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"Foster Stevens! I haven't seen you in ages! What on earth are you doing here?" Teaspoon grinned broadly as he leaned against one of the poles outside his office.
"I should be the one askin' you," Foster replied and dismounted his horse. Tying it to the hitching post he reached out his hand to great his old friend. "Marshallin' he?"
"Sort of," Teaspoon grinned.
"Last I heard you were some sort of station master for the Pony Express," Foster said as he followed Teaspoon into the office.
"Still am, old friend, still am."
Foster raised an eyebrow. "So being a marshal wasn't enough for ye?"
Teaspoon's grin became broader. "You know me," he smiled. "Come in and tell me what you're doin' here over a cup of coffee."
"I won't say no to that," Foster replied and followed his friend into the office.
Teaspoon scratched his chin thoughtfully as Foster finished his tale.
"And you agreed to do this?" he asked.
Foster sighed. "It's my promise to a dying man, Teaspoon. I can't ignore it."
"No, I s'pose you can't. But too find three people out here..." He shook his head. "It's near impossible, Foster."
Foster smiled sheepishly. "You don't have to tell me. But I can't live with myself if I didn't at least try."
"Somehow I know you would say that," Teaspoon acknowledged. "So do you know where to start?"
"More or less. I know where Lewis first wife lived before she died. The family she was staying with should know something of the boy. As for the others," he shrugged "all I got is the names."
"They might have changed name."
"They probably have - I don't think anybody that has known my brother would like to stay associated with him - unless they are of the same kind."
"You know, when I met you, you never spoke of your family. You said something about severing all ties and that was it. What kind of person exactly was your brother?"
"The worst kind," Foster sighed. "But he was my brother."
"Blood's thicker than water, he?"
"Something like that."
Teaspoon leaned back in his chair. "You plan on doing this search on your own?" he asked tentatively.
"Yes. I don't see a point in dragging anyone else into my problems, besides I don't know anyone that would..." He stopped and looked suspiciously at Teaspoon. "You have something on your mind?"
Teaspoon tilted his head and threw Foster a crocked smile as he wavered his fingers in the air, non-committingly.
"I run the Express Station. My boys---"
"Hold on, Teaspoon," Foster interrupted. "That's all mighty kind of you and all that, but I don't want any young hotshot with me on this search. There's a lot of money we're talking 'bout and that alone calls for some discretion. Nothing wrong with your boys, but I've been young myself. Patience ain't a virtue you have when you're young."
Teaspoon was just about to reply, when a knock on the door made him turn his head. Ike was standing in the doorway, an apologetic smile on his lips.
"Already back?" Teaspoon asked and beckoned for him to come in. "Good run, son? This 'ere is Ike, one of my riders. Ike meet Foster Stevens, one of the best men that I ever worked with."
<There was a letter for you,> Ike signed and handed Teaspoon an envelope after shaking hands with Foster Stevens.
"Thanks, Ike," Teaspoon replied. "You better head back to the station and get some rest. Did Cody take off?"
Ike nodded and looked interested at Foster. Teaspoon saw it and realized that Ike must have heard some of the conversation before he had made himself known. "Hang on a minute, Ike," he said and turned to Foster.
"You're sure you don't want any company?" he asked with a smile.
"You heard what I said, Teaspoon, I don't---"
"I know, discretion. But let me tell you something - two can do a much better job than one, especially when it comes to searching for missing persons. And Ike here - well you can't find a more discreet person. Right, Ike?"
Ike smiled broadly and nodded. He had heard part of the story from the door and the idea of helping Teaspoon's friend searching for missing heirs did sound interesting.
"You don't talk Ike?" Foster asked, slightly amused. He had watched the conversation between the rider and Teaspoon with interest. Ike shook his head, worried that his disability would hinder him from joining Foster Stevens on his search.
"Indian sign," Teaspoon explained, "so you shouldn't have any problems."
Ike's face lighted up. <You know sign?> he asked.
"Slow down, son," Foster smiled. "I used to, but it was some time ago." He cast a glance at Teaspoon. "We used to business with Indians once, and since Teaspoon was too busy impressing the women, somebody had to learn how to communicate." He smiled as Teaspoon frowned at him. "But I'm sure I'll remember if you'll give me a couple of days," he added, turned to Ike. "You're sure you wanna do this, Ike? It might take a couple of weeks."
Ike nodded and looked at Teaspoon for confirmation.
"Then it's settled. Ike will go with you for two weeks. Then I'll need him back at the station. My guess is that if you ain't find anything by then, you won't find 'em."
"Guess, you're right. Well, I need to get some supplies and rest up some. We'll head out of here in three days. That's all right with you, Ike?"
Ike nodded and said he'd be returning to the station.
Teaspoon nodded. "Tell Rachel I'll be bringing a friend over for supper, will ya, Ike?"
"I don't want to impose -" Foster begun.
"Nonsense," Teaspoon replied. "You ain't tasted a decent meal until you've had some of Rachel's roast beef, I tell you."
"Then I'll see you at supper then," Foster smiled and rose. "By the way, I forgot to tell you that I'm expecting some more stuff from the lawyer. He said he thought there might be some photographs and maybe some more information on the three's whereabouts." He smiled. "I had it sent as an army detachment. Should be arriving at Ft. Laramie any day now."
"An army detachment? Been pullin' some string, have you?"
Teaspoon looked at him through half -closed eyes. "It doesn't happen to be this?" he asked and handed Foster a paper that had been on his desk. Foster quickly eyed through it.
"That's it," he replied lightly.
"I sent two of my riders after that yesterday," Teaspoon muttered. He never liked sending his riders out not knowing what they might expect.
"Don't worry, Teaspoon. Nobody knows what the packet contains, I specifically told the lawyer not to tell anybody."
"Well I guess it's too late to do anything about it now," Teaspoon mumbled and rose. "Where are you staying?"
"I got a room - since it's my late brother that pays, I took the best one," Foster smiled .
Teaspoon laughed and friendly slapped his friend's back.
"The we better see to it that you can use it."
Ike was already heading back to the station as Foster unhitched his horse. Teaspoon had followed him out and watched him thoughtfully.
"What about them others you were tellin' me about?" he asked. "The widow and the partners?"
"Doubt that they'll be of any trouble - yet. I guess they'll wait until the 'heir' have been chosen. Then I guess all hell will break loose. Wouldn't surprise me if the lawyers already are looking for a way to dispute the will."
"Will it cause any trouble?"
"They aren't gun fighters, Teaspoon. These people fight with lawyers, turning words into weapons and such. Doubt any one of them even will consider coming out here - hell, they're so used to the soft life, that they probably don't even know how to make themselves a cup of coffee."
"I ain't so sure about that," Teaspoon shook his head. "That's a lot of money
involved, Foster. Money can make people do the strangest things. I'm glad you
decided to take Ike with you - four eyes are better than two. Even so, I would
keep an eye on my back if I were you."
"That's good advice, Teaspoon," Foster admitted. "Well, I'll see you at supper then."
Foster headed off to the livery and Teaspoon returned to his office. None of the men took any notice of the small boy that was sitting on the bench just outside the open window of the marshal's office, carving on a stick. As soon as the two men was gone, the boy dropped the stick he'd been working on and folded his pocketknife as he quickly piled across the street into the small tea-house, where most of the ladies of Rock Creek spent their afternoons. Close to the window, in a separate corner, well hidden from the others sat a lady, all dress in black. The boy quickly walked over to the table and recounted what had been said, while trying to catch his breath.
"And this rider that will join this man, what's his name again?"
"Ike, ma'am. He doesn't talk - some folks says he's a dummy, but my ma just says that he's mute."
"A mute, he? But he knows how to write don't he?"
"Thinks so, ma'am."
"Then thank you," the lady replied and handed him the reward, the shining quarter.
Bowing, the boy quickly left and run back into the street. Never before had eavesdropping paid so much.
Geneva Stevens quickly rose and after leaving the payment for the tea at the table she hurried back to the hotel. It was a nuisance that there was only one hotel in the town, since it increased the risk that she would run into Foster Stevens - something that she would do anything to avoid. Luckily she had no problem reaching her brother's room. As she suspected, she found him resting on his bed.
"Nothing to do?" she asked angrily.
Her brother looked at her. "Why should I do anything?"
"Well, for once, it would be nice to see you to do something on your own."
"Foster Stevens rode into town - I thought it would be best to stay out of sight."
Geneva snorted as she rearranged her hair after removing her bonnet.
"Well, I do hope that you did get hold of that gunfighter."
"Stop nagging - I did."
"Good, then I don't want to hear another word of that Hickok-fellow."
"You don't seem to take that serious, Sis."
"How can I - you get nervous for the slightest things. But enough of that - I might need that gunfighter anyway."
"What do you mean?" Lyman sat up on the bed.
"I just found out that Lewis' layer sent a message to Foster. Two of those Express riders are on their way to pick it up at Ft. Laramie. I want that package."
"And what about them riders?"
"I don't care about any riders, Lyman. I want that package. I suggest you find your gunfighting friend and get going."
Lyman rose and reach for his hat.
"What do you want us to do, Sis?"
"How on earth could you and I have come from the same parents," Geneva complained. "I don't care what you do as long as you get me that package."
"All right, Sis, whatever you say. What about that Hickok fellow then?"
"He ain't here is he? And you will have a gunfighter with you. That should take care of your worries."
"What about you, Sis?"
Geneva smiled at her brother. "I have something else to do."
Lyman stared suspiciously at her, but refrained from speaking. When his sister had that look on her face, he knew that she was up to no good, but he had long ago seized to question her actions. Besides, without her, his life as he knew it would be gone.
"Whatever you say, Sis," he mumbled and left.
"Nash!" Larry Fennell rushed into his companion's room without knocking. Nash Hart turned irritated to him.
"What do you mean by just barking in like that - don't you see I'm busy?"
"I just got word from our man at the lawyer's office. There was a package..."
"The lawyer sent a package to Foster Stevens with more information on the people in the will."
"Where did he send it?"
"Ft. Laramie. Apparently Foster Stevens had some friends there. They sent it with the army."
"The army? That means that the Pony Express will pick it up - especially since that Hunter is a station master. I think we better get a hold of that package."
"Maybe it's time we use our connections. By the way, I think it's you and I made a trip."
"A trip? Where?"
"To a small town west of here. Rock Creek."
Barnett watched Teaspoon as he sat down by his desk, seemingly deep in thoughts.
"Anything wrong, Teaspoon?" he asked, confused by the troubled look on the marshal's face.
"I don't know Barnett. I just have this feeling that trouble is coming - a lot of trouble.