The Road To Hell

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The Road To Hell

Postby macko123456 » 19 May 2011, 18:26

Hey guys, just a little something I wrote. Criticism and praise alike are welcome!

Part One: Barwell

Extract from Waylon Sorkin’s testimony at the trial of Jeep Wybrow:

How do you describe Andrew Cartwright? I suppose a better question would be where to start. He was determined, yes, but misguided in equal measure. The first time I met him, he gave me some water and left me for dead. I later found out from Sergeant John Troman that he only saved me because he had been ordered to do so. It is, frankly, a pity that he could not be here today; I have not seen him since eighteen-eighty, and I would enjoy reminiscing with him. However, I am sure the Bureau of Investigation have their reasons for keeping his whereabouts a secret.

Friday 16th April 1880

Many A True Word

The door to the office swung open, the bell at the top ringing merrily, and a man entered. He was tall and thin, with a moustache and lanky hair, dressed in a faded suit. A well-polished revolver hung by his hip. Agent Rondown sighed and beckoned for him to advance.
“Name?” he asked, in an American accent.
“Andrew Cartwright.”
“Ah, yes. Come in.” There was a pause.
“I am in.”
“So it seems.” He opened a drawer in his desk and took out a sheaf of papers. “I’ve seen you before.” Cartwright nodded.
“Once or twice. I’m a lawman.”
“I know. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be here.” He quickly flicked through the papers, reading out the names as he came to them. “Caidan, Callaghan . . . here we are. Cartwright. Quite a distinguished record. Enrolled two years ago at the young age of eighteen. Within two months, you had brought down a notorious criminal operating out in the Arizona Desert. Very impressive.”
“I’m not here to listen to your compliments, as flattering as they may be.”
“I suspected as much. People don’t travel all the way across two states just to let someone else watch them blush. What can I do for you?”
“I’m looking for an assignment.”
“If you want to bring in some lowlife gunslinger with nothing better to do than steal cattle, take it up with your townspeople. It is not a matter for the Bureau of Investigation.”
“Maybe you don’t understand. The man I’m hunting . . . let’s just say that you have a vested interest in my taking him down. His name is Aaron Shoesmith.” Rondown chuckled.
“You want him to shine your boots?”
“Very funny. You clearly haven’t done your research. He disappeared over the border to Mexico two weeks ago, along with a load of rebels. They’ve been attacking local towns, killing the men and kidnapping the women. What’s more, they were responsible for the raid on Fort Jameson.” The agent took out a cigarette, lit it from his lighter and raised it to his lips.
“What makes you think I care?”
“Because they stole two thousand dollars’ worth of ammunition.”
“Ammunition belonging to whom?” Cartwright faltered.
“The Army.”
“Then it is a matter for them. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their loss, not mine. If they want to waste time and money searching for a degenerate like him, I won’t stand in their way.”
“I hate to think you consider such a thing a waste.”
“But I do. You see, if he’s in Mexico, he’s outside my jurisdiction.”
“It’s only a matter of time before he returns, and he’ll be better-equipped.”
“And we’ll deal with it when we have to. Until then, there’s nothing I can do. I believe there’s a outpost a few miles from here. If you want to file a complaint with the local Sergeant, you’re more than welcome. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”
“Don’t you get it? He represents a threat to national security!” Rondown blew a perfectly formed smoke ring.
“At the moment, the biggest such threat is people like you, distracting us from the task at hand. You’re asking me to stick my nose into matters that concern neither me or the rest of the Bureau. And on that note, Mr Cartwright, I bid you good day.”
“What . . .”
I bid you good day. Or did you also require English lessons?”
“That’ll be all, Mr Rondown. Thank you.” He turned and left the room, crossing the atrium and stepping out onto the street. There were coaches and carts passing in both directions, and the pavement was busy with people going about their daily business. Barwell was a relatively large town a few hundred miles north of Las Vegas Ranch, centred around a long, cobbled avenue. The deep thud of hammers and the dull clank of heavy machinery came from somewhere ahead of him, where the new train station was under construction. After a moment’s hesitation, he turned right, to where an alleyway led behind the building. At the back was a hitching-post, and his horse was waiting for him. He climbed into the saddle, sighing to himself, and guided it between the houses and into the open. The road quickly deteriorated into nothing more than a dirt track, though there were plenty of travellers. Coming to a junction, he stopped and considered his options. He could go back to McGill, where he had hired a room, or pay a visit to the outpost Rondown had mentioned. Eventually, he went left, taking the second choice. It had been mentioned a few times, and he knew it was manned by almost twenty soldiers. The route was winding and poorly-marked, and he lost his way a few times. It was half an hour before he saw a man sitting on the sand ahead, drinking from a bottle. He brought the horse to a halt beside him. Silence fell.
“Howdy, partner,” the man said, without meeting his eyes. “What brings you out here?”
“I’m looking for a US Army garrison. Do you know where it is?”
“Yeah, I know it.” He hawked and spat. “Have any whisky? I’ll catch my death of thirst.”
“Nope. Is it far?”
“You don’t care much for other people, do you?” he remarked, indicating the silver badge pinned to Cartwright’s chest pocket. “I guess that makes sense, you being a policeman. All you worry about is how many medals you can fit on your shirt.”
“I have no medals, friend.”
“And I have no whisky. At least, not anymore.”
“Are you going to answer my questions?”
“Depends on how I feel. I’ve got itchy feet, my head hurts something awful, and my tongue’s drying out faster than a dead coyote. I fear I’m one for the vultures. Why should I help you?”
“No reason. If you choose not to, I’ll be on my way. But make your choice quickly, or I shall be forced to leave you as you are.”
“And if I cooperate?”
“I shall give you some water, or maybe something stronger.” The man laughed heartily.
“If only my ma could see me now. You know you’ve hit rock bottom when you’re begging a drink off a lawman. They’re doing some kind of exercises not five minutes’ ride from here, as the crow flies. Best to stick to the path, though. They might accidentally put a bullet in you.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Cartwright told him, taking out his flask and throwing it over. “Keep it. See how long you survive. For your sake, you’d best head into Barwell.”
“Good luck to you, sir.” Ignoring him, he spurred the horse and pressed on. Sure enough, the sound of gunfire reached his ears, and he crested a rise to see a makeshift encampment, surrounded by a defensive wall of stakes. There were troopers practicing on targets, smoke filling the air from their carbines. A ditch had been dug, with a rickety wooden bridge across it. He dismounted at the end, burying his knife in the ground and tying the reins around it. Sensing his presence, a few soldiers approached him, dressed in their characteristic dark green uniforms.
“Afternoon,” one of them greeted him. “What brings you onto Army territory?”
“I’m on official business. I was referred here by the Bureau of Investigation.”
“Were you?” The corporal asked; Cartwright could tell his rank by the two orange stripes on his shoulder. “Why?”
“It’s to do with Aaron Shoesmith.”
“The one who robbed Jameson just last week?”
“The selfsame. I’m looking for him.”
“To what end?”
“I’m a friend of his.” Within a second, their pistols were out and pointing at him. He didn’t know how serious they were, and so neglected to draw his own gun.
“What kind of friend? We have orders to shoot him on sight.”
“I’m no lawbreaker. I’m a lawman.”
“We have nothing to do with your organisation. Your title means nothing to us.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I know it’s hard, but do your best to trust me.” None of them said anything. He decided to change tack. “You know there’s a guy by the road on the way here, don’t you? I gave him some water.”
“He isn’t dead?”
“Not yet, and he won’t be for a while. Is he bothering you?”
“He’s been trying to filch off us for a few days. We caught him in the act of stealing some rations.” Cartwright shrugged.
“If I were to get him out of the way, would you let me in?” The corporal frowned.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Ferry him back to town, maybe put him on a train for good measure. Sound acceptable?”
“I should think so. Alright, you’ve got a deal. But no funny business, okay?” He nodded, and they replaced their firearms, allowing him to walk through into the camp. There were crates and boxes everywhere, though the centre had been kept clear. At the far end was a small, wooden cabin, which was clearly the commanding officer’s barracks. He strode up to it and knocked sharply on the door.
“Who is it?” a voice said, from inside.
“My name’s Andrew Cartwright.”
“Are you a conscript?” He was confused.
“I . . . no, I’m not. Does it matter?”
“This is NCOs only.”
“I’m a civilian.”
“Let’s have a look at you, then.” He swung the door open, finding himself in a small, cramped room. There was a table with several maps on it, and a group of men was examining them. Sitting in a chair was a short, burly Sergeant, watching them contentedly.
“Excuse me,” Cartwright said, tapping him on the shoulder. “I wanted to speak with you.”
“Not now. Hold on.” He raised his voice so they could all hear. “Just to let you know, you’ve failed. By this time, the enemy would have reached our lines and we would be overrun. I’ll reset the clock and you can start again.” They muttered to themselves disappointedly, and went back to work.
“I’m here about Aaron Shoesmith.”
“You and the rest of the state. Would you mind . . ?” He indicated an hourglass on the ground. Cartwright leaned down and turned it over. “Thank you. What about him?”
“I take it you know the crimes he’s committed.”
“Stealing that ammunition, yes. Terrible business.”
“That and the murder of over thirty innocents, along with the burning of an entire village just north of the border. Had that entered your mind?”
“Not really. It’s of no concern to me. The theft, however, is a different matter.”
“I intend to capture him.” The Sergeant scoffed, and then realised he was being serious. Squinting, he inspected him carefully.
“I thought you were a civilian.”
“When I need to be. Besides, your men seem to consider me no better than one.”
“You’ll have to pardon them.”
“We’ll see. I was wondering if you had any leads on his whereabouts.”
“If I did, I’d be down there following him myself. There’s a huge bounty on his head. Why do you want to know all this in the first place?”
“I’ll ride with you and help bring him in, if you’ll let me do what I want with him. Would that be possible?” He shook his head.
“No, and I’ll tell you why. Firstly, no-one’s going after him at the moment, because he’s in Mexico, which means we’re powerless. Secondly, it’s not policy to make deals with vigilantes, no matter how profitable they might be.”
“So the Army just isn’t doing anything about the problem?”
“It’s not ours anymore, or not for a while anyways.” He folded his arms. “Who are you, Andrew Cartwright? You’re not like any lawman I know.”
“Who are you?”
“Sergeant John Troman, third infantry division. Where are you from?”
“I’m not sure.”
“How do I know you’re telling me the truth? You could be a thief, or worse.”
“Would I want Shoesmith dead if that were the case?”
“I guess not. Still, the answer’s the same. I’m sorry, and I’d like to help, but I can’t, and I couldn’t. Lord knows, I could use the money.”
“Well, could you at least give me some information about him? Tell me who’s in charge down there, so I can get a vague idea of where to start.” He tutted.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss that. I might be, though, if you did something for me in return.”
“I thought you said you weren’t tracking him.”
“Tension with Mexico is high at the moment, Mr Cartwright, and we can’t exactly send armed soldiers after him. That said, there are some reports coming through. I can give you access to them.” Tipping his chair back, he tapped the table with a finger. “One of my troops has been absent recently. I had to discipline him after his rifle went off on parade, and he’s drowning his sorrows in Barwell, at the saloon. Fetch him for me and I’ll tell you everything I know.”
“Are you a man of honour, Sergeant Troman?”
“When I need to be,” he replied, echoing Cartwright’s own comment. “Now, for example, I am. I’ll keep my word, if you find this soldier.”
“You’d better, or I shall find myself forced to kill you.” He turned and headed for the exit.
“Isn’t that a little immoral for someone of your position?”
“There’s nothing wrong with shooting a man bound for Hell. Selling Army secrets amounts to treason. Your soul is already lost.”
“I wouldn’t have put you down as the religious type.”
“Not many people do. See you soon, Sergeant.”
“Likewise.” Cartwright shut the door after him and returned to his horse, heading back the way he had come. It didn’t take him long to find the man as he had promised. He was lying face-up, staring at the blue sky. For a moment, he thought he was dead, and then his arm twitched slightly. Noticing his untouched flask, Cartwright dropped down and propped his charge up against a rock, raising it to his lips and pouring some of the water into his mouth. The traveller spluttered and choked for a few seconds, and then recognised him.
“It’s you again.”
“I’ve come to take you home. Can you stand?”
“I think so.” With help, he got to his feet, and pulled himself into the saddle. Cartwright took his place in front of him and spurred his steed, increasing their pace to a gallop. His train of thought was interrupted by the man coughing loudly.
“You okay back there?”
“Better than ever. I like to know who’s saving my life.”
“It’s not important. What about you?”
“Sorkin. Waylon Sorkin. I came here with the railway, you know.”
“Is that so?”
“I used to be a tracker, before my luck ran out. The people I were following figured me out, and I had to catch the first train here. Now I’m lying low.”
“You’re just a drunk.”
“That’s what everyone says, but they don’t know me. Whenever they get angry, I just shout: I’m Waylon Sorkin, the most famous chap ever to come out of Sierra Vista!” Cartwright’s eyes widened, as he realised what he’d just heard.
“Isn’t that down south?”
“You betcha. It’s the southernmost town in America.”
“Have you ever heard of a Shoesmith?”
“Who, Aaron? Everyone knows him.”
“Not up here they don’t. What’s your connection with him?”
“He was the one I was after. You could call me a mercenary. When I hear of someone harming the community, I make it my mission to take them down. Unfortunately, he proved a little too strong for me.”
“A modern-day saint, eh?”
“That’s not a bad comparison. I don’t recall there being too much alcohol in the bible, though.” Cartwright laughed.
“You obviously haven’t read it in a while.”
“Unlike you. You’re quite the Samaritan.”
“I do what I can. Where will you go when I drop you off?”
“Does it matter?”
“I might want to call on you for some help later on, if that’s okay. I’m trying to find Mr Shoesmith. If I can secure the leads I’m working on, will you join me?”
“Can you get me whisky?”
“In moderation, yes.”
“It’ll have to do. I’m in.”
Last edited by macko123456 on 17 November 2011, 20:01, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Road To Hell

Postby macko123456 » 19 May 2011, 18:27

I know it's a lot, but it'll only take quarter of an hour or so to read.
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Re: The Road To Hell

Postby mr-tom » 20 May 2011, 18:28

I definitely want to read the rest of this. :D
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Re: The Road To Hell

Postby macko123456 » 20 May 2011, 19:00

You'd better have some more, then.

Friendly Fire

Cartwright left Sorkin at the hotel in Barwell, giving him money to book a room for a week and to buy supplies. He wasn’t too confident in his abilities, but knew he represented a valuable asset, so wasn’t going to turn him down. Once he was satisfied that his newfound friend was sober enough to take care of himself, he went over to the saloon. The sound of music came from inside; someone was playing the piano. Hitching his horse by the porch, he pushed the shutters apart and stepped through, and then walked up to the counter. The landlord quickly came over, cleaning a glass.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m trying to find a soldier.”
“Do you know his name?”
“I do not.”
“Stay as long as you need. Should I pour you something?”
“No thanks. If . . .” he was interrupted by shouting from nearby. A group of men were arguing with each other over a game of poker. One of them wore a dark green jacket with a white star on the shoulder. The barman stared at him.
“You were saying something.”
“Don’t worry about it. I think I may have found him.” Cartwright turned and called out to them. “Excuse me!” One by one, they stopped talking and twisted in their chairs to face him.
“Can I help you?” their leader asked. “Because me and my boys here are just having an innocent chat.” He smiled.
“It’s not you I’m concerned with, mister. It’s him.” He pointed to the infantryman. “I have orders to return him to the nearest outpost.”
“Won’t you come play some cards with us, friend?”
“I’m not a gambler.”
“It’s alright. We’ll go easy on you.” They all laughed.
“I don’t know how to play,” he explained, over the noise. “And anyway, I’m not concerned with beating you right now.” Silence fell.
“What did you say?”
“I believe you understood me, unless your hearing’s as bad as your sense of humour.”
“I did not come to this town,” the man said, standing and moving forwards so his face was no more than five inches from Cartwright’s, “So some yellow-bellied youngster could insult me.”
“I’m a man of the law.”
“That’s what I said. Yellow-bellied.”
“There’s no need for any violence, partner. Just let me retrieve your friend, and I’ll be on my way. No harm need come to you.”
“Harm? You give yourself too much credit. What if he doesn’t want to be retrieved?”
“Yeah,” the soldier agreed, from behind him.
“Then I shall use force.” He tried to step around his opponent, but round his route quickly blocked by a strong arm.
“I don’t like your tone.”
“Nor I your demeanour, but I’ve been polite enough to hold my tongue so far. Why don’t you take some well-intended advice from a higher authority and do the same?”
“There must be some way to settle this peacefully.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, I don’t do deals with criminals.”
“I’m not a criminal.”
“You will be if you carry on the way you’re going right now. I could indict you for assaulting an officer. Now move out of my way, old man, or you will have only yourself to blame for my actions.” Reluctantly, the bandit stepped aside. Cartwright looked down at the trooper. “Will you come with me, or am I going to give you the same lecture?”
“I’ll come,” he said. “Just give me a second to gather my things.”
“Of course.” Laying his hands on his belt, he examined the saloon absent-mindedly. In the corner of his eye, he could still see the man arranging his bag, making sure it was secure. All of a sudden, the group burst into laughter once more. The soldier had produced an old, worn pistol and was pointing it at his back. Whispers ran through the room; the music stopped.
“Not so confident now, are we?”
“Think carefully before you pull that trigger, sir,” Cartwright advised him, his own hand straying to the butt of his gun. The leader grabbed it and pulled it away.
“Don’t try it. Take a seat.” He slowly lowered himself into one of the chairs. The others did the same, until they were all facing each other over the table.
“We’re at an impasse,” Cartwright said, flatly.
“Indeed,” his counterpart replied. “And I suspect only one of us will come out of it alive. But before we decide who that is, won’t you tell me a little about yourself?”
“I’d rather not.”
“Why are you here?”
“To bring your companion in, like I said.”
“For what reason?”
“It’s a favour for Sergeant John Troman, up at the camp.”
“Troman?” he chuckled. “I’m one of the people he’d dearly like to see dead. He’d put me up on the end of a rope, he would.”
“Your relationship with my employer is of no concern to me.”
“Neither is yours with the Army, but I’m a curious fellow.”
“Let’s please discuss our backgrounds civilly. Have him put his pistol away, so we can talk without fear of one of us being cut off by a gunshot.” He motioned to the soldier.
“Do as he asks.”
“Good,” Cartwright said. “Now, what was it you were inquiring about?”
“I can’t see hear or tail of it, partner. A lawman, and from the looks of it a damn good one at that, working for the forces? Aren’t you people powerful enough as is?”
“I’m not after power.”
“What is it, then?” He rolled his eyes.
“A lot of things. Mostly information concerning the notorious outlaw Aaron Shoesmith.” The man nodded knowingly.
“I’ve heard that name. What other jobs have you been doing for them?”
“Only one. I picked someone up outside.”
“Did you?” He had an ominous look in his eye. “Was he about thirty, tall and slightly round, with a grey beard?”
“That’s him. Gave his name as Waylon Sorkin.”
“Where is he now?”
“I installed him in the Barwell hotel. He’s probably there.” The bandit stood and gestured for Cartwright to do the same.
“We’re leaving. I want you to take me over there.”
“It’s no concern of yours. Just follow my commands.” Cartwright climbed to his feet and led the group out onto the street. The hotel was to their left, a few metres up the road. They made an imposing sight, all of them dressed in ragged clothes and with revolvers at their hips. The townspeople parted as they approached, watching them warily.
“You’re got a lot of nerve,” Cartwright observed, “Hanging around in a place like this. There’s a Bureau of Investigation office just a stone’s throw away.”
“I told you before, we’re not criminals. They have no interest in us.”
“When I said the words Waylon Sorkin, your face lit up like I’d set you on fire. How come?”
“He’s an old friend of mine. We go way back.”
“Is this some kind of reunion?”
“In a manner of speaking.” They stopped outside the grand stone entrance, and Cartwright rang the bell. A moment later, the oaken doors parted. They went through into a massive, vaulted lobby. The floor was decorated with black and white tiles, and there was a staircase leading up to the first storey at the far end. The desk was staffed by an attendant in a smart suit and tie.
“Hello, sirs. Is there something you need?”
“I visited earlier,” Cartwright explained, “With Waylon Sorkin, and instructed him to book a room. Do you have any record of his presence?” The attendant flicked through his roster, and nodded.
“Yes. He’s in 104.”
“Could you fetch him down?”
“Sure. I’m going up there anyhow.” He made his way up the stairs and turned right, out of sight. For a good three minutes, they stood in silence, then the sound of footsteps echoed around the room. The bandit turned to his men.
“Wait outside. I’ll deal with this.” The four of them, including the soldier, returned to the pavement. Sorkin walked up to them, his face newly-shaven and his appearance slightly less bedraggled. Seeing Cartwright’s comrade, he stopped in his tracks.
“What the Hell is he doing here?”
“Waylon,” the man said. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this.” In a split-second, Cartwright realised he was going for his pistol, and reached for his own weapon. His opponent had his revolver out first, aiming not at the lawman but at Sorkin. Before either of them could do anything, there was an ear-splitting crack and the air filled with smoke. Cartwright’s priority was for the shooter, and he knocked the gun out of his hand and pointed his own at his head. Sorkin was lying on the tiles clutching his shoulder, which was covered in blood. The wound was clearly not fatal.
“Speak, friend, lest I put a bullet in you too,” Cartwright ordered.
“You would be most welcome. I have failed in my mission to kill this man.”
“What mission? Given by whom?”
“Aaron Shoesmith. I’ve been chasing him all the way from Sierra Vista, along the railroad tracks, and now you arrive and mess everything up! He promised me so much money.”
“I don’t care for money, friend.”
“Who are you?”
“It’s no use giving you my name. It won’t be in your head for very long.”
“So I had guessed. One thing’s for certain: you’re too insignificant for Shoesmith to have heard of you.” Cartwright grabbed him by the neck, turned him around and guided him over to the door, which stood ajar.
“I don’t know if you’re a person of faith, but I’d be praying right now if I were you.”
“Oh, I am.” He gulped. “I’ve heard Hell’s nice this time of year.”
“Pay your regards to my father,” Cartwright said, firing into the ceiling to give the impression of a fight and pushing him forwards. He stumbled through the gap and found himself on the veranda. In the blink of an eye, his men had emerged from where they were hiding and opened up. The man was dead before he hit the ground, shot by his own side.
“Help me, you fool!” Sorkin urged, his voice hoarse.
“I need to get you to a doctor,” Cartwright informed him. “How strong are your legs?”
“Strong enough to walk a short way, I think.”
“Then you shall need to use them.” He took his hand and lifted him to his feet. “Let me see.” Inspecting his shoulder, he frowned. “It isn’t so bad. We just need to close it.”
“Hurry up! They’ll be coming in!”
“Just try not to wet yourself. I’ve got enough problems. Come on, we’re going out the back way.” With Sorkin propped on his arm, Cartwright swung the rear door open and they emerged into the alley running behind the hotel. He slid the bolt across, buying them some time, then sprinted to the end, where it led to the street.
“Where are you going?”
“Wait here.”
“I’m in no fit state for this!”
“You’ll be fine if you just pull yourself together.” Pointing his pistol into the air so he wouldn’t accidentally shoot anyone, he sneaked around to the front of the building. As he had suspected, the four outlaws were advancing cautiously up the steps. A couple of passers-by had stopped to see what all the commotion was about. As he watched, the first of them reached to grab the handle. Just as he was about to lay his hand on it, someone shouted over to them.
“Going somewhere, gentlemen?” They all spun round to see Agent Rondown standing there, accompanied by several other policemen. “Put your hands in the air and drop your weapons.” They did as instructed, and Cartwright confidently crossed the road to the officers.
“Sir,” he said.
“Andrew,” Rondown sighed, while his men rounded the criminals up and tied their wrists together. “I should have know you’d be involved in some way or other.”
“Involved? This is entirely my doing.”
“I suppose you’ll be wanting some reward.”
“Two things. One their number is an ex-soldier. Let me have him.”
“He has unfinished business with Sergeant Troman, at the US Army station near here.”
“And the second request?”
“A horse. I don’t care if it’s lame, or even if it’s mangy. I only need if for a couple of miles.” He stretched painfully, and cracked his knuckles.
“This is strictly off the record. The Bureau isn’t meant to compensate folks, else we’d run the Reserve dry before you could say manslaughter. But, seeing as these guys were clearly going to cause some trouble for the town, I am in your debt both according to the law and my morals.”
“I didn’t know the Bureau had any.”
“Any more of that lip, boy, and I’ll change my mind. You can have what you want.”

Any criticism? Praise, dare I ask?

Just ask for the next part and I'll put it up.
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Re: The Road To Hell

Postby mr-tom » 20 May 2011, 19:39

Consider yourself asked.

No criticism. I'm enjoying it and want to keep reading, which is praise in itself! Looking forward to seeing where this goes.

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Re: The Road To Hell

Postby macko123456 » 20 May 2011, 21:49

Well good, because there's a whole book's worth of it.

Here's more. I'll post again tomorrow in the afternoon and the evening, and then more feedback will be needed.

Rest And Information

The sun was setting by the time Cartwright and Sorkin arrived at the encampment. The lawman sighed; it had been a long day, and he was tired. His friend was even worse off. His arm had seized up and swelled to half its normal size again. Giant fingers of light snaked their way across the sky, splitting it from east to west, and the clouds cast long shadows. There were two men by the gate, but they let him through with barely any hesitation. He dismounted outside the cabin to find Troman already waiting for him.
“Hello there,” he said. “Didn’t expect you to come back.”
“Why’s that?”
“Heard there was a shootout in Barwell earlier. Who else could it have been but you?”
“I’m making a name for myself, aren’t I?”
“All the States will have heard of you before long if you carry on at this rate.”
“I intend to.” He indicated the soldier laid over the back of his horse. “This man is yours, I believe. If you’re planning on reinstating his position, I urge you to think again. He was involved in an attempted murder not two hours ago.”
“Then we’ll string him up and hang him. Is that alright with you?”
“He’s in your care, not mine. I took the liberty of gagging him.”
“A sensible choice.” Cartwright knelt, dragged the man onto his shoulder and carried him over. The Sergeant indicated a nearby tent, and he set him down inside.
“That should give the troops something to watch tomorrow.”
“Now,” Cartwright said. “About my payment.”
“Indeed. They’re not very detailed, but I’ve got a few maps of Shoesmith’s suspected position. Word has it that he was running with a large gang, and some of them split off several days ago on the trail of a . . .”
“That’ll be me,” Sorkin announced. “The guy who was tracking him.”
“Not for long, if you don’t get that bullet wound seen to.”
“Which is partly why I’m here,” Cartwright added. “This man needs urgent medical attention, or he’s at risk of losing the limb. Can you do it?”
“It shouldn’t be too much.” He shouted over to some nearby infantrymen. “You two, go and fetch the doctor! There’s a casualty here!” They hurried off, and returned a minute later with a third man. The medic pulled Sorkin’s shirt aside and inspected the hole in his shoulder.
“It’s a clean in-and-out job. A few stitches and some ointment, and you’ll be right as rain. You’ll have to stay here for the night, though.” Cartwright shook his head.
“I have lodgings to go to in McGill.” Troman looked surprised.
“McGill? That’s three hours’ ride away!”
“I know. I wasn’t planning on staying down here for any longer than a day. I came to see Agent Rondown about Shoesmith, and he advised me to visit you.”
“Well your friend can go off now, and we’ll take a look at these documents. Sound good?”
“Just point the way.” The doctor led Sorkin away, and Cartwright followed Troman into the cabin once more. The officers were gone, and a fire had been lit in the corner.
“So,” the Sergeant said, taking a seat and producing a cigarette. “Why are you so keen to track this fellow down in the first place?”
“He’s an old acquaintance of mine.”
“That’s no reason to kill him, which is what I presume you intend to do.”
“For sure.”
“Then why?”
“Don’t be offended by this, but I honestly don’t want to tell you. It’s not on behalf of the government or the people or anyone else in this country. It’s for my own sake.”
“What, to put your mind at rest?”
“In a way. Where is he, Troman?”
“I don’t know. No-one does. Last I heard, he was hanging around with some characters in Agua Prieta, right on the border.”
“Isn’t that a bit risky?”
“Yup. The Army’s got a foothold in Tucson, which is only fifty miles north of his suspected location. Now, we’re not sure why he stole that ammunition for Fort Jameson, but we have some ideas. Chances are he’s selling it on to the Mexicans, and making a pretty penny in the deal.”
“What use do they have for it?”
“Tension’s pretty high in those parts. The war might have ended thirty years ago, but the two countries still resent each other. Some despot’s probably building a militia to keep himself in power, or is planning an invasion.”
“You don’t sound worried.”
“Have I been assigned to a posting there? No. So why should I be worried?”
“Fair point, Sergeant.” There was a pause. Troman reached into a pocket and took out a folded piece of paper.
“Here you go. That’s the map I promised you. All the towns he’s hit are on it.”
“Thank you.”
“So what will you do tomorrow morning?”
“I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I’ve got some ideas.”
“By which you mean . . ?”
“Sorkin claims to know the land down there better than most people, and he wants to find Shoesmith as well. My loose plan is to head out and find him.”
“You’re a lawman. That must give you some influence over others.”
“Couldn’t you order someone to help you?”
“I’m too moral for that, I’m afraid. I wouldn’t disrupt another man’s life for my own sake.”
“You’d do it to Shoesmith.”
“He did it to me,” Cartwright whispered, quietly. “I’d better be turning in, Sergeant. There’s a long day ahead of me.” Troman smiled.
“As you wish, Mr Cartwright. You’ll find an empty tent somewhere. My men will leave you alone if you return the favour.”
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Re: The Road To Hell

Postby macko123456 » 21 May 2011, 13:28

Extract from Waylon Sorkin’s testimony at the trial of Jeep Wybrow:

You asked me, Your Honour, about my first impression of Mr Wybrow. Unfortunately, I fear I am unable to provide a satisfactory answer, and I did not talk to him for very long. It took Mr Cartwright until the morning of the next day to introduce us properly. Despite this, I was immediately stuck by the image he kept: a fat, unshaven old man who clearly didn’t care for personal hygiene. The repeater slung over his back spoke of a long history. His voice was low and gravelly, and I found myself taking to him immediately. His relentless cynicism proved the perfect counterweight for Mr Cartwright’s attitude, and they crossed swords at every turn. Initially, I wondered if they would ever agree on anything.

Saturday 17th April 1880
US Army Outpost

Protector Of The Foolish

Cartwright woke to find his ears filled with shouting. There were soldiers running in all directions, carrying guns and supplies and manning their positions. He had slept fully clothed, and wasted no time finding the Sergeant. Troman was standing in the middle of the clearing, barking orders to his subordinates.
“Sergeant,” Cartwright greeted him, checking his gun. “Something wrong?”
“Not at all. It’s just a standard drill.”
“What time is it?”
“I make it just past ten, and a more pleasant day we haven’t had since last summer. It’s such a shame to spoil it with bad news.” He frowned.
“What’s happened?”
“It’s your friend, Sorkin. Took a turn for the worse in the night.”
“Is he . . .”
“Fear not, it’s nothing too serious. He’ll have to remain here for the rest of the day while he recovers. That said, it might pay off for you. We’ve got a detachment moving in this afternoon, and they’ve come from Sierra Vista.”
“That’s Shoesmith’s territory.”
“You’re not wrong there. With a bit of luck, their leader might have something on him. It’s not a guarantee, though. I can let you speak to him . . . for a price.”
“I’ve got money.”
“And I have bigger problems than a lack of funding, though it is admittedly pretty high on my list.” He sighed. “My ever-growing list. If you do something else for me, I’ll ask my replacement to tell you everything he knows.”
“I like the way you work, Sergeant.”
“Last time, I asked after that man of mine, and you brought him in. Did I or did I not do as I promised?” Cartwright extended a hand; Troman shook it warmly.
“You certainly did. What do you need?”
“When it comes to the problems facing Barwell, those four men you had arrested yesterday were just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a railway siding ten minutes’ ride from the town, and it was attacked quite recently. The owner’s an old veteran called Douglas Leland.”
“I suppose you want me to go down there and check if he’s okay?”
“If that’s not asking too much.”
“It seems reasonable. I shall set off right away. I trust Sorkin will be safe in your care?”
“We’ll see him right.” Cartwright strode over to his horse and mounted up, guiding the animal out onto the open road and turning right. In the clear light of the morning, he could see for miles, and was soon given a magnificent view of Barwell, nestled among the rolling plains. Stopping on top of a rise, he followed the lines from the station and along a valley, until they crossed a stream on a narrow bridge and disappeared between the folds of two hills. He struck out across the desert towards it, the horse picking its way carefully through the sand. As promised, several sidings branched off from the main track, and he followed them for a few hundred metres, until the cutting widened into a natural basin. There were two locomotives sitting there, along with some passenger cars. To the right of the yard was a signal box. He dropped to the ground and approached it warily, drawing his gun.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” The only answer was the cawing of two crows sitting on the roof. Cocking the pistol, he took careful aim and scared them off with a shot, the sound reverberating across the prairie. Silence fell once more. He was suddenly aware of the crunch of the gravel under his feet, and his steed’s nervous snorting.
“What it is you want, partner?” A voice said, from inside the building.
“I’m here for Mr Leland. Do you know where he is?” Without warning, the window was thrown open and a pair of legs pushed out. Cartwright stiffened as a man fell from it, a rope around his neck. There was a crack as it was pulled taut, the strain so great that it almost snapped.
“You’re looking at him.”
“Come out right now, sir, or I shall be forced to shoot again.” There was a long pause, and then a man emerged. He was tall and a little overweight, dressed in a waistcoat and a fedora. He had a repeater slung over his back.
“Now, why would you want to do a thing like that?”
“You’re a murderer.”
“Am I?” He indicated the corpse, which was swinging gently from side to side. “That man was shot last night by outlaws. All I’m doing is returning him to nature.”
“By hanging him?”
“The birds can have him for all I care. His soul’s in heaven.” Ignoring the fact that Cartwright had a revolver trained on him, he calmly set about making a fire from a pack of tinder by his belt.
“I find it odd, friend, that you aren’t intimidated by me.” He snorted.
“You? Why, you don’t look a day past eighteen. I served in the Civil War, where we turned people like you down for being too young and unfit to fight. Now you have nerve to tell me I should be intimidated? When I’m staring down the barrels of twenty men’s guns . . . that’s when I’m intimidated.” Wondering how to react, Cartwright uncertainly holstered his pistol.
“Who are you?”
“Round here, I’m known as Jeep Wybrow, but folk out in Oklahoma have some different names for me, not all of them nice.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet such an honourable man out here. Most fellows would bury a body, and I’m glad to see you considering that a waste. He’ll do more for the local wildlife now than he ever did when he was alive.” Wybrow indicated the cross hanging around Cartwright’s neck.
“You’re a Christian. That’s not very moral.”
“I’ve been a lawman too long to know the meaning of the word.”
“I have a dictionary, if you need one.”
“Sorry, but I can’t read.”
“What a shame.” He grinned. “For a man of honour, you’re surprisingly upstanding. I’ve met people who’d shoot me on sight for seeing me hang a dead body. It’s a crime, isn’t it?”
“I won’t hold it against you.” He laid his hands on his hips, regarding Wybrow suspiciously. “I must admit, I don’t know what to make of a wise man travelling the wilderness like this. If you can read and write, why aren’t you living in a city?”
“You don’t get many gunfights in cities.”
“A sentimental killer. There’s something you don’t see every day.”
“That makes two of us.” Cartwright laughed.
“I’m no killer, friend. My hands are clean and my soul pure.”
“Not much of a lawman then, are you?” He motioned to the pile of twigs he had accumulated. “Here, come sit with me. We can have a chat.”
“My apologies, but I was here for Douglas Leland, and since he’s unfortunately deceased, I shall be on my way now. Good you luck with your travelling.” He turned and walked off, but was interrupted by a shout from behind him.
“Tell me,” Wybrow requested, “Are you the kind of individual who finds himself in trouble wherever he goes?” Cartwright nodded.
“It seems so. I don’t go searching for it, but that’s the plain truth of the matter.”
“Then how about I come with you?”
“Mr Wybrow, we’re complete opposites. I’m a man dedicated to helping my fellows, and you appear to enjoy killing them. No offence, but you’re the kind of bandit I’d spend my time hunting if, like you said, I did my job properly.”
“Why are you a lawman if you don’t kill people?”
“Sometimes people don’t need killing to be saved. I have no problem handing captives over to other forces and watching them die for their crimes, so long as I don’t have to pull any triggers or tighten any ropes.”
“So it’s alright to punish people, so long as you’re not the executioner?”
“Pretty much.”
“Well, you’ve summed up the Church right there. I presume you have a hat to pass round for my spare dollars?”
“I don’t need money.”
“The allegory continues.” Cartwright was becoming increasingly frustrated.
“I can’t claim to understand you, friend.”
“Nor I you, partner. Still, it seems to me like a reluctant lawman such as yourself needs someone to do his butchering for him. I wouldn’t ask for any money, so long as we saw plenty of danger.” Sensing Cartwright’s indecision, he kept the conversation going. “You said you were trying to find Leland. Who sent you?”
“Sergeant John Troman of the US Army. I was to check that he was alright.” Wybrow stroked his chin thoughtfully.
“Leland was slain by a gang of men who’ve been operating from an old outpost not far from here. I could help you assault them and bring in proof of their demise, if you so wish.”
“Why would I want that?”
“Because this Troman guy wouldn’t be too happy if he found that his friend was dead and there was a group of crooks on the loose. You can solve this problem right now, Mr Cartwright. What say you?” He paused.
“I don’t honestly believe,” he said, “That your only incentive can be the promise of violence. All men are good at heart. How can you claim to be so evil?”
“Is taking someone’s life justified if they’ve taken a dozen others’?” Cartwright was stumped. He had been beaten at his own logic.
“You can accompany me if you want, but it won’t be safe. I’m going after Aaron Shoesmith. Have you ever heard of him?” Wybrow nodded slowly.
“Him? Oh, yes. Everyone’s heard of him. That makes accepting my help all the more important. Shall we go now?”
“As you wish. Do you have a horse?”
“She’s round the back. I’ll fetch her.”
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Re: The Road To Hell

Postby macko123456 » 24 May 2011, 11:47

No Rest For The Wicked

“So what are you planning to do when you find Shoesmith, Mr Cartwright?” Wybrow inquired. The two of them were trotting along a slender path, winding its way along the side of a river. The terrain was less much hostile than out in the open, and they were surrounded by trees. Their route meandered so much that neither could see more than a few metes ahead. Cartwright’s ears were filled with birdsong and the babbling of the water. He smiled, knowing full well the reaction his answer would prompt.
“I’ll send him to Hell.”
“I thought you were too upstanding for that kind of thing.” His tone was firm.
“If I had wanted someone to doubt my ethics, I would have invited a judge. I know you have a right to your opinion but if you have an issue with how I operate, keep it to yourself.”
“I’m only speaking sense. It’s not much use tracking a man you can’t kill.”
“Maybe I can. Shoesmith’s a bastard, and one of the worst ones at that. He’s been burning towns to the ground, slaughtering the residents in cold blood.”
“Don’t forget that ammo he stole.”
“Yeah, that too. We haven’t had a problem this big since the Civil War.” Wybrow chuckled, taking out a hip flask and drinking deeply from it.
“He’s the latest in a long line of vagabonds, lawbreakers and the like. When he’s gone and buried, there’ll be another one to take his place. That’s the way it is. We’ve had twenty years of a unified country, and they promised us it would be better. I ask this of you, Andrew Cartwright: is it?”
“You’re a bitter old man.”
“The rich grow richer and the poor poorer. Some things are destined to be. I lost everything after the War, even my house. Came home to find it burned down by Confederate soldiers.”
“Am I to take it you fought for the Union?”
“I’m from Illinois, born and bred. There’s some great land out there. And what about you? Where are you from?” He frowned.
“A lot of places. Tell me more about your life.”
“I fought under Meade at Gettysburg, saw the world changing with my own two eyes. We were charged by twenty cavalry. I almost lost my life there and then.”
“I too am lucky to be here.”
“Don’t try your luck with me, Mr Cartwright. You’re no hero.”
“Neither are you.”
“I never claimed to possess such a title. The likes of you represent everything that’s wrong with this country. The only item of significance you have to your name is that badge on your chest, and it’s nothing more than a piece of silver.”
“Maybe I’m misunderstanding you,” Cartwright said, coldly. “I forgot that surviving a war instantly makes a man wise. You know, just because you were at Gettysburg doesn’t mean you’re clever, or correct, for that matter.”
“I’m only clever in comparison to you. What kind of a lawman do you think you are, chasing a target neither the Army nor the Bureau give a damn about and not intending to kill him when you find him? I’d put you down as a tracker instead.”
“Should I automatically respect you because you’re old?”
“Respect me because I’m good, boy. I’m helping you, aren’t I?”
“Not on my terms,” he muttered, looking around. “We must be nearly there. We’ve been riding for two hours now.”
“A bit longer.”
“Who are these people we’re searching for?”
“Just regular outlaws. They’re led by Jim Barton, an all-round nasty piece of work if ever there was one. They killed Douglas Leland for the fun of it. Doesn’t that send a nice message?”
“I sincerely hope you know how to use your gun.”
“I’d rather know what it’s for, unlike some people around here.”
“You don’t need to insult me for believing that murder is wrong.”
“I don’t get how you’ve survived twenty years with such a moral compass. Shouldn’t you have moved to somewhere more peaceful, instead of hanging around on the frontier?”
“There’s some unfinished business of mine around here.”
“Exactly. I . . .” Wybrow cut him off with a wave of his hand.
“Hold up there for a second. I can hear hooves.”
“You can?”
“Listen.” Cartwright cupped his hand around his ear. As promised, the dull thud of running horses was filtering through the trees. With a nod to his companion, he guided his steed off the track and into the tightly-woven web of branches a short way, so they couldn’t be seen. They both dismounted and pressed themselves to the ground, watching intently as a group of riders went past at breakneck pace. The one at the front was urging them on.
“Is that Barton?” Cartwright whispered.
“Looks like him. Stay down.” The men thundered past within seconds, the sound quickly fading away behind them. The two of them remained silent for a minute or so, and then stood.
“We’ll go on foot,” Cartwright decided. “We can always come back here later.” They set off through the forest, crouching to make sure they weren’t heard. It took a while for them to reach their destination; a clearing had been cut, and a house sat at the far side. Next to it was a watchtower, with a ladder leading up to it. One of the crooks was standing on it, keeping watch. Smoke was coiling from the chimney, stirred by the wind.
“You sneak round the back,” Wybrow suggested. “I’ll take a more direct route.”
“Why? It’s too risky.”
“Because that fellow on the tower has a great view from up there. If you outflank them and take him out, we can move in.”
“You know full well I can’t do that,” Cartwright reminded him, and then had an idea. “Give me your firelighters.” Wybrow frowned.
“Your firelighters.” He handed them over.
“Are you planning on smoking them out?”
“You’ll see. Just keep them distracted for a few minutes.” He nodded and stepped out onto the road, advancing towards the house. Barton was standing outside, talking to two of his followers. Wybrow called over to them.
“Hello?” They looked up. “Can I speak to you?” No-one said anything. There was a long, tense pause. “Aren’t you going to give me a reply?”
“The only way I’ll reply to you, sir,” Barton told him, pulling his travelling cloak back to reveal a revolver hanging by his waist, “Is by carving ‘hello’ on a bullet and putting it in your head. I shall be more than willing to do you such an honour if you wait for ten minutes.”
“I appreciate your charity, but I wouldn’t have you waste your time. In ten minutes, you won’t even have the capacity for thought, let alone spelling.” Barton folded his arms.
“Who are you? A lawman?”
“I was once.”
“Is that where you picked up your condescending manner?”
“No, that I got from a decade of dealing with the likes of you. I’ve just come from Douglas Leland’s railyard. Do you know him?” He grinned.
“Used to.” His men sniggered.
“He’s dead now.”
“I’m aware of that, seeing as I’m the one who killed him.”
“And for what reason?”
“We paid him a visit wanting to trade, nothing more. We had acquired some gold pieces and intended to buy supplies. During negotiations, an argument broke out.”
“You shot him.”
“He drew first.”
“I hardly believe that. No self-respecting individual would pull a gun on a stranger. He must have had a motive.” Barton shrugged.
“So maybe I was going for my own weapon. Big deal.”
“It was a cold-blooded murder by a common thief.”
“I don’t see why you even care. What’s your name? Are you linked to Leland?” He inspected Wybrow suspiciously. “His son? His father?” More laughter.
“I’m Jeep Wybrow.”
“Never heard of you.”
“That doesn’t matter.” At that moment, he noticed the fire climbing up the leg of the watchtower. The man on it had seen it as well, and shouted out nervously.
“Jim! Help!” Barton glanced over. In a second, Wybrow had his repeater out. Cartwright jumped at the sheer volume of the shot, the rifle’s bass roar shaking the ground. It was followed by another, though he couldn’t see what was going on; he had retreated out of sight. Unholstering his own pistol, he cautiously rounded the corner into the clearing. The tower was splintering and collapsing, the outlaw on it already dead from the fumes. Two corpses lay in pools of blood, their stomachs torn open by the force of the rounds. More of the liquid was spattered on the front wall, running down it slowly. Barton was noticeably shaking; his revolver was still in its place.
“Put your gun down,” Wybrow ordered, cocking the repeater. “And fast.” Barton nervously did as he was asked, then kicked the pistol out of reach.
“Jim,” Cartwright said, producing a pair of handcuffs from his back pocket, “You’re under arrest for manslaughter.” Wybrow frowned, as the bandit was restrained.
“He’s killed an innocent civilian.”
“No-one saw him. We can’t pin it on him unless we claim it was a spur-of-the-moment thing. Don’t worry, the penalty is still death.”
“Then why ever accuse anyone of murder?”
“I guess it means the hanging’s more fatal.”
“Where are we taking him?”
“Back to Troman at the US Army camp. He’ll know what to do.”

Sorry for the really late post, but I'm in-between exams. You want more?
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Re: The Road To Hell

Postby mr-tom » 24 May 2011, 17:20

Yep - enjoying it.

Delighted to have more to read, but your exams should come first!

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Re: The Road To Hell

Postby macko123456 » 24 May 2011, 19:38

Ah, don't worry about it. I wrote this ages ago; it's just a matter of getting off my lazy arse and posting it.

Worth The Wait

“All these bloody diversions,” Wybrow complained. “You must be pretty angry.”
“I thought this whole thing would be over in a day,” Cartwright agreed. “If it had worked out, I’d have enlisted the aid of the Bureau of Investigation and helped them go after Shoesmith. Next thing you know, they can’t do it because he’s across the border and I’m working for the Army.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“It’s not as fast as I’d have liked.”
“What are you going to do now?”
“Head south, down towards Mexico. It’s where he’s hiding.”
“Can I come with you?” Cartwright thought for a few moments. He knew his personality grated with Wybrow’s, but the veteran had already proven himself to be a good fighter.
“What business do you have with Shoesmith?”
“None. I have nothing better to do with my time.”
“In that case, yes. We’ll be going with a tracker. Waylon Sorkin, he’s called.”
“Is he good?”
“So I’m told.” They brought their horses to a halt outside the entrance to the camp. Cartwright balanced Barton carefully on his shoulder and led Wybrow to the cabin at the centre. It was almost five in the afternoon, and most of the soldiers were relaxing. A couple were practicing at the nearby range, and the popping sound of gunshots filled their ears. “That reminds me,” Cartwright said, “That weapon you were using earlier . . . what is it?”
“It’s a Henry rifle,” he explained, taking it out and showing it to him. “One of the best on the market, if you ask me.”
“It seemed very powerful.” They were met by Sergeant Troman, who was sitting on a bench and cleaning his boots. He looked up as they approached.
“You took longer than I had expected, Mr Cartwright. I must admit, I feared briefly for your safety. Who’s this you have with you?” Cartwright dumped Barton at his feet.
“Jim Barton. Heard of him?”
“The runaway, huh? Strange you’d bring him in, considering I sent you to find Douglas Leland. I presume there’s some kind of connection between them?”
“Leland is dead, and by this man’s hand. You’ll need to make another noose.”
“Dead? What a pity. He was a fine chap.”
“I’ve done as you asked, Troman. You know what happened and I went so far as to avenge his passing. Will you compensate me, as promised?”
“I’m a man of my word. You’ll find Sergeant Brandon inside.”
“Thank you.” He stepped forward, but Troman stopped him.
“Who’s this with you? I didn’t say he could come in.”
“Jeep Wybrow,” Wybrow introduced himself. “I’m meeting all sorts of new people today.”
“As am I. You don’t plan on giving us any trouble, do you? We don’t like trouble.”
“Not at all, so long as you don’t cross me.”
“Why, you must be almost fifty years old. Does make you a one-time participant in the Civil War like myself? I fought for the Confederacy.”
“And I the Union, but let’s not let it get in the way of our friendship.”
“I didn’t know there was one.”
“Gentlemen,” Cartwright interrupted. “We shouldn’t argue with each other. Can you two keep yourselves from violence while I speak to Brandon?” They both nodded reluctantly. “Good. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” He pushed the door to the cabin open to find it almost empty, save for two men surveying the papers on the table and a third in the corner.
“Are you Andrew Cartwright?” he asked.
“That’s me.”
“I was told by Sergeant Troman that you need some information about Aaron Shoesmith.”
“Correct,” Cartwright told him, taking a seat. “What do you know?”
“I’d prefer not to speak here, considering that the Army isn’t meant to help lawmen, but John was persistent. He must like you a lot to break the rules. I just hope you don’t turn out to be someone who would use our secrets for their own means.”
“What if my intention was to bring him to justice?”
“Yes, that’s what you maintain. I don’t know why I’m trusting you, regardless of your purpose. Still, John’s a good friend, and I won’t renege on our agreement.” He sighed. “I’ve been patrolling the border for almost two weeks now, and it’s a mess. Shoesmith’s posse have been taking every opportunity for bloodshed, up to and including the slaughter of almost a hundred innocents.”
“Is it true he’s holed up in Sierra Vista?”
“No, though he did go through there. He’s playing a clever game, staying in Mexican territory and striking at American towns. Now, he arrived three days after the raid on Fort Jameson at the headquarters of a gang calling themselves the Vivoras, and immediately challenged their leader to a duel. You can figure the result out for yourself.”
“Is he now in charge of them?”
“That’s the way things work. From what we can tell, he’s preparing for another attack.”
“On the same place?”
“Shoesmith has this weird code of honour. He believes in seeing things through.” There was a pause. “Is that all you needed, Mr Cartwright?”
“It’ll do for now, thank you. See you soon.” Troman was waiting for them outside; he had moved on to his second boot. Also there were Wybrow and Sorkin.
“Andrew,” the latter said, shaking his hand. “I owe you my life. If you hadn’t brought me here, I’d be in a grave right now.”
“That’s assuming I had the time to bury you,” he replied. “And let’s keep it to surnames, if you don’t mind. Sergeant Troman, your efforts are appreciated. I now have the wherewithal to pursue Shoesmith, and shall be setting out for the border first thing tomorrow morning.”
“It is you who helped me,” Troman pointed out. “Not the other way round. If I’m in the area, I’ll find you and buy you a drink.”
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Mid 2011 Awards - Best City Journal
Mid 2011 Awards - Best City Journal
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