A Western Novelette
Part 2 of the Border Trilogy
The Randolph Estate
Marshall Prescott had been waiting in the parlor for over an hour. Twisting his hat in hand like a nervous child on the first day of school, he was running through several scripts in his mind that would attempt to explain the events of the last twenty-four hours. Prescott knew from long experience that Randolph did not take bad news, nor worse yet, failures, well. Suddenly, Prescott was jolted out of his dread by Randolph’s booming voice as he walked in. “What the hell was so important you had to ride out here to my house?” Randolph walked over to the bar and poured himself a drink, glancing at Prescott with a look of disgust. “Well sir, it appears the posse I dispatched to apprehend La Voyant’s outfit has been massacred by a group of renegade indians.” Prescott prepared himself for Randolph to fly into a blind rage. “And what of La Voyant’s outfit, were they killed also in this massacre?” Randolph asked. “Well sir, it appears the posse managed to kill the ten men La Voyant’s outfit was attempting to bring over, but Grissom, the Mexican and the creole nigger were not among the dead.” Prescott was now gripping his hat so tight his knuckles had turned white. Randolph spun around quickly to face Prescott. “These renegade indians, you think they were working with the boy?” Randolph asked, his face red and flushed. “No sir. It appears to be the band that escaped off the Mescalero Reservation last month. The US Army at Fort Sumner has been dispatched as well as the Texas Rangers.” Prescott replied. “So these red niggers just up and decided to attack our posse, huh? Are you stupid Prescott? One or all of them damn apaches are kin to that indian boy somehow.” Randolph replied. “Well sir they took all the posse’s horses and weapons but there is no sign they went to the La Voyant Ranch.” Randolph took a drink and then turned around and looked out the window. “So these three from the boy’s outfit, where are they now? Back at his half-ass ranch on my land” Randolph asked. “We believe so sir.” Prescott replied. “Well Prescott, you need to get another posse together and go over there and finish off these pieces of shit before they run off to the Federal Marshal in Austin claiming we tried to kill them.” Randolph spat out his words in frustration. Prescott swallowed hard at the suggestion. He could not believe what he was hearing. “Mr. Randolph I just cannot go and attack these men on their own property without just cause, that would draw more attention than we need. We need to stick to our original plan and ambush them on the road. That way we can claim bandits or indians killed them.” Prescott replied with a small glimmer of pride in his eye that he actually stood up to the mighty John Randolph.
There was long pause as Randolph pondered the situation. Suddenly, in a flash, Randolph spun around, and with Prescott’s face frozen in disbelief, drew a small Colt pistol from his pocket and fired at a distance of less than six feet. The small thirty-two caliber round hit Prescott in the upper neck, tearing apart flesh, bone and artery, sending blood spurting halfway across the room like a fountain. Prescott dropped down to his knees, his left hand clutching at his neck and his right hand still trying to draw the gun on his hip. Calmly, Randolph walked over and at point-blank range, shot Prescott square in the head. The impact of the blast scorched the bone and threw Prescott’s head back in a violent whip. Like a limp dish rag, his body crumpled to the floor. Prescott’s eyes were wide and almost cross, a ghastly look of confusion and horror fixed on his face. The smell of scorched flesh and bone permeated the parlor so much that Randolph had to waft away the smoke and odor for fear of gagging. Randolph kneeled down and unbuckled Prescott’s gun belt, placing the rig on a table. He then reached down and unpinned the gold star from his shirt and placed it on the table beside the gun.”You are officially relieved of your duties.” Randolph mumbled with a smirk on his face. Randolph then walked outside and got the attention of two of his goons. “I need one of you to dispose of that lump of shit in my parlor. Burn it, do not bury it, you understand? I also need one of you to go to the telegraph office and have this message sent.” Randolph handed the man a folded slip of paper. “After that, go and fetch Deputy Knowles, tell him to come straight out here, as it is a matter of supreme importance regarding the Marshall. You understand me?” Both men responded with a “Yes-sir” and headed in separate directions. The telegram Randolph sent had been written the previous night and was to be sent in lieu of Prescott’s failure. It read:
From: John Randolph, Shafter, Texas
To: R.T. Newton, Tombstone, Arizona
Mr. Newton I have a job for you and your crew in Shafter.
Please come in person to discuss details.
Enclosed is $1,000 cash for your trip and trouble.
The money is yours regardless if you take the job or not.
Upon completion of job there will be a bonus of $5,000.
The La Voyant Ranch
The next morning as Tick and Rojo recuperated in their bunks, Grissom and Creed began work on the main house. Around noon time, Creed spotted a lone rider approaching. Grabbing their carbines Creed and Grissom both walked down to the barn and waited. As the man got closer, Creed recognized him as John Lewis, the Land Office Owner. “Hello! I am unarmed and come in peace!” Lewis yelled as he put his hands in the air, smiling. Creed and Grissom both waved and smiled back and lowered their rifles. “Come on inside the bunk house Mr. Lewis. Got sum’ coffee brewed.” Creed hollered back. “Stick around for this” Creed told Grissom. Grissom nodded and headed inside. As Lewis walked into the bunk house, he noticed Rojo and Tick in their bunks. “What happened to your two men?” Lewis asked concerned as he sat down at the table. “They were wounded in an ambush at Preachers Gulch.” Creed replied, pouring Lewis a cup of coffee. “Oh Yes, I heard about that. Those damn renegade indians are really causing a lot of trouble, I suppose we should be grateful your men survived..” Lewis replied, sipping at his coffee. Hearing this, Creed and Grissom quickly looked at each other. “What exactly did you hear Mr. Lewis?” Grissom asked, moving closer. “James Redding, the Telegraph Operator told me that one of Randolph’s men told him a group of renegade indians massacred around twenty-five cowboys at Preachers Gulch. He said a majority of the men were Mr. Randolphs and the others were hired men out of Mexico he thinks. Why, did you hear something different?” Lewis asked, a quizzical look on his face. Creed and Grissom’s face both got two shades of dark red. “That lying son-of-a-bitch!” Creed exclaimed, jumping up from the table and pacing the room. “Randolph had a group of fifteen hired killers set to ambush Rojo and Tick as they returned from Mexico with ten men who hired on to help build the ranch. That group of “renegade indians” was led by my uncle, Spotted Rabbit, who SAVED Rojo and Tick just in time before they were slaughtered by those hired killers.” Creed explained with fervor. Lewis sat at the table shaking his head, trying to absorb the news. “I knew Randolph was trying to take this land from you. That is the reason I rode out here, But I had no ideal he was going to go this far!” Lewis exclaimed, throwing up his hands. “You say this Telegraph Operator was told about the news of the ambush by one of Randolph’s goons? Well, it all makes sense. Randolph used my uncle and his band as scapegoats to cover up his botched ambush.” Creed explained, sitting back down. “You said the reason you rode out here was that you knew Randolph was going to try to take this land from us, what did you mean by that Mr. Lewis?” Grissom asked pointedly. Lewis reached into his jacket pocket and placed a folded leather-bound black ledger on the table. “For the last twenty years I have been in charge of every shady, illegal land deal Randolph has been a part of. And unbeknownst to him, I also recorded every dollar of extortion, bribe and kickback money that changed hands. With this ledger gentleman, you can put John Randolph in prison for a very long time.” Lewis replied.
“Prison is too good for that piece of goat shit.” Tick weakly hollered from his bunk across the room, taking a big swig of laudanum. “The only way we can tie Randolph to the ambush and murders is the testimony of Tick and Rojo.” Lewis replied, looking at Creed and Grissom. “Somebody is going to have to contact the Federal Marshall in Austin directly.” Grissom replied. “Why not just telegraph them?” Rojo suggested from across the room. “Because James Redding, the Telegraph Operator is on Randolph’s payroll, and any information he is told goes directly to Randolph.” Lewis replied. Creed paced the room, thinking. “The only thing to do then is to take the ledger directly to the Federal Marshall’s office in Austin, Mr. Lewis.” Creed said, looking at Lewis intently. “Why me? Why not you or Grissom?” Lewis replied, shrinking in his chair. “Because Me and Grissom need to stay here to protect Tick and Rojo. As you said, they are the only living witnesses to his crime, so he is definitely going to try to kill them, and me in the process if he can.” Creed answered boldly. Lewis sat there silent for a few minutes, contemplating the situation. Grissom walked over and placed his hand on Lewis’ shoulder.”You said yourself you are tired of Randolph running rough-shod over the people of this town, including you, Mr. Lewis, this is your chance to stop him.” Creed walked over and placed three hundred dollars on the table.” This will cover your round-trip stage fare plus hotel and food.” Lewis stood up from the table. He looked at Creed and Grissom for a long moment, then over to Rojo and Tick in their beds. He reached down and picked up the money and placed it in his pocket. “Do you own a revolver or pistol, Mr. Lewis?” Grissom asked. “Ugh, No, never had the need for one.” Lewis replied. “Well, now you do sir. We are dealing with dangerous men, and you have to be prepared to defend yourself.” Grissom handed Lewis a Smith and Wesson M&P Model .38 Caliber revolver with a four-inch barrel and a box of shells. “You can keep this in your jacket pocket without having to wear a holster.” Grissom added. “The gun holds six rounds, but the hammer rest on an empty chamber for safety.” Grissom showed Lewis, breaking open the cylinder. Lewis nodded and pocketed the gun and ammunition. The three men walked outside to Lewis’ horse. “I will have to ride to Fort Davis to catch the Stage. I will go by my place and pack a few things and head out. If I ride hard, I can get there tonight and catch the first stage in the morning. If all goes well in Austin, you should be hearing from me within a week, hopefully with a dozen federal marshalls in tow!” Lewis extended his hand to Grissom and Creed, who both shook it.”Please let the Federal Marshall know my uncle had nothing to do with the ambush at Preachers Gulch.” Creed reminded Lewis. “I will be sure too.” Lewis replied. “Be Careful Mr. Lewis, there is a lot riding on this trip!” Grissom said smiling. “I will. You two be careful and protect those men in there! Right now they are more valuable than silver or gold!” Lewis spurred his horse and took off for town, a trail of dust swirling up into the noonday sun. “What do you think his odds are?” Creed asked Grissom, squinting into the bright sun. “Right now kid, he is our only hope at stopping this bastard so I gotta believe his odds are good.” Grissom replied, spitting brown tobacco juice into the dirt.
The Randolph Estate
“Congratulations Marshall Knowles! I know you will make the town of Shafter proud with your service!” John Randolph smiled as he shook hands with the newly promoted Marshall while a local newspaperman snapped their picture, the bulb flash blinding both of them temporarily. Afterwards, Randolph walked over and slipped a hundred-dollar bill in the newspaperman’s vest. “And make sure to include something about Marshall Prescott being killed by that band of renegade indians, OK Bill?” Randolph shook hands with the newspaperman as the man nodded and winked that he understood. “Come on out to the back patio Marshall and have a drink.” Randolph said waving his hand to Knowles. As Knowles followed Randolph through the house, he noticed a group of cleaning ladies in the parlor scrubbing the floors. That must have been where he killed Marshall Prescott. Knowles thought to himself, his stomach suddenly getting nauseous. “Knowles come on over here and sit down.” Randolph motioned from the patio table. “Now that you are Marshall, I am gonna be leaning more heavily on you to get things done.” Knowles nodded and tried to hide the fear that was welling up inside him, turning his stomach inside out. What the hell had he gotten himself into! “Now as you know your former boss let me down in taking care of this indian boy and his friends squatting on my land.” Randolph eyed Knowles for his reaction. Knowles just nodded. He knew what Randolph was implying. After the failed ambush, the two living witnesses, Rojo and Tick, had to be silenced. Knowles did not say it, but one thing had always bothered him since this all started. Why was Randolph so concerned about this particular piece of land? What made it so special? “To help speed up the process of taking care of this problem I have called in R.T. Newton and his boys, I assume you have heard of Newton?” Randolph smirked as he looked at Knowles for his reaction. Anybody in Law Enforcement had heard of R.T Newton. He had made a name for himself as a mercenary, a gun-hand for hire working for rich ranchers and railroad tycoons. “Yes sir I’ve heard of him” Knowles said. “Good. Then you know he is more than capable of handling this band of misfits. Just stay out of his way and let him work.” Randolph lit a cigar and exhaled the grey smoke. Knowles stood and shook hands with Randolph. “If that will be all Mr. Randolph, I better get back into town and see about hiring me a couple new deputies.” Randolph stood also. “By all means Marshall and by the way, I will be increasing your salary to two hundred dollars a month and your deputies to seventy-five. I want you all to know how much I appreciate your hard work.” Randolph smiled as he chomped down on his cigar. “Thank you sir.” Knowles tipped his hat and turned around and left. As he was riding away from the estate Knowles felt used. He realized that this was the moment he could either become just another Randolph stooge or stand-up and do something. Regardless of the money and perks, he did not want to end up like Prescott and become a by-line in a fictitious newspaper story. He had to do something, and fast.
The Palace Hotel, Shafter TX
R.T. Newton and his three associates checked into their rooms at the Palace Hotel John Randolph had reserved and paid for in advance. “How long will you be staying with us Mr. Newton?” the clerk asked smiling. “That is to be determined young man, but let’s just say a week for now.” The clerk handed the men the keys and snapped for the bellhop to get their luggage. “That’s not needed, we can handle our own bags.” one of the men said gruffly. “OK Gentleman you are all set, here are your keys.” As the clerk handed Newton the keys he took stock of the man he had heard so much about over the years. He stood close to six-foot with coal-black hair and a neatly trimmed handlebar mustache to match. He was lean for a man his age, the familiar paunch belly was absent and in its stead was lean muscle that made his arms and legs appear like braided steel cables. His hands were the hands of a working man, large and scarred, with dislocated knuckles from many a bar-room brawl. He was dressed impeccably, with a tailored gun-metal grey suit, low-cut Wellington boots and being a native of Mississippi, an elegant black string tie. Newton did not wear a traditional gun belt like most hired guns of the day. Instead, he wore a shoulder rig with a Colt Semi-Automatic .38 Caliber handgun. Always a careful man, Newton also kept a back-up gun, a custom-made Colt 1903 Hammerless in a pocket holster and a .22 caliber derringer in his boot. As the clerk watched Newton ascend the stairs, he also took stock of the men following him. None of them really stood out, they were all about the same height and weight and dressed basically the same. Each of them in custom tailored dark suits with tan dusters. All of them wore tie down gun belts. As each man entered their room, they took care to set down their bags gently. Each of them carried an assortment of small arms including rifles, shotguns, revolvers and pistols. One of the men who went by the name Taylor and fancied himself a sharpshooter had one of the new 1903 Springfield Rifles with a telescopic sight. It was said this rifle with the right man behind the trigger could kill a man from over five hundred yards away. Taylor intended to put that theory to the test.
Later that night, the front desk clerk, a man named Peters, stepped outside for a cigarette and met the young bellhop leaning against one of the stone columns in front of the hotel, loafing as usual. After bumming a smoke, the bellhop’s curiosity got the best of him. “So tell me Mr. Peters, who was that old man and them three guys that checked in earlier? You acted like you were kind of scared of them…” Peters smiled at the remark. “Yeah if you knew who they were son, you would have been scared too…” The young bellhop’s eyes got big and excited. “So tell me!” Peters rolled his eyes and relented. “His name is R.T. Newton. He’s a mercenary. A Gun-Hand. Some say he has killed upwards of thirty men, maybe more.” The clerk exhaled the cigarette smoke into the cool night air. The bellhop laughed in excitement. “Hot Damn! I knew there was something about that old man! What about the other men, who are they?” Peters took a moment to answer. He could hear the piano playing at the saloon at the end of the street and men talking loudly. “Those men are Newton’s ‘associates’. In a word: Killers, just like him. Some of them are ex-army, some of them outlaws. All of them are dangerous.” Peters took one last drag of his cigarette. “Wow. I cannot wait to tell my friends about this!” The bellhop gushed. Peters shook his head at the young boy’s foolishness and crushed out his cigarette with his foot. As he was about to turn around and go back inside he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Suddenly out of the darkness in the alley beside the hotel, a man appeared. It was one of Newton’s killers. Peters froze. “Good evening sir.” the bellhop said startled. The man said nothing as he ambled up the hotel steps. Peters moved aside to allow him to pass but the man stopped before entering the hotel. Being so close, Peters could smell the whiskey on his breath. He also got a good look at him. He was young, around twenty-five or so. He was unshaven and grizzled and had a nasty scar across his neck. As Peters was examining him, the man suddenly turned to face the bellhop. “You’d best keep your goddamn mouth shut about Mr. Newton kid. He don’t like people who gossip…” The man slurred his words slightly as he stared at the kid with coal-black eyes. The bellhop’s face went white. “Uh, yes sir, no problem.” the boy squeaked. Satisfied he had made his point, the man turned back around to make his way to his room. As he got to the stairs the man stopped and smiled. In a low voice he said “You were right Mr. Hotel clerk.” Peters walked over closer, straining to hear. “I’m sorry sir? Right about what?” The man turned and in the blink of an eye and in one smooth motion, with the simultaneous sound of iron clearing leather and the hammer being cocked, drew his revolver and pointed it right at Peters head. “I am one dangerous son-of-a-bitch!” The man eyes were wide and crazy, like a feral animal. His crooked smile revealing yellow and black teeth. Peters felt his bowels and bladder release and all the blood drain from his face. Suddenly the world went black and he crumpled to the floor in a pool of his own piss and shit. Smiling broadly, The man holstered his gun and made his way drunkenly up the stairs. The bellhop just stood there staring with his mouth agape and his eyes wide, scared to even move or make a sound.
To Be Continued…