Yankton Book 3 Chapter 44 A Fine Mess
Caleb and I spent the next day scouting Cheyenne for a suitable conveyance to not only haul our gear back home but the luggage Montana and Tom would be carrying, as well as Montana. There were plenty of farm and freight wagons but they wouldn't be suitable. We came across buggies but those wouldn't hold up for the three hundred mile trip ahead of us. The elephant park proved unsuccessful as well as the wagon shops. I discussed the problem with Gus who replied.
"Go talk with Mr. Grimes over at the stagecoach office. Seems to me they have a barn where they keep spare coaches, maybe he can help you."
Alfred Grimes was the station master for the Cheyenne to Deadwood stage line, and indeed he did have a barn where damaged coaches were stored along with extra wheels axles and harnessing. Well Mr. Grimes had exactly what I was looking for.
"They call it a California wagon Mr. Yankton," explained Grimes. "My predecessor Mr. Tabolt thought it might work out here but unfortunately it didn't too light, and as you can see, it's basically a heavy-duty buckboard with stagecoach suspension and roll-up canvas sides and a luggage bustle in the back." It turned out that Mr. Grimes was undecided as to sell it or not, it could still come in handy in a pinch.
"How about we do this Mr. Grimes, how about I take care of any repairs it might need, wheels, axles, that sort of thing, use to get home then either take it to your office in Deadwood and keep it there or find someone to return it here. If you're worried that I'll steal it or something, I'm a duly authorized deputy of Sheriff Bullock up in Deadwood or just ask the Marshall here in town he knows me."
After some deliberation, he agreed to let me take the wagon including a two horse team which I was to leave with the wagon at the Deadwood office. Apparently he checked with Schnitger who vouched for me.
"Very well Mr. Yankton you may borrow it provided you see that the axles are properly greased and the wheels and spokes are well and proper. I suppose our office in Deadwood is just as good a place to store the wagon as here." I thanked him as well as telling him that should a decision be made to sell it let me know.
"I'll make you an excellent offer on it," I told him.
As it turned out, one front wheel needed to be replaced, and one of the rear wheels needed to be soaked to swell the spokes. That, along with greasing the axles, cost me fifty dollars. The canvas was kind of ratty in places but would do. The two horse team and harness came with the deal. I thought I might be getting off cheap but little did I know.
In the meantime, I also purchased a few camping supplies, two bedrolls three blankets cooking gear and a coffee pot. I also rented a second room next to ours which Tom and Caleb would occupy when Montana got here, which she and Tom did at two thirty the next morning. Caleb and I met them at the station in our coach causing immediate suspicion.
"So what is all this?" She inquired, "What are you and Caleb doing here?"
"We're staying over at the Inter-Ocean where I've rented a second room for us once we get situated all will be explained dear." I had Caleb take the coach to the nearest stable while I carried her bags upstairs. Caleb had already moved his bag to the room he would be sharing with Tom. Montana was on her guard as she rightly "smelled a rat." When Caleb returned I began to explain.
"First of all Abbie I promised that I'd never lie to you and I won't. Before you and Tom left, I was approached by a Mr. Harlan Jacobs with a very lucrative offer to transport a large shipment of gold from Hill City down to the bank in Sidney for five hundred dollars which we successfully did and received. However in the process I was forced to leave a string of dead bodies in my wake. I believe Mr. Jacobs was in on a plot to relieve me of that gold somewhere along the trail, well that didn't happen. Originally Caleb and I planned to take the stage from Sidney back home, but then I became very suspicious of him by his over concern about us taking the stage home. I believe he intended on having people stop the stage at some point kill Caleb and me and take that five hundred dollars. We then got on the train and came here thus thwarting his plans again, although I suspect he's having the coaches watched from here to Deadwood which is why we're going home in that coach I picked you and Tom up at over at the station. Well there it is, that's everything." She sat in her chair simply looking at me with her lips pursed. Then looking at Caleb she asked,
"Is what he just told me true?"
"It is Mrs. Yankton, every word." She then drummed her fingers on the table for a moment, then slapped the table.
"Brian, I don't want to become a widow again I simply don't think I could bear it. Not only did you put yourself in danger but Caleb's as well!"
"You're absolutely right," I calmly replied, "I did it because we need the money, two hundred of it is yours. As for putting myself in danger, your right again, however keep in mind; I know what I'm doing in these situations, why do you think we came over here? Also, keep in mind every time you deal cards you never know who's going to get pissed off and pull a gun on you. We live in a very dangerous place; each of us knows the odds, as well as what can happen. You operate with a certain "edge," I've seen you, well so do I, most of the men who tried taking that gold died never even knowing what hit them it's simply the way I play, why do you think I don't fool around with these black powder weapons? For what it's worth, I realized half-way into this that I had made a big mistake. Right now I'm playing out the hand I was dealt. All I can do at this point is to say that I'm sorry, I can't say that it won't happen again because I honestly don't know, that's the best I can offer you."
She then put her head down for a moment then asked,
"So how are we getting home?"
"By coach, it's what they call a California wagon; apparently it's the type of stagecoach they use out there. At any rate I got it on loan from the coach company."
"So where are we going to stop along the way?" She asked.
"Well since I can't risk Jacobs having a man watching for us in one of the stops it looks like we'll be "roughing it," certainly better than sleeping on some "ticky" mattress and eating questionable half-cooked food. C'mon Montana make the most of it." She looked up at me and sighed,
"I'm simply worn out and ready to drop." Tom caught his cue,
"Let's go Caleb, see you two in the morning."
After they left Montana stood up and came to me, we embraced as she sobbed,
"I can't afford to loose you Brian, you mean too much to me." Kissing her I softly replied,
"How do you think I feel every time I see you playing cards with a bunch of strangers never knowing if one of them will get mad and pull a gun on you?"
Both of us were beat and quickly dropped off to sleep waking around nine-thirty in the morning. I was fully expecting round two but she never said a thing just began talking about her mother and how visiting her had been the right thing to do."
"I had been pretty apprehensive all the way to Abilene but once mother and I sat down for a long talk, I knew it had been the right thing to do. She was actually quite proud of me and all that I had accomplished. Brian, I saw the same look in her eyes that I see in your mother when you and Melinda are together." I sat next to her and gave her a hug.
"See, what did I tell you. I never told you about the deal I made with Jacobs because I knew you wouldn't go to Kansas."
"You're right," she replied, "I wouldn't have." A knock then came at the door, it was Tom,
"Caleb and I have already eaten they stop serving breakfast in half an hour better get going if you want any."
As we were getting dressed, Montana announced,
"Would you mind if we stayed one more day, I'm still pretty worn out from traveling; besides I might want to spend some of that money you made for me."
I assured her it was fine by me. Downstairs at the front desk I extended our stay for one more day in which the clerk handed me a note, it was from Miss Linstrom. Handing it to Montana at breakfast I said,
"I heard you talking to Miss Monfort about adding another girl. When Caleb and I were walking up Eddy Street she accosted me, we got to talking and I told her about you and a possible offer. Look there's even a telephone number on the note, my god, can you believe that?" After we ate Montana actually called the exchange number on the note from the telephone in the lobby.
When she returned, she said,
"Since the management here would take a very dim view of us meeting to discuss business Miss Linstrom has suggested we meet at Ida Hamilton's over on 18th. Perhaps you, Caleb and Tom would meet me later over at Whipple and Hay's Mercantile?" Montana always hated it whenever I rubbed in the fact that times were changing and modern technology, in this case the telephone were starting to make their appearance. In fact I learned later that there was already a long distance connection between Cheyenne and Laramie.
Tom, Caleb and I sat in the hotel lobby a little while longer discussing the attempted gold hijacking and the bloody aftermath's, as well as how pleased he was that everything had gone so well between Montana and her mother.
"How long do you think your ma has to live?" I asked. Tom shrugged,
"Hard to say, her new husband seems pretty spry, doesn't drink either except for an occasional beer. She probably told ya but ma was real happy, I've never seen her that way before."
"Well all I can say Tom is that I went through it with my mother and sister, they fought like cats and dogs then after both my dad and Professor Wainwright were gone, mom changed. She reached out to Melinda, Melinda reached out to her, and well, you've been around them." Tom then asked,
"What's your plan for going home?" Sighing, I grimaced as I replied.
"I brought my M1A as well as the MP5, I guess you've haven't seen that one yet it really spit's the lead. Caleb has that semi-auto Ruger of his, maybe I'll have you carry that or even the M1A if you like, it's a little more like your Springfield."
"Those magazine guns just confound me," he replied.
"Well I know you don't care for lever-actions either, how about that lever-action shotgun?"
"I'll take the Winchester," he replied, "I didn't say I'd never use one I just meant I didn't care for them."
"Well there's the possibility Montana might hire this woman she's talking to, that means she'll need a ride," I replied.
"Put her on a coach," replied Tom, "Shooting starts some women go all to pieces, can't take the chance, put her on the stage."
We then wandered over to Whipples Mercantile, the WalMart of the day, poked and browsed until Montana and Miss Linstrom arrived.
"You've already met my husband Miss Linstrom, and apparently young Caleb, this is my brother Tom." Then lowering her voice, she added,
"Miss Linstrom has graciously accepted my offer and will be joining us at the Purgatory." I shook her hand, adding,
"I think you'll find working conditions at our saloon quite unusual ma'am," I stated. "Like I told you earlier, you'll receive free medical, decent pay, and protection. People that cross the line at the Purgatory get crossed off."
"Well if you don't mind," announced Montana, Miss Linstrom and I have some shopping to do."
Later, after we all had eaten lunch Montana asked me,
"How is Ella to travel to Purgatory with us or by coach?"
"Well I guess it depends on what she wants to do, however Miss Linstrom I must warn you we are traveling the way we are because I fully expect to be jumped by men who have been hired to kill me. Their employer was upset I managed to get a shipment of gold down to Sidney intact as well as collect the five hundred dollars he paid me, now I believe he wants it back." She thought a moment then looked at Montana then at me, then smiled.
"It would seem that you are a very dangerous man Mr. Yankton."
"Among my other attributes," I replied, "I won't say much now, but the longer you remain in Purgatory you will hear and see things, I'll let you be the judge."
Sighing, she replied,
"I do so hate coach travel, especially with boorish men or drummers, if you don't mind I believe I shall travel with you."
"Well in that case, I believe I will have to buy a horse," Caleb then insisted he be the one to ride so I gave him more money and let him go find a horse.
Montana and Miss Linstrom certainly found plenty to buy at Whipple's so we had our hands full all the way back to the hotel. Both Tom and I watched with amusement as Montana jumped into the front desk clerk's case for attempting to refuse Miss Linstrom a room. The way she took that poor man down was incredible, then when the hotel manager showed up she gave it to him as well. This was certainly a side of my wife I had never seen before, incredible.
That evening at dinner both Montana and Miss Linstrom looked incredible, turning a lot of heads, no doubt wondering what a couple bums like Tom and I along with a kid were doing with a couple beautiful women. Since Montana was privy to information about the danger of the cosmetics being used at this time she only used modern stuff, and it was clear she was sharing it with Linstrom as well. No problem with that I guess, but why all the attention over this woman, she never showed the same kind of attention to Miss Monfort. Could it be Jenny was on the way out with Miss Linstrom taking over? Caleb began telling me about the horse he bought and from the sound of things he was a regular "Mattie Ross."
As we were studying the menu, Caleb asked,
"I want a hamburger, do they have hamburgers?" I looked at Montana, who rolled her eyes then told Caleb,
"No Caleb, I don't think they do."
During the meal Miss Linstrom asked me,
"Earlier, you said things were very different at your saloon, in what way?" I looked at Montana who merely shrugged, then replied.
"You're going to have to talk to Montana about that, the saloon is entirely her operation." This only seemed to make Miss Linstrom even more curious but it was clear she wasn't going to get anymore out of me.