The Eldorado of the West (Part IV) REPOSTSubmitted by ridiculous at 2010-03-20 04:06:50 EDT
Rating: 1.57 on 17 ratings (17 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Part I: http://www.ubersite.com/m/124673
Part II: http://www.ubersite.com/m/124682
Frank was frozen. His mind was racing, his heart pounding, and his arms and legs shook involuntarily. The big man in black stepped down the first step to the street. His eyes locked on Frank shining with a wicked gleam.
“Didn’t you hear me, boy? Just what in hell’re you looking at?”
Frank commanded his mouth to answer, his legs to carry him away, his eyes to break contact with the manifestation of evil approaching him. His mouth opened but it was not words that came. Bracing his arms against his knees he retched into the muddy street between his feet. The big man laughed.
“Leave him alone J.R., he aint done nuthin’” a small voice behind the big man squeaked.
Frank managed to look up and see the little boy from Mr. Cunningham’s fishing through the pockets of the dead man. J.R. turned to the boy.
“William, you get your scrawny ass out of here! I got sumthin’ to say to this boy.” J.R. turned back to Frank and stepped into the street. “Ain’t that right, boy?”
“But he aint done nuthin’! Leave ‘im be or I’ll tell momma!”
J.R. had turned and leapt up the stairs in a flash. Frank locked eyes with the boy for a moment and the message was clear: Run. William turned his eyes to J.R.’s, almost challenging. He didn’t shrink, cringe or brace himself; he just stared contemptuously as the big man backhanded him. Frank was running before William hit the floor.
Frank headed out of the street as fast as his legs could carry him. He could hear J.R. yell something behind him but didn’t slow and certainly didn’t stop. Frank was sure he would hear a shot any moment; he wondered what it felt like to get shot in the back.
There was a house ahead; he might be able to get there. It was getting closer and then he was around the corner, his hands on his knees and breathing hard. He only stopped for a couple of moments before continuing down the street and promising himself he would find a way to pay back William.
Jack and Jason had been at the tom all morning. Jason shoveled and Jack sifted, after a while they would switch. The river was always peaceful, rushing past and going about its business regardless of the people trying to rob it. The trees, a dozen feet up the bank rustled with the breeze. The air was warm and clean and the sun was bright. It would have been a beautiful day except for the seventeen year old sulking all morning.
Jason’s cheek and eye were swollen and throbbed painfully. Jack had been stewing, watching the young boy wallow in self pity, Jason was better than that and shouldn’t have been so stupid to begin with.
“It just warn’t smart Jason.” Jack used a broken tree branch to push the gravel and silt back and forth across the iron screen.
“She wouldn’t tell no one, Pa.”
“Dammit, that’s the point! You don’t know that!”
“I know her.”
“Like hell you know her! Her family has been here three month. You think just on account of her touchin’ yer prick you can trust her?”
The boy dug the shovel into the riverbed and turned to face Jack.
“Don’t talk about her like that.”
“I’ll talk about that split tail devil any way I want to!” Jack locked eyes with his son, could see the same determination on his face that his saw in the mirror occasionally. The boy took a step towards him.
“Don’t you talk about her like that!” The boy pronounced the words slowly, threateningly.
Jack saw the rage gathering on his son’s brow. He knew that look and what it meant.
“Settle down Jason or yer’ liable to regret what come next.”
His face twisted in rage, Jason jumped over the tom at his father. Knowing the boy and the temper he had inherited, Jack saw it coming. He simply stepped aside at the right moment leaving the inexperienced fighter stumbling and off balance. Jack punched him hard in the ribs, not too hard, he didn’t really want to hurt his son but the boy needed a lesson.
Jason stood straight, his hand clutching the pain in his side.
“That’s enough, boy.”
Jason disagreed. He dove for Jack again, another sloppy and impulsive attack. Jack waited until the moment was right and set the boy on his back with a well timed uppercut. Jason landed with a splash in the ankle deep water and lay there breathing hard and bleeding from his nose. Jack stood his ground and watched the boy. After a minute or two Jason picked himself up, wiped the blood from his nose on a sleeve and went back to his shovel. Jack massaged his sore hand.
“Good mornin’” Bruce Mayfair said as he and Ed Bristol approached the tom from upriver.
“Mornin’” Jack almost groaned at how quickly the girl had told them what Jason had said.
“I reccon you know why we’re here? Jack? Jason?” Ed said.
“Word spreads fast I reccon.” Jack shot a cold glare at Jason.
“I suppose it does. Jack, you remember what we talked about, don’t you?” Bruce supplied.
“Yea, I do. Said we’d let kids be kids, I believe.” Jack’s apprehension started to evaporate.
“That’s right Jack, but things’ve changed.”
“How’s that?” Jack’s mind spun trying to figure out what Bruce was saying.
“Margaret has been crying all morning. Why is that Jason?” The older man’s voice carried a hardened edge to it as he looked at the top of the boy’s hung head. He was not asking a question. He was demanding truth and quite possibly, satisfaction.
“Jason?” Jack turned to the boy but kept one eye on the two men. Jason raised his head and opened his mouth to speak but then he hesitated. “Answer the man.” Jack demanded. The hairs on the back of his neck stood, something was about to go very wrong. Icicles stabbed into Jack’s spine as he watched the boys head slouch. His heart sank when he heard his son pronounce the words:
“She’s with child.”
Frank had managed to get round behind some of the buildings in town and avoid J.R. at least until the man had returned into his establishment. Frank had then wasted no time getting to squat wood building that housed the assay office of Mr. Moffat.
It was a well known fact that an assay was only as good as his word. Mr. Moffat’s word was gold. Frank knew that the assay would clip a corner as their fee, that wasn’t the concern though. The concern was getting the gold to Moffat as quietly and safely as possible and more importantly getting the ingots back even quieter so the Williams family could get out of California with them.
Frank spoke briefly with the man and tried to arrange a meeting for the following night. Mr. Moffat would not agree to meet them anywhere other than in his office for fear that someone would see him and cast doubt on his credibility. After some explaining, Moffat conceded to open his shop early in the morning in two days time and allow them to wait while he purified, weighed and stamped the gold. It would cost an extra corner for the inconvenience and the sneaking but Frank didn’t hesitate to agree. They shook hands and Frank excused himself.
After promising to return with his father and brother in two days, Frank made his way back to Mr. Cunningham’s to fetch his horse and get out of town before he bumped into J.R. or anyone else like him. The horse had been loaded, as Mr. Cunningham had said it would be. Frank quickly untied the reins and jumped up on the animal kicking the horse into action, he made for the river.