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 The Devil's Due Part 3

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PostSubject: The Devil's Due Part 3   Thu Sep 11, 2014 11:01 am

The Devil's Due Part 3

Genevieve smiled and laid her gloved hands genteelly in her lap. Her stiff back did not touch the back of the chair and

her ankles were discretely tucked to the side. She had ensured that she complied with all the rules of etiquette as she

could not afford to be caught out; she did not stare around the room, walk about while she waited, finger any ornaments

or wear diamonds before dusk. Her borrowed pearls shone with a luster which marked them out as both genuine and

expensive. All transgressions were likely to be leaped upon by the nouveau riche to mark out their distance from the

hoi polloi in the absence of a blood line. Those climbing the social ladder were known to be more ruthless than those

who occupied the top by dint of birth.


Effie Burdon smiled fondly at her old friend as she poured the tea into the delicate china. The milk came second; not

only out of propriety, but also to prove that the china was of a sufficiently high quality to withstand the onslaught of

very hot beverages. Sugar was politely declined so the silver tongs were replaced in the bowl and the drink was

proffered by an over-dressed matron who resembled an old theatre in her burgundy velvet with gilt cording. “Mrs. Shand

is a friend of Mrs. Stanford herself. Leland Stanford is President of the Central Pacific Railroad.”


“Trains? How lovely,” Genevieve sipped her tea. “I know nothing of trains, I’m afraid, but where would we be without

them? Their effect on our lives has been quite miraculous don’t you think? Of course, Grandma called them the work of

the devil and swore that the human body could not withstand travelling above the speed of a horse. Ah, such memories.

She became increasingly eccentric, but ever so much fun. She did love to tell us how scandalized her parents were by

the introduction of round dances in her youth. Can you imagine being shocked by a waltz?”


“They had quite the same effect here. So many parochial country pastors thought it quite shocking.” The hostess lifted

a three-tiered cake stand and allowed Genevieve to take a delicate cucumber sandwich. “I quite agree about trains, Miss

Abbott. Could you imagine us trudging across the prairies like savages to get here? I’m not the type to use a wagon;

covered or uncovered.”


“I should prefer an evening at the opera or an intimate gathering of friends,” Genevieve declared. “Let’s leave

exploration to the men folk, shall we? We shall dedicate ourselves to civilizing the world through our charity work in

education, public health, and poor relief.” Genevieve allowed her dark ringlets at the back of her head to jiggle

merrily. “Men think of the grand buildings, but they never think about the people who inhabit them, don’t you think?”


Mrs. Shand raised her brows approvingly. “Mrs. Burdon told me that you were an engaging guest, Miss Abbott. I feel we

are of like mind. What is your preferred charity?”


“Public health,” the cut-glass English accent made the words sound clipped, “and education, particularly in girls.

There are studies which show a positive correlation between the health of children and the education of girls.”


“Girls?” Mrs. Shand gave her guest a quizzical look. “How much education?”


“Oh, I’m not referring to French, Latin or Greek. A plain, sensible curriculum which teaches them how to clean, run a

house and the basics of diet.”


Mrs. Shand’s tense shoulders relaxed. “Of course, how to be good wives and mothers?”


Genevieve nodded. “Right alongside teaching the boys how to serve Queen and Country,” she flushed, prettily.“Oh, sorry;

just country, in your case.”


Both older women gave a tinkling laugh. “Oh, Miss Abbott, you are quite the visitor, aren’t you? Don’t worry, you

haven’t caused offense,” Mrs. Shand asserted. “I was so afraid you might be one of those rich girls who are beautiful

and idle; but terminally dim. You know the kind; the ones men call fools but they never mind?” She smiled archly. “I’d

like to meet the man who took you for a fool. I detect a shrewd mind behind those big, brown eyes.”


Genevieve’s smile widened, readying herself to meet the challenge posed by this canny woman. “It takes a strong woman

to support a Captain of Industry or the head of a large estate. They have so many responsibilities they need to be able

to leave everything else in our hands. My mother was such a lady, and I strive to emulate her. We must notice every

detail, including the behavior of the women in our company. A single gesture or look could be enough to tell us that a

conspiracy is afoot. A mere man cannot be expected to be aware of such small things. That takes a woman. Am I right,

Mrs. Shand?”


“A scone, Miss Abbott?” Mrs. Shand proffered the cake stand once more and observed her visitor coolly.


This woman was good; if she hadn’t married a rich man she would have made a wonderful flim flammer. Genevieve

suppressed a smile at the notion that many wives of rich men had the same set of skills in any case.


“Why, thank you,” Genevieve placed the scone on her china side plate. “I must say that this is the most excellent cup

of tea I have had since arriving here.”


“Yes, my butler is English. He insists that the water must be poured over the leaves while it’s still at a rolling

boil.”


“Absolutely right,” Genevieve nodded, “that is the secret.” She proffered her cup. “May I prevail upon you for

another? It is simply the most delicious brew and I hadn’t realized how much I missed the taste of home. You must

compliment your staff for me, Mrs. Shand.”


“So, what are your plans, Miss Abbot? What do you plan to do during your time in San Francisco?”


“There is shopping, of course. Baseball, I saw that in England. We played it at school, but has quite gone out of

fashion at home. I find it invigorating. Then there is the music and lunching, and theatre…” Genevieve accepted her

refreshed teacup. “It has been such fun to explore.”


“On your own?” asked Mrs. Burdon.


“Oh, no. Father would never allow that, but Mr. Lehrman has arranged that his daughter and her circle entertain me.

They are quite lovely young women and exceedingly diverting.”


Effie Burdon pursed her lips. Her husband would be far from pleased at knowing that the Abbotts were making more and

more links with a rival banker. “How lovely. Are you busy tomorrow evening? My husband and I would like to take you

out to dinner.”


“I would love to, Mrs. Burdon. I would have to check with Father, of course, but I believe that he may have a meeting

with Mr. Lehrman at our hotel. Are you free on Friday? Mr. Lehrman won’t do business on a Friday evening as he’s a

Hebrew, so of course his daughters and their friends are occupied too. I don’t think we have any plans for Friday at

all. ”


Mrs. Burdon stirred her tea thoughtfully. Ernest would be most displeased with this turn of events, she had been tasked

with arranging the meeting for tomorrow. “Where are you staying?”


“The Niantic Hotel. It is superbly run, the chef is French, the manager is Swiss and the housekeeper is German. The

perfect blend of talents; it just wouldn’t be the same in any other combination.” Genevieve placed her cup on the doily

on the rosewood table. “The food is of the most excellent standard. I can thoroughly recommend the restaurant.”


Effie Burdon paused but loyal Mrs. Shand decided to step in and up the ante. “Why don’t you dine here with us, Miss

Abbott? Your father sounds like someone my husband should meet. There is a synchronicity between the railroad and a

shipping line, don’t you think?”


The polite smile betrayed the careful pause. Genevieve had to check with Soapy. This was getting far too near to the

men known as the Big Four of San Francisco and that could be very risky for any confidence tricksters. There was a code

of honor which dictated that you didn’t sour the pitch for anyone else; you took what greedy men thrust at you, so their

own stupidity was to blame. You did not mess with important people or the authorities. Mrs. Shand fixed Genevieve with

expectant eyes, ready to support her old friend. “Please let me check with Father for any previous commitments, Mrs.

Shand. Your offer sounds most gracious and enjoyable. I only wish I was in a position to invite you to my own home.”

Her hand went delicately to her chest. “I am touched at the hospitality I have been afforded, I truly am.”


“So you will come?” Mrs. Shand pressed.


“May I confer with my father? I can assure you a response directly. I’m sure he will be very keen to meet you and your

husband, but it would be rude of me to accept your invitation in case Father has made arrangements since I saw him at

breakfast.”


“Of course,” the glance between Mrs. Shand and her friend told Genevieve that the Burdons were about to bite, but in any

negotiation you had to know when to sit on your hands. “What a shame we are already committed until Friday, but I shall

so look forward to seeing you again as soon as we are able.”


OOOOOOOOOO


The bark of an old Colt Army pistol roused Hannibal Heyes from the novel he was enjoying. As he looked up, the first

shot was quickly followed by five more. He sighed and put down his book carefully marking his place. He knew that his

partner was just getting started and there would be no more peace and quiet for at least a half an hour. Jed loved to

practice and he didn’t get many chances since they’d moved into Soapy’s place. The old con man had a healthy aversion

to handguns and banned them in his presence.


He glanced at the grandfather’s clock in the corner of Soapy’s study. Nine o’clock; not like the last time when Jed had

gotten an early start and raised the ire of every one of the mansion’s neighbors on Capitol Hill as well as startling

the vendors plying their trade on nearby Broadway and drawing a visit from the sheriff. Heyes stood and stretched

before heading for the kitchen door. He knew he’d find his friend out by the carriage house.


Heyes whistled tunelessly as he neared the building set at the back of the lot so that Jed would hear him coming. Sure

enough, he was waiting to shoot again until his partner appeared. Jed grinned like a kid. “Watch this!” He drew his

gun in a blur of motion and efficiently shot six tin cans off the back wall of the property. Fortunately, there was

nothing but open land behind the mansion.


“Not bad, huh?”With a flourish, the curly-haired youth holstered his pistol. “When William pays up, I’m thinkin’ I’m

gonna get me one of them fancy new Colts. Then I’ll really start shootin’ good.”


“You do know Soapy’s gonna tan your hide if he finds out you were shooting on his property again.” Heyes overturned a

water bucket lying by the door to the stable and sat on it.


Jed shrugged, “He’s gonna do worse than that when he finds out what we’ve been up to. Way I figure it, we’re gonna be

on our own soon enough and we’ll need my gun just like we did before.”


Heyes remembered the day Jed had found that old gun. Found wasn’t the right word. He’d taken the gun off the corpse of

a dead confederate soldier they’d come across out in the middle of nowhere. They’d argued about it. Heyes had had a

bad feeling the minute he’d seen that pistol in his young cousin’s hand, but Jed’s arguments had won out. Two

youngsters on their own needed to defend themselves any way they could. Even Heyes had eventually learned to shoot, but

it wasn’t a compulsion for him like it was for Jed.


“Maybe you oughta do a little target shootin’, too, Heyes. Been a long time since you practiced.”


There wasn’t anything Heyes could say to that argument. He stared up at the back window that overlooked the garden.

Clementine was still asleep despite the noise. He was tired himself. The theater had let out late and then William had

insisted on going for late night drinks. Clem had felt the effects of too many glasses of champagne and had complained

of a headache upon retiring. For a young girl, she was enjoying flirting with alcohol a little too much; served her

right. As far as he was concerned, she deserved to suffer a little. If it wasn’t for her blackmail, they never

would’ve agreed to this con and it was going to cost them a good life. With a devilish smile, he turned back to Jed.

“Maybe you’re right. Besides, Clem’s not awake yet.” He stood and walked over to where his best friend was re-loading.


With an answering grin, Jed handed him the Colt and went to the wall to set up more cans.


An hour later, a disheveled-looking Clementine appeared in the kitchen. She staggered to the stove and poured herself a

cup of coffee from the pot resting there. Cream and sugar were generously added before she sat down across the wooden

table from her two friends who were playing cards. Heyes looked at her with raised eyebrows.


“Don’t look at me like that! Ugh, I feel terrible,” she complained. A loud slurp of her coffee punctuated her

statement.


“You did it to yourself,” observed Heyes. “I warned you not to drink last night, but you wouldn’t listen.”


“How was I supposed to know that something that tastes as good as champagne could make you feel so sick?”


Jed reached over and pulled the mug from her hand. “That’s not gonna help on an empty stomach.”


She scowled at him. “Give me that back!” Clem dove for the mug, but Jed got up and poured it down the sink. “Who do

you think you are?!” Her color was turning an ugly shade of puce and her face screwed up until it resembled one of

those carnival mirrors.


“If William could see you now, he’d run for the hills,” said Heyes.


“Oh, pooh! He dotes on me.”


Jed returned to the table with a plate filled with fruit and sliced nut bread. He put it down in front of her, but she

pointedly ignored it.


“That’s because he thinks you’re a princess, not a toad. We know better,” teased Jed.


She pouted and crossed her arms.


“Clem, you’re acting like a baby. Grow up, will you?” Heyes’ temper was beginning to flare. “You’re sixteen years old,

not five!”


Her lower lip trembled, but her hand reached out and snatched a piece of apple. She shoved it into her mouth. Through

a mouthful of fruit, she said, “Jed’s only eighteen. Why do you treat me like a child, but not him?”


“Because he doesn’t behave like one; at least not very often.”


“Hey!” Blue eyes glared at brown ones. “And I’ll be nineteen next month,” he added in his defense.


“Look, you want Soapy to start treating you like Jen; you’ll have to start acting like her. She doesn’t throw a tantrum

if she doesn’t get what she wants and she sure as hell doesn’t blackmail her friends!” stormed Heyes, standing up, his

chair scraping rudely on the floor.


Her eyes filled with tears that overflowed down her cheeks.“Why are you both being so mean to me?”Her puffy face and

bloodshot eyes failed to invoke any sympathy.


The two young men looked at each other amazed at her obtuseness and then they swung their eyes to her.


“You ain’t ever gonna learn, are you?” asked Jed.


“Learn what?”


“When this game is over, Jed and I are leaving Denver. Alone!”Heyes started for the back door and Jed stood up to

follow. They left her sitting at the table, shocked by their words.


The two young men crossed the yard and let themselves out through the gate by the carriage house.


“Heyes, maybe we should back out of this. I mean what’s the worst that could happen? If Clem makes good on her threat

Soapy will throw us out on our ears, but we’re gonna have to leave Denver either way. If we go through with this,

what’s she gonna trick us into doin’ next time?” Heyes closed the gate and stepped into the alley. He glanced back at

the house and then marched up the alley, his irritation fueling him. Jed had to hurry to match strides with his

agitated friend.


“We can’t back out now, Jed. We haven’t got a pot to piss in, you know that. William’s making arrangements for the

loan. If we can hornswoggle him, we can live well until we get on our feet. Maybe even fund our next con.”


“I guess so, I just don’t like it. There’s somethin’ about him that don’t set well with me.”


“Like what?” Heyes stopped and looked at his partner. He wasn’t challenging Jed, he genuinely wanted to know. William

bothered him, too, and he couldn’t figure out why. The young man seemed all right, but Heyes couldn’t warm up to him.


“Like, he kept pushin’ those drinks on both of you last night. He just didn’t realize you were pourin’ yours into that

bushy potted fern next to the table.”


“Yeah, I guess I’d better teach Clem that trick,” Heyes chuckled, his anger leaching away. What could he have expected

from Clem? She was just a kid and a willful one at that.


“What was he talkin’ to you about when she went to powder her nose? I couldn’t hear from where I was standin’.” Jed

had been left observing the threesome through the glass window in the front of the restaurant that separated the genteel

from their waiting servants outside.


“We were discussing the terms of the loan. He wants interest and a written guarantee that he’ll be paid when

‘Catherine’ is released. It seems fair enough to me, but I told him that I couldn’t risk going after the royal treasury

until she was safely in America so he’d have to wait awhile to be reimbursed.”


“He looked kinda angry about it.”


“Not about that. He was upset that I wouldn’t agree to let him propose to Clem.”


“Propose? She’s just a kid and they hardly know each other. It ain’t decent!” Jed could feel his own temper rising.

He was beginning to understand his misgivings about William. The man was every bit as slippery as Heyes was.


“I know and that’s what I told him, but he’s insisting that he won’t give me the money until they’re engaged. He’s hell

bent on putting a ring on her finger which is ultimately right where I want him. He really does think he can buy her.”

Heyes had been more than annoyed by William’s terms. He couldn’t help wondering why Burdon was in such a hurry. “I did

finally haveto agree to allow him to propose.”


“You agreed?! Why the heck did you do that?”


“Jed, what does it matter if they get engaged? Clem’s gonna disappear on him anyway.”


“Does Clem know he’s proposing?”


“Not yet. I figured it would be more authentic if he surprised her. He’s promised to turn the cash over to me after

she accepts.”


Jed frowned his disapproval. “I’m just glad we’re conning him and none of this is for real.”


OOOOOOOOOO



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PostSubject: Re: The Devil's Due Part 3   Thu Sep 11, 2014 11:02 am

Clem was still sitting at the kitchen, another cup of highly embellished coffee gripped in her hands. Her tears had

dried almost immediately after the boys had left. They were always her best defense against the boys’ annoyance with

her and she’d learn a long time ago how to turn them on and off like a water pump.


She couldn’t blame them for being angry with her. Heyes was right, she had blackmailed them. At the time, it had

seemed like a good plan, but now she was beginning to realize that she hadn’t fully thought things through. When this

whole mess was over, both she and the boys would have to leave Denver; maybe forever, but she’d always thought they’d be

going together. Heyes’ words had shaken her.


She knew she could never risk seeing William again. She’d envisioned a dramatic departure from Denver on the arms of

two handsome men, all of them wealthy and free to roam the world. She’d never imagined exile on her own. Would her

sister and father come with her if she begged them to? No, it wouldn’t be fair of her to ask. Jen had a bright future

under Soapy’s tutelage and her father was earning respect for the first time in his checkered career. She couldn’t ask

them to leave it all behind because she’d been selfish and willful. What had she been thinking?


Tears began to fall unheeded. Clem finally understood that she’d backed the three of them into a corner they couldn’t

escape from. Even if they quit the con now, they’d still have to leave. William knew them as Juan, Isabella, and

Clyde. If he learned who they really were, he’d set the law on them. How had she been so stupid?


She didn’t want to leave her family behind. She loved them. She’d been so jealous of Jen for so long, she’d all but

forgotten how much she loved her. Genevieve had only been gone a week, but she already missed her. No one understood

her quite like her sister did.


It was just that she’d so wanted someone to see her for the woman she was becoming. Well, William did; that was as

plain as the nose on her face. The only problem was she didn’t want his attentions. He repelled her, but she was in

too deep. She’d set this in motion and she had to see it through. She wished her big sister was here to talk to. Jen

would tease her, but she would help her. She always did.


OOOOOOOOOO


Soapy swirled the after-dinner brandy in the balloon-shaped glass and raised knowing eyes to his partner-in-crime.

“Burdon’s here, just as Jen predicted. He’s skulking behind that huge fern by door.”


Hale held up his own liqueur, ostensibly to check the clarity of the drink but in reality to observe the lanky man

lurking in the foliage with shoulders hunched to mask his height. “Yes, I got him. Looks like a huge locust in those

fronds. He’d better hope they don’t spray for pests, huh?”


“He’s seen us alright,” Soapy reached into his breast pocket and pulled out folded papers. “Time to put on a show.”


“Go for it, Soapy. At least he didn’t surprise us. Resourceful marks can be a problem.”

The grizzled head of the experienced flim flammer nodded. “He thinks in straight lines, not in corkscrews. Maybe we’ll

make him a better businessman?”


Hale looked down at the papers before pointing to a clause as though it were the subject under discussion. “Better? I

doubt that. He’ll just be more guarded.”


Soapy nodded and turned the page, holding it up as though explaining the paragraph. “How did he get where his is if he

doesn’t know that words mean nothing? We only cheat people who have more money than sense.” Soapy shrugged. “Men like

Burdon don’t listen, they tell and he’s not used to being challenged. He’s going to tell you what to do because it’s

the only tool he’s got and the best games use their own skills against them. That’s why I needed a man like you. He

has to think he can intimidate you but he also has to be impressed enough with your contacts and abilities to be drawn

to you.” Soapy nodded, appreciatively. “It’s a delicate balance, strong, but not too forceful. That makes the perfect

flim flam; he has to feel like he’s driving the thing, like he’s in control. You’re doing a real good job with this.”


“Yes,” Hale smiled proudly. “Jen has really blossomed. She’s grown into a beautiful woman and she’s every bit as smart

as her mother. In a few years Clem will be old enough to join us too.”


“Yes, she’s a bit too impulsive still,” Soapy agreed. “She’s not quite ready, although some of the cruder gangs would

have been using her for years. I like to think I run a slicker outfit. Two beautiful daughters, huh? You’d best make

the most of it before somebody snatches them up and marries them out from under you.”


“Yeah, I’ve been keeping an eye on Heyes and Curry.”


“Really?” Soapy’s wrinkled brow furrowed even further. “They don’t strike me as marriage material just yet.”


“I know,” Hale agreed. “That’s why I’m keeping an eye on them.”


“Well, show time. Let’s get on with it.” Soapy waved to the waiter and bellowed theatrically. “Can I have a pen and

some ink please?”


That did it; Burdon burst from the vegetation and headed straight for them, failing to notice the frond caught on his

cuff. “I thought that was you. I was just passing the dining room after a meeting and I thought I saw my old friend,

Abbott. How are you and how’s that lovely daughter of yours?”


“A meeting?” Soapy queried, eyeing the leaves hanging from the mark’s cuff. “Monkey business perhaps?”


Burdon reddened. “I caught it in that fern over there,” he dragged the debris away, dislodging a cuff link in the

process. He cursed under his breath and stooped to snatch it up as the waiter approached with an inkwell and pen and

placed it on the table. “Contracts at the dinner table?” He stood and scowled at ‘Lehrman.’ “You have no class. You

wouldn’t catch me ambushing my clients like that.”


Soapy glanced down at the vegetation still strewn on the floor. “No, you prefer the undergrowth.”


“I have not been ambushed, I can assure you,” Hale declared. “We’ve been hashing out a deal for the last fortnight

through telegrams.” Hale smiled triumphantly at Soapy at his insertion of an English term into the conversation but

this was misinterpreted by Burdon as a dismissal.


“I came all the way out here from Denver for you and he wins you over in a couple of telegrams?” Burdon spluttered.

“My time is important, you know.”


Hale frowned. “You told me you had business in your San Francisco office. Isn’t that the case?”


“Yes, well…” Burdon groped around for a face-saving explanation, “I did, but I brought it forward to help you. I didn’t

want you to feel obligated, that’s all.”


“Really? That is exceedingly kind of you, I must say,” Hale pinned Soapy with a hard look. “Would you travel to Denver

for my business?”


“Nope,” grinned Soapy, “I’m far too busy. I could maybe send a subordinate, but Burdon Coutts is a much smaller

concern.”


“You see how he values your business?” Burdon scowled. “You get personal attention at my bank.”


“You get an overdraft of from ten thousand dollars with the Lehrman Rosencrantz Commercial Union,” Soapy shot back.
“He can have an over draft of twelve thousand at Burdon Coutts.”


“Can I?” Hale queried hopefully. “That’d go a long way to helping finance business here while the American branch was

established.”


Soapy’s jaw firmed. “Twelve thousand.”


Burdon’s eyebrows rose. “Fourteen thousand.”


“Fifteen,” Soapy countered.


“Seventeen,” Burdon countered.


The veteran conman paused sighing heavily. Could he push the mark any further without losing him? “Eighteen, my final

offer.”


A heavy hand clattered down on the table before the banker leaned on the table and gave Hale a long hard stare. “An

overdraft facility of twenty thousand dollars and the use of the boardroom in my offices for meetings until you find

suitable premises.”All eyes turned to the man with the grizzled, but neatly trimmed, hair.“Can you match that?” Burdon

demanded


Soapy shook his head. “Sorry; but I have more partners to satisfy that our friend here, and I certainly cannot promise

the use of our offices.” He quietly folded the document he had been using as a prop and replaced it in his breast

pocket. “I’m out.”


Hale stood,beaming widelyat his new found business partner. “What a wonderful offer. There’s no question that Burdon

Coutts is going to be the bank of the White Rose shipping line as it expands into The U.S.A. Do you have the

contracts?”


“I’ll have them drawn up first thing in the morning.I’m not crass enough to bring such things to a dinner appointment.

I understand that your daughter has arranged that we all dine with the Shands tomorrow.” Burdon looked down his nose at

a dejected-looking Soapy and continued without a trace of irony. “I’ll bring the paperwork with me to get it signed and

finalized before we dine.”


“If he doesn’t follow through you know where I am,” twinkled Soapy.


“My word is my bond, Lehrman,” growled the banker before shaking Hale firmly by the hand. “Until tomorrow? I will

arrange a carriage for us all.”


The two confidence tricksters stood side by side and watched the tall man’s departing back. “You pushed that a bit

higher than I thought we’d agreed,” muttered Hale.


“Yeah, but I saw the greed hanging out of him and knew we could get more.” Soapy turned to look at his partner in

crime. “You can’t go to dinner tomorrow night. None of us can be seen anywhere near the big four or their friends; the

rest of the gangs will drive us into the dust for ruining the pitch for everyone. Find an excuse; some kind of

emergency and get on a train back to Denver first thing in the morning.”


“But I’m supposed to sign the contract tomorrow.”


“Have you ever been fishing, Hale?” The wrinkled face furrowed into a devilishly innocent smile. “My pa used to tell

me that to get the fish to bite harder you’ve sometimes got to tease him a bit, you have to make him think it’s all

about to slip away to make him really commit and swallow hook, line and sinker. Your skipping out is going to panic

him, especially if I break the news and plan a trip to Denver. You and Jen need to send your apologies to the Shands

and head off. He’ll be so keen to push money at you he’ll never see this coming.”


OOOOOOOOOO


Seven Days Later


Soapy strolled across the lobby of the Tremont hotel, turning with a smile of recognition towards the gangly man who had

just walked through the door. “Burdon? If you’re here to see the Abbotts, they’ve gone.”


“Gone!?” Burdon scowled. “What are you doing here?”


“When I heard that he had been called back to Denver on urgent business without getting the chance to sign up I thought

I still had a chance.” Soapy’s eyes sparkled with mischief. “This is going to grow you know. It’s a good proposition

as it is, but this shipping line is already well-established in England and it’s very profitable. Tie that up with him

planning a series of links with the railroads and Abbott’s got the start of a business transporting raw materials coast

to coast as well as internationally.”


“What was so damn important that he skipped out on me?” Burdon demanded.


“Didn’t he tell you?” Soapy enquired, innocently. “Palmer is inaugurating the narrow gauge railway out of Denver to

Colorado Springs and is offering preferential rates in his network to any businessman who makes him an advance. Abbott

was late to the party because he’s a foreigner and he was out of town, but he needed to get the best rates to compete in

the transportation market. You know the kind of deal, you help me build the thing and I’ll give you the best deal for

using it.” A grin twitched at Soapy’s lips. “He had to move fast, and I like a man who knows how to grab an

opportunity with both hands. As soon as I heard about that I knew he’d be lower in funds than he’d planned. I’m

authorized to make him an advance as well as an overdraft facility.”


“How much?”


“None of your business,” Soapy swung his cane onto his nonchalantly onto his shoulder and sauntered over to the door.

“You look after your business and I’ll look after mine.”


OOOOOOOOOO


Heads turned as William piloted his new Studebaker carriage through the crowded streets of downtown Denver. He’d

purchased it yesterday when the funds for the loan had finally been placed in his account. It had taken some creative

bookwork on his part to divert the money from his father’s account, but luckily for him, he’d had plenty of practice

siphoning small amounts from his parents over the past few years and it hadn’t been any harder to bury the larger amount

amongst the bank’s steep expenses. After all, he had a lifestyle to maintain and appearances were important. His father

would never know, just like Juan would never know that he’d skimmed some of the money off the top so that he could

propose to Isabella in style.


The perfectly matched team of grays trotted gaily, their harnesses gleaming in the sunlight, and pedestrians were quick

to jump out of his way. Burdon was almost as proud of his horseflesh as he was of the young woman who sat beside him.

His intended turned shining eyes up to him and clapped her hands happily.


“Oh, William, they are absolutely beautiful!” Clem exclaimed with genuine enthusiasm.


He reached over and stroked her leg proprietorially. “They pale in comparison to you, my darling Isabella.”


It was all Clem could do not to snort at being likened to a pair of horses. She hid her distaste at his touch and

pretended to be absorbed by the scenery. Really, what was it about William that disturbed her so much? He was

reasonably well-behaved and polite, although clumsy in his wooing. At least it would soon be over and she’d never have

to see him again. She felt the slightest twinge of guilt at duping the young man so mercilessly, but absolved herself

by remembering how she would upstage Jen with her first successful con.


Glancing over her shoulder at her two friends riding astride behind the carriage, she noted their matching scowls and

she winked saucily at them, hoping that they were feeling jealous. It was about time they took more than a brotherly

interest in her. Shifting in her seat again, she leaned ever so slightly into William’s shoulder. He grinned down at

her and whipped up the horses to a faster pace. Any further discussion was snatched away by the wind.


When they reached the South Platte River, William slowed the team to a walk and pulled into a shady cottonwood grove.

The sun sparkled on the rippling, gurgling water and a slight breeze bowed the feathery stalks of dried grasses that

lined the river bank. He put on the brake and jumped down from the Studebaker, hurrying around to the passenger’s side

so that he could have the pleasure of helping Isabella down before her dreadful bore of a brother could dismount. She

smiled encouragingly at him, placing her tiny hands on his shoulders. His hands nearly encompassed her waist as he

lifted her down. Deliberately, he wobbled slightly causing her to alight snugly wrapped in his arms.


Clem flushed at the feel of William’s fleshy chest and unconsciously pushed him away. She’d never had a man hold her so

closely before and she hated that he was the first. He laughed at her confusion and pulled her back to him whispering

in her ear, “Soon nothing will come between us.” Her eyes widened at his words and she glanced over her shoulder at

Heyes and Jed, wishing they weren’t quite so far away.


William’s father had unexpectedly arrived back in Denver ahead of schedule. He knew he had to step up his game if he

was going to close this deal without his pater’s knowledge and he savored the thought of shocking his parents by

announcing his engagement to the general public before they had a clue of what a coup he’d managed to pull off. When

his mother had stated her intention of attending Palmer’s Ball tonight, William knew he had the perfect forum to declare

to the world that he had bagged a princess.


He watched the rosy glow of embarrassment flood Isabella’s face as a result of his comments and it gave him a thrill.

Despite her flirtations, it was obvious she was virginal; a condition that William would remedy soon and with great

pleasure. She’d learn to serve her master in every respect. Isabella might be a princess, but he was about to become

her king and he relished the thought of making her subservient to him.


Clem dropped her eyes, unable to smile at William’s crude remark and when she raised them again, she was relieved to

find that Heyes and the Kid had arrived by her side. “Let’s have our picnic over there by that old stump. We can use

it as a table,” she babbled. “Clyde, please bring over the basket.” Covering her discomfort with the preparations, she

set about unpacking the food.


After the meal, William stood up and offered her his hand. With a curt nod to Heyes, he looped Clem’s arm through his

and ambled away along the riverbank. When he judged that they were definitely out of earshot and nearly out of sight,

he pulled Clem to him again and nuzzled her neck. “Ah, Isabella, you drive me insane!”


“William, you mustn’t!” cried Clem, causing Burdon to stop his attentions and glance back to see if her brother had

heard. There was a dangerous edge to Juan that he had no intention of experiencing.


Heyes and Jed were sitting in the grass, skipping stones into the water, pretending to ignore the young couple

downstream from them, but, in reality, keeping a close watch over their young friend. Hearing Clem’s raised voice; they

both rose to their feet and began to stroll nonchalantly towards the couple.


“He’s bein’ damned familiar with her, Heyes, and I don’t like it,” growled Jed.


“Me either, but what can happen? He sees us coming.” Heyes kept his eyes on the two people standing next to the river.

For whatever reason, he didn’t trust William and he was looking forward to completing the swindle even if it meant

leaving Soapy and Denver behind.


Seeing that he was about to be interrupted, William quickly dropped to one knee clutching Clem’s hands tightly.

“Isabella, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”


Heyes and Jed stopped in their tracks when they saw him kneel before her. “He’s proposing!” said Jed starting towards

Clem and William.


Heyes caught his arm. This was the culmination of all their efforts. “Don’t blow it!” said Heyes. “We’re in the home

stretch. We’ll get the money and leave in the morning on the first northbound train to Cheyenne. From there, we can go

anywhere.”


Jed frowned but he stopped trying to pull away from his partner. Instead, his icy blue eyes were riveted on the tableau

before him.


“Your wife? William, I hardly know you.” Clem was caught by surprise.


“You know that I’m completely crazy for you. What more do you need?”


“But…I can’t marry. Not while Catherine is imprisoned,” Clem protested weakly. The plan had been to get him to loan

them the money to free her sister, but the con called for a long drawn-out scenario where problems arose and more money

would be required, not this speedy conclusion. She felt confused and disarmed. He was crushing her hands and it hurt

her. She tried to pull away.


He tightened his grip as he felt her struggling. William wasn’t about to let his golden goose get away so easily. This

wasn’t going the way he had envisioned it would. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Juan and Clyde drawing closer

again. The added pressure made his temper flare and he hissed, “Come now, don’t pretend with me. I’ve agreed to loan

Juan the money to free her if you agree to marry me. It’s a good deal for everyone.”


Clem stiffened. Heyes had known about the proposal and he hadn’t told her! She was suddenly furious with both him and

William and she yanked her hands from her suitor’s. Turning away from him, she glared at Heyes, who smiled blandly back

at her and nodded his head encouragingly. He’d known, damn him, he’d known William was going to propose and he hadn’t

told her! Caught between her friends and her mark, she struggled to recoverher composure. Why was she upset? This was

it. This was what she had set in motion and she would see it through. She laughed gaily as she spun back to him and

placed her hands on his chest. “Yes, yes, it is a good deal as you say. I will marry you, William!”


With a bellow of laughter, William wrapped his arms around her and swung her around. Clem’s eyes drilled into Heyes’

and he couldn’t miss the fury in them. Once she was on the ground again, she ran over to her ‘brother’ and threw her

arms around his neck, pretending to be sharing her good news.


“You pig! How could you do that to me?” Clem yanked cruelly at his longish hair.


“Ow, stop that! You got what you wanted, didn’t you?” snarled Heyes. “Now let’s close the deal.” He pushed her away

none too gently and hurried forward to seize William’s hand. “Welcome to the family. I am so delighted my sister has

accepted your handsome proposal.”


“Thank you, Juan, and I haven’t forgotten our little agreement.” William reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a

thick envelope, passing it to Juan surreptitiously. “Please make sure Catherine is back in time for the wedding.”


“I will, my friend, I will,” grinned Heyes, quickly concealing the money in his own jacket. “Come let’s celebrate. I

brought champagne!” He started back towards where his horse was tied.


Clyde was busy congratulating William and no one heard Clem mutter angrily, “I just bet you did.”


OOOOOOOOOO


A dull, loose pelt slid over the protruding bones of a straggly mutt as it slunk towards the remains of something

putrefying in the gutter. Canine lips curled into a growl to ward off the competition from a crow pecking at the furry

mess of a critter too slow to get out of the way of a cartwheel, but the grizzly competition was cut short by the rattle

of a carriage drawing up at the warehouse. Soapy disembarked, slamming the door behind him and watched the mark’s

Hansom cab clatter to a halt behind him. Yup, Burdon was keen alright.


The huge wooden door slid back, the warehouseman grabbing the wall-like door with both hands to slide it back on its

runners to reveal the very English and very proper Abbotts apparently cooing over the contents of a wooden crate.


Soapy glanced over his shoulder at Burdon bustling up behind him and cringed at the banker’s over-enthusiastic bellow.

“Abbott! I was worried about you. I hope it wasn’t family business that brought you back to Denver so quickly?”


Hale feigned surprise and stepped to greet the new arrivals with a proffered hand. “No, I’m so sorry about that, but I

was going to lose a big chance to grow my business if I didn’t move quickly. I hope you understand.”


Burdon nodded, moving his body around to step between his target and the Jewish banker who hovered about like a

bluebottle.


“Lehrman!” Hale beamed, “I didn’t expect to see you all the way out here.”


“I will venture into the wilds if the client merits such an intervention. You get personal attention at the Lehrman

Rosencrantz Commercial Union.”


“The wilds?” Burdon harrumphed in ripe indignation. “This is Denver, not some dusty cowtown!”


“Were you invited here?” Soapy demanded.


Hale raised his hands to cut off Burdon’s retort. “Gentlemen, gentlemen! You are both welcome.”


Burdon shook Hale’s hand. “I need to talk to you, Abbott.”


“Talk’s cheap,” snorted Soapy. “The supply exceeds demand.”


“I brought that contract with me, Abbot,” Burdon fished in his breast pocket. “You didn’t have time to sign it in San

Francisco.”


“Gees,” huffed Soapy, “talk about delicacy. Does your train of thought have a caboose attached?” He turned back to

Hale. “So this is the warehouse you’re renting?”


“I certainly am. The first of many,” Hale cast an expansive hand around at the stacked crates and barrels. “It’s all

coming together. My shipping line is bringing in raw materials from the four corners of the earth and I also have a

growing logistical ability to ship cargo to meet the growing demand in out here in the West.” He lifted a crowbar and

pried the lid off the nearest box. He reached in and pulled out a shining ingot.


“Gold?” gasped Burdon.


Hale shook his head. “Copper. Do you really think I’d be mad enough to leave crates of gold in an unbounded warehouse?

All your heavy industry needs copper. It goes into everything from your brass beds, machinery and even into the

currency you use to pay for it. It’s everywhere and the West needs tons of it if it’s to build itself up as a power to

be reckoned with,” his eyes gleamed, “and I am not only able to bring it in quantity, I now have the contracts in place

to take it anywhere it needs to go at the very best rates.”


Burdon flicked a glance at his competitor, drinking in his avaricious glance. He had underestimated this mild-mannered

Englishman, he had a solid brain for business and this was a definite coup for the bank. It was time to talk some hard

figures. “Abbott, I understand that you were about to sign up in San Francisco. I am prepared to up that figure. I

will offer you an overdraft of twenty five thousand dollars along with the use of the bank’s offices until you get

premises of your own. All you have to do is sign now.”


Hale’s eyes widened. “That’s a very generous offer. Can you do better than that Lehrman?”


“I am authorized to offer you the same, Abbott,” Soapy tapped the boss of his cane pensively against his chin. “How

about a preferential rate of six? That’s lower than the national average right now.”


“Five and three quarters,” Burdon countered.


“Five and a half,” Soapy clicked his stick on the wooden floor decisively, “and that’s my final offer.”


“Five percent, an overdraft facility of twenty five thousand and the use of our offices until you get your own premises.

You will also get my personal attention to your account at all times. What do you say?”


“Too rich for my blood,” Soapy shook his head. “I’m not authorized to offer anything below five and a half percent.

He’s all yours Burdon.” He extended a hand to his fellow flim flammer. “I’m sorry we couldn’t do business on this

occasion, Abbott. Let me know if this doesn’t work out for any reason and we can talk.”


“Do you have the paperwork to get this signed up?” Hale nodded towards Burdon’s bulging breast pocket. “You’ve clearly

brought it with you. I am a busy man.”


“I need to amend it; it’s filled in with the wrong rate. How about I call by your hotel this evening?”


“Papa?” Genevieve stepped forward to break her silence, “I hope you haven’t forgotten that we are going to the Grand

Inauguration Ball tonight. You know, for the railway charter? All the investors are going.”


Hale nodded, smiling at his daughter’s foresight to buy a couple of the public tickets to corroborate their story. “Ah,

yes. Palmer’s Railway Inauguration.”


Burdon’s thin lips spread into a smile. Hadn’t his wife has been prattling about the need for him to be back in time to

attend that self-same shindig? For her it had been social climbing as the biggest event in the Denver Calendar, but it

now seemed to be very fortuitous indeed. “The Inauguration Ball? But we’re going too. Why don’t I bring the contract

there for you to get it signed?”


“It’s a deal. Bring the contract tonight and we’ll get it signed up.”


Burdon’s unsavory smile broadened as his gaze slid towards the woman he knew as Arrabelle Abbott, English socialite and

heiress in a family without a son to inherit the business. “We will get that done immediately and get it out of the

way. We want the young people to enjoy the festivities, don’t we? My son, William will also be attending, Miss Abbott.

I really would like him to meet you.”


To be continued...
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Stepha3nie

Stepha3nie

Posts : 5043
Join date : 2014-07-12
Age : 50
Location : Scotland

PostSubject: Re: The Devil's Due Part 3   Thu Sep 11, 2014 10:41 pm

What a nice surprise to see you have posted a new chapter. Both cons are drawing to an end and things are about to turn ugly I guess. I wonder what will happen when all will meet at the ball.
I can just see Burdon trying to introduce Jen to his son, while William proudly presents Clem as his fiancee to his father...
I find it harder and harder to understand that the boys are still so fond of Clem in the series. Not only has she shamelessly blackmailed them, she has ruined their chances to finish their apprenticeship with Soapy and so lost them their home and livelihood. And not even for a good reason, but on a whim fueled by jealousy of her sister.
There is just one thing I do not quite understand. If team Clem think they will definitely have to leave town because of their con, how come team Soapy does not seem to think the same? After all, they are conning a businessman from Denver who could afterwards run into Soapy, Hale or Jen anytime and identify them. Granted, they plan to con him in a way he will probably be too embarrassed about to let the authorities know, but they are still running quite a risk. Also they have been introduced to people who willl now know them under their con aliases - not advised if they plan to continue working in Denver.
It was interesting to see the differences in the con teams. You made me believe that Hale, Soapy and Jen are professionals in control of their game. They do their research, and behave accordingly. At the same time I got the impression that Heyes, Jed and Clem are in over their heads. They have more or less managed to achieve their goal, but I don't feel they are in control at all. Clem may have managed to get her suitor to madly desire her, but her behaviour is not princessly at all and seems to have encouraged William to feel too much in command.
I am getting the impression that William might be behind the partner's split-up and could be the mysterious person sending people after them.
Great chapter and I can hardly wait for the next (even if I sound greedy now). Do I need to tell you that I am completely hooked? I am already wondering where you will take the current story once the backstory is finished.

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For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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Keays

Keays

Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 61
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Re: The Devil's Due Part 3   Thu Sep 11, 2014 11:00 pm

This story is getting better and better.  Clem is beginning to realize the situation her arrogance has gotten herself and her friends into but too late to change the course.  How degrading to be sold away as a wife to a new and undesirable husband.  Fortunately for her this is not for real.  Apparently though she does not learn from her mistakes since she uses the same tactics again some ten years later to force the boys into complying with her wishes.

Now the two con games are going to be coming to a head.  Everyone is merging onto the Inauguration Ball.  This is going to be getting interesting and things are heating up nicely.

Great story ladies.
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Silverkelpie

Silverkelpie

Posts : 1438
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 58
Location : Over the rainbow

PostSubject: Re: The Devil's Due Part 3   Fri Sep 12, 2014 8:06 am

Stepha3nie - Jen, her father and Soapy do plan on skipping town once the con comes to fruition, but as their con is already well-planned they haven't shared this information, just as they haven't shared their plan in depth as, to them, it's already well mapped out and plotted.  Clem and the boys are thinking on the hoof so are making it up as they go along.  That's one of the main differences you can see in their methodologies.

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Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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InsideOutlaw

InsideOutlaw

Posts : 511
Join date : 2013-08-25
Age : 63
Location : Colorado

PostSubject: Re: The Devil's Due Part 3   Fri Sep 12, 2014 10:17 am

You are so right about the differences between the two teams.  Heyes and Jed are rookies in the confidence world and they are being put into the impossible situation of having to rush through a con with an unfamiliar mark because of Clem's blackmailing. They're lucky it's worked so far!  Clem, coming from a family of experienced flim-flammers, should know better, but she's too spoiled, too headstrong, and too young.   She's the center of her own universe as many children are and doesn't think beyond her own desires or foresee the consequences.

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