See Part 1 Here.
Zeke went back down to the kitchen where Pia was moving around preparing breakfast. He was just too wound up to sleep. He sat at the kitchen table. “Where did Mrs. Estrada go?”
“She went back to bed.” The woman put a cup in front of Zeke and poured him some coffee. “She told me what happened. You’re fine? Miss Mary?”
“We are. Talbot too.”
“Good thing he was there.”
As much as it choked him to say so, he had to agree. “He warned me, earlier. But who knew they’d try something right in town.”
His stomach rolled. What if something had happened to Mary? It was too much to think about.
Cesar came in and Pia gave him some cornbread from last night and a slice of cold ham, while Zeke sat at the table. Pia was speaking to him in Spanish, telling him about the ambush, Zeke thought as they kept glancing in his direction. Good. That way he wouldn’t have to tell it again. He finished the coffee and went out the back door. The sun was just beginning to brighten the horizon. He sat on the back steps and watched as the sun came up, the birds waking and singing their morning songs as the sky became rosy then blue.
Cesar had gone back to the barn and Zeke could hear him moving around, the horses stamping as he gave them hay and water, the rooster crowed and the hens came out of hiding. Pia went out with a basket and gathered eggs. Zeke felt like a bum, letting the couple do all of the work but he just couldn’t seem to move. He was going to kill those men if he could have. All for the gold. If it weren’t for Mary, he would let everyone have the gold. It was nothing but trouble.
Zeke looked up. It was full day and Talbot was approaching the steps. “Beautiful day.”
“You doing all right?”
Zeke was tired of people asking him that. “Fine.”
Talbot’s eyebrow rose. “Fine.” He went inside. Pia followed. “I get you some coffee, Mr. Talbot.”
“Thank you, Pia,” Talbot said.
Zeke felt completely tired of Red Talbot and wondered why the man was hanging around Payson. There couldn’t be that much money gambling here in town, could there?
Pia called him in for breakfast and he went to the dining room. Talbot was seated there, along with Mrs. Estrada. He looked at Mary’s usual chair.
“I’ll take her something later,” Mrs. Estrada said. “We’ll just have a quiet breakfast, the three of us.”
Zeke nodded. That was fine with him.
The rest of the day was quiet. Talbot went to bed. Mary got up at noon and had a light lunch with him and a walk down by the stream. They talked about what kind of life she was looking forward to. He talked about the kind of ranch he’d like to have. Mary asked him about the mine and he told her about building the arrastra and using potatoes to get gold nuggets.
When the bell rang, they came in to dinner. Talbot didn’t bother him nearly so much this evening as before. Mary played, after dinner, and he went to bed content.
The days passed and finally, Markum sent word that the mining company was in town. Zeke put his best clothes on and rode Butters into town. He tied up at the Assay office and noticed all the eyes on the street looking at him, people whispering to each other. He was uncomfortable. The sooner he could sell the mine the happier he’d be.
Markum stood up when Zeke came through the door. “Mr. Stanford. Welcome.” He came around the desk. “I’d like you to meet Mr. Woolsey, and Mr. Brokaw, from the Black Canyon mining company.”
The two men stood up and Zeke shook hands. “Pleasure to meet you, gentlemen.”
Markum had brought enough chairs for everyone. “Let’s get to business then. Mr. Woolsey, would you like to begin?”
“Certainly. We are always on the look-out, Mr. Stanford, for claims like yours.” He motioned to Mr. Brokaw. “Here’s our standard contract, with the details filled out concerning your claim. If you’d like to take a moment to read that.”
The two mining company men waited while Zeke read the contract. It was full of legal words and Zeke had trouble with it but the gist of it met his requirements. He asked them about some of the words, and satisfied, answered. “It seems straightforward, gentlemen. What next?”
“Well,” Woolsey began. “We’d like to see the claim.”
That made sense to Zeke. Who’d want to buy something sight unseen? “Fair enough. When would you like to go?”
“I understand it’s about a four-day ride. How about tomorrow. That gives us time to gather supplies.”
“I’ll be ready. Are you stayin’ at the hotel?”
“We are,” Woolsey replied.
“I’ll stop there to pick you up at seven.” They all shook hands and the mining company men left.
Markum clapped Zeke on the back. “It looks like this is going to work, son.”
Zeke nodded. “It does. Will I see you in the morning?”
“I’ll be at the hotel to see you off.” He walked Zeke to the door. “Say hello to Miss Young for me. She’s recovered from Saturday?”
“Yes.” Zeke thought he might not be recovered. He’d been having nightmares every night. “I’ll tell her you asked after her.”
With that, he went out, got on Butters, and headed back to the house. But instead of going straight back, he took a ride. It was nice country around here, and he needed time to himself to clear his mind.