|Western Fiction posted September 6, 2009||Chapters:||...19 20 -21- 22...|
Leland delivers his prisoners to the sheriff..
A chapter in the book THE TOUGH BREED
Making Things Legal Part One
The Peralta Land Scam created hostilities between early settlers and new arrivals to the West. This is a fictionalized account of one incidence. The story begins in 1895.
Cindy quickly climbed the stairs to the attorney’s office. She knocked and forced herself to wait.
“Hi, Mr. Thurmond, Father is awake and wants to see you,” she said, excitedly.
The attorney came around his desk, hugged her and received one in return. “He’s awake? That’s good. Let me gather some papers and I’ll be right with you.”
“I don’t think he will be up to doing much this morning.”
“Honey, before you were even a thought, your father was shot up something awful. He wanted to see me and we both had to fight your mother and Cookie to have thirty minutes together, alone. Your father is a tough ole bird.”
Cindy laughed. “Cookie has told me that several times.”
Niles finished gathering his papers and added some newspapers on top. He smiled when she picked up the newspapers. He opened the door for her. “Let’s go see what he wants.”
Tea and Coffee stopped the horse herd on high ground, about a mile from the Verde River Crossing. The two of them rode ahead and stopped when they saw the buckboard, surrounded by a small group of riders.
Tea took out a spyglass and smiled when he looked at Pettigrew. “Do I have a surprise for you,” he muttered to himself and handed his hunting rifle and spy glass over to Coffee. “Take Ray and Sure Shot with you and work your way into those bushes so you can cover me. Don’t shoot the bastard in the buckboard unless you absolutely have to. I have an old score to settle with him.”
Coffee rested the hunting rifle on his thigh and held the glass to his eye with his free hand. “Some of those bastards are wearing stars.”
“K.D. told me they are impostors. If you have to, kill them with head shots. If any are the real McCoy, we can apologize later.”
“If you pull your gun, they are all dead. The hell with apologizing! Who’s the bastard in the buckboard?”
“A horse thief who tried to steal Amanda from Rachel and got a hoof in the gut. Rachel got away. I tracked him down and brought him back to the ranch, but she told me to let him go. Never did find out his name, but I’ll bet it’s not ‘Pettigrew’.”
“So this is the second time he has tried to steal our horses. What if I shot him in the butt?”
“I prefer you didn’t. If I draw my gun, I’ll take care of him. Remember, if you don’t kill any, we could let them drive the horses back to the K-Bar.”
“Good, then we could turn the bastards over to Leland.”
“I would prefer to turn them over to the sheriff.”
“The sheriff it is. Give me a half hour.”
Leland left Pecos in charge and told him to assign someone to do the cooking. He promised the crew he would return with a cook. He and Slim took the three horse thieves and started for town to deliver them to Sheriff Graham.
The prisoners had their hands tied behind their backs. Leland had charge of one horse’s reins. Slim had charge of the other two.
With a smirk on his face, Slim asked, “Where are you going to find a cook in Hell Hole?”
“You better pray that I do. If I don’t, I’ll demote you and buy the tar and feathers myself. I’ll even loan them the rope.”
“The biscuits weren’t my fault. The flour was old.”
“Can I tell Cookie about the flour being old?”
“If you tell her that, my life wouldn’t be worth a plug nickel.”
“It’s not worth that much, now. I still have to tell Cindy you offered to stand in for me. That’ll probably get us both killed.”
“Maybe we should let these bastards go and head for the hills.”
“Then Dusty, Mike and Big Bill would haunt us until our dying days.”
Slim looked at his boss, “I tell you what. You don’t tell Cindy and Cookie, I’ll find us a cook.”
“It’s a deal.”
Niles Thurmond greeted his client and sat down in the chair beside the bed.
Cindy set the newspapers down on the night stand and walked over to visit with Cookie.
The two men had as much privacy as they would get.
“I need you to go to Santa Fe in my place,” K.D. said.
Niles nodded. “I’ve already planned to. You remember that other thing you planned to do? I’ll take care of that, too.”
“I’ve enough money in the Santa Fe National Bank to cover all the expenses.”
“I know, but I’ll need a new authorization signed so I can spend it in your name.”
“Do you have the paper with you?”
“You should know I do.”
“Have Cindy sign it for me.”
Thurmond turned and called Cindy over. “Please, read this and sign your father's name to it. Under his signature, write the words “signed by” and sign your name.”
Cindy read the paper and looked at her father for guidance. When he nodded, she did as instructed. She handed the paper back to the attorney who folded it and put it back in his pocket.
Niles shook hands with the colonel and gave Cindy a parting hug. “I’ll leave on Monday’s train.”
After the attorney was gone, Cindy questioned her father, “What was the other piece of business?”
“It’s payback to Barker for being a pain in my side. May I have the bottle, please?”
Sheriff Graham looked up from his paperwork when Slim opened the door without knocking. “Got some customers for you,” he said and stepped aside for Leland and the prisoners.
Graham laid his pen down and stood. “Is this all of them?”
Leland pushed his hat back. “These are the ones still living.”
“Sheriff, he hung us upside down and lit a fire under us!” One of the prisoners complained.
“He had reason enough to stake you to ant hills,” Graham said. He looked at Leland. “Why did you bring them in? The way you looked after the burying, I thought you would be decorating trees.”
“Tea asked me to bring them in and I agreed.”
“Well, the circuit judge will be here on Sunday’s train. We can give them a fair trial before we hang them. The gallows will have to be enlarged to handle three at the same time.”
“I’ll like to have the honor of hanging the bastard; a favor I owe Dusty and the boys.”
The sheriff looked at Leland and pondered over his request. “Usually, I do the hanging, but a deputy can do it in my place. You’re still deputized. The standard fee is a dollar per hanging. The County will pay you after the job is done.”
“Give the money to Mr. Joplin. He can use it as a down payment to order the gravestones for Dusty, Mike and Big Bill. I’ll settle the rest with him…. We’re going over to Doc’s place.”
“Wait until I get these guys locked up. Also, I’m going to need statements from you two, but that can wait.”
Leland and Slim were met by Rebel as they entered Barnett’s front yard. Both stopped to look at the shattered gate post.
“Some one took a shot at me last night.”
Leland looked at Rebel, “Where was Cindy?”
“She was with Riley and me. Riley got her out of harm’s way and went with me to try and find the shooter. We didn’t find him.”
“Do you know who shot at you?”
“I got a pretty good hunch, but Cindy made us promise not to tell you.”
“What all did Cindy make you promise not to tell me?”
Rebel looked at him and kept his silence.
“You can tell her I threatened to hang you if you didn’t tell me what happened.”
“I’ll vouch for you,” Slim said.
The cowhand looked at his two bosses and related the story about what happened in Barnett’s backyard.
Leland's face showed his anger. “Slade has gone too far. I’ll shoot the son of a bitch the next time I see him.”
“I kinda wanted that pleasure,” Rebel said.
“If you see him first, you have my permission as long as you make it a gut shot.”
Tea brought the herd to within a couple hundred yards from the crossing before he stopped them. He rode alone to meet with Pettigrew.
“Who the Hell are you? Where is Sam Benson? He’s the one I left in charge.” Pettigrew looked from Tea to the marshals. One of them urged his horse forward to block Tea’s path.
“Benson hired me and the others to help with the raid. We ran into trouble about fifty miles back. Benson was killed in the skirmish. We managed to get away with some of the horses.”
Coffee, Ray and Sure Shot walked out of the bushes behind and to the sides of the group, about fifty feet away.
“Wait a moment! Don’t I know you?” Pettigrew’s voice had a panicked edge
Tea ignored the question and said, “I’d suggest you look around.” He watched as Pettigrew and his men looked behind them. “How’s your hip?” He asked the man in the buckboard.
Pettigrew stared at him without speaking.
A rider intercepted Tea. “Mister, I’m Michael Ferguson, U. S. Marshal. I’ll be taking control of these stolen animals.” He reached for his gun.
“You touch that gun, you’re a dead man,” Tea warned.
“You’d shoot a U. S. Marshal?”
“I’ll give you a demonstration,” Tea said and touched his hat. The fake marshal’s hat flew from his head, followed by a report from Coffee’s rifle.
“What the hell!” Ferguson fought to get his horse under control.
Tea faced the others. “I suggest you gentlemen drop your guns before my friends start seeing how many hats they can shoot off.” He looked at Pettigrew. “If you have a gun, keep it. I want an excuse to blow your ass away.”
Pettigrew’s gun hit the ground first, followed by all the rest. Sure Shot walked off into the bushes to gather their three horses. Coffee and Ray walked over toward the group of men; their rifles ready.
Tea looked at Coffee. “I thought I told you, head shots, not hat shots.”
“I forgot I wasn’t on my horse. When Sure Shot brings them in, I'll ride back out and try it, again.”
“Forget it. Why don’t you and Ray pull their teeth and show them how to herd horses back to the ranch they were stolen from. Tie Mr. Pettigrew and Marshal Ferguson to the back of the buckboard. Sure Shot can give them a guided tour of the landscape until we find a tree.”
“Now wait a minute! You can’t do that!” Pettigrew protested.
“Isn’t that what those thieves said when we hung them upside down and started the fires under them?” Coffee asked.
“We only burned two of them. The third one cried so loud that Leland put him out of his misery.”
Cindy emptied the urine bottle and set it down. She was grabbed from behind by a pair of strong arms and crushed against her assailant.
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