Only the Truth Can Fix This (by BettyHT)

Summary: A ‘guest’ at the Ponderosa reveals a secret that Adam had warned his father would inevitably be found out.  The family has to deal with the aftermath of the cruel truth.
Rating: T   Word count: 12,471


Only the Truth Can Fix This

Chapter 1 The Shocking Revelation

A ‘guest’ at the ranch:

The ranch visitor was about Adam’s age or a few years older. The scion of a Massachusetts magnate, Roland Long, he was there to help his father expand investments in western railroads. Acquiring a large ranch was on the list too. The businessman had asked if Ben could introduce his son, Randall, to men in the railroad business. Ben agreed and offered to host the young man on the Ponderosa for a week. Instead of expressing gratitude for the generosity, the guest delivered what might be something akin to the drawing and quartering of the Cartwright family.

“Adam, four years of attending college, but you have no degree? Why? You say you learned all you needed to know and needed no paper to prove it. You’re a proud man. Does anyone believe you put so little stock in that degree? Isn’t it the truth that you spent those four years from age seventeen to age twenty-one in prison for a malicious act. You did confess to that crime. But your age got you a closed secret proceeding, and then your fancy lawyers’ claim of extenuating circumstances, provocation, and lack of intent overwhelmed the frontier judge. With your father’s unexpected clemency plea, you got four years instead of the appropriate capital penalty for causing the death of Marie Cartwright. You even got to serve your time in Colorado under an assumed name. Correct?”

After their guest made his bombshell accusation:

“Hoss, will you go get our guest’s luggage. Joe, will you please go ask one of the hands to get the carriage ready to take him to town. I’m sure he didn’t expect to stay here after what he just said.”

“What about what he just said? I want to know if what he said about my mother is true. I want to know if what he said about Adam is true. I want to know why he knows any of this and I don’t.”

“Joseph, please do as I ask. We’ll talk after he’s gone.”

“I want to talk now.”

“Hoss, will you take your brother outside? Adam will you take care of the luggage please?”

Although Ben was angry, he knew his anger was small in comparison to what must be seething within Adam and the explosive anger he could see in his youngest. Their ‘guest’ had no idea how lucky he was that Ben’s sons were so self-controlled. His arrogance was such that he was still amazingly cheeky when he was left alone with Ben.

“Well, now that the youngsters are gone, I suppose you would like to know how I know what I know. In business, there are sometimes some unsavory details that have to be attended to and only unsavory men will take care of them. It seems a couple of them have had prison experience, and although you had your son in prison under an assumed name, there was enough information that was available to prying eyes. No one ever figured out a way to use it until now.”

“And what use is it to you?”

“All your business contacts whom I’ve met will likely not be so interested in working with you when they find out this bit of unsavory news about your chief negotiator.”

“You’re serious? That’s the motive for what you did? You know so little about the west. Jumping Jehosaphat, young man, half the men out here have some kind of unsavory history. It’s why they came out here. The rest may have done something out here that broke the law. This will hurt Adam and hurt his brothers, but it will not hurt us financially nor give you an advantage in competition with us or give you a chance to take this ranch. If you wanted those, this effort on your part was a miserable failure.”

“We’ll see. Business is like chess. I’ve seen a chess set here so I know you’re familiar with the game. Anything that works is in play. This is a gambit that may work or may not. We lose nothing either way so the gamble is worth the risk. My father wanted to test the opposition and thought you an adversary he could best. We’ll see. I’ll leave now, but I think you’re going to have more trouble than you think.”

“Young man, I would not expect your ride to town to be comfortable. You will likely find out more about the code of conduct in the west than you know but should have taken the time to learn.”

There was nothing more to say. The man picked up his hat and coat and walked out as Adam stood silent holding his temper and his desire to beat the man for his arrogance. As the door closed, he addressed his father. His voice was quiet and unemotional which for him showed how upset he was. Holding back his emotions always made him sound like he had none.

“Now that he’s gone, don’t you think this will hurt you too as well as my brothers?”

“Yes, it will, but I didn’t want to give him that satisfaction. You’ve packed your saddlebags. Are you leaving?”

“For a few days. I’ll let you work it out with Hoss and Joe. If I stay, I could be the victim of fratricide. I’ll find some things to do until Joe works it out in his mind, and then I’ll be. back before I leave for good. This is the final step I warned you about years ago. When the truth is out, then it will be time for me to go. It’s probably long overdue, but I was waiting for this. The truth will clear the air around here and fix some things that needed fixing. Although there will be new problems. How do you explain to Joe that you lied to him all these years? I guess I need to have an explanation too of why I didn’t trust him with the truth long before this happened.”

“And Hoss?”

Noting that his father didn’t challenge his premise that he had lied to Joe for years, he addressed only the question about Hoss.

“He didn’t seem as surprised as I thought he might be. I’ll talk to him before I go, but maybe he knew more than we thought.”

“This is all going to hurt you more than any of us though, isn’t it?”

“It won’t be that bad. The pain I suffered was over ten years ago when my lawyers, Roy, and a warden in Colorado believed in me more than my father did.”

As it always did, reminders of his failures then stabbed Ben in the heart. There was nothing he could do to stop that pain because he knew he deserved it. Seeing Adam stare at the fire as he often did, Ben wondered what he was remembering because he never talked about those years he was gone.

In the warden’s office in Colorado:

“The more I see of you, the less I think you could have done what they say you did. It’s not unusual for inmates here to claim innocence, but you don’t. In fact, you rarely speak at all. Most of the time, the quiet ones are those that I consider the most dangerous, but I don’t think you’re a danger to me or anyone here who is doing their job or doing the right thing. You’ve been in some fights already and spent time in solitary as a result. The guards have tried to watch out for you because of your age, but there’s only so much they can do.”

“I don’t want anyone to be hurt because of me.”

“Yet, you have hurt men in fights, and some of them quite badly. For a boy, you are quite a fighter. However, they will gang up on you now that they know they can’t beat you one-on-one. You will lose. You don’t have to look so defiant. I’m not trying to challenge you. I have an offer for you. We have an infirmary and a library here. Both need help. You can work in one or both. The jobs will keep you out of the general population except for meals. That can’t be helped unless you want to eat what the men in the infirmary get.”

“I could do that.”

“Wise choice. You are as smart too as I thought you were. How good are you at ciphering?”

“I’ve had practice doing ledgers if that’s what concerns you.”

“It is. I could use help in here too keeping track of expenses and payments. You wouldn’t actually handle any money only the paperwork.”

“I would be happy to help out, but I won’t do anything illegal.”

“An interesting statement coming from a prison inmate, but I believe you. No, I won’t ask you to break any laws. You’ll be entering numbers in a ledger and nothing more. Is that acceptable?”

“It is.”

A missed opportunity:

Returning to the present, Adam turned to his father.

“I never cried when it all happened.”

“I remember. You were so much stronger than I was.”

“I don’t think you saw what was happening then. Your memory is what you want it to be. I was more in shock than strong. The tears came later. I never cried again though until many years later.”

What Ben did remember correctly was Adam returning home after he was paroled. No one knew that the man under the assumed name assigned to Roy Coffee for supervision was actually Adam Cartwright. Roy sent in the reports and eventually Adam was fully free. However, Ben never got over how much those four years had changed his son and that he was responsible for causing them.

When Adam came home at age 22:

“You know I heard all the words my lawyers threw up in my defense. All those words claiming no premeditation, no intent to cause a death, it was not a deliberate act, and there was evidence of provocation or mitigating factors. At my age, I deserved a closed hearing and clemency. Those words are burned into my brain. I will never forget hearing those words. You know what I never heard in my defense. I never heard the truth. The one thing that mattered was never spoken. You asked for clemency. You never asked them to consider my innocence. You were not a man. You were not my father. That’s something else I can never forget.”

“Adam, I have no defense. After I accused you and then Roy talked to you and you agreed to what I had said, I didn’t know what to do. I knew it couldn’t be true, and yet, the only other thing to believe was that someone else had done it. I could think of no one else. At that time, I never considered that she would have done it on purpose or rather I could not accept that because then I would have had to realize it was my fault. I never thought that she would see our home and give up, let go the reins, and stop her horse so she would be thrown. I know now that is what must have happened. Marie killed herself rather than face me. I don’t believe she meant to die. I think she meant to kill our child because I had rejected her and the baby with such awful things I had said.”

“How could she face you. You couldn’t forgive her any more than you could trust me or believe me. The only person you trust is yourself. The only one you believe is yourself.”

“I was drinking too much. I was in no condition to think clearly or accept the truth. Roy tried to talk with me but he got nowhere. My grief and my stubbornness were only made worse by the drinking. There were other problems too. I know I’m too proud. I know I was too jealous. I will change. I will work to be a better man.”

“It’s too late. I’ve paid too high a price for that already. I came back to tell you what I had to tell you. I held it in for four years. No more. There had to be truth between us at least and one more too in my estimation.”

“Who else will you tell?”

“Roy. I don’t want him to think me a murderer at worst or a liar at the least. I’ll tell him.”

“I’m sure Roy already knows. Some of his comments to me have let me know that. If you tell him, by the duties of his office, he will have to do something more. It will hurt your brothers.”

“So, you win again. There are some rumors about me in town. Not everyone believes I went off to school after Marie died. Without the truth, I can’t live here. I never expected to stay anyway.”

“Adam, don’t go. Your brothers need you.”

“That’s probably true.”

“For all the reasons you listed.”

“I won’t be treated the way I was before. If I am, you will hear about it.”

“I understand.”

“I’ll stay a few years until my brothers are ready to stand on their own.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m not doing this for you.”

“It may take longer than a few years. Little Joe is only ten. He’s also quite a handful. I’m afraid it’s going to take all of us to get him ready to be a man.”

“At least he’ll keep these years interesting.”

“That may be quite an understatement.”

“Yes, especially when you tell him the truth of what happened to his mother.”

“That will hurt him. Do you think he ever needs to know that?”

“Yes, he needs to know the truth. He’s going to hear things especially when he gets older and some will try to rile him up with things they’ve heard. Only the truth will help then.”

“And hurt him terribly.”

“Is he the only son you care about?”

Gone for a few days:

That last question had been denied by Ben, but he knew Adam had doubts about that and would carry those with him probably forever because of his father’s actions. There was nothing he could say as Adam walked out of the house with his saddlebags slung over his shoulder. Joe came in pushed through the door by Hoss. It was clear that Joe had wanted to confront Adam and just as obvious that Hoss had prevented that from happening. Frustrated, Joe stood staring at the closed door for several minutes before turning to stare at his father. A short time later, Hoss was back inside to tell them Adam had gone. It was much later that Ben recalled that he had not followed up on Adam’s statement that he had not cried until many years later.

Later that evening, Adam stopped by Roy’s house:

“What are you doing here so late?”

“Wondering if a retired friend would like to join an old friend for a fishing trip for a few days.”

“Something happen at home that got you all riled up?”

“Not riled up but needing some time away. I thought of you as good company.”

“I’m not in the mood to sleep on the ground. Why don’t you put up your horse with mine out back? I’ll get some coffee on and we can relax; get started in the morning.”

“I do like the sound of that plan.”

“We are going to stay in a cabin, aren’t we?”

“Yes, my thought exactly. No need to have a sore back.”

“You bring any of Hop Sing’s cooking?”

“All that he would give me.”

“Sounds about right. When you’re ready, you can give me all you want to give me about what made you need some time away.”

“I will, but not tonight.”

“Fair enough. I’ll be ready to listen when you’re ready to talk.”

“Thank you. That’s what I needed to hear.”

 

Chapter 2 Explanations

Ben finally talks to his younger sons:

“Joseph, you especially are going to find some of what I tell you hard to accept. You have to know that no one is perfect. We all make mistakes and some of those can be quite serious. Your mother and I made some bad choices and those led to tragedy and to heartache as well as four years of misery for your brother. Some of what I’m going to tell you I learned after the fact. Some I should have known but denied. Some I knew but was too proud to admit or accept as my fault.”

“Pa, why don’t you just tell me and Joe what happened and not lay blame on nobody?”

“Yeah, tell us the worst and I’ll try my best not to interrupt you. Like Hoss said, tell us the facts. We can talk more about it all later.”

“It’s going to be as painful for me to tell as it will be for you to hear. I made many mistakes and my failures led to your mother’s death. She made mistakes too. We certainly proved we had faults. It started with problems between us. Marie wanted more parties, more excitement, and I denied her saying all our resources had to go to building up the ranch. She craved attention, and I didn’t give her any or certainly as much as she needed or wanted. She had the house and the children and nothing else. It wasn’t enough for her. She wanted and needed more.”

“You thought she was seeing somebody?”

“Yes, I was afraid she was. On that day when she told me she was with child, I said some awful cruel things and she left the house. I got my horse to follow her because I heard her ride out. When I finally caught up to her, she was on the ground in front of the house with Adam by her side. I challenged him. I asked what he had done. No, I accused him of doing something that had led to her death. He got his horse and rode to town. The next thing I knew, Roy Coffee was here asking what had happened. I told him what I had accused Adam of doing. He took that back to town and asked Adam if it was true, and Adam agreed with my version of the story.”

Both brothers were shocked, but it was Hoss who asked the next question.

“But why would he do that, Pa?”

“At the time, I was so unhinged, I think he was protecting me. He thought the two of you needed me more than him so he sacrificed himself. Most likely he expected that I would come to my senses and rescue him with the truth in days or a few weeks at most. He left here a hurt boy upset with me. Four years later, he came home, a hard man with resentment and anger boiling under the surface. It’s still there.”

“But why did my mother die? Everyone always says she was a great rider.”

“I don’t think she meant to die. I think she meant to hurt herself and lose the baby. Riding into the yard and seeing Adam, she must have known what I would have suspected based on what I had said to her. But she wasn’t used to being thrown by a horse and certainly she wasn’t used to the change in balance because of her condition. It was an awkward and violent fall, and she ended up landing on her head. Her neck was broken and she died soon after. Adam has never told me what she said in those last seconds of her life.”

“How do you know she said anything?”

“Joe, he was leaning down with his ear close to her as if he was listening. Then he looked at me and wouldn’t say anything when I yelled at him to tell me what she said.”

“He ain’t never said nothing about it?”

“Hoss, you know how well he can keep a secret when he wants.”

There was silence then as it seemed there was nothing more to say at least then. None would sleep well that night.

The next morning, a dialogue between Ben and Roy:

At dawn, the next morning, Ben rode to town believing he knew where Adam would go first. Roy walked out onto his porch when Ben arrived. He didn’t invite his old friend in for coffee making Ben suspect he knew why. When Roy told Ben he knew why he was there, it confirmed that Adam had already spoken to their old friend.

“I tried to tell you back then. When I got him in my office and talked to him, I knew he was lying when he confessed. He never said the words but let me say them and agreed that it was what happened. I knew he was protecting someone. I didn’t know it was you although I suspected as much.”

Well aware that Adam likely could hear everything they said, Ben decided to be as honest as he could be and take all the responsibility for what had gone so horribly awry.

“I preferred to believe my son had done something wrong rather than accept that my wife had killed herself because of what I had done. The words I spoke caused her to take horrible and foolish risks thinking she could rid herself of the child I had rejected and in doing so, rejected her. She had asked forgiveness, and what I had given was condemnation and more shame and heartache. She had sinned, yes. She confessed, she had failed me, but I failed her when she needed me most. Then I failed her again by not acknowledging that failure and placing it squarely on my son’s shoulders instead.”

“When did you know, Ben? When did you accept the truth?”

“That may be the worst of this terrible mess. I knew right away, but I wouldn’t accept it. I denied it to myself as well as to anyone else who might have asked. When Adam came home, he was so different, so hard. He told me the truth and there was no denying it was the truth. When he had confessed, it was because I was unable to even handle Marie’s death. Somehow, he knew I would be destroyed to have to accept that it was my fault. So, those words came out then when he told me that his brothers had needed their father more than they needed him. Because I had accused him, and a few others may have had heard my poison, it was the easiest thing for him to simply acknowledge that as the truth when you questioned him. It was all a lie, and after paying the price for it for four years, he was no longer willing to live with it, and said he was leaving. I had known it but had never faced it, never accepted the truth. It was devastating to face the truth about myself and to face losing my son because of my failures. I asked him not to go. I said his brothers needed him as a way to convince him to stay. I used his old argument against him.”

“That was another lie, wasn’t it? You needed him to cover the story you had been telling. If he left, the gossip would resurface and the questions would come back with you having no answers.”

“Yes, and now the truth is going to come out anyway, and Adam will take the brunt of it again when people find out he was in prison for four years and didn’t go to college. How do I fix this, Roy?”

“Ben, only the truth can fix this so all of you can move forward.”

“Yes, I know. I want to talk to Adam, but he left last night. Said he would be gone a couple of days. I came to town hoping maybe he came to see you.”

“You know he did.”

“Did he say where he was going?”

“He did.”

“Well, where is he? I want to talk to him.”

“You know that’s not a good idea. You need to leave him alone until he wants to talk. When has it ever worked when you tried to force him to talk. He’ll be fine. I’ll be with him the whole time.”

“You will be with him?”

“We’re going fishing.”

“But I can’t see him?”

“That’s right. It’s the truth and the right thing. You must know that by now. Go home. Talk with your other sons. They need you right now.”

“You’re right, but it’s so hard to walk away from the one who’s hurting the most.”

“It’s so sad that you didn’t see that fifteen years ago.”

Dialogue between Adam and Hoss at the line cabin where Adam and Roy are:

“You didn’t seem as surprised as I thought you would be or as upset by everything you heard.”

“I know you couldn’t have done what was said that you did. As to being in prison instead of in school, well, I always wondered about the school thing. Pa would never let us write directly to you. We always had to send our letters to your grandfather. When we wrote, we could never ask about school neither. Pa said you had enough worries about school without us bringing it up all the time. When you wrote to us, you never mentioned it neither and that seemed real odd for someone who had been so excited about going to school or had been before Marie died.”

“There must have been more than that.”

“Yeah, there were all sorts of things. Like when you came home without any books. You said they was being shipped here. When the crate of books came, there weren’t that many and they were all new. You spent an awful lot of time with them up in your room or sitting in the chair by the fireplace like you was hungry to get every scrap of knowledge was in them books. I couldn’t understand that for somebody who was supposed to have been doing nothing but that for four years.”

“You would make a good detective.”

“That ain’t all. There was something between you and Pa that was different than what was between him and me and Joe. You could stand toe-to-toe with him and argue with him, and he would even back down sometimes especially when you got your back up. It’s like he would see a certain look about you and know he couldn’t push you then. I always wondered what had happened to make that situation.”

“Any more?”

“Yeah, what we gonna do about Joe?”

“When he cools down, he’ll either know enough about me to know I couldn’t have done what I stand accused of doing, or he’ll act on his emotions and forever have to live with the consequences.”

“That’s a big risk to take. We ought to do something.”

“There’s only one person who can do something to fix this. He has to tell the truth finally or decide to continue hiding the secrets.”

“Adam, what are the secrets?”

“I don’t think it’s up to me to tell.”

“There is one thing you can explain to me though and that’s why you stayed all these years even though you were so unhappy here.”

“I think you might know that answer. You were old enough when it happened to remember how things were.”

“So, you don’t trust Pa not to fall apart again. You waited until you were sure me and Joe could handle things without him.”

“He drinks a little too much. He lets his temper rule his decisions far too often. He resists change simply because it is change. He trusts people because he thinks they are friends. Yes, there are reasons to want you and Joe to be able to handle things without him or perhaps despite him.”

“You can’t see the love, the caring, the support, and the advice he gives. You ever think your ideas are affected by what happened that time and you can’t see the good side of our Pa?”

“That one time? It went on for four years. He had four years to tell the truth and end my misery. He never did then not even when I came home and I’ve been here over ten years now. He buried the truth and wanted to let it stay buried, but our guest let it out. I warned him it would come out someday. However, even now, he wants to avoid telling what really happened. I think I can tell by what you’ve said that you don’t know it all yet.”

“There were and are only a few who know and they can’t tell. What good would have come from telling the truth then or telling it all now for that matter?”

“Can you look at Joe and ask that question?”

“Damn.”

“It is the truth, and truth has to stand for something. If we don’t stand for truth, then what do we stand for? There’s no need to tell everyone.”

“But what about when the truth hurts more than the story that is meant to soothe the hearts and minds of those who are hurting.”

“And no concern for the one hurt by the story?”

“It is a tough one. I guess I was trying to find a way out of this, and I only found a box canyon.”

“Just like being on the trail, you have to follow the trail and the trail in this case is the truth. Everyone in this family has to face it and then put it behind us, but some don’t want to do that. Some prefer the story and want me to be the one to bear the guilt for what happened.”

“That’s not fair. I guess the truth is the only way to fix this. Uh, one last thing I got to say. I’m real sorry about those four years you lost. That was the most unfair of all. I hope it wasn’t too awful.”

“Thank you for that, and thank you for bringing these supplies up here. When I saw a wagon coming, I was afraid it was Pa. I don’t want to talk with him right now.”

“I figured that. When he said you was going fishing with Roy, I guessed this was the likely spot and that you could use these supplies. I told him it was best if I went and he and Joe stayed put.”

“You’re a wise man, Hoss Cartwright.”

Joe has a soliloquy with Cochise as an audience:

“Who can I trust any more, Cooch? I know Adam could never have done what they said he did. That means there’s been a lot of lying done around here. Adam lied when he said he went to school. Anything he ever said about school was a lie. I know he could never have harmed my mother. I know him well enough to know he could never look me in the eye if he had hurt her. I doubt he could live here and see me every day if he had done what was said.

So, something else happened and Adam paid a heavy price for it. I have no doubt he spent those four years in prison. I saw him look at Pa when that was said. He was shocked at that being revealed, but Pa was ashamed. I could see it in every part of him. I want to know what really happened. I think Adam was protecting Pa back then and is still protecting him. It’s what he does. It drives me crazy sometimes when he does that for one of us. I want the truth this time and to hell with protecting anyone. I deserve to know what happened.

Pa said there was a lot more going on, and I should let it go. Well, I can’t. I need to know. I was furious with Pa when I asked what else happened, and he gave me the answer that the story is more than I can imagine and that I need to control myself. I guess he controlled too much over the years and it’s time to let the truth come out. Only the truth will fix what is upsetting me. Only the truth can fix this. I’m going in to ask some questions, and he’s going to have to give me some answers.

Joe wants to know more from their father and Hoss mostly listens:

“Joe, there are so many parts to this story. Where do you want me to start?”

“With anything you haven’t told me yet.”

“Adam has gone off for a few days. He figured it would be better if you heard the story and had a chance to think it all through before he came back. What I can tell you with all certainty is that he didn’t do anything to cause your mother’s death.”

“Why would he be accused of it then? Why would he go to prison for it if he had nothing to do with it? Someone must have done something for him to take that kind of responsibility. We all know how he takes responsibility for things when he thinks he should have done better or he’s protecting someone else who should have, so what happened? Which is it? What is the rest of the story that you don’t want to tell that involves Adam?”

“You’re still trying to make Adam responsible. I’m telling you he did nothing that had anything to do with your mother’s death. He has no fault in that at all. No one caused your mother’s death.”

“What are you saying about that day? What happened? Why did my mother die?”

“Your mother rode into the yard at breakneck speed. She let go of the reins and didn’t hold her horse back at all. In fact, she apparently spurred him on. When he was forced to stop by the house and everything here in his way, she looked up, and flew up and over his head to land on the ground extremely awkwardly. She did not want to die.”

“Then why did she do that? She had to know she could die by doing that?”

“She was with child and I think she was only thinking of ending that. She was impulsive and emotional. Often, she didn’t think through her choices.”

“Like me. She was like me.”

“Yes, in some ways, she was. Now, you’re very upset. It would be better if we talked tomorrow after you’ve had a chance to calm down some and think about what you already know.”

“Pa you ain’t told us much. Mostly you said what didn’t happen. When you going to tell us what did happen like who got Mama so upset she wanted to lose that baby? Not tomorrow. Tell us now.”

“She was upset with me, but that is a long story and an upsetting one. I do want to talk to you about that tomorrow. That does involve Adam and I wish he would be here when I tell more of it, but I don’t think he wants to be part of the telling of the story. I guess that may be some of the challenge he threw down before me as to whether I can tell the whole story honestly and completely.”

Adam and Roy talk while fishing:

“So, this guest of yours just up and told the whole thing right there and surprised you all with it. Now how did he know?”

“Benjamin Franklin said that three can keep a secret if two of them are dead. It was bound to come out. Too many knew even if the number was small, and someone was going to find the information useful or think it was.”

“Do you think your father is going to tell your brothers the whole story even the ugly parts now?”

“It was my advice to him, but you know how he is.”

“I do. Giving advice to Ben Cartwright is like giving medicine to a dead man.”

Falling back on the stream bank, Adam had one of the best laughs he had had in a very long time.

Hoss demands the whole truth:

“Pa, me and Joe feel like you’re still holding back. You need to tell us all of it. It ain’t the truth if it’s only part of the truth. Ain’t you told us that leaving out part of the truth is the same as lying? When I saw Adam, he said by what I was saying that he knew you hadn’t followed his advice and told us all the truth. So by that, you’re still lying to us.”

Caught out by his own rules of behavior, Ben had no choice.

“I was so jealous and I began to suspect Marie was seeing someone. I saw her openly flirting with Adam which made me furious. I know now she was toying with him. You know how boys are at that age. He was an easy target for her amusement. I doubt she had any idea the difficulties she was causing him because he knew how I was reacting but could do nothing to hurt her.”

“The rock and a hard place for him.”

“Yes, Hoss, and I made it worse making some comments that were cruel blaming him for her actions. He even asked if he could stay in the bunkhouse with the men. I even misunderstood that thinking he wanted to avoid my supervision. When Marie came to me and admitted she had strayed and had been with another man, I exploded and said Adam was no man. She of course denied it was Adam and then said she was with child and that made her realize what was important, but I didn’t listen. I accused her again of having Adam father a child with her. She was shocked and humiliated and so hurt that I’m not sure I could ever have healed our marriage. I can see how upset you are with me. When she ran out of the house in tears, Hop Sing came from the kitchen and told me in no uncertain terms that I was a fool. He told me that the man she had seen had only been there once and they had ridden off together. He made it clear that Adam had done all he could to avoid her flirting and that was all it had ever been. She had been ashamed of her one time with the other man and had come home, taken a bath, and burned her dress. Hop Sing told me about her tears. It was then I realized what a fool I had been, but sadly that didn’t last.”

“Then she rode back and had the accident which wasn’t no accident?”

“Yes, Hoss, and then all the jealousy and the hurt pride came spewing out in nasty accusations. Adam couldn’t even speak with all that I said. I told him to leave.”

“And because of all that, our brother went to prison for four years and you did nothing about it. Pa, how can we ever face him again. I feel ashamed that it was because of my mother, but I am even more ashamed of you. How can you face him after what you did?”

“I have tried to be a better man and a better father. I have tried to make his sacrifice mean something. What else can I do?”

“Pa, I think me and Joe got an answer for that. Try harder.”

 

Chapter 3 Adam Leaves Home

Adam comes home only to announce he’s leaving:

“If you know all of it, there’s no reason for me to say anything. It’s not an easy time for me to remember and think about. If I can avoid discussing it, I will.”

“But what if we have questions. It was my mother who died then. I want to know everything I can.”

“Why, Joe? What is there to be gained by knowing every detail you can find?”

“I just feel a need to know.”

“You’ll get over it.”

“You can’t know that.”

“No, but it is a logical conclusion to draw.”

“I can’t sleep at night thinking about all of this. I have trouble even looking at Pa or especially talking with him.”

“Has he changed because of these revelations?”

“Of course not. It’s that I know more about him.”

“So you’re the one who’s changed?”

“I guess so.”

“Joe, if I can forgive him, talk to him, and look him in the eye, why can’t you? No, he didn’t do anything to my mother. He did it to me. But it is part of why I have to leave. You can’t let it go now, and I’ll always be a reminder to you of what happened. You are persistent. You’ll have these questions of me, and I don’t want to be questioned about what happened. I don’t want to go to town to face the questions there either now that our guest has been so open with his news there too. It’s the truth, but that doesn’t mean it’s something I want to discuss with anyone.”

Hoss has some advice for Adam as he plans to leave:

“You don’t think you can ever be happy here?”

“No. There are too many memories here that get in the way. Too many questions to answer that I don’t want to answer.”

“Then I think the problem isn’t here. The problem is in you, and you’re gonna take it with you wherever you go. You ain’t gonna be happy nowhere. If you don’t put those memories away and lock ’em up forever, you can’t be happy. You’re locked in the past and you ain’t got a future. I know it all hurt you real bad, and I’m powerful sorry about that, but healing means bandaging up your wounds and letting them heal. It’s all out now and you can heal if you want. It’s up to you what happens next, but I think you need to give healing a try before you run away from it all.”

“I’m not running away.”

Shrugging, Hoss walked away letting his brother think about what he had said. He had not wanted an argument, but he meant what he said. For years, he had known his. brother was sad about something and that there was something festering between Adam and their father. He had no idea what it was, but there had been comments that had let him know it was serious. Although their father needed to heal too, it was Adam who was wounded more seriously. Their father’s wounds were self-inflicted and could only be corrected by him taking corrective action which he seemed to be doing. Adam needed the support and love of his family to made the recovery that was necessary. Hoss was going to do all he could to stop his brother from leaving before he had achieved that healing.

Joe wants to know what Marie said just before she died:

“Joe, it was difficult to understand and I can’t even be sure of what she said. I’m not going to repeat what I thought she might have said. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone. I can never ask her if that’s what I heard or if she said something else. The horse was making so much noise, and Pa rode in and started yelling. It wasn’t like it was a clear statement that I can just tell you. It was some garbled words.”

“So, you won’t say?”

“I think I’ve explained that well enough. I’m done talking about all of this. It’s time to move forward.”

Joe walked away in a huff not satisfied but knowing Adam’s logic was impeccable. He had no argument that could counter it.

Adam watched him go and was sad for what he remembered and for having to keep this secret. The words had not been garbled. They had been all too clear, but he felt the little white lie was necessary and justified under the circumstances. It went against his nature, but the truth in this case was too awful to admit to anyone. “It is all so sad, my Adam. He hates me his child that I carry, but he never ever questioned the birth of the one he adores who is not his. Joseph wasn’t born early. He was just small like his father. The shock of those words must have shown when he looked up at his father who demanded to know what she had said. He couldn’t say it then, and could never say it after. It was a secret only he was ever destined to know. Hoss told him to lock up those bad memories and this was certainly one that needed to be locked away. He considered what Hoss had said about his future and if his brother had accurately assessed the situation.

Adam tells Ben he is definite about his plan to leave:

“Hoss said he talked to you about leaving, and you seemed committed to the idea.”

“I am. I am not comfortable living in this house any longer. I need to have my own life and not be in my father’s home at my age. I can’t go forward if I’m living here.”

“When will you go?”

“Tomorrow.”

“So soon? I had hoped there might be a bit more time.”

“We’ve had a lot of time, Pa.”

“Then there’s no time to put this off. You made a comment that has troubled me since you said it. You said you cried when this all happened fifteen years ago and never cried again until many years later. When did you cry again and why did you cry? Was I the cause of that too?”

“I had hoped you missed that. I had not meant to let that slip out the way it did.”

“It’s good that it did. It must be something important.”

“Very important.”

“Please share it with me. If we’re going to move forward, honesty needs to be part of it, doesn’t it?”

“Pa, for years, I doubted your love for me because you didn’t come to rescue me when I was in jail and then in prison. I didn’t know how you could let me suffer that way and stay here with my brothers blissfully living your lives when I was so miserable. I came back and it seemed I wasn’t treated like my brothers. When I was in trouble, I always felt it was up to me to get out of it. I didn’t think you would be there for me like you always were for my brothers. It seemed Joe and Hoss could mess up and be forgiven innumerable times, but any mistake I made was met with such strong disapproval.”

“It wasn’t disapproval, it was shock. You are so smart and capable, I never expected failure from you.”

“Well, anyway, when Kane had me captive in the desert, I thought I had to find a way out. I didn’t expect help. When I was walking through that desert with no more water, no food, I was exhausted and thought I was going to die. I couldn’t save myself that time. Then you were there. You came to help me. I cried knowing you must love me to spend all that time to find me and save me.”

“Adam, I always loved you. I do love you, son.”

“I know that now. I knew it then. It’s not why I’m leaving.”

“Why are you leaving?”

“It’s exactly what I told you. I want my own life separate from yours. I will make my own decisions about my future. Right or wrong, they will be my choices. It’s a change that is long overdue.”

“As difficult as it is to accept it, you’re right. It was selfish of me to hold you here. I did what I did to help me, and I wasn’t considering your needs. Anything I can do to help?”

“Let Hoss and Joe free tomorrow to help me move out?”

“Of course. You need both of them? No, forget that. It’s not my business. I’m only being nosy and I need to stop that.”

Adam had to smile at that and got a sheepish smile from his father in return. They were still working on the change in their relationship, but Adam was not going to backtrack this time.

The next night, Ben went to Adam’s room:

“It’s empty. It’s completely empty. Even the pictures on the wall are gone.”

“Pa, Adam did say he was moving out. He told you he needed both me and Joe to help. You had to know he was taking a lot of his things.”

“I guess I did, but I had no idea it would be everything. How can he possibly travel with so much?”

“Oh, he’s done traveling already. Me and Hoss got him settled into his new place. Took us the whole day, but it looks pretty good. It will be comfortable for him at least.”

“How could you possibly get him moved and settled in the span of one day? Where is he?”

Hoss put out his hand and Joe dropped a gold coin into it. Hoss had won the bet on how long it would take before their father asked that question. Ben knew he had done something that settled a wager and assumed it was his question about Adam’s whereabouts. Although he wanted to know, he ignored that and waited for a response.

“Adam is going to live in the northwest line shack while he works on building a house a bit closer to Carson City. He said he’s done with the gossip mills of Virginia City and how quick they are to believe the worst they hear about him regardless of all he’s done to help people in that city. Me and Joe got a lot of the same feeling about that. He plans to do some work in Carson City and some here on the ranch.”

“How can we possibly work that out?”

“He told me and Hoss he would be here Monday morning to tell us that. He’s got some things he wants to work out over the next few days.”

Refraining from asking anything more, Ben would have to carry the frustration with him. He knew how difficult it was going to be. For the first time, he was going to have to accept that he had no way to know what a son was doing.

Saturday afternoon, Ben took a ride to look at the cabin where Adam is staying:

When Ben said he was going for a ride, both Hoss and Joe cautioned him that he should not go see Adam. When they saw the look on their father’s face, they knew they had guessed correctly.

“I don’t know why I can’t talk to my own son.”

“Because he told you with the message he gave us that he wants to talk to you on Monday morning. You need to show some respect to his decisions. You said you would change, and like me and Joe said, you need to try harder.”

“Can I at least ride out that way and look at the cabin? A half-mile away, there’s a hill where that cabin can be seen quite clearly. Would that be acceptable?”

“Hoss, that should be all right, shouldn’t it?”

“Yeah, and maybe you should ride along to keep it all right.”

“I was thinking that too.”

“I do not need a keeper.”

“Not a keeper, Pa. Joe will be company.”

Hoss got a scowl for that comment, but he and Joe were not about to back down. About an hour later, Ben and Joe pulled their horses to a stop on that hill overlooking the cabin Adam had chosen for his home. Sitting outside it was the wagon he had taken from the Ponderosa, and it was loaded again.

“With all the stuff Hoss and I helped him put in there, I didn’t think there was much room for more.”

About that time, Adam came out of the cabin but he wasn’t alone. A blonde woman was with him. He took two items from the wagon and she took one. They brought those into the cabin and then did the same thing two more times. They watched a bit longer as Adam pulled the wagon behind the cabin and unhitched the horse. He put the horse in the corral and then returned to the cabin. The woman met him on the porch with a kiss that said they were lovers because only lovers would be entwined like that when kissing. Releasing her from the kiss but not his embrace, Adam backed her through the open doorway into the cabin. When the door closed, Ben wheeled his horse to return home.

On returning to the ranch house, Ben knew better than to vent to either son so he said nothing. However, he couldn’t get the image out of his mind. That Adam had a woman with him in the line cabin churned in his system making him moody and quiet.

In the line cabin, the mood was distinctly more upbeat. The couple was learning more about each other and discussing their future. Both had made a somewhat drastic and abrupt change in direction in their life and needed time to adjust. Living in this cabin was what they needed to do that.

“It was quite a shock when you showed up. I never thought I would see you again. Even though I hoped your shadow would fall on that walkway again, it seemed most likely it was only a dream. I made so many mistakes with you, I didn’t think there was a chance.”

“I made mistakes too. I was too proud. I need to learn to forgive the mistakes of others as much as I hope they can forgive mine.”

“And now, we may make more.”

“We might, but we’re together. We’re committed to each other so we better work together or the sacrifices won’t be worth it.”

“It’s going to be a challenge. Now that it’s known that I have no college education, it will be difficult to get jobs doing what I want to do. I want to put everything I’ve learned into our house. Then I can use it to convince at least one man to let me build a house for him. That should be enough to get started.”

“And you’ll work on the ranch too?”

“On my schedule though. I’ll do what I can when I can.”

“And your father won’t like it?”

“No, probably not, but he’ll have to get used to it. He won’t have any choice. Just like I’m sure he wasn’t happy not being able to ride over here this afternoon. I can only imagine what he thought when he saw you kiss me like that. At least you were fully clothed.”

“You could have told me we had an audience.”

“I could have. I didn’t want to. That kiss almost made me forget they were there anyway.”

“You are wicked sometimes. Of course, I like that about you. I like most things about you. It’s why I said yes when you asked me such an outrageous question.”

Adam’s visit to Placerville:

“You called me by another man’s name once. If you agree to be my wife and live with me and accept my love with all the uncertainties of a future with no definite plans, you can call me any name you wish.”

“I have a lot of questions.”

“Let’s talk.”

“There’s something else we should do first.”

Touching his cheek, she moved close to him smiling as his arms wrapped around her. When they kissed, the emotional connection between them was rekindled. It was as if a year had not passed. When they broke from the kiss, she turned slightly to address the bartender telling him she was quitting her job and would be leaving town. She turned back to Adam.

“We can talk up in my rooms.”

“We can talk every day from now on. It’s getting late in the day. Let’s go find the minister and get married first. Then we can go to your room and talk and pack up your things at the same time.”

“Now that I’ve quit this job. I won’t be needing most of the things I have in my room.”

“Good because I only have a wagon here to move your things.”

“You were so confident you brought a wagon to move my things?”

“I was hopeful and wanted to be prepared.”

Grinning with his most boyish look with dimples, Adam knew she wouldn’t be able to resist him. However, the patrons in the saloon didn’t know what was happening except it seemed some stranger was taking away their beloved friend. A group of them stood and advanced on Adam intending to rescue their friend. It was her turn to grin as she pivoted to face the men but stayed close to Adam.

“I love him. We’re getting married. There’s nothing you have to do for me. I’m as happy as I could ever be.”

“You’re getting married?”

“I am.”

“To him?”

“Yes, to him.”

“But you hardly know him.”

“I know him in possibly more ways than you can imagine.”

“Oh, is he the one made you cry last year when he left?”

“Yes, but that wasn’t his fault, and now he’s back, and we’re getting married.”

Although Adam hadn’t been planning on a big wedding celebration, that’s what happened. It turned out well though with an impromptu collection for a wedding gift that gave her a purse full of cash. She left her extra dresses for an auction to benefit the local fire department. The rest of her possessions were packed in Adam’s wagon, and they left the next day.

As they traveled and Adam explained all that had happened, she asked some questions. They learned more of each other’s history and more of what had happened recently.

“So, you left home but still live on the Ponderosa. You will work on your own career but will also work on the Ponderosa. How is this so much better than what you had before?”

“What I do will be my choice just like where I live now and going to get you to live with me. We’ll have our own home and make our own decisions. No one else will have the right to tell us what to do with our lives.”

“I hope it works out that way.”

“If it doesn’t, we can leave.”

“I guess that might be the best assurance that it will work.”

 

Chapter 4 A New Life

Marriage:

“What’s your favorite part of being married?”

“Adam, we have only been married for three days. It’s a little early to have a favorite part, isn’t it?”

“My favorite part is this. Waking up in the morning with you by my side and knowing I won’t be alone any more is a good feeling.”

“You lived with your father and brothers. How were you alone?”

“It’s a difficult thing to explain, but I never felt I belonged at least not completely. It seemed I was always on the edge, not quite fully a part of the whole. I know it was my perception that was the issue, but this is real, and I know it’s what I want.”

Pulling her closer, he kissed her waiting to see how she responded and that let him know she wanted what he did. Caressing her and kissing her, he initiated the preliminaries of lovemaking.

“This has to be your second most favorite part of being married.”

“Actually, I think this is part of number one.”

Her chuckle at that was muffled by the kiss they shared.

Later she asked when she would meet his family. Resting in his embrace, she could feel his physical reaction to every question or statement. Sometimes that was as informative as anything that was said.

“Tomorrow morning, I’m supposed to meet with the family to discuss what work I will do on the ranch. Do you want to ride over there with me?”

“You’re a little tense. Do you expect the meeting to be difficult?”

“My father is a little hard to predict in situations like this.”

“Based on how worried you seem, it seems he may be more predictable than you’re admitting to me. You expect him to be upset that we’re married?”

With that, Adam had to smile.

“No, actually, that part may be amusing. He saw us yesterday and couldn’t know we were married. He’s likely to be upset thinking I brought a woman here. He’s always been so adamant that we not bring women here to the ranch for carnal pleasure.”

“So where did you go for that?”

“Oh, we often brought them to the ranch, but never to the house. Picnics or other excursions worked well to cover up activities we didn’t want him to know.”

“But he probably knew.”

“I assume so. He couldn’t possibly expect me to have remained celibate to my age.”

“Of course not. What about me? What is he going to think about me?”

“Ah, he isn’t going to have any problem with you at all. I should tell you a bit about Marie and some of her past. He was willing to let her past be her past. He will do the same for you.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Absolutely. Anything less and he knows he will lose a son.”

The family meets Adam’s wife:

Monday morning, Ben and his younger sons were up early. Even Joe who usually slept in as much as he was allowed, was up with his father and Hoss without prompting. Chores were done before breakfast as the three waited for Adam to arrive. About the time they would normally have been served breakfast, they heard a wagon arrive. Trying to appear calm, Ben walked to the door and opened it to greet his son who escorted a pretty blond lady through the door.

“Pa, this is Ann.”

“Welcome to the family, Ann.” Offering his arm, Ben escorted her toward the table. “Have you had breakfast? We ate already waiting for you to arrive. We’re all so happy that Adam is finally married.”

Surprised, Adam stopped so suddenly that Hoss ran into him almost knocking him over. Joe started to laugh.

“Hoss, we finally got him.”

Staring at his father, Adam was astounded.

“How did you know? I thought you would be upset. I saw you on the hill on Saturday.”

“Oh, I was much as you expected at first. But then I thought about it. I think I know you well enough. If you were going to make that kind of commitment, it wouldn’t be a lukewarm one. It would be all the way. So, you must have married the lady. It was the only thing that made sense.”

“Logical.”

“We’ve been talking. I suppose the two of you have too. Why don’t you let Hop Sing bring out some breakfast, and we can compare notes.”

“Compare notes?”

“Son, has being married affected your ability to speak?”

“No, of course not. I’m just surprised.”

“Well, sit down and have some breakfast. We have some ideas and we’ll compare them to your ideas and see what we come up with for a plan. You’ll have the final say, but you might like some of our ideas.”

Sharing ideas:

“So, you want me to continue negotiations including going into Virginia City to meet with the bankers and others as necessary.”

“Yes, when it’s necessary. The news that you spent time in prison seems to have had an unexpected effect on your reputation. Some now think they know why you’re so dark and dangerous and have even more concern that they shouldn’t cross you. Others have great sympathy for what you went through and think you should have a break. Anyone who speaks against you gets put in their place pretty darn fast.”

“I’m not sure I want to deal with any of that now.”

“You won’t have to. The next set of negotiations for contracts is in Sacramento. We thought perhaps you and Ann would like to go there. You could go there early and stay late so you could have a bit of a honeymoon too.”

“When are they?”

“One month from today.”

“I can do that if Ann is agreeable to the idea. I want to build a house too.”

“We have some ideas about that too. Hoss and Joe told me that and came up with a plan. Joe, do you want to lay it out?”

“Yeah, well, Adam, Hoss and I don’t have your knowledge of timber and lumber. We thought maybe you could handle most of that. You could set up the cutting you needed for the contracts you negotiate and for the house you want to build. Then you could organize the lumber mill to produce what you need too. If you plan it all, you could have both projects running at the same time.”

“What would the cost be for the materials I need?”

“No cost for the house for you and Ann. Anything you build later for your business, you set a fair price for the ranch and work around the contracts we have.”

“What about the other work on the ranch?”

“Hoss and I will handle the rest. Without the timber and lumber operations, we’ll have the time to concentrate on those. If you agree, we think we should sell our mining interests.”

“I agree, but there will be times I need help with any or all of that.”

“Yes, and we could say the same. I guess that would all be something we would have to work out as we go.”

Hoss was grinning at the look of wonder on Adam’s face.

“We did get you, didn’t we? We couldn’t wait for you to get here thinking you had to like these ideas. There’s one more surprise that we don’t know how you’re gonna feel about. Two men who are gonna be at that meeting are two you are likely gonna want to beat on. Roland and Randall Long plan to be there and take over the contract negotiations and win. They been buying up tracts of timber and some lumber mills. They think they know enough to win those contracts now.”

“Have they won any before this one?”

“This will be their first.”

Adam grinned then and looked at Ann.

“Why do I have the feeling that the Longs, father and son, are going to be humiliated in about three weeks?”

“It’s possible if I get a lot done before we go to Sacramento.”

Sacramento:

“What do you mean we didn’t win the contract? How could anyone have possibly given you a better offer than we did?”

If anyone at the meeting had any doubt that Roland Long had no idea of proper behavior, his outburst removed all doubt. Others who had failed to win a bid walked away quietly with some even congratulating those who won vowing to give them a better contest next time. No one was ever so uncouth as to protest especially so loudly and publicly. Because he invited the humiliation of an honest answer, he got it the railroad representative, Daniel Hastings.

“It was pointed out to us that bids as low as yours were not realistic and that your company faced bankruptcy in trying to deliver at that price. The alternative would be to deliver inferior goods or fail to deliver on time or at all. Also, as we know, anyone who would stoop so low as to be a guest in a man’s home in order to try to undermine and destroy his family to gain an advantage in business is not someone to be trusted in business. All of us could be victimized by such a scoundrel. From the moment the two of you walked in here and removed your hats instead of tipping them as is the custom here, we knew you knew too little of our ways to properly conduct yourselves here. You would alienate any with whom you came into contact further jeopardizing your ability to deliver a contract. Two of the other bidders agreed to work together to make sure the contract would be met and at a reasonable price. Both are well established in business here and are well-respected which you are not. In fact, one is building a house with all sorts of modern marvels and has invited me to be his guest there when it is finished to see if I would like any of those in a house I plan to build in the Sierras. The offer was made freely and without any strings attached. It is how gentlemen in the west live. Now, perhaps you should go back east.”

“If you were in the east, I would destroy you and your company.”

“That is the point, isn’t it? This is not the east.”

Roland and Randall stormed out of the room. Anger was all that they had. When they consulted attorneys, they found there was nothing they could do. Back at the hall, there was some fine whisky being shared and there were chuckles all around.

“I would guess there would be some tracts of timber coming up for sale soon and probably at rather low prices. Perhaps a lumber mill or two might also soon be for sale.”

Looking over a Barney Fuller with whom he had created a temporary partnership, Adam raised an eyebrow.

“No, I don’t want any lumber mills, but I do want those timber tracts. I don’t have a Ponderosa.”

“I’d like the ones that border the ranch.”

“Fair enough. I’ll go for the others. We won’t be competing against each other then. It’s good doing business with you. Good luck telling your father about the arrangement we have.” Barney stared at Adam a bit longer. “I don’t think the Longs realize you were here. That beard does a good job of disguising your appearance. If you hadn’t contacted me in Virginia City to set this up, I don’t think I would have recognized you here.”

“I plan to shave now. Incognito is not necessary any longer.”

“So, what’s next?”

“We get busy fulfilling that contract as soon as we get the specifics for delivery. That should be within a few days or a week at most. Meanwhile we can wait to see if there are any pending fire sales. Ann and I plan to spend time relaxing and enjoying ourselves too. Tonight, we’ll have a nice dinner in a restaurant that was recommended to us.”

Final confrontation:

In the hotel room, Adam was able to tell Ann that his plan had worked. He shaved then which pleased her because she wasn’t fond of the beard. She said it covered up too much of his gorgeous face.

“You keep talking like that, and we’re going to be late for dinner.”

Ann put two fingers over her lips.

“All right, later then.”

She nodded and he smiled. Pulling on his jacket and pulling his tie tight, he offered his arm. The left the suite to go to dinner, but in the lobby, unfortunately, they met the Longs.

“You! You must be the one behind this.”

“I was, but you certainly made it easy.”

‘You cheated.”

“I thought you told us that in business, anything that works is in play. No laws nor rules were broken. Arrogance and overconfidence can be a deadly combination in business though especially when combined with ignorance.”

Randall took several steps forward then, so Adam moved in front of Ann and met him with a hard right cross and vicious left upper cut. Randall was laid out on the floor.

“My son, you attacked my son.”

“I was protecting myself and my wife.”

Because of the commotion, constables were called. They looked to the hotel clerks and managers for the story of what happened because of the conflicting versions they were getting.

“Mister Long accosted and then advanced on Mister Cartwright. Mister Cartwright stepped in front of his wife to protect her. Mister Long did not back away so Mister Cartwright defended himself and his wife.”

“Mister Cartwright, do you want to prefer charges against Mister Long?”

“No, I think it’s settled now.”

“Wait, I’m the one who was hurt here.”

“Mister Long, we had word earlier of you creating a disturbance at the Gentleman’s Club. Now, you have created a disturbance here. If we get another report on you, we will arrest you whether we have a request for charges or not.”

Turning to the hotel manager, Adam had a question. “My family often stays here. Are we to expect that we will be safe here on our next stay?”

“Yes, sir, you will be. I will make sure of that.”

The manager whispered to two clerks. Then he made an announcement.

“Mister Long and Mister Long, your luggage will be delivered here shortly. The hotel will pay for the conveyance of your choice to take you to other accommodations. You are no longer welcome here.”

“You can’t kick us out.”

“If you refuse to go, these constables can arrest you for trespassing.”

As the furious Longs walked out ten minutes later, Adam whispered to Ann.

“We’re going to have champagne with dinner.”

On the way out, Adam handed an envelope with generous tips for all involved to the desk manager who smiled. The Cartwrights were always gentlemen and quite generous to those who helped them out. For the roles they played, the constables would be enjoying steak dinners and mugs of beer later.

Leaning into her husband, Ann whispered. “I have never found you as attractive as I find you right now. Let’s skip dinner and go back to the room.”

Pivoting and walking back to the main desk, Adam ordered dinner to be sent up in an hour. Then they headed to their suite leaving a smiling staff in their wake.

When Adam was away busy with the timber business, Ann stayed at the main house and told all the stories to the family, but that last part wasn’t mentioned. However, all the other parts were told in detail to the delight of the family that the Longs received frontier justice or the Adam Cartwright version of it.

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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.

16 thoughts on “Only the Truth Can Fix This (by BettyHT)

  1. I wasn’t to sure I wanted to read this story, when I read Adam had been in prison, him being my favourite. But I know you write wonder full story which I always enjoy so I gave it a go, it was brilliant and I read it twice. So many twist and turns in it, Ben maybe wasn’t as good a father as we expected, but Adam protected him, as was his way. Glad the truth came out, and Ben does redeem his self . Excellent ending with Adam being able to move on, and start his own family.

    1. Thank you so much for giving the story a try and especially for the wonderful compliment and reading the story twice! I often do put Adam through a lot, but most of the time, the ending is a happy one.

  2. Different story Betty, but I actually liked it. Ben treating Adam like he did, was just shocking, but eventually things sorted themselves out and as always Adam did it his way, in his style. Loved how Roy gave him that early support as eventually his brothers did. Glad to see the return of a fav character in Adam’s life. Always kind of liked her. Always good to see the bad guys get their come-up lance too and nobody does that quite like our Adam. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much. I was getting in a rut with stories and needed to shake things up a bit, and really went out of the box on this one, but some have liked it. I’m glad you did.

  3. Have you read Wicked by Gregory Maguire? It is The Wizard of Oz from the Witch’s point of view. Anyway, this is kind of in that genre. I loved it. You made me think of some things. Marie entered the Cartwright’s lives around the time Adam stated puberty. Was Marie closer to Adam’s age than Ben’s? Was Ben jealous of Adam? Was Marie pregnant when she met Ben? Was Ben Marie’s way out of New Orleans? Did Adam’s hot stepmom make him the envy of his friends?

    1. Thank you so much. Not quite in the Wicked realm, but certainly an AU story. I wasn’t thinking of Marie being interested in Adam. She was an adult and closer to Ben’s age. Adam was embarrassed by any such attention at his age. As pretty as Marie was, Ben was just generally jealous.

  4. Betty, this was really different. I think this would go in the AU pot and with that in mind I really enjoyed it. I’ve read so much fanfiction that some of it bleeds into the actual TV show. I think there were enough threads in this story to make it semi-plausible. My heart broke for Adam but I think it was very much in his character to protect his father and his brothers. I have always felt Ben was too domineering so some of this fit with that belief. So I have to tell you I enjoyed it very much. I especially love Marie‘s last words. I would love to know how you come up with all these different ideas. You have an incredible imagination. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, it is labeled as an AU story because it is far out of canon. Yes, I agree with your evaluation of Ben, and those last words might become a prequel story at some point. It’s a possibility although it would be a short story probably.

  5. With the opening scene I knew this was going to be quite a ride. It was intriguing to see the changes in each person as they dealt with truths of the matter. No matter how painful, the truth is still less painful than the alternative. An excellent ending and I felt many things were handled “Adam Cartwright style”. Enjoyed this story very much.

    1. Thank you so much. Yes, Adam certainly does show his style in this one. He does have help though from Hoss and somewhat from Joe to get things straightened out. Most are committed to the truth in the story. There is only one who is resistant and that is resolved too by the end. It does start with quite a bang, but it comes full circle with that ending you liked.

  6. This twist is interesting. Ben is not always the person he appears. . It is good to see some stories that portray him in a different light. He has a quick temper. He often expects perfection from Adam and is slow to apologize for his mistakes.
    It is good that Adam knows his father so well and is able to forgive him and move forward with his life in a way that he can have his family and his freedom.

    1. Thank you so much. Yes, Ben fans may not like the early part of this story because it does take a critical look at him, but he does get to redeem himself eventually. As you say, it often does take him too long to apologize or to make things right with his son. Adam does a good job forgiving and moving forward in this story, but he does have significant help especially from Hoss.

  7. Histoire bien spéciale avec un grand nombre de facettes. L’histoire de la naissance de Joe reste une trouvaille. La suite et le final sont tout simplement digne d’un grand écrivain.

    1. Merci beaucoup. Je suis contente que cette histoire insolite vous ai plu.

      Thank you so much. I’m glad you liked this unusual story.

  8. Hallo
    I read it twice. I like your style and your other stories but this storyline is to far fetched. This is so not in character of the Cartwrights , in my believing. Nice try but not my cup of soup. I thought not to reply but you are such an excellent writer you deserve the truth how i feld after reading it twice. Please keep writing this is only my personal opinion.

    1. Thank you for reading. I knew this one was pretty far out and wouldn’t be everyone’s ‘cup of soup’ and that’s all right. Sometimes I need to experiment with doing things that are different.

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