I’d been waiting for almost two hours, still and unmoving, simply waiting. He wouldn’t feel my eyes on him because I wasn’t watching my prey. I had my eyes closed as I was using my ears and I’d wait for as long as it took. He’d made a cold camp, but he had to go for water sooner or later and this was the most direct route.
My bare back was against the rough stone of the boulder behind me and the full moon was in the sky when I heard him come in my direction. Not that he made much noise, because he walked softly, but my ears were very good.
I heard the whisper of his footsteps in the grass as he approached and I reacted thrusting with the stone knife in my hand. I will always thank God for the cloudless sky and the brightness of the moon as the light revealed that this man had blond hair, not brown.
I couldn’t stop my thrust, it was too late for that, but I opened my hand and the knife fell to the ground as my fingers jammed painfully into his chest. Grunting from the pain, I dropped in my tracks and I felt his arm brush my hair as he swung it at me defensively. Rolling frantically on the ground, I got far enough away from him to get up. Snapping to my feet, I heard the cocking of a six-gun. I sped into the bush and safety. My back felt very vulnerable, but thankfully, there were no shots heading in my direction.
He certainly had plenty of time to shoot as I lunged for the safety of cover, if he had intended to do so. But he didn’t fire and my heart was beating madly in my chest as I reached the shelter of the brush.
I kept moving after I reached cover and I heard the click as he let the hammer down on his gun and I realized that he had not come after me. I went to ground a few feet from the camp and thought frantically about what I should do. The thought of killing made me sick. However, the thought of dying made me feel worse and desperately I had tried to kill my attacker.
My heart racing in fear, I cursed myself for my carelessness. Luckily, the moonlight was so bright, as my gun came into my hand, I could see from the small size that it was a child and I held my fire. I knew many people wouldn’t have hesitated at firing at an Indian child and that’s what I hought he was since I could see that he was almost naked.
My attacker had been a kid between nine to twelve years old and despite the fact that he was only wearing a breechclout, he wasn’t an Indian, not with that blond hair, though he could be a half-breed. As I found out later, he was actually eleven years old.
Seeing that it was just a kid, I didn't fire my gun, though, as I bent down to pick up the knife that he had almost slipped between my ribs, I knew that he had come very, very close. If he hadn’t dropped his knife at the very last moment, I’d be dead right now. It was too close for comfort.
While he had tried to kill me, he had changed his mind at the last moment for some reason and dropped his knife. I was alive only for that reason, since he had complete surprise on his side.
Carelessness had almost got me killed, but then again as a US Marshal I’d come close to death on several occasions and I wouldn’t be caught the same way a second time.
I let the hammer down on my gun and sheathed it and looking down I saw the knife on the ground and bent to pick it up. Standing up straight again I looked into the brush surrounding the stream.
The knife was of stone and exquisitely crafted. I’d seen knives like it among some Indian tribes. Even though the adults seldom used them anymore, the kids quite often had them. And just because it was made of stone didn’t mean it couldn’t do the job. From some things I had read humanity had used them for far longer than they had used metal weapons. This little stone knife would slice through flesh very easily.
With a reflex move, my gun was back in my hand as I heard a child’s voice coming out the bush. “Sorry about that, Mister,” the treble voice said earnestly, “I thought you were someone else!”
Well that was no Indian child. As scantily clad as he was, I had assumed he was, though I should have known better. Traveling in New Mexico Territory over the last ten years I had learned it wasn’t unusual to see children who wore very little or in fact nothing at all, in isolated areas like this.
I asked, “Exactly who were you after?”
He said, “Two weeks ago, I was walking along a trail. I didn’t know anyone was anywhere near, yet suddenly I knew there was something wrong and I dropped to the ground. It was a good thing that I did, because a bullet went just over my head. If I had still been on my feet it would have hit me. I crawled away and circled around but by the time I reached the place he had been, he was gone.”
I was somewhat astonished that he’d gone after the one who had shot at him, but from the matter of fact way that he told me about I believed him. I realized I was still holding my gun and I uncocked it and sheathed it again saying, “Well, I’m Baker Hudson and I’m a US Marshal. I was asked to investigate the death of Riley Evens and find his nephew Aaric, if I could. Since we’re only a mile from Riley’s ranch I would guess that would make you Aaric. Come on into the camp, I want to hear the whole story.”
A few seconds later he came into the moonlight. I was amused to see that it was almost ten yards from where his voice had seemed to originate. I had assumed that it would take a bit of coaxing to get him to come in. After all, if someone had tried to kill him, I could easily be the killer’s partner. He answered my question before I asked it, “I tried to kill you yet you didn’t shoot. I think that I can trust you. Besides I need to trust you. I need help and my Uncle said that he knew you.”
I told him, “More than that, Aaric. In fact Riley and I were cousins, so I’m related to you.” He was close enough now that I could see the astonishment on his face, his eyes going wide and his mouth dropped open.
I didn’t know I had any living relatives aside from my grandfather, who didn't want me and was shocked, but as I had said, I needed help. I told him, “I said that the man who tried to kill me looked like you. At least he dressed like you, gray shirt, black jeans and black hat and a six-gun in a cross-draw holster.”
I felt him stiffen at that. I realized that he recognized him, even before he spoke, loathing in his voice, “He’s also related to me, though not to you. His name is Nathan Brand and he’s a hired killer. I didn’t know he’d reached a new low by killing children.”
I said, somberly, “He tried more than once. The second and third times he wasn’t even close. After the third try, I was able to get close enough to see him and I could see that he had brown hair. I got cocky and on his fourth try, he creased me. I felt a tremendous pain in my head and I don’t remember anything more until I woke up in my hideout.”
I shook my head, saying, “I don’t know if it was the same day or not, but I was in the mouth of the cave and I could tell it was daylight.” I gulped remembering that wakeup as I had realized, “I couldn’t see. Even holding my hand up a few inches in front of my face, I couldn’t make it out. I feared that I was going to be blind for the rest of my life. However over the next few days my eyes recovered somewhat, but not completely.”
I said uneasily, “Right now I can see pretty good up to about three feet but over that it begins to blur and at ten feet there’s nothing but haziness. I had enough stockpiled food to last for a few days, but it’s almost gone. While I can still fish and set snares, I can no longer use my bow to hunt and that’s where I got half of my food.”
“Come on into camp, Aaric.” as I began heading that way he asked, “Why did you come here?”
I replied, “I found tracks that indicated that he had stayed here once. While I didn’t really expect to find him here a second time, I had to take a chance. When I found you, as I said I thought it was him and I thought my prayers had been answered.”
From the position I had taken sitting on the ground with my legs crossed under me, I saw him pick up his saddlebags and he took out a small case. He said, “When I became a deputy US Marshal ten years ago I worked with my uncle for a while before he retired. He suffered from an eye problem, which sounds similar to what is affecting you. I see him every once in a while and when he has them he gives me his old pairs of spectacles to give to someone who needs them. If you’re lucky you may be able to use them.”
I bounced to my feet then, excited. He took the spectacles out of the case and handed them to me. With trembling fingers and closed eyes I fastened the wire bows around my ears and then opened my eyes and I could see as well as I ever had.
I said blissfully, “I can see and I think it’s even better than I’ve done for the last couple of years.”
Baker gave a grin and said, “I’m glad, Aaric. First things first, are you hungry?”
I shook my head, telling him, “I had enough left for a good meal and I ate well earlier.”
He nodded with understanding, then said, “All right, to get down to why I’m here. Somebody made a complaint about Glenn Aberdale and I’m here to check it out. He says he killed Riley in self-defense and I’m inclined to believe him. He has a good reputation. I want to ask you what happened?”
I said soberly, “When my mother died, Aunt Sally and Uncle Riley took my in. They liked me, but in a sense, I was always an intruder. I don’t know if they would even have allowed children of their own into their world either.”
I explained, “They were so close they seemed more like two bodies with one mind and I was never totally accepted into their family. There was no time to get the doctor when she went into labor and it was a difficult birth and in the end it was fatal both for Aunt Sally and for the child.”
I continued somberly, remembering it, “In a way Uncle Riley died at the same time. The heart went out of him and for a while he was just marking time. Dale Jenson was a troublemaker and he and everybody else thought he was fast with a gun. Eight months ago Dale pushed my Uncle into a fight. He didn’t even clear leather before my uncle killed him with two bullets in the heart.”
My sadness was very real now, as I remembered and told the marshal, “After that Uncle Riley was on the prod, always angry with the world, though he was alright with me, everyone else was an enemy. Two months after that I found the tracks of some cattle being trailed through Uncle Riley’s property. I told him about them and he just grunted yet I saw a gleam in his eye and he said, 'I’m sorry about this Aaric. I tried to stay for you, but I can’t remain even for you'.”
I had tears in my eyes as I continued, “The next day Glenn Aberdale showed up at our place with his foreman and Mel Larkin, a half-breed Indian tracker who used to work for my Uncle. He simply wanted to know if either of us had seen the rustlers. I know Uncle Riley had planned it and he chose to be insulted and like Dale Jenson had done with him, he pushed Mr. Aberdale into a fight. I don’t know if my Uncle would have been fast enough to take Mr. Aberdale, but he missed his first shot putting it into the dirt and I know that it was deliberate.”
“When my Uncle drew Mr. Aberdale had no choice but to draw as well, and. after Uncle Riley missed. he fired twice. and the bullets took him in the heart.”
The tears were flowing down my cheeks now and I was having a hard time to talk, as I said, "The grief almost choked me then it was so bad, but after Mr. Aberdale sent Mel Larkin into town to fetch the sheriff, I realized that it was better if I disappeared. I knew I had a grandfather, but I know my mother sent him a letter after she got ill and told him about me, but he never replied. I thought I had no more relatives and I didn’t want to end up in no orphanage.”
I explained, “After my grief faded I knew that I could have stayed and Mr. Aberdale would have taken care of me, but I didn’t want to just be an obligation to someone unless I absolutely had no other choice. And I had a choice. When Mel Larkin had worked for my Uncle he had taught me to hunt and track as he had been taught by his grandfather. I was very good at it, so I knew I could survive without any problems.”
Aaric pointed to his eyes and the new spectacles, saying, “If this hadn’t happened I was thinking of going to see Mr. Aberdale anyway. Two months after my Uncle was killed, I was in my hideout and the ground began shaking. I was hugging the ground and it seemed to last forever and I could hear something deeper in the cave as if a collapse had occurred.” He grinned, “I might have wet my pants, if I’d been wearing pants of course.” looking down at the skimpy breechclout that he was wearing.
When he looked back up at me, “Do you like being a lawman?" a query in his treble voice.
Despite my surprise at the sudden change in the conversation, I thought about it seriously for a moment before I answered, “Yes. It’s something that I like doing. Yet, it’s not something that I intend to do for the rest of my life. I have two older brothers and they’ve been working with my father on the ranch and will inherit it when he dies. He’s only in his mid-fifties, so hopefully he will live a long time.”
“I’ve been saving my money for a long time and in another five or six years I should have enough to buy a small ranch of my own and I intend to settle down and raise a family.”
“How would you feel about sharing a large amount of money?” Aaric asked, seriously.
I raised my eyebrows in question and with the moon light it was probably quite bright enough so that he could see me but I simply said, “As long as it’s nothing illegal or morally wrong, I have no objection to becoming wealthy.”
Aaric pursed his lips, “As I said, the cave I was in had a collapse. Most of it was from the ceiling but some of it was from a wall, a wall that had been built to look as much like the rest of the cave as possible. It was hiding a huge cache of gold bars. I could barely lift one, it must have weighed as much as I do or more and I counted one hundred bars. All the ones that I could see have the date 1749 stamped on the tops, so I figure that they’re Spanish.”
Aaric said with determination, “I found it and while I don’t mind sharing it, it’s mine and I don’t want anyone else to control it. Since I’m a kid almost everyone will think that I should have someone be in charge of it for me, ‘for my own good’ of course. That’s really why I’ve stayed out here so long. I’ve been trying to figure out a way get it to town and then control the money myself."
I said, musingly, “It sounds like you found the Alcalde’s Treasure. People have been searching for that for over a hundred years. The Alcalde was rumored to have been told about a gold mine. Not unexpectedly, he killed the one who had told him about it and he and other members of his family went to find it. It was rumored that they found an enormous treasure. Then they disappeared never to be seen again.”
I said solemnly, “As I said, I’m not greedy, I don’t mind sharing it. What do you think would be fair?"
I could see him thinking about it seriously and then he said, "It's hard to say what would be fair. What would be realistic is another matter. While normally I prefer to tell the whole truth in this case, it probably would be a mistake. Judge Pearson told me that Riley had left a will, giving the property to you. It's very likely that the hoard is on your land."
Baker thought it over a bit more before saying, "As you say it's probable that everybody will try to protect you, by controlling your access to it. It could very well be that they would not allow you to make a deal with me, choosing a guardian of their choice not yours."
He grinned, telling me, "You found it and I agree that it should be yours to do with as you want. If we say I found a map and came to you because you own the land, they would probably consider it fair if you got 80% and I got 20%. If I get a substantial portion of it they won't think that I might want to become your guardian as a way to get the money for myself."
I grinned as well, saying, "I bet that you do a bang up job finding crooks. You have a sneaky way of thinking," and I giggled. I intended it as a compliment and he took it as such.
Lawyer Howarth cleared his throat and I assumed he was going to give me the bad news, but what he said astonished me. “You may be aware that Edwin had me prepare a new will for him.” and I nodded.
Howarth shook his head and his face was grave as he said, “The new will would have divided his estate, seventy-five percent to his grandson, Aaric Evens and twenty-five percent to you. He was sound of mind, but the long illness had changed him. I think he was thinking with his heart, not his head and felt he had wronged his daughter and grandson. He decided to do something about it.”
He gave a little flick with his hands and then continued with a sigh, “I don’t like you Matthew and I never have. I think you’re a fortune hunter and if you were a woman, you would have married him for his money. However it doesn’t matter what he intended to do. He became too ill after I visited him to sign the Will, so the old Will is still valid and it gives all of his estate to you.”
I put a bland face on, though I was shocked and I was cursing Curran Dalbert in my mind, anger rising. I never would have hired Brand if I had known that Edwin had never signed the Will.
I said pompously, not meaning a word of it, “It’s a pity that his illness took him before he could make amends for his neglect of his daughter and grandson.”
Howarth gave a derisive smile and said, “As I said, I don’t like you, but then again I didn’t like Edwin either and I never tried to hide it. The only good thing he ever produced was his daughter, Caitlin and he knew it, but he drove her away by trying to dominate her. When she ran away from him and got married, he disowned her. Only at the very end did he realize that what he had done was wrong.”
He shrugged, saying, “If you have any decency in you, Matthew you’ll find his grandson and see what kind of life he’s leading and if you can, better it.”
I thought about that for a moment and I realized that Desmond Howarth was right and nodding said, “I’ll do that Desmond. In fact, I’ll do more than that! I have no relatives of my own left, so if you prepare a will for me, I’ll name Aaric as my heir. In fact,” and I reached over to my desk and got some paper and a pen.
I yelled, “Casey!!! Esmeralda!!!” And I began to write on the piece of paper.
When the two I shouted for arrived at the open door of the office Casey asked, “What’s up, Boss?” for the two of them.
I picked up what I had written, saying coolly, “Edwin left the ranch to me. Apparently he had intended to change his will in favor of his grandson, but was unable to do so before he died.” I read out what I had written, “I, Matthew Agars, being of sound mind, leave all my properties, to Aaric Evens, son of Caitlin Evens and Davis Evens and grandson of Edwin Thompson.”
I explained, “Desmond feels that since Edwin gave me the ranch, the least I can do is take care of his grandson and I agree. I just want you to witness this document. Since I have no relatives and no prospective marriage in the foreseeable future, I also intend to leave the ranch to him, if something happens to me.” thinking with amusement, that if Aaric was still alive, he was welcome to be my heir, but knowing Brand, it was unlikely that he was still in the land of the living.
I could see my offer had taken Desmond off guard and I could see unexpected approval in his eyes. Neither Casey nor Esmeralda had known Edwin’s daughter. While I had no pretensions at being a good man, I was quite likable and they signed as witnesses with smiles of their faces.
I said to Desmond Howarth, “I know where the boy lives. I knew that Edwin might change his will when he asked me to locate his daughter and grandson. I found that Caitlin was dead, but his aunt and uncle had taken the boy in. He was in good hands at the time, but that was over a year ago, so I have no idea what his situation is today.”
“It’ll probably take me three or four days to get there, but I’ll leave after I’ve gone over things with Tag. That shouldn’t take more than an hour or so.”
Desmond looked at me with interest and asked, “Why are you doing this Matthew? You certainly don’t care about the boy.”
I was about to tell him to mind his own business, but surprisingly I realized that I wanted to tell him. I thought about that for a moment, then gave a mental shrug and said, “I do have a sense of honor, Desmond. I know that to you it would be strange; certainly you would probably find it unpalatable, perhaps even revolting.”
“I always put myself first; no one else has any importance to me. However, when my interests are not involved I look at things objectively and in many respects that part of my honor is probably very much like yours.”
I stopped at that point, not really caring what he thought of me and I really didn’t care if Aaric Evens was still alive. Pity wasn’t a part of my makeup. If Brand had already killed him, I would lose no sleep over it. Yet at the same time I needed to call Brand off if it was still possible.
I went to the cave and got my bedroll and the bag with my clothing, then returned to Baker's campsite for of the rest of the night. I felt very comfortable as I went to sleep with Baker's even breathing in my ears.
We got up with the sun, which I was used to doing anyway. For the first time in months I got dressed in my regular clothes. After wearing only a breechclout for several months it felt really strange to get dressed in shirt and trousers again.
Baker told me, "We need to go into Coburn and have you swear out your deposition, so that Aberdale can be cleared of any suspicion of wrongdoing." And I nodded with understanding.
I said to him, "I better show you the gold first, so you don't think I'm just imagining it." I hesitated for a moment wondering if he would want to ride. He lifted up his right foot and I could see that his boots didn't have high heels, like most did.
Baker told me, "Unlike most riders I have to be able to walk at times, especially when I'm tracking someone. While I have the same dislike of walking as most riders, I'm more likely to walk than most would."
It wasn't far, but I took him in a round about way because Brand was still out there. That would make it much harder to follow us over rocky ground. Once we got to my cave he waited outside, while I went in. The earth shake had brought down some of the ceiling as I had mentioned to Baker. The passageway to the gold was too narrow for a normal sized adult.
I hoped we would be able to clear some of it. I didn't really want to have to lug all one hundred bars out by myself. After all, I was having trouble with just one of them. I only weighed seventy pounds, and, as we later found out, each of the bars weighed a bit more than I did at seventy-five pounds.
However, as I got it out and set it down, I was in a cheerful frame of mind. Baker gave a whistle at the size of the bar. He took out a jackknife and scratched the top of the bar and then said, "It certainly appears to be gold and I'm sure the Alcalde had experts."
After hiding the bar again, we went back to his camp and packed up. He took me up in front of him on his horse, who he called Dude. Baker told me, with a grin in his voice, "He loves to get dressed up and he loves to show off. What other name could I possibly give him?" I had to giggle at that, remembering the way Dude had perked up when Baker had put his saddle and bridle on.
We headed for Mr. Aberdale's place first to get a horse for me to ride. With Brand out there, Baker didn't feel it was wise to ride double for any longer than was absolutely necessary.
Mr. Aberdale and Mel Larkin were in the yard when we rode into the ranch yard. Baker handed me down to Mel Larkin who gathered me in his arms. I flung my arms around his neck and said, cheerfully, "Hiya Mel, didya miss me?" And I gave him a peck on the forehead.
Mr. Aberdale said sardonically, "He couldn't have missed you too much. He didn't try very hard to find you." And I giggled again as Mel with a grin on his gray bearded face set me on the ground.
He looked at his boss and growled, "The kid really was as hard to find as I said. I only really had a chance to find him a coupla times and he seemed to be doing fine on his own. I taught him real good."
He tapped the bow of my new specs, asking, "When did you get the extra eyes?"
I said soberly, "I was fine up till the last couple weeks. Since then, somebody's been trying to kill me. He ain't as good as you and he ain't as good as me, but he was too good to get careless with and I did and he got me."
I put my hands on the wire frames of my new glasses and I told him, "It's lucky Baker had these, anything over three feet I'm pretty well blind without them."
I heard a screaming whinny from the corral and I jerked my head in that direction. Something told me to head that way. I had been around horses all of my life, but this one was unusual. He wasn't big, probably about fourteen hands and he was plain ugly. I rested my arms on the top bar of the corral resting my chin on my arms.
I heard the three adults come up behind me. I asked, "Where did you get that ugly brute?"
Mr. Aberdale said ruefully, "An old horse trader sold him to me with several others. The rest of them are all fine, but no-one can stay on this one. He's not vicious, but he's a wild thing, when anyone gets on him though I can probably get my money back by selling him to a Wild West show."
I was drawn to the horse for some reason. Suddenly, I had a hunch and I wondered why Mel hadn't thought of it. I asked, "Has anyone thought that the horse trader might have gotten the horse from an Indian? If he had then maybe the horse is used to being mounted on the Indian side. It doesn't take much to set some horses off."
Knowing Mel, I giggled, "Mel's been making money off him," and looking at Mel's carefully bland face I knew I was right.
Mr. Aberdale asked with humor in his voice, "How much have you made so far, Mel?"
Mel said with a chuckle, in his voice, "Almost a 100 bucks boss. If you decided to sell him, I woulda told you."
Mr. Aberdale, looking down at me had a solemn look on his face. He said to me, "I can't give your uncle back to you, Aaric, but giving you something will make me feel better. If you're right about the horse he's yours."
I told him what I had told Baker, "You don't have to be sorry, Mr. Aberdale. Uncle Riley used you. He wanted to rejoin his wife, Sally and he pushed you into the fight, deliberately, to get himself killed." And I felt a shooting ache in my heart, at the sorrow that went through me at the mention of my uncle's death.
I shook myself, literally and then said, "But I'll take the horse. When I get some money, I'll pay you for him," intending to pay him, when I got money from the treasure.
I walked over to Mel's horse Fargo, which was tied up to the corral. After saying my hellos to the horse who was an old friend and giving him caresses, I took down Mel's lariat. Not something I would have done, if Mel wasn't a good friend.
I asked, "What do ya call him?"
Mr. Aberdale said with humor in his voice, "The only name suitable for your tender ears is Dustoff; because everyone who's tried to ride him so far has had to dust himself off. None of the other names can be used in polite society," and I giggled again.
Taking his word that Dustoff, no, I would call him Dusty, wasn't vicious, I slipped through the bars of the corral. He just looked at me shaking his head a bit. Shaking out the rope, I built up a loop and with a flick of my wrist I sent it towards Dusty and watched it settle around his neck.
He shook his head again and reared a bit, but he recognized the feel of a rope and he settled down knowing that he couldn't fight the rope. While I believed Mr. Aberdale, at the same time I didn't intend to take any chances. Moving up hand over hand, I moved towards the horse, watching him carefully just in case, crooning at him. Just nonsense words and a bit of humming.
He pricked his ears forward, but there was no problem and I was soon at his head, caressing him, talking to him, letting him get used to my scent. I didn't try to rush him. I was in no hurry and when I sensed he was ready, I began leading him to the side of the corral.
Mel had a bridal ready for me and hopping up on the top rail I put it on Dusty and then removed the lariat. Getting back on the ground I moved so that I could mount him from the right side, or Indian side. It wasn't a nasty term, it's just that most Indians mounted from the right side rather than the left like most other riders did.
Mel had a hold of the bridal so that he couldn't rear. Jumping up I caught hold of his mane and scrambled astride him. It certainly seemed that I was right, I could see him take a glance over his shoulder at me, but he didn't even quiver as I settled down on his back.
Mel handed me the reins and I began putting Dusty through his paces. He was both intelligent and well-trained and he had the smoothest stride of any horse I had ever ridden.
I couldn't try him out in a full run, but in all his other gaits he moved smoothly and efficiently. He also astonished me with his agility and balance. He could turn on a dime and give you nine cents change.
Dismounting I gave him the tap that Mel had taught me and he went to his knees and then rolled on his side. It was an old Indian trick. While I might never need it, it was nice to know, just in case.
Bringing him back to his feet I led him over to the site of the corral. I grinned, at Mr. Aberdale saying, "Are you sure you really want to give him to me? He's well trained and I think he's prob'ly really fast as well."
He shook his head, saying with a smile on his face, "He's all yours Aaric. By the way, the horse trader said his Indian name meant easy mover. Unfortunately, I can't pronounce the original name." and he looked over his shoulder at Mel and chuckled at the look of surprise on the man's face.
We got to town a little after two in the afternoon. After putting up the horses in the livery stable, we went first to Hatcher's Diner to have something to eat. By that time most of the lunch traffic was over and we had the diner almost to ourselves. There was no one close enough to hear us if we didn't talk too loud.
After I finished eating and despite knowing that I could pay him back, I hesitated to ask him, but finally I did so, saying earnestly and nervously, "Can you get a couple hundred bucks? I need to see a man about buying a dog. I promised myself, if I ever had the money I would."
I put my elbows on the table, telling him, "I know that's a lot of money for a dog but I made friends with one a year ago, I asked the owner if I could buy the dog. He was being smart, because he never thought I would ever have $200, but he said he would sell me the dog if I ever offered him that much money."
He looked at me with intent, brown eyes and asked, "Is the dog really worth that much?"
I shook my head and said, "Prob'ly to no one else but me."
Baker told me, "If he was just being smart, he might not sell to you despite the large amount of money."
I grinned and giggled saying, "Oh there won't be any problem in getting him to sell."
He raised his eyebrows, but said, "I need to go to the bank, anyway. You need to be outfitted and we're going to need a couple of wagons as well."
Baker looked around to make sure that there was no one, close enough to hear us before lowering his voice and saying, "There's two ways to do this; either secretly or with a well armed group. Secret is possible, but always dicey. A well armed group is better, but expensive."
I told him, "As I said I'm not greedy. I'd rather be safe than sorry," and he nodded in agreement.
After Aaric swore out his deposition before the judge, we went to the bank. I used the bank draft that I always carried with me to get $2000 out of the bank. I gave Aaric four $50 bills so that he could buy his dog.
It appeared that the man who owned the dog was a tailor. Aaric waved at the front of the store as we entered an alleyway and said, "Mr. Pankhurst owns the dog. He and his wife live above the shop."
The backyard was fenced off and the gate had a sign on it saying, BEWARE OF DOG. Me I tended to listen to warning signs and I hesitated. However Aaric obviously had no qualms, for he opened the gate and walked right in.
The dog was a large cross breed and he obviously had a lot of wolf in him. He was tied with a short chain fastened to a back shed. As we got nearer the dog began to bark viciously. At least I thought it was viciously at first, but then I realized that it was a happy barking.
Aaric said sourly, "Mr. Pankhurst isn't very inventive. He just named him Dawg." and then he threw himself at the dog and tackled him around the neck. They went to the ground in a happy mix of boy and dog.
A few seconds later, the back door of the tailor shop, burst open and I assumed it was Pankhurst. He shouted with anger, "I told you to stay away from that dog, you little bastard!!" I guess he was too angry to see me, for he continued, "You no longer have your uncle to protect you!!"
When he started forward I raised my arm to bar his progress, saying in a cold voice, "But I'm here, Pankhurst!!" And the man looked at me in shock.
Aaric who was kneeling beside Dawg with his arm around the dog's neck, said cheerfully, "Let him go Baker. He hasn't got the guts to get within ten feet of us."
The man said angrily, "Why you little...!" But I could see that Aaric was right. The man had no intention of getting any closer.
Aaric stood up and taking the money out of his trouser pocket told him, "You said if I ever got 200 bucks, you'd sell Dawg to me."
Pankhurst had a sullen and confrontational look on his face and I knew he was going to refuse. He had an angry sound in his voice when he said, "No way kid!! He's mine and I'm not selling him to you."
Aaric's small face took on an absolutely fiendish look as he yelled, "Mrs. Pankhurst!!!"
I saw Pankhurst's face go slack as a woman's head popped out of an upstairs window. She said, in an obvious glad voice, "Mel told me that you were fine, but I was still worried about you. I'm glad that you're all right."
Aaric nodded his head and said, "Thanks for worrying about me Mrs. Pankhurst. I got the $200 to pay for Dawg. Mr. Pankhurst doesn't seem to want to sell."
Mrs. Pankhurst's head turned towards her husband and she said in a hard voice, "Now, if I thought you liked the dog it might be different. You hate him and you're afraid of him. Sell him the dog, Henry or don't bother to come back into the shop!!" Her head withdrew and the slamming shut of the window punctuated her order.
Aaric unfastened Dawg which I figured was a mistake, but I didn't stop him. The way Dawg looked at Pankhurst and growled, I figured we might be mopping him up from the ground.
Aaric just said, in a quiet tone of voice, "No Dawg, he's not worth it." The dog twisted his head to look at the boy and he stopped growling. As Pankhurst sullenly made out the bill of sale, it was obvious who wore the pants in his family.
A few minutes later, we were heading for the General Store. Aaric looked up at me and grinned, "Mr. Pankhurst is just the type of man who would beat his wife. She has four brothers and a Pa all well over six feet tall and he's terrified of them. She got the money from her family and she owns the shop and does most of the tailoring."
Aaric hadn't been particularly enthused with the clothes I had bought him, but he had liked the Bowie knife. He said and it would be much easier now to skin out game. After we went to the hotel to check in and drop off his clothes, we headed for Max Willows' gunsmith shop. He perked up. I shook Max's hand in greeting, he was an old friend.
He asked, "Gun problems, Baker?"
I shook my head and gave a wave of my hand at Aaric, who was looking around with interest. I said, "Aaric is my second cousin. With Riley's death, my family is his closest relatives. I want to get him a rifle."
Max pursed his lips, saying, "I've got something a little special. It will be more expensive if you want to go that way, but it's a really nice weapon if you're ready to pay the extra."
I was curious and I had to see what he had to offer. I gave a nod saying, "Let's see what you have."
He told me, "I got it from a man, going back East." He reached under the counter and brought out a cased Model 73 Winchester and opened the box; it was a One of a Hundred and a beautiful weapon. I said to Aaric, "If I was any good with a rifle, I'd take it and get you another one." With regret, I shook my head, "I'm adequate, but that's all. If you want it, it's yours."
Max smiled, saying, "I've seen you shoot a rifle, Baker and you're more than adequate." Well I wasn't really that bad, but compared to some shooters I've seen, I wasn't really that great.
Aaric eagerly picked the rifle up off of the counter. He obviously knew what he was doing, because he handled it knowledgeably. He said matter-of-factly, "Uncle Riley had a Winchester 73, as well. I did all of the hunting for us over the last couple of years. Uncle Riley was killed before we had gotten in our monthly supplies. The only rifle bullets we had was what was in his Winchester."
He shook his head, "That's one of the reasons I didn't bother to take Uncle Riley's rifle with me. Also, I didn't want something that made that much noise. I preferred the silence of my bow." Aaric told us, "I got a deer about every two months or so, but I went after quail and pheasant or turkey more often. It cut down on the supplies we had to buy."
Max asked in what was probably a logical question, "Did you use a shotgun to go after the birds?"
Both of us were surprised when Aaric shook his head, "Uncle Riley didn't have no shotgun, I used the rifle." He was too busy examining the rifle and didn't notice our looks of surprise. The smaller game birds were notoriously hard enough to hit with a shotgun, let alone a rifle.
Aaric looked up at Max and said, "It's a real beauty! Can I try it out?" Max nodded and handed him a box of bullets and Aaric loaded the rifle's magazine, but didn't chamber a round. Max locked the front door, putting a sign in the window saying, Back in A Few Minutes and we headed out the back door to his shooting range.
We went out the backdoor across the yard and through the back gate. The place I used as a firing range was a small box canyon and it was half a mile from the town.
It was about five hundred yards deep and a hundred yards wide at the mouth. A Winchester 73 because it used the same bullet as a Colt .44 pistol wasn't really that accurate at more than one hundred to one hundred and fifty yards, so that was plenty deep enough for our needs.
I had targets set up at 10, 20, 30 and 50 yards for pistols. There were also targets at 100, 150, 200, 300, 400 and 500 yards. Each target had four rings, the outer three were white and the inner ring, the bull's-eye was red.
Aaric stood at the firing line, which was simply a flagstone; I had set in the ground. He said, "I'll take a few shots at the 50 yard target first."
He used the lever action to chamber a round and getting set he brought the rifle smoothly to his shoulder. Once it was in position he gently squeezed off a shot.
Using the binoculars I had brought along, I saw it hit and told him, "That was in the outer ring."
Aaric nodded and chambering another round, he made a minute adjustment and squeezed off a second shot. This one hit the second ring and after telling Aaric that, he chambered another bullet and fired again. He just ticked the outer edge of the bull's-eye.
The next shot was right in the center and this time he didn't wait for me say anything. Moving slowly and methodically he continued firing until the magazine was empty. By that point, the bull's-eye had been obliterated and none of the shots had gone into the other rings.
Aaric reloaded the magazine and told us that he was going to try for the 100 yard target now. I brought the binoculars back up to my eyes. Chambering a round, he fired and apparently the shots at the 50 yard target had got him sighted in because his first shot, ticked the bull's-eye.
I told Aaric and his next shot was right in the center. I expected him to do the same thing to this target that he had done to the last but he did not. Instead he brought the rifle down and moving slowly, he brought the rifle to his shoulder and touched off a shot.
Aaric did that several times until the magazine was empty. He gave a nod of approval and after refilling the magazine but not chambering a round, he turned to us and said with quiet satisfaction, "It's a mighty straight shooting gun."
Baker said with respect, "It takes a mighty good shooter to get the most out of even the most accurate of rifles. I think you're one."
As Aaric went bright red from the complement, I had to agree.
After we picked up the shell casings, so that they could be reloaded, we headed back to the shop.
Mandy Jennings was just coming out of the back gate. She said, "Hi Mr. Willows, Ram got out again." Ram, short for Rambunctious, was Mandy's eight week old kitten. He was an escape artist who was always getting out and for some reason he always headed for my woodshed.
And so he had done this time as well. As he heard Mandy's voice, he slipped out of a hole in the back of the shed.
Mandy opened the gate and ran past us after her kitten, yelling, "You come back here Ram right now!!!" I gave a grin of amusement. I knew sooner or later, the kitten would let himself be caught, but for the moment he was enjoying the thrill of the chase.
But suddenly I heard the kitten scream in fear for himself and Mandy's shriek of fear for her kitten.
Spinning around I saw that Ram had been taken by a hawk and I figured the kitten was a goner. I saw both Baker and Aaric spinning around as well. I thought Baker would be the kitten's only chance but I thought it was a forlorn hope. The hawk was already forty yards away, which was long-range for a six-gun when you didn't have time to take careful aim.
I saw Baker's hand blur into motion, as it moved across his body and snapped his gun out of his cross draw holster. He thumbed of two shots so close together they almost sounded like one. He might have singed the hawk's tail feathers, but that's as close as he came.
I knew how fast Baker could move, because I'd seen him draw on several occasions. But as fast as Baker was moving, Aaric was moving even faster. His hand was a blur as he chambered a round and the rifle just flowed to his shoulder, coughing out its deadly round just a fraction of a second after Baker's shots.
The hawk was swatted out of the sky by the deadly lead projectile. Luckily for Ram the hawk crashed into some bushes before hitting the ground. When we got to him, the kitten didn't have any obvious injuries, but he was probably bruised pretty good. As Mandy took him in her arms, he was wailing and shaking like a leaf.
Mandy looked at Aaric and said solemnly, "Thank you boy for saving my kitty." And then she burst into tears and fled for home with Ram.
Aaric said a trifle ruefully, "I don't like to shoot birds I can't eat, but the hawk was asking for it coming right into town like that." and we both nodded in agreement.
Baker said to me in a quiet voice, "I knew he was good, but I didn't realize how good. That was an astonishing shot. With the handicap of having to chamber a round first, he was still only a fraction of a second behind me." All I could do was to nod in agreement. Aaric had trained himself to use the new rifle and he had been methodical. He had revealed his accuracy, but he hadn't shown how fast he was.
Going back into his shop, we took care of the financial details. Max was the one to go to in Coburn when you wanted to get the news around that you were hiring and I asked him to spread the word that I was doing so. I wanted ten tough men and at least a couple who had been miners.
Then we headed for Ted's Leather Goods. There were a couple of nice saddles in the window. One was a really fancy saddle and the other was a more utilitarian saddle. I saw Aaric dismiss the fancy saddle immediately, his eyes fastening on the other one. I had gotten a pretty good glimpse into his personality over the last few hours and I wasn't surprised that he seemed to prefer the plainer saddle.
I didn't know Ted Milton that well; he had only opened his shop four months ago. I hadn't needed to stop in his store on the two occasions I had been in Coburn since he opened. A bell rang as we opened the door announcing our entrance. A few seconds later he came through the door to the back.
Ted nodded and asked us, "What can I do for you folks?"
Aaric said after a quick look at me, "I'd like to see the saddle that you have in the window?"
Ted nodded and asked confidently expecting that a kid would want, "The fancy one?"
Aaric shook his head and said, "That one's nice, but I prefer the plainer one." and I saw surprise and then approval on Ted's face.
He lifted the saddle, carefully out of the window and placed the saddle on the burro where we could examine it more closely. Ted had a good reputation and the workmanship was outstanding. He also had a selection of finely crafted saddle blankets and we took one of those as well.
We also needed a saddle sheath and a leather cartridge belt for Aaric. Normally we would have gotten the belt at Max's place. However, he didn't have any in Aaric's size, so one would have to be made up special. Ted said it wouldn't be difficult to make and it would be ready in the morning. We also arranged for him to keep the saddle and blanket until then.
We headed for the hotel and Aaric looked comfortable holding the rifle. We were about twenty yards from the hotel, when I noticed a man walking towards us.
I nudged Aaric and when he looked up at me, I said, "That's Nathan Brand. Let's have a talk with him?"
Brand was a cousin of mine and we looked very much alike except that his hair was brown and mine was blond. He also tended to choose the same type of clothes that I did and he wore a six-gun in a cross draw holster like I did. The clothes were similar, but they were also much more expensive since he also tended to be a little bit of a dude, which perhaps was surprising, considering the way he earned his money.
Aaric said, "Yeah why don't we!" He began waving and trotting towards the man with Dawg, at his side. He yelled, "Hi, Mr. Brand, Baker says you!re his cousin. He's my cousin as well, so we have something in common." as if he had completely forgotten that the man had tried to kill him.
As I got closer, that was obviously not the case. Aaric said to Dawg, "Take a good whiff, Dawg. You won't meet a hired killer very often. He came too close for comfort."
I knew Brand didn't like dogs and as Dawg took a good whiff the man snarled and drew back his left foot. However the growl deep in Dawg's throat was much more menacing and Brand carefully put his foot back on the ground.
And then Aaric spoke in a voice devoid of all emotion and despite the fact that he was only a little kid, it was the scariest voice I had ever heard. He said, "You better make sure you get me next time, Mr. Brand. If you don't, I'm coming after you and you can't run fast enough or far enough to get away from me."
I knew that Aaric meant every word and I decided to back him up, "I just bought him the rifle he's carrying and he shot a hawk on the wing." There was shock on Brand's face and I decided to add to his woes, as I continued, "I was talking to Mel Larkin out at Glenn Aberdale's place. I'm sure that you're aware that Mel Larkin is considered the best tracker in New Mexico territory. Mel says that Aaric is better."
I could see that Brand's hands were opening and closing in shock and anger. Aaric gave a flip of his hand saying, "I know it's not very nice, but I hope I never see you again, Mr. Brand."
As we were walking away from him towards the hotel Aaric asked, "Do you think I convinced him Baker?"
I shook my head. I said solemnly, "In a way. You impressed him despite the fact that you're only a kid. Right now, he's even a little frightened of you. But in the morning, it'll be as if the fear never existed. He's been that way since he was a kid. That makes him very dangerous, because in the long-term, he's not afraid of anyone or anything."
After we met Nathan Brand, we went back to the hotel, where we would be staying for the night. Unfortunately for me this was the county seat and a major stop for the railroad, so it was a elaborate place and it even had a bathroom on every floor with running water and actual flush toilets. The toilets went to a septic tank at the back of the hotel.
When Baker told me that we would be taking baths I argued a bit, but I couldn't get out of it. After that completely unnecessary activity, in my mind at least, we went downstairs to eat.
On the main floor of the hotel they had a good café and a saloon. Because the hotel tended to be the meeting place for the town, it was a good meal, but I was suddenly sleepy, so sleepy that I could hardly keep my eyes open.
I can remember vaguely stumbling back up to our room Baker keeping me from falling on my face. I don't remember getting undressed or going to bed. I woke up briefly several hours later and I was naked, so I either got undressed by myself, or maybe Baker undressed me and put me to bed.
The sounds of his breathing in the bed next to me was comforting and I turned over and went back to sleep.
I usually rose with the dawn, but when Baker shook me awake, I could hear the town hall clock chiming eight. Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and stretching, I sat naked on the side of the bed for a moment before pushing myself to my feet. I got into my new clothes and put on my moccasins which I preferred to boots.
As I mentioned, the hotel had bathrooms, but they also had wash basins in each of the rooms and I reluctantly had a quick wash and then we went down to have breakfast in the café. I thought it prudent to take my new rifle down with me. Probably most people would think I was trying to be a show off.
Unlike last night when we had sat at a table for two this morning, Baker chose a table for four. I didn't know why at first; because there was an unoccupied table for two.
Two men who had been eating at one of the tables for two, finished their meal and putting some money on the table they got up and walked over to ours. They were complete opposites; one of them was probably twenty five to thirty years old, over six feet tall and very slender. He was dark and clean-shaven. The other one was ten or fifteen years older and stocky, bordering on being fat and was probably about five feet seven inches tall. He was blond and he sported a full beard and it was hard to tell if he had any gray in his hair.
The taller one put his hand on the back of one of the empty chairs and asked, "Mind if we sit, Baker?"
Baker shook his head and said, "Have a seat." As they did so, Baker said to me, "The tall one is Chuck Denison, the fat one is Rick Chase." Saying it with a grin and Chase took it with a grin, obviously not insulted. He continued, introducing me, "The boy is Aaric Evens, he's my second cousin." The two men nodded at me.
Dennison said, "Hear you're hiring Baker?" Nodding at Baker's badge, before continuing, "Law business, or private?"
Baker told him, "Private business. Two days to a week maximum, about forty miles of traveling and you buy your own bullets. $100 for your time and a good bonus at the end."
The stout one asked, "Mining or fighting?"
Baker gave a laugh, saying with amusement, "Which would you prefer, Rick?"
The man said with grunt of laugher, "If I have to do either, I'd prefer to do the fighting."
Baker had a fake look of sympathy on his face, as he said, "I'm afraid that you'll have to settle for the mining Rick. Unless things go wrong, there won't be any fighting. I need men, willing and able to fight if it comes to that."
The man leaned forward and spoke more softly as he asked, "A natural cave or a mine?"
Baker, lowered his voice as well, as he said, "It's a cave. There was an earth shake here a few months ago. It brought down some of the roof and the passage is just big enough for Aaric here, but no adult can squeeze through. From what I could see the rest of the roof is fairly solid, but you're the miner. We'll be taking two wagons, so we'll bring some timbers along just in case and you can shore if up if you want." The man nodded.
The other man, Chuck Denison, said in a low voice as well, "A natural cave, that probably means you're looking for treasure. I hope this isn't a wild goose chase, Baker?"
Obviously, he trusted these men, since he had no hesitation in saying, still in a low voice, "Not looking Chuck. Found!!" And the man nodded.
Rick Chase said, as he was standing up, "We'll take it on, Baker. When do we leave?"
Baker stood up and offered his hand, as he said, "I want to get ten men in total. If possible, I'd like to get all of the men today and leave sometime tomorrow. It depends on who's available. I'll leave a message with Max, so check in with him in the morning. If there's no news tomorrow then it will likely be the day after."
The two men shook hands with him and then with me and nodded a goodbye and we got down to ordering and then eating our breakfast. We got the rest of the men that we needed by the middle of the afternoon. They were in order of hiring, Taylor Shandy, Paco González, Rick Jack, Tom Everest, Dandy Myers, Albert Feingold, Todd Jansen and Ray Ellers.
Two of the men would act as drivers for the wagons that we rented later in the afternoon. We also bought the timber Baker had mentioned, in case the cave needed shoring up.
We were eating supper. From our table we could see into the hotel and the front desk. I saw a man come down the stairs and go over to the desk. He was obviously asking a question of the desk clerk. The clerk pointed towards the café and the man headed in our direction.
He paused in the doorway and looked around. Spying us, he walked over to our table. Since we were eating at a table for two he plucked a chair from the next table, which was unoccupied and sat down.
Baker said to him in a cold voice, "I don't believe I invited you to sit down Agars!"
The man said, humor, in his voice, "That's all right. I've never needed an invitation to butt in where I'm not wanted." waving his hand in a gesture of dismissal.
"I have some things to say to you." He smiled before continuing, "Off the record, of course," nodding at Baker's badge. "Perhaps you might want to tell Aaric who I am first?"
Baker just nodded though he had a frown on his face. He said to me, "Aaric, this is Matthew Agars. He showed up, twelve years ago and began working for your grandfather at the Circle T. He's very likable, to most people, though I've always been wary of him."
Baker said scornfully, "Thompson always was a lousy judge of character. He misjudged his daughter and tried to rule her life. He thought Agars was the perfect man for Caitlin and intended to marry her off to him. Then when he died, Agars would have gotten the ranch."
Baker shook his head and those was a bit of a grin on his face as he said, "He underestimated Caitlin and was shocked when she ran off with your father and married him. He disinherited her and made Agars his heir."
Agars smiled, saying, "I wasn't particularly anxious to get married, especially at that time, but I would've done it to get the ranch. Caitlin was a better judge of character than her grandfather ever was. She knew my interest was in the ranch alone."
Agars' face became a little more serious, as he said, "She actually came to me for help. She said she knew I only wanted the ranch and I was welcome to it. All I had to do to get her out of the way was to help her and Aaric's father escape from her father. It wasn't hard and Thompson never knew that I helped them."
I didn't really care about the ranch and I thought it was funny in a way though sad as well. I asked, "Why, exactly, are you here?"
Agars looked at me with hard eyes and told us, "Edwin was getting remorseful and sentimental in his old age. I got word that he was planning to change his will in favor of Aaric here." There was no apology or hint of remorse, in his voice as he continued, "That made Aaric a danger to me. So I hired Brand to kill him."
I felt Baker, tighten up in his chair and his face got angry. For some reason I wasn't upset; he said it in such a matter-of-fact way. Perhaps I anticipated what he was going to say next. Before Baker could say or do anything Agars held up his hand and said, "Before you say something, Baker, hear the rest of it first." and Baker relaxed a bit.
He said to us, "Edwin died two weeks ago and a few days ago lawyer Howarth came out to the ranch and told me that while Edwin had a new Will prepared but because of his illness, he had never signed it."
Agars sighed with regret, before saying, "That meant that hiring Brand was completely unnecessary because Aaric was no danger to me, after all." He gave a chuckle, "I find to my astonishment, that I actually have some principles. Now, I would have shed no tears if Aaric had already been dead, but since he's managed to stay alive somehow, I need to keep him that way."
Baker asked with concerned interest, "How the hell do you plan to do that? Brand isn't a dog that you can call to heel; he's more like a runaway horse, who has the bit in his teeth."
Agars nodded his head and his face and eyes had gone cold. He said frostily, "I know you're right. I'll try to call Brand off and if he won't I intend to kill him. As I mentioned I was surprised to find I actually had principles. I'm even more amazed that I actually have principles that I'm willing to die for."
Agars made a throwaway gesture, with his hand and made a grimace before saying, "He's faster than I am, I think he's faster than anyone. I regret it, but I find that I can't just shoot him in the back, though he would have no compunction of doing it to me."
He sighed again, saying, "I'll force him into a fight, but I know I can't beat him. I'm aware of his history while he mostly kills from long-distance; he's been in several gunfights. He always goes for the heart shot. I think I'm fast enough that I can get one aimed shot off; I always go for the head. If I succeed, we're both dead. If I fail, it's up to you."
Agars' face took on a look of sheer recklessness, as he continued, "You really didn't need to know about it, but I just thought I would tell you that I left everything to Aaric. And I really would appreciate it if you would arrange for a nice sendoff." and he took a wad of money from his shirt pocket and counted out several hundred dollar bills and put them on the table and Baker picked them up and gave a nod that he would do so.
Baker took a glance into the hotel and stiffened. He said to us, "It looks like you're going to get your chance. Here comes Brand now," and I could see the man heading in our direction. There was surprise on Brand's face, when he saw Agars, but he just shrugged it off and headed for a table.
Agars pushed his chair back and got to his feet. Putting his hand in front of him, where Brand couldn't see it, he wriggled his fingers several times to make sure they were loosened up. Turning he walked over to where Brand was sitting. He was very calm, for someone who was about to die.
Not bothering to sit down, coolly, Agars said to Brand, "Hello Nathan, I'm surprised to see that Aaric is still alive."
He turned his eyes and glared at the boy, snarling in a hard voice, "He won't be for much longer!!"
Agars told him, "I'm calling it off. You can keep the money, but I no longer want you to kill the boy."
Nathan Brand turned his glare on Agars and the words he spoke were what Agars expected. He said, viciously, "Once I take money I see it all the way through!! The boy dies!!"
Agars shook his head with regret, yet with determination. He told Brand, "You won't understand this, Nathan, I'm not sure that I understand it, but I'm going to stop you!! If I can't call you off, I need to kill you!!"
Brand's lips thinned with anger and Agars saw the contempt the man had always had for him in his eyes. Agars told him, "You're faster than I am, Nathan, but not by much. I'll get one shot off and that will be enough."
He made a general gesture with his left hand, saying coldly, "In a couple of seconds when I challenge you, you'll have to draw; because if you don't, I'm going to kill you anyway. You're a killer Nathan. Most people know it; though they've never been able prove it. They know me as a solid citizen. I can probably get away with killing you even if you don't draw."
Suddenly, Agars gave a yell of anger, "Call me a liar, will you!!!" And grabbing hold of the table shoved it to the side. As Brand came to his feet with anger and perhaps with fear, Agars yelled, "Draw, you bastard!!!" And went for his gun.
Despite what he was, Brand couldn't believe it and he hesitated for a fraction of a second. Then his reflexes kicked in and he went for his weapon as well his gun, snapping out of his holster.
That fraction of a second had cost him dearly. Agars' gun barked first, but by so small a margin that their bullets actually crossed each other in flight.
Brand died instantly when Agars bullet struck him between the eyes. Agars had enough time to know that he had succeeded. As he looked down, he saw the red blossom on his chest and as he started to go down as life faded, he died content.
It had happened so quickly. In the time that it took to snap your fingers, two men had died. Despite the fact that I knew Agars had hired Brand to kill me, I had mixed feelings about him. And now the man had died to protect me. It was very baffling. People were such strange creatures.
After the questions about what had happened had been asked and answered, Brand ended up being buried in Boot Hill and no one, not even his family, mourned his death. Matthew Agars ended up being buried in the more respectable part of the cemetery and he got the elaborate funeral he wanted and a fancy headstone.
Out of respect for what he had done, Baker and I went to Agars' funeral, which was held in mid-morning, the next day. We were the only ones there. There simply wasn't time for any of his friends to make it from Crawford, where he had lived.
After that unpleasant experience, we left right after lunch. Chuck Dennison and Rick Chase drove the wagons. We headed out and met the others at a copse about a mile south of town. We didn't intend to stay there for more than a few minutes, but we dismounted and tied our horses. Chuck and Rick put the brakes on the wagons and climbed down. After putting feedbags on the horses so they could eat, the two joined us at the fire.
They had a fire going and were heating coffee, black and strong and we all had a cup. Baker said to them, "Aaric and I found the Alcalde's treasure. There are a hundred gold bars, each weighing as much or more than Aaric does." He nodded at the two who were driving the wagons and said, "Chuck and Rick are miners. The treasure is in a natural cave and it was hidden behind a false wall. Four months ago, there was an earthquake in this area and the wall came down, as did some of the roof. I think it's just loose stuff and simply needs to be cleared out."
Baker waved that the wagons and their load of timbers and a couple of wheelbarrows and said, "As you can see, we brought timbers along just in case the cave needs any shoring up. If we need to make sure it's safe, it might take several days. If not, perhaps two or three days at most."
He said in a serious voice, "I don't think that anyone knows about this, but I don't intend to take any chances. We'll act as if there's a gang out there who knows about the treasure and act accordingly."
Baker nodded at Taylor Shandy, who, in his mid-fifties, was twenty or thirty years older than most of the others. He said, "Taylor will do the cooking and Todd will help him." He gave a grin, "The rest of us, we'll just watch out for trouble."
As Taylor Shandy was much older than most of the others, Todd Jensen was somewhat younger, only in his late teens, though he had a serious look about him and looked older.
Baker said to them, "You'll be paid $100 plus a $500 bonus, when we got the gold to Santa Fe. Any questions?"
We got ready to leave and Taylor Shandy made sure the fire was out and he packed up his coffee pot after pouring what was left in it on the fire. And then we were off and on our way.
We couldn't get really close to the cave, but we managed to get within two hundred yards, where there was a nice open area and a small pond for water. We took some time to set up camp and then half of the men moved out to examine the surrounding area and choose places where they could set guard posts around the camp. The others headed for the cave to set up guard posts there as well, with Baker and Chuck and Rick going in to examine the cave.
I got out of my clothes and into my breechclout. Taylor said with a grin, "Doesn't cover much now, does it?"
I gave him a grin of agreement. The breechclout covered my butt and my groin and nothing else, the whole side of my body was bare. I said to him seriously, "I could follow someone almost without needing anything else but the threads from clothing." I spun around in glee, saying, "I'm not wearing anything made of cloth and, as skimpy as this is, the only thing that will catch is skin. I may leave a little blood occasionally, but no threads."
I said, more seriously, "If you want me and Dawg will go get some rabbits for you."
Taylor nodded and said, "I hope you're not planning to use that rifle? There won't be nothing left of them."
I shook my head and told him, "No, I left my bow and arrows at the cave. I'll go get it and I'll use that."
The kid and the dog just seemed to vanish in the bushes. When they returned a few minutes later, he just seemed to appear out of thin air, so silently did he move. He put his rifle in the sheath on his saddle, where it rested on a fallen tree with the other saddles. And then he and Dawg disappeared again.
Todd gathered some firewood for me while I got the makings for supper ready. By the time Aaric returned about an hour later, with four rabbits, the stewpot was bubbling nicely. The rabbits were already skinned and gutted and I cut them up and added them to the pot.
By that time, Hudson and the two miners were back after having a first look at the cave.
I didn't know if Dawg had ever been hunting before and I wanted to see how he would react. It seemed that he had some experience at hunting. He moved at my side constantly sniffing the air. I was approaching my favorite hunting spot for rabbits when I could see he had scented something.
For the first time he left my side and I could see him beginning to circle around in front of me. I waited patiently for him to get in position. There were several rabbits in an open area just in front of me. I was facing north and the wind had been North to South and it shifted a bit, so was now blowing from west to east. Suddenly Dawg burst from cover and the rabbits fled towards me.
I took one with my bow while Dawg took a second. Using rawhide thongs, I tied them together and then headed for another area where Dawg and I got three more. I skinned and gutted four of them and left the last one for Dawg and he made short work of it.
By the time, me and Dawg, got back to camp, Baker Rick and Chuck were back from the cave. Rick said over a cup of coffee, "The cave seems to be fairly stable. I don't think we need to do any shoring up. Chuck and I should be able to clear it out, in a couple days at the most."
Baker took a look at the sky and said, "It's a little late to start today. You can start first thing in the morning," and the two men, nodded in agreement.
There were twelve of us all together and we decided that we would post three shifts of four each. Two for the camp and two for the cave. I insisted on being included. Me and Shandy got the early shift at the camp, me because of my age, to my disgust and Shandy because he had to get up early to start breakfast.
While we had no reason to expect any danger, at the same time that's why we had guards out. Just in case. We didn't want to fall asleep on guard duty and we wanted to stay alert, so we kept moving on the edge of the camp. We were also facing outward so that our night vision wouldn't be blinded by the campfire.
Shandy also told me we should meet up every few minutes, but that we should vary the time. One time, we'd meet up after two or three minutes and the next time six or seven minutes. He said the mistake many people made on guard duty was to fall into a routine, doing exactly the same thing, time after time. It made guard duty predictable and therefore more dangerous.
I was able to stay alert, but I was just as glad when my shift ended and I could get to bed. I rolled up in my bed roll and was asleep in seconds.
Baker had just been kidding when he said that only the miners would do the actual work. He put on a pair of gloves and joined Chuck and Rick in the cave, as did a couple of the other men. I helped as well, by taking the filled wheelbarrows out and dumping their contents in a pile.
It only took about six hours to clear enough of the debris off of the floor to make a passage wide enough to get the wheelbarrows past. As we began to bring the gold out, everyone was much more alert and a guard accompanied the person taking the wheelbarrow from the cave to the camp and back.
We took our lunch on the run and it took about two and a half hours to move all of the gold from the cave to the camp. While the others were doing that me Todd and Shandy were breaking down the camp. We were on the move, heading back to town by three o'clock.
We wanted to get back to town to catch the 9:30 train to Santa Fe. We pulled up to the train station in plenty of time. It was only a little after eight. Tom Everest and Dandy Myers took the horses over to the livery stable and the others stayed on guard as we entered the train station to talk to Ned Kerry the station master.
Baker nodded at the man, saying, "Howdy, Ned."
Kerry looked up from some paperwork and asked, "What can I do for you, Baker?"
Baker gave a wave at the two wagons, saying, "We've got a valuable shipment to go to Santa Fe, on the nine-thirty train."
The man had picked up a form and was beginning to fill it out. He asked, "What do ya have?"
Baker said with a bit of a grin on his face, "One hundred gold bars."
Kerry looked at him his eyes opened wide in astonishment and asked, "Are you kidding!!!"
Baker shook his head and said with excitement in his voice, "Deadly serious Ned! Aaric and I found the Alcalde's Treasure!"
Kerry shook his head in disbelief and said, "I always thought that was just a tale!"
Baker told him, "So did I. But we have it. And I want to get it to Santa Fe as quick as I can."
Kerry said with understanding, in his voice, "I don't blame you. I wouldn't want to stick that much gold in our bank. For one thing you couldn't get it all in the vault anyway."
He gave a yell to a boy of about my age, who was reading a penny dreadful, "Davy!"
The boy looked up and asked, "Yes Pa?"
The man instructed, "You go get Charlie and Doug and Donnie! Tell them that we have a shipment that will have to go on the 9:30!"
The boy gave a nod and another, "Yes Pa!" and closing his book, he jumped to his feet and headed out the door at a trot.
Ned Kerry looked out the window and could see the guards gathered around the wagons. He rubbed his chin and thought. After a couple of minutes he looked back at Baker and said, "We have a baggage car and a passenger car on the siding. They have to go to Santa Fe anyway. I think, what we'll do is add them to the train. We can load the baggage car and you and your guards can have the passenger car."
He got to his feet, saying, "I'll send a telegraph down the line telling the train that they'll have to pick up a couple of cars here."
Ned Kerry said to his workers and son, in a wry voice, "You'll probably never see that much gold in your life again, so enjoy it while you can."
The three men, with a bit of help from Ned Kerry and his son, loaded the baggage car and there were looks of awe on their faces, Kerry and his son just by being able to say they had touched that much gold.
After the gold was loaded, two of the guards boarded the baggage car. Kerry went on board the passenger car and lit the lanterns and the rest of us boarded after him.
I was tired more from excitement than anything else, but I decided to go to sleep. I laid down on one of the passenger seats and curling into a ball I let myself drift into sleep.
I woke up briefly, when with a jerk our two cars were added to the train and then we pulled out, heading for Santa Fe. I fell asleep again to the clicks of the wheels on the tracks.
Baker shook me awake as we were just pulling into Santa Fe and I got up stretching and yawning. Ned Kerry had telegraphed ahead to have a couple of wagons waiting for us. We did the unloading of the gold bars ourselves.
We headed for the US Marshal's office, where we unloaded the gold and put it into a cell until the morning. The jailer, Russ Givens scratched his head in wonder and said, "We've had some pretty strange things in these cells, Baker, but we've never had a hundred gold bars before."
Baker and Dawg and I headed for his rooming house while the others headed for the hotel. I settled down to sleep with warm feelings in my heart.
Aaric was harder to wake up this morning, than he had on previous mornings. I sympathized, but we had things to do this morning, so I tore down the covers and gave him a couple of swats on his bare bottom. That woke him up and got him out of bed and dressed, though it took him a few minutes to wake-up completely.
First we went to the bank and arranged for the gold to be shifted from the jail to the bank and then we went to see my boss, Judge Ezra Kelly, to arrange for my resignation.
Judge Ezra Kelly had been my boss for the last eight years. He looked at us and said dryly, "Andy will be ecstatic. But is there any reason that you're resigning now?"
I nodded and said to him, "This is Aaric Evens, he's my second cousin, and..." I was off, telling him what had happened.
When I had finished he nodded and then thought for a few minutes. Then he said, "You're probably wise to do it in this way. Probably nothing bad would have happened in any event, but it's prudent to take no chances, to start with."
Then he said, "The Alcalde's Treasure. I wonder?" And he got up from his chair and went over to the filing cabinet. Opening it, he pulled out a file folder. Coming back over to the desk and sitting again, he opened the folder.
He said wryly, "I thought that was familiar." and he picked up a sheet of what turned out to be parchment and passed it over to me. He said, "Look up in the top right corner."
Doing so, I saw a written word and it turned out to be Alcalde. Looking at it with astonishment, I realized this was a real treasure map and it pinpointed the Coburn area and Aaric's land.
As I handed the map to Aaric the judge said sardonically, "It looks like I had a chance to get rich." He shook his head and said, "I've been collecting these for the last fifteen years. Who would ever think that one of them would be a real treasure map?"
Ezra gestured at the map Aaric was now looking at with equal astonishment. The judge said, "You have your map now," and I nodded. When Aaric handed the map back to me, I folded and put it in my pocket.
As we were walking along the street Aaric asked. "Who's Andy?"
I had a song in my heart as I looked down at his small questioning face and told him, "That's a nickname for Andrea, Judge Kelly's, daughter-in-law. Her husband and Judge Kelly's wife died in a house fire five years ago. I met her through the judge and we've been going together for the last two years. We decided to wait until I had enough money for that ranch that I was mentioning."
I paused for a moment, before saying, "Now that I've come into some money through you, I'll propose. She has eight-year-old twins, a boy and a girl and a six-year-old son. I hope that you don't mind getting a ready-made family?"
Aaric shook his head and said, "That sounds like fun. I always wanted brothers and sisters." and it was obvious from the contented look on his small face that he was telling the truth.
He asked, "Where are we going now?"
I grinned and told him, "She's a schoolteacher and she's teaching school right now. I just thought I'd interrupt her and asked her to marry me."
Aaric giggled and said, "You don't like to do things privately do you?"
I shook my head and with a swelling feeling of joy I told him, "I'd do it if the whole world was watching, if I had to!!"
She was a blond haired lady, but she wasn't a particularly pretty woman, being a bit on the plain side. When she looked at me, she had lively blue eyes and she had a comfortable face. She said to me in a pleasant voice, "Hello, I've never seen you before. Are you a new student?"
I took my head, "No Mrs. Kelly. My name is Aaric Evens. My cousin is ex-US Marshal Baker Hudson. He would like to see you outside; he has an important question to ask you."
I saw her eyes light up with joy as she took in what I was saying and she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, what Baker wanted.
Gracefully she got to her feet and said delight bubbling in her voice, "We'll take early recess children. Please stand up and calmly file out into the school yard."
It was obvious that she had complete control of her class since they did as they were told, quickly and cheerfully.
There was already a class of younger children outside. Their teacher said to Mrs. Kelly cheerfully, "I couldn't get them to settle down. So I brought them outside to get a little exercise. That should calm them down."
Mrs. Kelly nodded and said lightly, "Baker has something to ask me," and she nodded over to one end of the school yard where there was a couple of tables with attached benches under the shade of some trees. Mrs. Kelly went towards them, Baker walking to meet her. And then they walked back and sat on one of the benches. It was obvious that they were having a serious conversation.
Two of the children were watching the two adults intently, and, looking so much like her, I assumed they were her children. One of the younger boys who have been running around joined them. The two older children were obviously excited and the youngest was just as obviously angry about it.
At that point, the teacher of the younger children decided that they had had enough exercise and using a whistle she summoned them to go back into the school.
A few minutes later when Baker and Mrs. Kelly started walking towards us, the two children ran to greet them and were swirling around them, showing their obvious happiness.
Just then, the other teacher came hurrying back out of the school. She yelled, "Andy, Jimmy has run off!! He didn't come back into the school with us!"
Mrs. Kelly looked worried and said, "I knew he was unhappy about getting a new stepfather. I figured that wasn't going to be for a few more years and I thought he'd get over it by then. I should have talked to him about it."
Baker took her arm and asked, "Where would he go?"
She gave a little grin, despite her worry and said, "Not very far. He has two places that he considers hideouts. One is in his granddad's backyard in some trees and the other is in our backyard in the woodshed."
Baker said thoughtfully, nodding at her class. He said, "You can't really leave your students right now. I'll go to your father-in-law's house and your two children can take Aaric and his dog and go to your house."
Which is what we did and Daniel, Hannah and Dawg and I went to Mrs. Kelly's house. They looked at me with obvious interest and Daniel asked me bluntly, "Who are you?"
I grinned and said, "I'm Aaric Evens. Baker is my cousin and he's going to be my guardian, so it looks like we'll be living together."
They showed happiness again about their mother's upcoming marriage, but then they looked a bit worried about their little brother. I asked them, "Why doesn't your brother want a new father."
They shrugged their shoulders and then Hannah said, "We don't know. He was all right with it up to two or three weeks ago and then he changed for some reason."
While I wasn't tracking Jimmy, at the same time, I tended to do it automatically and I noticed the very recent tracks of small shoes. I told the two younger children, "He came this way, so it looks like he went home."
In a few more minutes we were standing at the door of the woodshed. Hannah asked, "Are you here Jimmy?"
We heard clearly, from inside the woodshed, "No I'm not here!! Go away!!"
I gave a grin and the twins giggled. I said, "Sorry Jimmy, we can't do that. We're coming in."
I heard a sigh, in his voice when he said, "Never mind, I'll come out."
He appeared in the doorway and he had a dark look on his face. Hannah asked, "Why did you run away, silly?"
Jimmy scowled out, "I don't want no stepfather!! Billy has a stepfather and he gets beat!!"
Daniel said scornfully, "Mama spanks us sometimes when we're really bad! It's no big deal!"
Jimmy shuddered and said, "He doesn't just spank Billy. He whips him really bad. I've seen the marks on his back and butt."
I said to him, "I'm Aaric, Jimmy and I'm going to be living with you. I've only known Baker a few days, but I know he wouldn't do anything like that."
He looked at me suspiciously and asked, "How can you be sure?"
I said to him honestly, "I'm pretty sure, but I can't be absolutely sure. I'll tell you what; if he does turn out to be like that, we'll all run away together."
Jimmy thought that was funny and he giggled. At that point, Dawg introduced himself by nudging the little boy in the stomach. Jimmy began to pet the animal and asked, "What's his name? Is he going to be living with us too?"
I said solemnly and straight faced, "Jimmy meet Dawg. Dawg meet Jimmy."
Hannah asked with astonishment, "You named your dog Dawg? That's silly."
I nodded ruefully saying, "The man I got him from named him Dawg. He didn't have much imagination. Unfortunately Dawg is used to his name and it would just confuse him trying to change his name now.
I offered Jimmy my hand and he took it with no sign of reluctance. My promising to run away with him, if necessary, had reassured him.
When we got back to the school, Baker was already there. Seeing us out of the window, Mrs. Kelly joined us and we sat at the tables. Between the four of us, we explained why Jimmy had run away.
Baker said, "While I occasionally got whipped as a boy, it wasn't very often and I think that's the way it should be. I won't promise you that you will never get spanked, but I won't do it when I'm angry."
He looked at Jimmy and said, "Will that satisfy you?" And Jimmy nodded and held out his small hand and Baker took it in his and shook it gently.
Jimmy asked anxiously, "Is there anything we can do for Billy?"
Baker sighed and said, "I don't know. I need more information." He asked Jimmy, "Do you know how long it's been going on?"
Jimmy nodded, "It's just been in the last couple of months."
Baker, nodded as well before saying, "I'll make some inquiries. It's likely that there's some problem, whether in his business or his personal life and he's taking it out on Billy."
He waved at the school, "You three kids need to get back to your classes and so should Andy. I'll see what I can learn and we'll talk about it tonight."
The first thing we did was go back to the bank. They had been testing and assaying the gold. This time we talked to the bank manager. He hadn't been in earlier, but the assistant bank manager had arranged for the tests and said he would send for the bank manager, Arthur Collins.
He greeted us cordially shaking our hands; after all, we had just become very important customers. We sat in comfortable chairs, in front of his desk.
He said, with obvious contentment, "The tests are quite satisfactory. The bars in volume, weigh exactly what they should for solid gold." He looked down at a piece of paper and said reading off of the page, "The total amount comes to $2,261,578.71."
Mr. Collins looked at us over his spectacles. He said, "Mr. Maloney didn't say who the gold belonged to?" It was question, but also a statement.
Baker told him, "I found a treasure map a couple of years ago." He gave a wave of his hand in the direction of Coburn. He continued, "I was assigned to look into the death of Aaric's uncle Riley. When I was looking at the map, it looked familiar for some reason. I realized that the treasure map was pointing to the area around Coburn and specifically to the land that Aaric inherited from his uncle."
I said with sadness in my voice, "After Aunt Sally and the baby died in childbirth, Uncle Riley was just marking time. He wanted to join Aunt Sally. He prodded Mr. Aberdale into a fight and he deliberately missed his first shot and that was that."
Baker took back the tale, "Once I finished what I was in Coburn for, I told Aaric about the map. Since it was on his land, we decided he should get the bulk of it so he gets 80% of it, while I get 20%. Since Aaric is my second cousin, I also agreed to become his guardian."
Mr. Collins had a fascinated look on his face. He looked down at his paper for a moment and I could see him doing some figuring. He looked up at us and said, "With what you already have in your account that will give you a total of $463,058.49. I sincerely hope that he intends to open an account here?"
Mr. Collins raised his eyebrows in a question and I assured him, "I don't know anything about banks, but if Baker is willing to leave his money here, I'll do the same."
And he beamed in relief and his face lit up. He cleared his throat, "The value of the gold that I told you is before taxes and expenses, of course, so the actual amounts you'll get will be somewhat less than that. I'll have our accountant figure out how much that will be and I'll contact you then."
Mr. Collins got out a form that would allow me to open an account. Baker was down as temporary guardian until we could arrange for a permanent guardianship.
After Mr. Collins had completed the arrangement for my bank account he asked expansively, "Is there anything I can do for you at the moment, Mr. Hudson?"
Baker nodded, saying, "A couple of things. I need to take $5,000 out to pay my guards."
Mr. Collins showed a bit of disappointment that Baker was taking any money out, but he nodded and got up telling us that he'd be back in a few minutes. When he did so he had a withdrawal slip already made out and all Baker had to do is sign it. He went to the door and handed it to the assistant manager.
While the assistant manager was getting the money, Mr. Collins sat down again and said, "You said there was something else I could do for you?"
Baker said seriously, "Andrea Kelly, who I know also banks here and I intend to get married later in the day. One of my new stepsons has a friend named Billy Nestor. I've heard that his father, Gordon Wentworth, has been having business problems lately. I was thinking that I would bail him out by investing in his general store."
Mr. Collins nodded thoughtfully, telling us, "Mr. Wentworth is a good businessman. Unfortunately he had some business investments with one of his suppliers. One of the owners of the company cut and ran with most of the proceeds, defrauding his partners and running them out of business."
He shook his head and it was obvious he didn't approve of the fraudulent owner. He said, "Wentworth lost a fair sum of money and he's been scrambling to keep his business going ever since."
Mr. Collins pursed his lips and thought for a few minutes and then said, "The business is basically sound. I think, if you would like to venture a few thousand dollars, that the investment would be quite sound."
And it was. I insisted on putting up half of the money. It was the first of many that we would make as businessmen and the start of a rewarding lifelong business partnership.
Of course that wasn't our motives to start with. We simply wanted to prevent Billy from being brutalized. And it worked. Gordon Wentworth was basically a nice man, who in his despair had turned on Billy. Once the stress was gone, the man relaxed and became a close and good father to Billy.
In a few minutes the assistant bank manager arrived with the money to pay Baker's guards and we took our leave. I went back to his rooming house while he went to see Gordon Wentworth.
Since they no longer had to wait to get married, Baker and Mrs. Kelly decided to get married by a judge, a friend of her father-in-law by the name of Howard Manners.
It wasn't going to be the only ceremony. Once we got to Baker's hometown they intended to have a church wedding as well. Judge Kelly, once it was arranged, would come and give the bride away again.
It happened in the late afternoon after school was out. There weren't a lot of people there. It was decided that mostly it would be kept within the family to be.
Me and Daniel acted as the bridegroom, or in this case, bridegrooms. Jimmy was the ring bearer and Hannah, was bridesmaid. Of course. Judge Kelly gave the bride away. A friend of Mrs. Kelly's who would be taking over her classroom for the last few days of the school year, was there, as was a US Marshal. They were there as witnesses and friends of the family.
It was a quick, but solemn ceremony and everyone could see Baker and Mrs. Kelly's happiness as they were joined together for life.
|Aberdale, Glenn - biggest rancher in Cusgan Country and the man who killed Aaric’s uncle in self-defense.|
|Agars, Matthew - one who hired Nathan Brand, almost son of Aaric’s grandfather|
|Brand, Nathan – cousin of Baker Hudson and dresses much like Baker does.|
|Avery, Don and Doug. Twins work for railroad.|
|Chase, Rick one of the men that Baker hires as a guard. A former miner|
|Cusgan County. County where the town of Coburn is located|
|Collins, Arthur bank manager in Santa Fe.|
|Coburn, New Mexico Territory|
|Dalbert, Curran - law clerk|
|Evens, Aaric - 11, blond hair green eyes, small for his age.|
|Denison, Chuck, one of the men that Baker hires as a guard. With Rick Chase, he has some mining experience.|
|Dent, Casey - Cook at the Circle T. Aaric’s grandfather’s ranch.|
|DuQuesne, Esmeralda - Housekeeper at the Circle T ranch.|
|Evens, Davis. Aaric’s father, deceased.|
|Evens, Riley Aaric’s deceased uncle.|
|Evens, Sally-Riley’s wife. Died in child birth|
|Evens, Caitlin Thompson - Aaric’s mother, died when he was four.|
|Gold price 1892 $20.67.
Troy Ounce 31.103 476 8 G
Troy pound 373.24 g
Regular ounce 28.349 523 125
Regular Pound 453.59 g
109413.580895882 troy ounces $20.67
|Fargo. Mel Larkin's horse.|
|Givens, Russ. 50 year old jailer at the US Marshal's office.|
|Guards, who Baker
hires not including the two miner's.
|Hatcher's Diner. Diner in Coburn|
|Hudson, Baker 30 Blond hair, gray eyes. Cousin of Aaric. Previous deposits $10,142.75|
|Mandy Jennings, eight-year-old girl and owner of Rambunctious come easily called Ram a six week old kitten.|
|Jenson, Dale – Riley killed him in a gunfight.|
|Howarth, Desmond - Edwin Thompson's lawyer.|
|Kelly, Andrea. Schoolteacher And Mother Of Three Children. Usually Referred To As Andy.|
|Kelly, Jimmy. six-year-old son of Andrea.|
|Kelly, Daniel and Hannah eight-year-old twins older children of Andrea Terry|
|Kelly, Judge Ezra. Baker's Boss As a US Marshal and Andrea Kelly's father-in-law.|
|Keltin, Tag - Foreman of the Circle T ranch.|
|Kerry, Ned. Train station master in Coburn.|
|Kerry, Davy. 11 year old son of Ned Kerry.|
|Larkin, Mel – Part-Indian tracker working for Aberdale considered the best tracker in New Mexico territory. Once worked for Riley Evens and taught Aaric how to hunt and track.|
|Manners, Howard. Judge in Santa Fe, who performs the wedding ceremony for Baker and Andrea.|
|Mercer, Charlie. Works for railroad.|
|Nestor, Billy. Jimmy's friend and stepson of Gordon Wentworth.|
|Pearson, Judge Ira judge in Coburn.|
|Pankhurst, Mrs. Amy. Wife of Henry Pankhurst.|
|Pankhurst, Mr. Henry. And you think I'm Tailor and owner of Dawg|
|Ted's Leather Goods in Coburn. Ted Milton, owner.|
|Sweet, Judith. Judge Kelly's Secretary.|
|Thompson, Edwin - Aaric’s grandfather. The brand that he used is the Circle T.|
|Wentworth, Gordon. Stepfather of Billy Bishop.|
|Weeks, Mildred. Woman who teaches at the same school that Mrs. Kelly does. Teaches her youngest son.|
|Willows Max. Gunsmith in Coburn|