Last Request
By the Tahoe Ladies
Bailey and Irish
 “I’ll tell him you are here, sir,” he heard his butler Jeffery say in a voice that was clipped yet full of protective authority.

 “I ain’t so sure of this! He drags me half way around the world in the dead of winter then leaves me standing outside his parlor door? You tell the high and mighty Mr. Adam Cartwright that his brother is here.”

Adam chuckled at the voice that he would have recognized anywhere even though it had been many years since he had heard it. Better not keep him waiting too long, Jeffery, or the boy will get back on the train and go back to Nevada!

“Mister Cartwright, you have a caller. I believe it is your brother- the one you had me write to some time ago,” Jeffery announced.

“You are damn right it’s his brother! Now get the hell out of my way!” Adam heard a shuffling of feet and Jeffery’s annoyed snort. He turned his nearly sightless eyes in that direction.

“I swear, Joseph, you haven’t changed a bit with age!” Adam chortled.

His brother’s voice was closer as Adam felt the arms go around his shoulders as he sat in his favorite chair in the warm study. “Why should I change?” it challenged. “It’s real hard to improve upon perfection!”

For several long moments, the two embraced. For Adam, it was just yesterday that he had left his family home in the wilds of Nevada to come back to Boston. Now, he couldn’t and wouldn’t believe that his baby brother was any different than he had been that day more than forty years ago. He could feel the strength still there in his brother’s arms, the whisper of hair against his cheek, the smell of wind-whipped pine that always seemed to be a part of Joe. With one hand, he reached for his brother’s face, wanting his hands to tell him nothing had changed.

“Yeah, big brother, I still can’t grow a beard,” Joe teased, guiding Adam’s hand to his smooth jaw line. Adam could feel the smile on his brother’s face but not the fine lines at the corners of his eyes that spoke of the many years squinting into the bright sun.

“But you still need a haircut!” and Adam grabbed a handful at the back of Joe’s head and gave it a gentle tug. In return, he felt Joe’s hand brush over the top of his own smooth pate.

“Least I still got mine! What did you do with yours? Besides roll it down onto your chin?” The  hand pulled at Adam’s gray-white whiskers, making them both chuckle again.

“Makes me look distinguished, don’t you think? Jeffery! Are you still here?” Adam called out.

“Yes sir. What can I do for you?” Jeffery straightened his shoulders, his hands clasped before him. He had been studying the newcomer closely and didn’t particularly care for what he saw. He had known that his employer’s brother was coming for he had written the letter for Mr. Cartwright himself. He had expected someone more like Mr. Cartwright and this man looked nothing like him. Even when Mr. Cartwright was younger and not bent by age, he was taller, his physical presence more commanding than this man’s. And Mr. Cartwright had had darker hair that he had kept meticulously groomed. This man had wild silver white hair and was wearing decidedly Western clothing. There must be some mistake. But Mr. Cartwright had addressed him by his brother’s name.

“I think we need to toast this momentous occasion! What will you have, Joe? I think there’s some brandy-“

The majordomo interrupted. “Sir, you know what the doctor advised concerning strong spirits. Perhaps some tea?”

Stepping back a pace, Joe saw Adam wince. He’s gotten old, Joe thought.  But then who am I to talk?

“Tea will be fine,” Joe interjected quickly, more to let Adam off the hook. He really would have rather had the brandy, considering the freezing sleet he had come through.

With a clipped nod of his head, the staid and stately butler disappeared from the study.

“Where did you find him?” Joe quipped. He slipped out of his long stockman’s coat and laid it across the back of one of the ornate chairs. His hat, still dripping, he tossed to the rug then went to stand, hands extended, to the fire burning brightly. Every motion, he saw, Adam listened to and turned his head as if to watch.

“Actually, Jeffery came with the house! He is an excellent man-servant, Joe.”

Joe snorted. “You mean ‘watchdog’, don’t you? You should have seen the look he gave me when he opened the door! Like I was some street urchin or something! Told me that deliveries were made at the rear of the house.”

“He can be a little over-protective at times,” Adam allowed with a smile.

Little?  Try a lot, Adam.  I mean, you had told him I was coming, hadn’t you?”

“In case you’ve missed something, Joe, I can’t do a lot of things I used to do. Reading my own correspondence is one of them.”

Immediately, Joe was chagrinned. He knew from what Jeffery had written him that Adam was virtually blind now, his once dark eyes now clouded by cataracts. As he watched his brother from the corner of his eye, Joe bit his lip to stop it from trembling. The hand that Adam had brushed against his face was gnarled with arthritis so badly that even if Adam could see, there was no way he could have written a single word. And the broad shoulders that Joe had remembered leaning on were now hunched forward. Too many years have raced by.

Disturbed by the silence that weighed heavily in the room, Adam shifted in his chair.

“Been a long time, Adam,” Joe said flatly.

“I was thinking that just this morning. Close to what? Twenty years?”

“At least. Pa died right after Adrianne was born and she’ll graduate from college next spring.”

Again the room fell silent.

“It’s hard to think of my little brother as a father, much less a grandfather, you know.” And Adam smiled, his face coming alive. Joe turned and gave his brother a lopsided grin of his own then remembered that Adam couldn’t see it.

“Sometimes it’s hard for me to think of myself as a grandfather! But just think of that, Adam. My grandchild! Smart enough to go to college! And graduate at that!”

Adam shook his head but the smile remained. “I kept tellin’ Pa all along that he needed to push you a little harder. You could have gone to college-“

“Adam Cartwright, give it up! I am too damn old to go to college now!” Joe chided, remembering the long battles over school he’d had as a child with Adam.

Jeffery returned at that point with a silver tea service and two china cups. Sitting the service on the table to Adam’s right, he quickly poured the steaming tea into a cup and handed it to Adam. Then he did the same for Joe.

“Will there be anything else, Mr. Cartwright? Cook says to tell you that supper will be ready shortly. Meat loaf, mashed potatoes, string beans and for dessert, apple pie.”

“No, nothing else, Jeffery. Why don’t you take the rest of the evening off? With Joe here, he can help me should I need something.”

The look Jeffery turned and gave Joe showed just how little he thought of that idea. Joe couldn’t help himself. He plastered a smile on his lips but his eyes held the other man with the intense stare of a rattler after a cottontail rabbit.

“Yeah, go ahead and take the rest of the evening off, Jeffery. Adam and I promise to behave. After all, the gambling won’t start until the wicked ladies show up.”

“Joseph Francis Cartwright!” Adam said sharply. “Pay him no mind, Jeffery. There will be none of that here.”

“Tonight, at least!” Joe interjected smoothly, his eyebrows wiggling with delight at the horrified expression on the butler’s face.

The man sniffed just once and drew himself to his full height of just over six feet. “What room would you like for your brother, sir?”

Adam put a hand to his face to cover the smile threatening to break out. “Let him have the room next to mine,” he instructed.

“Very well, sir,” and with a slight bend at the waist, Jeffery turned to leave.

“Jeffery,” Joe called out to stop the man. He set his teacup on the mantle and with one hand on the butler’s elbow, directed him out into the hall and out of Adam’s keen hearing range. “It’s kind of obvious to me that you don’t much care for me, young man,” Joe addressed him lowly. “I don’t know why that is since this is the first time we have ever laid eyes on one another. But anyhow, let’s just get something straight between us. That old man in there that you have been taking care of so well these past few years is my brother. My only living brother. He means more to me than he does to you, trust me on that one. And he wanted me here for something. Something important to him. What do you know about it?”

The gray eyes stared coolly back at Joe. “Doctor Cary didn’t write you?”

“Who's Doctor Cary?” Joe pretended to pick lint off the butler’s lapel.

“He’s Mr. Cartwright’s primary physician. Two months ago he informed your brother that his condition was deteriorating rapidly. It was about then that Mr. Cartwright had me write to you.”

There had been a little piece of him that knew the 'why' of the request and now Joe had it confirmed. Adam was dying. His last brother. Dying. Joe swallowed hard. Seems like Death has been stalking me lately. Lots of old friends gone. Now Adam goin’ too? I always joked that I was gonna outlive every one but I didn’t really think I would.

“Well, I’m here now. And I will be here as long as Adam wants me to be. Do you understand that?” Once he saw the butler nod he went on, still keeping his voice low. “So, Mr. Jeffery Whatever-your-name-is, get used to it. The way I look at it, I’m here for his sake, not yours. You got a problem with me being here?”

Jeffery swallowed. Even though the man before him looked like an old man, something about him spoke of a youth, a strength and a determination that Jeffery wasn’t used to seeing in the elderly. “No, sir. It is just that the doctor has prescribed certain –“

“Bull!” Joe snorted, showing clear distain still for the medical profession, “What’s the doctor afraid of? That my brother is going to have a little fun and die of it? Got news for all of you, he’s gonna die. Same as me and you! Get over it! It’s part of livin’. So the next time my brother wants a shot of brandy, you’re gonna bring it to him. Without makin’ a comment. You understand?”

“But, sir-“ the butler started, taking a half step backwards.

Joe took a step forward. “Ain’t no 'buts' about it, sonny boy. You got that clear enough?”

“Yes sir,” was his clipped reply as he tugged on the hem of his jacket.

“Good. Now, before you take off for the rest of the evening, tell the cook that we want steaks. Thick ones. Baked potatoes with lots of butter. Hot rolls. And find a bottle of wine to go with it. Then you dig around and find that bottle of brandy and a pair of brandy snifters to go with it. Leave them where I can find them,” Joe directed.

“Very well, sir,” and Jeffery let the distain drip like venom from the last word.

Joe dusted the man’s jacket once more, then smiling broadly, said, “Good. Glad we understand each other, Jeffery.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll take your luggage upstairs. Your room is the second door on the right. It has an adjoining door to Mr. Cartwright’s.”

Turning his back and rolling his eyes just once, Joe pulled the parlor door open once more and re-entered the warmth there. He was not in the least surprised to see a faint smile on Adam’s face.

“What?” Joe exclaimed sharply.

“Jeffery is only doing it for my own good. I rely on that man for a whole lot of things, Joe. I would appreciate it if you didn’t upset the apple cart too much while you are here!” Adam warned softly, the smile now disappearing from his features.
Adam heard the soft chuckle his brother gave then felt Joe's hand drop onto his blanket-covered knee. “Jeffery needs to understand just who’s boss, Adam. And every time you cave into him, that’s just one more little advantage he’s got on you.”
“I think at this stage in my life, Joseph, I can afford a little disadvantage. Besides, I need him. So don’t aggravate the boy into leaving, okay? At least not yet?”

Joe exhaled sharply, letting it show how peeved he was by the situation.

“Joe, let’s be realistic with one another. I’m an old man. I have no children, no wife, to help me down this last road. And these cataracts make me all the more dependent on someone like Jeffery to handle the day-to-day chores.”

“Then why write to me and ask me to drag across three thousand miles in the dead of winter?” Joe blurted out.

“You really honestly haven’t changed one bit, you know?” and the elder brother laughed roundly. “Before we get into that, tell me about the Ponderosa. How are things going out there?”

And for the better part of an hour, the two brothers spoke of the land that had made them men.

The tinkling little bell early the next morning woke Joe from his deep slumber. With an age-stiff hand, he brushed the cobwebs of a good night’s sleep from his face, not bothering to rise from the soft bed. Old Adam’s done all right by himself if this house is any indication. All those fancy plates and dishes at supper last night! Whew! But then he always did like the finer things in life. Well, tell you one thing Joseph Cartwright, you gonna get you a bed like this when you get back to the Ponderosa. Can’t recall a better night’s sleep. But then maybe it was the bottle of brandy the two of us put away. Lord, I can hear Jeffery now!

But the voice calling his name loudly from the doorway was Adam’s. Joe opened his eyes just a crack to see Adam standing in the doorway, hunched over and leaning heavily on a cane and the detested butler’s arm.

“Come on, boy. Up and at ‘em! Got too many things to do today for you to lay in bed half the morning.”

With a groan, Joe snuggled back into warmth of the blankets. He wasn’t surprised in the least by the gentle prodding of the cane a moment later.

Joe stepped into the opulent dining room to be greeted by a flood of bright sunlight pouring through the large windows there. He slid into the chair at his brother’s right hand side and looked at all the food resplendent on the table.

“We having company for breakfast?” Joe mumbled while pouring a cup of coffee into the gold-rimmed porcelain cup. “Got more food here than my tribe could polish off in one sitting!”

“Just us, little buddy. But after the way you thanked Cook last night, I am not in the least surprised. You always could charm the ears off a mule. How’s your head this morning?”

Spreading a red jam over a piece of golden brown toast, Joe allowed he was fine.

“Good!” Adam said enthusiastically. “We have some important business to take care of today. I’ve had Jeffery get the carriage prepared.”

“You and Jeffy are not taking me on a tour of Boston, are you?” Joe groaned theatrically.

“No, and his name if Jeffery, Joe,” he corrected, his knife tap-tapping on the plate before him as he cut a bite of the slice of ham there.

“Then what? It is too blamed cold to go traipsing all over Kingdom come-“

Setting his cup down, Adam erupted into hearty laughter. Finally getting himself under control, he patted his lips before laying the white linen napkin down. “You must be getting old! You? Joseph Cartwright, who loved cold weather so well he would ride into town in a blizzard? You are either showing your age or you are not really my brother!”

“Like you pointed out: things change!” Joe groused back and tipped his cup up.

The mask that Adam usually wore dropped and for that briefest of moments, his brother saw the sorrow etched there. “Besides not liking the cold now, what’s changed with you, Joe? Tell me.”

Gazing into his cup as though all the answers he needed were there, Joe wondered how to tell Adam of all the changes in his life. “Well,” he started then paused and sighed.” You teased me about my hair last night but that changed back before—“ and again he stopped himself.

“You were going gray fast when Pa died and I came back for the funeral,” Adam finished for him. “Guess there is a smidgeon of Cartwright in you after all!”

“Found out that raisin’ kids does it to you! But, no, I can’t blame it all on the kids. They didn’t cause it but then again they didn’t help it either! But you are right, lots of things change. I can’t sit a horse all day long any more either. Too many broncs when I was younger, I guess. And my shoulder still acts up where I fell and busted it coming out of the Bucket of Blood when I was sixteen. But the biggest change for me was getting married and settling down. Found out how happy a man can be with his children under his feet. Why didn’t you ever marry again, Adam?”

Adam laid his knife and fork aside, his hands seemingly seeing for him so that there was no fumbling or misstep. “You mean after Pamela died? I just couldn’t get interested in other women after her.”

The silence in the room grew to fill it as the two old men sat thinking of lost loves and old heartaches.

“Mr. Cartwright,” came Jeffery’s pronouncement from the doorway. “The carriage is out front. Would you like me to go with you on your errand today?”

Joe was glad Adam told the butler that as long as the driver was with them, they would be okay. He gave the haughty butler an oily smile but said nothing.

Bundled into his long stockman’s coat again, Joe helped Adam into his woolen greatcoat then down the front steps to the gleaming black enclosed carriage.

“I’m surprised you ain’t got one of those new fangled automobiles, brother.” Joe teased as he settled beside Adam. “They are a load of fun, let me tell you!”

Adam used his cane to rap on the roof of the carriage and at once the carriage moved off at a quick clip. “You mean to tell me you bought one of those fool contraptions?”

“Nope!” Joe responded and turned his attention to the passing cityscape outside the carriage windows. “Bought a couple of them. Each of the boys got one and I borrow them occasionally.” Adam knew by the emphasis on the word “borrow” just how Joe’s sons probably viewed their father’s escapades. “Now where in tarnation are we going? You better be telling me or I’ll have your driver take me right back to that warm parlor of yours.”

“I have a special request of you, Joe. I have had Jeffery trying to help me but I don’t think he’s interested, really.”

“Tell me something about that boy I don’t already know!” Joe remarked sarcastically.

Adam ignored the words. That part of his brother, the biting sarcasm, had obviously never changed and probably never would. With a hand curled and gnarled by arthritis, he patted the leg pressed against his own. "You want to know why I brought you here, don't you?" When he heard the snort beside him he continued. "Like I said, Jeffery has been helping me but it is proving a rather daunting task. So I thought I could get you to help me."

"Will you come on and quit dancin' 'round on me and spit it out 'fore we both die of old age?"

Despite himself, Adam chuckled. Then just as quickly his demeanor sobered as the carriage pulled to a halt. "We're here, I think. Help me out, will you, Joe?"

Joe opened the carriage door to find himself at the entrance to a cemetery. The cold swirling mists made him pull his coat closer but it was more that he felt the pull of all those he had buried in his own life. Too many friends, Sheriff Coffee, Hop Sing, his first wife Alice and their unborn child, Hoss, his father and not long ago, his adopted brother Jamie. With an overpowering sorrow threatening his composure, Joe knew why Adam had asked him to come and why they were there that morning.

"This is why, Joe. The plot records were lost in a fire a number of years ago. So no one knows just exactly where it is. Jeffery and I have looked several times but like I said, I don't think he likes the idea of being here." Adam explained and leaning heavily on his cane on one side and Joe's proffered arm on the other, he moved through a mist of his own.

"Why don't you ask her family? I would think Pamela's brothers-" Joe started, but Adam harsh bark of a laugh stopped him.

"I am not looking for Pamela's grave, Joe. She's across town in her family's mausoleum. No, Joe, I know where she is. I'm looking for that other woman in my life. That's where I want to be buried, Joe, and I need you to help me find the spot, then show Jeffery. That way when the time comes, I can be laid to rest beside my mother. That's what I want, Joe. I want to be buried beside my mother."

As Joe helped Adam slowly walk the gravel path, he was glad for the heavy mist that covered his brother's eyes. For if he could have seen more clearly, Adam would surely have chastised Joe for the tears that welled up in the younger man's eyes. But Joe wasn't sure whether the tears were for himself or for Adam.

"What do you remember about the grave, Adam?" Joe asked finally, his voice husky as he fought for control.

"It faced the south, as I recall. The headstone wasn't really that special. Remember, Pa didn't have a lot of ready cash way back then. I kept thinking that I would get a bigger one, a fancier one but time got away from me. That and every time I said something about it, Pamela would tell me that it was a waste of money."

Joe snorted beside him and the sound made Adam smile. "Yes, I know. Like that chunk of marble Pamela's in wasn't a waste. Anyway, now you know why I wanted you here. You have to help me find my mother's grave. There was a space beside her. I want that space for my resting-place. But first I have to find it."

Together, at first more to humor Adam than anything else, the two brothers walked the gravel paths, Joe reading the names on the tombstones aloud as they passed by. Adam would occasionally nod and say that he remembered a family by that name, that he had done business with this person or that. But despite their long slow walk in the enshrouding cold mists, there was no stone marked Elizabeth Stoddard Cartwright to be found.

Joe finally dropped Adam's arm and stepped in front of him abruptly, stopping his shuffling steps. He took his brother's upper arms in his hands and looked into his face, willing Adam to see him. He had to say what was in his heart or it would surely break.

"You don't belong here, Adam."

"Yes, I do!"

"No, you belong at the Ponderosa!"

"Joe, I haven't been at the ranch in so long…besides, the ranch has been yours for many a year now. I don't belong there."
"The Ponderosa has always been your home too. Same as mine. You just chose not to live there, brother. Come home now, Adam," Joe pleaded, aware that he was crying but hoping that Adam would not pick up on it.

Adam bowed his head. In his mind's eye, he saw the two of them standing there in the graveyard but to that eye, there was no sign of age. To Adam, he and Joe looked just like they had at their last meeting: straight backed, virile, strong, in their prime as men. The darkness that would come to haunt both their souls in the form of lost love ones was still forming on the far horizon. The hand that clutched at his upper arm was still strong, tanned from working the land he too had called home. His own hand had first clasped his brother's hand more as a politeness but Joe had quickly drawn Adam into his embrace and Adam remembered the strength of love he had felt there and returned it in kind. But that had been nearly twenty years before.

"No Joe, my place-"

"Your place is the same it was all those years ago: at Pa's right hand. That spot is still yours, Adam. Stop this nonsense and come home with me. Tell Jeffy to close up the house. Hell, sell that cavernous beast. Just come home with me," Joe encouraged and unspoken were the words 'now before it's too late'.

"Somewhere over to our right is a bower area with a bench, Joe. We need to sit down and talk about this," Adam whispered, his voice as thin as the fog was heavy around them.

Once settled onto the cold hard marble of the bench with the branch of a sheltering pine over it, Adam took a deep breath. Gone was the scent of the sea he always remembered replaced by that of pungent evergreens. He listened sharply for the sounds of the harbor he knew was not far from where they sat. Instead he heard the crunch of Joe's boots in the gravel and off to one side, the shifting of the carriage horse as it waited for them. As he reached his hand out beside him, he expected to touch the cold seat but found instead the thick cotton and wool stockman's coat his brother wore.
"No, Joe. That spot at Pa's right hand is yours. You earned it. You stayed on the ranch. You worked it and built it to what it is today. You were the one who made sure that there would always be Cartwrights to live and work there. You were the one Pa came to trust with the future."

"You and Pa started the Ponderosa. You took it from nothing but scrub trees, rocky mountains and a dream. You and Pa, you made it what it is, even today! Without the foundation you and Pa laid down in those early years, there would have been nothing for me to build on. You were Pa's right hand man, always!" Joe insisted.

Leaning heavily to the side Joe sat on, Adam let his hand rest on the solid thigh there. "I was when I was there, Joe. But I left, remember? And when I did, you stepped up and became the man you are now. That made Pa so proud. That's why the place at his side is yours. Not mine."

"Don't try to pull that on me, Adam Cartwright! You may not have been physically on the ranch but your ideas were. I know about all the letters you and Pa exchanged over the years. I found them you know, after Pa died. He had saved every last one of them. Kept them in his nightstand right beside his bed. From the shape some of them were in, he'd read them quite a few times."

Adam closed his eyes, recalling some of the things he had written his father over the many years they had been apart. "Did you?" he asked, and when Joe had not answered him, he asked again. "Did you read them?"

The 'yes' Joe answered with was barely audible. "That's how I know you need to come home now. Because you never really left, Adam. Those letters showed me where your heart still was. And it ain't in some overheated parlor in a huge empty house in cold Boston."

"I don't have the time left to make the trip, Joe. The doctors-"

Quickly Joe interjected, "Doctors have been telling me for years to slow down too, Adam. Doctors don't know squat! You have enough time to come home. You just need to want to is all. And you want to, I know you do. Why else would you have hauled me three thousand miles in the dead of winter but to drag your sorry carcass back to the Ponderosa?"

"No, I want to be buried here. With family, Joe."

"Then why aren't you looking for a spot beside Pamela? She was your wife! That's as close as I know of any family you got here!"

"Because she was just as cold alive as she is dead, Joe. Our marriage was a sham from the beginning. All she wanted from me was a husband to sport around to various dinner parties. If you read the letters I sent to Pa, you know that!" The heat in Adam's words did little to warm the air around them.

Joe chewed on his lip and looked at his clasped hands hanging between his knees then studied the gravel beneath his feet. Keeping his voice soft and low, he had to say the words. "I know all about your marriage to Pamela. I know you married her because you thought she was pregnant with your child. I'm sorry for you that she wasn't. Being a father is one of the greatest joys of my life. I wish it could have been for you too. But we are getting off track. We were talking about you coming home with me."

Adam chuckled and rubbed his hand over his white beard. "You were talking about me coming home. I was talking about finding my mother's grave so you could tell someone where to bury me when the time comes."

"It's one and the same when we get our age, Adam. Please, if I have to, I will beg you but let me tell you, getting up off these old knees ain't easy any more. Come home. There's family there for you, Adam. Nephews that need to hear the old stories about how it was. Nieces that need your wisdom. Talk to me nice and I'll let you play with my grandchildren."

Listening carefully, Adam heard Joe stand and move a little away from him, and from the sounds of it, Joe had turned his back to him. "I'll make you a deal then. We look around here for another fifteen minutes. If we haven't found my mother's grave by then, I'll let you take me home with you."

"Deal!" Joe clapped his hands together and turned back to help his brother rise from the bench. And for the next fifteen minutes, the two brothers, bent with age and with faltering steps, wandered the cemetery as the fog closed in on them. Finally, their time was over.

"Okay Adam, we haven't found her. And we need to get back before Jeffy thinks I've kidnapped you or something and sends the sheriff looking for me."

"Joe, here they are called 'constables' and you better call him Jeffery or I'll start calling you Little Joe again."

Tossing his hands into the air, Joe followed his brother passed the bench area they had been circling for the last fifteen minutes as he had pretended to help Adam search. "All right, I'll call him Jeffery if you insist." And seeing Adam's eyebrows raise as he came up beside him, Joe knew Adam would follow through on his threat otherwise. Taking his brother's arm, Joe led him from the silent fog-bound cemetery. Just as they passed the bench for the last time, the fog parted and Joe, looking out of the corner of one eye, caught sight of something that made his heart skip a beat. There, directly across from where they had sat, was a simple stone marker etched faintly with the name of Elizabeth Stoddard Cartwright. For just a brief moment, he considered telling Adam that he had found what they sought. But then he reconsidered. No, Adam was going to find something he had sought far longer and that was in Nevada. Family.


The bright spring afternoon overlooking Lake Tahoe was one like he had experienced time and time again in his long life. What made the difference this time was the fact that, as he stood there with his family on the small promontory jutting out into the lake, they were burying his last brother. Tears still spilled down his cheeks unashamedly. He had barely listened to the words the reverend had spoken about his brother being a pioneer, about his successes. Instead he heard the breeze sighing through the tall pines and the gentle birdsong. Someone nudged his arm and he picked his head up and heard the last amen to the last prayer. Then there were people pressing his hand and murmuring words of condolence. He accepted them with the understanding that the words were meant to help him when in fact they were for the others. Slowly he turned from the gravesite, his eyes half closed, not wishing to witness the scene at his back as his brother's coffin was lowered into the grave freshly dug at his father's right side. When nearly everyone was gone, he turned back.."I told you that you belonged there at Pa's right hand.  Now you can't argue me out of it." And in a soft voice, aching with longing, he whispered "Goodbye, Joe."

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