Posts : 244
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 60
Location : Norfolk, England
|Subject: Settling Wheat - Part Thirteen (Walter Brown) Sun Jul 09, 2017 9:28 am|| |
Settling Wheat – Part Thirteen (Walter Brown)“Well how do you feel?” Ben asked, wiping his hands.
He had spent the afternoon plastering Heyes’ arm and his foot from the ankle down.
Heyes glared at his foot encased in its white boot. He felt like someone had mistaken him for a cake and iced him instead. He wasn’t happy about it. He felt silly. Ben had set a rubber heel into the bottom of the plaster cast. Heyes wouldn’t be able to put his foot down normally but he could use the heel to help him hobble around.
“My toes are cold,” he said, petulantly.
Ben grinned. “It’ll need a couple of more hours but by tonight the blankets can be tented over it.”
“And it’s heavy.”
“The plaster will get lighter as it dries and as it dries the stronger it will get. Providing you don’t get it wet it will keep its strength. Which is what we want. I’ll come and see you in two days. It should be dry by then and we can perhaps get you up. Just be patient for a little while longer.”
Heyes nodded. “Ye-ah. Thanks Ben. Send Mary up will you?”
Mary appeared a few minutes later. She went to kiss him but he stopped her.
“Careful! I’m still wet!”
She smiled. “My poor darling. Won’t be long now.” She touched his cheek fondly and then kissed him carefully. He held her close.
“Y’know when this is dry … will you come back to sleep in here? With me?”
“I don’t think you’re well enough yet, Josh.”
“Awh! Just to sleep, Mary,” he groaned, knowing what she meant and regretting that it probably wasn’t possible. “I miss you beside me.” He paused. “Snuggling.”
Mary smiled. “I miss snuggling too.” She nodded. “Well if you think I won’t hurt you, I won’t miss sleeping with Susan. She snores.”
They laughed gently together. Heyes squeezed her hand and then kissed the fingers.
“Thank you for looking after me,” he said, gently. “I know I’m not the easiest of patients. Sorry I’ve been so grumpy about it.”
Mary patted his good arm. “That’s what wives do Josh. But I have to tell you, my hat sales may never fully recover.”
Heyes frowned. “I thought you had someone looking after the store?”
“I do but it’s not quite the same. Hannah is keeping it ticking over but I know about my stock and can give advice. My customers value that. So I’ve decided. When you’re up and can get around a little, I shall go to the store for some of the day, perhaps just the mornings to start with. Just at first and see how we get on.”
“Oh, so you’re gonna abandon me!” he said, indignantly.
“No,” she said, firmly. “I’m just trying to get back to some semblance of normality. You’re not the only one put out by this you know. Children like routine. The novelty has worn off now and they’re unsettled.”
“I’m sorry if I’m putting everyone out!” he said, sulkily. If he could cross his arms, he would.Instead, he rolled his eyes skyward and looked away.
“Now Josh don’t go getting proddy.”
“Proddy!” He looked at her in surprise. That wasn’t a word he’d heard her use before. By the look on her face, she was as surprised as he was. She winced.
Heyes frowned hard and growled. “You’ve been spending too much time alone with Wheat and the Kid. Hmmm, on second thoughts perhaps the sooner you get back to selling hats the better. Spend any more time with those two and you’ll be cussing like an ole forty-niner.”
“Harry already is I’m afraid.”
Heyes growled. “I told Wheat to watch his language.”
“Oh I don’t think he’s got it from Wheat.”
Heyes looked at her expecting something further. When she didn’t continue, he inclined his neck in her direction. Mary smiled ruefully.
“Your language has been a little colourful of late.” Heyes’ tongue explored the roof of his mouth and he looked away. He sniffed. She might have a point, he thought, begrudgingly. “And loud.” Mary wisely decided to leave it there and got off the bed quickly. “Would you like a sleep before supper? After all, it’s not every day you get plastered. You must be worn out.”
Heyes false smiled at her.&&&&&&&&&&&&“Hey what’s happening in here?” the Kid grinned as he walked into the bedroom the next morning, just before lunch.
Susan was sitting on the bed, next to her father. Scattered all round were books and notebooks.
“Hiya Kid.” Heyes grinned in greeting. “We’re doing homework! Aren’t we Sue?”
“It’s Susan, Pappy,” the little girl sighed. How many times did she have to tell him? “Hi Uncle Thaddeus.” She turned her face up for him to kiss, which he duly did.
“Yeah we’ve done English. And Geography. And now we’re doing Math!” Heyes was feeling happier today. Only one more day then Ben would be stopping by to check that the plaster on his arm and foot was completely dry. He was optimistic that he would then be able to get up and he sensed a change of surroundings coming on. Or, at least a different view of the same surroundings.
The Kid drew up a chair. “Mind if I talk to your Pappy, Susan? It’s kinda important.”
Susan looked up at Heyes, who nodded.
“We can finish this later. You need a break from writing anyway.” Heyes kissed Susan on the head when she looked disappointed not to stay. Heyes and the Kid helped her gather her books.
Susan paused at the door.
“Uncle Thaddeus, you’re not to tire Pappy out. He has to explain algebra to me by tonight.”
“I’ll try not to,” the Kid laughed. “Promise.”
With a nod of satisfaction, Susan closed the door.
“She’s a bright kid, Heyes.”
“Ye-ah. She’s way ahead of her class. I’m not sure how long the little school in Porterville can continue to teach her.” Heyes rolled his eyes. “Then what am I gonna do?”
“You’ll think of something.”
“Or she will,” Heyes said, with a sigh of resignation. “What’s up?”
“Been to see Lom. A federal marshal arrived this morning. Goes by the name of Helmut Gruber.”
“Naw! Think he’s from Nebraska.” Heyes smiled fondly but let the Kid continue. “Anyway that’swhere I’ve been. Briefing him.”
Heyes nodded. “I figured as much. Is he gonna be taking over?”
“Hmm, I think so. Oh, I dunno Heyes. Lom and me took him through what we know for sure and what we suspect. We left out the part about the mix up of the letters between me and Jeremiah. And … .” He rolled his eyes. “’bout me being Jedidiah Curry. We decided not to complicate matters. Then we told him your plan.” The Kid shook his head. “I dunno. He didn’t say much. I couldn’t read him. Jus’ sat writing it all down in a damm notepad.”
Heyes shrugged. “Some folks are like that. Need to take it all in quietly. Not make any quick decisions.” Heyes hesitated. “Is he … anyone we know?”
“Nah! He’s young. Too young if ya ask me.”
Heyes smiled. “Feeling your age Kid?”
The Kid rubbed a hand over his face wearily. “Yeah I guess. I dunno, Heyes. I came to help you and casually look over a piece of land while I was here. Now look where I am? Embroiled in the middle of a fraud!”
“Embroiled?” Heyes grinned.
“Yeah it means involved in.”
Heyes just smiled but refrained from saying anything further.
“There’s something I haven’t told ya,” the Kid said, hesitantly.
“Go on,” Heyes gently urged. He could tell by the look on the Kid’s face that it was serious.
“Well I got to thinkin’ ‘bout what ya said, ‘bout Wheat havin’ nothin’ else in his life ‘cept what we … you … can give him. Made me feel bad, Heyes. If it weren’t for the amnesty that’d be you and me.”
“We’da had each other. We’re partners.”
“Yeah,” the Kid agreed and then qualified it. “Maybe if’n I didn’t meet someone faster. And you didn’t get us into a situation ya couldn’t talk us outta.” (Heyes chose not to pick him up on the use of the word “us”.) Wheat don’t have a partner no more. So I thought as Wheat is already … embroiled … in this little venture, perhaps he could be useful. Might prove his worth to the Governor.”
“What have you done?” Heyes was suspicious.
The Kid looked reluctant to say and twitched all kinds of faces before he went for it.
“I haven’t done anything exactly but it appears I accidently sent him up to Longwater,” he said,quickly. He got up and raised his hands in surrender. “I know! I know! You and Lom told me not to do anything but I figured it couldn’t hurt to have a man in place now. There was no tellin’ how long this federal marshal would take to get here and start taking charge. I didn’t expect him to arrive so soon, else I’da waited.”
“Kid, you need to tell him,” Heyes urged firmly.
“I know and I did. He weren’t too pleased. Neither was Lom but I think Lom talked him round.”The Kid rolled his eyes and paused. “Helped some when Lom got a telephone call … did you know sheriff’s offices have telephones now? Sheesh! I reckon we got out at just the right time. They’d catch … .”
“Kid! Kid!” Heyes interrupted, burning with curiosity. “Who was the telephone call from?”
“Oh yeah right. Um, it was Sheriff Wilcox over at Hardy City. Sam Flixton is considering making a complaint about Jeremiah Curry.” He paused. “Received a threat from him. Well he thinks it was from him. It was an anonymous letter but the threats were similar to the ones Jeremiah delivered in person in Sam’s office afore. And Sam reckons the lock on the main gate was tampered with. Looks like someone tried to get in.”
The Kid shook his head. “He only went this mornin’. This was last night.”
Heyes sniffed. “This is the start of it then. Perhaps it is a good thing that Wheat’s up there.”
“Yeah that’s what Lom and Marshal Gruber reckoned in the end. Lom deputised Wheat in-ab-sten-tia, whatever that means, so it’s all official.” He paused. “I’m going with Gruber when he goes to see Sam tomorrow. Try and persuade him to make the compliant and then we can go after Bloodstone properly.” He shrugged. “Lom still has me as a deputy from last week. Ain’t got round to rescinding it yet.” He pulled a face. “Hey, d’ya think I’m getting paid?” he grinned, suddenly.
Heyes rolled his eyes.
Without waiting for an answer, the Kid sobered. “How d’ya think we should play it with Sam, Heyes? You know him better than we do.”
Heyes took a deep breath. “That’s a difficult one. I think he genuinely likes Jeremiah Curry despite being competitors. It’s Bloodstone we’re really after. Jeremiah’s situation is providing the opportunity for Bloodstone that’s all.” He sighed. “I think you’ll just have to tell Sam the truth and tell him the plan. Sam will either decide to help or he won’t.” He paused. “But he might just be mad enough now. He’s very protective of his family and employees. He won’t want the threats to get worse and anything to happen to them.”
The Kid nodded. “Yes that’s what I thought. He’s gonna be difficult to talk round though Heyes. Shame you ain’t up to it yet.”
Heyes smiled. “Kid, how many years did we ride together? Something musta rubbed off on you. You’ll be fine.”
The Kid sighed. “Well Gruber might surprise me. Ya never know. He might have a tongue as silvery as yours.”
Heyes laughed. “Thanks Kid. Say, how did you accidently send Wheat to Longwater?”
The Kid looked shamefaced. “We shared a bottle of your good whiskey last night.” Heyes eyes widened. “Yeah the Scotch,” the Kid admitted, shamefully.
Heyes let out a long breath but kept his counsel. He motioned for the Kid to carry on.
“We got to talkin’ ‘bout Kyle. Things got kinda maudlin and that’s when it hit me ’bout what ya said. Afore I knew it, I was tellin’ Wheat the plan and asking if he’d go. I guess I forgot to tell him that we had to wait to get the okay from Lom. I just went to bed. Didn’t think no more of it. ‘Till this mornin’. Found Wheat gone. Left me a note. So figured I had to go tell Lom. While I was there, Gruber turned up. So I had to tell it all again so he could write it in his little book.”
Heyes nodded. “Well Kid,” he sighed. “As Sherlock Holmes says, the game’s afoot.”&&&&&&&&&&&&Wheat Carlson pushed through the batwing doors into the Lucky Star saloon, in Longwater. This was as good as place as any to begin his search for Jeremiah Curry. He walked up to the bar and the waiting bartender.
“Whiskey,” he growled.
As he waited, he glanced round the saloon using the mirror behind the bar. Very few customers in. It was a quiet afternoon, being mid-week and a working town. He couldn’t expect a lively atmosphere.
“Just passing through?” the bartender asked as he poured the whiskey.
“Mebbe,” came the answer. Wheat took a sip and then grabbed the bartender as he started to walk away. “Leave the bottle.” At the same time, he tossed a few coins onto the counter.
The bartender looked uneasy. He didn’t know this man and that wasn’t enough to pay for the whole bottle.
“For now,” Wheat clarified, seeing the look the bartender gave him.
The bartender nodded and moved away.
Wheat settled down to sip his whiskey, playing with the cap of the bottle. The Kid had told him to play it cool, not to attract attention, not to start any fights, and above all not to drink too much and get thrown in jail. Just don’t do anything stupid. Wheat was resolved to try although he wasn’t entirely sure what constituted stupid. The Kid had given him a role to play. One that in his opinion played to his strengths. Be intimidating.
Wheat continued to watch the bar behind him, looking for the man whose likeness matched the photograph the Kid had shown him. Shouldn’t be too hard to spot. A big man with striking facial hair like that would stand out a mile. Nope, didn’t appear to be anyone of that description in the bar right now.
Taking the bottle, much to the chagrin of the bartender, Wheat sat down at a table. Behind him sat a big red-faced man, nursing a small beer. He looked to have company, as there was another half-drunk beer on the table. Said company must have stepped out for a few minutes.
Wheat had been sitting there for a little while, enjoying the feeling of whiskey slipping down his throat when he widened his eyes as the object of his mission to Longwater appeared. Making a beeline straight for him, at the last moment, Jeremiah Curry walked passed to the table behind.Wheat breathed a sigh of relief. Trying to make himself disappear, Wheat hunkered down over his whiskey and opened his ears.
“What I don’t understand is why the hell you didn’t tell me you had the wrong letter when you got it?” the red-faced man said. He kept his voice down but it was obvious he was angry. Wheat had no way of knowing, as he hadn’t seen him, that this was Nathan Bloodstone.
“You told me I’d get a letter and what it would contain. So when I got it, I filed it away and didn’t bother reading it! That’s why!” Jeremiah low growled back, equally as angry. Bloodstone was trying to lay the blame at his door.
“Well if ya had we wouldn’t BE in this mess! There’s no telling what that Jedidiah Curry will do. He didn’t look the sort to take this lying down. He smelt of money and men like him have important friends. VERY important friends. We might have to call this whole thing off. I’ve taken too many risks as it is.”
“We can’t! Those Bulmers will have told the law who they were working for by now. Even if they haven’t, neither one of ‘em was smart enough to be working alone. The law will know they were working for someone so it’s only a matter of time. I TOLD you they would be trouble.”
“Even more reason to stop! Now they’re in jail, there’s no one to … .” If Wheat had eyes in the back of his head, he would have seen Bloodstone glance around, furtively. He lowered his voice still further. “… sabotage Flixton’s mill.”
“Well somethings gotta happen, Nathan. My business is running on shirt buttons as it is. You’ll have to find someone else to do it.”
“D’ya think those kinda men grow on trees, Jerry?” He thumped the table, causing their drinks to jump into the air.
Wheat widened his eyes. Hmmm, he thought. This was starting to sound interesting. Having surmised who the fella with Jeremiah Curry was, it sounded like they were still in the market for someone to help out. He’d keep listening. An opening to offer his skills might present itself.
“Nathan you’d better DO something. We need Flixton’s mill. We’ll both go under if we don’t get it. You may be able to weather it but I’ll lose everything. I’ve worked too damm hard to back out now.”
“What do ya want me to do? Conjure some knucklehead out of thin air!”
Wheat cleared his throat, sniffed and leaned back in his chair, one arm casually draped over the back of the chair next to him.
Jeremiah glanced at him, decided he didn’t like what he saw and leaned in closer to Bloodstone.
“What we need is someone who can break into Flixton’s mill and smash up a few things. Just as a warning. Nothing major just a few small bits of machinery that are easily repaired.”
“What we NEED is someone who can persuade Flixton to sign those papers of sale and quickly so we can wrap this thing up before Curry starts asking questions.” Bloodstone paused and glanced around again. “It won’t take much. Y’know what Flixton’s like. He’s a bleedin’ heart. The way he pampers his workforce is almost a crime!”
Bloodstone downed the rest of his drink and then pushed up. “I’ve gotta go. I’ll see what I can do. I haven’t given up yet.”
Bloodstone had a few ideas. There were the men who had worked for him before up in Helena. He had wanted to keep his distance from them for a while but given the situation, they were distinct possibilities. He’d send a discrete telegram that way. For now, there was no point in telling Jeremiah that he might have someone until he was sure they’d come.
Wheat kept his head down as Bloodstone walked by him and out of the saloon. Wheat cast a look out of the corner of his eye. Jeremiah remained behind him but he was preparing to leave as well. Wheat knew he probably wouldn’t get a better opportunity. Decisively, he stood up. He swung round, drink in hand, sweeping up the bottle as he did so.
“I might be able to help ya out,” Wheat said, sitting down without being asked. “Couldn’t help overhearing that ya’ve got a little situation that ya needs help with.”
Jeremiah drew back uneasily. He hadn’t liked the look of this man from the back before. He liked him even less now he could see the front.
“I … don’t know what you thought you heard, friend,” he started, nervously.
“Ya have … shall we say … a little job wanting doing. Sounded like ya needed some persuasion doing?”
Jeremiah swallowed. He smiled weakly. “Nah! I’m afraid you misheard. My friend and me were talking about … a book we’ve both read that’s all.”
“Yeah?” Wheat made it obvious he didn’t believe a word. “Good book is it? Sounds like a humdinger to me. What’s it called? Mebbe somethin’ I’d like to read.”
Jeremiah’s mind had gone blank. He hadn’t expected this man to call him on it.
“You don’t look like a man who enjoys reading,” Jeremiah said slowly and then winced. Perhaps he should have rephrased that.
Wheat shifted in his seat. “Well now jus’ shows you ya can’t always judge a book by it’s cover, don’t it? I mean you don’t look like the sorta man who needs a little job doing. A little job like I heard ya do. If I was an upright citizen … an’ I ain’t saying I’m not … I reckon the sheriff across the street yonder might be very interested in what I overheard.”
Jeremiah licked his lips. He doubted Sheriff Gunnison would believe this man, a stranger in town, over him a large employer. Yet, once the seed was sown … could he take the risk? And this man did look like he could do what he wanted. HE was intimidated by him.
“I might … want someone visited for me. To give ‘em something you can’t get in a store.” He shrugged casually. “That’s all.”
“Ah!” Wheat nodded. “Ya want a message taking?”
“Yes that’s it.”
“Okay I have me a whole me-an-U of services I can offer. How much hurtin’ do ya want?”
“Hurting? No, no, I don’t want anyone hurt.” Jeremiah hesitated. He was wary. This man may be trying to set him. Yet he didn’t look like a lawman. If anything, he was the sort of man the law might find very interesting. On reflection, perhaps he was the sort of man he wanted for his little job. Still questioning his wisdom at this point, Jeremiah leaned forward and lowered his voice. “I want someone persuaded to do something. Nothing too violent. Or disabling. Just a real firm message. If you understand me?”
On the outside, Wheat looked almost disappointed. On the inside, however, he was relieved. He was pretty sure that hurting someone would fall under the category of stupid.
“Yeah I understand ya,” Wheat sighed. “Who and when?”
Jeremiah shook his head. “I need to know a bit more about your … qualifications first,” he said, trying to be matter of fact as if this was a usual everyday conversation. He swallowed nervously and waited to see what the big imitating man would say. Or, with trepidation, do.
Wheat pursed his lips. First time he’d ever been asked for a résumé. For a moment, the request stumped him and then it came to him. He slowly stripped off his gloves, watching Jeremiah closely. Setting the gloves aside, he cracked his knuckles loudly. Jeremiah winced and swallowed. He was left in no doubt that given the right provocation the large mallet like hands may be used on him.
Jeremiah nodded. “Those qualifications will do nicely, thank you.”
Inwardly Wheat smiled. Curry had gone for it. Outwardly, he kept his hard persona up. “Now who is it I gotta see?”
“Sam Flixton. You can find him at Flixton’s Paper Mill, Hardy City. There’s some papers I want him to sign.”
Wheat nodded. “Ya got ‘em on ya?”
“No. I can meet you later and give them to you then.”
“Okay, then we can discuss the recompense at the same time.”
Jeremiah smiled weakly. “How much d’you charge?”
Wheat sniffed. “Dunno yet. Need to check out a few things first. Meet here at seven tonight. Place’ll be more lively then. Less chance we’ll be overheard. ”
Jeremiah nodded. “What do I call ya?”
“Brown.” Wheat hesitated. He didn’t like the alias that had been thrust upon him but he conceded that at least it was a name that wasn’t wanted. “Walter Brown,” he added James Bond style. “An’ who will I be workin’ for?”
“Does it matter?”
“Naw! Guess not.”
The two men nodded in understanding and Jeremiah stood up. “Later, Brown,” he said, before leaving.
Wheat got up shortly afterwards and returned the half-empty whiskey bottle to the bar. He gave the bartender a look that said he wasn’t paying anymore and went off in search of the telegraph office. He had a telegram to send.&&&&&&&&&&&&Wheat obtained the rest of the whiskey bottle he’d started earlier by throwing a few more coins on the counter. The same bartender picked up the coins quickly as Wheat chortled.
“Think we’re getting to know each other better now, barkeep.”
The barkeeper looked a little bilious.
Wheat joined Jeremiah at the same table they had sat in previously.
“Ya got them papers?” he asked sitting down.
In answer, Jeremiah reaching into his inside pocket and brought out the documents.
“I don’t want him hurt Brown. Just persuade him to sign these that’s all.”
Wheat pursed his lips. “That might be kinda difficult, Curry.” He noticed Jeremiah’s sharp look.“Yeah, I asked around. Weren’t too difficult to find out who ya are. Hurtin’ and persuadin’ kinda go hand in hand if ya know what I mean. What’s this fella like? Will he be difficult?”
Jeremiah shook his head. “He’s no hero. He just wants a quiet life.”
“Well now don’t we all. Don’t we all.” Wheat sniffed. “Now ‘bout my fee … it all depends on how much trouble I have so I reckon I’ll trust ya until it’s done. Then we’ll discuss payment.”
Jeremiah nodded and frowned. Not that he knew much about this type of thing but he thought it was unusual to say the least. At the same time, Wheat realised the same thing. He was supposed to be a man for hire after all but knew he couldn’t backtrack.
“’Course if ya were thinking of welchin’ on the deal, I wouldn’t,” Wheat said, casually. “After all I’ll have the papers an’ I’ll be keepin’ ‘em safe ‘till I’s gets paid.” He twitched his nose. “Wouldn’t want ‘em fallin’ into the wrong hands would we?”
“No. I understand. You’ll get ya money.”
Wheat nodded and took a sip of his whiskey. “Sounds like we might have the basis for a good working relationship here, Curry.”
Jeremiah smiled weakly. What would Bloodstone say when he found out that he had given a man he didn’t know those papers. On their own, they weren’t incriminating but the way he was asking this man to get them signed was. He shook his head. He must be mad but he was also desperate.And desperate men do desperate things.
Jeremiah hesitated. “There might be something else ya can do for me. If it’s on your me-an-U of services.”
“Oh yeah and what’s that?”
“Flixton has something which could be very useful to me. Just that I know he keeps it ina safe.”
Wheat pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Not on my me-an-U but I knows someone who could help ya. ‘Course he don’t come cheap. He’s kinda retired but he’s the best there is … at that kinda thing.”
"Can ya put me in touch?”
Wheat nodded slowly. “I reckon. Let me get this little job done for ya first then if you still think it might be something you want doing, we’ll discuss.”
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname