Once upon a Time...
May 3rd, 1880
The afternoon heat beat down on Bryce Colton as he rode back to the Cooper Ranch. The wagon, filled with supplies from town, rolled on gently behind him. Brycewould occasionally ride ahead of the wagon to make sure that there was no danger. After a little more than an hour ride, they arrived at the ranch.
Brycehad the wagon pull up in front of the big house and he dismounted his horse. As he began to work with the cowpokes to put the wood and supplies in the barn, one of the Mexican ranch hands runs up to him and informed he that Mr. Cooper wanted to speak with him out in the field.
Remounting his horse, Brycerode off into the field. He found Mr. Cooper in the north field standing with a middle aged man in a grey coat and grey hat. As he rode closer he saw that the man was Mr. Brent Caldwell, the town newspaper man. Caldwelland Cooperwere talking and occasionally Mr. Caldwell would write something in the small diary he was carrying.
Out in the field Brycenoticed three mutilated cows. Their bodies ripped apart. Huge claw marks could be seen in their mangled flesh. Bryce rode up and dismounted before approaching Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Cooper. As he walked up he heard the two men talking.
“I’ve never seen anything like this.” Mr. Caldwell stated shaking his head.
Mr. Cooper looked out at the devastation thoughtfully. “Well, there are coyotes in the area.”
“None that could make that big of a claw mark.” Caldwellstated.
Brycetook a closer look one of the mutilated cows. He noticed that inside the claw marks the cow was burnt almost as if the claw was hot when it ripped through the cow’s flesh.
“Has someone been at these?” Bryceasked as he knelt beside the cow.
“Not that I know of.” Cooperanswered.
“Because it looks cooked here.” Brycesaid as he pointed at between the claw marks.
The two other men leaned forward to check out the mark. Sure enough they noticed the charred flesh in between the fingers of the claw.
“Oh, I didn’t notice that. I don’t know anything that would cause that.” Coopersaid.
“Are there mountain lions nearby?” Bryceasked.
“Some. I haven’t seen any. But that wouldn’t explain the burns.”
“We should. We already moved the cattle to the east side of the ranch, but a guard would be good.” Cooperagreed.
Bryceknelt back down, and then began looking around the area. The mud from the storm last night had baked in the sun, creating a crust. As Brycewalked around the field, he would occasionally break through the crust and into the wet mud below. He found no tracks and not sign of animals other then the cows themselves. Brycefound it strange. Anything that would have attacked these cows would have broken through the mud like he had, yet there was no sign of this anywhere. Whatever did this was light enough not to break through the mud, but big enough to rip apart a grown cow.
“Well, we’ll just have to see.” Mr. Cooper said interrupting Bryce’s thoughts.
“Alright.” Brycesaid and walked back to the group.
“I don’t want to get too alarmed now. It’s Friday and I know the boys want to go to town to spend their pay. Just ask four or five guys to stay and watch over the herd.” Mr. Cooper said.
“They’ll stay. They know work needs to be done.” Brycesaid as a matter of fact.
Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Cooper headed back to the big house to retrieve Mr. Caldwell’s horse. Brycetook one last look at the cows before mounting his horse. Brycespent the rest of the day fixing fences, cleaning up the destroyed cows and watching out for dangerous animals.
Back at the Jail house Sheriff Sylas Wales and Deputy Tom Klein sit in the jail house drinking coffee and reading. Navi Lopez laid quietly in her cell, trying to hide her tears. Tomstood up and walked over to the sheriff.
“Sheriff.” Tomasked meekly.
Tomshuffled a bit, unsure of what to say. “You know… I’ve been here all day.”
“Ya. You want to take a break?”
Tomsmiled. “Ya. You know my mom isn’t doing well and I wanted to make her some soup.”
“Sure. You know you don’t have to ask. Just tell me you need to go.”
“Well you wanted me to watch the prisoner.”
“I’m here now. Go ahead and take care of your mom.”
“Thanks Sheriff.” Tomsaid as he rushed out the door.
“No that damn general store didn’t deliver any.” The Sherifflaughed. “Just kidding. Of course we do Jim.”
“Mayor. Mr. Murphy. Sure, of course.” The Sheriffsaid putting down the coffee pot.
Jimput his Sharps Big 50 on the desk, kicked his feat up and began drinking his coffee. Jimcould hear every word coming from the porch, so he wasn’t too worried about being left out of the conversation.
“So how can I help you today?” The Sheriffasked once they were out on the porch.
“Navi? Ya. She’s in jail.” The Sheriffstated.
“Did you decided upon the charges?” Walkerasked.
“Well the Charge is murder. But it was a clean kill.”
“So she will be put to trial?”
“Well, Gilbertand I and some of the founders were concerned about this situation.”
“We’ve had things like this happen before. Why is there a concern now?”
Walkerbegan to pace along the porch. “Well the concern is that she is a whore, Sheriff. See we are trying to build this town up. And there are still some elements left over from our boomtown days. Elements that are difficult to dislodge, that are not family friendly. If you get my meaning?“
“Yes, Yes. You see Sheriff, we can’t just have whores killing miners. It’s bad for the town. It’s bad for business.”
“But it’s ok for miners to beat on women, maybe killing them?” The Sheriff’s angry was quite obvious by now.
“I’m just trying to get the message here. So self defense is fine right?” Or is that not going to work in this new society?"
The Sheriffshook his head. “That doesn’t mean she’s a punching bag.”
“You don’t think her actions were out of line?” Walkerasked.
“If Gus was just beating on her then maybe, but he tried to kill her.”
“Isn’t that the owner’s responsibility?
“We are just wondering where the liability lies.”
“Liability, what liability. There is no liability. She’s going to court just like anyone else who breaks the law.” The Sheriffshouted. The Sheriffquickly glanced around and whispered. “ You guys talking about lynching her?”
Walkerstepped away from the Sheriffand began waving his hands. “No. No.. No, Sheriff. Don’t get me wrong. We just want to follow the laws. We just want justice. We want a trial. We want to follow the laws of the CSA”
“So we want to follow the laws then? So far everything we’ve done is following the laws.”
“Good. Good.” Walkeragreed.
“In fact, the best lawyer in town is defending her.” The Sheriff’s anger began to show again.
“Yes, we will be talking to Jedas well. I just want to make sure we are following the laws.”
The Sheriffbegan paced on the porch. “So you came over to make sure that I’m doing my job?”
“Yes, Exactly.” Walkerstated.
“So you thought I would just let her go?” The Sheriffsaid.
Walkershook his head. “No, Sheriff. See we just want to make sure we have an understanding. That we are together on this. We need to show a united front. We want to show that we have law in this town, that this is a family town.”
“There is law in this town! But I wouldn’t exactly call this a family town yet.”
“That’s what we are trying to work towards. Build everyone up. Build a better life for everyone.” Walkertried to explain.
Walkertook a step away from the Sheriff. “As long as we have an understanding, Sheriff.”
”I don’t see the law running well if a bunch of house wives keep coming up and telling me how to do my job.”
Walkercontinued to retreat a step at a time. “No. No. The woman’s club will stay out of this.”
“They have so far, I’m talking about the other housewives.”
Walkeradjusted his cloths and step back toward the Sheriff. “We are looking for justice to be done. We want to show that these types of crimes are not tolerated. That the families in this town are safe and protected. We want a place where miners can come down off the mountain and send their gold and business runs well. We want the town to run smoothly, perfectly.”
“We just want to make sure you are on the same side with us.” Walkerstated.
The Sheriffthought for a second. “Well I’m just curious. This is the first time you guys have ever ever, I mean ever got involved. And I’ve had miners sticking pick axes in each other and such.”
“Well, this is a special case, Sheriff.”
“Sounds like they want to make sure a whore gets hung for defending herself?” Jimcalled out from inside.
Jimstood up and walked to the doorway. “And if justice means that she gets off scotch free because she was just defending herself? Is that the kind of justice you’re looking for?”
“The families didn’t care about that.” The Sheriffstated. He took a deep breath. “So we still want a trial for this girl?”
“Yes, I think we do. I think we do.” Walkersaid nodding.
“I can’t force a trial.” The Sheriffexplained.
“We just want to make sure that charges are being levied in the proper manner, per the law. That’s all Sheriff.”
“I’ve never NOT done that!” The Sheriffsaid exasperated.
The Sherif’sf face almost turned red. “Are you threatening me?”
“Ya, there’s a lot of things in the west that are volatile a lot of things are volatile.” The Sheriff’s hand itching to go for his gun, but he was able to keep his composure.
“So now I have to worry about that?” The Sheriffasked.
“Well every politician needs to worry about elections. I’m just making sure you were aware they were coming up soon.” Walkersaid.
”So, to summarize this wonderful exchange of wit. You are asking me if I have done my job and I am replying with a yes.” The Sheriffstated.
The Sheriffand Jimwatch as Walkerand Murphywalk away. The Sheriffstill fired up, entered the Jail house and begins pacing. Jimwatched him for a while. The Sheriffrealized that he needed to talk to Becker. The Sheriffturned to Jimand quickly deputized him to watch over Navi. Jimtakes the badge Sylasgave him and put it back into the drawer. From his pocket Jimproduced his own badge which he pinned to his own chest. The Sheriffjust Shook his head and laughed.
The Double Down was finally doing good business in the afternoon. The Customers had been pouring in for a few hours, apparently unfazed at the shooting that had taken place earlier that morning. Uriel Greaves sat in his office doing paper work when there was a knock at his door. He called for the person to enter and saw Francis, his bartender, step into the office. Francis explained that Mr. Charles Taylor. Uriel intrigued that one of the founders wished to talk to him, told Francis to send him up. After a few minutes Mr. Taylor entered Uriel’s office.
Mr. Taylor entered the office with a very expensive bottle of whiskey and placed in on Uriel’s desk.
Taylor then sat down. “Mr. Greaves. Thank you for seeing me on such short notice. I know you’re a very busy man. I brought you a gift. A fine bottle of 1849 whiskey”
Uriel Looked at the bottle with suspicion. “Let’s just speak straight here sir, because you don’t bring gifts. What can I do for you?”
“Very well. In either case, this is a gift for you so it is yours.” Taylor said indicating the whiskey. “ I’m here to talk about the situation about the murder.”
“Murder? You mean Navi getting beaten?” Uriel said with annoyance.
“Yes. I’ll be honest with you, it’s quite a tragedy. I don’t condone any man beating on a woman.”
“Yes, in fact that man has had two prior occasions where he beat my girls almost to death.”
Taylor paused for a second sizing Uriel up before he continued. “I do not mourn his loss. But there are circumstances, Mr. Greaves. You of all people, Mr. Greaves, know what we are trying to do in this town and how certain people view an establishment such as yours. The honest truth is this woman’s going to hang.”
“Seeing as it was self defense, I doubt it.”
“Do you Mr. Greaves? Do you doubt it? In the CSA? A woman? A whore nonetheless? A whore shoots a man and you think she’ll get off? “Taylor said in a mocking tone. “Now put your feeling against me aside for a second. This is the west and she IS a woman. Now if she was a man it would be different. We have upbringing. We have intelligence. But a woman?”
Uriel attempted to respond, but his illness got the better of him and he fell into a coughing fit. Small drops of blood escaped his lips. Uriel grabbed a handkerchief and placed it over his mouth.
Taylor waited until Uriel had recovered. ” I’m just going to come right out with it. If you talk to Mr. Bartlett and ask him not to take this case, I will give you $500 and I will give Navi $500. And then Navi can leave this town and never come back. Now that’s my offer. That’s the only offer you’re going to get and it’s a mighty fine offer sir.”
Uriel’s anger was obvious in the room, but he held it down and simply stated, “I’m going to need some time to think about this.”
“That’s no problem at all sir. There is one other thing. I wanted to let you know that if you were willing to change the style of business you run, I am sure that upstanding members of the community will be willing to help you. Financially or personally. There’s always a chance that the hotel business could lose some of its completion if an upstanding business man like yourself wishes to go that route.”
Taylor stood and grabbed his hat “I’ll leave you with that thought sir. Enjoy the whiskey and you have yourself a fine day. And I look forward to your intelligent thinking.”
Uriel glared as Mr. Taylor walked out.