The El Dorado of The West (Part V)Submitted by ridiculous at 2010-05-31 12:33:08 EDT
Rating: 1.57 on 25 ratings (25 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Part I: http://www.ubersite.com/m/124673
Part II: http://www.ubersite.com/m/124682
Part IV: http://www.ubersite.com/m/124753
Late that evening Frank returned to the camp, informed his brother and father what had happened in town with the man called J.R., William & Mr. Moffat. Jack expressed concern over his sons run in with the notorious saloon owner and sternly ordered him to stay away from the man and the establishment. He also expressed disappointment that Mr. Moffat couldn’t be persuaded to meet with them anywhere other than his shop. While Moffat was certainly protected by his knowledge and reputation they, as no name prospectors with a considerable amount of gold, were not. Finally satisfied with the recounting of the tale Jack told Frank he had done well and told him about the situation in the camp, of Margaret’s pregnancy, and Ed’s suspicion. The trio proceeded to bed.
The following day was a hard one for the family. Anticipation and nervousness colored them all through every activity. It was especially bad for Jason. Jack watched the boy look up the river sometimes for long minutes, as if he thought he could look through the trees and see the camp, Margaret, by force of will alone. Jack was not looking forward to what he had to do to his son but he knew it had to be done.
“I said no dammit.” Jack hated this.
“I love her, pa.” The boy was on the verge of tears.
“It can’t be, Jason.”
Jason wandered away to curse his situation, his father and life in general. Jack returned to work the tom and hated himself for what he was doing. Frank laid a hand on his fathers shoulder and shared a look that conveyed regret and understanding. The boy loaded another shovelful of dirt and gravel on the tom and they kept working. Jason returned a short while later without a word.
The following day passed much the same. Jason walked, talked and worked as if he were dead or dying. Frank sympathized with his brother but knew his father was doing what was right. Jack tried to reign in his emotions. He wanted to comfort his boy but there were no words to be said.
Jack spent a good part of the day mechanically working and thinking. Mostly he thought about Ann, the boys’ mother. If Ann were here she would know what to do about Jason but Jack had never even tried to manage the emotional stuff with his sons. Frank seemed to understand his father’s motives most of the time but Jason: he just never seemed to get it.
That evening the feeling of suppression continued. Nearly nothing was said by any of the three men as they sat around the fire eating their supper. They retired early and the boys left for Sacramento several hours before dawn.
Jack stayed behind to put up the display of working to assuage Ed’s suspicions. He hadn’t wanted Frank to return to town, especially not so soon, but he couldn’t reason any other way to keep up appearances in the camp and get the gold to the Assay. He considered riding into town with Jason but Frank had been the one to make the arrangement with Moffat. If they went pounding on the door in the middle of the night without him, Moffat probably wouldn’t let them in. He couldn’t count on Jason to lie convincingly either, given the boys recent breach of secrecy.
Wrestling with unease, he watched the boys vanish into the darkness. He knew that all of their hopes were now resting with them, the nugget and the gold that had been chipped out of the veined rock. Jack tried to push back the curtain of dark thoughts with dreams of his life outside of California. He thought about going home, his wife, his boys having the money to buy their own property. He saw them finding wives of their own and having a good life.
Dark thoughts returned when he realized that one of them had already found the woman he wanted to marry. Jack was now doing his best to break them apart. Cursing himself and their circumstance he went back into the cabin where Ed was snoring soundly.
Jason had done a lot of talking on that ride into Sacramento. He couldn’t help but repeatedly profess his love for Margaret, his devotion to their unborn son and how cruel their father was for keeping them apart. Frank, as always, was the voice of reason. He calmly explained to his brother that Margaret couldn’t possibly come with them. Her parents would assume it was kidnapping, even if she wanted to come, and even if Jason asked for her hand in marriage, they couldn’t just leave California without explanation.
Jason finally gave up his irrational argument with the most irrational statement of all.
“I wish we never found that nugget.”
Frank shook his head and refused to dignify the remark with comment.
They rode for some time in silence before they came into the city. Frank slowed his horse and fell in behind his brother. He lowered his head and tried to avoid looking at anything for fear that someone would recognize him from the incident two days prior.
The streets were sparsely lit and mostly quiet with the exception of various saloons, brothels and gambling houses that were still going strong. An occasional cough or bout of drunken laughter would punctuate the still predawn air. Frank held his breath when they rounded the corner onto the main street. Eyeing the drunken and rough looking customers in front of J.R.’s they passed cautiously on their way to the squat building that was the office of Mr. Moffat.
Frank dismounted and secured his mount to the post. He untied his saddle bags and threw them over a shoulder before he approached the door of the dark building and knocked. He could hear the legs of a chair slide back and the creak of floorboards a moment before the steel pin holding the door latch was withdrawn. The door cracked open revealing a darkened interior. A moment later the side by side barrels of a shotgun slid through the gap.
J. R. kicked his legs out of the bed. He was still drunk and his head hurt. He needed a drink.
J.R. turned to the sleeping form that had been in the bed with him.
“Dammit woman, I said get your lazy ass up!”
She turned over to face him. A look of scorn chiseled in her ivory features.
“What the hell do you want? I’m sleeping!” She scolded.
“I don’t give a good got’ dam! Get me a dam drink!”
“You fuckin’ kiddin’ me? Dam sun aint even up!” Her look was one that would melt ice.
“If’n I hafta tell you ‘gain woman…” He was smiling, despite himself. He loved that she would stand up to him. No one else ever did.
“You’ll what? I aint afeared o’ you, James Holleran! Git it yur dam self!” She rolled over to go back to sleep.
J.R. grinned, rolled back into bed, grasping her ass and pulling her over towards him.
“Y’know I love it when you talk back to me.” He grunted.
“And you know I love sleeping.” She grimaced, pushing him away. “Git yer dam drink and leave me be.”
J.R. Sneered, now he was feeling mean.
“William!” He shouted at the door adjoining the room.
A moment later the door opened and the boy appeared, naked from the waist up and trying to gently rub the sleep from his black eye.
“Whiskey.” The command was quiet, edged.
William crossed the room and stepped out into the bar. J.R. stood up and wandered over to the window. He pulled back the lace curtains and looked out at the awakening streets. Some of the tradesmen were already on their way to work. The braziers on the street, glowing a dull red, were rapidly losing the battle to the lighting of the sky to the east. The earliest risers made their way to their work with coats held tight against the morning chill. All around the city was coming to life.
J.R. took the glass of whiskey William offered him and swallowed it immediately. Handing the glass back he said.
“More. And don you slop it all this time or I’ll hide your ass again!” He growled.
“Hey!” The shout was fast and sharp. She rolled over to glare at his back.
“Oh shut up, I aint hit ‘im yet!” he sneered over his shoulder.
J.R. looked out the window once more, down the various streets and alleys, across the drunks lying in the mud or stumbling somewhere to sleep it off. That’s when he saw the thick smoke creeping its way up from a particular pipe in the distance. He narrowed his eyes trying to see more clearly through the darkness and the dirty windowpane.
“William! Hurry your ass up!”
William returned, walking slowly with the brimming glass and slowly handed it to J.R. who grunted acknowledgement and again gulped the amber liquid.
“This time, bring the bottle then get yer sorry ass over to Moffat’s and find out what in hell’s he doing werkin’ this early.”
“Awww J.R. you know that grouchy old bastard hates me!” The boy whined.
“Who taught you to talk like that?” His mother shrieked from the bed.
“Shut up, the both of you! Do as I say or yer gonna regret it. Y’hear?”
William walked through the chill air dodging stinking men and puddles on his way to Mr. Moffat’s office. The boy cursed under his breath regularly as he wound his way through the waking city. A elderly man, dirty and as stinking as the pot in his hands, threw several days accumulation of piss at William’s feet. The boy turned to protest, the old man spat and stared, William decided to continue up the street, instead.
The sky’s impenetrable black had turned to dark blue and was just beginning to the first hues of purple when the boy arrived at Mr. Moffat’s. The orange glow of the foundry peeked through the wallboards at the building’s west side and the plume of smoke had diminished to a lethargic trickle. William tried the door and found it locked. Voices inside told him that Mr. Moffat wasn’t alone, the conversation was quiet but he could make out a pair of young voices and Mr. Moffat’s scratchy eastern lilt. William had never been in the Assayers office but it was easy to tell when he was happy.
William knew he didn’t have enough information for J.R. He didn’t really want to go back there yet anyhow, so he found a place to sit down across the street and wait for whoever was inside to come out. He ended up waiting almost two hours, the sky had changed from purple to pink and was just starting to show the rich crimson of a California sunrise.
The door latch groaned as the steel pin was removed from the inside and clicked open. The door swung wide to reveal Mr. Moffat standing there with two young men a couple of years older than William. The two men shook hands with and thanked Mr. Moffat just before the old man turned and spotted the boy. His smile was immediately replaced by a grimace.
Moffat reached behind the door and stepped out into the street leveling a double barreled shotgun at the boy.
“William Jacobs, you get your scrawny ass out of here this instant before I fill it full of buck!” The old man yelled, his face instantly turning the same shade of bright red as the sunrise above them.
William gasped and leapt from his hiding place bolting back up the street, the way he had come.
“Wait!” One of the young men called to the boy. The boy slowed to a stop and cautiously turned around.
Moffat turned to his customer without losing the grimace.
“Do you know who that boy is?” He was angry and incredulous. “You don’t want him knowing nothing about our business today.”
“I do know who this boy is, now please, put up that gun.” Frank said.
“Frank, what’s going on here?” Jason nervously asked, his demeanor reflecting Mr. Moffat’s.
“Jason, this is the boy I told you about, the one that helped me.” Frank replied.
“You know who is father is?” Mr. Moffat wasn’t going to drop this issue.
“Just because he married my mama doesn’t make him my pa!” William almost shouted at the old man.
Moffat spat. “Close enough for me! You tell that old man of yours to stay the hell away from my business and my customers!”
Frank placed a hand on the barrel of Moffat’s weapon and pushed it down towards the ground.
“Mr. Moffat, please relax. I need to talk to this boy.”
Moffat repositioned his ire from William onto Frank, stepped back inside, closed the door and hollered through it.
“What do I care? You talk all you want, out there!” The words were accentuated by the sound of the steel pin driving home into the door handle.
Frank looked at the boy, beckoned him close and bent to eye level with the youngster.
“Do you remember me?” He asked.
“Sure do. You’re the one J.R.’s after.”
“After? He’s looking for me?”
“Yeah, he’s afeared yer gonna call ‘im out fer lynchin.”
Frank and Jason shared a wide eyed look.
“Look, you’re William, right?” The boy nodded. “I want to thank you for your help the other day. But I need you to make me a promise…” Frank reached into the saddle bag slung over his shoulder and produced the single ingot smelted in Moffet’s smallest mold for him, two and a half ounces.
In 1851 California: 1oz gold bullion = $36.00
Beef - $10.00 per lb
Butter - $20.00 per lb
Cheese - $25.00 per lb
Eggs - $3.00 ea
Flour - $13.00 per bag (not sure if this is a 1lb bag or 5lb bag, etc.?)
Rice - $8.00 per lb
Shovel - $36.00 ea
I don’t stand by these numbers. They are simply what an hour of research (on google) has yielded.
Never Smelt Over Concrete!!!.jpg