Posts : 244
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 60
Location : Norfolk, England
|Subject: Settling Wheat – Part Eight (Starts to Make Sense) Sun May 28, 2017 3:50 am|| |
Settling Wheat – Part Eight (Starts to Make Sense)Morning found Lom Trevors, puzzling over the events of the previous night. In particular how Jeremiah Curry fitted into all this. He was vaguely aware of the name but didn’t know who or what he did. A trip to the Town Hall solved that mystery. Having looked through the Register of Businesses for Laramie County, he discovered that Jeremiah Curry was the proprietor of the McKeever Paper Mill at Longwater, a town forty miles away.
Lom’s next stop was at the office of the Porterville Bugle. Newspapers had to get their supplies of paper from someone. Maybe Craig Carmichael, the editor, could tell him a bit more about Jeremiah Curry.
“Yeah, I know Jeremiah Curry.”
“You buy your paper from him?”
"No. I buy mine from Sam Flixton’s mill over at Hardy City. Better quality and cheaper. He makes his paper from wood pulp. Old Jeremiah still makes his from rags.”
Lom’s eyes widened. Until Craig mentioned it, he hadn’t given a thought to how paper was made or what from. It was one of those things that just was.
“Is that not good then?” Lom asked slowly, not wanting to show his ignorance too clearly in front of this better educated man.
“Oh making paper from rags is old fashioned these days. Most rag mills are converting to using wood pulp.”
“Ya don’t say.”
Craig grinned. “Kinda surprising isn’t it?”
Lom spread his hands along the counter and tapped his fingers as he considered how much, if anything, further he should say. He lowered his voice.
“Gotta couple of fellas in my jail right now. Brought ‘em in last night. They say they’re working for Nathan Bloodstone, the Cheyenne agent at the Department of Land Management. They reckon HE’S working for Jeremiah Curry.”
Craig shrugged. “Dunno about that sheriff but if it helps, Jeremiah Curry IS Nathan Bloodstone’s brother-in-law.”
Lom growled and rubbed his chin. So he’d established a connection if nothing else. “The mystery deepens,” he murmured.
Craig grinned. “Oh, I can deepen it still further Sheriff! Jeremiah Curry made Sam Flixton an offer for his wood pulp mill a while back. When Sam turned him down, Jeremiah got nasty.”
“Sam didn’t want to tell me. Think he was embarrassed.”
“Sounds like I should pay Sam a visit.”
Craig sensed a scoop. “Sounds like I oughta come with you. Make the introductions. Sam might tell you more if I’m there.”
Lom hesitated, knowing exactly what was going through Craig’s mind. “Okay but this is an ongoing investigation. You can’t print anything until I tell ya. Is that understood?” Lom shook his finger in warning.
“Whatever you say sheriff. I’ll get my coat.”
Craig darted out back and returned slipping it on.
“Think I’m gonna stop at Amnesty on the way.” Lom said. “There’s a fella there who’ll be mighty interested in all this.”
“Joshua? How is he? I heard he was hurt pretty bad.”
“Yeah he is. Got pneumonia now by all accounts but it’s not him I wanna see. His cousin’s back, Thaddeus Jones. He helped me bring those two in last night.”
Craig looked thoughtful. “Oh, really? That’s … interesting.”
Lom frowned. “What d’ya mean? Why’s that interesting?”
Craig started. “Oh nothing sheriff.” He grinned. “Nothing at all.”
Lom looked at him suspiciously but decided to leave it.
On the road out of town, they met Doctor Ben Albright. He was also going out to Amnesty to check on Heyes. The three of them rode on together, chatting.
“How is he?” the Kid asked, softly as he tiptoed across the bedroom to Mary.
The Kid had returned to Amnesty in the small hours of the morning, after helping Lom and Bart secure the Bulmer brothers in Porterville’s jail. He had snatched a few hours’ sleep and was now looking in on his partner.
Heyes appeared to be asleep, propped up in a semi-reclining position. His head tilted over one shoulder and his eyes closed.
Mary set aside her sewing and looked up at the Kid. She looked tired and anxious. Dark circles surrounded her eyes and if he wasn’t mistaken, she appeared to have lost weight.
“Mary let me sit with him awhile. You look done in.”
“No I … .” Mary started to protest but the Kid was firm.
“Mary you’ll be no good to him if you don’t get some rest. I know you’re worried. I am too. I promise I’ll wake ya if there’s any change.”
As he spoke, he eased her out of the chair and to the door.
“Okay. Any change Jed. For good or for … .”
“Yes I promise. Go.”
He all but pushed her out of the door and closed it firmly behind her.
Sighing he sat down in the vacated chair and looked across at his restless partner. There was a cloth over his forehead.
“I knew ya ill and Mary’s been on her own with ya. She’s been through a lot these last few days, Heyes, with ya laid up the way ya are and now this. Said I’d spell her for a while so she can get some sleep. Not that I expect she will. She’s real worried ‘bout ya.”
A groan from the bed and the Kid got up. Heyes was fidgety. The more he fidgeted the more he hurt himself. His broken arm was immobilised to the bed to stop him moving it too much. His injured leg was outside the bedcovers. It was obviously paining him as he was twitching to get some relief. The twisting about was hurting his ribs and he was gasping for breath.
“Hey, hey, hey, Heyes ya alright. Rest easy now.”
The Kid put his hands on Heyes’ shoulders and held him firmly. For a moment, the brown eyes rolled open, saw him and then closed again. The Kid changed the cool cloth over his partner’s forehead and bathed his cousin’s, sweat soaked face and neck. The rasping of his breathing was grating on the ears and it sounded painful. The Kid wished there was something else he could do to ease it but there was nothing. Heyes was dosed up on laudanum as it was and Mary looked to have held an herbal infusion of sorts under his nose to help him breathe not long before she had left. The water was still warm.
As Heyes quietened, the Kid sat back down with a heavy sigh.
“Something strange is going on Heyes and I dunno what.”
Heyes had seemed reassured that he was there. Perhaps the sound of his voice would help so he began to talk about yesterday’s adventures.
“Let me tell ya what’s happened so far. Me and Cowdry went to look at that land I told ya about. Remember? In the letter I got in response to my enquiry.”
No answer from the bed.
“Anyway we went and had a look. It’s a real nice piece of land, Heyes. Ya gotta see it. Big ole lake in the middle. I rode round it. Took me ‘bout two hours I guess but I did stop and have a look see if there was any fish biting. And there was. Couldn’t make out what sort though. They were right out in the middle y’know. I could just see the little ripples on the surface they make when they come up to feed. You and me and our boys can have lots of fun out there. Hey maybe even get a boat.”
The Kid glanced over to the bed and it’s comatose occupant. He sighed. How many times in the past had he sat at this man’s bedside waiting for him to wake up? Too many. Just goes to show that nothing really changes. Just the circumstances.
He sighed again.
“Up on the hill above the lake is the perfect place to build a house for me and Caro and the kids. I can just see it. Big ole rambling house, with a big wide terrace out back overlooking the lake. Steps leading down to a lawn. Where the boys can run about. They don’t get to do that too often in Boston.” He paused. “Boys should run around don’t ya think?”
No answer so he pressed on.
“We did. Playing all sorta games. Hide and seek. Tag. Cowboys and Indians.” The Kid gave a small laugh. “Outlaws and lawmen. I bet your boys will join in as well.”
Still no answer.
“So I rode round the lake and when I got back to where I’d left Cowdry, he’d gone. First, I thought I had the wrong spot, y’know. So I rode on a bit. But I hadn’t.” He paused. “I wish ya were awake Heyes. This is a serious mystery. Reckon you’d have an idea what this is all about. Anyway I got down and looked at the ground.”
The Kid grinned. “Y’know like the champeen tracker of southern Utah woulda done. Whoever he was.” He chortled and then sobered. “Somebody kidnapped Cowdry, Heyes.”
From the bed, there was a groan and Heyes moved his head from over one shoulder to the other. Short interlude while the Kid changed the cool, damp cloth on Heyes’ forehead again.
“Hell ya burning up Heyes,” the Kid murmured as he sat down again. “I didn’t know what to do at first Heyes. In the old days, I would have lit out after him. But I couldn’t. I didn’t have my gun. So I came back here and got Wheat. Felt kinda strange wearing a gun again. Wheat kept looking at me as if I was gonna shoot myself in the foot any moment.” He sighed with regret. “I ain’t fast no more Heyes. I know that but I can still hit what I aim at. I know I can do that. That sorta thing don’t leave ya.”
The Kid sighed and looked away.
“Me and Wheat followed the trail to a cabin in the woods not too far away. We kept watch for a while ‘till we worked out how to play it. Then things started to happen. Cowdry came out. A moment later, a man comes out with him, holding him at gunpoint. And get this. Wheat knows him. Not real well. Knows of him more like. Cowdry goes into the outhouse and the man, Rickon Bulmer, Wheat tells me he’s called, stands outside waiting. He starts to look a little uncomfortable. Y’know like he wants to … use the facilities … if ya know what I mean.”
The Kid chuckled.
“Yeah and he did. The next thing we know he’s hammering on the outhouse door and hollering “let me in I gotta go.” Funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time. He darn near had his pants down afore Cowdry could get out of there! Me and Wheat took the opportunity to get Cowdry away. Boy was he glad to see us. He was okay. Bit shaken up. Now Wheat reckoned this Rickon Bulmer had a brother, Clyde and I know we tracked three horses. I reckoned Clyde was still in the cabin. Yeah and he was until he comes running out like his tail was on fire. And I reckon it was too ‘cos he started pounding on the outhouse door as well.”
The Kid chuckled again. “Cowdry cooked them up a stew. And he gave ‘em both the s**ts didn’t he? Ha Ha Heyes ya shoulda seen it.”
Only a groan came from the bed.
“Cowdry told us what happened. They thought he was you, Heyes. And they were working for some fella called Bloodstone. Now that name rang a bell. Couldn’t remember at the time but I do now. Bloodstone is the name of the man who wrote me about the land I looked at it. Now ain’t that a coincidence? How many folks ya know by the name of Bloodstone? Ain’t exactly common is it? From what Cowdry had learnt, he put two and two together and he thinks they wanted ya to break into a safe. Ah, now that don’t sound too legitimate to me Heyes. There’s a lot more to this. This jus’ can’t be right. Going around kidnapping folks, threatening them with dire consequences if they didn’t co-operate ‘cos they thought he was somebody he ain’t.”
The Kid sighed and shook his head.
“Cowdry’s a good man, Heyes. He has surprising talents. For a city boy and an Englishman, he’s made of the right stuff. Not much fazes him y’know.”
The Kid winced.
“It kinda did when I asked him to go back in there and help us get the drop on the Bulmers though.”
“But he done it, Heyes. Me and Wheat hid ourselves in the bedroom. We could hear every word. Then Clyde says to Cowdry “You get back in that bedroom.” Now Cowdry knows he needs to keep the Bulmers outta the bedroom. Least until they’re both there. So Cowdry says to him, and I’m proud of my man Heyes, in a haughty English voice he says, “I can’t do that, I’ve got these pots to wash up. If I leave them, they’ll dry up and it’ll be hard to shift. And while I’m about it, I’ll clean out your cupboards as well. They don’t look like they’ve been done for a good long while.” He kept going on like that. Poor ole Clyde couldn’t get a word in. Now that, sounds just like you.”
The Kid chuckled again. He looked at the bed and the now silent man in it. “What’s the betting aman can have two partners who can talk ya ears off, huh? Sheesh! Guess I’m just unlucky that’s all.”
“Now where was I? Ah yes. Wheat and me weren’t sure that Rickon was there yet. Had to make sure both of them were in the cabin afore we sprung our surprise. Then we heard him, groaning how he don’t feel too good and he was going to go lie down. And Clyde arguing with him that he didn’t feel too good either and one of ‘em had to stay and watch their prisoner and that he, Clyde was gonna take first turn in the bedroom. Ole Wheat and me looked at each other and thought it was about time to go in. So we came out and got the drop on ‘em. Real easy. Neither of ‘em was in any kinda state to put up a fight. Dunno what Cowdry put in that stew. All I can say is I don’t intend to get on the wrong side of him anytime soon.” The Kid rolled his eyes at the thought.
“So we got ‘em all tied up tight. Wheat and Cowdry came back here and I rode into Porterville to get Lom. Had a real nice chat with your father-in-law while I was waiting for Lom. He was minding the store while Lom was out.”
There was a groan from the bed. The Kid looked over. Heyes was moving a little but he wasn’t thrashing about as he had been before. There was nothing he could do for him. Just make sure Heyes didn’t injure himself.
“Cut a long story short, Lom and me and his deputy. Bart is it? Now he’s a funny fella. Keep looking at me as if I was gonna shoot him. When we got back to the cabin and picked up the Bulmer brothers. Ewuh! Heyes they sure did stink. Both of ‘em had … y’know. Anyway ya get the picture. I don’t wanna describe it!”
The Kid rolled his eyes.
“Lom wasn’t best pleased at the thought of having those two in his nice, clean, sweet smelling jail. So when we got back to town …. It’s the middle of the night by now … he rouses the bathhouse manager and insists he stoke the fires up there and then and gets ‘em both to take a bath ‘for he’d allow them anywhere near.”
The Kid chuckled. “’Course they had no clothes to change into. So they had to scoot from the bathhouse to the jail in just a blanket. Anyway, once they’re ensconced in their nice warm cell. I know that’s a big word but I know big words now.”
A grunt from the bed.
“Lom starts to ask them what it is all about. Well at first, they don’t want to say but after a while, I figure they came to the conclusion that things might go easier on ‘em if they told what they know.”
The Kid sniffed.
“As Cowdry said they were working for Bloodstone but HE is working for someone called Jeremiah Curry. Now ain’t that a coincidence? Almost the same name as me. And get this. Think he wants to buy Pine Lake and the Bulmer brothers were hired to stop anyone nosing around the place. That’s where Bloodstone comes in. He’s the land agent responsible for the sale on behalf of the government and I reckon he’s crooked Heyes. There’s some dirty deal going on in the background. ‘Cos Bloodstone wrote to ME about Pine Lake as a possible site for my house building venture. I’m now beginning to think the letter to me was a mistake. I think he got the wrong Curry. Our names being so similar an’ all.”
The Kid shook his head. “The Bulmers didn’t know too much more about it. Just that Jeremiah Curry and Bloodstone are in cahoots somehow. Oh the only other thing they said … and I dunno how this fits in or even what it means. Clyde said something about finding fibrous talc.”
The Kid shrugged.
“What the heck is fibrous talc? And what d’you use it for?”
There was a noise from the bed and the Kid looked over. Heyes was breathing heavily and groaning. He was mumbling something that the Kid couldn’t make out. The Kid got up and went across. He had to listen closely before he worked out what Heyes was saying over and over.
“Paper,” Heyes gasped.
“Paper?” the Kid frowned. “Man you’re really outta it ain’t ya?”
While he was there, he changed the cool towel on Heyes’ forehead.
“Paper.” Heyes sounded firmer this time, his face screwed up in frustration. “Paper.”“Heyes, ya delirious now. It’s okay. I’m here, Heyes.”
Heyes was starting to thrash again and the Kid had to hold him firmly.
“Making …” Heyes was fighting something.
“Heyes, calm down.”
“Study. Book. Oh!”
Heyes was out again. The Kid felt him go floppy. When he was sure he was still the Kid bathed his face and neck again.
“Ah, partner you’re in a bad way aren’t you.”
Over brunch later, the Kid was telling Wheat and Cowdry how Heyes was.
“He’s delirious. Well outta it.”
“Is he saying anything?” Wheat asked. “They always say things they don’t mean to when they’re outta their heads. Y’know is he saying anything …. .” He glanced nervously at the door and grinned mischievously. “‘bout Mary?”
“Wheat! That’s no way to talk about a lady. And that’s Heyes’ wife!”
Wheat had the good grace to look embarrassed. “Yeah, I’s sorry.”
The Kid attended to buttering toast for a moment. “He did say something.” He waved his buttery knife in Wheat’s direction. “Not ‘bout Mary!” He frowned. “Kinda didn’t make any sense. He said paper a few times. Got quite agitated about it. Then when I tried to calm him down, he said he was making something. Dunno what.” He shrugged. “Then study book. I dunno. Crazy talk that’s all.”
“Sir, Mr Heyes has a study doesn’t he?”
“Does it have books in it?”
The Kid widened his eyes. “Oh ye-ah. Lotta books.”
“Sir may I take a look?”
“What are you thinking Paul?”
Cowdry hesitated. “Well I’m not sure sir. Perhaps Mr Heyes wasn’t saying study book. Maybe he was saying, in the study there’s a book.”
Wheat chortled. “He sure got that right. One whole wall, floor to ceiling, full of books.”
The Kid ignored him and looked at Cowdry. “Go on.”
Cowdry hesitated again. “Well perhaps paper and making aren’t just random words,” he said, slowly. “Perhaps they’re linked say as paper making. Mr Heyes might have been suggesting we look in his study for a book on paper making.”
There was silence. Cowdry was beginning to think he had it wrong when the Kid put aside his knife. “Cowdry that’s … Let’s go find out, huh?” Over the years, he had come to understand how Heyes’ mind worked. He couldn’t necessarily come up with convoluted plans himself but he understood, once Heyes explained to him, how things how he had put things together.
The three of them trooped across the hall and into Heyes’ study. The Kid puffed when he opened the door. As Wheat said, one complete wall was floor to ceiling books. And there were piles on the desk, on the cabinets, on the chaise lounge. Every flat surface seemed to have a book on it. Even the floor had several stacks on it.
“Sheesh! Where do we start?” the Kid asked running a hand through his hair.
“We’ll have to be systematic sir.”
The Kid took a deep breath. “Okay Paul where do YOU suggest we start?”
“We may not be looking specifically for a book on papermaking but any book where papermaking might be described. Like in an encyclopaedia for example. Let’s start there.”
“Good idea,” muttered Wheat.
The Kid ignored him. “Okay let’s look for encyclopaedias. You start over there Wheat. I’ll start on the desk and Paul the shelves.”
“How d’ya spell encyclopaedia?” Wheat asked.
“E-N … .” the Kid started, frowned and then grinned. “Say Wheat go an’ get us some coffee huh? I reckon we’re gonna need it.”
Wheat grinned. “Sure thing Kid,” he said before scooting out, much to his relief that he didn’t have to look through books.
Wheat had delivered the coffee and disappeared to check on his horse. The Kid had rolled his eyes and muttered if Wheat did anymore checking on his horse, he wouldn’t be surprised if he brought the horse into the house for dinner. Obviously ONE of them was suffering from separation anxiety.
“Ah! Here we are sir,” Cowdry said, in triumph. “Encyclopaedia Britannica – American edition. Now let’s see A to C, D to E, F to G. This one.”
The Kid made space on the desk so Cowdry could put the selected volume down.
“We’re going straight for fibrous talc?” he queried as Cowdry flicked through to F.
“Yes sir. If there’s nothing here we’ll look in the P to R volume.”
The Kid nodded and motioned for him to get on with it. He stood patiently by Cowdry’s side as he flicked through the pages and peered with interest when the searching finger stopped at the entry for fibrous talc. They swapped glances.
“What’s it say?” the Kid whispered.
Cowdry studied the entry with a frown.
“Oh! Ah! I see!”
“Cowdry!” the Kid growled in frustration.
To his further annoyance, Cowdry turned and reached for P to R and began to flick through that volume.
“Got it! I understand now!” Cowdry grinned smugly.
“Care to share, Hey … Cowdry?” The Kid licked his lips – he’d almost said Heyes then.
“Yes sir. Listen to this. Fibrous talc is a mineral made up of Magnesic Oxide, Silica and Oxygen. It’s a form of soapstone sir. Here’s a drawing.”
Cowdry showed him the non-descript drawing.
“It’s a rock.”
“Yes sir but it goes on, “Fibrous talc is largely employed in the paper-making process. And in here sir.” He turned to the other open volume and read, “Fibrous talc is used in three stages of the paper making process. One as a filler. Two as a means of reducing clogging of the machinery. Three as a coating. The high brightness of the talc reduces the need for expensive whitening agents and coats the paper with a gloss. Talc gives the paper smoothness, reduces yellowing and porosity. Most talc deposits are in the Eastern States but there has been promising signs of significant deposits in some Western States. If these turn out to be viable, it would be extremely advantageous to papermakers in that part of the country, reducing the cost of transportation and purchasing of supplies.”
Cowdry gave the Kid a smug grin. The Kid looked back blankly.
Before either of them could say anything further they were interrupted by the sound of horses pulling up outside. The Kid frowned.
“It’s Lom and the Doc and … I think that’s the editor of the paper. Let’s go see what they want.”
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname