Not Forgotten part 2 Captive Hearts (by BettyHT)

Summary: AU continuation in which Adam has found his dream but lost some of it too.  He finds his way back west to rebuild both his dream and his connection to his past.
Rating T  Word Count = 25,444


Not Forgotten part 2

Captive Hearts

Chapter 1

“Adam, why don’t you go home and visit your family. You’ve been mentioning it for almost six months now since Valerie died. It’s where most people go when they need some comfort after a loved one is lost.”

“My family never met her. They hardly knew anything about her. I haven’t been home in almost six years and mostly I’ve lost touch. A lot has changed, and I don’t even know how welcome I would be.”

“You told me the story of how you showed up once before after being missing for ten years. They welcomed you then so why all the excuses now?”

“I had no choice in being missing then.”

“Have you cut all ties with your family?”

“No, there are the occasional letters.”

“Were the wounds that bad when you left?”

“The parting wasn’t acrimonious. It was more that there wasn’t that much of anything there. I thought I should have been more sad. It seemed they were more irritated than anything. No, it wasn’t difficult at all. They wished me well, and I left. I guess it was that I left their world, and they didn’t understand why. They didn’t have much interest in the kind of world I wanted to be in. There’s no reason to think anything has changed. We went back to being in separate worlds.”

“Yet, it seems you do want to see them, and this would be the kind of thing that might draw you all closer together.”

“I don’t know.”

“If it would make it easier, I have a project the firm is working on out there. It’s well over halfway to your home. You could start with the project, do a short visit, and then get back to the work project. If things are fine, you could go back. If not, well, it would be up to you what to do next.”

“What kind of project?”

“We’re constructing the buildings for the Union Pacific in some of the towns where they need bigger stations or maintenance buildings or where they’re adding spur lines. The living conditions will be primitive in some spots. Other than in Denver, most likely if there is a hotel, it won’t be much that would suit your taste. More likely, you’ll be living in a tent and eating camp food.”

“I’ve done worse.”

About to formulate more arguments to convince his brother-in-law to go, Jason realized Adam’s response indicated he was accepting the proposition. Jason didn’t want to lose him and thought that some time to face his sorrow would help. Even though losing his sister and his father had been devastating, it was worse for Adam who had lost his wife and unborn child in the accident. They had helped each other as much as possible, but there was still a deep well of sorrow in Adam that hadn’t been tapped. Jason had a wife and children to support him. Adam was alone.

“It’s not your usual kind of project. It’s a much smaller scale and mostly you’ll be supervising construction rather than designing and planning anything. The exception would be if you see a flaw in what is being done.”

“It may be all I can manage anyway. Thank you, Jason. I think you’ve given me a way to move forward.”

“I’ll get together all the plans and have them sent to your office. If you will reassign the work you were doing, you can give me a timetable for when you can go.”

“It won’t be long now that I have a destination. I can’t wait to leave.”

A week later with a live-in caretaker for his house, various arrangements made at the bank, and work reorganized at the firm, Adam was at the train station. Jason was there with his wife to bid Adam farewell. Jason’s wife kissed Adam on the cheek. That was the closest human contact he had experienced in months and brought tears to his eyes. Although he tried to act as if it was the smoke from the engine that had caused it, no one was fooled. In a voice hoarse with emotion, Adam said goodbye and boarded the train before he had any more embarrassing emotional moments.

“He’s going to be all right, Jason.”

“I know. He’s a strong man, but I still worry about him, Carrie. I never had a brother, but if I did, he would be the one I would choose.”

“When he came here, he was so distant, almost cold. Then he warmed up a bit to us and to Valerie who drew him out. It was like another man emerged with that beautiful smile and the warm voice. I’d like to see that man again.”

“I hope so too, and I think his family will understand best how to reach him.”

“Maybe not based on the few things he’s ever said about his relationship with them.”

“Well, that has worried me, but a man’s family has to be the ones to help him. They helped him once. I hope they can do it again.”

With that, Jason and his wife returned to their carriage so he could take her home before he went to the office. At the depot, two men watching talked only after the train had pulled out.

“That was convincing. He really is leaving.”

“Yeah, he was supposed to be the one in that carriage when it rolled down that hill, but this works out even better.”

“Yes, it does. We got rid of the old man and now this one runs off to lick his wounds.”

“So, it’s all set up to take over the firm?”

“It will be soon. We’ll offer a contract too good to pass up except Jason will need more capital than he has. Lucky for him or rather for us, we’ll have someone drop in who wants to buy into the firm as a working partner just when he needs a partner and some money.”

“And then we’ll have him.”

“What about when Cartwright comes back?”

“What about it? It’ll be too late by then. Remember he may not come back. Those two men of ours he fired stirred up their friends, and two of them are going after him. Now they’re not our best men by all accounts, but they could get lucky.”

“That could work against us if they fail. I’ve heard he’s the suspicious type. If they try anything, he could figure out that maybe that accident wasn’t an accident.”

“We’ll hope they’re successful, but if not, we should lay the groundwork for the police to implicate him in what was not an accident.”

“What?”

“We have friends in the department. Let’s have them look at it as a possible murder with him as the one who did it now that he’s skipped town to get away from it all.”

“That’s brilliant.”

“Even better. They should assign the case to one of the detectives who’s honest so there won’t be any question when he brings up charges against Cartwright.”

“Yes, that is better.”

The department was already on the case though. The men who hauled the carriage away after the accident saw the pieces that had been sawn three quarters of the way through. They knew it wasn’t an accident. Adam had been watched since the information had been handed over to the police. Either he was the finest actor any of them had ever seen or he was truly grief-stricken. When they realized Adam had left town, the detective on the case interviewed Jason to find out where he had gone. Instead he learned that Adam got less money from the firm because his wife was killed.

“I resent your implication, sir. Adam refused to be a partner in this firm. He said he wanted to earn every dime he took. However, my sister had a right to profits from the firm because it is family-owned, and my father made sure she got a share every six months. Now that she has died, that share will no longer be paid. So you see, Adam had no financial interest to be gained by what you suggested in your horrendous accusation.”

“You can prove what you just said?”

“You can go out there right now and speak to the bookkeeper. He can show you the accounts.”

The detective had paused and then apologized. “There’s no need for that, but then I have to ask you another question. Who would want to kill your father and your sister? Someone tampered with that carriage and caused that accident.”

“Murdered? They were murdered? You’re sure of this?”

“It certainly looks like that was the plan.”

“But Adam was supposed to take that carriage on that day. At the last minute, he couldn’t go because he was called to a building site. My father offered to go to the meeting Adam was supposed to attend and to drop my sister at their home on the way. You can imagine the guilt Adam has been feeling about that added to the grief he feels.”

“Then, do you have any idea why anyone would want to kill him?”

“I’m just trying to get used to the idea that anyone would want to kill anyone in my family.”

“It’s important. You may be in danger too as is your wife and possibly your children.”

“But what could they want?”

“This firm. You do a lot of public projects. There’s a lot of money to be made in bids on public projects.”

“We don’t do bribes and kickbacks.”

“And that would be why your firm could be targeted.”

“Some things are making more sense now. Before that accident, Adam fired two men in the office here because he said it seemed the errors they were making were so blatant it was as if they were purposefully trying to run us out of business. Oh, damn.”

“Yes, that rather confirms what I was thinking.”

“If Adam knew, he would track those men down.”

“He’s got quite a temper?”

“Not exactly that. It’s hard to explain, but he’s the kind of man you don’t want to cross. Like when he fired those men, he was quiet when he was talking to them, but the look he had was enough to scare them, and what he said made them turn white. They almost ran out of here. I asked him what he said to them.”

“What did he say?”

“Other than firing them, he said ‘I was taken by savages as a child and raised by them. I can use a knife to kill a man slowly cutting away parts one at a time over three days or so until they run out of blood. If you ever think of crossing me again, think about dying that way.’ Then he smiled.”

“Is that true? He was raised by Indians?”

“He was taken and spent about six years with various tribes before the Army took him back.”

“Don’t tell him then. I don’t want him here interfering. Can you keep him away for six months at least?”

“He’ll be gone at least that long. I sent him to work on some projects we have in the west. They’ve been plagued with problems, and I thought there would be no one better to sort things out. I wouldn’t want to tell him this anyway. The guilt would be even more if he knew they intended to kill him and killed his wife and baby instead.”

“Baby?”

“My sister was with child.”

Both men were fathers and had no need to discuss that any further.

“I do want to put a man inside here who can report back to us.”

“You have someone who can do this kind of work?”

“Is there a clerk job or something like that where he could be around all the time perhaps doing minor tasks but moving throughout the building?”

“Yes, we do have some who do that.”

The next day, Jason had a new employee, and the criminals who wanted to take over the company contacted the police to try to implicate Adam in the murder of his wife and father-in-law. What they did however was give the police a few leads as to who might be behind what had happened.

As Adam traveled west, he relaxed in some ways. There was no one to impress and no one who cared how he looked or about what he was thinking. He was free to do as he pleased. It was a mixed blessing because he wished his wife was still alive so he could impress her, talk with her, and care about his appearance because he wanted to look good for her. Instead, by the time he arrived in Denver, he looked like any time-worn traveler down on his luck. Denver was the first place he was going to work and the only one that was likely to have fine accommodations even if they were new and the whole town smelled of fresh cut lumber or of cattle if one was near the rail line that was recently completed. Adam found the smells a welcome relief from the smells of eastern cities. The clerk at the hotel wasn’t sure he was the man who was supposed to have the room, but the look from Adam told him he better have a better reason than doubt. What he said confirmed it.

“I have traveled over seventeen hundred miles in the last couple of days. I want a hot bath and a chance to sleep in a comfortable bed. Anyone who stands in my way is going to find themselves in a very unpleasant situation.”

The clerk handed him a key and said there would be someone to take up his bags in a moment. He declined as he had only a small bag with him. Other items were being shipped ahead to where he was going to be working the following week. The stay in Denver was going to be brief. When he came down to dinner, clean shaven and dressed in a clean suit, the clerk was more agreeable to him. There was still a little time in the day so he went to a store to buy clothing and other items he would need now that he was in the west again. He didn’t want to wait to buy clothing expecting the quality wouldn’t be what he wanted if he waited to buy shirts and trousers in smaller communities. After getting purchases of enough clothing, he had those sent to his hotel and moved to a gun shop. There he picked out a pistol and belt. Strapping it on, he realized it had been too long since he had worn one and would likely be a bit rusty in using it.

“Is there a place I could practice without drawing too much attention?”

The owner told him of a few places he could go to do that and then happily sold him several boxes of ammunition as well as a few paper targets. Adam decided a smaller pistol in a shoulder harness would be a good investment too. Adam loaded both pistols and wore them back to the hotel. The belt was hardly visible under his well-cut suit unless someone was looking to see if he was armed. No one would likely know he had another pistol under his suit. There were a couple of men near the hotel who were looking, and they decided there would likely be a better time to take him than when he had just strapped on a new pistol. They didn’t know how good he was with it, but they had planned to use knives in the attack. It wouldn’t be a good idea now that he was armed so they withdrew to plan their next move.

As Adam neared the hotel, he noticed two men exit an alley near there. Now that was odd enough, but what was most peculiar was that he had seen these men board the train in Philadelphia when he had. They had made every connection he made and now made the same stop. What was even more strange was how often they seemed to show up wherever he was. He was by nature suspicious, and their behavior invited suspicion. Glad that he was now armed, he wondered why they might be following him, and why they had been in the alley so close to where he had walked.

There was little for Adam to do with the building projects in Denver. He checked the construction and declared it sound, made a few suggestions for finishing touches, and made sure they knew how to reach should there ever be a problem. He was still wearing his city clothing and he got a few raised eyebrows when he mentioned where he was going.

“I know. I bought appropriate clothing. I have a pistol and I have been practicing.”

Without knowledge of his background, the men there didn’t think a bit of practice was going to be enough. Adam never mentioned that he had a pistol in a shoulder holster on him at that moment and had been practicing drawing both that one and the one with the belt for several days. The rustiness was wearing off.

“Those are rough men up there. Maybe you ought to hire someone to go with you.”

“I can take care of myself well enough.”

“Seems to me that a lot of men six feet under had that same attitude.”

“I assure you. I am not overconfident. I know my skills and what I can do.”

They got a demonstration of his skills as he was leaving the building site a day later. The two men who had been following him decided it was time to take him. Adam saw one and not the other as he headed toward his carriage. Immediately, he rushed for cover and not a moment too soon as bullets hit the side of the building where he had been walking. He pulled the pistol from the shoulder harness and waited. As he suspected, the two men closed in thinking he was unarmed. He heard them and judged the distance because they made no effort to be quiet. When he had a good idea where they were, he moved to get a shot at one, and the other although shocked managed to get to cover even as his partner lay bleeding in the road. Adam did make an effort to be quiet and swiftly covered the ground between him and the other man circling around to come up behind him as he sought to find a way to shoot Adam. With a gun pressed to the base of his neck, the man froze.

“Drop your pistol or die right here.”

The pistol dropped and Adam marched him out into the open even as men from the site rushed into the area with guns drawn. Seeing Adam with a pistol pointed at one man’s head and another lying wounded in the street, they quickly changed their assessment of him.

“I guess you do all right taking care of yourself.”

“How’d you get behind a man who was shooting at you?”

“I spent six years living with Indians. They know how to walk quietly.”

“You lived with Indians. You shoot well. What else can you do?”

“There’s not much else out here that I haven’t done. Now, these two have been following me since I left Philadelphia. I want to know why.” Pushing the pistol hard against the man’s skull, Adam emphasized his last statement.

“I can’t tell or they’ll kill me.”

“Or I can kill you now.”

“You won’t.”

“No, I won’t, but I don’t think you’re going to like prison out here.”

Getting the two men arrested, charged, tried, and sentenced meant Adam had to spend more time in Denver than he had planned even if it was a clear-cut case. He wrote a letter to Jason too. It was short but the key parts were a warning and a question.

“Two men followed me from Philadelphia and tried to kill me in Denver. They went to prison here rather than talk because they said some mysterious person or persons would kill them if they talked. Jason, what is happening? First I have to fire two men who are basically sabotaging our firm. Now there’s this. There’s something going on, and I thought you needed to be warned. I don’t want you to worry too much as you have enough to concern you, but perhaps the police should be consulted to see if there is something they might know about this.”

When Jason got the letter from Adam, he passed it on to the detective with whom he was working. He found it only confirmed what they suspected and thought Jason should assure Adam that he would go to the police and have a thorough investigation started as soon as possible.

“Jason, we all need to be careful. The stakes are very high here.”

“I knew they were willing to kill, but to follow him out there to be sure makes this much more of a concern. What else are they willing to do? As I told you and you now know, Adam can pretty much take care of himself, but what about my family? To what lengths will these people go?”

“I don’t think they have limits.”

“Maybe I ought to put this firm up for sale. Maybe if they think they can buy it, it will stall their other efforts.”

“You can try, but I think you will be setting yourself up for a different kind of problem.”

“What’s that?”

“They’ll bring you a low offer because they know you’re worried. If you don’t accept, they’ll give you more reason to worry and to sell probably at an even lower price.”

“So there’s no way out.”

When the detective said nothing more, Jason decided it was time to tell his wife everything and find out what she wanted to do. It didn’t go well, and she had no more idea what do to than he did. Both regretted at that point that Adam wasn’t there because he was the best at planning and coming up with alternatives. It was going to be difficult to ask for his help when he was almost two thousand miles away.

 

Chapter 2

Arriving in the town called many still called Hell on Wheels, Adam was not impressed although he had not expected to be impressed so it was not much of a disappointment. It appeared that there were sufficient tracks for perhaps ten to fifteen trains to be stopped there at any one time with track for more completed or about to be completed. For a place that had received its first train in 1866, it was doing well at fulfilling its main line aspirations. Adam climbed down from the railcar and set out to find the work camp where his construction crew was supposed to be located. It wasn’t easy as most men were working and none seemed inclined to be particularly helpful because they had jobs to do building the main shop facilities or the winter quarters. Because his men were supposed to be working on the buildings used for engine maintenance, he decided those men ought to help him and headed in that direction.

About the time he decided on that option, the dinner bell rang and almost that whole crew dropped their tools to go toward another large tent. With no other choice, he followed them. Men grabbed large tin plates of food, cups of coffee, and utensils and began eating. A woman began circulating among them filling cups that were quickly emptied. Ribald and rude comments bordering on the obscene were thrown her way and more than a few slapped her behind as she passed. It was more than Adam could tolerate. Walking quickly to her side, he challenged the next man who said something.

“This is not how men treat women.”

“She ain’t a woman.”

“You need to learn a few things.”

“Oh, yeah, fancy man, and who’s gonna teach me? I can call her anything I want, and you can’t stop me.” He let loose with a long list of nasty words to describe women then. That drew laughter, but the words and the laughter ended when Adam’s fist connected with the lout’s jaw. The fight was on, but he knew only brawling and Adam had been taught boxing, Indian wrestling, and learned long ago how to win a barroom brawl. It didn’t take long although the man got in a few good punches before he was down and out.

“Now, anyone else want to fight for the right to insult a woman who works here? First you can take what he did, and then you can draw whatever pay you have coming and leave.”

The foreman of the crew stood then. “Hey, what right do you have to say that?” Then suddenly he got worried. “You’re not Mister Adam Cartwright from the home office, are you?” He knew he was. “You were supposed to be here a week ago. I thought maybe you weren’t coming.”

“I was delayed in Denver. Two men tried to kill me. I shot one and disarmed the other, but then they had to go on trial so I had to stay to testify.”

“Bert ain’t so bad. Now that he knows the rules, he won’t give you no more trouble. He’s not the smartest, but he works hard.”

“All right, but I expect decent behavior as well as hard work. Not one man there would stop to tell me where the work camp was. It shouldn’t be that hard to be civil.”

“We’re getting pushed pretty hard to get the job done here.”

“I’ll talk to Dodge about that. You should have reasonable hours and wages based on the contracts we signed. Where’s the project supervisor?”

The foreman clearly did not want to answer that question.

“You won’t get in trouble for telling me. Now where is he?”

“He’s in town, what there is of a town so far. He spends most of his time there.”

“All right. Finish your lunch and get the men back to work. I want to talk to you and the crew later. I need to see Dodge and then I need to find my project supervisor. I know now why Dodge filed some complaints with the company. Hopefully I can get this all straightened out. Meanwhile, treat this woman with respect.”

“Yes, sir. I never liked how they talked, but it was going on when I was hired. I didn’t think it was my place to change things.”

“You’re the foreman. Anything you see that’s wrong, you fix or you talk to me, and I’ll fix it if I can. Are we clear on that? You’re the foreman so I want you to act like one.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll do that.”

“They all heard me, so anyone who doesn’t follow orders, you know what to do. That includes treating those who work on this crew including the cooks with respect.”

For the first time, the woman turned to Adam and he saw the tattoo on her cheek. She knew he saw it by the look of surprise he had. What she didn’t expect was what he said.

“Behne”

“Hello. You have picked up some of the native language rather quickly.”

“I knew it from my time with the Newe as a boy.”

“You were with them? What was your name when you were with the Newe?”

“I’ve had many names. Then it was Taaka’ Skiri.”

“That is not a Newe name.”

“No, it is a Pawnee name. I was taken by the Skidi Pawnee.”

“How did you end up with the Newe? They are far from Pawnee lands.”

“We will talk, but right now I have other things I must do. Meanwhile, if anyone treats you with disrespect, you must tell me.”

“Thank you.”

The foreman returned with a hand drawn map.

“It shows you where to go to find who you need to find. You shouldn’t need to ask directions. If you leave your luggage, we’ll get you a tent and have you all set up when you get back.”

“Thank you. That would be very helpful.”

Using the map, Adam found Grenville Dodge quite easily but didn’t get any more friendly reception there.

“You’re late.”

“I had some trouble in Denver and couldn’t leave.”

“I heard about that. Couldn’t be helped. I mean today. You’ve been here a couple of hours. I thought you would be here a lot quicker than this.”

“I had some trouble with my crew.”

“I hope you took care of it. I’ve had some trouble with your crew too.”

“What kind of trouble?”

“Work not done right. Have to take things down and put them right. Then they complain that they’re working too many hours for what they’re being paid. Now that’s not my problem. You’ve got a contract to fulfill, and at this rate, you’re not going to make it.”

“I’m going to take care of that today too. I’ll be supervising construction until a new supervisor can be brought in and shown what needs to be done.”

“I hope you can do it.”

“I can do it.”

“It’s going to take a lot of time and hard work.”

“That won’t be a problem. Now if you will excuse me, I have a supervisor to find and fire. Then I’ll be back to go over plans and the building calendar with you if that suits you.”

“It does indeed. I want twenty tracks in full operation as soon as possible, and I need those maintenance facilities.”

“I’m on my way.”

In a saloon, Adam found his supervisor drinking good quality whisky and paying for drinks for one of the saloon girls too. The familiarity of all the girls there said he was a regular.

“You certainly are buying a lot of whisky with that money you have.”

“What business is that of yours?”

“I’m the one who was paying you the money.”

“What do you mean was paying me. I have a contract. You can’t fire me. Only the fancy men in Philadelphia can fire me, and they ain’t here.”

“They may not be here, but one of them is. I’m here, and Langer, you’re fired.”

Doubt hit the man suddenly. “Who are you?”

“Adam Cartwright, and the man who just fired you. Good day.”

“Wait. Wait. Listen, I only came down to have a drink after I had lunch. I was going back to the job. No harm was done.”

“You’re lazy, and you’re a liar.”

“Nobody can talk to me like that. Nobody.”

Langer pulled his coat back as if ready to draw.

“Don’t do it. Don’t even think about doing it. Didn’t you hear what happened in Denver?”

“Why? What happened in Denver?”

“Two men tried to do what you’re thinking of doing. One got shot, and both are in prison now.”

“You’re bragging.”

Pulling his coat back to show he was wearing two pistols, Adam stared intently at the man. “Do you want to test that theory?”

He waited until the man sat down again.

“Consider that your last pay. You get to live today. You didn’t earn the rest of the money you took as salary so consider yourself lucky at this point.”

As Adam talked, he backed up to the door exiting and walking away but keeping watch on the doors of the saloon. When one door swung open, he stepped to the side and pulled his pistol aiming as he did so. His former employee was even more stupid than his previous actions had shown. Then Langer made his last mistake. Instead of retreating, he raised his pistol to fire. Adam shot first, and Langer fell to the wooden walk with a bullet in his belly. Walking to him, Adam made sure the fallen man couldn’t reach his pistol. He addressed the people who had come out from the saloon.

“Is there a doctor here?”

“There is, mister, but he can’t do this one no good. He’s shot in the gut.”

“There wasn’t time to be careful with my shot.”

“Oh, we’re not blaming you.”

“We’re glad he can’t hurt no one no more.”

It certainly wasn’t how Adam had intended to rid himself of Langer. He had been in the west only a few weeks and already he had been in two gunfights. The news traveled faster than he did. Apparently Langer was nearly universally disliked. There was a smattering of applause as Adam walked back through the railyards.

That evening, Adam addressed his work crew. He explained that the extra work hours had been because of Langer and that would stop. Offering to buy drinks on Saturday night went a long way toward changing their opinions about their jobs. It was going to be a difficult transition, but it could be done. Between meeting with Dodge to go over his plans for construction and with the foreman to plan each day’s work and then supervising the work to make sure Dodge’s plans were followed exactly, Adam was soon exhausted. There was little chance that he was going to get time to visit his family. He barely had time to sit down for meals except on Saturday and Sunday.

A few weeks into his stay, he relaxed after his midday meal and the lady who worked as a cook in there sat down across the table from him. She wanted to talk. That much was obvious.

“I’ve wondered about your story ever since you told me the little bit of it. The trader who bought you? Who sold you to the trader and why would they do such a thing?”

“Now that is a longer story, but the basic part is that my uncle sold me. I was left with him when my father and stepmother went west. He was supposed to bring me to them when I was healthier. He got gold fever. I got in the way and slowed him down so he sold me to a trader he met on the prairie. I guess he told my father I had died and was buried in Illinois.”

“That was cruel not only to you but to your father and stepmother.”

“Only my father heard the story. My stepmother was killed on the trip. She had her baby first though so I had a brother but didn’t know it.”

“How did you end up with the Newe?”

“When the trader who bought me went on Pawnee land and was killed by them, I was taken. He wasn’t a good man and had brought them food that was tainted. People had died because of him so they got justice. I had never harmed them so I was brought back to their camp. I was not a good captive. Eventually the Pawnee traded me to some Cheyenne who were willing to give up a horse for me. It wasn’t a good trade for them either, and they traded me to some Arapaho who traded me to the Newe. Then a’atuse-tia, when they left me behind for the soldiers to find.”

“Yes, abandoned, left behind, thrown away like trash. I understand even if it was a long time ago for me too to be turned over to the Army.”

“I thought I was being freed, but I was a distraction so they would have more time to get away. It took me a long time to realize that. They used me. Then the Army used me telling me my family had perished so that I would act as a guide and interpreter for them. It wasn’t all bad. I learned while I lived at the fort. But what I learned most was that people use people.”

“Did you find your family?”

“Yes, but my father used me too even if it was in a kinder, gentler way. I left when I could no longer tolerate the situation. What about your family?”

“The Army found them for me. I had a baby. They thought it was an Indian baby and wanted me to give it away. I said it was a white baby. Soldiers had come and had used me against my will. I was only about thirteen years old at the time. Somehow, my family thought that was even worse. It shamed them to have a daughter who had a child and was not married. They did not care how I had come to have a child. They wanted me to go into a convent. I refused.”

Adam put his hands over his heart. “Tapih?”

She put her hands over her heart. “Yes. Tatuah. A broken heart when they rejected me, and then a shattered heart when my baby was taken from me and given to a ‘good’ family.”

“I am so sorry. It is not as bad for me as a man, but still people think differently of me when they learn where I spent those years. It seems they can’t trust me when they know.”

She pointed to her cheek.

“They always know with me. At least as a boy, you were not tattooed.”

“No, I was lucky with that. If you don’t mind me asking, the tattoos I saw were on the chins of the women. Why is yours on your cheek?”

“They were going to do my chin after the two cheeks. The design would have been all connected. The rising sun, the moon, and falling rain.”

“You had no choice.”

“Neither of us had any choices then. It seems we have both suffered for doing no wrong. We do not belong in the Newe world and we do not fit in the white world because they do not want us. As children, we were taken, but then we are marked forever. The tattoo is a reminder always of what I endured, but to others, it is a mark of my shame.”

“And now you work here and suffer the insults of these men?”

“There aren’t many jobs for someone like me. When people like the men here see this tattoo on my cheek, they make assumptions. I have never been with a man except when those soldiers attacked me, but they think this tattoo means that I am less than a woman.”

“They have behaved with you since I talked to them?”

“Yes, they have. They are afraid of you. Oh, they like you well enough, but there is fear too.”

“I wish that wasn’t true, but under these circumstances, I don’t know how else it could have turned out well for me.”

“And for me. I am not afraid of you. It is only those with evil in their hearts who need fear you.”

“I have never talked to anyone else who was a captive. Thank you. It is good to have someone who understands.”

“You perhaps are the only one here who understands how great the deed was that you did for me. You gave me back my pride and my dignity.”

“No, you always had those. You were letting others tell you that you did not. Now, do you want to continue to work here?”

“There’s nothing else I can do. I don’t have any other skills, and there are jobs I will not take.”

“Perhaps we need to help you get more skills then. Can you read and write?”

“A little.”

“Can you do arithmetic?”

“A little.”

“Don’t look ashamed. That’s more than a lot of the men here can do. It’s a starting point too. It means we only have to improve those. We don’t have to create them which would be much more difficult.”

“Improve them? What do you have in mind?”

“I’m planning a little schooling here. Too many of the men cannot read the simple instructions I write for the crew. I want to see how many are willing to learn to read or improve their reading. We’ll work on a little arithmetic too if they’re willing. You can sit in on those classes. The men who attend will get extra pay, not much, but an incentive like that should get more of them to sign up.”

“I would like that.”

“Now what is your name. You can share it with me now, can’t you?”

“It’s a funny name.”

“I promise not to laugh.”

“I will hold you to that promise. I think I will find how well you keep your promises. My name is Lady Bird.”

It was a bit of a shock, but Adam managed to keep his composure. Taking her hand in his, he bent down to kiss the back of it.

“I am pleased to meet you, Lady Bird.”

“Thank you, Adam. I am pleased to be your friend. That is the name the Shoshoni gave me. I won’t use my white birth name after they shunned me. I use the English form of the Newe name.”

“What was it in Newe? I don’t think I ever knew that one.”

“I was A’ka na bun.”

“That sounds pretty that way too.”

“You think my name is pretty?”

“You are a beautiful woman. You should have a name like that. It fits.”

For the first time, Adam saw her full smile. Over the next few days, the men on the crew saw it too and began to realize what a nice and beautiful woman was working there for their benefit. Compliments were given to her. At first, she was worried they were simply finding a different way to torment her and didn’t mean what they said. However, gradually she realized there had been a shift in attitude, and she knew who had brought it about. The men were happier, and they were treating her much better. Although it still irritated the men somewhat that Adam ordered them about, they were getting used to his efforts to create efficiency and good quality workmanship which in turn was making their workload less. They no longer cringed when Dodge came to do an inspection and evaluation. Instead of the foreman stammering through an explanation, Adam would take Grenville on a tour pointing out the accomplishments of various members of the crew. The two would shake hands at the end of the tour, and then Dodge would leave and Adam would give them a wave that all was well.

In the crew quarters, Adam taught reading, writing, and arithmetic to those who wanted to learn. It was only one class per week, but they had a week then to practice what they learned. To keep the men from getting too bored, Adam had cribbage boards, checkers sets, and simple reading material shipped in. He used the cribbage boards in one arithmetic lesson so that the men knew enough to play the game. Dodge asked him if the results were going to be worth the effort.

“There was a study done by the English. They wondered why if their factories started first, then why were American factories able to catch up and surpass them in production. Our mills weren’t as closed as theirs to outsiders so they were able to go in and study how American mills were run compared to how theirs were run. Do you know the only significant difference they found?”

“No, I don’t. I’m not familiar with this study.”

“Many if not most American factory workers in those northern factories can read, write, and do arithmetic at a basic level. They can read instructions. They can figure out formulas. In England, they did not see a need to educate a factory worker. So they have to be told everything. Written instructions and formulas cannot be left for them to follow.”

“So you’re saying your crew can do more if you can leave written instructions for them?”

“Yes, if I say I want the studs placed sixteen inches apart and cross bracing applied every eight feet, they can do that. Otherwise, I would have to tell them, measure it out, and then find a way for them to continue on without me being there to measure everything. As they learn more and understand better what we’re doing, they may notice how something could be done better.”

“Is that where those suggestions I got came from?”

“No, those were mine. But there may be more in the future from the men working directly on the project.”

“I like how you work. I have a bridge project on the Missouri River. When you’re done here, I would like you to go there to help me finish that. You can bring the core of this crew with you because I’m going to need more workers there. The others can stay here and work for the railroad. I see only good quality employees.”

When Adam told the men what Dodge had said, they were proud as well as happy. As the project there neared completion, Adam told Dodge there would be one small delay.

“I want to go see my family in Nevada for a visit before I go to work on your bridge project. With the railroad, it shouldn’t be much more than two weeks. I’ll send the crew with the foreman up directly and they can set up a crew camp.”

Dodge was agreeable to that plan so with some trepidation, Adam prepared to head for Virginia City and an uncertain reception. There was another delay though when a telegram arrived from Jason.

 

Chapter 3

A week later, Jason met Adam in Denver. He had been reluctant to make the move, but the detective and Adam told him it was the only safe thing to do. When the syndicate found out he was working with the police and they were investigating the syndicate, his offices were burned and a threat was delivered. He and his family were next. At that point, he had sent a telegram to Adam to warn him, but instead, Adam told him to concede because he had a wife and children to protect. Fear for his wife and children spurred him to take action.

“Adam, I am so sorry. They killed Valerie and my father. They took your baby from you, and now I failed to get any kind of justice.”

“It will happen, Jason, but you’re not the one to do it. You need to protect your family. We can form a new company here. In fact, we have a good start on one. I have a good crew and we’re working with Grenville Dodge. The crew is on the way to the Missouri bridge project which looks like it is going to be a bear. Dodge knows it too. The first bridge over the Big Muddy.”

“Will it work?”

“I see problems, and it will be expensive. It may take more than one try to get it right, but the potential profits are so great, the railroad is willing to try.”

“So Dodge has designed it. What do we do?”

“We help build it and look for any way to improve what is going on. He’s an intelligent man, and he wants his designs to work so he listens to rational ideas.”

“Is the crew complete? Do we have all the resources we need?”

“The crew is complete. The budget might be a little tight for a time, but that’s why I thought you should sell your home in Philadelphia and come here. Get your family into a small house here to start and you can work with Dodge on the bridge. I’ll take over the bridge project when I get back, and you can come back here and get into building projects closer to your family.”

“Where are you going? Wait, are you going to visit your family?” Adam shrugged. “That’s good news, and I needed to hear some good news. I like your plan. You are better at planning ahead than I am. All right. Oh, do we need an office?”

“No yet. It’s an expense we can avoid for now. I have a train to catch in the morning. I do have time to have dinner with you and Carrie and the children. I have some prospective houses for you to buy and we can discuss that at dinner. Once you get one, don’t wait too long. Dodge is expecting you. He can be kind of impatient.”

“It’s kind of a whirlwind we’re in, Adam.”

“I understand, but the sooner the syndicate realizes you have no intention of returning, the safer you will be.”

“And buying a house here would tell them that.”

“Yes, you sold yours, and buying one here would finish that part of the plan.”

“But what if they find out that you bought my house?”

“Do you think they have any idea who Abel John Wolf is?”

“No, I suppose they wouldn’t. How did you come up with that name?”

“I was Circling Wolf with the Pawnee and Abel and John are my grandfathers’ names.”

“We’ll get them someday, and then perhaps you can go home if you wish.”

“We’ll see. I don’t know if I want to go back there and put Carrie and the children at risk again.”

“At least right now, the danger should be gone.”

“Thank you.”

“If you decide not to go back, I can sell the house and get what it’s worth. I’ve also transferred most of my bank accounts here and liquidated most of my investments there too transferring the funds here. If they check up on me, they should have no doubt that I’ve moved on.”

“So, I should do the same. Once they believe we’re both gone, they should lose interest in us.”

“Yes, that’s the plan.”

“I’m upset though that there won’t be justice for Valerie and my father.”

“For now, perhaps not, but give it time.”

Staring at Adam, Jason thought about what he had been told. Then he got an idea.

“You said you transferred most of your money and liquidated most of your investments. What about the rest? What are you doing with the rest?”

“They’ve got their dirty hands all over the government including in the police department. You may have been working with an honest detective, but nothing was going to come from his work. They wouldn’t let him succeed. However, the newspaper business and Harper’s and other magazines like it are starting to get into some good investigations. All they need is money to support the men and some women who are doing that work. I have chosen to help them in the reporting they choose to do in Philadelphia. If anyone can break open this syndicate, it will be the press. People must know before they can act. If the story can be in the newspaper, there will have to be justice in some form. We cannot fight them because they will kill us. But the press is too broad for them to destroy.”

“I should have known you would be doing something.”

So later than expected, Adam boarded the train to head west. He guessed that being a week late might not be helpful in getting a positive reaction when he arrived even though he had sent another telegram notifying them of the delay. Broken track in Utah caused a further delay and storms meant he couldn’t notify his family. Resigning himself to facing a negative response, he hoped perhaps he was being too pessimistic. However better to expect little and be surprised by a positive result than to expect something good and be disappointed. That philosophy had worked well for him for a long time, and he saw no reason to change. Arriving a day late in Virginia City even by the adjusted time, he didn’t expect there would be anyone there to greet him. There wasn’t. However he did recognize Sheriff Coffee who by habit watched all new arrivals in town or as many as he could. The town was declining a little as some of the mines played out and the population was down making law enforcement a bit easier.

“It’s good to see you home, Adam. Your family was here yesterday wondering where you were. The telegraph lines were down so there was no way to find out what happened to the passenger service or the stage lines.”

“We hit some bad track in Utah and got held up. I knew about the lines.”

“Kinda figured you would have tried to send a message.”

“Town looks a little wore down.”

“It is a little, but some of it is damage from the earthquake last year that isn’t cleaned up yet. And now we got this Sutro fellow who has his tunnel project started and that’s got a few more men working. MacKay, Fair, Flood, and O’Brien – you remember them? Well they plan to work together and buy up some of the played-out mines and use new-fangled ways to find silver. If they do what they say they will, by the next year or so, we could see the town growing fast again.”

“Then you’ll be busy again.”

“Oh, no, not me. I didn’t run again. Clem is running, and he’s likely to win. I only have this badge until the election is held.”

“Are congratulations on your retirement in order then?”

“Well, I did offer to stay on and work for Clem, watching over the jail and taking care of the office for him and such.”

“Of course, you would do that and keep the office in order and such.”

“Now don’t you go getting on me about having a messy office. I know where everything is in that office.” He saw the slight smile then and the twinkle in the eyes. “You do have a way of getting me riled up, now don’t you?”

“All in good fun, Roy. I should get a horse though and head to the ranch. I’d like to get there while there’s still some of the afternoon left.”

“You don’t need to do that. I saw Candy and Jamie with a wagon not more than five minutes ago. They were at general store. You can ride with them.”

“Candy and Jamie?”

“You know. The foreman and your little brother.” When Roy saw the frown, he realized Adam didn’t know about either one. “You know, maybe we ought to walk slow on the way there. It seems I ought to tell you a few things.”

By the time they reached the wagon, Roy had explained Candy’s role not only as foreman but as friend to Hoss and Little Joe and advisor to Ben on ranch business. He knew too that Candy was staying in the house because his family found that more convenient. Jamie’s story was that he needed a place to live, and the longer he stayed with the Cartwrights, the more they wanted him to stay so Ben had adopted him.

“Seems like a mention of that in a letter would have been appropriate.”

“Ben said you didn’t say much about the lady you married or her brother who was the man you worked with neither.”

“I didn’t keep them a secret though, did I?”

“I think your pa was hurt that he had to find out from others what happened to your wife.”

“I wasn’t exactly in a good frame of mind to write letters about then. He ought to be able to understand that.”

“I’m just trying to see what I can do to make your reunion go smoothly.”

“So you’re worried about it too.”

By then they had reached the wagon, and Adam put his valise in the back. Candy came out with Jamie.

“Hey, that’s our wagon, and if you don’t want to lose that bag, you’ll kindly take it out of our wagon.”

Looking at Roy, Adam held back on what he wanted to say letting Roy play the role he had chosen.

“Candy, this is Adam. He’s a day late but it couldn’t be helped. Jamie, this is your oldest brother.”

At first, silence greeted that announcement. Then Candy responded.

“You can ride up here. Jamie likes to ride in the back. You can tell us why you’re late and got Mister Cartwright so upset.”

Looking at Roy, Adam had a smirk and only one comment. “Seems that someone has poisoned the well.”

As Candy drove the wagon out of town, Adam was silent and continued that for the first twenty minutes of the trip. Candy watched him and kept waiting for him to say something, but he didn’t. Finally Jamie broke the silence.

“Mister Cartwright says that silence like that can mean you don’t like the person. He said it’s like shunning them. Of course, it could mean someone has nothing to say, I guess. Candy hasn’t said anything either. I don’t know what you can learn about us by sitting there quiet as a rock.”

Candy noted the very slight smile that greeted Jamie’s outburst.

“Oh, he’s learning. You just told him a lot.”

“I did?” Not at all sure what Candy meant, Jamie frowned. “What did I tell him?”

It was time for Adam to talk. “You may be adopted but you aren’t completely comfortable with it yet. You get nervous easily, and when you do, you talk a lot. You’re a curious person and mysteries attract you. You want answers. You want things spelled out so you know where you stand.”

“You got all that from what I said?”

“He did. Now I’m wondering what he thinks about me.”

The smirk was back. “You haven’t said much.”

“You still have an opinion though, don’t you?”

“Only that I think you’re trying to determine if the stories you heard about me are true. You’re someone who likes to make up his own mind based on what you know. By now, you have at least a preliminary evaluation of me too.”

“You’re nervous about coming back home and the reception you’re going to get.”

“Why would he be nervous about that? It’s all Pa and Hoss and Joe have been talking about since they got that first telegram.”

Candy looked over at Adam who shrugged. He wasn’t going to answer that. Jamie might be curious, but Adam wasn’t about to confide in someone he had just met especially someone so prone to blurting things out. Candy likely wouldn’t ask, so he felt comfortable keeping his reasons to himself. He did start talking a bit though but kept the topics neutral asking first if Jamie knew what he did for a job. He didn’t.

“I help design and then supervise the building of things. In Philadelphia, it was mainly buildings. I was recently in Colorado and Nebraska working on buildings at stations for the railroad. When I leave here, I’m going to a project to build a bridge over the Missouri River so trains can cross.”

“A railroad bridge?”

“It will be the first bridge of any kind over that river. There are all kinds of problems to solve, and it could be less than a perfect solution, but once it’s in place, those things can be worked out. It will help the railroad make huge profits though so they’re willing to absorb the expense involved.”

“Will they work all year on it? I mean, can they work right through the winter because you could come back here for Christmas if you wanted.”

“It will be at least two years of work, and no they don’t work through the winter only as long as they can. Our crew will be returning to Denver with my partner. We’re going to set up a business there, and the crew will be kept busy this winter building a house for him and probably an office for us. I’ll have an apartment above the office.”

That reminded both Candy and Jamie that Adam’s wife had died.

“I’m sorry about your wife. We heard about that. Must have been really hard.”

With that, Adam didn’t talk again for nearly a half-hour. They were nearing the ranchhouse when he noted changes in the area especially windmills. Those made him smile.

“There must be a story you could tell about windmills.”

“Yes, but there isn’t time now. Time now to get my armor on for the reunion.”

Without Adam’s warning, Candy might not have noted the negatives loaded within the greetings Adam received. With the warning, though, they were hard to miss. There were no pure and joyful greetings as each one contained at least one qualifying statement. It started when Joe saw them drive in.

“Welcome home, older brother. You finally showed up.”

Ben was sitting on the porch with Hoss and that statement brought both to their feet and rushing to the wagon to greet Adam.

“Son, we were in town to welcome you home yesterday. You weren’t there, and with the lines down, we couldn’t find out what had happened. I’m glad too that you’re here now though. Welcome home, son.”

“Dang, Adam, I thought we might never see you when you didn’t show up yesterday. Sure am glad Candy was able to snag you and haul you in today. We’ve missed you.”

“Let’s go in the house. I’m sure Hop Sing can have something for us to eat and drink so we can celebrate in style now that all my sons are home.”

“Most of us never left.”

At Joe’s snide remark, Adam caught Candy’s eye and only raised an eyebrow. Candy nodded.

“I’ll bring your bag.”

“Thank you.”

Once they were in the house, not much changed except Joe wanted to know why Adam had been late.

“Do you want the short version or the long one?”

“I want to know all of it so the long version, I guess.”

“My wife and my father-in-law did not die in an accident. They were murdered by a criminal syndicate who had thought I would be using that carriage that day. When I was scheduled to leave to come here, Jason contacted me to tell me the office had been burned and he had been threatened too. I told him to sell the house and move to Denver where I would meet him. I made arrangements to buy his house under a false name and for a low price. That way the syndicate would believe he was really leaving. They were free then of the honest competition and we should be safe. I spent only the shortest time possible getting Jason and his family settled in before I left Denver. On the way here, the train had to stop for some bad track in Utah. Ground had shifted due to recent storms and the track had to be leveled. The storms also took out the telegraph lines by downing poles so I could not send a message that I would be delayed. That’s the story.”

Old habits die hard, and Adam almost said he was sorry when he finished the narration. He thought he could see his father almost expecting the apology though because nothing in that story had turned out as he had wanted. Joe was far too blunt though in his comment.

“So you have no place to live and no business any more. Did you come home to get help? I have to tell you we have problems of our own. You’re not going to be able to squeeze any money out of this ranch. In fact, there are a lot of things you could do here to help out. We’ve had a lot of problems while you were gone, and we could have used your help if you would have ever bothered to offer.”

That was all too insulting to even acknowledge without losing his temper with his little brother so Adam said nothing. No one there missed the telltale signs of his anger though as his eyes narrowed and his face looked like stone. What he did say was what he had hoped to avoid but the reunion so far was what he had worried it would be.

“I’ll be here a few days. Then I have to go back. Jason and I are working on a project to put a bridge over the Missouri River. I’ll likely be working on that for the next two years.”

Jamie interjected then what he knew. “Yeah, and in the winters, they’re building a house and an office in Denver. I bet they’ll get other work there when people see what they can do.”

It was quite a lot to process and answered Joe as well as let them all know Adam wasn’t at all happy with them. Adam though didn’t give anyone much of a chance to continue the conversation.

“Is there a room where I could freshen up a bit? I haven’t had much of a chance to do that in several days.”

“Yes, we have a room ready for you. Jamie, would you show Adam to the guest room that Hop Sing got ready for him.”

As much as anything else, being considered a guest told Adam what he needed to know. He followed Jamie up the stairs as the others were silent. He guessed that wouldn’t last. It didn’t.

“Well, that didn’t go very well. Joe, did you have to push him like that?”

“Hoss, I didn’t know he was working. It sounded like he lost everything.”

“Boys, we should show some sympathy for him. He lost his wife seven months ago.”

“He’s only staying a few days. Doesn’t seem like he cares that much how we feel or any support we could give him.”

With that, Candy snorted. He couldn’t hold it in any more. Hoss frowned as Joe and Ben looked to Candy wondering why he had responded that way.

“If I was him, I would be out that door already walking back to town if I had to. The only friendly one so far besides Hop Sing is Jamie.”

“We welcomed him home.”

“Sorry, Mister Cartwright, but you should think about what all of you said so far. If anyone called that a welcome for me, I’d think they were calling me a fool. You’re all so tied up in your own concerns, you didn’t pay much attention to his.”

Even Hoss who had said the most positive of all the comments realized he could have been more welcoming, and Joe had the decency to hang his head ashamed of what he had said. Ben still wasn’t ready to concede completely but could acknowledge his tone should have been warmer and more supportive. They did agree they needed to do much better, but old habits would die hard so they had to work on how they would do better.

 

Chapter 4

When Adam came down for dinner, the atmosphere was better, but the topics were general as no one seemed willing to touch on sensitive issues. After dinner, Adam said he wanted to go outside for some fresh air. A short time later, Candy walked out without saying anything. He had expected someone in the family to follow Adam out that door and was surprised no one had. Adam wasn’t surprised.

“They do know that I often need to be by myself to work things out.”

“This seems to be something that needs to be worked out with them though.”

“It probably is, but I’m not sure it can be worked out. I’m not staying long enough to find out either.”

“But your family wants you to stay. There are all sorts of things you can do to help out.” Candy paused then remembering a few things that had been said. “Oh, I get it now.”

“Yeah.”

“I want you to stay because you have a lot of skills that we could really use about now. But I’m not family. You want your family to want you to stay because you’re family.”

“Yeah, that’s it. It’s always about what I can do for the family and how I can be the Adam they want me to be.”

“I noticed when you came home, there was a lot of comments about how you were late. I guess if I was missing someone for over five years, I’d be more concerned that I finally got to see them.”

“I expected the reaction I got. I had a small hope it wouldn’t be like that, but, somehow, I knew that was expecting too much. The line was down, but they still resented that I had not let them know I would be late. It’s always been that way. Pa would tell me I shouldn’t take responsibility for everything, but then he would react that way when I failed to accomplish what he wanted.”

“I did hear stories about you that made you seem like the perfect son until you decided to abandon the family.”

Adam’s head jerked around at that last part.

“Sorry, but that’s about how it always goes.”

“Yeah, so the stories were never that the oldest son had a dream and followed it like his father had a dream and followed his?”

“Ah, no, never like that.”

“How about maybe after being a captive of Indians, the oldest son never felt like he fit in or belonged here and had to find a place in this world where he did?”

“No, there never was any talk at all like that. They don’t talk about you being one of the taken. I wonder why.”

“With most families, it seems like they’re ashamed to admit it. It could be too that it’s something they think would be best forgotten. It’s just that I can never forget it.”

“I can see that. It made you who you are and it was years of your life.”

After a pause, Candy had an admission and an offer.

“You know, I’m staying in your old room. If you want, you can have that room while you’re here. It might make your stay a bit more comfortable for you.”

“Thank you for the offer. That is very generous, but a guest room seems appropriate at this point.”

“You’re not going to let it go either, are you? You’re as stubborn as they are.”

“I am stubborn, and I have pride. I had hopes when I first arrived, but I fear there are too many steps down that road now. I notice you’re the one out here talking with me.”

They heard the door on the house open and close then.

“Hoss.”

“How do you know?”

“It sounds like him.”

“Sounds? What did you hear?”

“His sounds. Joe and Pa are at the office window. They heard us talking out here, but we’re too far away for them to know what we’re saying. But I’m talking so the peacemaker is on the way.”

“How did you know they were at the window?”

“They turned down the lamps at the desk, but the light from the fireplace still shows slight movement there of light and dark.”

“Hoss said you were good in the dark. He was right. He said you were the best night hunter he ever knew, and I can see why. Well, I’m going to let the two of you talk to see if anything can get worked out. Good night.”

“Good talking with you, and good night.”

As Hoss approached, Candy quietly advised him to tread lightly. Adam heard and appreciated that he was trying to help. When Hoss came near, he apologized for his earlier comment.

“I wasn’t trying to be critical with what I said, but thinking on what was said by Joe and Pa, I can see as how you might have taken it that way. I’m sorry for that. I should have been more positive so there would have been no doubt in your mind that I was welcoming you home.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m sorry too for how Pa’s been talking. He’s worried sick about losing the ranch.”

“Losing the ranch?”

“Right off, we should have told you what was going on. You have a right to know it all. We got ourselves into a bind. We took contracts we should never have taken thinking we could manage it all. Then we had a string of bad luck, and we’re not going to be able to do it, and the penalty clauses are going to eat us up.”

“Pa didn’t take my advice about how to do loans then.”

“No, he didn’t. He’s been resisting doing that, and now he knows what a big mistake it was. It may be too late though. We only got a few more weeks, and there’s a lot of money due at the bank. We can’t pay it no matter what we do without bankrupting the place, and that’s about the same as just defaulting. Either way, we’re done. Jamie don’t know how serious it is. Pa ain’t told him. When Pa got your telegram a couple of weeks ago, he thought maybe you knew about the trouble and were coming to help.”

“Why would he think I would know?”

“Seems like a lot of people know. He thought maybe you would have heard from some of your friends.”

“It’s not likely that any news would have reached me. I was in Denver, where by the way, two men tried to kill me. Then I was in Nebraska living in a work camp. Then I was back in Denver briefly with a short side trip to Missouri and then back to Denver to meet Jason there before I headed here. If someone was trying to find me to tell me something, they wouldn’t likely have been able to do it.”

“So, I guess that’s it. I guess we’re going to have to find a buyer for the ranch and in a hurry or get ready to default on the loans and lose it for nothing.”

“You won’t get much for it selling it like that.”

“I know, but like Pa said, the two of you built up this ranch from almost nothing. We can do it again.”

“He said that? He actually gave me some credit?”

“Adam, he always did. He said that when you showed up, the Ponderosa went from being an ordinary ranch to becoming a great ranch.”

“It’s not how I remember it. It doesn’t matter now though. Now do you think those contracts were set up to get you in trouble?

“It could be. Coming so close together like they did, maybe someone wanted us in money trouble like we are.”

Switching topics then, Adam turned to family issues. “Why is Joe so hostile?”

“You know how he is. Gets his back up over nothing. Gets jealous. He’ll get over it soon enough.” Looking at Adam even in the moonlight, Hoss could tell how disappointed he was. “It wasn’t what you was hoping for at all, was it? We should have been a lot nicer to you. I guess you won’t be staying long then, will you?”

“I have to be back in about ten days and it’s about a thousand miles. There could be unexpected delays again, so no, less than a week at this point.”

“Well, we got that so let’s hope things go better starting tomorrow. It’s better than two days. I hope you’ll extend it out as long as you can. At least Jamie and Candy have been nice to you.”

“At least quicker than Pa and Joe. Took a little while with them too. It seems they’ve heard stories.”

Hoss’ prediction proved accurate. There were more apologies at breakfast, but damage had been done. Adam stayed guarded in his interactions, and there was nothing that was going to change in less than a week with that. A few days into his visit, he borrowed a horse for a ride and was gone all day. He had little to say on his return except he had visited with old friends. Unfortunately one was the family lawyer, and his law clerk had a big mouth especially when he was drinking. Those who wanted to take over the Ponderosa knew that, and after seeing Adam meeting the lawyer, they wanted to know the content of that meeting.

“Adam is cashing in enough investments to pay the loans for the Ponderosa. He’s having Hiram draw up some kind of legal papers about that. He said he would be back on Thursday to take care of all of it.”

“You keep your eyes and ears open. That is very interesting news. Have another.”

They got the clerk drunk enough that he didn’t remember the whole evening.

Two days later, on Thursday, Adam again told his family he was going to town, but he said he would be back by early afternoon. He did ride to town again but never made it. His horse was found wandering a few miles from town after his assailants had taken it there and released it. He had been abducted near town, beaten, and dumped into a railroad freight car going to Reno. Whisky was poured over him so that anyone finding him would likely think he was drunk.

“They find him, they’ll likely dump him out by the side of the track. With any luck, he’ll die there, and we won’t have any more problems with him.”

“Even if he doesn’t, he won’t be back here in time to do anything about those loans.”

“That’s right.”

The men were surprised when they returned to their bosses who were furious. The loans had been paid. In the event that he did not make the scheduled meeting with his lawyer, Adam had given his lawyer power of attorney to pay the loans. Hiram had done so.

Adam was scheduled to leave on Friday, but he never returned to the Ponderosa on Thursday. Hoss and Joe went looking for him, and they were the ones who found his horse. Heading to town, they found no trace of him. No one they talked with had seen him, and Roy sent out deputies to ask around and they found nothing either. It was the next morning when Roy talked to the manager at the bank and then went to see Hiram that he got some ominous news.

“Adam suspected someone might want to stop him from paying off the ranch loans. He gave me the authority to do it if he did not get to our meeting. When he wasn’t here, I went to the bank and followed his instructions exactly.”

“So now Adam owns the loans against the ranch.”

“I cannot divulge that kind of information to you, Sheriff.”

“I understand, but what you told me is bad news. We’re gonna have to start looking for an injured or wounded Adam. I hate to think it could be worse.”

It wasn’t worse despite the great worries Ben and his sons had. Up in Reno, men pulling freight from the railcar had seen Adam’s boots and discovered him. At first they thought he was a drunk, but then one of the men noticed the blood.

“Hey, this man ain’t drunk. At least, I don’t think so. I think he’s hurt real bad and needs help. Help me get him out of here and we’ll see about getting him to the doctor.”

“Doc ain’t in town.”

“The nurse will be there. She can help him more than we can.”

It was over a day later that Adam woke up to a hand on his cheek and a soft voice. It was dim in the room.

“Valerie?”

“No, sorry, I’m Rachel Lea. I’m your nurse. You’re badly injured, but I think you’re going to be all right. Your injuries are more numerous than individually serious. You need to lie still though. You have a nasty head wound, and I don’t want you to move around and do anything to make things worse.”

“All right.”

“Now that you’re awake, I’m going to give you a little bit of water. If you can tolerate that, I’ll give you a little bit of broth.”

Although Adam tolerated the water well, he fell asleep after only two spoonfuls of broth. It was a good start though and Rachel Lea had hope that he would fully recover. She knew that a telegram had been sent to Virginia City to inquire if anyone was missing who fit the man’s description. There wouldn’t be an answer available until morning though.

In Virginia City, Ben Cartwright was being hit with a deluge of bad news or what to him seemed to be bad news. First, Adam was missing. Then he was found, but he was in Reno and badly injured. The next passenger car wasn’t due for several days so they had to take the stage until the railroad manager said they could pay to ride in a freight car under the special circumstances.

When they had gone to the bank and then to Hiram’s office on Friday, the news was shocking as far as Ben was concerned.

“Adam was going to pay the loans and leave before I knew what he had done?”

“Yes, he thought that was best.”

“Oh, he thought that was best. And this arrangement he worked out with you, he thought that was best too, did he?”

“Yes, he did, and frankly, Ben, it is a good idea. He holds the loans and the ranch will default to him when the loans are due unless you sign these papers. Now that is an extremely generous offer. As a friend, I do not understand why you are not grateful for this.”

“Pa’s mad cause Adam told him to do this ten years ago, and Pa wouldn’t do it.”

“Yes, and then he badgered me for five years after that to do it.”

“And you still wouldn’t. Now, you ain’t got no choice.” Hoss was grinning.

“I don’t know why you think this is so funny.”

“Oh, I can’t wait to get to Reno and tell Adam all about this. This must be how he felt all those times.”

“All what times?”

“When he didn’t want to do something and you forced him to do it.”

Although Ben wanted to argue, it was pointless. He grabbed the papers from Hiram and began signing. Hiram witnessed each and asked Joe to call Roy to come in as a witness. Once that was done, Hiram explained what had happened so that all three sons understood.

“Adam’s condition was that the Ponderosa be divided into separate legal and financial entities. Each son owns one with proxies in varying order on the others with Ben with first proxy on all entities and owning outright the main entity of the bulk of the ranch land itself. The other parts are the mineral rights, the timber lands, the cattle operations, and the horse operations. Each of you also has a claim to one section of land. In the future, if you need a loan, there are now, ten legal parts of the Ponderosa. You can borrow against one or two of them without affecting the others.”

“How will that change the operation of the ranch?”

“Joe, that is a good question, and the answer is simple. If you don’t want anything to change, nothing has to change. All that has been affected is ownership. Operations can continue in any manner the four of you choose.”

“What if we borrow against one of the land sections and then lose it?”

“That’s a good question, Hoss. Yes, it could happen, but if someone got the land but you still had the right to graze cattle on it, raise horses on it, had the mineral rights, and had the timber rights, what exactly are they going to do with this land?”

“Hot diggity, so it would be like we almost still owned it.”

“Yes, it would. You would retain many rights even if someone got control of part of the Ponderosa.”

Joe had a different question because Adam wouldn’t be present to manage his parts.

“What about Adam’s parts?”

“He had given you one to manage and one to Hoss.”

Hoss and Joe looked rather pleased with that. Jamie had a question.

“If it came down to voting, does that mean I have two votes, and Pa has two votes, but Joe and Hoss each have three votes?”

“If you choose to run the ranch by voting, yes, that would be the case.”

Ben decided it was time to call a halt to the meeting.

“We have a train to catch.”

“Pa, when we see Adam, you got to remember two things.”

Ben frowned at Hoss.

“He did this to help all of us and he didn’t have to do it. Two, he’s hurt.”

“Of course I know that. I’m his father. I know him well enough.” In the freight car later, Ben added more. “He’s got a good heart. I guess he did it the only way he thought he could with the way I’ve acted. I have to admit, he might have been right.”

At that point, they all knew it was going to be a good visit if only Adam would recover, and they didn’t know about that yet.

In Reno, Rachel Lea told Adam he had visitors on the way. He groaned and then had to explain why.

“My family does not always appreciate my behavior. I did something in Virginia City that may have them a bit on edge. I thought I would be on my way to Denver before they knew. Now they know, and I can’t get away.”

“My, what did you do?”

So he told her which made her smile.

“You think that’s funny.”

“I do. I know your family. I lived in Virginia City until two years ago. I can imagine Ben Cartwright being bested like that. My goodness, that man can roar.”

“You lived there?”

“Yes, my husband worked in the apothecary and I worked in for various mines in the offices as a clerk when they needed extra help. Even though I was trained as a nurse, there wasn’t a need for one usually although I did help out Doctor Paul Martin on occasion.”

“That’s why you look familiar, and is that why you knew who I was?”

“Yes, Doctor Martin did seem to do a lot of business with you Cartwrights.”

“So, you and your husband moved here?”

Adam saw immediately that he had asked the wrong question.

“I’m sorry. That was insensitive.”

“No, there was no way for you to know. In the earthquake almost two years ago now, he got hit in the head with a chunk of masonry when part of the wall caved in at the store. It didn’t seem too bad at first, but Paul said there must have been bleeding in the brain that continued. He complained of headaches but who wouldn’t after being hit in the head by a chunk of masonry. Then he started to stagger around, and I had him go to the doctor. It was too late. Paul said it might have been too late when he was hit. There’s not a lot that can be done for bleeding in the brain other than to have the person rest in bed and hope it stops. He went into a coma and never woke up. That’s my story. I couldn’t bear to be in the city any more, and when a job opened up here, I was eager to take it. Could I be so bold now as to ask you who Valerie is?”

Adam frowned wondering how she knew the name. She saw that and correctly guessed why.

“You called me that when you first woke up.”

“I don’t know why. You don’t look at all like her.”

“I was touching your face to check your temperature. It might have been the gentle touch that reminded you of her.”

Closing his eyes briefly, Adam turned to her then and nodded showing he was willing to explain.

“Valerie was my wife. She was killed less than a year ago when the carriage I was supposed to take rolled down a steep embankment killing her and her father. She was carrying our child. The carriage had been sabotaged.”

Continuing on, Adam told her his story or as much of it as he could until he was too tired to continue. She told him to sleep and as he closed his eyes, she had tears in hers for the sad story he had told her. Touching his face gently, she helped him slip into a restful sleep. Someday, she was going to tell him more of her story. He would understand better than most.

 

Chapter 5

Only a short time after that when Adam woke, the superintendent of construction for the Central Pacific Railroad was there to see him. He was in Reno because he was in charge of an expansion of the station there to handle more freight that was coming through from Virginia City with the new spur line and the freight traffic that was constantly expanding between Sacramento and Salt Lake City.

“I heard you’ve been helping the Union Pacific with some construction projects. If you have time, we have work for you too and right here. It’s not a huge project like that bridge they’re building, but I’d like it built soon. I don’t have enough skilled workers and qualified supervisors for the job. If you can get a crew here, I have a good contract for you. Think about it.”

“It’s easy to think about, but I have to contact my partner and see if he can spare any of the crew.”

“That sounds promising. Get me an answer as soon as you can.”

Realizing he should have said something about Adam’s condition, he added one last thing before he left.

“I hope you feel better soon.”

“Thank you.”

Turning to Rachel Lea, Adam prepared to request some help.

“Regardless of how I apparently arrived here, I do have money. I would like to send a telegram to Denver, but clearly I cannot do that directly. If you have paper and a pencil, and if you would trust me to reimburse you, then I can send one.”

“Of course, I trust you. Give me a moment to get some paper and a pencil to write down your message.”

Rachel Lea realized it was a good thing that Adam had something to distract him while they waited for his family to arrive. With a telegram to send, and then others to answer, he was kept busy. When he wasn’t busy thinking about the offer from the Central Pacific, she could tell he was apprehensive about seeing his family and guessed it was his father who was most on his mind. When they arrived, she made sure to remind them before they went in to see him that he was a severely injured man and they needed to be careful what they said and how they said it. As she expected, Ben Cartwright did not take kindly to anyone suggesting he would not act in the best interest of his sons.

“I know how to act when a member of my family is recuperating.”

“He told me what happened between the two of you and what he did before he left Virginia City. Because of those things, he has clearly been apprehensive about this reunion.”

The warning probably wasn’t necessary once they saw Adam. The bruises and the swelling that they could see only made them worry about what they couldn’t see. The doctor still wasn’t back so they were concerned that Adam might have injuries more serious than what Rachel Lea could manage. Their visit with Adam was short because he started to doze off even as he tried to talk with them. Rachel Lea suggested that they leave and come back after Adam had a chance to take a nap. Outside the room, they registered their concerns.

“I’ve been monitoring his responses to food and drink, watching his eye movements, keeping track of his heart rate and temperature, and checking for any additional swelling or bruising. Nothing has gotten any worse since he was brought here, and several things have improved. He does have some possibly cracked bones but nothing broken that I could find. With his condition, I don’t think he should be moved at all yet, but with rest, all of his injuries should heal. Whoever did this meant apparently to incapacitate him. It worked.”

“He can’t take care of himself at all?”

“Gradually he is doing more of his personal needs. But he still needs care around the clock.”

“How long do you think he will need to be here before he can go home?”

“Mister Cartwright, he’ll be here at least another week. By then, part of his crew should be here and they’ll probably help him as much as he needs.”

“What?”

“Yes, he’s not going back to Denver. He got an offer to do some work here, and in very fast order with telegrams, it was all set up today.”

“How did he get an offer to do work while he was lying in bed here?”

“Mister Crocker was in town and heard he was here.”

“How did Mister Crocker hear something like that?”

“I sent him a message.”

“But I thought he could come back to the Ponderosa.”

“He had no intention of returning to the Ponderosa at this time.”

Ben as well as Hoss and Joe suspected that Rachel Lea already knew quite a bit about what had happened during Adam’s visit. They chose not to discuss it though. She said Adam would likely sleep a couple of hours after all that he had already done that day and they could return after dinner. Reassured that he would recover, they were once more hit with the realization that Adam was not going to ever be part of the Ponderosa again other than as a visitor. They agreed that they would visit that evening and again in the morning before returning to Virginia City. It was a bit disheartening to see how easily Adam accepted their news when they saw him after dinner. Ben finally said the words he needed to say.

“I’m glad that you have been able to follow your dream and that you are being successful at it. I’m proud of you, and I thank you for all you did for me to help me achieve mine and now to keep it.”

“You’re welcome. I hope you never need help like that again because I used all the investments I had here to manage it.”

“I am grateful that you had those, and I recognize the sacrifice that it was. If you ever need help, you call on us. We’re going to make sure to have funds available now to weather any financial storm if at all possible that hits any of us.”

“Thank you. That’s good to know.”

“You’re closer now. I hope there can be more visits and that there won’t be so much time between contacts. Would it be all right if we came to visit you?”

That concession was perhaps the best news Adam could get. That his father would be willing to visit him and see him wherever he lived was significant.

“I would be very happy to see you. With my work schedule, it can be hard to make long term plans, but when I’m close like this, visits would be most welcome.”

There was a more light-hearted visit the next morning, and then the family returned to their life. Rachel Lea could tell it was a bittersweet time for Adam and didn’t intrude on his thoughts leaving him time to think about all that had happened. He didn’t have much of an appetite all day so she knew it had affected him more than he wanted to admit. By the next day though he was in a better mood.

“Rachel Lea, I want to thank you for all that you did and how you helped. I know you were the one who let Crocker know I was here. You also talked to my father and helped him and helped me get to a new understanding. I am so grateful to you.”

“You’re welcome.” She didn’t say more because she understood how much Adam trusted her to speak to her that way. It made her feel good.

When the doctor returned that day, he agreed with Rachel Lea’s diagnosis and plan for care. By the time Adam’s crew arrived at the end of a week, he was sitting up in bed and arguing for the right to be out of bed and doing everything for himself.

“I remember Doctor Martin saying this about you. He knew you were recovering when you started making demands. Well, be as cranky as you want. You’re staying in that bed two more days which is what the doctor ordered.”

“He only said that because that is what you said.”

“He’s the doctor. He knows what he’s doing.”

“Hey, boss, sounds like you’re ready to get back to work.”

The crew foreman stood in the doorway with Lady Bird who then crossed the room to plant a kiss on Adam’s cheek. Rachel Lea was shocked but did her best to hide her dismay.

“Sorry, boss, but she insisted she had to come with this crew. She wants to stay as your cook. Said you would be disappointed otherwise.”

“I would be. I’m glad to see you all here already. Got a work camp set up yet?”

“Nah, we just got in and wanted to see how you were doing. We’ll go set up a camp now. Should we come back for you when it’s ready?”

“You’ll come back for him the day after tomorrow.”

“Yes, ma’am. Sorry, boss, but she’s the foreman here.”

“I know. I might fire her if I could.”

“I think you ought to think about that more. Anyway, I’ll check back in with you later.”

For the next two days, Adam was his usual cranky patient about to be released from confinement. During that time, Rachel Lea was very quiet which made Adam start to feel guilty about his behavior. He did his best then to tamp down the frustration he was feeling and forced himself not to lash out as a way to vent. It did no good. When he was waiting for the foreman to arrive to take him to the camp that had been set up, he finally had to know.

“I’m sorry if I was a disagreeable patient the last two days. I tried not to be too much of a problem, but I have a lack of patience which is a major character flaw. I hope that it hasn’t harmed our friendship too much.”

“It’s not the only character flaw.”

That made him wonder what had happened. Thinking back to events, he couldn’t find too much remarkable except the arrival of his crew.

“I did tell you my work crew was coming and that we would be working here. I don’t know what else I might have done to upset you.”

“You told me how much you value integrity and honesty. You led me to believe we were in much the same circumstance so we could share our stories without reservation because there would be no judgment.”

Frowning, Adam waited for more. There was nothing forthcoming.

“You think I was dishonest about something?”

“You’re going to deny it?”

“Deny what?”

“You led me to believe you were grieving your loss as I was so that we were able to share our thoughts on the same footing. Then I find you have a woman stashed away already. That was dishonest not to tell me and to let me gush on about how lost I felt when you had already moved on.”

Shocked, Adam didn’t know what to say. He was upset at her unfair accusations and hurt that she would think he would be dishonest. Then he wondered why she would think he and Lady Bird had a relationship. Before he could say anything, Rachel Lea had left the room in tears. The doctor came in to ask what Adam had done.

“I didn’t do anything that I understand. She’s upset with me, and I truly do not understand why.”

“You’ve been here almost two weeks. The two of you have spent almost all of that time together especially the first week when I was gone at first. She did everything for you and stayed with you day and night. As you began to recover, she continued to provide everything you needed including companionship. Is it surprising that she feels the way she does?”

“What do you mean about her feelings? She has feelings for me?”

“Of course she does. Are you a blind man. Why else would she be jealous?”

“Jealous? She’s jealous of Lady Bird? But that’s crazy. Lady Bird and I are only friends. We have a similar past and I helped her with a difficult situation. We’re like a brother and sister.”

“She said she kissed you when they arrived.”

“She kissed me on the cheek. Then she left with the crew to set up camp. She hasn’t been back. A couple separated for a month would likely have had a more emotional reunion.”

“Yes, I suppose that’s true. Well, as I see it, if you want to have a friendship or anything more with Rachel Lea, you need to talk to her about this.”

“I think perhaps she needs to come to terms with her own feelings before I say anything more to her. She made some broad negative statements about me. If she believes those things are true, then there probably isn’t much basis for a relationship.”

The doctor noted how Adam phrased that and had a difficult time not smiling. Adam had some feeling for her too even if he wasn’t willing to admit them even to himself at this point. The men from the crew arrived with a wagon and it was time for Adam to leave. He thanked the doctor and asked him to pass that on to Rachel Lea. He had already paid for the medical services with a generous amount and included more for the telegrams Rachel Lea had sent for him. There was nothing left for him to do except climb in the wagon to leave. He never saw the curtains in the second-floor window pull back for the tearstained face to watch him go. He never said what she said was wrong so she believed she had been correct. The doctor told her later she should think about that and perhaps wonder why she had jumped to conclusions as she had.

In the work camp, after a short meeting with Crocker before he left, Adam took the plans to his quarters and began studying them and developing a construction plan. He guessed that all the work could be completed within six months if there were no unexpected delays. Those always seemed to happen, but he hoped that at least this time, they would not interfere too much. Crocker had a bonus in the contract for finishing early. It was quite different than what many companies did with penalty clauses.

That night after dinner, Adam addressed his crew explaining about the bonus and how that could have a positive impact on their salaries. He could see that got the men fired up about the project, and he guessed he would have no trouble expecting long hours and hard work from these men. He asked Lady Bird if she had ever cooked from a chuck wagon. She had not but when he explained what it was, she was agreeable to the idea.

“Good, we can have our breakfast here in camp, move the wagon to where we’re working so Lady Bird can fix a hot meal for midday and keep the coffee pot full. Then we’ll have it back here for dinner.”

“I’ll try cooking from the wagon, but Adam, I don’t know how to drive a wagon.”

The foreman suggested a solution. “I could drive her over in the morning. You usually want to go first and get everything started. I could meet you there and get the plan for the day from you then. After she cleans up from the midday meal, you could drive her back here because you usually have work to do late in the day anyway. It would let you do that while there’s still light to work by.”

“That’s a good plan to start. Lady Bird, are you willing to learn how to drive a wagon?”

She was so the plan was that the foreman and Adam would work with her and gradually teach her to drive and let her try it until she was comfortable taking the wagon on her own. Even if that took a month, it would be well worth the effort. So every afternoon, Rachel Lea could see Adam and Lady Bird ride through town on that wagon. At first, they were talking and laughing, and then Adam would have his hands over hers as she drove the wagon. No matter how much she tried to deny it to herself, Rachel Lea had to admit that made her feel jealous. Then by the end of the month, things changed. Adam was leaning back in the seat sometimes looking almost asleep as Lady Bird drove the wagon, and then most days he wasn’t on that wagon seat at all. She wondered what had happened. She got her answer as unexpected as it was weeks later when Adam brought an injured man to the doctor’s office. The foreman had said anyone could take him, but Adam had insisted he would be the one. Then the foreman smiled as did several of the others. Lady Bird had told them how he made her take a longer route back to the work camp so that they could drive by the doctor’s office every day for a month.

“What happened?”

“A series of unfortunate events. The ladder was in some ground that looked stable but wasn’t. Paul had not finished tying off his safety line when the ladder slipped sideways and as he grabbed for a hold, he grabbed boards that were not yet secured instead of hanging onto his safety line that the other men had grabbed to try to hold him. It could have been much worse if they had not done that.”

“He’s got a nasty gash on his head. He’ll need someone watching over him for the next day to make sure that’s all it is.”

“You have an excellent nurse here. Could she take care of him?”

“That will work out fine. You’ll be back later to check on him?”

“I will. I’ll bring dinner for him too.”

“Bring enough for three and all of you can eat together. How he reacts to that will tell a lot about how he’s doing.”

After Adam left and the patient was resting in bed, Rachel talked in whispers to the doctor.

“How could you do that setting me up to have dinner with him? You know how difficult it will be.”

“Yes, and it’s about time too. I’m tired of you moping around here and watching for him to pass in the street. It’s like when my daughter had her first caller. Now, get over whatever it was that was bothering you and talk with the man.”

As the three ate dinner, at first, Rachel Lea said almost nothing and Adam talked with the man who was injured.

“Lady Bird sure knows how to cook so a man forgets he’s hurt.”

“She does. She’s gotten even better as she works with this crew who treat her better.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry about how she was treated back in Nebraska. Some of us knew it was wrong, but we didn’t know how to stop it. You know, I never knew a woman with a tattoo before.”

“It’s not unusual among some of the tribes. She was a captive here with the Newe, or Shoshoni. So was I for a while.”

“You were?”

“Yes, I was taken by the Pawnee when I was about six. They traded me to the Cheyenne who traded me to the Arapaho and they traded me to the Shoshoni. I spent the longest time with them, but when I was about thirteen, I was picked up by the Army.”

“So that’s why you and Lady Bird are like a brother and sister. We kinda wondered about that. You two are more like family than anything else the way you watch out for her, and the way she looks to you for protection and well, for advice or anything she needs. You watch out for her like a big brother would for a little sister.”

“I feel that way about her. She’s the only one I know who understands what those years were like for me. And I guess I’m the only one who understands at all how she feels about her time as a captive and the way people look at you when they find out.”

“Oh, I don’t feel any different about you. I hope you don’t think that.”

“No, but many people do think they know something about me if they know that, and what they think they know often isn’t good. With a woman, it’s even worse.”

“Is that why Lady Bird isn’t married?”

“Probably.”

“Well the foreman looks at her like he wouldn’t mind being married up with her. Oh, sorry, maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”

“Really, Jake thinks like that? Why doesn’t he approach her about it?”

“Maybe he thinks you might not approve?”

“No, Paul, I’m glad you told me. I’ll have a talk with him. She’s very lonely, and she’s even talked of going back to the Shoshoni who wouldn’t mind a woman with a tattoo on her face. But if Jake is interested and Lady Bird is agreeable, maybe there’s a solution closer at hand.”

“Ma’am, don’t you like Lady Bird’s stew?”

Paul was looking at Rachel Lea who had stopped eating and was staring in silence at the two men after the conversation they had. Paul had a concerned look, but then he saw the slight smirk on Adam. He knew.

“No, Paul, it’s delicious, but I guess I’ve had too much else to eat today. Would you like more stew?”

“I sure would.”

“Then I think we’ll be able to tell the doctor in the morning, that you’re fine and ready to be released.”

It was quiet for the minute or so it took Paul to clean up the remnants of the stew. Then Rachel Lea picked up the tin plates to wash them.

“I’ll help.”

“There’s no need.”

“No, but Paul needs his sleep, and I need to take these plates and head back to camp. If I help, it will go that much faster.”

Paul smiled as the two left the room. He had a guess as to what might happen next.

 

Chapter 6

In the small kitchen, Rachel Lea rinsed the plates with water from a bucket handing them to Adam to be dried. She was too embarrassed to say anything. When she finished, she didn’t want to turn around to face him. But he stepped forward wrapping an arm around her waist and turning her to him. Leaning down, he kissed her ever so gently. She did not resist, so he pulled her closer and kissed her with more feeling. Her arms wrapped around his neck then holding him there. When they parted, she saw the smile, the real smile with the dimple.

“Are we good?”

“We’re good.”

“Friends again?”

“Oh, I think we’re more than friends now.”

“I’m going to be here for another four to five months. I want to call on you. I want to spend time with you when I can. We may not have much time together because my work fills up most of my week. It may be too soon. I don’t know. It may be because I am so grateful to you for saving my life. I don’t know. I might already be in love with you. I don’t know. But I want to find out.”

It was her turn to kiss him.

“I’m sorry. I’m too emotional much of the time and I react without thinking things through. Apparently I am far too jealous too.”

“I have to admit to a few faults too, but the key to all this seems to be that we can get beyond those and still like each other and want to spend time together. We can see if we can work on the rest.”

“But no promises.”

“No promises.”

Four months later, both probably regretted that decision. In order to win the bonus, Adam worked twelve to fourteen hours a day and often worked half of the day on Sunday. That meant he saw Rachel Lea for Sunday dinner if she didn’t have nursing duties that interfered. There was little time for them to be together, but the time they did spend together was enjoyed by both. It wasn’t enough to cement a relationship though, and when it was time to wrap up the camp, they had to rush because Adam got a notice from Jason that they were needed at the bridge project that had run into some snags. Jake and Lady Bird had agreed to marry but wanted to do so with the rest of the crew present so they were anxious too to return to Denver and then pack what was needed to head to the Missouri River bridge project. Their parting was bittersweet.

“Rachel Lea, I’ll write as soon and as often as I can.”

“I’ll look forward to your letters.”

What he wanted to do, he didn’t do. What she wanted to do, she didn’t do either. It was a chaste and quick kiss before he boarded the train to head east. She walked back to the doctor’s office to find him standing on the small porch watching for her. He shook his head and walked back inside before she got there. Once inside, she had a question.

“Why did you do that? You looked like you were upset with me.”

“I’m not upset. You do look upset.”

“He’s gone. He said he would write. Do you think he’ll ever come back?”

“Oh, I don’t know. If I were a betting man.”

“You are a betting man. You play poker and faro more than any other man in town. Everyone says so.”

“Well then, I’d say about fifty-fifty or maybe a bit better than that. About the same odds I’d put on you, so between the two of you, I would guess it’s about a sure thing. The two of you are making it drag out though.”

“What are you talking about?”

“He’s in a civil war inside himself. He wanted to ask you to come with him but probably let all his doubts stop him from doing that. But he’s regretting it and will probably bury himself in work to try to forget. That won’t work. You wanted to run after him and ask him to please take you with him, but your pride or fear or something else held you back, and now you wonder if you lost the best chance at finding happiness that could have ever come your way. One or both of you will come to your senses at some point. More interesting will be to see which one of you breaks down your own will first. I’ll wait.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

With that, Rachel Lea went inside to organize and clean and do all the things she did when she needed to keep her mind occupied so her heart would stop breaking. The doctor knew there was nothing he could do. He had been in love, married, and lost his love. Familiar with all the emotions they were feeling, he knew how difficult it was going to be for them to sort out what was most important. They were smart though so he assumed they would figure it out. He thought it prudent for him to help Rachel Lea along and hoped there was someone who could do the same for Adam. Both of them were quite likable and he hoped they could find their way back together.

As the doctor predicted, Adam threw himself into work so that when he wasn’t working, he was sleeping. Jason sought out Jake to find out what was wrong.

“I think he fell pretty hard for the nurse in Reno who took care of him. Trouble is, he was too stubborn to admit it and tell her, and well, everybody else too.”

“He was on a rampage this morning again about the fact that we have such trouble posting letters or receiving mail either. I told him to go to one of the towns and get it done, but he refused. I miss my wife too, but I’ve never been as crazy as this.”

“You know she’ll still be there when you get back though, right?”

“Ah, I get your point. I’ll have a talk with him. He’s not as indispensable as he thinks.”

That night, Jason pulled Adam aside at dinner and said they had to talk. Assuming it was about the project, Adam agreed. When they got to their quarters, Adam began to go through the list of things he thought were wrong with how the bridge project was progressing especially that they were considering the effects of cold and water but not wind.

“In the West, wind is a major force and should be considered in every building project especially one that costs nearly three million dollars and over two years to build.”

“Less than two years.”

“What?”

“You weren’t here last year. They figured out how to bring supplies across the ice once it froze enough so they continued building. The only break in major construction was while the ice was thin. It halted the boats but couldn’t support even small sleds.”

“But then we won’t get a break in a month or two.”

“No, we’ll be right here through March. That’s the prediction for when this will be completed.” Then Jason decided to get right to the important topic. “And you shouldn’t wait that long to go see her. You’re already worried you’re going to lose her.”

“I suppose Jake or Lady Bird told you.”

“It doesn’t matter. They told me about her. I suppose it’s a good thing you won’t be able to go. They said she’s quite a bit younger. She’s probably too young for you.”

“Is age a limit on falling in love now?”

“No, but a young woman like that would want to have babies probably. I don’t think you want to start a family at your age.”

“I’m not that old.”

“Yes, but you don’t have a stable home. You travel all the time and live at construction sites in a tent in a work camp. How could you have a wife and children under those circumstances?”

“I don’t have to live like that.”

“So you’re going to go see her while you still have time?”

“I guess I would if I could, and I know what you just did there.”

Jason grinned. He had used all of Adam’s arguments before he could making him argue in effect against himself. He knew there was one more big problem, but it was not insurmountable. By his assessment, Adam was a good enough actor to take care of it.

“You’re worried because you’re under contract here until the job is done. I think there’s a way to break that contract without hurting your reputation in the business. Everyone knows how proud Dodge is of this design and doing the first one. He wants the railroad to make a lot of money because of what he is doing. You were spouting off to me about all the things that are wrong with the bridge and how it is being constructed. Go tell him the same way. Don’t be polite. I know you can do it.”

Staring at Jason for only a short time, Adam nodded. He knew what his friend had done for him already and appreciated it. Now he had to do as he had been advised. It wasn’t easy but he could swallow his pride and accept help.

“What do I say to her?”

“You’ve got about two days to figure it out. Despite what’s happened here, you are a reasonably intelligent man. Think of something.”

Shaking his head, Adam could only grin at his friend. “Pack my things while I go talk to Dodge. I may have to leave tonight.”

“Don’t get yourself shot. We do need to have jobs for our company to do. Nothing you said was wrong. He’ll understand that in time.”

“What? In ten years when the bridge falls down?”

“It’s that bad?”

“No, probably not, but it should be better.”

“I like the line about the bridge falling down in ten years. You might want to use that.”

An hour later, Adam was back. He had been fired as expected, but there was one surprise.

“I’m leaving tonight. When I said the bridge would fall down in ten years, he frowned. It was my parting line after I was already fired. He looked worried like I knew something he didn’t. If he cools off by morning, he may come looking for me to ask questions and maybe I won’t be fired. I need to be gone by then.”

“What about the questions he may ask?”

“Let’s sit down and I’ll explain what I saw. You already know a lot of this because you saw it too. It won’t take long for us to work out a reasonable set of answers for him. Whether he uses any of this or not is up to him, but we will keep our reputation of being honest even if brutally so in this case.”

In less than a half hour, Adam was on his way. He made a stop in Denver to get clean clothing, bathe, shave, and to see Jason’s family and pass on letters to Carrie and notes for the children. Carrie wished him luck and gave him a hug.

“She sounds wonderful from the little I have heard. Don’t you let her get away.”

“I hope it’s not too late already. There were only two letters waiting for me here. One was rather general and the second was short and wondering why I hadn’t written in so long and especially to answer her letter.”

“Did you write at all?”

“I did. I sent one right away, but then the work and the location made it very difficult. I did send a second letter, but that apparently never reached her. I got nothing so I didn’t know what to do.”

“Men can be so foolish. You were going to walk away from her weren’t you? Sometimes you have to almost lose what is most valuable before you realize how much you need it. Go to her on your knees if need be and beg her to forgive you.”

“That’s what I’m doing although that bit about the knees and begging isn’t part of who I am.”

“No, I suppose it isn’t. Of course you do have that benefit of her being in love with you.”

“How do you know that?”

“She was upset she didn’t hear from you. You’ve been on her mind. Only loved ones stay on your mind like that.”

“You may be right. It’s what convinced me that my feelings for her were stronger than I wanted to admit.”

“And your peace offering? You do have one, don’t you?”

He did and showed her and another item.

“Oh, that should do very nicely. Now go on. I wouldn’t want you to miss your train.”

On the way, Adam had a book to read but couldn’t concentrate. He even found it difficult to sleep although he did manage an hour or two a few times. When the train pulled into the station in Reno, he climbed down from the car, stiff, tired, and somewhat apprehensive. Yet he walked lightly on the way to the doctor’s office. Hope was in each step. When he got there, the doctor was sitting in a rocking chair on his porch.

“Good day, Adam. I told her it was a sure thing. She didn’t believe me.” Turning, he called out. “Rachel Lea, would you come out here please.”

When she stepped out and saw Adam, she didn’t know what to say so there was silence. The good doctor shook his head.

“Well, c’mon now, Adam. You’re not a boy. Take charge here.”

Moving up the steps, Adam wrapped an arm around her waist and turned her to go back inside and propelled her back toward the kitchen. Once in the privacy there where they had first kissed, he stopped and asked if she would allow him to kiss her again.

“I didn’t know if you would ever come back.”

“I’m here now.”

Doubts and insecurities had plagued her making her indecisive at this moment. Adam seemed to know that and kissed her as gently as he had the first time and then again. Next, he pulled a gift from his coat pocket and dropped the gold chain over her head. She picked up the gold locket and held it.

“Open it.”

Inside, there was a picture of Adam with a space for another picture beside it as well as another pair that folded out.

“There’s a place for your picture beside mine.”

“What are the other two for?”

“Our children.”

“What?”

“Yes, will you marry me, be my wife and the mother of our children?”

“What?”

“I’m sorry, but I remembered you having nearly perfect hearing.”

“You’ve been gone for months with no letters after that first one. You didn’t answer my letters, and now you show up and want to marry me?”

“Yes.”

Looking into his eyes and seeing his expression, she saw only love and concern. There was nothing there to make her say no and everything that told her to say yes so she did.

“Yes.”

“You’ll marry me?”

“Yes. I will marry you. I may be a bit crazy, but there’s something about you that tells me it’s the best and the right thing to do. I do love you. I think you captured my heart that first time we talked.”

“You captured mine as well except I didn’t know it until I left. I should never have left you behind. Now, how soon can we marry?”

“Where will we get married?”

“I need to tell my family.”

“My family will want to know too.”

“Will telegrams be acceptable?”

“Adam, they will want the wedding in Virginia City. Will that be all right?”

“I guessed that would be the case. My family will like that too. But I have to warn you that means we’ll have to do it again in Denver probably or at least have a big party there to celebrate.”

“You’re not looking forward to either of those occasions, are you?”

“No so much, but I am looking forward to being married to you, and if I can tell everyone that then those occasions will be worthwhile.”

“Doctor Adams here will want to be at the wedding too.”

“Of course, he will be invited.”

“What about all my other friends here?”

“All right, three weddings.”

They sealed that agreement with a kiss knowing they could work out the details later. Adam pulled a small pouch from his pocket next. Opening it, he showed her what else he had brought.

“I was worried that I wouldn’t find what I wanted here. So three weddings, but you only get one ring. I hope you like it. If you don’t, I’m sure we can find one you like in Virginia City.”

“Oh, Adam, I love it. It’s beautiful.”

The ring was engraved gold. Simple but elegant, it suited the man who gave it to her. She kissed him again to thank him for the ring.

“We should go tell my boss that he’s going to have to find a new nurse.”

“Unless we decide to live here.”

“We could live here?”

“It’s possible. With the trains that come through here, I can work almost anywhere. We can talk about it.”

There were many details to be worked out later as they had to determine where and how to live their life together, but they had a lifetime to do it. First though, they had a lot of people to notify.

“Telegrams or letters? Which do you think would be most appropriate?”

“A telegram first and then a letter to my family would work best for me.”

“I guess that would be the best for me too. I’ll do the same with Jason and Carrie. Who knew getting married could be so complicated.” He kissed her again because they were still alone and he could. “Now, let’s go tell the good doctor and then send off some telegrams. I want to get some nice stationery too for our letters, and I have to get a room.”

“Maybe you can stay here. I don’t think the little hotel here is going to be up to your standards. It’s rather loud by all accounts.”

“Let’s see what the good doctor has to say about that.”

There were complications.

“Rachel Lea, I know you are a good and moral person, but do you want to set tongues wagging by having Adam stay here when you aren’t married?”

“He would stay in the extra bedroom.”

“Of course, but that wouldn’t stop the gossip. Now there is a solution. Get married today.”

Rachel Lea was shocked by the suggestion, but after the initial surprise, Adam shrugged.

“Why not? Why wait?”

“But we haven’t even told our families yet.”

“We’ll send the telegrams, and then go make arrangements with the minister. It won’t take long. We can let people know as we go. By this evening, the word will be out and everyone who wants to attend can be there. I know you have a pretty dress.”

“Will we have a party?”

“I think an invitation to a potluck dinner should be sufficient. We can stop by the bakery and see what we can buy to add to the menu.”

The doctor got into the spirit of it. “It’s a small town, and we’ll take any social occasion we can get. I’ll help Adam with the punch.”

“Make sure there’s some for those who don’t want alcohol.”

“Rachel Lea, I know what I’m doing. I’ve been making punch for decades.”

There was a good turnout for the church service as the two got married. It only took about twenty minutes because Adam told the minister that many of the people had to work the next day. Then the potluck dinner was held outside. The weather was agreeable and the attendance included almost everyone in town. As the doctor said, any social occasion was met with favor. It didn’t last long though because as Adam had pointed out, most of the people had to work the next day. When the food and punch was gone, people headed home, but it had been a solid two hours of socializing suitable for a frontier wedding.

“Maybe we should have a potluck dinner in Virginia City too.”

“Why? Because it’s cheaper?”

“No, because everyone takes their dishes home at the end. There’s nothing left to clean up. It’s very efficient.”

“I’ve been to parties on the Ponderosa. Wouldn’t it be about the same?”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, instead of them taking their mess with them, we leave at the end and leave the mess behind.”

Arm-in-arm, the two were laughing almost all the way back to the house. It got a little more serious there as Rachel Lea realized it was her wedding night for the second time in her life. Knowing what could result brought a little heartache. Adam seemed to understand, but then she had more to tell him.

“Something I haven’t shared with you and probably should have. I was with child when my husband died. The shock of everything and perhaps the injuries I received although not serious to me were too much. I lost that baby. Now with the prospect of perhaps having another, all that has come back to me.”

“If it’s too much for you, we can wait. Remember, we only did this today so that tongues wouldn’t wag. We can stay together and travel together, and anything else we do together is when we want to do it.”

“No, I want to be with you tonight. Lord, I want to be with you. I only wanted you to understand if I got a little emotional. You know, I am that kind of person. I didn’t want you to think it was you. It’s everything.”

“Rachel, I want to be with you in everything not just in bed. You’re the first person in my life that has made me feel that way. I used to wonder if there was something wrong with me that I could walk away from people who should be close to me. I left so many people behind. I really like Jason, but if you told me that I would never see him again, I would be sad, and then I would find another partner, another friend. You are different though. I need you with me. I thought about you all the time when I was gone. I think about you often even when I’m here. I can’t imagine a life without you in it. I think there was something wrong with me, but you have changed me. You have found a way to my heart that no one else has ever done. If you said tonight that we were going to rest side-by-side, then I would be happy because you would be there.”

“Oh, I want us to do more than that.”

“Good, because I’m so looking forward to doing more than that too.”

So they did. Afterwards she rested in his arms and both worked to get their breathing and heart rates back to normal. She felt as well as heard the deep rumble in his chest as he chuckled.

“Well, that got a bit frenzied. It seems we let our emotions take over and things got a bit frenzied.”

“Yes, maybe next time, we could go slower and enjoy each moment.”

“That’s a good idea.”

“When would be a good idea to try again?”

Caresses and kisses told her that there was no time like the present. She thought it was a good plan too.

 

Chapter 7

In the morning, when Adam woke up, he had a feeling he did not remember having in his life. He felt he belonged. He watched Rachel Lea sleep by his side studying her profile and paying attention to every detail that he could see. He thought that he had loved in his life, but it was never like this. He loved his father and his brothers, but he didn’t want to be with them all the time. He loved Jason and Carrie, and when he saw them, it was as if he had never left. They were more compatible with him than his father and brothers so he was more comfortable with them. He would like living in close proximity to them, but he didn’t need to do so. Now he loved someone and knew he had to be with her. It would be painful not to be with her so he was going to have to find out how to have a successful relationship. It had never mattered so much before her. People wondered why none of his relationships worked out and he never married until he married Valerie. Well those relationships never worked out because he didn’t care if they did or not. With Valerie, he had cared because he was lonely and she was nice. So he courted her and made sure to treat her well, but some of that was out of respect and some was out of need. He wasn’t sure how much had actually been love.

Now with Rachel Lea, he wanted her and needed her as much as he liked and respected her and loved her. Her happiness was foremost on his mind when he made decisions. He was thinking through some things to do in the future, and one consideration was how Rachel Lea would feel about it. The more he thought about the concept, the more he wondered if there were stages or degrees of love. After all that they had been through, he believed now that his father loved his sons, but wondered if his father ever stopped to consider how his sons would feel when he was making a decision. There was a great deal of doubt about that.

Here, he and Rachel Lea were together less than a day and he already had more confidence and trust in her than anyone else he knew. Despite what he had said to others, he had thought he could walk away from her. So many times before, he had walked away from difficult situations because he didn’t care enough to stay and work out a resolution to differences. He and Lady Bird had similar feelings about that and had discussed it especially at length when she first talked about Jake.

“Adam, I always felt I had no place. I could live in two worlds and belonged in neither one. In one, I was white and would never really belong and share the traditions and lifeblood of the people no matter what I did. In the other, I was tainted and not fit to be with decent folk. I thought I would go on until I died, and there would be a stone at my head that said I was dead. No one would know from where I came or if I even had family to tell that I had died.”

“I know. I can live in so many different worlds and get along in them, but I don’t really feel I belong in any of them. I know some of each and not enough of any. What I’ve learned in one always seems to get in the way of getting along in another.”

“Yes, I know what you mean. It’s like having a war inside of you.”

“You try to do what pleases people, and it’s never enough.”

“I guess I thought we have to please ourselves. It was a selfish way of looking at the world, but it seemed to me that was how others did it.”

“You seem to have changed your mind on things though.”

“Yes, I have already, and if Jake and I can work out a few things between us, I think that life will make so much more sense for me. He said I got prettier after what you did for me in Hell On Wheels. At first, I thought that was funny, but now I understand.”

“Yes, you began to smile and look at people with interest once you realized they did mean the good things they were saying.”

“I didn’t know how few were actually creating the problems for me. I wish the others like Jake would have spoken up. Fear is a powerful thing though. It has affected my life so much that I can’t fault others too much for being held back by it. Don’t let fear or anything else hold you back. It’s time to find a way to stop wandering through this world and stake a place for you.”

“I wish I knew how to do that.”

“You’ll find a way if you listen to your heart. I did when I first met you. I decided to trust you and my life got better.”

“I’m glad for that, little sister.”

“I may not see you as much when Jake and I marry, but I want to tell you that I will always be your sister. If ever I can help you, know that I will be there. It is not because I owe you a debt. It is because you are the only one I consider family in this world now.”

Adam had walked her to the minister when Lady Bird wed Jake. It was appropriate as she had no other family to ask to do that. He felt honored. If things worked out as he hoped, he would be seeing more of Jake and Lady Bird soon too. So lost in thought, he had not realized Rachel Lea was awake.

“At first, I thought you were staring at my breasts, but then I realized you were thinking intently about something.”

“Oh, I started out staring at your breasts, but I couldn’t do anything so I began thinking of other things.”

“Like what?”

“I love you like no one I have ever known in this world. That you and I are going to be together forever, and if I ever do anything to jeopardize that, you have to tell me how to change.”

“I love you the way you are.”

“Rachel, I have never had a long-term relationship. The longest I had was with Valerie, and that was only a couple of years. I don’t know how I will do as a husband. Please tell me what you want of me. I will do my best to be the kind of man you want to spend your life beside.”

“You are that kind of man. I told you and I meant it. I love you as you are.”

Rachel Lea didn’t completely understand the tears that came to his eyes then. She knew she had said something profound but didn’t understand why it was so important. Her unconditional love was the key to open Adam’s ability to love. In the previous months, he had not understood why she pulled at his heart so much but now he understood. He knew there would be some difficulties, but he accepted now that she was willing to love him despite any flaws and work with him regardless of difficulty. She understood on a basic level how difficult a time he had with emotion. She moved to a more neutral topic to give him time to adjust and think things through.

“Now, we didn’t buy any stationery yesterday. We should get some and write those letters to our families.”

“Rachel, when’s the next passenger service to Virginia City?”

“On Monday. Why?”

“Why don’t we just go? We can send another set of telegrams telling them we’re on our way. We would get there as fast as a letter, and maybe we would get there faster.”

“You are all about efficiency, aren’t you? Yes, I like that plan. There’s usually a number of seats open but let’s make sure we get seats.”

“I do have to write a couple of letters. I want to tell Jason and Carrie, and I want to write a letter to Lady Bird too. She’s learned to read but I’ll still have to take some time to write it in simple sentences to make it easier for her.”

It was with some excitement that the couple headed to Virginia City. For the first time, Adam was happy to be headed there. His first trip there had been a mission based on getting justice and satisfying his curiosity. On coming back from being in the east, he was fulfilling a promise and knew he would be confined on the Ponderosa when his heart and mind wanted so much to explore the world and its possibilities. Loyalty and integrity brought him back. He had gone back for a visit after Valerie’s death and had been justifiably apprehensive. This time, he had no reservations. He was happy and intended that his family share in that happiness.

As they traveled, they talked of their future and their past. Adam smiled often now or at least far more than she could ever remember seeing him smile. At one point, he said he had to tell her about Jason, and why Jason and Carrie would have to be included in every important decision in their lives.

“When I met Jason, I was looking for a job, but not any job. I wanted to build, to design, to be able to leave something behind when I was gone. He told me to think as much of the present and the past as I did of the future. Our job was to pull them al together. He was a philosopher and that alone drew me to him, and the fact that he hired me helped too. But when he found out my past, he didn’t give me that look that most people do. He gave me that look like you did. It was a look of concern and a look of caring. He asked if there was anything I wanted to share about that time or if there was anything that he needed to do differently because of my experiences. There was no judgment, no negative responses of any kind. Then he asked if it would be all right to tell his wife what I had told him. He asked. It was such a surprise I wasn’t even sure how to answer. After being the subject of gossip so often, I didn’t even know how to deal with kind consideration.”

“He and Carrie must be very special. I’m looking forward to getting to know them.”

“Good because we go there next.”

On arrival, the couple found their two families were waiting and the assembled relatives cheered as the couple exited the rail car. Ben was wholly unprepared for Adam wrapping an arm around his shoulders.

“Pa, if you have any advice about marriage, I have to tell you, I would rather not hear about it. I’m looking forward to learning from my wife.”

Adam grinned then moving to his brothers and putting a hand on Hoss’ shoulder and on Joe’s as he stood with his three brothers.

“All right, if you were waiting for the oldest to get married before you do, I’m on my second marriage. What’s holding you boys up?”

Jamie gulped. “I’m not old enough, am I?”

Laughter greeted that, and the lighthearted tone carried on for the rest of the visit. Adam’s family was amazed at the transformation and didn’t understand it. As Hoss told them though, they didn’t need to understand it. They only needed to know he was happy.

Within months, Adam and Jason had established their new company with offices in Denver and Reno. Jake and Lady Bird moved to Reno to work with Adam as the other half of the crew stayed with Jason in Denver. Much of the work they did at first was with the railroads, but they knew that working in all those communities was going to get their name known all over the west. Eventually, there would be all kinds of projects for them.

In Philadelphia, the newspapers were being relentless in their pursuit of the criminal syndicate that was trying to take over the business life of the city. One after another, various enterprises were exposed and taken down because of public outcry once enough information was published. Gradually, the men who headed the organization got more and more worried that they were not insulated enough and might be targets themselves at some point. They had driven many of the advertisers away from the newspaper and couldn’t figure out how the press was able to keep financing these investigations.

As that drama in Philadelphia played to a dramatic finish, Adam and Jason met to go over business accounts and to catch up on what had been going on in their lives. Jason gave Adam copies of several editions of the crusading Philadelphia newspaper which had brought down a criminal syndicate.

“At first, I had wondered why you had given up so easily on going after the men who killed Valerie and my father and who tried to kill you. Later I wondered what you did with the money when I told you it was all right to sell the house because we were never going back. It does mention in the article there that an anonymous source has been funding the investigation. They finally got the bastards. It’s not for killing Valerie and my father, but it’s almost as good. They got them for arson in which a family died. Two of them were only babies. Those men will never get out of prison certainly not alive.”

When all Adam did was nod, Jason knew.

“None of this is news to you. They’ve been letting you know somehow?”

“Yes. Coded letters were sent through my bank. It was the only way we knew that the criminals would never think to monitor.”

“It’s why you’re living in that small house in Reno. You spent your money on this. Adam, the company can afford to give you money for a bigger house.”

“I don’t need a bigger house right now. As the company grows, the community grows, and my family grows, I’ll eventually get a bigger house. For now, it’s good. We’re comfortable where we are.”

“And is your family going to get larger?”

“Now that you bring that up, here’s a cigar. Yes, but unless it’s twins, we still have enough room.”

“I’m surprised you left her behind then.”

“My sister is staying with her.”

Startled at first, Jason remembered who the sister was. He smiled.

“How’s Lady Bird?”

“She’s doing well too. She and Rachel Lea have a lot to talk about. They’re spending some time getting things ready for the babies.”

“Her too?”

“Yes, Reno is a growing community. We’re glad to be part of it.”

“Is your father happy about the news? I’m assuming you told him.”

“Oh, he is thrilled. He comes to visit about once a month. My brothers come about as often. There’s usually passenger service about twice a week so it’s reasonably convenient. Rachel’s parents come to see us as often as my family. We’re getting along well.”

“Are you sure you don’t need a bigger house?”

“No, but we’re thinking of building a small hotel. The city could use another one especially with all the people coming through.”

“Now there’s a project the company should finance. It would be a good source of revenue too. I like the idea of diversifying.”

“And here I thought I would have to talk you into it.”

“No, with your business sense, and the way you plan, I’ll back your ideas. Do you have any others?”

“Not yet other than getting our own railroad car. For that job in Laramie for Crocker, he’s letting us use his car again. When we work for other companies though, we’ll need our own.”

“You plan to keep traveling with work even after the baby is born?”

“I’ll never stop traveling.”

 

NOTE:

At the time, no one seemed to understand what had happened to the ‘taken’ or captives. Some adjusted well on return to white society, but most struggled to adjust. There were many suicides or failures to thrive and some escaping to return to native culture. Today we know that they probably were affected by the following-

anomie or normlessness: most people strive to achieve culturally recognized goals, but people feel disconnected from their society when they don’t see their norms and values reflected in society. If someone is taught a set of norms and values but then must live in a society with a different set of norms and values, they don’t know how to succeed.

reactive attachment disorder: this is when children do not form the usual emotional ties to caregivers in their lives; adults with this may show behaviors that can include irritability, withdrawal, lack of comfort-seeking, not interacting with others, and avoiding physical touch. This can result from multiple traumas in childhood, neglect, or being taken from a primary caregiver after a bond has been formed.

Neither of these are conditions from which someone recovers on their own. It requires the intervention of another. Today it would be therapy and training.

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Author: BettyHT

I watched Bonanza when it first aired. In 2012, I discovered Bonanza fan fiction, and started writing stories as a fun hobby. I have hundreds of stories now. If I am unavailable and anyone needs permission to post one or more of my stories on a site such as Bonanza Brand, AC1830 and/or Mo1427 are authorized to give permission in my absence.

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