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The Eyes of Justice (Part 3) [MOVED]

Posted on Thu Dec 28th, 2017 @ 3:16pm by Shade Harper & H.G. Mercer & Quentin Cantrell
Edited on on Mon Jan 8th, 2018 @ 5:53pm

Episode: The Legacy
Location: Kalispell Municipal Building, Municipal Square, Kalispell, Montana
Timeline: Morning, July 13, 1875

Shade shifted restlessly as they waited for the Judge to start speaking. He had been surprised and pleased when Mandrell dismissed Tyndall's lawsuit. However, he was more than a little uneasy when Judge Mandrell stated he still had concerns. Harriet Mercer seemed quite relaxed, so he tried to still his concerns.

"Mr. Harper, you have had quite the illustrious career," Mandrell spoke suddenly, his cool gray eyes fixing on Shade. "The dossier that Miss Mercer has put together is, shall we say, colorful? It appears that you have a history of walking on the edge where the law is concerned, young man!"

The judge put his reading glasses back on and thumbed through the dossier he had just referenced. "Cutler's Raiders - acquitted. You ran more than one rather elite gang in various range wars. Most recent legal trouble seems to have been in 1871, Willow Colorado." Mandrell peered over the rim of his glasses at Shade, "You were charged with murder. It appears you were within hours of meeting the hangman when you escaped. You were lucky to get yourself cleared, and the charges dropped. However, it seems that you have also made strong impressions on the people you worked for and worked with. Marshal Troup from Laramie wrote a glowing endorsement to my inquiry. The stagecoach company you were working for also had nothing but glowing words to say about you. I would like to hear why I should trust you to raise two small children and manage their property. Particularly, I want to know about Cutler's Raiders."

Shade cleared his throat, "I didn't know what kinda man Randolph Cutler was, Your Honor, not at first. When the war ended, I was a kid without a lot of work experience. He offered me work - he was supplying ranch hands to the bigger spreads in Texas. What I didn't know was that he was also putting in men that would feed him information and, admittedly, I inadvertently did the same thing. I was long gone from Texas when I heard about what had been going on. In 1869, I turned myself in so I could clear my name."

"As far as Cody and Nettie are concerned, I'd give anything if their parents were still alive and I'd come home under different circumstances. But it is what it is. I will do everything in my power to keep them safe, raise them right, and protect their inheritance. I believe in working for what I get. Being given something like half the ranch doesn't sit right so I'll do everything I physically can to earn what Chance and Regina left me."

Judge Mandrell made a slight noise that sounded like a harumph. He turned his attention to Quentin. He held up two folders. "This is Mr. Harper's dossier," he said, holding the thick folder in his left hand and lifting it slightly higher. He then raised his right hand. A much thinner folder rested on it. "This is your dossier, Mr. Cantrell. Quite a difference wouldn't you say?"

Mandrell laid both folders back on his desk and opened the smaller one. "You had a brilliant military career, received numerous commendations and awards, excellent service record, ended the war as a major. Quite an accomplishment despite the circumstances of the war itself. From there, it gets rather murky. In fact, you seem to disappear from more than a year before eventually resurfacing in San Francisco. Your employment is listed as Troubleshooter. Miss Mercer has done her best to explain that, but I would like to hear from you exactly what a troubleshooter does."

Quentin inhaled a moment, letting the breath wash back out slowly as he considered the judge's question. He then seemed to stir inside, his eyes moving up to meet the judge's eyes. "Your Honor, When the war ended, I went home. Honestly, I am not sure why, but it seemed the only place I had left..." Cantrell sat up straighter. "...I am sure you have heard about how things were back then...Charleston was under occupation by the Union army. My father's business fortunes had fallen with the Confederate government and the city was not friendly to anyone who had been on the losing side." His face flushed as he continued with the part he was not enjoying. "I admit I crawled into a bottle...too many nights not sleeping, or when I did sleep I saw too many dead friends. Why was I alive and home and they weren't?...and to be honest, after what I saw when I got would have been easier if I hadn't."

Quentin then gave a small quirky smile. "Suddenly one night, there was Chance. He said he was there with orders to bring me home to Regina. I admit I was not at my best right then, but he persisted and I finally went with him. It took awhile, but I came out the other side at the ranch. I was me again...well, as much me as I was ever going to get back, I suppose..." Cantrell took a drink of water from a glass on the table. "Anyway, I was asked by an old friend to come to San Francisco and help him find someone who owed him money. I went, and as it turns out, I had some skill, both at finding them and taking care of myself...seems it's the only useful skills I learned in those four years."

Cantrell took another breath. "And so that's what I began doing...people would come to me with problems...I would listen to their story and if I believed in what they needed or felt they really needed help...I would help them. Yes, people died at my hand, Judge, so don't bother asking, but I'm no bounty hunter. I never hired myself out to someone who did not need help. I was never just another gunhand or gang member. I killed my share of men in the war, either in battle or sending them to what ended up being their death. I figure any person who lived because I helped them balances each one who did not deserve to die in the war."

Oliver Mandrell nodded as if satisfied. He had met Quentin Cantrell previously when the man had requested the injunction to stop Tyndall from doing anything until he could find Shade Harper and bring him back to Kalispell. Cantrell had done what he set out to do. The judge hoped the man realized the enormity of the task he was taking on. Shade Harper had been an interesting riddle to try solving. Oliver had known the Harpers, including John Caleb and Isadora, Shade's parents. He'd always felt that Caleb Harper had done his younger son a disservice with his unyielding refusal to allow him to come home. It seemed the boy had grown into a decent man despite that.

But, Oliver did not think either man could do the jobs they had inherited alone!

The judge cleared his throat, "Since I am certain that Miss Mercer has covered reading the wills to you both, I will skip the fine print. Mr. Cantrell, Mrs. Regina Harper left you her shares in all of the family's shipping, mining, and timber businesses. Your percentage is to remain two-percent less than a controlling interest, thus protecting the children's assets. You are the designated manager of their shares until they come of age and can legally do so themselves."

"Mrs. Regina Cantrell Harper’s remaining assets are to be divided equally amongst her children. Should there be any minor children at the time of her death and should her husband, Mr. Chance Harper, predecease her, their paternal uncle, Mr. Jesse Shade Harper, is to act as their legal guardian and administrator of their estate."

" Mr. Chance Harper left the majority of his assets to his children, to be divided equally amongst them. It also left them exactly one-half of Lost Lake Ranch and building sites for homes of their own should they choose to remain on the ranch. To Mr. Jesse Shade Harper, Chance left half ownership of Lost Lake Ranch, its primary facilities, and Blackbird Lodge. The will further stipulates that Mr. Shade Harper will be the legal guardian of any minor children and co-trustee of their estate."

"As a judge, I feel that my job is to uphold the wishes of the deceased as long as those wishes do not contravene any laws. However, I would be derelict in my sworn duties were I not to address certain concerns brought forth by your pasts." Oliver Mandrell's eyes settled on both men, "Therefore, I am going to add a few stipulations which will be reviewed and adjusted, if necessary, in six months. First, Mr. Harper and Mr. Cantrell, you will share custody and guardianship of the minor children. Although Mr. and Mrs. Hale will remain in residence at the ranch, a suitable female companion and caregiver needs to be hired to see to the needs of the children. This caregiver will have no responsibilities beyond the care of the children. The ranch must show a clear profit of no less than six-percent at the end of a six month period. All business profits should remain steady or increase. Mr. Jesse Shade Harper will remain clear of criminal activities and charges."

Mandrell paused in his discourse, "I further stipulate that Miss Harriet Gene Mercer will continue as the estate's legal representative as well as having oversight on its management. Let us hope that I do not see any of you for the next six months. The court is adjourned."

Harriet rose along with everyone else as the Judge exited the courtroom. Her expression did not mirror how stunned she was at his pronouncement. She had expected conditions to be set. He had intimated as much to her during their meeting the day before. Harriet had not expected to be one of those stipulations! She began gathering her files and papers together and sliding them back into her attaché case. "I suggest we adjourn to the hotel dining room to discuss this turn of events. I will meet you there."

Shade watched Harriet sweep from the courtroom in a rustle of expensive skirts. He did not miss the tall, silent form of her Oriental friend gliding out of the door in her wake. He glanced at Quentin, "Well...."

Quentin nodded, hands already reaching up to tug at his tie and loosen it from his shirt collar. "Yeah, I know...I was not expecting some of that either..." Quentin undid the collar button and stuffed the tie into a pocket. "...and yes, I saw her shadow also. She spent a lot of time with him yesterday..." Quentin grinned as he saw Shade' eyes cut over towards him. "Hey, I trust her, but I never said I was naive...I kept an eye on her as best I could when we got to town." Cantrell exhaled noisily then lightly punched Shade' shoulder. "Come on...let's go get our irons from our room...I feel naked standing around like this."

Shade grinned back at Quentin. Like the older man, he'd already loosened his tie and tugged it off. With the trial over, he felt oddly lighthearted. For the moment, his brother's children and their inheritance were safe. He could deal with what it meant to now find himself part owner of the immense spread later. Now was the time to celebrate getting past the first major hurdle. They could also worry about Harriet and her mysterious Oriental friend later as well. She had done a good job for them.

"Agreed. We also need to let Kate and Ezra know the Judge's ruling," Shade said, then gave Quentin a friendly clap on the shoulder, "I need lunch! Couldn't eat a dadblamed thing this morning." He fell into step with his friend as they headed out of the courthouse and on to the next challenge.

~*~ Finis ~*~


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