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"You're sure this is where he's heading?" Lyman Harris turned from the window of the hotel, from which he had been watching the street below.
"That was what the lawyer said," his sister Geneva replied as she removed the black bonnet from her head. She had insisted that she would travel as the grieving widow after Lewis Foster and was clad in black from head to toe. Lyman had tried to urge her to travel under another name, that they both should, in case they would be discovered by Foster Stevens. He didn't trust that man and he knew that Foster Stevens had no higher thoughts about him or his sister. If he found them in Rock Creek, he would be suspicious and that might spoil their plan. Or whatever you could call it - they didn't really have a plan other than they should get what they were entitled to.
"You sure he told you the truth?" Lyman left the window and placed himself on the bed.
"Oh, definitely. I cried my eyes out and told him how fair my late husband had been, and that I just wanted to make sure that Foster did the right thing by him." She sneered. "He told me the truth, don't you worry."
"I still think we could have sent somebody down here to follow him. I don't see the need for us being here. What the hell are we going to do in this dump?"
"Patience, my dear brother. If I know Foster right, he ain't gonna rest until he has found all of those people. And if he decides that one of them is suitable then we can say goodbye to our money. And I ain't gonna let a brat, a bastard girl or a simple whore cheat me out of the money I rightly deserve. Nor am I gonna trust anyone until I get my hands on them. That's why we here."
"As if you worked for earning them," Lyman muttered.
"I was married to that bastard for five years - that money is mine!"
"Whatever you say."
"As if you weren't thinking the same. Without the money, you'll have to say goodbye to your good life, brother, and I'm sure that you're not ready to do that."
"You're right, Sis', but I ain't willin' to hang for it either."
"You were always a coward, Lyman."
"Call it what you like, Sis', I don't care. What exactly are you planning to do?"
Geneva sighed. Her brother was good at spending money but he had never had any ambition in his life, and for as long as she could remembered she had been the one providing for both of them. She had done almost everything, from dancing and singing in shabby establishments until entertaining men until she met her first husband who had brought her out of the decayed alley life of Boston. Lewis Foster had been her third husband and she was well aware that she might not find another one. She had been very beautiful once, but after she had passed thirty she had noticed her beauty quickly fade and been replaced with a hard expression that wouldn't entice anybody. She desperately needed the money. She was all too aware of what waited a woman of past beauty and no income and she had promised never to go there again. If she so had to kill to prevent it.
"I don't really know yet, Lyman. The lawyer told me that Foster had talked about an old friend who's supposed to be the marshal, Hunter something. I want you to go down to the saloon and see what you can find out about the man."
Lyman rose and grabbed his hat. "If that is what you want. What do you want to know?"
"Damn that man!" The exclamation was followed by a fist that hit the table with considerable force. "He was supposed to give his share of the business to us. Hell, I would have been satisfied if he had given it to his wife - she's so hungry for money she would have sold it to us without blinking. Instead he sent his upright brother on a wild goose chase for an heir - an heir to meet his brother's standards. Do you what these means for the business?" The man turned to his companion on the other side of the table. "Do you understand the consequences of all this, Larry?"
"Take it easy, Nash," Larry Fennell replied as he played with a pen between the fingers. "Maybe whoever it is will sell it to us. I mean, we're talking about a boy in his late teens, a girl in what - the same age - and a woman in her thirties? None of them is likely to want to have anything to do with the business."
Nash Hart frowned at his partner. Lewis Stevens had owned 60% of their business and whoever inherited him, would also have the majority of the firm. "And what if Foster convince him otherwise. That man has never approved of us and you know it. This would be a perfect way for him to get back at us."
"I still think you're making too much out of this. I say we wait and see what happens," Larry said.
"And what about that deal we did last week? You know that we need to get some more money but pull it through - not to mention how we used the fond---"
"Don't remind me," Larry sighed, well aware that the firm wouldn't hold for any legal investigation. That was not how they had done business, and if this new deal pulled through they could walk away from everything as two wealthy men. "All right, he continued, "I see your point. What do you suggest we do?"
"I know a man in Kansas that might be able to help us. Furthermore, I looked up this friend of Foster's."
"Think we can use him?"
"Doubt it - seems it's an old Texas Ranger by the name of Hunter. He's the marshal of a small town called Rock Creek, and apparently, he's also in charge of one of the Pony Express Way Stations."
Larry frowned. "So what do you suggest we do?"
"What about if we found the heir ourselves?" Nash suggested.
"How will that help us?"
"Well, if we choose him it wouldn't be so bad."
"But what about the others? The woman and the girl?"
Nash frowned and looked at Larry. "They wouldn't be a threat - it's the boy I'm worried about. Now, if we could convince Foster that 'our' boy is the one he's looking for then everything will be fine - and if the girl or the woman is in the way, I'm sure we could convince them to stay away." Nash smiled cynically. "You see, there are always ways to convince people, Larry. Lots of ways. And I think you'll agree with me that we don't have much of a choice."
"That was delicious as usual, Rachel." Teaspoon leaned back and contentedly wiped his fingers on the napkin that was securely tucked in under his chin. Rachel smiled her thanks as she removed the plate. Teaspoon turned his attention to the boys and girl at the table. Ike was out on a run and Jimmy had asked for permission to visit his sister in Kansas, which Teaspoon had granted him. Apparently his sister had recently found out that she was pregnant and the news had apparently disturbed Jimmy and Teaspoon thought that the best way to cure the uneasiness was for him to see his sister.
"I need two riders for a special run tomorrow," he announced. "Who's up?"
"What's it paying?" Cody asked between bites.
Noah smiled at the blond and shook his head. "Broke again, Cody? What do you do with your money?"
"A man is in need of a certain style," Cody replied and turned to Teaspoon again. "Is it?"
Teaspoon leaned back and looked at Cody with narrowed eyes. "What exactly do you do with your money, Cody?" he asked quizzically. Cody smiled broadly at him, but before he could open his mouth Teaspoon held up his hand. "On seconds thoughts, Cody, I don't wanna know - and , no, this will not get you any extra pay."
"It's not my turn," Cody replied quickly and shrugged at the others when they stared at him.
"Then you don't have it - I'm sure they're plenty chores around here that needs to be done."
"It's my turn," Lou added. "What is it about, Teaspoon?"
"Wait a moment, Lou. Who's after Lou?"
"Me." Buck replied and looked at Teaspoon.
"Good, then that's settled. Now, what I want you to do is to get an army package from Red Bluff and deliver it to Ft. Laramie. The order came through today, and the army seems to be in a hurry about it, so you better take off first thing in the morning."
Lou and Buck nod. They're use to those special runs by now and although nobody speaks about it, they're all aware of that they usually involve more trouble than they're worth. But then it's their job, and since Teaspoon made the decision that no rider took those runs single-handed, the trouble had decreased. Most troublemakers expected one rider and seeing two, sometimes it made them change their minds.
"That's no chores for four days," Lou says and grin at Cody, who grimace back at her, causing the rest to smile.
"You sure there ain't anything else for us to do?" Cody asked, turning to Teaspoon.
"Well, now that you ask, there might be something."
Cody looked expectantly at Teaspoon, waiting for him to continue.
"An old friend of mine, Foster Stevens, is coming this way. He sent me a letter a few days ago, telling me to expect him. Says he might need some help."
"With what?" Kid wondered.
"I don't know. He said he didn't want to write it a letter. He's due tomorrow, so I guess we'll find out then."
"Who is he?" Noah asked.
"Well, I met Foster a long time ago ---" Teaspoon reached for his coffee cup and leaned back in his chair as he allowed the memories to flow freely. The riders looked at each other with an amused look on their faces. This was going to be a long story.
"Well?" Geneva looked at her brother.
"Well, what?" Lyman asked tiredly. There had been a few beers at the saloon and he was tired.
"About Hunter, of course," Geneva sneered.
"Ain't much to tell. An old Texas Ranger. Was a friend of the last marshal, who was killed by a gang of robbers. Hunter moved here from a small town somewhere north of here to take over as marshal." Lyman grinned. "And yeah, he's also the station manager for the Express Station, together with a young woman who apparently is something to look at, judging from the talking in the saloon."
"You're not here to chase around women," Geneva interrupted. "Anything else?"
"One of the riders," Lyman reached for his pocket and slowly produced a booklet that he dangled before her, "is the famous 'Wild Bill' Hickok."
"Wild Bill?" Geneva looked at him questioningly.
"Never heard about, 'Wild Bill', Sis? Well, he's famous in these parts. Apparently he's on a leave right now, but the whole town is filled with gossip on how he and his friend exposed that band of robbers that killed the marshal."
Geneva took the booklet from her brother and threw it in the trash. "So?" she asked. "You should know better than to believe those yarns. Probably just a kid trying to make a name for himself."
"Sis, you don't get it - this Hickok fellow is a gunfighter."
"An Express rider and a gunfighter?"
Geneva straightened herself. She had never heard about this Hickok fellow, but it was obvious he hd made an impresson on her brother. "You said he was on a leave right now?"
"That what they told me."
"So when is he back?"
"In a couple of days, I suppose."
"Tomorrow I want you to find out where he is and when he's expected back. And I want to know everything about those other riders. If this Hickok is a gunfighter, then I suppose we should get us a gunfighter of our own."
"Sis, I'm not so sure---"
"Just do as I say, Lyman."
Lyman shrugged and rose to leave. "Good night, then," he murmured and left the room.
Geneva remained by the window looking out. "And when I found out where you are, Hickok, then we'll see if you return," she mumbled. "No self-appointed gunfighter is gonna stop me from getting what is mine. Nobody is gonna stop me. Not now."