Maureen Saxon Barkley sat in her history class studying notes for a test the next day. Her gold-rimmed spectacles fell down her nose and her long black hair fell over her shoulders.
For the last two months she had carried the name of her father; Barkley. Her mother was a famous singer in the south. Her father was a well-known lawyer in Stockton. He had come to see her once at Butterfield, the private school she went to, on Parent's Day and she had gone to see him four times in the last two months. Jarrod hadn't known her his whole life, but he said that he loved her. He was glad that she was his daughter.
Maureen liked her father and his family, but she was very unsure of the love she could have for him. She was wary of saying that she loved him or didn't know if she wanted to. Still it was nice to have a face and name to go with her absent father.
Maureen pushed a stray lock of long black hair behind her ear, when a student prefect came into the room. The prefects were 17 years old and lorded it over the younger ones. She often tried to stay out of the prefects' way, but if she remembered one prefect had slapped her 2 weeks ago after her last visit to Jarrod. She silently hoped that she wasn't the one who was in trouble.
"Maureen Barkley, come up here," the teacher barked harshly.
Darn. It was her. She wracked her mind wondering what she did that would warrant this much trouble. She stood up, her stomach churning nervously. She stood in front of the prefect, face expressionless.
"The headmistress wishes to see you. She says you have a visitor," the prefect said, her voice conveying no trace that she even cared for anyone, but herself.
The practice of three months had taught her not to melt with relief. The prefect could hit her for it and that would be just fine with the teacher.
She followed the prefect down the hall and into the headmistress's office. Maureen nearly laughed for joy at the sight before her. It was Jarrod Barkley; her daddy! The look on his face was enough to tell her he looked just as happy to see her.
"Maureen!" Jarrod exclaimed, running to his daughter and taking her into his arms. He hugged her tightly.
"Dad! Daddy, what are you doing here?" Maureen asked, raining her head from her father's chest to look into his bright blue eyes.
"I came to see you. Can a father not come to see his little girl? Especially since I missed out on your life for nearly fourteen years?" Jarrod said, running his hands through her black hair so much like his own.
"Your father has asked if you could accompany him on a business trip. I'm giving my permission," the headmistress said, having none of the warm moment between Jarrod and Maureen.
"Yes, Miss Mergendoll," Maureen said, her face turning from happy to frowning.
Jarrod looked at his daughter's face closely. She was happy to see him. That was obvious. But she apparently wasn't about to show how much she was thrilled to see him in front of the headmistress. Something was wrong here.
When Maureen turned to pack her clothes she overheard Miss Mergendoll say something to Jarrod.
'You see, Counselor Barkley, our girls learn respect for authority from day one," Miss Mergendoll said, sounding like the cat that swallowed the canary.
"Yes, I can see that. But what of love? Don't the girls have to know that someone cares? Or even loves them?" Jarrod asked, his voice stiff with anger and his blue eyes glacial.
"We haven't time to do that, Mr. Barkley. If the girls want love they should get it at home," Miss Mergendoll said, infuriating Jarrod further.
Jarrod took a few deep breaths to control his anger. "My daughter will spend the rest of the year with you. If she is not happy by summer break, I'm taking her home to Stockton," Jarrod said, his anger barely controlled.
10 minutes later Maureen came down the stairs to where her father and Miss Mergendoll were waiting, relieved that she could leave the school for a few days.
Jarrod drove away from the school gates in the rented buggy, Maureen sitting next to him. Maureen pushed the stray strands of black hair out of her face, letting the cool November air brush it. She breathed a deep sigh that seemed to come from her toes.
"Happy?" Jarrod asked, not missing the sigh. Considering Jarrod was a lawyer he wouldn't miss something as small as a sigh.
"Yes, Dad. I like being away from school for a few days, but I don't know why you'd take me on a business trip with you," Maureen said, her lovely face wearing an expression of confusion.
Jarrod stopped the buggy so he could look into his daughter's blue eyes. Last time he had talked to her in a buggy she had jumped from it. Their relationship was better than it used to be, but Maureen had trouble comprehending how much her father loved her.
"Well, I like to spend time with my little girl. I've only seen you four times in the last two months," Jarrod smiled as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder and hugged her tight.
"I know and as I said, I'm glad this gets me out of school," Maureen said.
"You know, you could come live with me in Stockton. You don't have to stay at that school," Jarrod said, running his fingertips through his daughter's black hair.
Maureen almost jumped at that idea. Moving to Stockton! Getting away from these awful people who ran the school!
"It's all right, Dad. I haven't complained. I'll stick it out," Maureen said reluctantly. She really wanted to leave the school, but she wasn't about to quit something because she hated it.
"I know you haven't. I just don't want you to be unhappy, Honey," Jarrod said, concerned that there was something she wasn't telling him.
"Well, Butterfield is not Louisiana. I do feel a little homesick at times," Maureen admitted honestly.
"Like I said, Honey, if you feel like you have had enough I can come get you," Jarrod said, starting up the buggy again.
"I'll stick it out, but I do feel a little tired, though. I've been up since five o'clock this morning," Maureen said, yawning a little and rubbing her eyes tiredly.
"I don't even wake up that early. Will you be able to stay awake, Maureen?" Jarrod asked, keeping his eyes on the road.
"I guess. Where are we going first? Your apartment in San Francisco or the train?" Maureen asked, rubbing her tired eyes again.
"I have to pack my clothes for the trip. We can let you sleep while I get my things together," Jarrod said in a voice that Maureen knew not to argue with.
"I'll have to eat something also. I don't really get very big portions at breakfast, lunch, or dinner so I'm hungry all the time," Maureen said.
"Well, young lady, your old father knows a place that cooks southern food," Jarrod said, covering his worry over what he had just heard with a light tone.
"You're not old, Dad and they do? Do they have shrimp Creole over rice and sweet potato pie?" Maureen asked, her blue eyes shining with joy and her mouth watering at the thought.
"I don't know. I saw this place a few days ago and I immediately thought of you," Jarrod said, nearly laughing at the happy change in his daughter.
"It sounds good, Dad. I've kind of missed that kind off cooking," Maureen yawned again. She rested her head against her hand and watched the scenery for the rest of the trip to the city.
The next day Maureen was riding the horse that her Uncle Heath had given her. She was completely rested. After the southern dinner last night Jarrod had insisted that she go to bed early so she'd feel more refreshed for this day's trip.
Maureen thought of how Jarrod had managed to keep Jingo close to her horse so they could talk during the trip. Maureen had learned to ride on her father's horse two months back and it felt funny not to be riding Jingo.
"Dad, what's the name of the town we're going to?" Maureen asked, trying to get her mind off how depressing it was not to ride Jingo.
"It's called Bakersville. My friend George Ackers and his wife, Alicia, will like you," Jarrod said, knowing full well that Maureen was disappointed that she wasn't riding Jingo.
"Really?" Maureen asked warily. A lot of people didn't like her because of the fact that her mother was a spy for the south.
"Yes. Who knows, they might want to adopt you," Jarrod teased, with a huge smile on his face.
"Very funny, Dad," Maureen said with a slight smile on her face.
'Who said I was trying to be funny?" Jarrod asked, not willing to stop teasing her.
"Dad, stop!" Maureen said, sounding like her uncle Nick.
Jarrod stopped his horse and looked into his daughter's bright blue eyes, so much like his own. After two months it was still hard to believe that this was his daughter. That when he looked at her, he would see himself in her bright eyes and smile. Maureen also carried her father's personality and it gave Jarrod a jolt to see his good qualities along with some of his faults too.
Maureen was stubborn and pigheaded, just like her father and had a tendency to be smug when she thought she was right. The rest of her mannerisms were her Uncle Nick's. She shouted and when she had first met her father had gotten into trouble. It was enough for Jarrod to be overprotective of her.
"Maureen, I was just teasing you. You are my daughter and I love you," Jarrod said, dropping the teasing voice.
"I know you love me, Dad," Maureen said, averting her eyes from Jarrod's.
After two months she truly did know that Jarrod did love her as if she'd been with him all her life. She wished she knew him well enough to say that she loved him too, but she did care about her father. That was why she wanted to say it. She just didn't know how to say that she loved him.
"Let's rest the horses awhile, Honey," Jarrod said, his voice close to breaking. Having a daughter was awkward to him as having a father was awkward to her. But he loved her with an instant love that only a true father could feel.
Maureen dismounted and handed the reins to her father. After a couple of months of being a Barkley, Maureen had learned to ride as well as her father.
Maureen sat down on a log that was before a babbling brook and pulled off her shoes and cotton socks. The cold water lapped around her ankles, causing her to sigh with happiness at the refreshing feeling in her feet.
Maureen looked around as she tried to keep up with Dad. The town of Bakersville was like Stockton. It was bustling and crowded.
"Maureen, try to keep up with me!" Dad called back to her, breaking her out of her train of thought.
Maureen turned her bright-blue eyes toward her father. He was looking at her with a stern expression on his face. Uncle Nick may have shouted a lot, but Jarrod Barkley took the cake when it came to being strict.
Having her father angry with her was pretty awful. He didn't shout, but he made you wish that he had yelled and screamed.
Maureen pushed her horse into a swift canter as she tried to catch up to her father.
"I'm sorry, Dad. I was just looking around," Maureen said, knowing that her excuse was pretty lame.
"When we are not in Stockton, young lady, I want you to stay close to me. Do you understand?" Jarrod asked, dismounting from his horse in front of the hotel.
"Yes Sir," Maureen said, her voice small.
Jarrod wrapped his arm around Maureen's shoulders as they walked into the hotel. The hotel manager straightened up when he saw the two.
"May I help you, Mister?" The manager asked politely.
"Yes. My name's Jarrod Barkley and this is my daughter, Maureen. We need two rooms tonight," Jarrod said, signing the registration book.
"Of course, Mr. Barkley. Rooms 2 and 3 upstairs on the right," the manager said handing the keys to Jarrod.
"Thank you. I'm also looking for some friends. Did the Mendoza brothers register by any chance?" Jarrod asked, before putting his booted heel on the first step.
Something in the manager's facial expression changed. The politeness was gone. "No, I'm afraid they have not, Mr. Barkley," the manager said, his words rushed.
Jarrod and Maureen looked at each other. Being a lawyer Jarrod knew when someone was lying and Maureen had inherited the exact same trait. This man was hiding something. That much was obvious.
Jarrod and Mauren went up the stairs and to their rooms. Jarrod handed his daughter her key. "Daddy, that man is hiding something," was the first words out of Maureen's mouth.
"Yes. I think the Mendoza brothers were here and that man knows it," Jarrod said, gently cupping her face with his hands.
"Then why would he lie like that?" Maureen asked, cocking her head slightly, her blue eyes showing the confusion Jarrod felt.
"I don't know, Honey. we can get cleaned up for supper and go see Harry. He's the sheriff. He might know what happened," Jarrod said
Maureen nodded her head and unlocked the door to her room. After stepping inside and shutting the door, Maureen unbraided her black hair and started to brush it out thoughtfully.
Maureen didn't know the Mendoza brothers, but it sounded as if they were in a heap of trouble.
After a long nap and changing into a nice dress Maureen opened the door to her room and went to her father's door. It was about dinnertime.
A thought crossed her mind that Jarrod might have been at the sheriff's, but that thought went away as soon as Jarrod opened the door.
"I'm ready for dinner," Maureen said, feeling kind of dumb. The look on Jarrod's face at that announcement made her feel even dumber.
"I was just getting ready to knock on your door," Jarrod said, sounding as if he were about to laugh at her.
Maureen felt her cheeks turn red. While it was nice having a father; it was pretty embarrassing to have someone who thought like she did. Maureen covered her face quickly to hide her red face.
"Don't do that. You look cute when your face is the color of a tomato," Jarrod said, not willing to stop teasing her.
"Dad, shut up!" Maureen hissed, her blue eyes filming over with tears at being teased like this.
Jarrod saw how the tears were close to falling down. "I'm sorry, Maureen," Jarrod said, putting his hands on her shoulders and pulling her into an embrace.
"It's okay," Maureen said raggedly.
Jarrod and Maureen went down to the dining room and sat down at the table.
"Hi. I'm Sally. What would you folks like to eat?" A waitress asked, placing menus in front of Jarrod and Maureen.
"Give us a few minutes, Sally," Jarrod said, opening the menu.
"Certainly," Sally said, smiling at Jarrod. Maureen couldn't miss that smile. The girl obviously liked her father. Sure he was good looking, but he was her father!
"Dad, that waitress likes you," Maureen whispered, looking over her menu at Jarrod.
"I know, Maureen. I saw the smile too," Jarrod said, reading his menu.
Maureen rolled her eyes as she looked at her menu. Maureen wanted her father and mother to be married and it didn't seem right that Jarrod would marry someone else.
Halfway through dessert Sally brought the bill. Sally started to flutter her eyelids at Jarrod as he quickly looked the bill over. Maureen rolled her eyes, thinking that her father may have been smart, but was awfully thick about how much Sally liked him.
"There's going to be a dance later. Are you and the young lady going?" Sally asked, after Jarrod gave her the bill.
"I don't know. I have to go see the sheriff about something," Jarrod said, his voice indicating that he didn't know Sally was asking him to the dance.
As soon as Sally left Maureen couldn’t keep her annoyance in any longer. "Daddy, she was asking you out! I can't believe you couldn't see that!" Maureen hissed quietly.
"I noticed what she was doing, Maureen," Jarrod said, making Maureen feel even more angry with him.
"You knew?" Maureen said, her voice rising three or four octaves.
"Maureen, lower your voice. People are staring," Jarrod reprimanded, looking around the restaurant.
Before Maureen could think of a reply a tall man with blond hair and blue eyes came up to their table. "Jarrod!" The man greeted him warmly.
"George, how nice to see you!" Jarrod said, standing and shaking the man's hand.
"How have you been, Jarrod?" George asked, sitting down in the vacant chair next to Maureen.
"I'm fine, George. George, this is my daughter, Maureen. Maureen, this is George Ackers," Jarrod introduced the two.
"I didn't know you had a daughter, Jarrod," George said, looking at Maureen.
"Neither did I, George. I married her mother during the Civil War. I didn't know what kind of person she was until after I married her. She told me and I divorced her. I just recently found out that she was pregnant when I annulled the marriage," Jarrod said.
George looked at Maureen again. "I can see where she gets her looks, Jarrod. So what brings you here?" George asked, changing the subject.
"I'm here on business. And I thought Maureen could stand to miss a few days of school and come with me. The Mendoza brothers asked me to come here and buy some land. Have you seen them?" Jarrod asked his friend.
George was a prominent lawyer in Bakersfield and he would have told Jarrod if he had seen his friends.
George's face turned from friendly to cold. Maureen noticed the change just as quickly as Jarrod did. "I'm sorry, Jarrod. i have to go see the sheriff about something," George said a little too abruptly.
George rose and practically ran out of the hotel dining room. Jarrod and Maureen looked at each other with puzzled looks.
"I thought he was a friend of yours? He looked as jumpy as a mouse with a cat in the room, Dad," Maureen said, as soon as George was out of earshot.
"Something's wrong here. Really wrong," Jarrod said absently. It was as if Jarrod hadn't heard Maureen's comment.
Sally came at that moment carrying Jarrod's change from the bill. "So, are you still going to go to the dance with Maureen and me?" Jarrod asked politely.
"I didn't know you were a friend of George Ackers. I'm really tired. I've been on my feet all day long. I'm going to bed," Sally said abruptly. She then ran out of the dining room.
"Okay, now something's really wrong, Dad. A few minutes ago she was laying the honey so thick the bees were getting drowned in it," Maureen said, causing Jarrod to smile at the expression.
"You're right. Finish your dessert. We're going to see the sheriff," Jarrod said firmly.
Maureen hoped that Jarrod's sheriff friend knew what was going on. Something had happened to the Mendoza brothers that neither the hotel manager nor George Ackers would talk about. And the waitress had asked Jarrod out and changed her mind five seconds later. Yep, something was really wrong.
Sally was walking outside of the hotel when Jarrod and Maureen greeted her on the sidewalk. "May we walk with you?" Jarrod asked cordially, as he took Maureen's hand.
Sally reluctantly agreed. "So why did you decide not to go to the dance?" Jarrod asked, in his best lawyer's voice that Maureen found particularly irritating.
"I told you I was tired," Sally said, trying to tell Jarrod subtly to drop it.
"You weren't tired before George Ackers came and sat down beside us," Jarrod said pointedly.
Sally's expression changed from acting dumb to truying to avoid the topic.
"Where are the Mendoza brothers?" Maureen chimed in for the first time.
"Who are the Mendoza brothers?" Sally asked, her lying not very convincing.
"Sally, everyone I have asked has tried to avoid the subject of the Mendozas," Jarrod said, his cordial tone dropping.
"Mr. Barkley, you and your daughter look like nice people, but I try to avoid asking too many questions. All it gets you is hurt," Sally said, her voice trying to warn Jarrod.
"That's a good rule sometimes. But Sally, we have to now where the Mendozas are," Jarrod said urgently.
"Please, just leave it alone," Sally said, going up the stairs to her room.
Maureen looked at her father. "What now, Dad? She's definitely not going to tell us where the Mendozas are," Maureen asked, looking up into her father's bright blue eyes.
"We could ask the sheriff. There is something going on here. Some secret. I don't like it," Jarrod said, squeezing her hand gently.
Jarrod and Maureen walked across the street, not knowing that Sally was watching them from an upstairs window.
Jarrod and Maureen walked in companionable silence down the street. Someone had to break the silence. "We're not any closer to finding out about the Mendoza brothers, Daddy," Maureen said, trying to keep up with Jarrod's long strides.
"We'll find them, Maureen. Everyone around here knows what has happened to them. We'll figure out the deep dark secret around their disappearance," Jarrod said, stopping to hug his daughter.
"Jarrod! It's great to see you!" A voice yelled over at Jarrod, interrupting the father daughter moment. Jarrod and Maureen looked over at the sheriff, greeting Jarrod nicely for the first time since they had arrived in town.
"Tom," Jarrod and Maureen walked over to the man and Jarrod shook hands with him.
"How's everyone and your ma?" Tom asked cordially.
"They're fine. Tom, this is my daughter, Maureen. She's having a few days off from school to come with me on a business trip," Jarrod introduced his daughter to his friend.
"How do you do, little lady?" Tom asked, shaking Maureen's hand.
"I'm fine, Sir," Maureen answered.
"What brings you and Maureen to my town, Jarrod?" Tom asked, getting down to the subject.
"The Mendoza brothers. They wanted to sell me some land and when I came here they were gone. Do you know what happened, Tom?" Jarrod asked, hoping that his friend could tell him.
Tom's expression got a shuttered look in his eyes. "Nope. You know how Mexicans are," Tom said uncomfortably.
"No, how are they?" Jarrod asked, his voice turning slightly steely. Maureen knew that voice well. It indicated that Jarrod was getting angry.
"It was no offense meant, Jarrod." The sheriff said quickly. Apparently he knew Jarrod's temper as well as Maureen. "They probably just got homesick for Mexico and left. Now, when are you and Maureen leaving?" The sheriff asked a little too quickly.
"You want us to leave, Tom? We just got here," Jarrod asked, feeling slightly confused over Tom's actions.
"No, no. I am the sheriff after all. I just don't want any trouble here," the sheriff said, again giving the indication that something was very wrong here.
''There'll be no trouble," Jarrod said, looking at Maureen out of the corner of his eye. Apparently she was thinking the same thing that he was.
"Good. See you, Jarrod, Maureen," the sheriff said, walking into his office. Jarrod and Maureen looked at each other puzzled as they walked down the street. Something had happened to the Mendoza brothers. The sheriff like everyone else was hiding something. First Sally and now the sheriff. Maureen felt herself wondering how many more secrets she would hear before they found out the truth.
Jarrod and Maureen walked quietly down the street, both thinking about Sally and Tom's strange behavior.
"What do we do now, Dad? The Mendozas are not here," Maureen asked, looking up into her father's clear blue eyes.
"I don't know, Maureen. I should go look for them, but what about you? I can't leave you here by yourself," Jarrod said doubtfully.
"Why don't I go with you?" Maureen suggested.
"No! The last time you tried to play detective the Ross brothers pointed a gun at you. This time you are not going to get involved," Jarrod said firmly.
"I just thought I could help you find them," Maureen said, shrugging her thin shoulders.
Before Jarrod could answer three pairs of rough hands grabbed him. Jarrod felt one fist hit him square in the mouth, knocking him down.
"Dad!" Maureen shouted, running to her father and stooping beside him.
Stay away from Sally!" A young, gruff voice rumbled.
Maureen looked at the man and then back at her father. "What are you talking about?" Jarrod asked, touching his sore mouth.
"I saw you talking to Sally. She's my girl," the man said, waving his fist threateningly in Jarrod's face.
"We weren't talking to her. She was talking to us," Maureen said, hoping that the man wouldn't hit Jarrod again.
That hope worked out perfect. After hitting Jarrod in the mouth again they walked away. "Dad, are you all right?" Maureen asked, stooping beside her father.
"I'm fine. I'm fine," Jarrod said, taking a deep breath.
"If you're saying that something is still very wrong here, I'm inclined to agree with you, Daddy," Maureen said, after Jarrod stood up.
"I do," Jarrod said grimly as he touched a linen handkerchief to his mouth.
"So who do we see first, Sally or the sheriff?" Maureen asked.
"You go talk to Sally and I'll go see the sheriff. If you find out anything come over to his office," Jarrod said, hugging her briefly before going to the sheriff.
Maureen looked up to where Sally was sleeping. She hoped Jarod was successful in getting the answers he wanted. She had the feeling that Sally still wouldn't tell her anything about the Mendoza brothers.
Maureen knocked on the door to Sally's room gently. Because it was bad manners Maureen didn't bang her hands on the door.
After a few minutes of hearing no answer Maureen pulled out a hairpin and tried to pick the lock. She felt grateful that her mother's brother Will had taught her this trick. Jarrod wouldn't like it, but, oh well.
Sally lay asleep in her bed. Maureen banged the door extra loud so as to wake her up. Sally woke up with a start and looked at Maureen, a look of surprise on her face.
"What are you doing in here? Get out before I call the sheriff," Sally threatened.
"Yeah right," Maureen said, sitting down on the edge of Sally's bed.
"What do you want?" Sally asked, pulling a robe on over her nightclothes.
"Where are the Mendozas? The sheriff just tried to talk my father into leaving town and a boyfriend of yours just beat up Dad in the alley," Maureen said, running her hands through her hair and jerking hard. It was a habit Jarrod hated, but since he wasn't here then it was all right to pull her hair.
"I don't know and I have no boyfriend," Sally said nervously.
"He said he was your boyfriend. Look, if you are lying you are in big trouble. Just tell me about the Mendozas," Maureen said slightly exasperated.
"They're dead," Sally said finally.
"What happened?" Maureen asked, her blue eyes widening with shock.
"They attacked and killed George Ackers's wife, Alicia. The men in the town lynched them," Sally said.
"What about the sheriff? Where was he?" Maureen asked, surprised that a sheriff could let such a lawless act happen.
"He was right there in the street. He watched it happen," Sally said, sitting down on the bed.
"I better go tell , Dad," Maureen said briskly, as she pushed a long strand of black hair out of her eyes.
"I've only been here a month. Those men hurt Mrs. Ackers! Why should you care about them?" Sally yelled after her.
"Because they may have been innocent! Did any of you consider that before you strung them up? No. Like monsters you killed three men because they were Mexican," Maureen said, her lips hard and thin with anger.
Maureen wrenched open the door and ran to the sheriff's office, feeling some of her anger disappear. If she told her father he would see justice done. He would see that the Mendozas had been killed in cold blood.
Maureen ran through the streets to the sheriff's office. Jarrod was talking to Tom and Goerge Ackers when Maureen Burst in her face red, and panting for breath.
"Dad, Sally told me everything!" Maureen panted as Jarrod grabbed her shoulders to slow her down.
"What did she tell you?" The sheriff asked nervously.
"She said that the Mendoza brothers were lynched like the black people down south where I'm from," Maureen said, frowning deeply.
"Lynched?" Jarrod asked pointedly looking at Tom.
"Jarrod, the Mendozas attacked my wife and killed her," George Ackers jumped into the conversation.
"Sally told me that too, Mr. Ackers. How long ago was this?" Maureen asked, sounding much like her father.
"A month ago. We were riding and two Mexicans stopped us. They took us to their camp. I got knocked out. When I came to, Alicia was gone," George said tensely.
In his manner they could tell that George didn't like being cross-examined by a fourteen-year-old.
"Then you have no proof that Alicia was murdered and you may have murdered three innocent men," Jarrod said, jumping into the conversation.
How did you get Sally to confess, Miss Maureen?" The sheriff asked, changing the subject.
"I picked her lock with a hairpin. My mother's brother taught me how to when I was four or five," Maureen said, avoiding the surprised and slightly miffed look on Jarrod's face.
"Breaking and entering," the sheriff said, shaking his head.
"Hey, I never break. I only enter," Maureen said, causing Jarrod to turn away so his daughter wouldn't see the grin on his face.
"I'm going after those men tomorrow. And Maureen it's time you went to bed," Jarrod said, after he turned back around, his face composed.
"Yes Dad," Jarrod heard his daughter mutter under her breath.
Jarrod gripped her hand and half-dragged her out of the office.
"Are you mad at me?" Maureen asked, not caring if she picked bad timing or not.
"Brilliant deduction, Maureen Barkley. Picking a lock?" Jarrod asked, in a voice of incredulity.
"Are you upset because I actually know how?" Maureen asked, feeling upset and slightly angry that her father wasn't happy that she had gotten answers.
"Don't raise your voice to me, Maureen Barkley. You may not love me as your father, but you will respect me," Jarrod warned.
The rest of the walk back to the hotel was taken in stiff silence. When they got to their hotel Maureen refused to kiss Jarrod good night and shut the door to her room, leaving her father hurt and angry.
Maureen slept until nearly noon the next day. With waking up at five every morning she had been sleeping in every day since Jarrod had come and got her.
Maureen looked at the ceramic clock on the mantelpiece over the fireplace. 11:45. Maureen gasped and quickly changed her clothes. While braiding her hair Maureen remembered that Jarrod was angry with her for picking Sally's lock last night.
Jarrod had said that he was going after the men that killed Alicia Ackers. If he had why didn't he wake her up to say goodbye or tell her to try to go back to Stockton until he got back?
Maureen shook her head. If she lived to be a hundred she'd never understand her own father! She never knew if he was mad at her or not.
After dressing and braiding her hair Maureen went downstairs to the lobby. The desk clerk was there looking at his ledger.
"Excuse me. Did Mr. Jarrod Barkley check out?" Maureen asked, coughing slightly to get the man's attention.
"One moment please, Miss. Here it is. Yes he did. He left a note for Maureen Barkley," the clerk said, looking at the ledger.
"I'm Maureen Barkley. May I have the note please?" Maureen said, holding out her hand for it.
The man handed her the paper. Maureen unfolded it. "Honey, the sheriff and I are going after Alicia's killers. Stay in the hotel until I get back, Dad," the note said.
"Stay in the hotel? Yeah right," Maureen muttered under her breath.
What if these men killed Jarrod? They had had a falling out, but Maureen, even though she wouldn't admit it now, loved him.
Maybe she could follow him and Jarrod would never know that she was right behind him. Of course Jarrod would be furious that she would disobey him, but he was already angry with her.
Maureen walked outside, feeling the cool air brush her face. She was torn. Should she stay in the hotel like Jarrod wanted or should she follow him?
Maureen made a snap decision instantly. She would follow him. Of course the hard thing would be knowing which way he went, but Uncle Will had taught her how to distinguish a horse's hooves in sand. It wouldn't be that difficult to follow them.
Following a trail was boring. No worst. Dull. How her uncle could say that following trails were fun was completely insane. Maybe this was why Jarrod didn't take her along with him.
The shape of the horse's hoofs were there, but the sun beat down on her head and burned her face. Maureen wiped her forehead with the sleeve of her shirt, another habit that would cause Jarrod's eyes to bug out of their sockets.
In her boredom she nearly missed the figures on the side of the road. Maureen halted the horse at the sight and dismounted hastily, nearly falling down.
Jarrod was sprawled on the ground, unconscious. Blood was all over his sleeve and left arm. Five feet away was the sheriff. By just looking at him, Maureen could tell the sheriff was close to, or already, dead.
Maureen took a good look at Jarrod's arm. She took out her penknife as cut the sleeve away from his arm. It looked awful. Maureen cleaned it with water from her canteen and took out one of her extra shirts from her saddlebags to use as a bandage.
Jarrod groaned slightly as she was wrapping his arm. He opened his eyes carefully.
"Maureen?" Jarrod said, hazily.
"Daddy, just lay still. I'm almost done bandaging your arm," Maureen said, tying the final knot in the bandage.
"What are you doing here? I thought you would have caught on that you were to go to Stockton," Jarrod said, his voice harsher than he intended.
"You have real problems in thanking people, don't you? How about saying "Thanks for bandaging my arm, Maureen?" but no. You spend half your time yelling at me. Well I'm sorry I'm such a disappointment!" Maureen said, starting to cry as she stood up and walked off angrily.
"Maureen, wait!" Jarrod got to his feet and hobbled over to Maureen. Grabbing her shoulder with his one good hand he spun her around to face him.
"Leave me alone," Maureen said stiffly as her father pulled her into a tight hug.
"I can't, Maureen. I'm your father and, young lady, you are not a disappointment," Jarrod said, stroking her dark hair gently with his fingertips.
"Then why do you yell at me so much? Is it because I always don't look before I leap?" Maureen asked, wiping her nose against the sleeve of her shirt.
"That's part of it, but not all of it. When I was a boy your grandfather treated me the exact same way that I'm treating you now. He yelled at me a lot and for things that I didn't think were wrong at the time. If I yell at you all the time, I am sorry, Maureen. I just want to protect you. I wasn't able to when you were born," Jarrod said, kissing her head gently.
A groan broke the moment. Jarrod and Maureen looked over at Harry. He was watching them, a misty look in his eyes.
"Jarrod, find them," the lawman groaned out.
"Don't worry, Harry. We'll find them together," Jarrod said, realizing the same thing Maureen did. Harry was dying and it wouldn't be long.
After a minute or two the lawman stopped breathing and Jarrod and Maureen mounted their horses.
The smoke from the fire crackled merrily as Jarrod and Maureen inched forward in the dark. If Maureen strained her ears she could hear laughter inside the camp.
"Dad," Maureen whispered slightly.
"Shh!" Jarrod whispered covering her mouth with his hand. Jarrod pulled out his six-gun and both Jarrod and Maureen entered the camp quite suddenly.
The leader looked at Jarrod and Maureen and then at Jarrod's gun. "Senor?" the Mexican man asked, clearly puzzled by Jarrod's and Maureen's intrusion.
"Dad, these may not be the ones we're looking for," Maureen said softly out of the corner of her mouth.
"I'm looking for the men who killed Alicia Ackers," Jarrod stated, his face looking deadly calm.
The Mexicans started laughing at Jarrod's statement. "I have come over a mountain, been shot at, and saw a good friend die. Forgive me if I am not very amused," Jarrod said, his face turning red with anger.
"Forgive me, Senor. But you are very mistaken," the man said, catching his breath.
"He's right, Jarrod. You are mistaken," a woman's voice said behind Jarrod and Maureen.
Jarrod and Maureen turned suddenly, Jarrod's face turning from angry to shocked. "Alicia?" Jarrod asked, clearly puzzled.
"Hello, Jarrod," Alicia greeted her husband's friend kindly.
"Mrs. Ackers your husband said these men attacked and killed you," Maureen said, speaking up for her stunned father.
"George didn't want to be shamed in front of the town. I left him, Jarrod," Alicia said, smiling grimly at the lie that George had told.
"Why, Alicia?" Jarrod asked, finding his voice.
"Jarrod, you know George. He kept me like a prisoner in that house. I filed for divorce and left him," Alicia said.
"Mrs. Ackers, did you know that he accused the Mendoza brothers of attacking and killing you? He lynched them," Maureen said, walking over to the woman.
"What?" Alicia asked, clearly shocked.
The click of a rifle got everyone's attention. George Ackers stood there pointing it at Jarrod. "You should have left it alone, Jarrod," George Ackers said, cocking the rifle.
"Dad!" Maureen rushed to her father's side.
"Drop it, Jarrod," George ordered, pointing the gun at Maureen.
Jarrod looked at his daughter and dropped the gun. He wouldn't allow his daughter to get shot.
"George, leave them alone. It's me you're mad at," Alicia begged.
"You left me, Alicia," George said, turning the gun on his wife.
"You did not love her, Senor!" The leader shouted at the man.
The next few seconds rushed by like a kaleidoscope. Maureen found herself wishing she'd stayed at school. The Mexican getting shot by George Ackers for protesting, was like a nightmare.
Alicia and Maureen ran to Francisco who was clutching his arm. Maureen looked at it quickly and gently probed the wound with her fingers.
"He'll live, Mrs. Ackers. I think it's just a flesh wound," Maureen said, looking up at Alicia.
"You should have left it alone, Jarrod. I didn't want to involve you in this," George said, cocking his rifle.
"Everyone in Bakersfield was involved in this, George. And Jarrod told me that you killed three innocent men because of it," Alicia said, standing up to face her husband.
"She's right, Mr. Ackers. You killed the Mendozas because they were Mexican. What right have you to play God?" Maureen said, her voice and eyes sharp as an icicle.
"George, I have known you for a long time. So did Harry. Why did you kill him?" Jarrod asked, stepping into the conversation for the first time. Jarrod looked at his daughter nervously out of the corner of his eye.
Julia had told him to protect her when she was in jail in Stockton. Since Jarrod had missed most of his daughter's life he took his job as being her overprotective father very seriously. He couldn't let George Ackers shoot his baby!
"Harry got too close to the truth and so did you!" George said, pointing the rifle at his friend.
"No!" Maureen screamed, as she ran toward her father. Jarrod pushed her out of the way as the gunshot went off. Jarrod was still standing when Maureen raised her head to look at him.
George Ackers was on the ground and Francisco held a gun in his hand. "Dad?" Maureen's voice trembled as she looked up at her father.
Jarrod grabbed his daughter up into his arms and held her tight, pressing his lips against her forehead.
Two days later Jarrod, Maureen, and Alicia were standing before a crowd in Bakersfield.
"Are you sure about this, Alicia?" Jarrod asked, after he helped her get into a buggy.
"Yes. I plan to put this town and George behind me and move on with my life," Alicia said, as she whipped the reins and started the horses moving.
Jarrod and Maureen went to their horses. "Mr. Barkley, we are sorry for what we did to you and your daughter. We just thought we was doing the right thing," Sally's boyfriend said by way of apology.
Jarrod looked silently at all of them and mounted his horse. "Maureen, time to go," Jarrod said shortly to his daughter.
Maureen mounted and Sally touched her saddle briefly. "I've only been here a month," Sally said, looking up into Maureen's bright blue eyes.
"You learned fast. I suppose you'll just have to live with yourselves. An innocent man died because you looked the other way," Maureen said, just as short as her father.
Maureen and Jarrod rode off without saying another word. Two miles outside of town Jarrod and Maureen stopped their horses at the sight of Francisco getting into Alicia's buggy.
Jarrod turned to look at his daughter. "I suggest we hurry back to San Francisco. You're already late going back to school," Jarrod said, trying to lighten the mood.
"I guess. I don't like that school I'm in, but after the last few days I need a vacation," Maureen said, feeling happy that she was going back to her studies and singing.
"Well, two weeks won't be too far away and you can come see me in Stockton," Jarrod said, reaching out and pushing her lead-black hair behind her ear.
Maureen smiled weakly at her father. She still didn't know him that well to say that she loved him, but deep down she knew she did. Jarrod also knew that as well.
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