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.
“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.
“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.