by Lyn Robinson

Adam was trying to read a new book and relax as he waited for supper but his youngest brother was prowling around restlessly. Adam was well aware that Joe wanted to ask him something and he could make a fair guess about the subject. He wasn’t about to make things easy for his brother and carefully kept his attention on the book.

Joe considered his big brother carefully but Adam looked relaxed and maybe in a good enough mood to help out. Joe had been seeing a very lovely blonde Carolyn. She was well aware of her good looks and expected any man who took her out to be duly generous and she had very expensive tastes. Joe was well aware that his father didn’t approve of his seeing Carolyn but with so much competition for her favours he had been relishing being the chosen one. The problem was money. Joe had always spent his wages almost as soon as he got them and he didn’t dare ask his father for an advance. The last time he had tried that he had had to endure a long lecture. He had already scrounged all he could from Hoss and owed his big brother his next two weeks wages. Not that Joe was bothered about that debt Hoss never pushed him to repay and eventually he would settle up with his brother. On the other hand Adam had been in Sacramento for the last three weeks and might be amenable to a loan. Joe wanted to have one last fling with Carolyn and then he would tell her that it was over. The previous evening she had left him halfway through the evening because he couldn’t afford to buy her the expensive supper she had decided she wanted. That had infuriated Joe and hurt his pride, women didn’t drop him, well hardly ever. He had seen her go into supper with Garth, the son of one of the mine owners. Joe had clashed with Garth ever since school days and wasn’t about to let him take Carolyn without a fight.

Eventually Joe plucked up his courage and perching on the table in front of his brother asked “Adam can you lend me some money?”

Adam didn’t even look up from his book as he said “Nope”

Joe was indignant “Why not? You haven’t even asked what I need it for. You have plenty.”

Adam looked up, smiling faintly,  That’s because I don’t waste it on girls like Carolyn, everyone knows she costs a fortune.”

Joe was furious at that and glared at his brother “How did you know? Have you been discussing me with Pa?”

Adam shrugged “He was worried. I just told him there was no need, you were just showing off, nothing serious.”

Joe lost all hold on his temper at that “I’ll get the money you wait and see.” and then he stormed out of the room before he went for his brother. It wasn’t even the refusal which infuriated him, it was his big brother reading him like a book when he hadn’t even been there. He had been fighting for his independence forever, usually his Pa treated him as full grown, as much as he did any of his sons, but his brothers were another matter. Hoss had just about given up fussing and he could always talk Hoss round but his eldest brother still treated him like a kid.

Adam went back to his book unconcerned, Joe frequently lost his temper but usually calmed down just as quickly. He was glad when Hop Sing called them to table as he was hungry and at first everyone ate steadily but then Joe started making snide comments to his brother. At first Adam ignored it but when Joe interrupted his conversation with Hoss to say “Don’t waste your time asking him nothing he ain’t willing to help noone.” Adam had had enough “One more rude comment from you little brother and I’ll give you the hiding you’re asking for.”

For Little Joe smouldering at being, as he thought, treated like a child, this was the last straw and he launched himself at his brother. Adam was taken by surprise and he took a couple of good blows but he had taken enough from Joe for no real reason and he landed out once to Joe’s chin landing his little brother flat on his back. Adam turned to his father “Please control your youngest son Pa.” and then he walked outside to cool down himself.

It had all been over in less than a minute but Ben was shaken, he hated having his sons come to blows. He pulled Joe to his feet and prevented him from following Adam asking “What was that all about?”

Little Joe pulled away and, not answering, ran up the stairs to his room to cool off.

Ben worried went and poured himself a brandy, standing staring into the fire as he tried to puzzle out what Adam had done in the few hours he had been home to rile his younger brother to such an extent.

Hoss came over and gripped his father’s shoulder “Pa they don’t mean nothing by it. All be forgotten tomorrow.”

“I hope you’re right Son.” Ben sighed heavily but with neither of the protagonists willing to speak to him there was nothing he could do. Except hope that a night’s sleep would calm all tempers and get them back to normal.

Joe didn’t sleep much annoyed with Adam and perhaps even more with himself. He knew he had no call to go for his eldest brother like that, but sometimes he felt like knocking the calmness out of Adam. Nothing was more guaranteed to undermine his temper than Adam assuming he was a kid and then to go out of his way to prove his brother right, he could have kicked himself.

The next morning Adam had already left for town when Joe came downstairs. Joe was still answering only in monosyllables and Ben decided it was best to keep his sons apart for a while longer and told Joe to complete his normal barn chores and then go up to the lumber camp and collect the information required to sort out the men’s wages and bonuses. One of them would bring the money up to the lumber camp the following morning and it would be useful if the figures were all ready and waiting.

Joe was quite glad to get away from his family and in particular the reproachful look he could see in his father’s eyes, as Ben added “Hopefully by then you will be in a better mood.”

Joe headed up to the lumber camp but he went via the lake and he had to admit he’d been acting the fool. His main complaint against Adam was the knowledge that Adam had been quite right when he said that Joe was just showing off. Joe decided that an expensive final night would just be compounding his foolishness. Carolyn wasn’t even very good company, apart from her looks, she had nothing much going for her. She was only interested in herself and most of the time with her Joe had been bored, except when other men looked at him with envy! He guessed Adam would bring the money as Hoss was going up to the high pasture and he decided to apologise to his brother.

Having, in his own mind, sorted the problem with his brother, knowing Adam would accept the apology without hard feelings, Joe relaxed. He spent a pleasant day at the camp, finishing work quite early and spending the rest of the day laughing and joking with the men.

Joe hung around the following morning waiting for the money to arrive. Even though it got to lunchtime without any sign of the money Joe wasn’t worried, assuming that something had come up to delay Adam. By the time it got dark and there was still no word Joe began to get concerned. He decided to ride home and check what was going on.

Joe rode into the house about nine thirty much to Ben’s surprise. He moved over to greet his son and then stopped dead seeing his son looked worried. “What’s wrong?”

Joe shrugged “Maybe nothing. Did someone come up with the money this morning?”

Ben felt suddenly cold “Adam left here with it just after seven this morning, he should have been with you before lunch.”

Joe bit his lip “He didn’t arrive and there was no sign of him on the direct route.”

Ben stared at his youngest son, five minutes earlier he had no real problems, now he had to face the fact that his eldest son was in trouble, maybe injured, maybe dead. He tried to think of some reason, something that would have delayed Adam, but he was unable to.

Joe looked up at his father, fear obvious in his eyes “He would have been carrying about twelve hundred dollars wouldn’t he?”

Ben nodded “But your brother is sensible he would have handed over the money rather than risk his life.”

“I didn’t find a body and they would hardly bother to move it. Maybe he was held up and then followed them.”

Ben wasn’t sure, he would have expected Adam to send work before going off after anyone. For several minutes they sat in silence, then Little Joe went and poured out two drinks. He stood staring into the fire “He must be alright. I haven’t seen him since I attacked him the other evening. I’ve gotta be able to tell him I didn’t mean it.”

He looked so despairing that Ben went and put his arm round his son’s shoulders. “I shouldn’t worry about that. Adam knows you too well and loves you too much to take any notice of a momentary flare up of your temper.”

Joe didn’t answer and Ben, wanting to find someway to help his son relax, asked “Out of interest why were you so cross with him? He’d only just got home I wouldn’t have thought he’d had time to get you in that state.”

Joe said “I asked to borrow some money but he said he wasn’t wasting his money on Carolyn, It wasn’t that that annoyed me so much. It was the fact that he’d been discussing me with you behind my back.”

Ben frowned “But it wasn’t like that. It only came up casually. He asked if you were okay. He always does when he’s been away and you do the same.”

“I know. But he was darn well right and I think I knew it then. He said he’d told you I was just showing off.” Joe drained his drink and put the empty glass down on the mantle piece. His voice was quiet and Ben had to strain to hear “I only wanted enough money to have one expensive night out and then leave her rather than have her leave me. I was cross because even without being here Adam could read me like a book. I went up to the lake on the way to the lumber camp and sat and thought. I realised how stupid I was being, she wasn’t even very good company, just a status symbol. I was gonna apologise when he brought the money up. I guessed he would.”

“I’m glad you have come to your senses, I haven’t said anything because I was sure it was only a matter of time.”

Hardly matters now does it Pa. Where is Adam?”

“I don’t know but there’s nothing we can do until daylight. We’ll go out at first light and see what we can find. For now you might as well go and get some sleep.”

Joe shook his head “I couldn’t sleep.” The two of them sat by the fire hardly talking waiting for enough light to go and search for Adam.

That morning Adam had ridden out after an early breakfast, it was a beautiful clear day and he had no worries and was enjoying the clean air and the beautiful scenery. He was sure that Joe would be over his tantrum, they never lasted long. Sport had thrown a shoe and Adam couldn’t spare the time to heat up the forge and replace it, so he had cut a roan out of the remuda.

The first intimation Adam had of trouble was when a bullet hit him in the upper arm. The force of it was enough to knock him from his saddle and he hit his head on a rock as he fell. He was nearly unconscious but he heard voices say “Stay back he’ll recognise you” and then he saw a horse which looked like Cochise. Puzzled he murmured “Joe”, then rough hands started to strip the money belt from his waist and he passed out.

Several hours later Adam came round feeling stiff and sore, his arm was throbbing and his head pounding. For a few minutes he lay still just waiting for the world to stop spinning and everything looked blurred and double. He realised that he’d lost quite a lot of blood and pulled his bandana off and wrapped it round his arm. He couldn’t work out what was happening but he saw the sun glinting on the waters of the lake. He slowly pulled himself to his feet and leaning on the horse stumbled over to it. He washed his head and bathed his arm, taking a long drink and felt slightly more human as the world settled.

Then he suddenly realised he couldn’t remember anything. He didn’t know who he was or where he was, let alone what had happened. For a moment he was close to panic but despite his loss of memory his logical nature hadn’t changed and he forced himself to sit down and take stock of the information he did have available. He had no papers on him but he did have about sixty dollars, a side gun and a rifle, all top quality. He slowly turned back to the horse standing there, a good quality saddle even if the horse was a bit ordinary. He checked the brand     but it didn’t mean anything to him.

He tried to clear his mind by talking to the horse “I need a Doc to get this bullet out but who put it into me, am I on the run from the law?” He lent his aching head against the horse’s warm strength “Anyway which way is town?” Eventually he made up his mind, he knew he was weak and needed help so he mounted and headed north, hoping to hit a road.

The following morning as Ben and Joe left the house to find him Adam was halfway to Reno. Ben knew that Adam hadn’t taken Sport so he couldn’t recognise Adam’s tracks amongst many others. Ben had four of the better trackers amongst the hands with them, although he missed Hoss, wishing he had had time to send for his big son. The six men quartered the ground on the obvious trail that Adam would have taken looking for any sign of trouble. It was nearly two hours later when Joe called his father over. He was crouching down studying the sign “There’s blood here Pa.

Ben got down and joined his son, they could see where a body had lain for some time and there was quite a pool of blood. There were tracks of two men and following them they found sign of three horses. Ben tried to reconstruct what must have happened. He had gone back to stare at the pool of drying blood “Adam must have lain here for some time with all that blood unless it’s a very bad wound.”

Joe tried to reassure his father “From the impression on the grass he was here a long time.”

Ben frowned “We are assuming that Adam was the one who was wounded.”

Joe was puzzled “It must have been it’s the only thing that makes sense.”

“But does it Joe? From the sign he was wounded and probably unconscious for several hours. He comes round and I would expect him to come back to the house, it’s less than an hour’s ride and he would need attention. He was already several hours behind the thieves. Instead of that he has disappeared.” Ben shook his head it was unlike Adam, if it had been Joe he could have understood it better. Joe was impetuous and might well go chasing after the thieves before seeking help but not his logical eldest son.

Joe couldn’t explain his brother’s actions but he did find the tracks where Adam leaning on the horse had made his way to the lake. Despite searching the area for over an hour they couldn’t find any sign of Adam leaving the lake. It was shale towards the north and it was also the last direction they expected Adam to take so they didn’t go far enough to pick up his trail. Neither of them could work out what Adam was up to but they tried to keep up their spirits at least he had been fit enough to leave the area.

Eventually they gave up and decided to follow the tracks of the other three men to see what they knew.

They made good time, the tracks were clear although there had been some attempt to hide them for the first mile or so. Then the men seemed to have given up worrying about being followed. When the six men rode into their camp the reason was clear. The men were drunk, all of them passed out and the small clearing smelt like a saloon.

Joe was surprised to see a pinto very like Cochise, but he was even more surprised on turning the three men over to find Doug Witten the bank clerk from town. He called his father over and Ben shook his head in disbelief “Always seemed a nice young guy. At least that explains how they knew Adam was carrying money. Although they only got $1200 Adam drew more than seven thousand when he went into town.” The thought of the money reminded Ben and he searched the three quickly finding six hundred on each of the other two men. There hadn’t been any sign of a single horse following the trio of inept thieves and despite finding the money, they were no nearer finding Adam.

They couldn’t wake any of the men so they strapped the three over their own horses. Ben and Joe headed for town with them. They hardly spoke on the way to town, both men trying to fit the facts and Adam’s continued disappearance to some sensible theory. They had their money back but it didn’t matter, the only thing either of them wanted was Adam back safe and well.

As they rode into town Ben told Joe to take the three to the sheriff’s office and said he was going to have a word with Doc Martin and maybe with Dan de Quille. Joe nodded, he wouldn’t have any trouble with the three drunks. He knew his father was hoping to find Adam in town but he couldn’t think of any circumstances, which would have led his brother to town rather than back to the house. Adam always did the logical thing, Joe had relied on his brother to do that all his life and now the fact that he seemed to be acting illogically scared Joe more than anything else.

When Ben came into join him at the jail Joe had no need to ask what luck his father had had. It was written all over Ben’s face. No-one in town had seen anything of Adam. If he had been in town and hurt either Doc or Dan would have known about it. Dan always seemed to know exactly what was going on in town, from his usual office, a table in the Palace saloon with a beer in front of him.

Little Joe had filled Roy in on what little they knew and Roy was helping Joe pour black coffee down the bank clerk to get him into a fit state to answer questions. As Ben came in Roy poured him a coffee and then, having had a close look at his friend, he got a bottle of whiskey out of his desk drawer and added a large tot. As he handed it to Ben, Roy asked “What on earth is Adam up to this time?”

Ben shook his head “I’ve been asking myself that same question all day but I’ve no idea. We tracked him to the lake and then lost him.”

“So Joe said. He reckoned Adam was hurt?”

“Sure seems like it. I just can’t understand why he didn’t come home.” Ben rubbed his eyes, fighting a severe headache, and was glad of the warmth of the coffee and whiskey.

Meantime Joe had finally got the bank clerk Doug Witten into a fairly coherent state. Joe glared at him “I want some answers.”

Witten knew Joe’s reputation for a fierce temper and knew that the brothers were very close, so he couldn’t talk fast enough. He had got involved in a poker game with the other two and lost far more than he could afford. In order to pay them off and get back the IOU’s that he had signed, he had agreed to point out someone who had drawn a large amount in cash. Adam had just happened to be the first one that day getting a lot of cash. They had been going to stop him on the way home but he had avoided them and so they had been waiting for him on the following day.

Ben knew that Adam had visited a friend, Karen, on the way home, coming in from the Carson City road so that he had avoided the trap by luck but he wasn’t really interested in that. He had deduced that much when they identified the bank clerk. What he needed to know was how badly hurt his son was and even more important where was he now.

Ben moved closer to Witten “What did you do to my son?”

Witten cringed back “I didn’t touch him honest I didn’t.”

Ben glared down at him “You may not have touched him yourself but one of your partners did. Now tell me what happened or God help me I won’t be responsible.”

Witten darted glances round the room but neither Joe nor Roy showed any sign of intervening as Ben grabbed his shirt and pulled him closer. “He wasn’t badly hurt I swear. Just his arm and I think he knocked his head when he fell off his horse.”

“What did you do then?”

“We took his money-belt and just left him there.”

“Did you see him again?”

Witten shook his head “No I swear it Sir. We left him there, he was okay.”

Joe erupted at that “You shot him, knocked him off his horse. You don’t know how badly he was hurt, he’s unconscious and bleeding and you left him. How can you say he was okay?”

Roy put his hand on the younger man’s arm “Easy Little Joe. You aren’t helping.”

Joe had seen his father visibly flinch at his words and he could have bitten his tongue off.

Roy moved forward and took Witten’s arm “Come on son.” He led him through to a cell opposite the other two and pushed the young man in gently. Witten turned and looked beseechingly at him “He was okay. I mean he was hurt but not bad. I like Adam and I didn’t mean him to be hurt at all but he wasn’t that bad.”

“I believe you. Go get some sleep.”

Roy went back to a furious Ben “I hadn’t finished with him.”

“Now come on Ben from what Joe said about the tracks they back his story and anyways that kid ain’t in any state to lie.”

Ben turned away and hit the wall with his fist but he couldn’t argue, in his heart he knew Roy was right.

Roy asked “What are you going to do now?”

Ben sighed heavily “Go home, pull in every hand we have and start a large scale hunt. There’s nothing else we can do. He’s out there somewhere and for some reason he can’t get home, maybe he’s too weak, maybe his horse has broken a leg. I don’t know but we must find him.”

Roy clapped his old friend on the back “At least the weather is mild he won’t be suffering from exposure. I’ll keep my ears and eyes open. Do you want me to telegraph around?”

Ben shook his head “There’s no point if he’s ill enough not to make for home he can’t have gone far. There’s no reason for him to go anywhere but home.”

Roy had to agree and wished them luck.

Ben headed straight back to the house and sent messengers out to call in all the men that he could, ready for a search at first light. He was about to write a note to Hoss to bring him home and let him know what was happening, without scaring him too much, when Joe said “Don’t bother. I shan’t sleep. I’ll go and get Hoss.”

Ben looked at him worriedly “You didn’t get any sleep last night Joe. I know you’re worried but it won’t help Adam.”

“I know that Pa but I just can’t settle. I keep going over what we know and it just doesn’t make sense and Adam rarely does anything that don’t make sense. I keep feeling that there is one fact, one thing we’re missing which would make it reasonable If he was fit enough to get to the Lake and then remount he was fit enough to get home. I’ve seen him stay in the saddle when he was virtually unconscious and any of the horses from the remuda would come home.”

“I know it doesn’t make sense. I can only imagine he’s ground tied his horse got down to rest and passed out.” The addition ‘or died’ hung in the air and Joe tried to dispel it “If the only wound he got was a bullet in the arm then I wouldn’t have expected him to be unable to get home and he hadn’t lost that much blood.”

“We don’t know how much damage was done when he fell, he could have concussion, be delirious, I don’t know but we’ve got to find him before we’ll know.”

Joe clapped his father on the shoulder “I’ll go and get Hoss. Take your own advice and get some sleep. Big brother is a survivor, we’ll find him and he’ll be fine"

That afternoon, while his family was on the way to Virginia City, Adam rode into Reno. He saw a notice for a doctor on the main street and tied his horse to the hitching rail and headed up the stairs to the office. The Doc had only just set up his practice and he was sitting in solitary state, wondering if this was the right town for his new life. He stared at the newcomer as Adam came in. Adam was dusty with a good growth of beard, all dressed in black, he looked highly disreputable and threatening to the younger man but his voice was soft as he said “I’ve got a bullet in my arm.” The doctor told him to take a seat and Adam did so, but the warmth of the office and relaxing having reached help made Adam feel faint for a moment. He didn’t even hear the Doc’s questions. The Doc realised this man was not a threat, weak from pain, fever and loss of blood. He didn't press his questions, helping Adam off with his jacket and shirt and then undid the rough bandage. The wound started bleeding again and it was obviously infected, very inflamed and Doc helped Adam over to the couch. “Lie down I’m going to have to cut the bullet out.”

“Go ahead.”

The Doc didn’t have a nurse and he had to put Adam to sleep himself first and then operated. He had a job to get the bullet out of the muscle but at least the bone was untouched, he was cleaning the wound thoroughly when Adam came round. Adam fought against him for a moment as the pain burned in his arm, but then realising the man was only trying to help him, he bit down hard and endured. Eventually Doc was able to bandage him up and then he got some water and wiped his face and fed Adam a little water. “Thanks Doc.”

Doc checked his head wound, there was a small gash and a large bump but as far as Doc could tell no serious damage. He sat back and considered his patient, he couldn’t help noticing the many scars some of them obviously old bullet wounds on his body. He as wondering what sort of man this was and wondering if he ought to alert the sheriff, when Adam opened his eyes again. Adam eased himself up and reached for his shirt “How much do I owe you?”

“Four dollars”

Adam passed over the cash and as he got himself dressed, attempting to be casual he asked “What town is this?”

Doc was puzzled, his patient hadn’t seemed that feverish. He kept things factual “This is Reno

Adam murmured, as though thinking aloud, “Reno. That’s in Nevada.”

Doc asked “What’s your name?”

Adam was about to make one up then suddenly realised that he couldn’t face it alone any longer, this man was a doctor maybe he could help. He buried his face in his hands “I don’t know Doc.”

The doctor had met cases of amnesia in his training and that experience stood him in good stead. He poured out a coffee for Adam and sat down next to him. “How much do you remember?”

“I came round flat on my back with a bullet in my arm and a horse tethered nearby. That was yesterday. I don’t remember a thing before that. I found a lake and cleaned my arm and my head. Then I rode north and arrived here which you say is Reno. That’s all I know.”

Doc patted his arm “I shouldn’t worry too much, amnesia isn’t all that uncommon after a blow on the head. Your memory will probably gradually return. it would be easier if you were in familiar surroundings, amongst friends then probably something will jog it.”

Adam sighed heavily “How do I find familiar surroundings, when I don’t know who I am?”

“I could ask the sheriff if he knows who you are.”

Adam lurched to his feet and said “No” very emphatically. He swayed as he stood and the Doc gently took his arm “Sit down, you’re not fit.”

Adam swallowed hard and looked up at the Doc “For all I know I’m wanted by the law. You’ve seen the bullet scars on my body, so have I. I seem to have led a violent sort of life.”

“It’s a violent land. It doesn’t mean that you are wanted by the law.”

“Someone put a bullet in me but they left my money so I guess I wasn’t robbed. I can’t risk it until I know more.” He was physically shaking and seemed to be getting more feverish so Doc decided his duty was to calm his patient down, treat his physical condition. He smiled at the older man “Try and calm down, relax. I promise I won’t speak to the law without first telling you, but I am a stranger here and I don’t know who you are . Maybe one of the old timers might know you, know where you belong.”

Adam shook his head, not willing to take the chance, he couldn’t seem to think clearly “I’ll be okay.” He got to his feet to leave but his legs were buckling before he had gone four steps. Doc was quick to support him and led him through to an inner room “Stay here and rest for now. Sleep until the morning and maybe everything will be clearer then."

“My horse is outside.”

“I’ll take him down to the livery stable for you.”

Adam described the animal and thanked Doc and then closed his eyes, thankful to lie down and to be alone but he had never felt further from sleep. He tried to force himself to remember but there was nothing there just a great emptiness. He was scared what he might have done and perhaps even more scared that there was no-one out there who cared whether he lived or died. For nearly three hours he tossed and turned, his arm so sore and his head throbbing but it was the lack of a place to belong that really kept him awake. Eventually his physical weakness released him into a deep sleep.

Doc had been intrigued by this softly spoken man. Certainly he was dirty and appeared to have lived violently but as Doc had spoken to him and treated him he had quickly lost all fear of Adam. Even when his patient had come round in pain and tried to pull away roughly, he had been quick to apologise for being a nuisance. Doc decided to try a few questions himself and when he took the horse down to the livery, he asked the stableman  about the brand. He learnt it was the Ponderosa brand and when he asked what lay a day’s ride south of town, he learnt that was the same large ranch. Doc had checked on his patient several times during the night but a chance to sleep appeared to be dropping his fever and he was resting easily.

Little Joe had ridden long into the night reaching the camp up with the cattle on the high pasture after midnight. Everyone was asleep but Joe had no difficulty in distinguishing Hoss's sleeping form. He went over and squatted down next to Hoss, shaking his brother’s shoulder. Hoss woke with a start and seeing Joe at such an hour he knew instantly that it meant trouble. He stood up and stretched “What’s wrong?”

“We’ve lost Adam”

Hoss wasn’t very wide awake and said “You can’t just lose him, talk sense little brother.” Then seeing how worried Joe looked, Hoss led him away from the sleeping men and then sat on a rock “Right tell me from the beginning”

Little Joe explained exactly what had happened and the little that they knew. Then he said “Pa is pulling in every available man to organise a full scale search. He said to bring six men from here as well as you.”

Hoss was fully awake now and scared for his elder brother, he nodded “Sure I’ll wake José and tell him. But I don’t understand Adam’s tough and he’s sensible. If all that’s wrong is a bullet in the arm he would have got home and he wouldn’t go careering off. If’n it had been you well then yeah, maybe you’d have gone chasing after them, but not Adam.”

“I know that but the fact remains we can’t find him, He didn’t come home. He didn’t follow the attackers and he didn’t go to town. He must be out there somewhere.” The despair was obvious in his voice and Hoss put his arm round his little brother’s shoulders “We’ll find him. Big brother is strong he’ll be fine.”

The brothers went over and woke José and explained that they needed half his crew and why. The men were all concerned, Adam was popular. He was a good and fair boss who always more than pulled his own weight, keeping the most dangerous jobs to himself.  They were proud of his skill with a gun and with his fists, enjoyed his ability on the guitar and could appreciate his expertise in designing things, even if they couldn’t always understand his love of books. Every man volunteered to go looking but Hoss had to leave some with José, promising to send word as soon as they found his brother. Then the eight men headed back to the main house to join all the others and search for Adam.

When Adam awoke he smelt coffee and easing himself out of bed he went out and joined Doc. Doc poured him one and Adam sipped it gratefully “How do you feel this morning?”

“Very much better thanks Doc. If I can get a wash and a shave I’ll feel almost human.”

“I made a few enquiries last night when I took your horse down to the livery. It’s the Ponderosa brand and that is a large ranch lying about a day’s ride south.”

Adam thought about that, but the name meant nothing. Doc said gently “Nothing coming back to you yet?”


“Maybe if you feel up to it, you can go for a walk round town see if anyone recognises you or if you see anything which rings a bell.”

“Guess it’s worth a try.”

“If nothing does then maybe in a day or so when you are stronger you should go back to this Ponderosa, maybe to Virginia City and see if there’s anything there.” Adam wasn’t quite so close to panic after a night’s sleep and saw the wisdom in Doc’s suggestions. After he’d finished the coffee Adam thanked the Doc again and then headed out to get cleaned up.

He wandered round the town but he hadn’t been to Reno much recently and it had grown rapidly with the railway so he didn’t recognise anything. The sheriff and a number of the long term inhabitants had gone out on a posse so no-one knew him either. He went over to the hotel and booked himself a room using the name Joe Gardiner, the first to come to mind. He was able to arrange for a bath and then went to the barbers and got a shave and a haircut. That combined with a decent lunch made him feel better and deciding that he had to know sometime he headed down to the jail. He asked to look through the pile of wanted posters. The deputy agreed willingly enough it wasn’t an uncommon request, although normally it was bounty hunters looking for their next target. Adam was very relieved to get to the bottom of the pile and not find anything which fitted him.

When he went back to Doc’s to get his bandage changed he was able to tell Doc that he didn’t appear to be wanted. Doc was pleased. He hadn’t liked the idea of running contrary to the law even perhaps aiding a wanted man, even though he’d been fairly sure that Adam wasn’t a criminal.

Still weak Adam took another day before he dared to ride out. He wandered restlessly around Reno, eventually finding himself in a bookstore. He bought a book of poetry and settled down to read it. Some of the poems were familiar but it was elusive, nothing he could catch hold of and he just ended up with a very bad headache.

Eventually feeling a little stronger in himself, Adam went to say goodbye to the Doc and thank him for his help before heading down to Virginia City to see if anyone knew him there. Doc warned him not to try and force his memory, it would only return in his own time. Adam had to accept that as any attempt had left him with such a bad headache.

At the ranch forty men had quartered every inch of the Ponderosa and the surrounding area over three days. Hoss had soon discovered,, by a process of elimination that a roan as missing and the men were sure they couldn’t have missed a man and a horse. They had been searching eighteen or more hours a day only stopping to rest the horses with the three Cartwrights barely doing that, each using several horses in the course of a day. The sum result of all their effort was nothing. They knew no more than when they started. That evening they congregated round the fire. Each man was near exhaustion, they had had very little sleep and the ever present fear that Adam must be dead hung unmentioned in the air. Little Joe asked “What do we do now? There’s nowhere left to search.”

Ben glared at him as though his defeatest attitude would do his brother harm “We start again”

Hoss and Joe looked at each other and then Hoss said “There’s no point Pa, the men couldn’t have missed a man and a horse. If Adam had  been anywhere there the men would have found him.”

Joe nodded “Hoss is right Pa.

Ben suddenly seemed to age ten years looking like an old man and sank into his chair. Hoss poured him a large brandy “There’s nothing more we can do until morning. We all need some sleep, let’s get to bed and decide what to do in the morning.”

Ben nodded slowly, taking the brandy and trudging upstairs. When Joe went up he heard noises coming from Adam’s room and going in found his father vaguely tidying some of Adam’s books. Joe slipped in and sat on his brother’s bed “I know it looks bad Pa but I just don’t feel that he’s dead.”

“I won’t admit it until I find his body. We still haven’t explained why he didn’t come home.” He turned away from his youngest son and stared out of the window holding onto the window frame as though for support “What terrifies me is the thought that we may never know.” Joe didn’t know what to say to his father and just gripped his shoulder in mute sympathy.

The following morning Ben was back in control and he told Hoss to get the men back to work while he and Joe went into Virginia City to get much needed supplies. Ben just didn’t know what to try next but he couldn’t give up on his eldest son. Joe tried to make conversation on the way to town but there was only one thing one their minds and everything that could be said on that subject had been said many times over so he lapsed into silence.

Ben stopped at the jail, he knew in his heart that if Roy had any news he would have sent word but he still felt the need to check. Roy was amazed and concerned to see how much Ben had aged in just a few days, worry and lack of sleep made him look ten years older. Roy wordlessly poured him coffee and Ben perched on the desk. “We’ve searched everywhere there’s no sign of him.”

“No-one in town has seen him. The word is out that he’s missing and if he’d been seen it would spread like forest fire. What are you gonna do now?”

 Ben shrugged “I only wish I knew.”

Joe collected the stores they needed while Ben talked to some old friends but no-one could make any suggestions and they rode home hopelessly.

That evening Adam rode into Virginia City. None of it was at all familiar to him and worried and upset, he decided he needed a drink. He’d been hoping that he would recognize this town but it wasn’t happening. Memory might have gone but habit was strong and he headed for the Palace. It was quite full and for a moment no-one noticed him as he pushed through to the bar. Then Sam, the bartender, recognized him and word spread. They all knew the Cartwrights had been hunting for him for five days and many had sensed the despair in Ben that day. Thus it came as something of a shock to see Adam walk in as though nothing was wrong. Dan de Quille was the first to move. Adam had realised everyone was looking at him and he was puzzled, then Dan said “Adam where have you been?”

Adam ignored him not realising he was being addressed so Dan grabbed his shoulder and pulled Adam round to face him. Adam licked suddenly dry lips and said “Do you know me?”

Dan frowned “Of course I do Adam.”

Adam muttered “Thank God” and then slid down in a dead faint. Dan got some whiskey and expertly administered it and Adam struggled to his feet with Dan’s help. Dan eased him into a chair for a moment and then called over one of the Ponderosa hands Chet “Go out to the ranch and let Ben know. Tell him I’ll take Adam down to Doc’s to await him.” 

“Be delighted Dan, best news he’ll have heard in a month of Sundays.”

Then Dan eased Adam to his feet “Come on Adam lets get you down to Doc.” He helped Adam outside and the fresh air finished the job of reviving him. Adam looked at the tall skinny man, who was supporting him “Who are you?”

“William Wright commonly called Dan de Quille, star reporter of the Territorial Enterprise, best newspaper in the west. More important I’m an old friend of yours. What’s the matter Adam?”

“I don’t remember anything before five days ago.” Adam said bluntly

Dan nodded sagely “Amnesia I’ve heard of it. Don’t you worry now I’ve sent for your family. Get you home to the Ponderosa and I’m sure everything will slip back into place.” he smiled at the worried younger man “By the way your name is Adam Cartwright.”

Adam tried that and it came easily off the tongue. He straightened his shoulders and then asked “I’m not wanted by the law am I?”

Dan smiled but shook his head “You usually fight for the law not against it.” By that time they had reached Doc Martin’s and Dan knocked on the door. Doc yelled “Come in it’s not locked.” He was playing chess with Roy and Dan led Adam in saying “Look who I’ve found!”

Both men jumped to their feet grinning broadly and Roy asked “Have you sent word to the ranch?”

“Yeah Chet will be halfway there by now. Take it easy he’s lost his memory.”

Adam was still feeling weak with relief at finding people who knew him and Doc seeing that took his arm and eased him down onto the sofa. “Take it easy Adam. God it’s good to see you boy.”

Adam relaxed a little and willingly accepted some coffee. Only then did Doc ask “How much do you remember Adam?”

Adam looked up “Nothing much, only the last few days.” He looked over at Dan “He told me my name is Adam Cartwright and that he’d sent for my family.”

Doc smiled gently “Okay Adam. Your family will be here soon. That’s your father Ben Cartwright and two brothers Hoss and Little Joe. You’re the eldest of the three.”

Adam nodded and Doc went on “That’s all you need to know for now and then in familiar surroundings I expect your memory  will gradually come back.”

Adam looked at the three strange men all of whom seemed very pleased to see him and he bit his lip. He had thought as soon as he found people who knew him everything would drop back into place but it was all just a blank still. Maybe when his family arrived it would help.

Doc considered him carefully and he had known Adam a long time. He could see at the very least Adam had a severe headache and got him a brandy “You look all in, this will help, just take it easy.”

Doc told Roy and Dan to answer any questions that Adam had, but not to push information at him, and then went outside to await Ben’s arrival. He wanted to prepare Ben and his sons before they saw Adam.

At the Ponderosa the three Cartwrights were sitting round the fire in an atmosphere bordering on the funereal, no-one could find a topic for conversation or concentrate on books or games. When they heard a horse come in Ben went to the door and was surprised to see Chet ride in so early. Chet dismounted with the horse at a run and rushed over “Dan sent me. Adam walked into the Palace just over an hour ago.” Ben stood there for a moment hardly daring to believe what he had heard but Hoss had come to stand just behind him and he eagerly invited Chet in “Tell us exactly what happened.”

Ben got a grip on himself and moved aside to let Chet in and Joe after one look at his father went and poured him a brandy.

Chet filled them in on what he had seen and said “Dan was taking him down to Doc’s to wait for you.”

Little Joe grinned broadly “Loss of memory like Hoss did that time. That explains why he didn’t come home.”

Ben swallowed hard close to tears with relief “Thank God he’s alive. I’d begun to give up hope.”

Hoss recognised how upset his father was and taking Chet with him he went out to saddle up their horse. Joe sat close to his father calming him in the only way he knew how, by his close presence until Hoss came in and said the horses were ready.

On the way to town Ben warned his sons to be careful. “You both realise he won’t know who we are. Joe you know how it feels but Hoss doesn’t. This time at least Doc will have told him who he is, so we will at least be able to accept him as Adam, but he won’t know you are his brothers. You must give him space and time.”

Joe nodded remembering how hard it had been before with Hoss but as he said “At least he’s alive. Two hours ago I was beginning to doubt that.”

Doc was waiting outside when they rode in and he came over as Ben dismounted. He confirmed that Adam was suffering from amnesia and smiled reassuringly at them “His arm is healing fine and apart from a bad headache, physically he’s fine. But you must take it easy with him. Answer his questions but don’t push information at him. His memory will probably gradually return or something may happen that will bring it all back at once like Hoss’s.” He looked very serious for a moment “If you push too hard or let him do so you’ll see him begin to wilt, get a severe headache. It could make his brain go altogether although knowing Adam I don’t expect that to happen. But you will make it harder for him.”

All three nodded and then Doc opened the door and they followed him in to find Adam sitting drinking coffee. Adam looked up blankly as they came in. Hoss and Joe stood back and let their father go forward. Adam stood up and faced the man he knew must be his father, but was a total stranger to him. He bit his lip as he considered the stern gray haired man with lines of strain, tension and lack of sleep very clear on his face. Ben stood and searched his eldest son’s face. He saw plenty of signs of the pain and worry Adam was going through and he was determined not to make it any worse.

Adam spoke first “The Doc said my family were on their way so I guess you’re my father.”

Ben nodded not able to speak, not trusting his voice as Adam went on shaking his head slightly “It all feels most odd I just don’t recognise you.” He swallowed hard but the lump in his throat was all too obvious to his family, who knew him so well, even if at the moment he didn’t know them, as Adam added “You’re just strangers.” He had relied so heavily on recognising his family, that the failure to do so was a real blow.

Ben didn’t know what to say and the tension mounted in the room. Hoss wanted to spare his father and he moved forward and smiled at his brother “Your memory’ll soon come back Adam but for now you just come home with us. We’re real glad to have you back safe”

Adam managed a rather tremulous smile at that “I’m glad someone cares what happens to me.”

Little Joe went forward and gripped his brother’s hand “I’m your youngest brother Joe, that’s Hoss.”

 Adam said “Glad to meet you. How far is home?”

“About an hour and a half’s ride.”

Adam licked dry lips “I left my horse outside the saloon.” but Dan spoke up for the first time “I had it brought down here.”

Ben looked over at Doc who smiled at him “Take him home Ben. I’ll come by tomorrow and see how he’s doing.”

All of them moved out and Hoss helped Adam up onto the roan as his arm was still very sore and that was obvious to his big brother, even if Adam didn’t know his name. Then he and Joe settled in behind Adam leaving Ben to ride next to his son. For a while they rode in silence and then Adam asked “What do I usually call you?”

Ben smiled at him “It’s always been Pa.

Adam was quiet for a moment and then shook his head “I can’t do it. You’re a stranger. I thought when Doc said that my family was coming that it would make a difference. That I would feel something but I don’t .” He shook his head and his voice sank to a whisper “You're just three strangers.” He was very upset and Ben could see the state his son was getting into, which wasn’t going to do him any good. He patted his son’s arm doing all he could do to hide his own feelings, “Take it easy. You’d better call me Ben for now. We’ll try to treat you as a guest, not intrude on you until you can accept us.”

Adam thought about that for a few minutes and then twisted slightly in the saddle to get a closer look at the man riding alongside. This man was his father and it must be hard on him too “I’m sorry. It must be very hard for you, your own son treating you like a stranger but I just can’t manage an act.”

Ben smiled gently “We don’t want you to Adam. At the moment we are just so grateful that you’re alive. you have been missing for nearly a week and we were scared you were dead.” Adam digested that in silence and they continued on to the house.

As they rode in Adam sat and studied the house and barns, evidence of a successful ranch but none of it familiar to him. He dismounted slowly and Hoss went to take the horses. Ben told his big son not to put Buck away, that he would want him shortly and then left Hoss to take the other three to the barn.

Ben and Joe went inside with Adam where Hop Sing hustled in with coffee “Good to see number one son home You rest, eat, get better.”

Adam murmured “Thank you.” and Joe came over to explain who Hop Sing was. Then Adam wandered round the room looking at everything, fingering the epeės and his guitar, looking at the books and the photos on his father’s desk. The map on the wall was somehow familiar and he stood for several minutes staring at it , trying to catch the elusive memory but the mere effort made his head throb. Little Joe could see from the expression on his brother’s face that he was in pain and he interrupted to offer coffee and Adam was glad to turn away and sit down by the big fireplace.

Eventually he looked up and said “It’s been a long day I’m rather tired. Could you show me where I sleep?”

Ben took him up to his own room but even the view that he had always loved awakened no memories and Ben had to leave his son alone. Adam sat down by the window trying to arrange his muddled impressions of the day’s events. He didn’t quite know what to make of his family but one thing was very clear they all cared about him. That was a great relief after the last few days when he didn’t know if there was anyone in the world who cared if he lived or died. On that pleasant thought he slipped into the comfortable bed and went straight to sleep.

As soon as Adam had gone upstairs, Ben put his coat on “I’m going for a ride.” Joe came to his feet worried “Are you okay pa?”

“Yes Son. I just want an hour alone to sort things out.” Ben rode up to the lake and tidied Marie’s grave before moving out to the point to stare out over the view that all his family loved. He said a prayer of thanks that his son was safe home in his own bed but he still needed more and he prayed that Adam would remember soon and this nightmare could be put behind them. The lake performed its usual magic and eventually Ben was able to return home for some much needed sleep.

Joe and Hoss sat close together by the fire for mutual comfort. Joe had got himself a brandy although he seldom had one, not keen on the taste. He swirled it around in the glass studying it intently and then sighed heavily. Hoss gripped his shoulder “Take it easy little brother he’s safe home in his own bed.”

“Yeah sort of. He’s Adam and yet he’s not.” He looked up at his big brother “I don’t like being treated as a stranger by my own brother. He’s on the defensive all the time.”

“What do you expect Little Joe. If we feel odd think how he must feel and he’s all on his own and not fit. Just cos some strangers say they are family, don’t make them family.”

“I know Hoss but -”

Hoss squeezed his shoulder “Be grateful he’s alive. Few hours back I wasn’t giving much for his chances.” Joe knew his big brother was right but he lay awake for hours trying to come to terms with the situation. He was still awake when he heard Adam moan. Joe got up and went into his brother’s room to find him threshing around in the throes of a nightmare. Joe gently gripped his brother’s shoulder and Adam woke with a start. It took him a moment to take stock and then he said “You’re Joe.”

Joe nodded “You were having a nightmare, my room is next door and I was worried you might break open that wound in your arm again. What were you dreaming?”

“I don’t know.” He bit his lip “Just a feeling of great emptiness.”

“Do you want a drink?”

Adam smiled faintly but shook his head “I’m okay now but thanks for coming in.”

Little Joe gripped his shoulder for a moment “You may not recognise me but you’re still my brother and you mean a lot to me.” Then he remembered his promise not to push and said goodnight to his brother.

Adam was somehow soothed by his brother’s visit, his family might be strangers but they seemed to care greatly about him. His recurring fear on losing his memory was that no-one cared. He soon drifted into sleep and this time it was very peaceful, for just about the first time since he woke up in the woods.

It was late when he came down but Ben had been glad of some time with his younger sons. He wanted to make sure that they knew just how dangerous it would be to try and put pressure on Adam. Joe admitted his late night visit, rather shamefacedly but Ben could understand and maybe it had done some good. His eldest son had been sleeping very peacefully when he looked in on him an hour ago. Even so they had to restrain themselves, treat Adam as a guest, let him set the pace.

Adam came down and got coffee, he couldn’t face food. He gravitated to the bookshelves and was leafing through some of the books when Ben and Joe came in from the barn. Hoss was still busy completing the chores. Ben went over ot his eldest son “I hope you slept well?”

Adam nodded “After Joe came in to see me I did. Thanks again.” He sipped his coffee “Do you know how I got shot?”

Ben told him exactly what had happened and that they had caught the three men, even retrieving the money. Adam listened intently but it was just a story it didn’t mean anything to him.

Ben tentatively asked what he could remember and Adam briefly filled them in on all that had happened since he recovered consciousness near the lake. He didn’t go into details but his father and brother could fill those in for themselves. When he had completed his story with meeting Dan, he seemed to pull back into his shell and wandered outside. Ben looked over at Joe “He’s had a rough few days don’t rush him.”

“Pa I’ve given you my word.”

About quarter of an hour later Doc Martin arrived and Ben sent Joe out to find his brother. Doc was quite glad of a few minutes to talk to Ben “Anything?”

Ben shook his head “I was hoping something would remind him once he got home.”

“Sometimes it’s the oddest little thing which acts as a key. You have to be patient, it could happen tomorrow, it could take months.” He patted Ben’s shoulder “Adam is strong he’ll be fine, try not to worry.”

Adam came in and Doc went over to him and checked his arm. He chatted with his patient for a few minutes but Adam seemed calm and rested so Doc just told him that the only prescription for his memory was time. In time Doc was sure his memory would return but there was nothing they could do to hurry it.

For the next three days Adam rode out and explored the land of which he was part. Mostly he rode alone but on the third afternoon Joe took him up by the Lake. He loved the magnificent view but it didn’t mean anything to him. Joe was very disappointed he had been hopeful, that the lake which meant so much to all of them, would break through his brother’s shell. He was quite glad as they rode back home to hear a calf obviously in distress and he detoured to rescue it.

As Joe rejoined his brother he saw Adam staring at him with a very obvious headache and considerable confusion. “Whatever’s wrong Adam?”

“I don’t know. As you came out of the trees I felt furious with you but I don’t know why.”

Joe grinned widely “Maybe it’s the first rent in that veil Doc was talking about.”

Adam shook his head as his brother giggled “Did I ever tell you that your irrepresible!”

Joe giggled again “You may have lost your memory but your opinions haven’t changed!”

For a few minutes as they laughed together Joe felt as though he had his brother back, but as they approached the house, Joe felt Adam withdraw into his shell.

That evening Adam was reading a book when he came across a quotation from Thoreau “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.” As he read it he saw a vivid picture of Joe lying wounded with a wolf about to spring. He caught his breath and as the other three looked over at him, he let the book fall unheeded and walked outside. Slowly the picture faded but the memory of despair stayed with him.

Ben left his son alone for quarter of an hour but when Adam still showed no sign of coming in, Ben went out to join him. “What happened Adam?”

Adam tried to explain but Ben hadn’t been there when Joe was shot and he couldn’t explain why the quotation should bring up such a picture. He did risk putting his arm round his son’s shoulders “Maybe it’s the start of your memory coming back, For a moment Adam seemed to relax into his father’s hug but then he pulled away, his shell intact.

Over the next few days there were several more vivid pictures, memories and feelings. A discussion on mines conjured up such a feeling of claustrophobia that Adam had to go outside, he could see the big beams trapping him and feel the darkness.  A poem ‘To bloom for thee’ sent him looking for Hoss to make sure he was alright, but all the memories were elusive and he couldn’t pull them together. He spent long hours looking through the books and then one evening he lifted down the guitar and began to play. He was surprised to find how natural it felt and he began to play Greensleeves. Slowly he let the guitar fall and went outside. He had such a clear vision, a very formal garden, a large party all very fashionably dressed, a fancy buffet and himself standing over in one corner more lonely than he’d ever been in his life. Somehow he knew that the reason he was lonely then, what he was missing was what he had right here. He had felt the need to keep these three men, who called themselves his family, at a distance but now suddenly he wanted to be treated by Ben as Joe and Hoss were, and by them as they did each other.

He sat staring into space trying to analyse his feelings. He just knew that in his memory he was homesick and now when he was home he was still homesick, by his own choice. He was outside for several hours and eventually worried Ben came out to join him. He moved over to sit down next to Adam, making sure he left sufficient gap between them to ensure he didn’t pressurise his son. For a couple of minutes they sat in silence and then Adam moved slightly closer “I’m sorry”

Ben was puzzled “You don’t have anything to feel sorry about.”

“Yes I do. I’ve kept you all at arm’s length. I couldn’t trust you to help me. I knew how hard it was on all of you but I ignored it. Now I realise my mistake.” He reached out and put his hand over Ben’s “Please help me Pa.

Ben had hated being called Ben by his eldest son and had spent a thoroughly miserable ten days since Adam’s return. He’d kept telling himself that he was lucky to have his son home alive but it hadn’t really helped. Now he tentatively put his arm round Adam’s shoulders and to his relief felt his son relax against him “We’ll beat this together Son.”

Adam described what he had seen and Ben suggested that it might have been while he was in Boston at college. Adam sat up at that “Yes it was two days before Christmas and I was missing you all.” He tried to remember anything else but his head just started the familiar pounding. Ben gripped his shoulder “Easy son try not to worry, it is coming back.”

“I feel better.” he smiled ruefully “I’m not fighting alone any more”

“You never were Son just took a little while to accept it. Now lets get you to bed. Rest is still the best medicine.”

The next morning Adam felt much more his old self. When Joe started arguing against going up to the lumber camp as he wanted to go to town, he was completely floored as Adam said “That’s quite enough from you little brother, you’ll do as you’re told.”

It was the first time since his return home that he had called either of them brother and Joe sat there grinning widely. Hoss got to his feet and put his hand on Adam’s shoulder squeezing gently “Welcome back brother.”

Adam grinned up at his big brother and all of them relaxed. For the next four days Adam was much more himself and seemed happier, but he was still fretting because he couldn’t remember apart from odd incidents. Then on Saturday evening the three brothers went to town, leaving Ben at home to complete the accounts.

They had all gone into the Palace and Adam and Hoss were sitting chatting with Dan, while Joe was over at the bar talking to one of the saloon girls Bella. Unfortunately one of the miners had been trying to make time with her before Joe came in and seeing himself cut out by the rich youngster he decided to show Joe just what he thought of him. He went for Joe and the fight soon spread as other miners joined in, so Adam and Hoss went to help Joe.

The fight didn’t last long but Joe had taken enough punishment to be slightly dazed and looking around for anyone else who needed hitting, he landed one on Adam. Adam turned and flattened his brother with one punch. He turned to walk away only to find a table in his way. He looked around, suddenly very bemused and sank to his knees, burying his face in his hands.

Joe had struggled to his feet and joined Hoss and they went to their brother. Hoss helped his brother up. As he didn’t seem to know where he was or what was happening, Hoss decided he needed some fresh air. Hoss had one arm round both his brothers, unsure who needed him most. The fresh air seemed to revive both of them but Adam was the first to pull away. He still seemed dazed and wouldn’t say anything.

Hoss looked at Joe, who just shrugged “I don’t know. Guess we’d better get him home.”

Hoss helped his eldest brother to mount Sport and then the three rode out of town. At first Adam was content to ride along but as they got near the ranch, he suddenly cut off from his brothers and headed up to the lake.

Hoss pulled up “What do we do now?”

Joe suggested “I’ll follow Adam, you go home and tell Pa.” Hoss accepted that was the best they could do and the brothers separated. Joe found his eldest brother sitting staring over the lake. Adam turned as Little Joe rode up and Joe dismounted to go and sit next  to him. Adam looked thoroughly confused and Joe could see from his eyes that he had a severe headache. As Joe settled next to him, Adam buried his face in his hands, all Joe could do was to grip his arm show he was there. Finally Adam looked at his brother “I thought it was Cochise. They said ‘Stay back he’ll recognise you’”. Little Joe remembered the pinto so like Cochise and realised what Adam meant “You thought I’d robbed you?” The horror was clear in his voice and Adam reacted to it “I’m sorry Joe I don’t know what I thought. You’d been acting strange and wanted money but I knew you would never hurt me, then I just blacked out.”

Little Joe put his arm round his brother and hugged him close “You fool as if I’d ever have the nerve to try and rob you.” Adam grinned weakly and relaxed against his brother.

Little Joe asked “How much do you remember now?”

“Everything I think. When I hit you I was about to tell Pa to control you when I realised I was in the saloon not at home. Then everything came back.”

“Thank God for that. Are you ready to go home now?”

Adam smiled easily “I sure am little brother.”

Ben and Hoss were waiting for them and Adam, told them what had happened. Ben guessed that the fear that Joe was involved had led to Adam’s loss of memory but knowing the thieves caught had cleared the way for his recovery.

Adam had a bad headache and quickly retired to bed but the next morning he was very cheerful. After church his suggestion, that they all headed up to the lake, was enthusiastically endorsed by his family. Ben stood slightly behind his three sons, who were standing Adam in the centre his arm round both the others, and he said a fervent prayer of thanks that his family was once again complete and united.