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 The Devil's Due - Chapter 22

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Silverkelpie

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Posts : 1413
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 57
Location : Over the rainbow

PostSubject: The Devil's Due - Chapter 22   Fri Oct 07, 2016 12:20 pm

“Damn it!” 

One of the two figures loitering in the street shrugged.  “What’s up?”

“That sign up on the wall.  The bank has an alarm system.”  Heyes sighed.  “I’ve never broken in anywhere with an alarm.”

“So you can’t do it?”

“Don’t be so hasty.  I didn’t say I couldn’t.  I just said I’ve never done it,” an injured baritone voice replied.  “I’ve only read about them.”

“So what?  The roof?”  The Kid craned his neck up at the building.  “It might be easier to get on the roof of that hotel next to it and climb over.” 

“No need.  Give me your knife.”

“You’ve got your own knife.  I saw you put it in your boot.”

“I need two knives.”

“Why?” the Kid demanded suspiciously.  “If you’re gonna break one, break your own.”

“I’m not going to break it.  I’m going to magnetize it.”

“You’re gonna what?”

“Magnetize it, you know, make metal stick to it.”

The Kid’s brows furrowed in the darkness.  “We ain’t got time for kid’s games.  We’ve got work to do.”

Heyes turned to face his partner.   “This system depends on an electrical circuit, running through the doors and windows.  As soon as one of them is opened the circuit is broken and the alarm sounds.  It has a storage cell where the power is kept.  It’s called a Daniell cell, and as long as that’s connected the alarm will ring.”

The fair man’s brow wrinkled.  “So?  Knock out the storage cell.”

Heyes shook his head.  “It’s inside, and we’re outside.  We can’t.  We can make sure the circuit isn’t broken by placing a knife blade against the contact.  The system thinks it’s the contact from the door is still in place, but it’s actually the blade of a knife.”  His cheeks dimpled, “so we’ll be able to open the door without breaking the circuit.”

The Kid’s mobile brows underscored his processing of this information.  “So why do you have to magnetize the blade?”

“They usually leave one door uncovered so they can get in and out after the alarm is set.  My guess is it’ll be the front door, because people are more likely to see anyone breaking in on the front street.”  He nodded towards the alley.  “So we’re going to use the side door and I need to find the metal panel in the dark.  That’s why I need the knife magnetized.  I’ll feel what I can’t see when I slip it round the frame.”

A gloved hand landed on the outlaw leader’s shoulder.  “Heyes, sometimes I just have to be honest and admit you are a genius.”

“Sometimes?”  Heyes arched a brow.  “So far it’s taken you all your life.”

“You’re not always there,” the Kid shrugged.  “I don’t want you to get big-headed.”

“C’mon. “  Heyes gestured with his head.  “I can’t be seen sitting in the street rubbing one knife against another.  It’d be too creepy.  Let’s find somewhere dark.  We’ll come back to the bank.”

The Kid followed Heyes along the sidewalk.  “Yeah, because a man sharpening knives in a dark alley is so much better.”

“You’re not helping,” muttered Heyes.

“I ain’t tryin’ to,” grinned the gunman.

oooOOOooo                 
 
James sat at his usual table, the one next to the front window, and stared at the meal ticket the young waitress had placed in front of him.  The restaurant was preparing to close for the night and he’d have to leave soon.  From this vantage point, he’d had a clear view of the front door of bank.  He’d spent the last forty-five minutes waiting for the night to deepen and bolstering his nerve with a little liquid courage from the bottle of scotch next to his right hand.  If he had any more courage, his legs wouldn’t be able to carry him across the street.  It was now or never.  He had to do this; his family was counting on him. 

He snorted.  His ‘family’ had brought him to this moment.  Marrying into the Burdons was supposed to be a good match for his equally respected but less well-endowed family and he’d been encouraged to turn his attentions to the eldest daughter.  It hadn’t been hard.  Angelique had been quite the looker and he’d found her intelligence refreshing after all the empty-headed debs he’d been forced to endure.  Yes, he had to admit he’d eagerly gone to the altar like a dull-minded cow being led to slaughter and look what his brilliant match had achieved:  he was nearly penniless.  His formerly beautiful wife looked like one of Verne’s airships plus she was likely illegitimate and would no longer be heir to the Burdon fortune.  Things couldn’t get any worse.  Would his baby be a bastard?  Hell, he couldn’t think clearly any more.  He’d better get going.  Just one last sip.  He was already sloshed, one more couldn’t hurt.  He never thought he’d be brought so low, robbing his own bank.  And it had been his.  Well, almost, after Williams died.  Ernest had told him that while the bank belonged to the family, he’d be holding the reins when the elder Burdon passed and then he’d done just that.  He’d passed almost immediately.  James had been so close to having it all.  Now what did he have?  His eyes turned to the imposing building across the street.  What he had was what he could carry away tonight.  He’d readily agreed with Angelique’s plan but he’d had his own reasons for doing so.
 
Hopefully, it would be enough.  Lawyers were expensive as he well knew and it was going to cost him to get a quiet divorce.  He’d be a gentleman about it and nobody in their circle would blame him.  After all, he’d married her under false pretenses believing her to be legitimate and of good breeding.  Yes, he’d have to set her up and take care of the child, but he’d be free to find a wife worthy of his good name.

He stood and picked up the ticket, crumpling it and absentmindedly shoving it into a pants pocket. He retrieved his wallet from inside his jacket and tossed several bills down on the table, nodding to the waitress as she hurried across the empty room from the small table in the corner where she’d been fighting to keep her eyes open waiting for her last customer to finish.  He was out the door before she could bid him good evening.  She stood at the table, clearing away his dirty dishes and, when she looked up and out the window, he was gone.

oooOOOooo

The blue eyes kept sharp watch in the darkness of the alley, listening as his partner scratched and scraped around the door with his knife.  The tinkering seemed endless as the blade slotted into the gap and was slipped slowly back and forth, to and fro.  The gunman shifted his weight from one leg to the other.  “Have you found the plate for the alarm yet?”  

“No, not yet.  Just keep a look out, will you?”

“How much longer is this gonna take?”

Heyes gave a huff of irritation.  “How should I know?  I’m supposed to be a genius, not a fortune teller.”

“You haven’t even started to pick the lock yet.”

“It takes as long as it takes.  I’ve never done this before.”  Heyes slid the knife out of the crack and scowled at it.  “It’s not picking up any metal at all.  Surely they wouldn’t leave the side door as the access point.” 

“Did you try the hinge side?”

“No.  How will I know the difference between the actual hinge and the magnetic plate?”

The Kid shrugged.  “Exactly.  That’s why I’d put it there.  It’d be harder for you to find and jam it with a blade.  It’d still break the circuit when the door opened, wouldn’t it?  It’d be a better place for it.”  He grinned.  “Better for them, that is.  Not better for us.”

Heyes paused, his gathering brows displaying his annoyance at missing this glaring point.  “Yes,” he conceded.  “It would.”

He took the knife and slipped it down the hinge side of the door, pausing as the obvious struck him.  “The hinges are surface mounted on the inside of the door.”  He continued slipping the knife down the door until he hit the butt end of the next hinge.  “Nope.  I can’t find anything metal except the latch.”  Heyes stood back to examine the door.  “They wouldn’t leave a side entrance unalarmed, would they?  A double bluff?”

“Or could they have built the alarm into the latch?  After all it’d make it harder to use a knife to stop it goin’ off.  Maybe they’re wise to that trick.”

“How could they be wise to it?  I made it up and I never used it before.”

“I dunno,” retorted the Kid.  “Maybe you’re not a genius and you just hang around with really dumb criminals?  Maybe loads of folks have thought of it already?”

“No, I read all the newspapers.  If anyone had thought of this, I’d have picked up on it,” he turned back to the door and muttered under his breath.  “But you’re sure right about the dumb people.”

The Kid frowned.  “What did you just say?”

“Nothing.  I didn’t mean you.”  Heyes’ eyes narrowed as the magnetic knife kept catching in the latch of the door.  “Maybe you’re right about them hiding it near the lockset?  There doesn’t seem to be any other metal on the door except for the hinges.”  He clicked the blade around the strike plate of the lock.  “Yes, it’s the only metal around the door.  Cover me; I’m going to pick the lock.”

The faint metallic tinkering noises filled the silent night.  The gunman largely watched the alley, but occasionally glanced back to only see the black hat masking the lock and the hands he knew were probing it with delicate implements.  Only the silver conchos caught the moonlight in the shadows of the side street in an auroral glimmer.  At long last Heyes caught a breath and turned back to his cousin.  “It’s unlocked.”

“So?  Open it.”

Heyes thrust the knife back in to touch the faceplate, his hand on the door handle.  “Get ready to run.  The minute this door opens the alarm could set off a bell that’ll be heard streets away.”

“Unless it’s hidden in the hinges,” huffed the Kid    “Sheesh, once these things get more sophisticated we’ll have to get out of this business.”

“Yes.  Thankfully they’re too expensive for most places,” Heyes tentatively turned the handle, pausing when it went as far as it would go.  “Ready?”

“Ready,” the Kid nodded.

Heyes held the blade hard against the lock plate and allowed the door to swing slowly open.  Their eyes met and they both released the breath they’d been holding. 

“You found the plate, Heyes.  Maybe I’ll go back to genius after all.”

“Thanks.  Now I need you to hold this knife exactly where it is so I can go and switch off the system.”

“Fine.  Don’t be long.” 

“Am I ever?” hissed Heyes, disappearing into the building.

“How long have we been lookin’ after Carlotta?” the Kid retorted.

But Heyes was already gone.  It didn’t take him long to find the alarm system, and the black light, a lantern with flaps to direct the light only where the miscreant wanted it to go, soon illuminated the circuit complete with Daniell cell.  He reached out and pushed the lever up before striding back to the door.   “It’s turned off, I think.”  He arched a brow.  “It’s now or never.  Take the knife away but be ready to make a quick getaway.”

The Kid hesitated, but curtly nodded assent to his partner who approached the doorway.  They both held their breaths; every nerve in their bodies tensed to flee as the blade was pulled away from the strike plate.  Silence.

The Kid heaved a sigh of relief.  “Heyes, you’ve gotta stop doin’ this to my nerves.  I don’t think I want to do another bank with an alarm ever again.” 

“Agreed, but first we’ve got this one to rob.  Come on.”

oooOOOooo
 
James paused in mid-step.  Had he heard something downstairs?  He shook his head in dismay.  He really should’ve had less to drink, his imagination was working overtime.  Continuing up to his office on the second floor, he stopped again in the long hallway gazing through an open doorway into the assistant manager’s office.  Damn Guthrie, he was getting careless leaving it unlocked, he’d have to have a word with him.  As James pulled the door shut he noticed the large trunk in the far corner and wondered briefly at its origins before arriving at his own office.  He pulled out his keys, softly jingling them, and unlocked the door. 

oooOOOooo
“Shh!  D’you hear that?” Curry tapped his partner’s shoulder as they crept into the hallway behind the tellers cages.  A quick shake of a dark head was the only reply.

oooOOOooo

Swinging his office’s wall safe open, James reached in and withdrew his set of master keys.  It was a hard and fast rule that no one, not even Ernest, ever removed the master keys from the premises.  He’d have to make sure he didn’t forget to return them when he was finished.  It was crucial that he make this look like an outside job, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t do it the easy way.  He reached back into the alcove and withdrew a small bundle placing it on his desk.  Inside was a set of lock picks, wire-cutters, and an old ragged piece of fabric his father-in-law had kept in a drawer of his bed table at home.

He’d been careful.  The lock picks were bought from an old, forgetful locksmith during a business meeting in Greeley.  He could still remember how that fake horsehair mustache he’d worn had tickled his nose.  It had been all he could do not to sneeze during the transaction.  The wire cutters came from Montgomery Wards and shipped to an anonymous post office box in Golden.  But the fabric...the fabric would be his pièce de résistance.

Ernest had kept that tiny reminder of one of the two men who had ruined all their lives.  The investigator, Scrivener, had delivered it to Burdon along with a ridiculous tale of being stuffed into a barrel.  The man claimed to have torn it from Hannibal Heyes’ shirttail during an intense scuffle.  When Ernest was feeling especially maudlin about William, he would bring out the small scrap and show it to his audience, re-affirming to them his commitment to capturing his son’s murderers.  Half of Denver society had seen that remnant and the law shouldn’t have any problem identifying it.  He stuffed both his pants pockets with the contents of the bundle and closed the small wall safe.

He had to admit it would give him satisfaction to point the finger at Heyes and Curry.  He didn’t give a damn about William.  As far as he was concerned that disgusting bit of humanity had gotten what he’d deserved, but he had his own score to settle.  If it wasn’t for Heyes and Curry, and all they’d triggered by killing William, he wouldn’t be robbing his own bank.  It was only fitting, they’d be the bank robbers blamed for this theft.

oooOOOooo

“Nope, I definitely heard something that time,” hissed the Kid.  “We’re not alone in here.”

Heyes’ brow creased with concern.  “Yeah, I heard it too.  Keys, I think.”

Their eyes met at the sound of footsteps clattering in the distance. 

“Have they got a security guard?” Heyes whispered.

“You didn’t think to ask?”

“How could I ask Carlotta without making her suspicious?”

The Kid shrugged.  “I dunno.  Where did all that charm go?  What happened to the silver tongue?”

“Carlotta’s foolhardy, not dumb.  There’s no telling what she’d do if she knew anyone was robbing her Daddy’s bank.” 

The shattering burst of smashing glass caused both of them to duck behind the nearest desk and freeze.  They listened hard through the echoing building for another sound, but there was nothing.  Experience told them this was a moment to wait and see.  Only amateurs blundered about when something went wrong.

oooOOOooo

James swore under his breath and turned up the oil lamp slightly.  Dammit.  What kind of stupid place was that for a framed photograph?  He crouched and picked at the pieces, the shards crunching under his feet.  Ouch!  That darned glass was thinner than it looked and sliced right into his middle finger.  Great drops of crimson blood splattered in gory coronas on the floor.  He reached into his pocket and grabbed at the first thing which came to hand and wrapped it around the wound.  That old bit of shirt?  He frowned.  Would it matter if it had a bit of blood on it?  It probably mattered more that it was dirty.  Where was his handkerchief? 

He rooted around in his pockets and pulled out the clean white linen square and wound it around the finger instead, re-pocketing the soiled fabric.  It was probably best to leave that glass where it was, but he was sure going to have a word with the staff about personal photographs and nonsense on their desks. 

He paused.  He had always delegated to the point of complete languor and wasn’t exactly sure how the safe worked.  Did you turn the handle before the dial?  What would happen if he did it wrong?  Would it jam?  The very thought intimidated him and he wished he’d paid more attention to the staff when they’d been working right in front of him.  Well, now or never.  Time for the vault.     

oooOOOooo

The many expletives filling the air were lost in the shrill ring of the alarm bell, which seemed to be set to the tone most likely to grate the nerves and set teeth on edge.   Heyes and Curry leaped to their feet and ran for the side door where they burst into the alley with guns drawn.  Their only opponent was a hissing, spitting cat; her back arched in surprise at the humans approaching her at speed accompanied by a tintinnabulation of terror.  They ran past her and paused at the junction to the main street where they stopped to look out before turning left and walking briskly away.

“I thought you turned that alarm off.”

“I did.  The minute I got in.  It was the first thing I did.  I swear it.”

“You know what we need to get, Heyes?”

“What?”

“A book on those damned burglar alarms.”

oooOOOooo

James went into panic mode.  All he had done was open the gate to the vault.  He was totally confused because even though he knew it was connected to the alarm, he had switched off the system when he had entered.  He was sure of it.  He had definitely turned it off.  He suddenly came to his senses.  Why was he doing thinking about that?  He had to run, and fast!

Abandoning all hope of a successful robbery, James emptied his pockets as he raced through the building.  The last thing he needed was to be caught with incriminating evidence.  The lock picks were seized in his fist and thrown away in a hurry only to clatter loudly on the wooden floor and scatter in all directions, the wire cutters were flipped across the tellers’ cages as he passed by.  Dashing out the side door, he ran through the darkness of the alley until he reached the next cross street.  Forcing himself to walk normally, he stepped onto the wooden sidewalk, his heart pounding and his brain racing.  He willed his limbs to move casually as he hurried home. 

oooOOOooo

“Put your guns down and your hands up and come on out.  I got me five deputies and the bank’s surrounded,” yelled the big lawman.  He waited in vain for a response and, after several tense minutes, he holstered his gun and whispered to the nearest deputy.  “Cover me, Perkins, I’ll go in through the side door.”  He worked his way around Perkins keeping the water trough between him and the front window of the bank.  His knees ached with the effort of staying crouched below the low structure and he could feel bone rubbing on bone.  Damn, he was getting too old for this shit. “Now!” he yelled as he emerged from his safe haven and scrambled for the alleyway a few feet away.  Guns erupted following Perkins’ lead and bullets peppered the front of the building, chips of wood and shards of broken glass flying everywhere.  Halfway to the side door, he became aware that no shots were being returned from within the bank.  “Hold your fire!” he screamed over the cacophony.  “Stop shootin’, dammit!!”  The deputy covering the other end of the alley lowered his gun and waved to him.  A moment later, the gunshots ceased all together.

The marshal stopped and studied the side door before opening it.  There was no sign of a forced entry.  He peered at the hinges, closely examining them.  He saw a few fine scratches but they could’ve been there since it’d been hung.  He didn’t think he’d seen any damage to the front door either, but it was so shot to hell now he’d have a hard time swearing to it and his eyes weren’t what they used to be.  He pulled out his spectacles and hooked them over his ears.  Leaning closer to the lockset, he saw several tiny gouges along the bottom of the keyhole.  Someone had picked the lock.

The alarm was still blasting out its warning when he entered the bank.  He crossed to the device and flipped the switch killing the power and bringing blessed silence.  He waited with his gun drawn for his ears to stop ringing. Nothing moved in the darkened building.  If there’d been anybody in the bank, they were gone now.  He holstered his gun and put two fingers in his mouth whistling loudly to signal all clear.  He could hear boots running across the boardwalk and, a second later, Perkins flung open the broken front door.

“Marshal, you okay?”

“I’m fine.  Keep the rest of those yahoots outside, will ya?  I wanna take a look around before they ruin any evidence.”  He’d already noticed the wire cutters and went to retrieve them.  The handles were red and the maw of the tool was shiny steel, unblemished by any nicks or signs of obvious use.  The marshal walked over to the alarm and ran his hands along the wire leading away from the device.  If wires had been cut, it hadn’t been these.  Someone had to have known how to disable the alarm or they never would’ve made it inside the building.  Question was why the hell did it get set again?  Was the crook worried about someone else breaking in?  It didn’t make any sense.  Putting the cutters down on a desk, the marshal continued his hunt.  He was methodical; slowly working his way back and forth across the lobby, scanning for clues.  He found a broken picture frame lying near a desk and several drops of blood.  The thief, or thieves, must’ve cut themselves in their haste to be gone.  That might prove helpful if they found a suspect.  He carefully lifted the photograph of a young family and placed it on the desk.  Eventually, he worked his way through the back room and entered the vault room, immediately finding the lock picks strewn about the open area.  He bent to pick up the closest one.

“What’ve you got there, Marshal?” said Perkins, entering the room as the bigger man’s back was turned.

The marshal was so startled he nearly dropped the small implement.  “Don’t sneak up on me that way, Perkins!  You scared the bejesus outta me!”

“Sorry,sir, I was hoping I could help.”

Heck, why did he always end up with the raw recruits?  The lawman looked at the eager young face and sighed.   He’d been young once, too.  He could barely remember it.  Turning away from Perkins, he scanned the room.  Nothing looked out of place.  He stepped over to the safe and tried the handle.  Locked tight.  It would appear that the crooks were interrupted by the alarm before they could begin their thievery. 

“Don’t look like they took nothin’, sir.”

“No, it don’t, but why’re the lock picks here?”

“Sir?”

“Don’t it strike you odd, Perkins, that lock picks would be thrown all over the place?”

“Maybe the alarm surprised them.”

“I’m sure it did, but why would they have the lock picks out in the first place?”

“Sir?”

“Hell, Perkins, d’you see a keyhole anywhere on the damned safe?”

Coloring, the young deputy swallowed with difficulty before saying, “No sir, I don’t.  Maybe they dropped them by accident.”

“Would you be walkin’ around with a bunch of picks in your hands if’n you were pulling a heist?”

“But they used them for the door, sir.  There was no sign of a break-in.  I checked.”

“So why’re they here and not back there by the door?”

“I don’t know.”

“Hmpf,” was the only reply.  The marshal handed the picks to Perkins for safekeeping and continued to peruse the scene of the erstwhile crime.  Satisfied he’d thoroughly covered the vault room he wandered up the stairs to the offices.  Most of the doors were locked, but two offices were not.  One belonged to Guthrie, the assistant manager, and the other had a fancy brass plate attached to it proclaiming it Mr. James Matheson’s office.  He knew that was Burdon’s son-in-law and an unlikely candidate for robbing the family bank so he stepped into Guthrie’s and began searching the desk and file cabinets.  When nothing interesting was found, he turned his attention to the large trunk nestled in a far corner.  Was Guthrie planning on leaving town?  Perhaps after lining his pockets with the bank’s cash? 

The trunk was locked and he’d need something to bust the lock and pry it open.  No keys had been found in the desk.  Crossing to the door, he yelled down to Perkins to fetch him a crowbar before he went into Matheson’s office.  Again, he found nothing out of the ordinary nor had he expected to, but he prided himself on being thorough.  By the time he’d finished he could hear Perkins thumping up the stairs.  He met his deputy in the hall. 

“Now, go get Mr. Guthrie.  I want a look inside that safe.”  The marshal took the offered crowbar, but the deputy stood rooted in front of him.

“But, sir, it’s after midnight.”

“I know what time it is, Perkins, get Guthrie!” ordered the marshal, slipping into the assistant manager’s office as boot steps retreated down the stairs.

The trunk was difficult to breach but eventually he worked the crowbar under the hasp and snapped the lock, tearing off splintered wood from the obviously expensive luggage.  He lifted the lid up and dropped it back down with a bang.  His normally ruddy complexion deepened to a dark crimson.  He’d never seen so many ladies’ unmentionables in one place.  Either Guthrie had a real sketchy problem or the trunk belonged to someone else.  Reluctantly, he opened it again and hesitated before plunging his arm into the silken array. Quickly he swilled his arm through the fabric before snatching it out as though it were licked by the flames of Hell.  His wife would kill him if she knew he was feeling up some other woman’s fancy wear.  He had to admit, though, whoever owned this trunk had better taste in lingerie than Margie did.  He outright hated that long flannel nightgown she wore to bed every night.  Corralling his stubborn thoughts and herding them in the proper direction, he turned away from the trunk and wandered back downstairs, his mind running through what he’d discovered so far.  There’d definitely been a break-in but it didn’t appear anything had been stolen.  Distracted, he stepped off the bottom stair and turned towards the vault room, his foot going out from under him, toppling him to the floor.  “What the…??”  Rolling over, he sat up to take a closer look at the smeared liquid his boot had slid across.  His ran a finger through it and peered at the viscous fluid.  More blood.  Enough blood that it hadn’t completely dried since the thieves had departed.  Huh, he’d have to send Perkins around to the local docs tomorrow and see if anyone had shown up needing stitches.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw something white half-hidden under the desk across from him.  It looked like a piece of paper.  He stood and walked over to the plain oak desk and crouched next to it, reaching under it.  It was paper.  He uncrumpled it, read it, and wadded it up again, placing it in his pocket.  Probably dropped by the desk’s occupant, he’d follow up on it tomorrow.

“Marshal, Perkins said there was a robbery,” exclaimed a voice behind him.  He’d been so engrossed in his discovery he hadn’t heard his deputy return with the assistant manager.  Turning, he faced the prematurely balding man.  Beads of sweat stood out on Guthrie’s pate and the man was breathing hard from his harried trip to the bank.  The marshal eyed him critically until the other man began to shift uncomfortably.  “What did they take?”

“I don’t rightly know, Mr. Guthrie.  I was hoping you could tell me that.  The safe’s locked.”

“Closed?”

“Yep, and I’d like you to open it.”  He watched the manager carefully, Guthrie didn’t look nervous, more dismayed than anything.

“Yes, yes, of course.”  Guthrie hurried towards the safe with the marshal and deputy trailing behind him.  “I’m sure they couldn’t have taken anything.  Our safe is one of the finest made.  Mr. Burdon ordered it himself all the way from England.  Why, no one could get in without the combination not even using dynamite!” 

“What’s the story on the trunk in your office?”

“The trunk?” Guthrie was flummoxed for a moment.  “Oh, yes, the trunk, it belongs to Miss Burdon.  She asked me to hold onto it until the shippers can pick it up today.  What does that have to do with the robbery?”

“Just curious,” replied the marshal.

Guthrie frowned but bent over the large dial, with his back to them, and began twisting it this way and that.  Straightening, he pulled the levered handle down and swung open the safe.  Even the marshal and Perkins could see the shelves had been swept clean.  Only a few coins littered the floor.  Guthrie turned his whitened face to the lawmen.  “I don’t understand…”

The marshal had a sick feeling he did.  There was only one bank robber he knew of who could open a safe without dynamite, and that was Hannibal Heyes.  He knew all about the bad blood between the Burdons and Heyes.  Ernest Burdon had branded Heyes’ partner as his son’s killer even though there’d been witnesses to the shooting who’d known otherwise.  He’d been one himself. 

He never would’ve let those two go if he’d have known what he was setting loose on the world.  They’d been two young men, almost boys, when he’d last seen them, but he’d followed their career with interest knowing that he’d had them in his grasp once only to set them free.  How many times had he pondered who they might’ve become if William Burdon hadn’t crossed their path?  Ernest Burdon had hounded them for years, boasting about his detectives doing a job the marshal refused to do.  No wonder they’d turned to crime.  All that private bounty on their heads and being chased down like hunted animals.  Once they’d started their career of crime, he’d been shocked at their success.  These were not ordinary criminals; they’d taken thievery to an art form.  And here they were again, in his town.  If word got out, he’d be humiliated out of Denver and his job. 

“There was over twenty-five thousand dollars in here last night!  Who c…c…ould’ve done this?”  Guthrie stammered.  “Oh dear, what am I going to tell Mr. Matheson?”

“I’ll tell Matheson.  Perkins, have Guthrie here make up a list of everything that’s gone.  I’m going over to the Burdon place.”

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

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PostSubject: Re: The Devil's Due - Chapter 22   Fri Oct 07, 2016 2:37 pm

oooOOOooo

When the pounding on his front door had commenced, James had been lying on the sofa in his study trying his best to ignore the throbbing in his finger.  He’d tightly wrapped the wound in muslin and managed to stop the bleeding but every pulse of his heart had reminded him how badly he’d failed tonight.  After all his preparations and risks, there was nothing to show for it.  Sure, he still had his job at the bank, but that paid him a pittance compared to the income he’d enjoyed from the Burdon Family trust fund.  If Enid was successful with her claim, and he was sure she would be, he would be humiliated and drummed out of polite society for his choice of bride.  His reputation would be ruined.  The money from the robbery was to have been a balm to his wounded pride. 

He could hear the maid rushing to answer the knocking before the entire household was awakened.  He stood and prepared himself.  It would be Guthrie telling him about the attempted robbery.  He’d been expecting him any time now.  Shoving his wounded appendage in his jacket pocket, he waited.

When the study door opened, he was surprised to see a big lawman step into the room but he hid it nicely.  “Marshal, what brings you here at such an hour?”

“Mr. Matheson, I’m sorry to disturb you but there’s been a robbery at the bank.”

“A robbery?  Are you sure?” 

“Yes sir, I’m afraid I am.   Mr. Guthrie reckons the robbers made off with upwards of twenty-five thousand dollars.”

The blood drained from James’ face and confusion set in.  “But…how?  I mean, our safe…it couldn’t be.”  His thoughts skittered wildly trying to make sense of the man’s words.  What the hell was happening?  Who could’ve robbed the bank?  He’d been the only one there.  Or had he?  

“Seems they broke into the safe usin’ manipulation,” said the marshal.  “I reckon it could’ve been the Devil’s Hole gang.  Heyes can do it.”

James plopped back down on the sofa, sliding it out of place and nearly upsetting the end table.  All the strength sapped from his limbs and his mind numbed.  It had to have been Heyes!  Oh, the irony.  He’d been trying to rob his own bank and pin the crime on the man who was really making off with the cash!  He raised his eyes to the lawman standing over him.

The marshal’s eyes had narrowed watching a small brown bottle of mercurochrome teetering on the end table before they shifted to James.  “Mr. Matheson, would you mind standin’ up?”

“James, what is going on?”  Angelique stood in the doorway staring at the two men.  She wore a soft, gray robe that barely met across her burgeoning belly and a frown on her sleep-deprived, bloated face.  “Marshal, what is the meaning of this?  I demand to know why you are invading our house at this hour.”

“I’ve come to speak with your husband, Missus, about a break-in at the bank.”  The marshal’s eyes never left James and he failed to see the wink Angelique bestowed on her spouse.

“Oh no,” she moaned dramatically.  “A robbery?”

“Yes, Ma’am, I think it might be best if you went back to bed and let the two of us hash this out.”

“Hash it out?  Whatever do you mean?  You should be out there chasing after the bank robbers.”

“Ma’am…”

“Don’t ma’am me, Marshal.  That bank belongs to my family, not James’!”  She crossed over to James’ side and stood next to her husband defiantly.  “How much did they take?”  She couldn’t keep the avaricious gleam from her eyes, but the marshal’s unfriendly tone was beginning to alarm her.

“Angelique, don’t get upset--think of the baby,” admonished James.

“Quite a lot, ma’am.  Now, if you’ll excuse us, I think it might be best if your husband comes down to the office and gives me a statement.”  He took hold of James’ arm pulling him none too gently away from Angelique.

“Can’t this wait until morning?” Angelique was beginning to feel unsettled by the marshal’s determination to take James away, but she was too tired to make sense of it.  She’d been awake all night bothered by small cramps and pains, each one unnerving her more than the last until finally, frazzled, she’d arisen to the knocking at the door.  “Ooooh!” she cried as her hand clasped her stomach protectively against a new, stronger cramp. 

“Angelique!  Are you all right?” asked James, trying to pull out of the lawman’s grasp.

“Ma’am?” The marshal tightened his grip on James who continued squirming with his one hand still jammed in a pocket.

“Let me go!  Can’t you see my wife needs me?!” bellowed James seizing on Angelique’s discomfort as an excuse.  “I’ll come down in the morning and make my statement.”

“No, sir, you won’t.  You’re comin’ with me.  We’ll send the doc over on our way.”  His decision made, the marshal pulled James towards the door.

“Go, James.  I’m fine,” said Angelique, straightening up but becoming angry.  “It was just a cramp.  I’ve had them all evening.  Marshal, I can assure you our congressman will be advised of your rudeness.”

“Yes, ma’am,” smiled the lawman.

Defeated, James allowed himself to be led from his home.

oooOOOooo

Perkins was stoking up the fire in a small, pot-bellied stove when James and the marshal arrived.  He was surprised to see Mr. Burdon forcibly dragged to a chair and pushed down by a meaty hand on his shoulder.  His boss appeared to be in a hot temper.  “Perkins, get a pen and paper.  Mr. Matheson’s givin’ us a statement.”  The young deputy stepped behind the desk rummaging through the drawers for the needed items.

“Marshal, there’s no need to be rough with me.  I am more than willing to give you a statement, but I really don’t know what I can tell you.  It’s not as though I was at the bank when it was robbed.”  James straightened his sleeve and smoothed his rumpled suit jacket.

“Is that so?” asked the marshal sarcastically

“What are you suggesting?” challenged James nervously.

Perkins had sat down at the desk and was watching the back and forth avidly.  He had no idea what his boss was doing.

“Nothing—yet.”

“So what do you expect me to say?  I was at the bank during regular business hours and then I went home.”  James gave the man a small smile.  “You’re treating me like a suspect.”

“You are a suspect.”  The marshal smiled back and watched James pale.

“You’re kidding!”

“Everyone who had access to that safe is a suspect, Mr. Matheson.”

“You said yourself it was Hannibal Heyes!”

“No sir, I said it could’ve been Heyes.  Could’ve been Guthrie, too.  Or you.”

“Now see here…” James jumped to his feet angrily.

The marshal smiled again.  “Funny thing:  I found broken glass and blood on the floor of the bank.  Seems someone knocked a picture to the ground and busted it.”

James froze.

“How’d you cut that hand, Mr. Matheson?”

James felt a real frisson of fear.  How did the marshal know about his hand? “I, um, slit it with a knife earlier in the evening.”  The marshal said nothing, waiting without speaking.  Growing uncomfortable with the silence, James finally pulled the wounded hand from his pocket and held it up adding, “I was opening a letter and slipped.  It was clumsy of me, but my wife can tell you I’m always bruising and cutting myself.”  People cut themselves all the time; it meant nothing that his finger was injured.

“She can, huh?”

James slipped his hands back in his jacket pockets.

“Keep your hands where I can see ‘em,” growled the marshal.  “Perkins, frisk ‘em.”

“What?”   The deputy hesitated.  Mr. Matheson was an important and well-connected citizen.

“You heard me.”  One hand rested on the walnut-handled Colt in the marshal’s holster.

Perkins gently lifted James arms and half-heartedly began patting him down.  “Sorry, Mr. Matheson.”

“This is outrageous!  You’ll be hearing from my lawyers,” threatened James.

“Check his pockets.”

Perkins withdrew a wallet from one jacket pocket and placed it on the desk.  Working his way to the pants pockets, the deputy pulled out a set of keys and a small wad of fabric, putting them alongside the wallet.  The marshal picked up the fabric and examined it, noting the dried, darkened blood.  “What’s this?”

“Uh…” James didn’t know what to say.  Did he admit it was his father-in-law’s memento of Heyes or dismiss it as a random scrap?  “It was Mr. Burdon’s.  He said it belonged to Hannibal Heyes.”

“So why do you have it?”

“I, uh, carry it with me as a reminder of what he put our family through.” James lifted his chin defiantly.  Let’s see the marshal twist that around.

“Burdon?”

“Wh..what?”

“What Burdon put his family through?  Come on, Matheson, everyone knows William got what was comin’ to him.  Half this town wished him dead for the things he did.  Curry did us a favor.”

Perkins was shocked by the marshal’s behavior.  What was he doing?

“How dare you?” blustered James, completely unbalanced by the direction this interrogation was taking.

“All right, Mr. Matheson, I guess you’ve told me everythin’ you’re gonna.  You can go,” said the marshal, dismissively.  He took off his hat and hung it on a peg by the door before settling himself behind his desk.  James and Perkins were still standing by the chair with dazed looks on their faces.  “I said: You can go.”

James left quickly, but Perkins continued to stare at his boss. 

The marshal looked up.  “What?  Cat got your tongue, Perkins?”

“Yes sir, I mean no sir.  I mean…”

“Go home and get some sleep.  I want you here before breakfast.”

“Breakfast?”

“Yep, I’m buyin’,” grinned the big lawman.  After the deputy had departed, he pulled the crumpled piece of paper he’d found under the desk at the bank from his pocket and smoothed it on the edge of his desk.  He had a feeling that the waitress at the restaurant might be able to tell him something mighty interesting about her customer.

oooOOOooo

Heyes and Curry shifted uncomfortably in the seats of the carriage.  Heyes bit into his lip as he peered out of the window at the shattered door of the Burdon Bank.  “Why are we stopping here?”

“I left some shopping here yesterday,” Carlotta’s jaw dropped at the damage to the frontage.  “Oh, my!  What on earth happened here?  Look at all the men with badges.  The bullet holes too.  “Officer!  What’s all this about.”

“Looks like a robbery to me,” murmured the Kid as both men simultaneously leaned back into the shadows of the coach. 

“Wait here,” Carlotta glared down at the hard fist wrapped around her wrist as she reached from the door handle.  “What exactly do you think you’re doing?”

“You’d better not be double crossing us,” Heyes voice was low and even, but all the more menacing for the snarl hidden in the control. 

“How could I be involved in this?  I’m as surprised as you are.  I was in the hotel all evening.  You know I was.”

Heyes paused considering her words before releasing her.  “You’re a schemer, Carlotta.  Just know that your life won’t be worth living if you try to turn us in.”  

She tilted her head in challenge.  “I have better things to think about than revenge, Mr. Heyes.  I’m trying to rebuild my life.  The world doesn’t revolve around you, you know.”
        
A mustachioed face appeared at the window and the partners slid back under the brims of their hats at the gleaming badge on his chest.  “You can’t stop here.  There’s an investigation underway.  Move along.”

“But I am the owner of this bank,” she protested.  Her lips firmed to a pout at the lawman’s doubtful smirk.  “I am.  Part owner with my sisters.  I am Carlotta Burdon and I demand to know what is going on.”  She pushed at the door with all her might, pushing into the man’s chest.  “Let me through.”

The lawman turned to the men for confirmation.  “Is she really Miss Burdon?” 

“Yup,” the Kid nodded.  “And she’s as ornery as her pa.  That’s why we’re keeping out of this.  We only work for her.”

The officer’s brows met and his moustache bristled.  “I’d better take you to see my boss, Miss Burdon.  Will you follow me?”  He held out a hand to help her down before turning back to the men inside.  “Are you coming?”

“They are simply employees of mine,” Carlotta smiled and waved airily at them.  “Look after the bags.  Don’t let anything get stolen, do you hear me?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Heyes hissed back.

“He’s useless that one,” Carlotta trilled as she strolled towards the bank.  “I can’t see him lasting much longer.”

oooOOOooo

“Marshal Sargeson?”  The lawman called to the back of the enormous man filling the doorway of Guthrie’s office.  “I got Burdon’s daughter here.  She says she owns the place.”

“Part-owner.  With my two sisters.  I’m a sleeping partner.  We don’t run the place, my brother in law, James does that,” Carlotta asserted.  “I’m Carlotta Burdon.” 

Sargeson turned, smiling at the boldness of the clear blue eyes examining him without any sign of intimidation.  It didn’t hurt that she was damned pretty too and a deal less dramatic than her pregnant sibling.  He tipped the brow of his hat.  “Ma’am.  Did your sister tell you what’s what?”

She shook her head.  “I haven’t seen my sister.  I left some shopping here yesterday and I’ve come to collect it.  Please…,” she cast a hand around at the carnage left by the fusillade of the night before.  “Was there a shootout?  Was anyone hurt?”

“Someone was, but it was nothing to do with the shooting.”  He gestured with his head towards the offices.  “They cut themselves on some broken glass.”

“Someone?  You didn’t catch them?”

“Not yet, ma’am.  They were long gone before we got here, and we were only across the road.  It seems like someone picked the lock on the side door.  I’ve been told the place is alarmed, but it never went off until the vault was opened.”

Her brows rose in surprise.  “The vault was opened?  But how?  It’s supposed to be impregnable.  It’s the best money can buy.”

“Yeah, well, there’s my problem.  The lock was picked on the side door, or they tried to make it look like it was picked.  Someone knew that was the only door not alarmed.”

She nodded.  “One door has to be left uncovered by the alarm to get in and out, and my father wouldn’t allow staff to use the main door.”

“So you see my problem.  They knew enough to know what door to use, but didn’t have the wit to turn the alarm off before opening the vault.”

Her eyes widened.  “So they didn’t get anything?”

“The safe is all but empty, ma’am.”   

“How?  If the alarm went off when the vault was opened they wouldn’t have had time to open the safe.”

“That’s what I need to work out.  Can you tell me where you were yesterday evening?”

“Me?  You suspect me?”  He smiled at her obvious discomfiture as she continued.  “I was at my hotel.  I’m a woman!  How could I rob a bank?”

“You don’t live here?”

“No.  Charlotte and I live in San Francisco.  I am visiting my sister.  She’s due to give birth, you know.”

He nodded.  “And can anyone verify that you were at the hotel?”

She paused, her little white teeth biting into her lip.  “Let’s see.  I went shopping yesterday, then came here to see my safety deposit box.  I wanted some jewelry from it.  I left my shopping in Mr. Guthrie’s office while I went visiting with a friend, and arranged to collect it today.  I went back to the hotel about seven thirty, got dressed for dinner and dined in the hotel dining room.  I then listened to the piano player in the lounge with some other ladies until about ten o’clock, maybe half past, when I went up to bed.  I had a hot chocolate sent to my room around eleven.  I’m sure many people can speak for me up until eleven.  After that I was alone in my room.”

He rubbed the stubble on his jaw.  “Yeah, there’s no way you could have been involved, Miss Burdon, but it’s good to eliminate people from the enquiry.  Now I just need to figure out how they could open the safe, empty it, and close it again and disappear in the time it took for us to get across the road.”

Her brows furrowed.  “If you don’t mind mere female speculation, Marshal, it sounds like two different robberies.  The money must have already been gone by the time the second gang broke in and set off the alarm.”

“I never mind intelligent guesses from anyone, ma’am. I figured something like that myself.”  He sighed.  “I reckon it was an inside job.  Maybe the second lot were supposed to make it look like a robbery, or were set up to take the fall.  I haven’t quite worked that bit out yet.”

“An inside job?  Surely nobody employed here would do such a thing.”

“Well, there’s blood, and I already got a member of staff with a cut hand.  I’ve still got a lot of questions to be answered yet.”

“You have?  Who?”

“I ain’t at liberty to say.  I don’t think I need to question you any further.  You can go.”

She nodded.  “I came to collect my trunk.  May I?”

“Yeah.  Perkins, help the lady with her trunk will you?”  He paused.  “Oh, and I bust the lock.”

She arched an irritated brow.  “On my trunk?  Why?”

“There could’ve been anything in there, from stolen money to a snakesman.”

She blanched and gathered her skirts anxiously.  “Snakes?  There are snakes?”

“No, ma’am.  A snakesman is a skinny little bit of a thing used by thieves to squeeze in through small spaces.  I had to check.”

“In my trunk?  Well I suppose you are just doing your job.  Did you check inside?”

He unsuccessfully tried to mask a grin.  “Yes’m.  I did.”  He watched her blush and turned back to the offices.  “Perkins.  Where are you?  Help the lady?”

oooOOOooo

The two constables hefted the trunk towards the main door of the bank, swinging it between them as Carlotta followed them out of the office.  She darted ahead.  “I’ll hold the door open for you.” 

“Wait!”

All heads turned back to Marshal Sargeson’s imposing frame.  “Put that down.  I need to look inside.”

“I thought you’d already done that, Marshal,” Carlotta enquired.

“I did, but it occurred to me that someone could have put something inside since then.”  He scowled at the young officers.  “What are you waiting for? I told you to put that down.”

The trunk was dropped on the floor with a clatter as Sargeson strode over and flipped open the lid.  Perkins’ eyes widened and shared a secret smirk with his colleague at the sight of his boss sorting through the frillies and unmentionables while Carlotta marked the time by tapping an impatient tattoo with a pointed toe.  “Are you quite finished?  If you were going to search it I would have preferred some privacy.”

“Nearly done.”  He slid a hand across the lining, comparing the depth with the outside.  “Just checking for secret compartments.  There don’t seem to be any.”

“Of course there aren’t.  I bought it at Schwab and Gold’s yesterday.  It’ an ordinary piece of luggage.  This isn’t a dime novel, you know.”

Sargeson stood and nodded to his subordinates.  “Fine.  Sorry to keep you Miss Burdon.  You can go.” 

The two young men waddled through the door and towards the waiting coach, helping the coachman strap it onto the back.  The Kid glanced back and forth out of the window before reluctantly climbing out to help Carlotta back inside.  She sat and arranged her skirts.  “A robbery.  The safe has been emptied.  Can you imagine?”

The surprised reply came in unison.  “Emptied?”

“Yes.” Her earnest blue eyes searched each man in turn before she smiled.  “Well one thing’s for sure.  I don’t need to suspect you two.  That surprise was genuine.”

“Aren’t you worried about your trust fund?” asked a frowning Heyes.

“Not in the least.  It’s invested and we live off the income it generates.  You don’t put your cash in a bank unless you’re poor.  Don’t you two know anything about money?”

_________________
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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The Devil's Due - Chapter 22
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