(Yes, I’m starting another Lone Star Sons adventure. This is the first of the new series of adventures, set in the time of the Republic of Texas. Hopefully to be done in time for Christmas sales…)

The Matter of Jedidiah

“Well, Jim,” said Captain Hays one summer evening, as they sat outside the front door of the small adobe house off of San Antonio’s central plaza, enjoying the cooler temperatures which fell as soon as the sun was well-down and the light breeze which discouraged mosquitos. “I have a curious assignment for you and Mr. Shaw as the pair of my stiletto men currently at liberty – and this one might even call upon your skills as a man of law.”

“As long as it doesn’t depend on my sharp-shooting ability,” Jim Reade replied, and his commander laughed, wry laughter. “Where need we travel to this time, and for what duty are we being charged?”

Across the plaza, the light from lanterns hung swaying in the trees above the tables where the chili-selling vendors hawked their wares. A thread of music from a trio playing guitar, fiddle and concertina, hung in the air like the smoke from the chili-vendor’s cook fires. The old town of Bexar came alive after sundown, when the heat of the day abated.

“A plantation a little west of Richmond,” Jack Hays leaned back in the leather and stave Mexican chair, and drew on his pipe, sending a small spiral of tobacco smoke upwards. “Pecan Grove; established in the earlies by one of Austin’s first three hundred settlers. A Scot named Josiah Malcolm, emigrated in his youth from Perth, settled in the Carolina, then took up land in Austin’s grant. He died about ten years ago, leaving the entire estate to his wife, Mrs. Ada Malcolm. General Sam always had a soft spot for Mrs. Malcolm, since they were neighbors. The thing is now Mrs. Malcolm died … and in the will, she willed everything, lock, stock and barrel to a certain beneficiary. General Sam has asked me privately, if I could send someone to safeguard the life of that beneficiary.”

“And there is someone contesting the will?” Jim Reade asked. “Were there no natural heirs to the property, who would inherit if there were no will?” This certainly sounded intriguing. He was aware, in a manner of speaking, of Pecan Grove plantation, and of Ada Malcom as a redoubtable woman of strong character.

Captain Jack Hays shook his head. “There was a son, but he was the supercargo on a China clipper ship lost at sea, as I understand, about ten years ago. Great tragedy, as all their hopes were invested in him. The person contesting the will and threatening the life of the beneficiary is a nephew, the son of Josiah Malcom’s younger brother. A feckless, useless sort of man – I’ve met him a couple of times. A gambler and unlucky at it, which you’d think would be an inducement to give up games of chance, but Hake Malcolm is nearly as stupid as he is unlucky. Always coming round to touch up his uncle for a loan. Old Malcolm used to indulge him for the sake of the family, but Mrs. Ada put a stop to it, as soon as she gained absolute control of the purse-strings and did Hake Malcolm resent that. Told everyone who would lend him their ears for five minutes, about what a miser she was, to flesh and blood…”

“Technically, she was not flesh and blood, but to her husband” Jim pointed out, and Jack agreed with a nod.

“Anyway – General Sam was fond of her, and he’s never been accused of being ungallant to any woman, save perhaps his first wife. He’s tied up with the Legislature in session for a few months, and he had a letter from the Malcolm family lawyer regarding the estate and the beneficiary…”

“And he’s worried about the Malcolm beneficiary?” Jim hinted, and Jack Hays nodded again.

“Well, he is the president, after all,” Jack drew on his pipe. “The one who trusts us to deal with interesting and delicate matters. And the beneficiary of a substantial estate being in danger from a resentful man who gives every indication of contesting the will … that’s as delicate a matter as they come. There’s just one thing…” Jack waited for Jim to rise to the bait. Jim didn’t; Jack was always holding back a key bit of information as a tease. Finally, Jim said,

“So, is there something we should know about this beneficiary which we are to protect, for the honor of General Sam and the nation of Texas?”

“Why, yes there is,” Jack replied. “The beneficiary whose life may be in danger is a tame macaw named Jeremiah.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *