will you cut back on baking the pasties at least until after the baby is born and grows a bit? You are looking so tired, and that makes me feel guilty.”
“Yes, I’m rather hoping for that and looking forward to it. I’m getting tired of being on my feet that much.”
As expected, Adam couldn’t find a job he wanted in the mining operations so he returned and signed on with a construction crew. It was a crew building the Stonequarry Creek railway viaduct designed by John Whitten although he was hired by Murnin and Brown. The property was owned by the government of New South Wales, and as Engineer-in-Chief for Railways, John was there on occasion to see how his design was being implemented.
Although Adam was still ornery because circumstances meant he had to work as a laborer, he did have a way to work off his frustration with the hard physical labor. By strength of will and an occasional foray to a local drinking establishment, he managed to avoid any of those bitter confrontations with Anne. It didn’t mean they didn’t have arguments or perhaps heated discussions. The two of them were too fiery to keep a calm demeanor all the time, but there were no instances when they couldn’t make up. In fact, sometimes each of them suspected they might harbor a wish for the confrontations because of the passion of the makeup sessions. It was as if they had to prove once more how much each loved the other willing to do anything to show it. When they were getting along well, their lovemaking tended to be less often and certainly less creative.
The men on Adam’s crew quickly learned of his abilities to read a plan and often utilized his skills to get their work done more precisely and efficiently which saved time and got them praise from their foreman. The foreman became more attentive as did the construction manager as both began paying more attention to the crew with the American in it. When there was a more demanding task, it seemed wise to assign that crew to it. In time, that crew was promoted which meant a slight pay increase too. It improved Adam’s standing among his co-workers and got him some stronger friendships. He was not seen as an interloper but as one of them even if they still teased him constantly about the funny way he talked.
At home too, things improved even more because Anne continued to bake but cut back considerably as her stomach swelled and she found fatigue was too great if she tried to do too much. Finally, she baked only about a dozen each day which Adam took with him to the work site and mostly sold to his crew who loved them. She varied the recipe daily so they were not boring. The men especially liked that about hers which was a feature not common in the others they were able to purchase. It was another reason Adam was popular in his crew and in the neighborhood where the foreman lived as well as several of that crew.
One evening at dinner, Anne has an announcement to make. “I won’t be baking any more pasties.”
Somewhat alarmed, Adam dropped his fork on his plate to reach over for his wife’s hand as she looked down at her plate. She knew the next part of the conversation might not go well.
“Geoff’s wife is not doing well since the baby was born. She needs someone to help with her infant. I’m the only one who probably can during the day.”
“I’m very close with ours. I could try to nurse her baby. The doctor thinks it may work and when ours comes, I would be that much more ready for him.”
“But you’re a month away yet.”
“Probably not. The doctor thinks it will be much sooner.”
“But that’s early, isn’t it? It’s too soon, isn’t it?”
All the fears that Anne worried might assail her husband were there on display in that moment. She now had to do her part to take care of them.
“No, we thought we knew when this baby came to us, but we know it could have been earlier than that. Probably it was if the doctor is correct. I feel fine. The doctor assures me that everything looks and sounds normal. He listened for the baby’s heartbeat and said it is as strong as he has ever heard.”
“Never better. Adam, the baby has shifted position. I’m not altogether sure what that means, but when I said that to the ladies who stopped by after the doctor left, they all nodded. They looked at me with that look that said they knew what I was about to face.”
“That’s all he said?”
“Doctors here say even less than the doctors at home. It’s like they think that makes it easier. It doesn’t. It makes it harder.”
“What will happen when our baby is born? You can’t take care of two, can you?”
“I think I can. The doctor says it shouldn’t be a problem at all for a few months even. He said women with twins do it quite well.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to do it that long. I’m sure he only said that because he wanted to impress me with how it is not a problem.”
“But it is a problem. So many things could go wrong, and bringing her sick baby in here can’t help.”
“Her baby isn’t sick. She is sick, but not physically sick. Geoff didn’t want to talk much but it seems more like a kind of melancholia. The doctor said about as much. Some of the ladies here said it happens sometimes after a woman has a baby.”
“So you can’t catch this?”
“No, it’s not something you catch. I’m doing great.”
“Except for being tired all the time.”
“It’s natural. I’m older. I’m twice the size I was. You have to admit, I’ve been through a lot in the last nine months.”
“I wasn’t trying to make you feel guilty. There are reasons for me to feel tired. If that’s the only issue, then I’m doing better than a lot of women who are carrying babies. Now you need to get your worries under control because I think I may be having this baby a lot sooner than even I thought.”
“If I’m not mistaken, you better go get the midwife. It just started.”
Looking down, Anne pointed to a puddle forming at her feet. Her predictions were correct too. The first grandson of Ben Cartwright was born that night under the clear skies in Sydney, and his grandfather and uncles had no idea he was born. A few months later, they got a letter saying the baby was born and healthy. Before boarding the ship to Australia, Adam had written a couple of generic letters to be mailed from France. Of course they wondered at the lack of information and what happened after that because it was the last letter they received for years.
So Aaron Amon Cartwright was born, and his father survived the birth. Anne nursed both Aaron and the other baby for a month until Geoff came to get the baby saying his wife was ready to try. In a few hours he was back saying it was going well and to thank them offering that if they ever needed anything, he was there to help. He had a chance not long after that and his recommendation did help when a character reference was required and a skeptical government official took his word that a recently arrived American could be trusted. It occurred at the work site when the construction supervisor was called to their work area because Adam alerted his foreman to a potential serious problem. Adam explained it again to the supervisor who sent the men to take their lunch break and asked a runner to get the project engineer there as quickly as possible.
“I take it you have a problem with where I have designed the placement of two of the columns.”
“Yes, sir, I do. If you would be so kind as to entertain the ramblings of someone with no education such as yours, but with some practical experience that makes me worry about some things, perhaps you could explain things to me to make me sure we are doing the right thing. You see, sir, working for you, I never want to do anything except the best.”
“Yes, yes, enough of the flattery. What is it you want me to look at before you get back to finishing the work I set you to do?”
“Well, sir, if you would walk down to the site, I could show you if you have the time.”
“If it will end this foolishness, I have the time.”
Perturbed was a mild way to describe John Whitton’s mood after having been summoned from his office to find work halted on one of his major projects. Now one of the men he trusted most from Murnin and Brown had told him there might be a flaw in his plan. He certainly didn’t like that. It wouldn’t do at all for anyone to know he had made a mistake in designing this bridge so he had to hope this man was wrong. He listened intently and watched everything the man showed him.
“Although quite a distance from the sea, this area is such that what amounts to a small alluvial fan developed here. It most likely occurred with a significant flood in the past that was extreme but short-lived which led to a lack of consolidation of the sediment. There is a large amount of silt in the alluvium which makes it unstable. The whole of it was covered by thick vegetation. It is only visible now because that was removed for purposes of construction. However it is likely that the columns will not be stable set in that base.”
If John Whitten was less educated in the polite arts and less trained to be a politician and a member of the most elite class, his mouth would likely have been hanging open at that point. A construction supervisor had spoken to him in terminology that many in his own office would likely have been unable to use correctly in a paragraph so succinctly put together.
“Is this an elaborate practical joke put together by someone for the entertainment of some group of which I am unaware?”
“No, sir. It is only the facts of which I am aware. I have shown you the evidence to support the conclusions.”
John had to accept that because it was the truth. It was all there in front of him. It made perfect sense even to the reason he had not seen it when he was drawing up the plans.
“Now, my man, when ever did you learn about such things?”
“Sir, I have to admit that I have not.” He hurried to explain before John could respond. “There is a man in my crew who does know. He’s an American. He’s brash. He’s got quite a temper at times. He’s smart. He works hard. When he saw this area, he told his foreman we shouldn’t attempt to put the columns here as planned and told him what I told you. Then I was called and he repeated it all to me. It made so much sense I knew I had to tell you. I didn’t even understand all of it, but if it is true and sensible, I knew you would know if it was fact or the ramblings of an man trying to impress.”
“He must be well-educated to have told you such things, but why would he be working as a common laborer?”
“He lives in the same neighborhood where his foreman lives. As I understand it, when he arrived, he tried to get a job like you have or working as an engineer. No one would hire him. He’s not one of us. However my foreman, Geoff, is a trusted employee, and he vouches for him. But he carries no credentials. He was educated in America, sir.”
“Yes, well despite that, he seems to have picked up a fair amount of knowledge somewhere. Call him down here.”
Although Adam had given John the advice even through his construction foreman and supervisor, John said nothing about that. He instead instructed Adam to find the dimensions of the alluvial fan and the depth of it. There was a method to his plan in that he wanted to see how Adam reacted. If he had a temper that was going to interfere with his work, it would show. Instead, it seemed that Adam welcomed the chance to take on a job more suited to his skills. He agreed and asked what kinds of tools he could be expected to be given for the job. John told the construction supervisor to get him whatever he asked to complete the job and had them get to work on the other parts of the bridge until he could redesign the placement of those two columns.
A few days later, John was back because he had received Adam’s measurements and wanted to walk the site with him and see where each spot was. They walked the area and discussed the column placement finding that both agreed easily on the best spots.
“Are you familiar with mapping a site?”
“I’ve done it but only on a small scale; nothing like one of these projects.”
“I appreciate your honesty. Do you think if you had an assistant, you could map a larger area, say the size of a project such as this?”
“I would think I would need a bit of practice first. A project like this couldn’t take a mistake. Lives and property are at risk.”
“Yes, they are. I need a final site map of this area. It is not a construction map so no lives would be at risk. It would give you a chance to show if you could do the work. Are you willing to try?”
“Yes, sir, I would welcome that opportunity.”
“Until then, I have another project beginning in Penrith. I want you to work there to help evaluate the site for construction. When this site is ready for mapping, you will return here. If all goes well, you would do the site map for Penrith. Officially you will be my assistant working under the authority of the construction manager there. If all goes well there, I have two projects coming up in Lithgow and then one in neighboring Bowenfels. All three of those are relatively small, but I want to try more of the zig zag system in Lithgow. Do you know what that is?”
“Yes, I have been reading in the papers about it. It is intriguing.”
“If you’re willing to move to Lithgow, you could be in charge of construction of the zig zag project by then if all goes well here and in Penrith and in the underbridge in Lithgow.”
Stunned, Adam could only stare. John snorted in the little laugh manner that he had.
“Don’t stand there looking like that. You’re an educated man. You ought to look like one at all times. Now, do you accept my offer of employment?”
“Yes, sir, I do.” Pausing because he wasn’t sure how to ask the next question, Adam knew he should ask so he did. “Why?”
“Why you? I’ve never had a laborer with so much education. I’ve never had an assistant who had so much education and experience. I am getting a lot for the money I’m paying. I want to build a railway system all across Australia or as much as I can before I die. You are going to help me do some of that work.
Of course, Adam was excited to go home to tell Anne of his good fortune with the promotion and his opportunity to do work more suited to his professional training. It meant more money and a chance to have better housing too. He would wait until the last to spring the only negative as he saw it in the proposal.
When he arrived home, he walked in on a scene he knew he would miss. Anne was sitting in a rocking chair holding their son and nursing him. She had a small linen towel over his head and her breasts until she was sure it was only Adam coming in the house and pulled it away because it was more comfortable for both mother and son. Adam took a seat across from her sitting in silence watching for a few minutes.
“I’m glad that Geoff’s wife got better so quickly. Your son eats like Hoss. He certainly has a hefty appetite.”
“That’s good, isn’t it? He was a little small when he was born, but he looks like he’s growing fast now.”
“He is growing fast. He’s bigger than some of the babies born before him. He’s going to be a tall man, I think. He’s got long fingers and feet compared to the other babies.”
“There are advantages to being taller.”
“You look happy and a bit serious. Does that mean we have something to discuss?”
“John Whitton offered me work mapping sites with the opportunity for advancement if all goes well. I’ll do site mapping where I’m working now and then one at Penrith for a new project there. It means more money.”
“Does it mean you won’t be a laborer anymore?”
“I’m glad that it didn’t take too long for them to see your talents.”
“Then when I finish the work at Penrith, I start work on the first project at Lithgow.”
“Lithgow? That’s quite a distance from here, isn’t it?”
“It is. We would have to move there because there are two projects there and one in nearby Bowenfels. The three projects would take years to complete. So we would have to move, but it would be the only move for all of those years.”
“And then what? Move again?”
“Well, maybe we wouldn’t have to move again. I mean if all goes well, I should be able to build up enough money to do something else. There’s mining there and other things.”
But Adam knew what she meant. She would move but once. She didn’t want to keep moving and moving. One move to get the opportunity he wanted, but then that was it.
“John Whitton is of the impression that at the end of that time, I would come to work with him in his office.”
“Is there a reason you would have to move to where he is?”
“I don’t know. I guess that could be answered then. But if a move was required, I could say no and do something else.”
“Could I have that as a promise instead of a theory?”
When Anne saw Adam tugging at his ear, she knew he was thinking about something. She had a suspicion she knew what it was so she brought it up.
“Unless the move is to go back to America. That would be all right under any circumstances.”
“Don’t you like it here?”
“I do so don’t start feeling bad about things again. No, it’s just that it still feels more like we’re on some grand tour rather than making a home. I like the people. I like the country. I have no objections.”
“But you miss everyone and everything back home?”
“Yes, and I would like Aaron someday to know the rest of his family. I would like the chance now to find my brothers too if they’re still alive and find out if they have families. So if we move again after all this, I want the move to be back home.
“I can accept that.”
They sealed the deal as they often did by spending an extended session of making love that night and reaffirming their commitment to each other through their passion. Anne joked that they might be making a bigger family too. Adam wasn’t so sure that was a good idea and began to be concerned about that issue.
Almost all of what Adam and Anne discussed almost became theoretical a few weeks later. Adam was supposed to be at Penrith with drawings for a meeting with John and the construction supervisor there. The two men waited an hour and were about to give up when Adam finally arrived. He was sweaty and disheveled, but he did have the plans. Both the men were short with him, but the meeting proceeded. The plans were meticulously done and finally when the meeting concluded, John stared at him and asked him to explain himself.
“We have a baby at home. Things are hectic in the morning. I usually get things ready the night before as much as I am able. I had my carriage ready to go except for hitching the horse to it. The harness was all laid out. This morning when I went to harness the horse to the carriage, the harness was slashed. I tried to find a way to rig it for the trip but it was unusable. So I had to fashion a halter as best I could from the remnants and then I rode the horse here. He wasn’t in the mood to be ridden at first so it took some time to convince him to let me ride. I got here as quickly as I could.”
“A strange act of wanton vandalism or someone didn’t want you at this meeting. Such wanton vandalism is nearly unheard of here. It would be more likely someone would steal your harness and possibly your horse, but vandalize it, no. I have to wonder if they were trying to impede you or trying to make things difficult for me. Perhaps it was a message to you. Certainly, someone meant to send someone the message of their hostile intent. Adam, we need to let the authorities know what happened. I’ll give you a ride back to your home.”
When they left, the construction supervisor shook his head. He and his friends had vastly underestimated a number of things and made an amateurish error. Yes, they should have stolen the harness. Then no one would have suspected anything more sinister. However Adam was also more resourceful than they had thought and he and John Whitton were closer too than anyone imagined. John would never have given most people even a slight pause to explain such a failure. More planning was required by their small group to get rid of this upstart American. John had easily seen through their actions to their possible motive so they were going to have to be far more careful too. After this fiasco, they were going to have to back off too. Doing something again in the next months could lead directly to them and unmask them. His associates were going to be most unhappy with that idea.
At Penrith, Adam got to work with the construction foremen including Geoff who was shifted over from the other viaduct. As the project progressed, Adam learned how such projects were organized, how and where to order what was needed for construction, and all the other requirements for managing such a project in Australia. Then he got a message that in two months, he was expected to be in Lithgow to assume the role of assistant to the construction supervisor for the Lithgow Underbridge with the expectation of being promoted into the lead role as it was determined he knew enough to run the project. He went home to tell Anne that their preparations were done and the move was to take place.
Mostly he told Anne he was going to take a couple of days to got to Lithgow and make preparations for the move. She wasn’t happy with that, but she could hardly go with him with Aaron much too small to travel unless it was necessary. Reluctantly, she agreed.
“Don’t you trust me to pick out a nice house for us?”
“What’s the ‘but’ that was about to follow that answer?”
“Men don’t always look for the same things in a house that women want in a house.”
“Make a list of what you want, and I will do my best.”
“You’ve got that damn smirk again.”
“I am not smirking.”
“Yes, you are. It’s that smile you have that doesn’t quite get out all the way, so I know you’re laughing at me on the inside. What is so funny about this?”
“Oh, that you think houses for men and for women are so different, and that you think that by now, I don’t have any idea what you like.”
“Adam, you like me to be happy, don’t you?”
“I do, but I must admit that making up after our fights has been quite a pleasant experience too and almost worth the hardship.”
“You keep talking like that and there’s going to be more hardship. Besides, we don’t fight. We have disagreements settled in a civilized fashion.”
“They’re only not fights because we won’t yell and scare our son.”
“That is not the only reason.”
“Well, Anne, what is the other reason?”
“We don’t want the neighbors calling a constable.”
Then, they couldn’t help themselves and burst into laughter. The tension had passed worked out without a true argument in this instance which actually occurred quite often with the two of them.
However when Adam returned from Lithgow, he told her he didn’t make arrangements for a house. In fact, he didn’t talk much at all about the place, and all the excitement he had for the project there was muted.
“Nothing is wrong exactly.”
“What ‘exactly’ is the matter then?”
Reluctant to answer, Adam knew he had to explain. Honesty was the basis of their relationship.
“Remember when you first arrived in Hangtown? Well, arriving in Lithgow reminded me quite a bit of that or Virginia City in the first couple of years.”
“I guess living here I had no idea what it would be like there. It’s going back in time. There isn’t much to select for homes. Finding one even as nice as this is probably impossible. I would have to haul building materials there and improve whatever home I purchased.”
“Would there be a place for us to live while you did that?”
“The house would only be partially habitable because some of it would be under construction at all times.”
“Then that’s what we’ll do.”
“Adam, did you forget that I cooked breakfast for you over a campfire? I can handle this for a time. If you can bring a tent along with those construction materials, we’ll manage. Now let’s start making a list of what we’ll need. Oh, and there’s already interest in buying this house. It’s one advantage of the population boom here. We’re going to get more for this house than we paid for it.”
In Lithgow, Adam did the site survey and started as the assistant construction supervisor on first project, the Lithgow Underbridge. Next, he was the site manager for the Lithgow Zig Zag. The income he brought home improved significantly and he and Anne were close to mining areas where sapphires and rubies were mined. Anne suggested they ought to invest in those mines. Adam said she should research which mines were most profitable and soon she had a list to guide their investment plan. Adam began to learn about mining in Australia including the hard rock mining.
By the time he was working on the Bowenfels rail viaducts, he was doing some limited consulting work for hard rock mines. He purchased interests in some of the hard rock mines because it was the area of mining in which he had the most experience. He began to talk to the mine owners about forming a cooperative to sell their gems so that they could get better prices. Those who organized first found that worked so interest in that method began to grow. His suggestions for using the Diedesheimer honeycomb system were met with more resistance. The success of the projects especially the Bowenfels rail viaducts earned him enough attention that he had a chance to get into the government office headed by John Whitton.
Adam’s success was John’s success and helped him realize his dream. As a result, John was ready to give Adam a higher position in his company, one more in line with his education. Those already in the company were not happy when they learned John was thinking of doing that.
“A man with those skills and that education just doesn’t leave his home, his family and friends, and his country for no reason.”
“Seems to me it would be in our best interest to send a man there to find out why he left and perhaps find an ally?”
“Seems a good plan. I’ve thought of all the terrible things we could do to him and I relish them in my dreams, but in the harsh light of day, I know we could never do them. Harassment hasn’t worked. He seems to find a way to get around anything we do whether we hire someone to slash his harness or steal his surveying tools.”
“I daresay, I’ve had similar thoughts. Have you considered murder, kidnapping, and perhaps mayhem or threats to his family, because those have been my thoughts about the uppity scoundrel.”
“Something along those lines, yes, but no, we can’t do any of that.”
“It’s harder to do anything directly with him living out there in Lithgow now. If he does that second Lithgow project, there will be no getting rid of him. John already talks about him far too often.”
“John would have our hides if he heard us refer to him by anything except his surname and a respectful salutation preceding it.”
“Yes, but he and this Cartwright converse like friends. I say, it’s not right, not right at all. We can’t do any of those terrible things to him?”
“No, what I think we need to do is find a way to implicate him in a terrible scandal of some kind instead. What, I don’t know. But we need to stain him so much he can never be clean. John cannot have that kind of thing in this office and do what he wants to do. First we have to find out what this interloper’s Achilles’ heel is. Then we will strike.”
“Now that you gentlemen have brought that up, two of us were a bit more forward thinking on this issue and hired a couple of men to find out why he came here.”
The story of the trial that never occurred because of the hotel fire and the death of the second witness was revealed. The leader of the group that got away with their criminal acts, JHY, still wanted revenge on Adam for the trouble he caused. He and his co-conspirators wanted to make an example of Adam to show what happened to people who opposed their criminal enterprise. Exile wasn’t good enough as far as they were concerned. They were willing to help the group in Australia if it meant they got to exact their revenge on Adam Cartwright.
With no contact in John’s office, and no ally to help him, Adam had no idea that he was in any jeopardy. Once he moved out of Sydney, there had been nothing done to alert him that he had any enemies. He had adjusted to working with his men adopting more of the way Hoss worked with men than the way his father did. He and Anne had discussed that a number of times. It had started when Adam had remarked how men followed his father’s orders without question. Anne had asked why.
“They’re afraid not to follow his orders. There are consequences if you don’t do what my father orders you to do.”
When Anne was silent, Adam stared at her and thought about his own words. It was how he had worked with the men on the Ponderosa too. He had ordered them to do things, and they knew if they didn’t, there would be consequences. Yet, his brother Hoss also worked with the men, and he got them to do things, and none of the men were afraid of consequences from him.
“What are you thinking?”
“You already know. My father’s way is not the way I should go. I need to change.”
It was not a change that happened immediately. There were many discussions as step-by-step, Adam worked on getting men to respect him and believe in his leadership in order to follow his orders. Men in general were not used to bosses acting like Adam acted. In his mines too, he showed a different style of leadership. Many people thought miners worked for him because he had the honeycomb system of shoring up the mines installed where he could. The men knew that was only a sign that he respected them enough to care about their safety. It was a reason that they respected him and believed in his leadership. They wanted to work for a man like that.
The Christmas of their fifth year in Australia, Adam and Anne put together a package to send to Adam’s family in Nevada. The statute of limitations on the corruption he had witnessed was about to run out so he assumed the danger to him was almost over. Even if they figured out where he was, there was no need to do anything about it.
As they packed up the items, Aaron had a number of questions about the grandfather and uncles he had never met.
“They live on a ranch. A ranch is like a station, but in America, they tend to be greener than here. They have more mountains in Nevada too and lots of horses.”
“If we lived there, could I have a horse?”
“You could have a pony when you’re old enough just like here.”
It was a disappointed little boy who heard that answer. He had hoped in Nevada with all their horses, he could get one sooner. In that case, he had little interest in going there and leaving his friends behind. He lost interest in the package even if there was a picture of him in there.
“Adam, when they get this package, they’ll know where we are.”
“They may be angry that we tricked them, and of course that we haven’t contacted them sooner.”
“There is only one who may be angry.”
Both knew who he meant. Someday, Adam still had to have things worked out with his father if they ever could be worked out. He wasn’t sure that was true even if Anne assured him she thought they could be. In her heart, that was more a wish than a certainty though.
In Nevada, riding home from town, Ben was melancholy. It was almost Christmas, and every holiday but especially this one brought up the same memories. When his three sons sat at the dinner table and discussed holiday festivities or sat by the tree with a cup of hot cocoa, he remembered the fourth son, the one who had been gone for years now with no word. This year for Christmas, with no warning, three of them had received presents. Each one had been decorated with a gold medallion of a wolf’s head and moon superimposed over enamel blue mountains. The moon in the sky in that scene was an opal in his, a sapphire in Hoss’, and a ruby in Joe’s. There had been a picture in the package too of Adam with Anne and a little boy who was about five years old or who must have been almost that old. Anne had been with child when they left. Ben still felt guilty about that departure. His son had to flee to France because Ben had let slip one tiny bit of information while he was in Sacramento putting Adam in grave danger.
There was no news in the package from his son, but Ben had not expected that. Adam’s location was supposed to be a secret although after five years, the statute of limitations had run out. The men who wanted to kill him must have given up by now. Their treachery could hardly extend to France anyway. All the political turmoil in France made Ben worry about his son living there. He wished he could live in England or some place that was safer. There were other questions that plagued him.
Not long after the package arrived, Joe had noted to him that something was odd about it. It came through San Francisco. Ben agreed with him that he would have thought it would have come through New York and then cross country to them. To him, there was no way to resolve that mystery either unless Adam came home. However, Joe and Hoss who had stayed in town longer came riding home an hour after he and Jamie had returned, and they were excited although Ben was a bit peeved that they were late..
“Jamie and I managed to get everything put away, and the horses cared for too. I hope you had a good time in town while we were working.”
“Pa, we’re sorry we’re late, but we got news.”
“Yeah, about Adam, Pa. You’re gonna be so surprised.”
“Joseph, at this point, nothing about Adam would surprise me.”
It wasn’t true, of course. Ben simply couldn’t give in to hope because he couldn’t allow himself to have hope. Some of the old resentment was still there too because he had never let himself fully resolve the issues that had led Adam to leave originally.
“Pa, we know where he is or where he must be. Me and Joe figured it out. Well, not by ourselves, but we did with some help.”
“Boys, he’s in France. It’s not too hard to figure out.”
“No, Pa, me and Hoss know he isn’t there and he never was there.”
“How could you know that?”
“Come on inside. We got some things to show you. Joe’s got a map and everything. We got lots to tell you”
Once inside, Joe spread a small map on the table. He pointed to several marks on the map. The country was Australia.
“Pa, since 1851, they’ve been mining a lot in this area. Here, here, and here are gold mining areas. Here, and here, and here and a few more spots, they mine opals. In these two spots, they mine sapphires. Well they mine all these things in other places, but we needed to know these. Now in this area, they mine rubies.”
“If they mine them elsewhere, why do you only need to know the spots in this area?”
“Because these are the Blue Mountains. We talked to the man who runs that new jewelry shop in town. You know, he’s Russian.”
“Yeah, he talks real funny, Pa.”
“Hoss, let’s stick to business here. Anyway, he said he used to buy a lot of gems in Australia for the Russian gem market before he got in some trouble and had to look for another country. Lots of Australian gems are sold to Russia so he was there a lot and knows a lot about that country. He knows where all these gems are mined and sold and who does a lot of the selling.”
“So, these spots are in the Blue Mountains, and all the stones we got are mined in that area.”
“Pa, the most important part was that he said he heard of a new mining company there organizing the mines into a larger group to sell their gems for a better price. Seems this new company has some new ideas too about worker safety in the hard rock mines so they’ve been getting more of the better workers.”
“Yeah, Pa, he said some of the other companies weren’t too happy about it cause of the expense of putting in what they called this new beehive system.”
“Has to be, Pa. He’s in Australia. This jeweler said it’s a place called New South Wales. You sail into Sydney Harbor and head to that part where the mining is. He said you better know how to ride to get there except you could probably go by rail a good part of the way now. He said they were building a lot of railway lines when he had to leave.”
“So when Adam sent those gifts, he was telling us where he is.”
“Yes. So you want to go see him, Pa?”
“He lied to us. In his letter, he told us he was going to France.”
“Pa, it was five years ago, and he must have had a reason. Maybe he meant to go to France but had to change his plans.” Hoss didn’t sound like he meant what he was saying.
Neither did Joe. “Or maybe he went to France before he went to Australia.”
Hoss and Joe looked so guilty when they said these things that Ben knew there had to be more. “You said it before. You said he was never in France so don’t change the story now. What is it that you aren’t telling me?”
“We knew what was in that letter too, Pa. Remember how you told us you only told Roy, and he wouldn’t tell anyone because he was sheriff and knew better.”
“Yes.” Ben had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach and knew where this was leading before Joe continued.
“We asked him about that. He said he told Doctor Martin but told him it was absolutely confidential.”
With a sick sigh, Ben waved for Joe to continue.
“Seems Paul confided to his wife what he heard. She admitted to us that she let it slip to the minister one day when she was helping him with something and needed to get his mind off his physical ailment. Well when we talked to him, he said he remembered he told his wife not knowing how important it was, and she said she let it slip at her church sewing group although she did tell them it was a secret.”
Joe and Hoss waited, but Ben said nothing. “Don’t you see, Pa. Adam wanted the word to get out that he was going to France, but he wanted it to be a secret so it looked like it was the truth. That way no one would think to question it and look for him going some other place which we think is exactly what he did right from the start.” Hoss nodded in full agreement with his younger brother.
“So you’re saying Adam had this elaborate plan and my leaking the secret to Roy was the key to making it work?” Ben saw their looks and had to admit defeat. “That damn smart alec knows me too well. How I miss him.”
“So, Pa, back to my question. Do you want to go see him? Hoss and I talked it over. I could go with you. He and Jamie could run the ranch for six months. Half of that would be winter anyway.”
“You’re that sure that this is all true and not a crazy theory?”
“We sent some inquiries to try to confirm it before we go, but we think they’ll tell us we’re right.”
“All right, if you get the answers you expect, we’ll make the arrangements. We’ll surprise him.”
“Pa, you sure about that?” Hoss was grinning. “Seems to me he sent the invitation.”
(Note: The term ‘smart alec’ had its first known use in print in an 1862 Nevada newspaper article. Often back then, it was used in reference to criminals but could be used for anyone with a know-it-all attitude.)
Assured by their sources that indeed the statute of limitations had run out on the conspiracy charges and that there was an Adam Cartwright listed as a mine owner in Australia, Joe and Ben made plans to travel purchasing tickets and packing. They were making their final preparations to leave and didn’t even notice Hoss and Jamie enter the house when they returned from their trip to town to get supplies. Excited about their departure the next day, it seemed nothing was going to distract them from their quest.
“Pa, we got something to tell ya.”
“What, oh Hoss, I didn’t even see you. Joe and I have been discussing what it’s like to sail for one or two months. He’s going to get the adventure of a lifetime on this trip.”
“Yeah, I think Pa’s trying to scare me out of going with him, but it isn’t going to work.”
“Well, Pa, I don’t think you need to go.”
“What? But this was your idea.”
“We hurried back from town as fast as we could go. You gotta see this.”
Hoss thrust a newspaper into his father’s hands. Ben took it wondering why his sons could look so worried. Opening it, he almost dropped it. The header for one story was such a shock he had to sit down. “Adam Cartwright charged with arson and murder.’ Reading more, Ben was incensed. The article said it was about the fire at the Luna Hotel and he was being held responsible. His travel to Australia was labeled as a flight to avoid prosecution.
“That’s ridiculous. He was injured in that fire and barely escaped. From what we’ve learned, it was the government who helped him escape to Australia although of course he lied and said it was France.” Ben was still irritated about that part.
Jamie had read the article about the brother he had never met. “Pa, it says that they’re filing a petition so that he can be extradited. They want to bring him back here to face charges.”
Hoss couldn’t understand the rationale behind that plan. “Why would they do that? He’s going to easily beat those charges. He’s got every defense he needs. I can’t believe he’s even being extra you know what.”
Joe had enough time to digest it already. “There’s only one reason they want to do that.”
Frowning, the other three looked at Joe.
“They want him here to kill him. In jail, there are all sorts of people who would do that for any number of reasons. He won’t ever see a courtroom.”
“The statute of limitations has run out. Why would they want to kill him?”
“Jamie, they might still want revenge for what he did.”
“What he did?”
“He made fools of them. No one likes to be made a fool of by a smart alec. It shows a lack of respect and hurts their status with others.”
That caused both Hoss and Joe to frown. They needed to have this out with their father but didn’t think they wanted to do it in front of Jamie. Ben saw their looks and had the same inclination. At some point, he was going to make it clear that he still didn’t like the way Adam treated him and others. He thought his eldest son needed a change in his attitude.
In his office, John Whitton had a most unpleasant day. He was presented with the evidence of a substantial kickback scheme involving quite a few of his projects. Large sums of money had been diverted from government projects into the hands of an individual by companies who were paid bloated amounts for materials supplied to projects supervised by that individual. Proud of his ethical behavior and his reputation for integrity, John was offended that such activities occurred in his office. What offended him most was that the name on all the documents was Adam Cartwright. By all rights, he had to turn everything over to the proper authorities and he did so. That day, Adam Cartwright was arrested and thrown in jail in Sydney stranding his wife and son in Lithgow. John made arrangements to have them transported to the city to see Adam. He had their things deposited in his guest house. When Anne arrived, she was furious.
“You are worthless as a friend.”
“Calm down, my dear. Adam and I have already talked. All is not lost.”
“Let us go inside and I will tell you what is happening.”
Once inside the guest house, Anne waited for John to talk. He didn’t hesitate once the door was closed.
“I told Adam that he is many things. He is brash, bold, occasionally impulsive. He doesn’t pay attention to the polite rules.”
“I’m sure he liked hearing all of that.”
Holding up a hand, John asked her to wait until he finished. “He is many things. Most of those things help him. A few get in his way. But one thing he most assuredly is not, and that is stupid. If he was going to steal something, he wouldn’t put his name on it. Now, I am well aware of all the money he and you have been making on the side. I can also see how you live so I know where you get the money that you invest. You have no servants. You live in the same house you purchased when you moved to Lithgow. He knows what he is doing with investments. So the only conclusion I could draw was that he was framed. The only ones who stand to gain significantly from that and who could also manage that are in my office. However there are so many there, I have no way of finding the scoundrels. So I have talked to Adam and to the authorities, and we have a plan.
“A plan? I know Adam always likes a plan, but all too often, his plans are dangerous.”
“Then you shouldn’t be surprised that this plan involves a certain degree of danger, but there are great rewards for all of us when he succeeds.”
Expelling her breath forcefully, Anne sat down resigned to the fact that she had no choice.
“Adam and I know that he could beat these charges, but when he did, the stain of it would never leave him. He needs these charges dismissed and he needs the guilty parties exposed. The whole sordid mess needs to come under public scrutiny.”
“And you have a plan to do this?”
“There is another development of which you are yet unaware, I am afraid.”
“There is a petition being delivered to have Adam extradited to the United States to face arson and murder charges in California. We believe that these two actions have been coordinated. It is probable that he would be charged here and then extradited. A man without a country and with serious charges pending in both places he’s lived.”
“But we barely escaped that fire. How could anyone charge him with it?”
“It’s a ploy, my dear. It’s what makes it so obvious. He could beat the charges here and he could do the same there. If he did so, he would use much of the small fortune you two have accumulated but to what purpose. They will only come after you again and perhaps in a way that is not so easily defeated. They are trying to get him into custody, so they have another plan or ultimate goal in mind.”
“Oh my God.”
“You see it now too. Yes, that’s what we believe as well. They mean to kill him. Now, with that in mind, the authorities here have placed agents in the jail to make sure that does not happen. We think they want some of the rest of the plan to play out before they try that, but we must remain vigilant.”
“So what is the plan?”
“Adam is going to apparently accept the charges against him and name names so to speak. There is going to be a release from the ministry explaining that we have his full cooperation including the naming of some of those who helped. He is going to accept extradition to America and all charges here are going to be dropped.”
“But he will look guilty.”
“For the time being, and you will need to play along with that. I know you won’t like doing that.”
“Won’t like it? I hate it. I’m proud of my husband. I don’t want to act as if I believe he broke the law.”
“Adam said you would say that so he sent a note for you.”
In tears after reading the note from Adam, Anne agreed to the plan. John burned the note in the fireplace even though Anne would have loved to keep it. It would have been her only direct contract with Adam until they would be on the ship. There the contact between them would be limited, but a ship is too small to keep them apart entirely. Although she wanted to cry, she wouldn’t do that in front of John. She wouldn’t do it in front of anyone and had to hold back a number of times over the next couple of weeks. She was dismayed by the reaction of people to Adam even if she got sympathy from friends. They acted as if she was a martyr because she has to go with her husband. She wanted to argue with them and tell them the truth but could not. Anything she said would jeopardize their overall plan so against her better nature, she had to endure their heartfelt expressions of sadness at what had happened to her. In fact, Anne was only sad to be leaving under such circumstances and was happy to be going back to America. At the same time, she was deeply disturbed that she would be accompanying Adam who would be under guard for the trip back as an extradited citizen to face serious charges in California. They had to have faith that the promises made to them would be kept.
Walking to the ship at the quay, Anne almost lost her resolve not to cry when she saw her husband in shackles and unshaven being escorted aboard the ship. She and Aaron followed him aboard with her son so scared about the voyage and seeing his father chained. Once on board, Adam was left in a cabin without a guard. They were allowed to visit him at will during the day as long as the door was left open. Anne brought his shaving kit and was allowed to shave him as he was not allowed to have anything sharp in his quarters. He was allowed only a spoon to eat his meals so Anne would cut anything up if needed before his meal was brought to his quarters. The voyage seemed to take so much longer than the one to Australia.
On board the ship, Anne had an additional worry because of the four men who were responsible for guarding Adam. After the first couple of days, Anne was growing more and more concerned.
“Adam, those men who are your ‘jailers’ look familiar. I’m afraid they might not be who they say they are. They don’t seem much like government employees either.”
“They aren’t jailers or government employees.”
“They used to work for me, and decided to take on a new role as partners.”
“We have partners?”
“Yes, far more than you may realize. These four are here for now to see that I stay physically safe. There are others working to see that I stay safe in other ways. Anne, we’re not alone in this, and we’re doing a lot of good by allowing this to unfold.”
Some of that was already playing out once Adam left Australia, the word was put out that he implicated a number of government employees in illegal activities. His statements and the evidence he turned over are in the hands of the government according to the official release. Additionally, in the release, it stated that people who worked for the corrupt officials are named in his ‘confession’ and referenced in the documents and therefore are cooperating with authorities. As a result, those people are being granted clemency and in some cases amnesty. With that, John and other government official waited for the rats to turn on each other. Some were likely to try for that clemency or amnesty while others would try to silence potential witnesses.
It didn’t take long for the whole conspiracy to break open. Although there were no witnesses in government custody, the claim that there were brought in others who did not want to be unmasked and be found guilty. By the time the whole story was written a few months later, Adam was cleared and was almost seen as a hero for being willing to leave the country so that this plan could work. Journalists were given full access to the story so that Adam could be completely cleared. If he chose to return to Australia when the trouble in America was resolved, there would be no backlash against him. John was congratulated by other government officials on his assistant being so helpful.
“I daresay, you’ll be glad if he comes back.”
“It would make me quite pleased if he returned, but I think you assume too much. He would not return as my assistant. He was already preparing to leave that role. But he had already helped me complete five projects successfully, so I am quite grateful for that. His work at improving our mining industry was only just beginning, and he has much left to offer if he would be so inclined to return.”
“Will he do so, do you think?”
“Much depends on how well others behave toward him in America. We shall see. He is a proud man and not one to be trifled with.”
That was the very issue Hoss and Joe were wrestling with on the Ponderosa. It wasn’t that either of them meant to ‘trifle’ with their brother, but they were concerned about their father and his unresolved issues over what had happened in Sacramento and after that.
“Joe, do you think it’s guilt that’s got him talking the way he does?”
“Or pride. Hoss, he always brings up that Adam didn’t tell us where he was going. In the letter, it said France when he and Anne were apparently headed directly for Australia. They wanted the so-called secret of them going to France to get out but wanted it to look like a secret so Adam told Pa.”
“That was right smart of him too.”
“Except Pa thinks he was made a fool.”
“Nobody knows except us that Adam told him so he would tell Roy. He’s no more a fool than anyone else. Adam knew not a one of them would keep it to themselves. If he wanted real secrecy, he would have told Hiram.”
“Or us. We never told anyone. That probably bothers Pa too. We kept the secret and he didn’t.”
“Well, that don’t make sense, does it? He’s mad at Adam cause he made a mistake.”
“I suppose you’re talking about me opening my big mouth in that livery stable in Sacramento. I guess you can’t wait to let Adam know I’m the one who put his life at risk and caused all those deaths.”
“No, Pa, we weren’t talking about that, but as long as you brought it up, me and Joe think you ought to tell Adam about that when you see him.”
“Why? So he can have one more reason to laugh at me?”
“If Adam done changed so much that he would laugh at you about something like that, then you would have a right to talk the way you are. But, dadburnit, Pa, you been like this about Adam for years now. We hate to bring these things up especially when Jamie is in hearing distance, but Adam’s gonna be home soon and facing some real trouble. He’s gonna need our help. The way you are, we’re thinking maybe you shouldn’t even go see him.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t. Adam walked out on me. He said he didn’t need me then so why would he want me now?”
“Walked out on you or got pushed? Me and Hoss aren’t so sure it was all his idea.”
“Of course it was his idea. He was supposed to take over this ranch and run it with you two, and that wasn’t good enough for him. He had to go his own way. How well has that worked out for him? Kicked out of one country and facing criminal charges in another that could get him the gallows. What kind of son does that? Brings more shame down on his family.”
“That’s what’s bothering you? Here Hoss and I thought you felt guilty about getting all those people killed and forcing Adam and Anne into exile. Instead, you’re feeling sorry for yourself. You know, I took a lot of years to grow up. I’m not so proud of some of those things I did in those years, but I can tell you that right now, I feel I grew up, and I’m wondering what happened to the man I thought my father was.”
“Pa, I gotta agree with Joe. I got another point too. Whose idea was it that Adam was gonna take over running the ranch. Me and Adam used to talk a lot, and in all those years, I never once heard him say that he dreamed of running this ranch. That might have been your dream, but it was never in Adam’s head of great things he wanted to do. So you’re blaming him because you didn’t get your way. Seems like Joe maybe hit the mark with what he said.
With his face red, Ben was getting ready to answer but Joe cut him off.
“Don’t even think to tell us that we don’t have the right to talk to you like this. We’re not boys. We’re men, and the way we talked to you was with honesty and sincerity and that’s what you needed right now so it’s what you got. We’re not going to take a lecture from you about how to be respectful sons when you aren’t doing a very good job at being a supportive father.”
“There is one last thing we want you to think on. Me and Joe been talking about it. There was no need for you to say anything at all in that livery stable. It was like you was jealous of what Adam had accomplished and what he had, so you had to show him you weren’t taking any orders from him.”
“Jealous of my own son. How could I be jealous of him. He is what I made him to be. His success is my success.”
Snapping his fingers, Joe looked at Hoss who had that big grin of his. Declaring their work done, they left, but Ben was only beginning his work.
For years, Ben had postponed this self-examination of his motives and his goals in his interactions with Adam. Long overdue, it was painful to face. Not cowardly by nature, he had to do it now that he had it placed directly in front of him. It was by no means easy and it forced him to make admissions that were going to be even more difficult when he had to admit them to his sons. He decided to begin that process while he still had the resolved to continue. His first step was to write a letter to Adam in which he admitted his failures and made a pledge not to repeat them. It was the second page of the letter before he could bring himself to admit first of all that he had been the one to leak the information that most likely led to the tragedy of the Luna Hotel fire in Sacramento. What was even more difficult and each word an agony to write was an apology for past actions and a promise for the future.
“Son, no father should ever say these words, but I was jealous of you. I wanted the freedom you had, and I wanted the opportunities you had. Moreover, I wanted control over your decisions. I wanted you to finish my dream for me. My dream has been to leave this vast Ponderosa for my sons and my grandchildren. There are still so many unknowns in that which make me lack confidence that it will be true. If you were here to take control when I can no longer do that work, then I knew my dream would become a reality. Any resistance on your part to object to my plan was seen by me as a rejection of me and my love for you. What it was however was your rejection of my control over you and my dictation of your future. I accept that now and hope you can forgive me for what I did. I wish you would be willing to give me another chance, but I will understand if you cannot trust me to stay out of your life and the decisions you feel you must make. I always did intend only a good future for you. There was no malice in anything that I did, but I can see now how harm was done even without the intent to do so. With this admission, it is my hope that we can talk without arguing next time we meet.”
After reading that part, Ben saw how self-serving it was. He rolled up the paper and threw it in the fireplace. He had tried to write that part several times and each time found himself walking backwards into self-defense. Finally he knew he had to write the whole thing in more simplified the whole into a couple of sentences.
“I am sorry for my efforts to interfere in your life and the decisions you made as a man in regard to your future. I had no right to pressure you as I did. I took the liberty afforded a father to offer advice and used it to try to control you. That was as wrong as anything I have done in my life. I apologize for that, and I promise that I will not do that again.”
As hard as it was to do, Ben stopped there and did not offer a defense because there was none. He finally had to accept that. He planned to carry the letter with him and hand it to his son hoping to break through the barrier between them as a prelude to the two of them talking. Otherwise their anger from previous tangles was likely to sabotage any attempt to reconcile. He worried how Adam was going to extricate himself from the troubles he was in but had to trust that his capable son would find a way.
On board the ship, Anne had similar concerns about Adam’s future. With Aaron being entertained by sailors in the galley, Anne got a chance to speak at length privately with Adam. She asked him if they have money this time to pay for attorneys as well as a place for her and Aaron to stay.
“We have enough money. I’m not the only one who’s made enough money to impress people. If I let word of this get out, you are going to be having people trying to break down the doors to get info from you.”
“Don’t tease me. I’m not in the mood.”
“That investment in the spur line to Virginia City is paying off very well. Your bank account grows by over a thousand every month.”
“You are a rich, woman, sweetheart, and getting richer every day.”
“But you’re the one who made that investment.”
“With our money, but a lot of that was your money because you were the one who sold your saloon and had money saved up when we first started this adventure together.”
“We’re going to be all right, aren’t we?”
“We are. We have enough money to afford to do whatever we want to do. We have a plan to handle all of this. Now, if everyone does what we hope they do, it shouldn’t take that long either.”
“Adam, it scares me though. You’re taking a big risk. Why can’t we go somewhere else and just enjoy the success we’ve had. Why do we have to go back? Do you have to show your father what you’ve done?”
“It’s not about my father anymore. It’s not about impressing him to convince him that I can make good choices. It’s that justice has to be done. There are so many people who have done wrong and will continue to do wrong. We have a chance to make them show themselves and face justice. How can we walk away from that?”
“But after that, is there a chance for us to enjoy our life with our son and stop this mad dash we’re on? How much money do you have to make for it to be enough?”
Once more, Anne saw those tell-tale signs and knew. He had told her once something that she knew was ingrained in him. She repeated it now because she guessed it was about what he was thinking.
“A dream that doesn’t scare you isn’t a big enough dream.”
“I’ve told you this so many times, but you do understand me. It’s something inside of me now that pushes me. I don’t think I can stop. It’s not about money. Money is only a way of measuring what we do. You could take all the money away or double it or triple it and the success would be the same. It would be the things we’ve done. It amounts to the idea that I have to do things, seen or unseen by others, but things that I can be proud to have accomplished.”
“Can we talk about it and come up with a plan that I like too?”
“Now that is something agreeable to me. I did like the Luna Hotel project with us working together. Although I find the work satisfying here, I miss not being with you and being able to talk to you about my work.”
“Have you built enough to ‘satisfy’ that part of you?”
“Probably not so whatever we do, I want to build something as part of it.”
“All right, let’s start thinking about possibilities we can discuss when this plan is done. I have to tell you though if it’s a hotel like the Luna, I don’t want any more of those undercover operations taking place.” She saw the look on his face and knew that was a disappointment to him. “What were you thinking?”
“Just the opposite. I might like to do something related to law enforcement and justice. That kind of work brings as much satisfaction as building things.”
“It’s like there’s more than one person inside of you. When this is over, maybe we can figure something out that will satisfy all the things we want.”
“It’s going to be difficult. Remember what I said about a dream though.”
“I know. I know. But I don’t want it to be a nightmare. I need to focus on something other than what you are doing so I don’t go crazy.”
“Focus on Aaron. He has many questions about all of this, and by now, he’s heard enough to be wondering about his father. Tell him enough to reassure him but not so much that he could let something slip.”
“I don’t think I know enough about this plan to do that. For that matter, I never knew much about the plan in Australia either. What was supposed to happen after we left?”
So Adam told her what the plan was with his departure and the planned release of misleading information. Then he told her what the likely turn of events was that would have occurred because of the release of that misinformation. It was designed to bring in the lower-level criminals first who would then turn in the next level and so on up the food chain until they reached those who had created the whole conspiracy to defraud.
“There is only one thing I find terribly disappointing in that plan other than putting you in this position.”
“That I couldn’t be there to see the news of actual events wipe the smug looks off the faces of our former friends and neighbors who seemed to want to remind everyone that you were an American as if that explained everything. That was especially galling after all the things we did for some of them.”
“Yes, but I wish there could be something so useful in California.”
“It’s going to be more difficult to draw them out there then?”
“Yes, they’re better at this, and we need a key, a way in to get this all rolling.”
“You’ve got that look that says you have something you don’t want to tell me.”
Caught out in that, Adam at least had the good grace to look guilty. Then Anne knew that whatever he had been holding back was quite serious. She crossed her arms and waited.
“The reason I have four men watching out for me is that we believe the men who were at the top of that syndicate are going to try to kill me. When they try, we’re going to apprehend the man or men who make the attempt and use them to work our way up the chain of command to the top.”
“No! You’re going to make yourself the bait in a trap so you can get an opening to go after these men? Adam that’s crazy. It’s too dangerous.”
“It’s the only plan we could think to do.”
“You need to keep thinking.”
“If you have any other ideas, we would love to hear them. The charges themselves are so laughable that they know I’ll walk out of court the first time I’m there. So the logical conclusion to draw is the one we have. That would mean the attempt will happen sooner rather than later. When we enter the port, we need to be very careful. The four men with me will be watching my back, and there will be others meeting us to look out for us.”
“Yes, we cannot discount any possibilities.”
“It wasn’t right to put me and Aaron in this. I would never have agreed to this.”
“Sweetheart, you were in this whether we had this plan or not. They were coming after me. We’re taking the fight to them so we can control the field of battle. Otherwise, we would have had no warning as to when they would have struck. You and Aaron would have been in far greater danger because of the unknown. At least this way, they think they have me and should leave the two of you alone. If that isn’t true, there is at least protection for you.”
“You are making it sound so reasonable, but it isn’t.”
“No, it isn’t, but it’s the best we could do. For you and Aaron, I will always do my best. I hope you know that.”
Both smiled remembering the first time she had said those words to him. So much had happened since then.
When they arrived on the docks in San Francisco, there was no mistaking that not only were there federal marshals and officials from California there to see them, Adam’s family was there too. Hoss’ big hat stuck out in the crowd. There was no time to visit, but Adam was able to introduce his son to his family, and Ben handed over the letter he had written.
“Son, I know we often don’t communicate well when we talk, and there were things that I needed to say. They’re in there. I hope you will read the letter and not discard it.”
Surprised by that move because they had not known their father was carrying a letter, Hoss and Joe waited until Adam was escorted away before either said anything to their father. Both were worried. Joe was the first to speak.
“Pa, what was in that letter?”
“You don’t have to look so concerned although I suppose my previous behavior does give you some reason to be. After careful consideration, I decided that much of what the two of you said to me was valid. I said as much in that letter. To be honest, I don’t know how much I could say looking my son in the eye. I couldn’t take hearing it from the two of you. Of course, you did deliver it in less than diplomatic language. I was angry, but when I got over that, I took a hard look at what you said. I found there was some truth in it. I have reason to feel guilty and have asked Adam to forgive me for what I did.”
“Aw, Pa, we gave it to you like pile driving a steer. It seemed the only way to get through to you about Adam. It sure worked too.”
“It did even if it did take me two days to get my heart rate down.”
The three laughed then drawing an irate look from Anne who stood with some of the officials and had Aaron at her side.
“We need to go talk with Anne to see how we can help. I’m afraid she may have misinterpreted that laughter.”
In the midst of all the turmoil, Adam folded the letter and put it in his pocket. It was with some trepidation that he took it out later to read what his father had said. Surprised by the tone of it, he was feeling good about the way his father seemed to have softened his views until he reached one particular line. Then he jumped up and stood at the door to his cell and called for a jailer.
“I need to see my lawyers or at least one of them.”
“Visiting hours are over for the day.”
“Then I need to see one of the marshals or any one of the men who brought me in here. I have something to tell them that they want to hear.”
Because two of the men on guard duty were there specifically to ensure Adam’s safety, that request was honored. He couldn’t tell them what the information was, but they trusted that he had something important to impart. How he had come by news alone in his cell, they had no idea although they did remember him getting a letter. Two men came to see him and Adam was anxious to tell them what he had learned. He handed the letter to one of the men and pointed to the line he had found extraordinary. In his estimation, it might be the key to unlocking the conspiracy. The first man read it and nodded handing it to the other man who agreed.
“We need to discuss this in a more secure location. Let me tell the guards outside that we’re moving back to the interrogation room we used this afternoon. We’ll get some of the others there after we get you there safely.”
That marshal left and the other looked at Adam. Holding the letter in his hand yet, he was grinning with that Mona Lisa kind of smile but suddenly frowned. Adam wondered at the change in expression, but he didn’t have time to ask anything. The man grabbed at him to propel him out the cell door. The two of them almost made it. The explosion behind them finished their exit for them with the marshal slamming into Adam and partially shielding him from the blast. The two men directly outside the cell were thrown back across the hall into the bars of the cell behind them. With the smoke, for a time, no one could see much of anything.
At the hotel, Ben and his sons were having dinner with Anne and Aaron who was getting to know his grandfather and uncles. Anne had been relieved to know the reason for the laughter she had witnessed and pleased to know the content of the letter Ben had passed to Adam. In her estimation, father and son were well on their way to a reconciliation. In the midst of that, armed men appeared to bolster those already standing guard and then one of the marshals they had met that afternoon entered the suite. He was direct and succinct.
“They struck far sooner and with more ingenuity than we ever expected. One of our marshals is dead. Adam is in the infirmary at the jail and will be transported here as soon as possible. His injuries are serious but he will live according to the doctors.”
The man turned to leave but Ben stood and grabbed his arm.
“You can’t come in here and tell us that especially in front of his young son and then expect to leave. What are his injuries?”
Ben spoke for Anne who was in shock and consoling Aaron who had burst into tears hearing that his father was hurt.
“I didn’t realize that was his son. I’m sorry I upset him. I came here to let you know he was hurt. Listen, one of my friends was killed in the explosion and I was upset. Two others are badly injured too. I guess it has affected me more than I thought. Adam has broken bones and a head injury. That’s all I’ve been told other than what I already said.”
“They’re bringing him here?”
“We don’t have time to set up another secure location tonight, so yes, it was decided that this was the best place. We’ll have another location by morning. No one will get near this floor without being cleared.”
“They burned down a hotel once trying to kill him.”
“We have an outside perimeter of men too. I don’t think they’ll try anything here. It would be too obvious.”
At that point, there wasn’t anything for the family to do except to wait.
When Adam arrived, he was still dazed and had an arm splinted. The other broken bones were ribs from having the large marshal land on top of him. The head injury though serious was not considered a threat to his life though the doctor was guarded about the prognosis because of the traveling he had already done and was scheduled to continue to do the following morning.
“The best would be for him to spend the next two days resting without any travel. From what I gather, that is not possible. All I can say is that he should travel as little as possible and then rest as much as possible.”
With Aaron at her side, Anne sat with Adam until he was aware enough to talk to her. She asked if he knew who she was and where he was.
“Sweetheart, nothing could ever make me forget you or my handsome son. But I have to admit, I have no idea where I am. Things are kind of a jumbled mess after I read Pa’s letter. I remember reading it and being happy, and for some reason, I wanted to tell the marshals about it. One left and the other one grabbed me and the world blew up. There was smoke, and screaming, and eventually I ended up here.” Adam had cut off the description realizing that when he mentioned screaming, he had said too much in front of Aaron.
Understanding that Adam needed to talk, Hoss asked Aaron if he wanted to play a game or do some drawing in the other room. He did mention that cookies had been delivered creating a huge temptation for the five-year-old. Aaron looked to his father who grinned. That seemed to be enough permission for Aaron to ask his mother if he could go with his uncle. Once Aaron left the bedroom, Adam’s grin was gone.
“Do you have any idea what you wanted to tell the marshals?”
“No, Pa, but it was something that was in your letter.”
“I think I know what it was. I apologized for letting slip that you were one of the witnesses. It was when we were in the livery stable about to leave Sacramento all those years ago. It was one little slip and only the stable boy was there. Your brothers have taken me to task for that and deservedly so.”
“That’s it. That’s what I wanted to tell them.”
“Why? Is it so important to have someone to blame after all these years?”
“Pa, not everything is about you. No, Anne, do you see?”
“Yes, I do. It’s the key you have been looking for, isn’t it?”
“Yes, that’s exactly it.”
“The key?” Ben and Joe were a chorus.
“We’ve needed a way into this conspiracy. In Australia, we knew where it was but we had to find a way to narrow down the list of suspects. We set it up to make them go after each other. Here, we had no target. The idea of me being in jail was to try to apprehend one or more of the men who came after me.”
“Son, that was an enormous risk.”
“Yes, so my wife correctly warned me. They were far more resourceful than we imagined and more daring. However, now we have the key. We locate that stable boy and find out who he told. Arrest that man next and find out his contact. We work our way up until we have the foundation of the conspiracy and then topple it.”
“We? Mister, there is no ‘we’ in this thing any longer. You are going to be recuperating in some safe place. You did your part.”
“You’re right. I was using the ‘we’ in the literary way.”
“Of course you were.” Only Anne had that smug look that said she knew better but had won that round.
At that point, Joe took over the conversation. “There’s one problem with your plan.”
Frowning, Adam stared at his younger brother. “You’ve become a master of planning now?”
“I’ve had to get better at it since you left. Anyway, you need to find a safe place to be until all that you talked about can get done. I don’t think these marshals are the best bet to keep you safe. I think we can come up with a better plan.”
“You stay here.”
“A hotel is not exactly the safest place to be. By now they must know I’m here. Even with my head injury, I know that.”
“It is a safe place though if no one knows you’re here, isn’t it.”
“Now I am not following you at all. How could that be possible?”
“It’s San Francisco. We get an actor to be you tomorrow morning. They haul that version of you to wherever they want. That you gets terribly ill there and dies. Meanwhile the real you is right here resting comfortably and getting healthy again.”
“And no one would know this because?”
“We stay here. Meals would be ordered. Baths would be ordered. No one would know outside of the family who is eating and who is bathing. We would all play our parts first looking worried and then mourning our dear departed Adam.”
“That’s all fine for a plan except for one major flaw.”
Adam looked at Anne who turned to Joe.
“Aaron is the flaw. The boy cannot lie. He has tried, but any stranger would be able to tell. He is also terrible at keeping secrets. He would likely tell someone that he has a secret and say something like ‘oh, I’m not supposed to tell anyone that my Papa is alive. He’s upstairs in our rooms. It’s a secret.’ That’s how he keeps a secret.”
“That’s a problem then.”
Ben asked if there could be a solution. “Would it be possible to keep it a secret from Aaron? I mean, could we keep Adam in the main bedroom and keep Aaron out of there?”
Adam frowned when Anne responded.
“It would be difficult.”
By then, it was clear that Adam wasn’t frowning because of the discussion. He was in pain and exhausted. They had to let him rest. The discussion continued outside the room until Aaron and Hoss returned from eating cookies and drawing. Joe left to take care of some details.
About dawn, when the marshals arrived, they were surprised to find a stranger in the room. He introduced himself as a friend of Edwin Booth and told them he was going to be Adam Cartwright for the day. That explained the splinted arm and bandage around his head. Soon the stretcher was there and the man laid on it and was secured to it. Only the marshals who had come to the room knew that the man being transported was not Adam Cartwright. A small valise was placed on the stretcher. It contained the actor’s clothing. Once in a secure location and out of sight of the other guards, he would change into his clothing and be free to leave. A dummy would be placed in the cot in Adam’s cell until it was announced that he had died.
Ben took over the main bedroom supposedly with a dressing screen in front of the door so that even opened, nothing could be seen. Anne had another room with an adjoining door to the main bedroom. The other room was for Hoss and Aaron with Joe staying on the couch. Anne went in the main bedroom through the adjoining door, and of course, Ben used the bedroom that Aaron thought his mother was using. She kept the door locked so there wouldn’t be any surprises should Hoss or Joe fail in their guard duties over the little boy. The elaborate scheme had Aaron convinced that his father had been taken away. That made him quiet and sad. When news came that the word had been put out that Adam had died, they were careful not to let Aaron hear. He was sad enough as it was. They didn’t want to traumatize him. The problem then occurred to them that they needed to leave the city. Adam was fit to travel, but they had to get him out without being seen which was going to be more difficult.
“What if they’re still watching us? What if the ruse was completely successful?”
Anne’s question left all the men stumped at first. It meant that they had to come up with something that would resolve that issue too. One more foray to the theatre, and Joe came back with a plan. The next morning, a woman dressed in mourning clothing, a very small person dressed all in black, and four men climbed into a closed carriage and drove away from the hotel. Followed by two men, two others hurried to tell their bosses that they had been correct and the whole thing had been a ploy. Following the followers but spaced out in ones, twos, and threes were a contingent of law enforcement officials including federal marshals, two sheriffs, and investigators from the California state government. When men accosted the carriage and meant to harm those in it, a dozen men with guns surrounded them bolstered by the woman and five men in the carriage who aimed their weapons on their attackers. At the hotel, Adam and his family climbed into a carriage as his father and brothers mounted up on horses and rode out of town with no one watching them. Several marshals accompanied them until they were in the clear making sure they were not followed.
To Aaron, the trip was a grand adventure. To Adam, it was grueling. Though he didn’t complain, he was still suffering some ill effects of his head injury and the broken ribs. He still had his left arm in a splint and a sling too so everything had to be done with one arm. Spending so many hours in a carriage each day took a toll. After a few days, he needed to rest. A layover in Placerville was arranged.
Anne’s homecoming to the town was warm and many were pleased to meet her son and welcome her husband and his family. There was a new sheriff there who was uneasy with the situation and unfortunately sent a telegram to San Francisco asking if everything was all right. He had read stories in the newspapers and didn’t know Anne well enough to trust her version of events. The criminal conspiracy was crippled with the arrests that had taken place. The pace of the investigation and the arrests proceeding so rapidly had caused the men in charge to realize they had only a short time to flee or find themselves facing prosecution. One of the last bits of communication from their organization was the news that Adam Cartwright was alive and traveling to the east but had taken a break in Placerville.
“So he’s still playing games with us.”
“Not that it matters much anymore.”
“It matters to me.”
“What can we do about it?”
“We’re heading east. The authorities are likely to suspect that but follow the train routes or other heavily used routes. What if we head west by horseback and get to Placerville as fast as we can?”
“That would catch them off guard.”
“Then go on to Carson City to see if we can access any of our accounts, draw out whatever money we can, and redeposit it in other banks, but in the process withhold a substantial amount we can take with us.”
“Sounds good. I’ll let Ray know and we can get what we need and head out.”
“Robert, so you know, Ray will ride out of the city with us but that’s as far as he’s going.”
“Why wouldn’t he go with us?”
“He’s not going anywhere ever again.”
“How many times has he assured us that he got rid of Adam Cartwright starting with that hotel fire in Sacramento. We don’t need someone like him.”
“But he knows so much. Oh. So that’s why he rides with us out of the city. I do understand now. I agree.”
The men were ruthless. With calmness and cool disposition, they discussed the murder of the dear friend who had worked with them for over ten years. He was expendable. As Adam laid down to rest his first night in Placerville, men intent on killing him began that quest after murdering their partner by shooting him in the back of the head as he waited for them to mount up after a short break to rest the horses.
In Placerville, after a good night’s rest, Adam, Ben, and Anne have lunch while Hoss and Joe take Aaron on a tour of the town.
“Pa, do you think you could get me a leather vest and a pistol rig to wear? You know what I like.”
“You won’t need a pistol while you’re with us.”
“Perhaps not but I would feel better having one. The one I had I couldn’t take with me. It’s in our crates of belongings that were shipped here. I haven’t had the opportunity to get any of my things.”
“If it would make you feel more comfortable, I could go get that for you. Once I get you back to the room with Anne, I’ll go do some shopping.”
“Still my guardian angel, I see.”
“Adam, men have tried to kill you. Your brothers and I are going to protect you until we’re sure there is no more threat. I believe Anne is armed too.”
At that, Anne looked slightly embarrassed but shrugged when Adam looked at her. He had guessed as much but not asked her directly.
“It seemed a smart thing to do, and you know I can shoot. You taught me.”
“The small handgun or the pocket pistol?”
That got a chuckle. Lunch was concluded and Adam and Anne were escorted back to the room before Ben headed out to do the requested shopping. For the first time, Anne and Adam had some real privacy to talk. At least to talk when Adam was fully cognizant of everything. They could talk at the hotel in San Francisco, but shock, pain, and exhaustion sometimes made it difficult for Adam to remain coherent and to remember everything they discussed. This time, the conversation went smoothly.
“Now that this is almost over, we have to decide what our next steps are going to be. I would like to spend at least five to ten years in one place so Aaron can have some stability in his life.”
“We can do that. I rather like the idea of building our house wherever we choose to live. I could start designing it now and construction could start as soon as we pick where we want to build.”
“I saw how you reacted when your father suggested you could build a house on the Ponderosa.”
“I can’t. It’s not those old feelings so much. It’s not my father’s approval that I need or needing to show I measure up. I’ve gotten over those, but there are some feelings that won’t go away. I’m tired of always being compared to my father, and I don’t want to live so close to him for that reason alone. I don’t want to go backward in time living in his shadow. I liked being known for what I did, for what we did, and no one ever attributed any of it to my father. The other problem is there isn’t enough opportunity here for us. The Comstock can’t sustain the population it has. We need to locate in an area that has more potential.”
“Back to Sacramento?”
“Floods too much, and in general, I wouldn’t feel comfortable in California especially there with what happened to a number of their leading citizens because of things we did and what happened to the Luna Hotel.”
“Is that a yes?”
“That’s a response that we should look into Denver and see what the possibilities are. Let’s check out other options too.”
“Speaking of options, as long as we’re going to be here another day, I want to bundle up some of our clothing so Hoss or Joe can take it to a laundry. Maybe you can rest in a chair or on the bed until the others get back. I know Aaron will likely want to talk about his grand adventure with his uncles.”
Choosing the chair by the window, Adam leaned back and put up his feet. He relaxed and watched the activity in the street spotting his son with his brothers. It made him smile seeing the thin little boy sandwiched between the two men and seeming to lead them along. What he saw next stole the smile from him and chilled him. Old foe John Henry rode into town.
When John Henry rode by Hoss and Joe, his head turned, and he pulled up and dismounted trying not to look too surprised though he was. His friend turned back and did the same. John Henry seemed very interested in seeing Adam’s brothers and Adam’s son but didn’t approach them. Instead he dismounted and talked with another man as they watched the three walk down the street. John Henry pulled his hand like a pistol and fired like he was shooting them, and the two men laughed. Suddenly a great deal made sense and a sense of foreboding hit too. So Anne would not pick up on his change in mood, he forced himself to close his eyes and feign sleep. She moved to another chair across the room and picked up a book to read thinking he was resting.
Ben came back in a short time and Hoss, Joe, and Aaron were with him. Adam suggested that he might like to take a short ride with his brothers and try out his new pistol. Anne and Ben were both slightly suspicious at that, but at the same time, could think of nothing to actually suspect. Hoss and Joe had the same feeling so when they were out of town a distance far enough away to practice shooting at targets, they had to ask. At first, Adam said nothing. He loaded his pistol and practiced his fast draw more than his aim. Then he had Joe reset the targets and he practiced both. Joe was impressed too.
“Older brother, I do believe you are better at both than you used to be.”
“I have been practicing. I didn’t have a brother to back me up, so I had to be better.”
Hoss though wasn’t going to let it lie at that. “And why do you need to practice today because we’re here and so is Pa.”
Leaning against a tree and looking a lot like he did six years earlier, Adam knew he had to tell them. He had invited them out here to enlist their aid.
“John Henry is in town.”
“Yeah, the two of you never did like each other. So has this got something to do with all of this?”
“I saw him from the hotel window. He saw the two of you walking down the street with Aaron. He pulled his hand like a pistol and shot you down. He laughed.”
“Adam, that ain’t hardly enough to figure on him being someone you got to worry about. He never did like me or Joe either.”
“Hoss, one clue we had when investigating this whole criminal conspiracy was that the someone with the initials JHY was involved or perhaps the head of it. We never found anyone with those initials. But those initials showed up occasionally on documents. We were never able to connect them with any person.”
“But John Henry only has the first part of that.”
“No, he has it all. You probably don’t remember, but he was an early settler in Mormon Station. He was about my age, and when the others left, he stayed and refused to go back with them. He had gotten into so much trouble, they didn’t press the issue and were probably just as happy to leave him behind. Do you want to guess who his adoptive father was?”
“Wow, I never would have thought that, not with the kind of man he is.”
“I caught him cheating at cards early on. He didn’t like me from that point on, and we had other run-ins after that. It wasn’t only Sue Ellen Terry who came between us. Yes, I didn’t like the way he was using her, but he used a lot of people and discarded them when he was done with them. I doubt he’s changed much except to get worse.”
“But why is he here?”
“I can only think of one reason.”
“Adam, that’s why you wanted that pistol, isn’t it?”
“By now, he knows I’m in town. My guess is that he’ll be looking for me. I don’t want Anne or Aaron or Pa to be caught in the crossfire. Tomorrow morning, I’ll beg off going to church. They’ll want one of you to stay with me. The other should go to church but then say you’re not feeling the best and want to go back to the hotel. If John Henry will face me, he won’t do it without someone backing him up. He’s always been a cheater. It’s why we got in trouble with each other right from the start when I caught him cheating at cards. This is more serious. I don’t want to get shot in the back. He knows I can best him. The only way he can win is to cheat, and I have no doubt he knows every way there is to do that.”
“What if he sees you when we go back to town and calls you out?”
“If he does, it won’t be direct. He won’t have time to set anything up to his advantage. No, it will be tonight or tomorrow morning. I’m guessing on the morning, but I would appreciate you keeping a close watch tonight. We know he has nothing against burning down a hotel. This time though I sense that he wants to take me down directly and that a fire won’t be the way he wants to go.”
“Why do you think that?”
“He’s always been vindictive too. No one ever crossed him and walked away clean. His whole business is collapsing, and he must know I’m one of the main reasons for that. He’ll want his revenge before he moves off to some other place to try again.”
“Can we tell Pa?”
When Joe saw Adam’s look, he knew the answer and why.
“He has to stay with Anne and Aaron. Yeah, I see that. All right, Hoss and I can do it your way. Right, Hoss?”
“Makes me nervous, Adam. You sure we maybe couldn’t let the sheriff know?”
“And tell him what? That I have a theory?”
“Yeah, he don’t know us and don’t know he kin trust us. I suppose ifn he’s been reading any of the papers, he’s as likely to throw you in jail as to believe you. Dadburnit, it ain’t easy being your brother.”
“Hoss, it isn’t easy being me.”
With that, the three brothers got to share a laugh before heading back to town. That evening, the family had dinner in the hotel restaurant and retired to their rooms. It was a quiet night but in the morning, Adam claimed to be too tired after his activity of Saturday and encouraged his family to go to church without him. Anne protested that she didn’t want to leave him alone, but Joe offered to stay. Ben raised his eyebrow in his usual way. Hoss and Adam chuckled at that.
“Pa, maybe I oughta stay. My stomach is feeling a mite colicky.”
“You are not both staying. Now let’s head to church. I don’t want to walk in late.”
Having laid the groundwork, Hoss was back in about fifteen minutes to find Adam dressing to go out. Joe was already gone.
“Where’s our little brother?”
Pointing up, Adam smiled. “He thought the roof might be a good vantage point to see what was happening down below. You can probably see enough from the window here. I’m going across the street because the shadows favor that position. I’m hoping to see them in the dining room.”
“Yeah, they’re there. I saw them on the way up. Listen, I don’t want to be stuck up here where I can’t move around. I’m gonna go down in the alley next to the hotel. I kinda looked around on the way to church and on the way back. Ifn you’re across the street, that gives me a good view all around and I can move ifn I need to do that. Before you go though, I think you ought to know that I think your wife knows you’re up to something. She told me to watch your back and keep you safe.”
“Yeah, she knows. I decided last night that I had to tell her. It’s no time in my marriage to keep something like this from her. We’ve only had each other for six years now and we’ve had to rely on each other, trust each other. I couldn’t break that trust with her so I told her everything. She played along this morning so Aaron and Pa wouldn’t be worried.”
“Adam, then I got to tell you that me and Joe told Pa last night. We told him he had to make sure to keep Anne and Aaron safe at the church, and me and Joe would do everything we could to keep you safe. He played along so Anne and Aaron wouldn’t worry.”
Shaking his head, Adam had to smile. “We’re quite a family, aren’t we. At least we know Aaron is in good hands.”
Everything pretty much worked as Adam expected. John Henry followed him out and called him out once he crossed the street. Joe and Hoss saw John Henry’s friend, Robert, cross the street well in advance of John Henry and take up a position to be behind Adam and to his right if there was a gunfight. They didn’t see a third man move into position on the other side of John Henry and to the left of Adam. Adam stepped out to face John Henry.
“You’re responsible for a lot of death and destruction, John Henry. It’s time to pay for all you’ve done. You can surrender.”
“I should have taken care of you a long time ago. You have been nothing except a pesky problem ever since.”
“Do you really think you can take me now?”
“I hear you’ve had some unfortunate mishaps. I think that will have slowed you down. Besides, maybe I have someone at the church taking care of your family right now.”
John Henry hoped that was enough of a distraction and drew trying to be first. It wasn’t enough. Adam drew too but faster. Robert had his gun out and was going to shoot Adam before he could shoot John Henry but had two bullets in his chest before he could do so. The third gunman though fired on Adam before either Hoss or Joe saw him. Adam saw movement to that side as shots were fired by Hoss and Joe, and that saved Adam’s life as the third man had not expected their gunfire. When he fired, Adam swirled around to his side not fast enough to fire on the man nor avoid being hit, but he did present a much smaller target. Hoss and Joe fired on that third shooter even as they saw Adam fall. Not having considered that John Henry would hire additional help, Adam paid a price for that miscalculation but not as steep as John Henry paid. Hoss and Joe ran to their brother with Hoss getting there much quicker. There was a lot of blood.
“You hurt bad?”
“It feels like he tore off half my back.”
“Lay back down and let me see.”
Although Adam had been struggling to get up from where he had fallen, Hoss helped ease him back down and took a look at his back. The bullet had creased his back leaving a deep furrow. Hoss guessed that every movement caused his brother a lot of pain. They were going to have to get him medical care quickly too to staunch the bleeding. The sheriff arrived with a deputy and wanted to know what happened. Joe gave him the short version.
“Three against three. They started it. We finished it. We have to get our brother to a doctor so the bleeding can be stopped. You can ask more questions there.”
Alerted by the gunfire, Anne and Ben had come running as fast as they could with Aaron between them. Seeing Hoss bending over Adam and Joe hovering above him, Ben held back and kept Aaron with him allowing Anne to go forward. It was one of the hardest things Ben thought he had ever done, but he knew that she had a better right to be there at this time. When Anne got to Adam’s side, she was relieved to hear him talking to Hoss even if the words were pinched because of pain and there was a lot of blood. Hoss and Joe were recruiting a couple of men to help carry Adam to the doctor’s office while he was insisting he could walk with a little help. Anne sided with Adam’s brothers even as she pulled up her petticoat, tore off a strip, wadded it up, and pressed it against the deepest part of his wound.
“Listen, Mister, I’m looking at it right now, and you need to do as your brother says.”
As Anne took Adam’s hand in hers, he murmured a yes and stopped complaining. Hoss, Joe, and two others lifted him for the carry to the doctor’s office. Anne kept hold of his hand and kept pressure on the bandage. Ben and Aaron followed behind with Ben doing his best to explain the situation to the little boy. It took quite a while at the doctor’s office for the painful procedure of cleaning that wound, stitching what could be stitched, and then packing the whole thing. Finally, Adam was turned so he could rest on his back which put pressure on his wound which was initially much more painful but also stopped the bleeding completely. As he struggled with the pain, Anne was by his side. Once he thought he had it reasonably under control, he asked if they could bring Aaron in assuming his son would be worried and wanting to reassure him that all would be well. After a short visit with Aaron, the doctor insisted that Adam should rest.
“One question though. Is John Henry dead?”
“No, but your bullet did a lot of damage. He won’t last long in prison in his condition if he lives long enough to get there. The doctor here thinks he’s paralyzed. Perhaps you should have shot him in that duel years ago.”
When Anne raised her eyebrows at that, Ben knew Adam was going to have to tell her another story about himself that apparently he had neglected to mention. After telling that tale, Ben at least tried to appear apologetic when he looked back at his son. Adam shrugged. It didn’t matter. It was over and he had told Anne far worse things about his past.
“He can’t hurt anyone else then, and now we have the organization from both ends.”
“Yes, Adam and I can finally relax for a time. I’m looking forward to spending some time without any work or any threats. We can have fun and not do anything for a time, I hope.
Proud of his son for his bravery, Ben was also sympathetic and concerned about the future for Adam and his family. “You paid quite a price for that success though losing everything you worked for in Australia and then here and now you’re wounded. You’re always welcome on the Ponderosa. It’s your home if you want it to be.”
Smiling in appreciation of his father being willing to take them in, Adam did think it was time to let his father know the whole story. Anne was ready to snicker anyway so he thought he should explain sooner rather than later but motioned for Anne to do it as he was feeling too weak to do so.
“Mister Cartwright, we didn’t lose anything in Australia. We still own a great deal of property, and we have all the money we earned there. We have money from investments here too. Adam was working with the authorities there and the charges against him and the extradition were all fake. It was a set-up to smoke out the real culprits. By now, his name should be cleared and the whole story should be out.”
Looking back at Adam, Ben was disappointed. “You won’t be coming to the ranch then?”
“Oh, we will. Aaron especially wants to see the ranch.” Again Adam stopped talking and Anne picked up the narrative.
“We have a lot of stories to tell and to hear. I understand Adam has another brother we need to get to know. But, no, we won’t be making it our home.”
Before Ben could ask any additional questions, the doctor called a halt and ushered him and the others from the room allowing only Anne to stay on condition that she not talk with Adam or at least not at length.
“Does it hurt a lot?”
“Is Aaron out the door and is the door closed?”
“It hurts like a damned son-of-a-bitch.”
Adam let loose with a string of other expletives until he ran out of breath. Hoss walked back in as he was finishing up.
“Feeling better now, older brother?”
“No, but I am more relaxed.”
“Just wanted to say we’re gonna keep the room for Anne and Aaron at the hotel and one of us will keep a room there too so we can stay there with Aaron while Anne is here with you. He’s taken a shine to Joe so he’ll probably be the one to stay. Me and Pa likely will be heading home tomorrow morning. Looks like the worst of the trouble is over now. You need to stay here longer, but you don’t need all of us here with you.”
“Please don’t let Joe tell Aaron about all the pranks he played as a youngster.”
“Aaron is a prankster?”
Anne again took over the answering. “No, but if he admires someone, he wants to be just like them, and he has an amazing memory.”
“All right then, I’ll tell Joe to only tell him the good things he did when he was young. Course, I can’t rightly think of many good things Joe did when he was young. He may have to make up some things.”
That elicited a chuckle from Adam which led to a groan. Hoss grimaced in sympathy and because he had not intended to cause his brother any discomfort.
“I’ll get out of here now before that doc comes in to yell at me again.”
Although Adam wanted to thank Hoss for all that he had done, he was done doing much of anything. Leaning over, Anne gave Adam a gentle kiss and then put her arm across him to hold him but was careful of his still healing ribs and certain not to jostle him at all. She put her cheek next to his and whispered that she loved him. Relaxing into her embrace, he closed his eyes. She ran her hands over his side with the unbroken ribs and slowly he calmed as the muscle tension and nervous energy of the months and weeks dissipated. With his eyes closed, he pressed his cheek against hers and murmured her name before falling into a restful sleep. When she heard his soft even breathing, she stood and got a chair to sit at his side holding his right hand and waiting for him to wake again. They had many things to discuss, but she wouldn’t press him until he was stronger. They had time now.
A month later on the Ponderosa, Adam stood with his father outside at night looking at the stars. It was getting cooler and Adam and Anne had said they wanted to do some travel to places they might want to live. They promised to be back for Christmas.
“You’re looking at places to live. Have you decided what you’re going to do?”
“No, not yet. I’ve had some job offers, but I haven’t decided if I will accept either of them.”
“Job offers? Why would you work for anyone? You have enough money that you don’t have to work for anyone.”
“Pa, I don’t measure my success by my money. I have enough that I’m free to make any decision I want to make. Most people don’t know that. I measure my success by what I’ve accomplished, and any job is measured by what it would allow me to do.”
“What does Anne think about your job offers?”
“She’s lobbying for one in particular.”
“Care to tell me what it is?”
“I can because it’s the one I’m leaning toward accepting. It’s in law enforcement but without the danger of my previous work in that career. The Treasury Department created the Secret Service in 1865 to try to stamp out counterfeiting. They’ve had some success, but it’s still a serious problem. They want me to take over coordinating the investigations in Denver, Carson City, and San Francisco. It seems they are impressed with my abilities to accumulate records and to see the little clues that are in them.”
“So there would be a lot of travel?”
“Yes, but Anne and I discussed the possibility of a home in Carson City then. I could have a railroad car outfitted for my use, and she and Aaron could travel with me sometimes too. But I could take records of investigations with me and have a secure place to meet with agents.”
“It sounds like you have a plan already.”
“Yes, well we have discussed that one thoroughly to see if it is feasible. We have also discussed but not in as much detail working for Wells Fargo as an investigator and for the Nevada Attorney General’s office as a prosecutor. The Wells Fargo job is last on the list because of the potential danger involved and the amount of travel required. The Nevada job is appealing, but we’re still leaning toward the federal job.”
“Could you qualify as a prosecutor?”
“I would have to study law for a short time, but I already know so much that wouldn’t be a difficulty. I’ve been assured that it would not stand in my way if I chose that. We have some partners to consult as well. Those are the four men who helped me and kept me safe on the way here and after to a great extent. Whatever I do, I want to see that they have a chance too to be involved if they wish. Otherwise, we’ll make sure they have good opportunities in other endeavors.”
“When you return at Christmas, everything will be decided?”
“Yes, we should have everything worked out by then and can share it with you.”
“This is strange for me, not offering advice to you, and waiting to hear what your decision will be.”
“We’ve crossed some bridges, Pa. You and I are in a much better place now.”
“Yes, we are. I’ve been a father for over forty years, and I’m still learning.”
“Good to know. Pa, I remember you talking to me about the birds and the bees. Now, Aaron has been asking questions. Do you want to tell me what you think I should tell him at his age because I remember what you told me, and it was shocking.”
Laughing, the two walked to the house discussing difficulties fathers had telling their sons about the facts of life and other things. When they got inside, Joe handed over a gold piece to Hoss. Adam looked curious and Ben asked what the bet was.
“Well, you two went outside to talk looking so serious, and you haven’t had a fight or an argument since Adam has been here, so, well, you know.”
“You bet on whether we would have a fight or an argument?” Ben looked at Adam who shrugged. “I’ll have you know that your oldest brother and I never have had a fight or an argument. We have had disagreements which we have worked out although some have taken longer than others, but never a fight or an argument. Right, Adam?”
But Adam couldn’t help the smile that showed the dimple was forming and soon the laugh followed until the room erupted in laughter. Jamie had heard of the epic arguments between the two even if he had never witnessed one, but after meeting Adam, he could well imagine what they could be like. Anne too could imagine the scope of such a struggle between two men so stubborn. Aaron however was mystified.
“Why would Grandfather fight you, Papa? You would have to shoot him or beat him, wouldn’t you?”
“No, families don’t do it that way although it would have simplified things.”
“Now see here you whippersnapper.”
“What’s a whippersnapper?”
And an ordinary night on the Ponderosa proceeded as the family was relaxed and ready for the next adventure.
Tags: Adam Cartwright, Ben Cartwright
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