Notes: And thus, I've finally finished a Wild Wild West fic! Yes! Thank you to everyone who has shown interest! I see you're reading, even though most of you choose to stay silent, and I appreciate each and every one of you. I have more plans for stories in this fandom, including finishing my Man-Eating House continuation and two other ideas. One features the characters of this story again; the other, characters from The Big Blast and The Poisonous Posey. I'm looking forward to sharing them with you. Thank you again!
The train sat peacefully on the tracks at a San Francisco train yard. Inside, Jim and Arte entertained their guests.
In addition to the Jeffers family, Carl and Claire Armory had been invited. The group had been visiting with each other and the Secret Service agents, completely at ease.
"Well, Tucker finally broke down in the face of Loveless's men being arrested and confessed to everything he knows," Arte said grandly. "Which isn't much, granted, but every voice helps."
"He really didn't know whether or not there was a double," Jim said, "just as Loveless stated. But he had started to suspect. He didn't want to say anything because he didn't want repercussions from either the Syndicate or Loveless."
Carl shook his head. "I can hardly believe all of this was going on right under our noses and we had no idea."
"No one did, until I remembered the double's mistake," Jim said.
"And what a lucky thing you did, Jim," said Arte. "Otherwise, half of California's crops might be inside boll weevils by now!"
Claire cringed. "What an unappetizing thought."
"And who knows what would have happened to James and Betsy," Karen added. "I can't believe that madman would have let them go."
"With Dr. Loveless, it's hard to say," Jim admitted. "He has a certain twisted sense of honor, but that doesn't stop him from trying to kill you if you interfere with his plans too often."
"Loveless still hasn't been found, has he?" Jeffers said in concern.
"Unfortunately not," Arte sighed. "He and Antoinette both escaped to parts unknown."
"Agents are looking for them, but from past experience we know that we won't see them again until Loveless has time to concoct a new scheme," Jim said.
"I hope we won't see him ever again," Betsy fumed. "He's caused this family more than enough trouble."
Jim nodded. "The Secret Service is still going through that complex, but there's not much left to see. Dr. Loveless apparently set everything to self-destruct by remote."
"He didn't want the government to get hold of his inventions, I suppose," Arte added.
"What a mess," Jeffers frowned. "But thanks to the both of you, the Department of Harbours finally believes that I didn't have anything to do with the boll weevils."
"Daddy has his job back," Betsy said proudly. Giving him a smile of gentle, teasing amusement she added, "So he can get back to bossing people around."
Jeffers pretended to look exasperated. "Now Betsy, you know what I've said about that."
"Oh yes, I know," Betsy said with a sage nod. "But I still say you could relax sometimes, Daddy."
"I've been telling him that for years," Karen said, shaking her head. "He hasn't yet."
"Well, a lot has to be said for bosses," Arte drawled. "Who knows how many things would never get done if someone wasn't there to order the underlings around and always be on guard to make sure they do it properly."
"Speaking of which, we'll probably be receiving a message from Colonel Richmond any time now," Jim said.
"And then you'll be off somewhere else, on another mission," Betsy sighed. "But you'll come back and visit, won't you?"
"Why, of course," Arte smiled. "And who knows, maybe our next assignment will be right here. A very large percentage of our cases have to do with San Francisco." He paused. "I wonder why."
"Big cities attract crime, Arte," Jim said.
"And the nuts," Arte added. "Oh, by the way, Mr. Jeffers, what are you going to do with that cat?"
At the moment, the feline was perched on the arm of the couch. It looked to Arte, meowing lazily.
Jeffers reached and patted its head. "Well, if he's so determined to stay with me, I decided I'd let him. But I draw the line at bringing him to work." He gave the cat a pointed look.
Betsy smiled. "That doesn't stop him from insisting on sprawling on Daddy's lap when he's at home," she said. "Especially if Daddy's trying to work in his home office."
Jeffers looked exasperated. "I'm trying to train him out of that."
"Oh, don't count on it working, Mr. Jeffers," Arte said seriously. "Cats generally get their own way."
"Yes, that's what I've been discovering," Jeffers grunted.
Jim was amused.
It had been a strange case overall—realizing that the solution to the original mystery was not as simple as it had seemed, looking for Jeffers, finding that Dr. Loveless was involved. . . .
But then again, all of their cases were odd in some way. And not all of them turned out as well as this one had. He and Arte had seen their fair share of tragedies, ironies, and downright unfair happenings. This case could have gone sour more than once.
Jim was gratified that James Jeffers was indeed a man of honesty and integrity, as he and Arte had both thought at first. He had been placed in a situation that few people ever had to deal with in their lifetimes, that of being used as a pawn by a wicked double. He had done well under pressure, really. So had Betsy and Karen. But Jim hoped, as he knew they all did, that this was the last time the Jeffers family would ever have to become mixed up in all manner of dangerously agonizing problems. They deserved peace.
Arte finished filling the glasses on the table. "May I propose a toast," he said. "To San Francisco. May it always bring friends together."
Everyone raised their glasses. "To San Francisco," they echoed.
"And to families and friendships," Betsy added with a smile.
Sitting on the couch arm, the cat meowed in agreement.