Posts : 244
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 60
Location : Norfolk, England
|Subject: Settling Wheat - Part Ten (Bloodstone) Sat Jun 10, 2017 7:26 am|| |
Settling Wheat – Part Ten (BloodstoneThe Kid stood outside the Cheyenne Agency of the Department of Land Management. Entering official buildings still made his heart race and he swallowed hard. He glanced back at Cowdry, who consulted the piece of paper in his hand.
“This is the correct address sir,” he said, confirming what the Kid already knew.
“I know. Get my back Cowdry huh?” the Kid sighed, took a deep breath and entered.
Cowdry frowned. “Yes sir,” he murmured, before following. Having worked for Mr Curry for some years, he should be used to his employer’s strange requests by now. Yet they never ceased to amaze him. He wasn’t entirely sure why Mr Curry wanted his back got, whatever that meant. Unconsciously he glanced at his employers broad shoulders as he entered the office. No, all looked in order. No stray lengths of cotton, no smudges, marks or rents. Cowdry followed. No doubt, he would find out in due course.
Inside the office was a number of small desks occupied by clerks beavering away. In the corner at the back, there was a separate office. The glass lettering on the door said Nathan Bloodstone, Local Agent. One of the industrious clerks looked up.
“May I help you?”
“Yes y’may, mah good fellow. Mah name is Jedidiah Curry. This is mah associate, Paul Cowdry. We’re heayh to see Mr Bloodstone.”
The clerk stared at him open-mouthed.
The Kid frowned. He wasn’t used to getting that reaction using that name. Not right off anyway. Sometimes it took a little while for realisation to dawn.
The clerk gulped. “No. No sir.” His eyes dropped to the ledger on the desk.
“We don’t have an appointment,” the Kid said, wrongly surmising that was the problem. “But Mr Bloodstone and ah have corresponded and he is aware of the distance ah have travelled to be here. Ah’m sure he will see me.”
The clerk met the confident blue eyes. Although he hadn’t said anything threatening, the demeanour of the expensively dressed gentleman was intimidating.
“Yes sir. I’ll tell Mr Bloodstone you’re here. If you would take a seat … .” He indicated the row of chairs against the wall.
“Thank you kindly.” The Kid smiled and settled himself on a chair, exuding confidence.
Cowdry hovered at his side until the Kid patted the chair next to him. Cowdry sat quickly and uncomfortably. He still found it awkward to sit in his employers company when out and about. A whispered conversation followed.
“Follow my lead, Paul. You know why I’m here.”
“Yes sir but, if I may, why the Southern accent?” Should he have asked? It really wasn’t his place to know but curiosity had got the better of him. Cowdry looked anxious. The Kid smiled. He knew what Cowdry was thinking.
“It’s alright, Paul. I learnt a long time ago that if you dress and act and speak like a wealthy gent you get a better reception. The first two I got, but speaking …. .” He shook his head. “I ain’t quite there yet. Southern’s the best I can do.”
Paul put his head down to hide his smile.
“Yes sir. Do I need to be Southern too? Because I’m not sure I can that carry that off.”
“Cowdry, you’re English. That’ll do fine.”
“’Sides I don’t expect you to talk much. I just need you to look … .” The Kid considered an appropriate word. “… knowledgeable.”
“Sir?” Cowdry looked horrified. “I know nothing about land transactions!”
Before the Kid could reply, the clerk was back.
“Mr Bloodstone will see you, sir. Right this way.”
The Kid smiled pleasantly and unfolded his legs, preparing to get up. “Excellent!”
He strode after the clerk like a man on a mission. Which he was. A mission to buy a considerable amount of real estate on which to build a large house for his family’s summer retreat. A home, that he could truly call his. Not Caroline’s and not bought with her money. He was independently wealthy these days, earning a considerable income, generated from the investment business he had unwittingly started. To buy a property in an area of the country that he loved and near his only other living relative, would be a dream come true.
If he was going to buy Pine Lake, then he wanted to get it at the best price. Even though he now lived a wealthy and comfortable life, he still appreciated the value of money. He had a fair idea how much that price should be, even without the possibility of finding a valuable mineral deposit on the land. Of course, that was a piece of information he should be blissfully unaware. Yes, money wasn’t really an object but no, he wasn’t going to pay anything he considered inflated. He had a price in mind but he was going to start the negotiations, if they happened, at a lot lower.
In addition, of course, if everything else failed he had a bargaining chip. If he had to use what happened to Cowdry a few days ago, he doubted Bloodstone would be in a position to refuse the sale. Some might call it blackmail. The Kid didn’t see it like that. Cowdry was assaulted, kidnapped and unlawfully detained, threatened with seriously injury and death. All on Bloodstone’s orders. Not that they could prove it just yet. Lom said the link to Bloodstone was tenuous and advised the Kid not to do anything rash. But he was going to hold that in reserve.
Heyes was still too ill to talk it through but the Kid been thinking. Perhaps he couldn’t go after Bloodstone directly but he had sent him the letter about the land in the first place, so a meeting was in order. The Kid suspected the letter had been a mistake – intended for a Mr Jeremiah Curry not Jedidiah. Nevertheless, the confusion had caused him to view the land as detailed and that’s when all the trouble had started. He had fallen in love with that piece of land and was outraged by the treatment of his man. He was determined to see justice served even if as a result he lost the opportunity to buy the land.
Bloodstone stood up as the Kid and Cowdry walked into his office.
“Mr … Curry?” he asked, holding out his hand. The handshake he gave was swift and superficial.
“Yes indeed. Thank you for seeing me on such short notice. This is my associate, Paul Cowdry.”
Bloodstone nodded but made no attempt to shake hands with Cowdry. Instead, he sat down and motioned for them to do the same.
The Kid and Cowdry exchanged looks. So that was how it was going to play was it?
“The Grassy Flatts land wasn’t it? Fine piece of … .”
The Kid cut him off. “No sir. Ah’m here to talk about Pine Lake.”
Bloodstone looked blank. “I don’t understand. I wrote to you about Grassy Flatts.”
“No sir. You did not. You wrote to me about Pine Lake.”
Bloodstone stared for a moment, not knowing what to say.
“That’s … impossible sir.”
“Ah assure you it is not, sir.” The Kid reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and produced the letter. He placed it on the desk so Bloodstone could see.
As Bloodstone read it, he got redder and redder. He chewed his lips furiously and it was plain to see that he was barely keeping his temper.
“I have your enquiry right here, Mr Curry,” he said, slowly, tapping the open file in front of him.“Grassy Flatts meets all your requirements.”
“It may well do so but ah have already seen Pine Lake and ah have taken a likin’ to it.”
Bloodstone tried a weak smile. “No sir, I can assure you. Pine Lake isn’t what you’re looking for. Grassy Flatts … .”
“Ah wish to make an offer of purchase for Pine Lake.”
“You can’t!” Bloodstone all but cried. “I mean … no one from this office has shown you around. You haven’t been appraised of all the facts. There’s … something wrong with it. You said you had children. Yes that’s it. Not suitable for children. Grassy Flatts is well suited to the needs of growing children. That’s much more to your taste.”
The Kid fixed him with his old gunfighter’s glance. If Bloodstone had been feeling uneasy before he definitely was now.
“How do ya know what is to my taste, sir? We have only just become acquainted,” the Kid said, ominously slowly.
“I er …” Bloodstone licked his lips. To his credit, he was thinking fast. “If you don’t mind me commenting, you’re a southern gentleman sir. Grassy Flatts will remind you of home.” Even as he said it, he knew that sounded dim but he was finding this man intimidating. It was a feeling he wasn’t used to. It was usually him doing the intimidating.
The Kid took a deep breath. “Ah do not wish to be reminded of home, sir. Ah live in Boston now but ah have family in the vicinity of Pine Lake. Ah wish to be convenient to them. Pine Lake suits just fine. Now what is the price? Ah will pay anything reasonable.”
Bloodstone pressed his lips together to form a thin line. He was clearly in a quandary. On one side, he was the local agent accountable to the Government to get the best price for the land sold. He was paid a retainer but most of his income was from commission on sales. On the other hand, he had the private deal with his brother-in-law, which would make them both a lot of money if it came off. It was the latter, which won out.
“I cannot accept any price for Pine Lake,” he said, brusquely.
“You mean it’s free!” burst out a beaming Cowdry, unable to stop himself. He found himself on the receiving end of two fierce looks.
“No. Mr … Cowley.”
“Cowdry,” he corrected, further irritating Bloodstone.
“No, Mr Cow-dree, that is not what I meant.” Bloodstone took a deep breath in order to get hold of himself. “I merely meant that as the Government’s representative in these matters, it is beholden on me to make sure that any land I sell is suitable to the client’s requirements. I have to consider the reputation of the Department of Land Management in every sale I make. I do not believe that Pine Lake meets your requirements. Whereas Grassy Flatts does.”
The Kid stared at him. He had come across supercilious, obsequious and unpleasant officials before but Bloodstone was right up there.
“The risk is mine, sir,” the Kid said, trying not to grit his teeth too hard. “Ah have made up my mind. Ah wish to purchase Pine Lake.”
“No!” Bloodstone slapped the flat of his hand on the desk and stood up. Then realising that he had let his temper get the better of him, he put a hand to his forehead. “I am sorry, Mr Curry. I cannot sell you Pine Lake. If you will not consider Grassy Flatts then I’m afraid you have wasted your time. I bid you good day, gentlemen.”
Notwithstanding the curt dismissal, the Kid had already seen and heard enough. Taking back the letter, he folded it and carefully putting it back in his pocket. Then he slowly got to his feet.
“Good day to ya sir. We will not take up any more of your valuable time. Come Cowdry.”
They strode briskly through the outer office and out. Just as the exterior door shut behind them, they heard Bloodstone bellowing for Templeman. No doubt one of the poor unfortunate clerks who worked there. The Kid winced. He hated to think somebody was going to get into trouble but there was nothing he could do about it.
Instead, he turned to Cowdry.
“Is it free?” he asked, incredulously of his man.
Cowdry looked shamefaced. “I’m sorry sir. It just came out.”
The Kid sniffed. “Well no harm done. If anything, it pushed Bloodstone into showing his true self. We know exactly what type of man we’re dealing with now.”
Cowdry smiled. “Yes sir.” He fought with an umbrella for a moment, opened it eventually and offered it to the Kid. “It’s raining sir.”
“Yes so it is.” The Kid accepted it, waited for Cowdry to unfurl his before starting to walk away from the entrance of the Department of Land Management.
“Of course sir, there is one other thing my little inappropriate outburst may have done,” Cowdry said, slowly, deep in thought.
“What’s that Paul?”
“Bloodstone now thinks I’m a complete idiot. Which may come in handy in any future dealings you have with him.”
The Kid looked at Cowdry and slowly smiled. “Paul, have I ever told you? You are one devious young man?”
Cowdry beamed. “No sir but I’ll take that as a compliment sir.”
The Kid burst out a short laugh.
“Paul, what do you say we take ourselves back to the hotel, get all gussied up and then go try that swanky restaurant we passed a couple of blocks back?”
The Kid and Cowdry had finished dinner and were strolling back to their hotel, through the Cheyenne streets. It was still early and the Kid was in no mood to return to the suite just yet.
“Cowdry, lets go in here for a spell, huh?”
He indicated the saloon.
Cowdry gulped. “Um, sir I don’t know,” he started. He was also conscious that he was very obviously dressed as an Easterner. The Kid was more informal, dressed in smart pants and jacket. And no tie! Cowdry had nearly had a fit when he saw how his employer intended to go out to dine. He had struggled with himself not to say anything.
The Kid smirked to himself as he watched the emotion play over Cowdry’s face as he battled with yet another quandary.
“It looks very noisy,” Cowdry said, finally shaking his head furiously.
“Exactly. We might have some fun.”
Brooking no argument, the Kid pushed through the batwing doors, leaving Cowdry standing on the broad walk in dismay. Taking a deep breath, he pushed in after his employer. Down one side of the large room was a long bar. Customers crowded in front of it, shouting their orders. The four bartenders were working flat out to keep up with demand. In the middle of the room, men sat around various tables, playing cards or talking and laughing loudly. Girls skilfully weaved their way between tables carrying trays full mainly of beers. The air was a cacophony of hurdy-gurdy music, voices, laughter and sounds of the various gambling machines. To the uninitiated like Cowdry, it was overwhelming.
The Kid had no hesitation in joining the pushing crowd, despite cries of protest from the existing pushees. Cowdry followed in his wake uncomfortably aware of the odd looks he was given.
Drinks bought, the Kid and Cowdry turned to extract themselves from the melee, popping out of the back like corks from champagne bottles.
“That was a scramble sir,” Cowdry puffed, clutching his jug of foaming beer. He had already lost several inches from the top in the scuffle to get out of the crowd.
“See Paul, told ya. We’re having fun already,” the Kid grinned.
Cowdry look doubtful. “Yes sir,” he muttered.
“Saturday night, Paul. Saloons are always fun on Saturday nights. Even in the State Capitol. This is still cow country. It’s the only time hands off the ranches get to let off a little steam.”
“Yes sir.” Cowdry went to take a sip of his beer. At the same time, he was nudged hard from behind. He nearly tipped his beer over the Kid, who just managed to jump back in time. Cowdry looked horrified but the Kid just laughed and slapped him on the shoulder.
“Let’s go and sit down away from the bar. Where it’s quieter.”
“Yes sir,” Cowdry agreed readily, shaking his wet hand.
Most tables looked fully occupied with noisy cowhands and card players.
“Sir, over there in the corner.” Cowdry had spotted a table occupied by only one man. “Do you think he would mind if we join him?”
“Let’s go see.”
The Kid headed in that direction. He smiled at the saloon girl who was coming the other way and they did the sidestep dance before laughing. She smiled at him appreciatively, until she noticed his wedding ring. She went on her way with a sigh of regret.
Cowdry smirked and raised his hat politely as she passed, before continuing on his original trajectory. As he got closer, something about the man on the corner table looked familiar. He frowned. Ah! He had it.
“Sir, a moment.”
Despite the noise, the Kid heard and stopped. Looking back for Cowdry to catch up, he took a sip of his beer.
“Um isn’t that the clerk from the Land Office, sir?”
The Kid looked round.
“Yeah, you might be right.”
“He doesn’t look the sort to frequent this type of establishment sir.”
“No.” The Kid frowned. “Let’s go over anyway.”
“I think he’s been drinking sir,” Cowdry cautioned. “He might get … .” Cowdry smacked his lips, unwilling or unsure of how to say what he was thinking.
“Loose lipped?” the Kid grinned. “Come on. In that case we might learn something to our advantage.” He was off.
No that wasn’t what Cowdry wanted to say. He was going to say belligerent. To his mind, their safety was questionable in this noisy place. He looked around nervously.
At the table, the Kid stopped and smiled pleasantly. His gaze took in the half empty whiskey bottle.
The clerk looked up with sad and drunken eyes, then twitched his face and shrugged. With that, he picked up his glass and drained it. The Kid and Cowdry pulled out chairs, swapping meaningful glances. The Kid sat opposite, Cowdry to one side, looking apprehensive. The clerk reached for the bottle and refilled his glass, before tossing it back in one hit. Cowdry shot a look that said, are you sure sir? The Kid rolled his eyes and ignoring the clerk’s behaviour, smiled at him.
“Sure is busy tonight. Is it always like this on a Saturday night?” He was making conversation. He had just told Cowdry all about Saturday nights.
The clerk frowned as he poured another glass for himself, slopping it over the side as his hand shook. He glanced at the speaker. He looked vaguely familiar. Then he decided he couldn’t do both things and his gaze returned to whiskey pouring.
“Dunno. Don’t usually come in here,” He slurred, set the bottle back on the table with a thud.
“What’s that ya drinking there?” The Kid didn’t touch the bottle, just looked at the label that was facing him. He pulled an impressed face. “Too good to waste on getting drunk isn’t it?”
“What d’you care?”
“Just making conversation.”
“Not in the mood for conversation,” came the mumbled reply.
The Kid and Cowdry swapped glances again. The Kid was surprised at the feeling of déjà vu that hit him. Yet he had never been in a saloon with Cowdry before. Or, any drinking establishment for that matter. The man’s likeness to Heyes must be the cause.
With a flicker of a frown, the Kid turned back to the drunk. It was obvious that he wasn’t a regular drinker so there had to be a reason for it.
“Mike isn’t it?” Cowdry said, suddenly. He had remembered the nameplate on the clerk’s desk.
The Kid looked over in surprise. Given how uncomfortable he knew Cowdry was feeling he hadn’t expected him to speak. Let alone suddenly initiate a conversation.
“Yeah?” The clerk lurched in his direction, trying to focus on him. “What of it?”
“You work at the Department of Land Management. Mr Curry and I were in there earlier. We came to see Mr Bloodstone.”
The Kid eyed him, wandering what he was doing. Cowdry rolled his eyes and shrugged. The Kid shuddered. A Heyes clone!
The Kid and Cowdry swapped surprised glances.
“Pardon?” Cowdry asked. The Kid had sat back and folded his arms. He was happy for Cowdry to take the lead.
“Worked for him I did. Until the b*****d sacked me!”
“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that,” Cowdry sympathised.
“I’m not,” Mike growled. “He’s a crook. I want nothing more to do with him!” He drained his glass and winced as the fiery liquid burnt his throat. He reached for the bottle but this time the Kid stopped him, holding it just out of reach.
“Now why do you say that, Mike?” he asked, deliberately slowly.
Mike swayed as he tried to focus. The Kid suspected the man was seeing double when he lunged for the “wrong” bottle.
“Give me that!”
“In a moment. Now why do you say Bloodstone’s a crook?”
“’Cos he is!”
“Has he done something illegal?”
Mike swayed and twitched his face as if he was eating.
“Can’t say,” he said, finally.
“Loyalty is an admirable quality, Mike,” Cowdry said. “But it can often be misplaced.” He looked at the Kid, who nodded his agreement. This was so eerie! He had been in this position with Heyes so many time before. He let Cowdry continue. “Why did he sack you, Mike?”
“I worked in that office for twenty years. Had the place running like clockwork. Never put a foot wrong. ‘Till HE came. Then I couldn’t do anything right.”
More swapped glances. Was this just sour grapes? Or was there something more to it?
Mike swayed and shook his head furiously, nearly falling off his chair. The Kid had to put out a hand to steady him.
“Careful. Ya nearly fell.”
“Don’t matter. Got no job. Won’t be able to pay the rent by next week. Then I’ll have no home either. What do I care if I fall off the damm chair?”
“Mike, why did Bloodstone sack you?” Cowdry asked again. “See … we’re … .” He glanced at the Kid for confirmation and receiving the slightest of nods. “Looking to do business with Bloodstone and we’re not entirely sure he’s a man we can trust.”
Mike tittered. “Naw! You don’t want to do business with him. Keep away. Keep well away.”
“That sounds like good advice, Mike but tell us what was it ya did that caused Bloodstone to sack ya?” the Kid asked, before Cowdry.
Mike shook his head in despair. “Office. Sells land for the Government. Get enquiries all the time. Bloodstone … he writes back with details of suitable parcels of land that meet requirements.” He shrugged and looked sick. “Two clients, same surname, only different first name. Jeremiah and Jedidiah, Phuf!” Mike swayed alarmingly.
The Kid and Cowdry swapped glances. Bloodstone’s behaviour earlier was making more sense now. Mike had just confirmed something they had already suspected. There had been a mix up with the letters but Bloodstone hadn’t known about it until their visit.
“What was the surname, Mike?” Cowdry asked, gently.
Mike shook his head and made a lunge for the bottle. This time he got his hand to it but the Kid didn’t let go. Mike turned drunken eyes at him and then they widened in surprise.
“You! It’s you!” One more sway and his head hit the table with a thud.
Cowdry looked on in horror. Had he just witnessed a man dropping dead in front of him?
The Kid raised Mike’s head.
“He’s just passed out Paul, that’s all.”
Cowdry gulped in relief. “What do we do now sir?”
“We take him back to the hotel with us. I’ve a feeling he’s gonna have more to tell us when he wakes up.”
“Yeah, Paul. It’s what the building is called we’re staying in. Now help me up with him will ya.”
Cowdry sighed as he got up. Being Mr Curry’s valet was certainly no ordinary valeting job!
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname