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 Settling Wheat - Part Eleven (Mike)

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MoulinP

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Location : Norfolk, England

PostSubject: Settling Wheat - Part Eleven (Mike)   Sat Jun 10, 2017 11:38 am

Settling Wheat – Part Eleven (Mike)

“Aagh!”


Cowdry blinked awake and looked over at the other bed in his room. Mike was awake.


“Aagh!”


Cowdry sat up and threw his legs over the side of the bed. Mike was lying on his back with his hands over his face.


“Good morning!” Cowdry sang cheerfully.


“Is it?” came the reply from the depths of hands on face.


Cowdry smiled. “How are you feeling?”


“I’m in hell,” groaned Mike.


“Oh I shouldn’t think so for one moment.” Cowdry reached for his robe.


Hands withdrew from Mike’s face. Eyes blinked and tried to focus on the robing man. Meeting with no success, they shut rapidly.


“Too bright!” Mike rolled away from the light coming from the window. “Aagh!”


“Can I get you anything?”


“No!”


“How about a cup of tea? My mother always says you can’t start your day properly until you’ve had a good cup of tea.”


“No tea,” Mike groaned.


“Breakfast then? The hotel serves a particularly fine breakfast spread.”


“No, leave me alone.”


“Sausage, ham … well I would call it bacon but it says ham on the menu. Eggs, tomatoes, beans, saute potatoes. They’re excellent in my opinion. Eating something will help soak …”


“Cowdry!”


The Kid was leaning against the door and Cowdry had the good grace to look embarrassed.


“Stop torturing the poor man. Come on out and leave him be.”


“Thank you. Whoever you are,” Mike mumbled, gratefully. He had no idea who these two men were but even in his hungover state, he sensed they didn’t mean him any harm. As to where he was. That was a nice, warm, comfortable bed, which was lulling him back to sleep. Beyond that, he didn’t care right now.


The Kid inclined his head for Cowdry to move.


“But sir, I’m not dressed.”


“Paul!” This time the head nod was more emphatic. Cowdry joined the Kid by the door. “Ten minutes and he’ll be asleep again. Then you can come back and get dressed. Nice robe by the way.”


“Yes sir. Thank you, sir. My sister sent it from England for my last birthday.”


The Kid shut the door of the bedroom leaving Mike in peace.


“Will he be alright sir?”


“Yeah he’ll have a sore head and he’ll feel like he’s eaten the bottom of a bird cage for a while but yeah he’ll be alright.”


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The Kid and Cowdry dressed and went to breakfast. Afterwards the Kid decided to look up some old acquaintances, leaving Cowdry to return to the suite. By the time the Kid got back two hours later, Mike was up and sitting on the sofa in the day room of the suite, nursing a cup of coffee. He looked tired and grey.


“Ah, sir.” Cowdry leapt to his feet as the Kid came in. “This is Mike Templeton. Mike, may I present my employer, Mr Jedidiah Curry?”


“Hi Mike how ya feeling?”


Mike gave a weak smile. “Not so good but better.”


“Good.”


The Kid allowed Cowdry to take his jacket and he sat down on the sofa opposite Mike. Reaching for the coffee pot, he smiled at Mike.


“You passed out last night so we brought you back here. For safe keeping.”


“Thank you. I appreciate that.”


“So.” The Kid sat back and crossed his legs. He took a sip of his coffee before continuing. “You worked for Bloodstone and now he’s sacked ya.”


Mike rubbed his forehead and couldn’t meet the Kid’s eyes. He wasn’t feeling proud of himself this morning. Both because of the state he’d been in and the shame of losing his job. “Yes,” he admitted, quietly.


The Kid sniffed. He would run out of fingers the number of times he and Heyes had been sacked from jobs when they were going for amnesty but now was not the time to mention that. He had sympathy for the man. It was an error but not a disastrous error and shouldn’t have resulting in the loss of his job.


“I take it from what you said last night you’d mixed up some correspondence between two clients with similar sounding names.”


“Ye-ah,” Mike nodded and then winced and wished he hadn’t.


The Kid pursed his lips. “What exactly happened? Seeing as I’m one of the names ya mixed up.”


Mike sighed. There didn’t seem any point in keeping it a secret.


“It was a few months ago. I had given Mr Bloodstone that day’s outward mail to check and he had started to go through the pile. I usually wait while he does in case there’s a query. Well this day there was.


“He suddenly explodes. “Dammit man, this is the wrong envelope! This is the letter to Mr Jeremiah Curry. Who the heck is Jedidiah Curry?” he says.


“I didn’t know what to say so I just gulped. Nathan Bloodstone, local agent for the Department of Land Management is a difficult man to work for, Mr Curry. He’s a stickler for detail. Yet he often gives my clerks and me conflicting orders.


Mike sighed. “It’s no wonder we get things wrong occasionally. It’s a real struggle to keep up with his demands sometimes. He takes great delight in yelling at us in the open office and he’s a bully. No sir he’s not a nice man at all. It’s only because the job is well paid that I stayed so long and put up with him.


“Mr Bloodstone doesn’t trust us not to use office stamps for personal correspondence, so he keeps the supply of stamps in his office and doles them out when required.  So we have this nightly ritual where he checks all the outgoing mail, seals the envelopes himself and places the stamps on himself.


“At that moment his telephone rang, so he thrust the whole stack of letters back at me.

Just sort it out!” he barked at me, before he answered the telephone.


“I returned to my own desk in the main office and started to sort the letters out. Some way down the pile, I found the correct envelope addressed to Mr Jeremiah Curry. Well Jeremiah and Jedidiah were easily confused so all I had to do was swap the letter for Mr Jeremiah with the one for Mr Jedidiah. But um …. It wasn’t quite that simple. Both letters were addressed to a Mr Curry! I had no idea which letter was meant for which Mr Curry. So I thought if I read them both I might get a clue.”


Mike shook his head again and winced again.


“Both letters were virtually identical. The only difference, one mentioned a piece of land called Pine Lake, the other a piece of land called Grassy Flatts.


“Mr Bloodstone obviously knew which was which but when I looked back at the office, he was barking something down the telephone at some poor unfortunate body. He was quite red in the face. I decided I wasn’t going to put myself in the line of fire again so I thought I’d try figuring this out for myself. ‘Cept I’d now muddled them up and couldn’t remember which letter was with which envelope.


“And then one of my junior clerk had a query and I had to get up and see to him. It was quite a while before I got back to my desk. I had just sat down when Mr Bloodstone came out of his office pulling on his coat. He stopped by my desk and slapped the sheaf of stamps down.


“Get those letters in the mail tonight. Here are the stamps,” he said brusquely. “And I know how many there are!”


When Mr Bloodstone was gone, I checked the time and saw I only had ten minutes to get the letters to the Post Office before it shut.


“So I asked the other clerks to help. The three of us stuffed the letters into envelopes, and then sealed and stamped them. I sent the junior clerk to run to the Post Office with the bundle of mail with seconds to spare. It was only then that I remembered the Curry mix up. Of course, there was nothing I could do about it by then. Or indeed know if anything needed doing. I had no idea which letter went to which Mr Curry. I just had to trust to luck that it was right.


“I went and got drunk that night too.”


Mike took a sip of his coffee. “I thought I’d got away with it, when nothing happened in the next few days. I figured if something was wrong, Bloodstone would get to hear about it sooner rather than later. From Jeremiah. But nothing happened. Until yesterday sir when you came in asking to see Mr Bloodstone about Pine Lake. After you … left, he called me into his office.” Mike gulped. “It wasn’t very pleasant. You received the letter about Pine Lake intended for Mr Jeremiah Curry. Not … not for you, sir. I’m sorry.”


“Mike, there’s no need for you to be sorry. It was an innocent mistake and I’m sorry ya lost ya job over it.”


Mike shrugged. “Probably been there too long anyway. Got set in my ways. Maybe this is just the push I need to try something different,” he said, miserably but trying to look on the bright side of his situation.


The Kid rubbed his hand over his mouth thoughtfully. “There’s just one thing that bothers me about this. COWDRY! Will you sit DOWN!”


Cowdry had been hovering behind him. The Kid pointed firmly to the armchair and Cowdry hurriedly took a seat. Cowdry looked and felt like a schoolboy in trouble. The Kid gave him the look he’d used to reserve just for Heyes before turning back to Mike.


The Kid was wary of Mike. He didn’t know how far he could trust him just yet and he needed more time in his company to form an opinion on that. So he would play his cards close to his chest for now and see where that lead him.


“Bloodstone’s reaction. I’m a reasonable man. He coulda just explained that it was a clerical error and that Pine Lake was already sold. I’d be disappointed but that’s just how life is sometimes.” The Kid paused and his face turned hard. “But he didn’t. He kept trying to persuade me that Grassy Flatts was a better piece of land and wouldn’t answer any of my questions about Pine Lake. Now THAT puts my back up.” The Kid leaned forward. “Now Mike I’m real interested in buying Pine Lake but there’s something not sitting right about all this. Bloodstone’s reaction was way over the top. You just might be in a position to help me and if ya do I’ll make it worth ya while.”


Mike looked doubtful but interested all the same. Well as much as he could with a foggy, hurting head.


“How can I do that?” he asked slowly.


“D’you know any more ‘bout this Jeremiah Curry? ‘Bout his business dealings with Bloodstone say?”


Mike licked his lips and hesitated. Loyalty to his boss was ingrained in his psyche even one as odious as Bloodstone.


“Mr Bloodstone is Mr Curry’s brother-in-law,” Mike said, slowly.


The Kid and Cowdry swapped glances. This much they knew.


“Go on,” the Kid urged, gently.


Mike sighed. What did he have to lose?


“Mr Bloodstone is a silent partner in Mr Curry’s business. I … I believe he may have leant him money in the past. To ... keep the business afloat. I don’t think it’s doing very well.”


The Kid smiled and sat back.


“Just as we thought,” he said, to Cowdry. “Now Mike this is what I would like you to do for me. If ya willing.” He paused as he chose his words carefully. He didn’t want to put too much on Mike yet. “Do they know you at the Capitol offices, Mike?”


“Yes sir. Some offices I visit regularly.”


“Would one of those offices have anything to do with mineral rights?”


“Yes sir. We’re in constant liaison with The Office of the State Geologist. Have to be. Mineral and mining rights granted on land can influence the price demanded.”


The Kid nodded. That’s what he thought. He took a deep breath and asked.


“Bloodstone only sacked ya yesterday and today’s Sunday so word won’t have got around just yet. I want to know, Mike, if Pine Lake has anything like that attached to it. Can you find out for me tomorrow when the offices open?”


Mike licked his lips. “I suppose so,” he said, slowly. “I don’t want to get into trouble sir.”


“You won’t. You’ll just be confirming something that I already suspect. What I then do with that information is up to me and ya won’t be involved.”


Mike nodded and licked his lips again, this time with a swallow.


“You said you’d make it worth my while.”


The Kid grinned. “How much is ya rent say for the next two months?”


Mike’s eyes widened and his mouth opened. “Um about a hundred dollars sir,” he stammered.


The Kid nodded and sniffed. “Right. This information is worth two hundred dollars to me.” He reached into the inside pocket of his jacket for his wallet. Two one hundred dollar bills were held out to Mike. “I’ll give ya the money now and Cowdry here will go with ya tomorrow. Tell ‘em you’re showing him the ropes if they ask. Do we have a deal?”


Mike smiled. “Yes sir,” he said and reached forward for the money.


Satisfied the Kid looked back and smiled smugly at Cowdry. He said nothing but just rolled his eyes.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The next day the Kid and Cowdry met Mike outside a café, opposite the Capitol building. As Mike and Cowdry crossed the street, the Kid went into the café and took up a seat in the window.
Mike and Cowdry passed security in the Capitol easily. The security guard knew Mike and he smiled and touched his hat. Word obviously hadn’t spread about Mike’s dismissal. They hoped it remained so for the next little while. Cowdry followed Mike up the wide marble and carpeted staircase and through the corridors of power until they reached a glass-panelled door. Stencilled on the glass was “The Office of the State Geologist” and underneath “Herbert B Higgins, Esq.”


Outside they paused while Mike took a deep breath before going in. Inside a counter immediately confronted them. Wood and frosted glass room dividers allowed privacy for the visitors and the back office staff alike. However, all the dark wood and the small dimensions of the room made for a rather claustrophobic atmosphere.


Mike tinged the little bell on the counter and a few moments later the door behind the counter opened and a clerk stepped through.


“Mike! You’re bright and early this morning.”


“George yes got a lot on today. This is Paul Cowdry. He’s new in my office and I’m showing him the ropes.”


“Nice to see you, Mr Cowdry. So Mike what can I do for you?”


“Mr Bloodstone has had an enquiry about a piece of land on the current release schedule. However, the mineral survey for that piece of land appears to be missing from our files. I’m sure it will turn up eventually. They usually do. Unfortunately, the prospective purchaser is only in Cheyenne for a few more days and I would rather not wait for fate to take a hand. Would it be possible to see the survey in question?”


“Yes of course. I’ll get the map and you can show me which piece of land it is. Laramie County is it?”


Receiving a yes, George disappeared. Mike and Cowdry exchange looks. So far so good.


George was soon back, carrying a large board, with a detailed map pinned onto it. He laid it flat on the counter and Mike and Cowdry leaned in to study it. A grid overlaid the map. In each square was a reference number.


“What scale is this map?” Cowdry asked.


“A mile to one square.”


Cowdry nodded. That was detailed.


Cowdry pointed out Pine Lake and Mike read off the reference squares.


“B5 through B13, same for C, D, E and F, please.” George made a note, nodded and disappeared again. As soon as the door closed, Cowdry took out a note pad and began to draw a quick sketch of Pine Lake itself and the geographical features surrounding it enclosed in the map references.


Mike watched him suspiciously. Now that he had all his senses back, he realised this was no ordinary land purchase. There was definitely mischief afoot. What he couldn’t work out quite yet was where the mischief was coming from. Cowdry showed him his sketch, offering it up to the original. Mike nodded. That was a good approximation of the real thing.


Just in time, Cowdry slipped the pad and pencil back into his pocket as George came back. This time he thumped a large, thick red leather covered volume down on the counter.


“Now let’s see. B5 you said.” George licked his forefinger and began flicking through the large pages. “Here we are. B5 nothing of note. B6, B7, B8, B9 all nothing. B10 … ah.” Mike and Cowdry watched George read the tome. “Hmm. Same goes for B11 through B13. Hmm.”


The suspense was killing them.


“Anything?” Cowdry prompted, cracking first and received an irritated frown from Mike.


“Oh yes, there’s something,” George said, enigmatically. He flipped the page over to the section marked C. “Nothing in C5 through C9 but C10 through C13 is the same as B10 through B13.” He flipped to the next page “Same in D. “Must be a large deposit to stretch that far.” More page flipping. “Nothing in E or F.”


“A large deposit of what, George?” Mike asked jumping in before Cowdry could.


“Oh I’ll have to go look it up. Typical scientific report this. Not written in any language you or I can understand. It’s a deposit of something but nothing I’m familiar with. I’ll go and get the crib sheet.”


As George disappeared yet again, Cowdry spun the volume round so he could read for himself.


“You’re not supposed to look in there!” Mike hissed. “It’s Government property. Eyes only!”


“That’s alright, I’m only using my eyes,” Cowdry murmured as he studied the page. The encyclopaedia in Heyes’ study had helpfully given the scientific notation for fibrous talc, which Cowdry had memorised. He beamed. Here it was again.


At the sound of approaching footsteps, Cowdry with Mike’s help, spun the book back. Both were leaning nonchalantly on the counter. George paused and gave them both a look. The father of seven children he was well aware of an innocent look or two. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, he flipped open the crib sheet, which was more of a crib booklet and laid it onto the large volume.


After a few moments, he was able to confirm what Cowdry had suspected.


“This deposit gentlemen is of something called fibrous talc. Ground down into a fine powder, it is used in the paint trade and is a constituent part in the manufacture of wall plaster. However, it’s primary use is in the paper making process.”


“How big a deposit is it?” Cowdry asked.


“Oh pretty big. See these hills here in B10 to D13? Most of the way across all of these squares.”


“Is it valuable?” Mike asked, before Cowdry and received a look.


“Could be. It’s rare in these parts.”


“But is it valuable enough that the Government might decline to sell that piece of land?” Cowdry asked, beating Mike this time.


George frowned. “Hmm, well I’ll have to check the reserve list. Back in a moment.”


Cowdry shuddered as George went off yet again. Why could bureaucrats only concentrate on one question at a time? He sighed.


“Is it always like this?”


“Pretty much,” Mike nodded in confirmation. “But we’re lucky we got George. Arthur is far worse.”


Cowdry rolled his eyes. How could anyone be worse?


This time when George came back he was carrying a clipboard. He proceeded to cast his eye glacier like down the list. “Nope not on the reserve list,” he said, finally. “Might be on the “to be negotiated” list though.”


Cowdry gritted his teeth, anticipating another disappearance. To his relief, George simply turned the sheet up and looked at the one below. “Ah yes here it is. Fibrous talc. Land holding significant deposits of fibrous talc can only be sold if a licence for its extraction is obtained at the time of purchase. The buyer should be made fully aware that by the granting of the licence they undertake to sell the mined ore at a competitive price.”


George looked up to see Cowdry biting his thumbnail.


“Is it possible to have that written out please?” he asked.


“For our records and use in negotiations with our potential purchaser,” Mike quickly followed up.
George considered. “Don’t see why not. I’ll arrange for one of the typewriter girls to do it. I’ll telephone your office in about an hour, Mike. You can send someone to pick it up.”
Mike looked horrified. “Er no …”


“Er what Mike means is don’t trouble yourself telephoning George. I’ll come back in an hour,”

Cowdry smiled, patting Mike enthusiastically on the arm and subtly nudging him towards the door.


“Well if you’re sure … . It might not be ready in quite an hour. Might be a bit longer.”


“Then I’ll wait.” Then remembering that Mike was supposed to be his boss. “You don’t mind if I wait do you Mike?”


Mike started. “What? Oh no. No that’ll be alright.”


Cowdry grinned. “See you in about an hour George. Thanks for your help,” he said, bundling Mike out of the door.


Once it closed, they both breathed a sigh of relief.


“I think I need a drink,” groaned Mike.


“The café then,” Cowdry grinned, catching Mike’s arm and steering him away from the door.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The Kid was just about to order some more coffee when Mike and Cowdry entered the café.
Mike and Cowdry pulled out chairs and sat opposite the Kid. He folded the newspaper and set it to one side as they settled.


“Well, how did ya get on?”


“Very good sir. As we suspected there is a significant deposit of fibrous talc at Pine Lake. In the hills. The clerk we saw is having a report typed up “for our records”. I’ll go back in an hour to collect it.”


“You knew about the fibrous talc?” Mike asked in surprise. Today was the first time he had even heard of fibrous talc and now everyone seemed to know about it.


“We suspected Mike,” the Kid said.


“Is it valuable?”


“Um to the right people it could be.”


“Pine Lake isn’t on the reserve list sir but it is on the … what did George call it?” Cowdry frowned at Mike.


“It’s on the “to be negotiated list”,” Mike said, helpfully.


“And that is?” the Kid stretched his neck in Mike’s direction.


“Oh! Um in this case a licence to extract has to be obtained at the time of purchase and the buyer should undertake to sell the mined ore at a competitive price,” Mike quoted.


“Hmm.” The Kid scratched his chin. “Not entirely sure I want a mining operation going on close to where I’ll be living. I’ll have to see where the hills are situated.”


“I drew a map sir.” Cowdry brought out the sketch map he’d made. “It’s not to scale, sir,” he said deadpan. “But it’ll give you a fair idea.”


The Kid gave him the look before looking at the sketch. The hills in question were some miles from the lake and the area where he wanted to build the house. “Hmm, well I guess that might not be so bad. After all we won’t be there all year.” He nodded, pursing his lips. “Might be able to come to some accommodation.” He looked up.


“Ah!”


A waitress had arrived to take their order. The Kid slipped the map into his pocket.


“A refill for me please. Mike, coffee?”


“Yes sir.”


“Paul?”


“A pot of tea please,” smiled Cowdry, at the waitress, who bobbed away. “Oh, miss?” She bobbed
back. “Is it Indian?”


“No it most certainly is not!” For some reason she sounded outraged. “It’s American!” she huffed
and stomped off, muttering about savages.


“Er …!”


Cowdry turned back realising he’d made some hideous mistake without knowing it. Then realisation dawned on him.


“Oh! She thought I meant indian Indians.”


“Yeah Cowdry she did,” the Kid amused.


“But I didn’t! I meant tea from India!”


“Yeah I know what ya meant but SHE didn’t.”


“Oh dear,” Cowdry sighed. “Do Indians drink tea, sir? Your Indians I mean.”


The Kid chuckled. “Not out of bone china cups, no.” He laughed at the thought.


The three made small talk until their refreshments arrived. The Kid was reluctant to discuss his plans in too much detail with Mike present.


The waitress returned looking red-faced. She had obviously had a telling-off about her behaviour and had it explained to her where the tea served came from. She set the tray down and stood back, hands clasped in front of her.


“I’m sorry for my outburst earlier. I’m quite new at this and not fully aware of the origins of all our products just yet. Your drinks are on the house.”


Cowdry gave her a smile. It wasn’t quite as devastating as the Heyes full double dimple but not far short. It made her redden even more.


“That’s quite alright … Rose.” He spotted the small oval name badge pinned to the top of her apron. “The apologies are all mine.”


“Thank you sir.” She bobbed and retreated hurriedly.


Cowdry watched her go and the Kid watched him, watch her go.


“Yes and yes,” he said when Cowdry turned back.


“Sir?”


“I’m answering ya next two questions, Paul. Yes we are gonna stay another night in Cheyenne and yes ya can have the evening off.” The Kid was fighting hard to stop his amusement bursting out too much.


“Oh.” Cowdry reddened. “Thank you sir.”


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Left to his own devices for the evening, the Kid had dinner brought to his suite and sat on his bed poring over several books he had brought with him from Heyes’ study. One detailed the paper making processes from rag production through to the latest methods employed using wood pulp. To his delight, there was a whole chapter on the use of fibrous talc and reference to a large operation in New York State at Gouverneur. He made a mental note to go visit when he was back that way.


As he turned the page his eyes widened when he read the size of the deposit Gouverneur currently mined – seven to nine miles long and four to five miles wide. If the Pine Lake deposit was anywhere near as big then there was a fortune under the ground. No wonder Jeremiah Curry and Nathan Bloodstone were desperate to get their hands on it.


The Kid picked up the report from the Office of the State Geologist here in Cheyenne and the quick sketch Cowdry had made. Cowdry had told him the scale of the original so it gave him some idea what he was looking at. Four miles long by about three miles wide. Not bad.
He returned to the chapter on the Gouverneur Talc and read on. He had to read it again, twice more, did some quick calculations in his head before sitting back in amazement.


“Wow!”


The Gouverneur mine was extracting on average just under twenty-four thousand tons a year and the going rate for talc was about ten dollars a ton. That made the previous year’s gross profits in the region of two hundred and forty thousand dollars.


Before he could marvel any more he heard the key in the lock. Cowdry was back from his evening off.


“Is that you Paul?” the Kid called, knowing it was.


“Yes sir.”


“I’m in the bedroom.”


A few moments later, Cowdry appeared at the door.


“Well how was it?” the Kid asked, looking up.


“How was what sir?” Cowdry replied innocently.


“You don’t HAVE to tell me I suppose,” the Kid, gave a huge exaggerated sigh.


“It was a very pleasant evening, sir.”


The Kid smiled. “Good. That’s all I wanted to know.”

_________________
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname
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Settling Wheat - Part Eleven (Mike)
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