Ridin' for the Brand - Part IV
Sheriff Anderson was crooked as a Virginia fence and not much of a lawman either. My plan was to wait for him to go on his nightly rounds and take the Deputy by surprise. Then I just needed to persuade the Deputy to unlock the cell holding Mr. Jacobs, the Bar-T ranch owner and Bill Nelson, the Bar-T foreman. As far as I could figure, that was the easy part, escaping the lynch mob that would show up at the ranch in the morning … well, there wasn’t a plan for that yet.
After ten minutes of waiting, Sheriff Anderson walked out of the jail and headed down main street. There were no right minded people out on the street at this time of night, leaving very little chance of me being recognized. I paused to find the north star in the Durango sky, for a moment the smell of sage and chaparral overpowered the whiskey and beer.
My attention focused back to the task at hand. The jailhouse door wasn’t even latched shut, this was going to be even easier than I planned. Just for fun I smashed my boot into the door and walked into the jailhouse with a smile on my face. The Deputy jumped to his feet and spilled a glass of whiskey on himself.
“Be careful son, don't be wastin' that mormon tea,” I cocked the hammer back on my pistol.
“Who are …”
“Doesn’t matter. Keys to the cell?,” I asked.
The Deputy pointed to the wall.
“Open her up and let those men free. When they’re out, you go in and lay down flat on the floor. You understand? Drop your gun belt first.”
He nodded with a cold fear in his eyes and carefully unbuckled his rig.
“Rest assured, you do as you’re told and you’ll live. I get a notion that you don’t intend to follow my orders and you’ll have your own personal plot in the boot yard, I'll even mark it with an 'X' for ya.” I said.
The Deputy unlocked the cell, Mr. Jacobs and Bill Nelson stepped out.
“Clayton, sure is good to see you. Where’s Missy?” asked Mr. Jacobs.
“She’s safe and on her way to the ranch now. She wasn’t harmed,” I replied.
Mr. Jacobs nodded and took a sigh of relief before getting back to the business at hand. “Thank you.What’s your plan?”
“Sir ... plan was to save you from gettin’ a california collar for somethin’ ya didn’t do. Haven’t put much thought into what happens next.”
Always a practical man, Bill Nelson reminded us, “We’d better get to movin’, Sheriff’s only gone about fifteen minutes on his nightly rounds.”
“There’s two horses saddled behind the livery in the treeline, my mule Georgina is with them,” I said.
“Better to take the winter trail, less chance of them catching up to us,” said Mr. Jacobs.
Bill Nelson nodded in approval. “They’ll have trouble raising a posse at this time of night. But no doubt they’ll be coming for us in the morning.”
“You two get out of here, I’ll take care of the Deputy and catch up to you on the trail,” I replied.
Mr. Jacobs grabbed two rifles from the gun rack on the wall and tossed one to Mr. Nelson, “Hey there Deputy ... tell the Sheriff if he wants these back, he knows where to get’em.”
The Deputy must have had somethin’ to live for, he didn’t move from his spread eagle position on the floor. I gagged him with a bandana and locked him in the cell. The bottle of whiskey on the table caught my eye and I took a short pull, figured it might be awhile before I got the chance to relax again. I also grabbed a plug of chewin’ tobacco from the desk and threw it in my mouth before walking out the door of the jailhouse. I felt mighty proud of myself, saved the bosses daughter and the boss, all in a day’s work for this salty cowhand.
The sharp pain on the left leg hit me when I leaned down to spit on the boardwalk. The jolt of pain caused me to momentarily choke on the wad of tobacco in my mouth. The next blow hit me in the right hip and knocked me to the ground, I covered my head and kicked toward a dark blob of an object. The kick landed, my boot hit what felt like a knee and a loud groan followed.
I hopped to my feet and landed a left hook to his rib cage, followed by a right straight, and felt his nose turn to mush. I reached for my pistol and from behind, a blow to my shoulder me to the ground. Before I could regain my bearings a series of blows from all sides rained down on me, the only option was to cover up my head, ride it out and hope for a chance to go for my pistol.
“That’s enough,” shouted Kate. The distinct sound of hammers cocking on a scattergun followed her voice. “You heard me, get off him, what’s wrong with you? Attacking a man at night with ax handles, do you have no shame?”
The blows stopped, I sat up on the sidewalk and recognized the two men standing over me, John Wesley and his partner. I should have known better than to leave them alive. “Thanks Kate.”
“Ma’am I suggest you stay out of this,” said John Wesley.
“Mister, I have no interest in your business but I’m not going to stand by and let you beat a man to death in the street. You two want to fight, settle it like gentlemen. Two men beatin’ another with ax handles, it ain’t right,” said Kate.
While Kate was talking I got got my feet and spit the blood out of my mouth. There weren’t any broken bones but I’d be almighty stiff in the morning.
John Wesley smirked, “Miss, I’d feel better if you pointed that scattergun elsewhere. Your finger is awfully close to that trigger.”
“And my finger’s gettin’ tired. You two get to steppin’ ... off you go,” said Kate.
John Wesley and his partner slowly backed away and headed down the street. Kate lowered the scattergun from her shoulder and de-cocked the hammers as they got out of range.
“Clayton Daniels, what in the hell is the matter with you?”
There was nothing to say, I ignored the question and picked up my hat. “Thanks Kate. That was close to being the end of me. Those are some mighty mean men and they had me down in a bad place.”
Kate sighed. “I worry about you.”
“I know you do and I worry about you too. But I can’t stand by and let that crooked Sheriff hang Mr. Jacobs and Bill Nelson for something they didn’t do. It just ain’t right. I don’t know how it’ll turn out but one way or another, it’ll be over soon,” I said.
Kate gave me a hug and a kiss. “Promise you’ll come see me as soon as it’s over?”
Kate smiled and nodded toward the treeline. “Then get the hell out of here and do whatever it is you need to do.”
I smiled and tipped my hat to Kate. “Yes Ma’am.”
Georgina and I caught up to Mr. Jacobs and Bill Nelson about half way back to the ranch.
“Clayton you alright? Ridin’ a little crooked in that saddle.” asked Bill Nelson.
“Ran into some trouble on my way out of town,” I replied.
Bill nodded. “Anything we need to be worried about?”
“Not tonight. If you don’t mind me askin’ … how’d this whole thing get started.”
“I’ll explain over coffee in the morning, let’s focus on making it back to the ranch tonight,” said Mr. Jacobs.