'The Siege of Cable St.'
By Phineas Redux
Summary:— Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe and Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols, lovers in the 1870's township of Red Flume, Arizona Territory, USA, are involved in a Bank hold-up which has gone wrong and escalated badly.
Note:— Influenced by the 'Wolfville' stories of Alfred Henry Lewis.
Copyright:— All characters are copyright ©2018 to the author, and are wholly fictitious representations: the overall local geography may be questionable, too.
The town of Red Flume, Arizona Territory, originally founded as a raucous gold-mining shoot-'em-up village in the 1840's, by 187- had eventually mellowed into a gentle unassuming township, in the foothills close to the small Mitchell Range of mountains. It was at that time a quiet spot, if you didn't count the ranch-hands who tried valiantly to set the place alight, comparatively speaking, every weekend; or the cow-herd groups who periodically made the place a living Hell; or just the downright dag-nabbity nature of a majority of the folks living in the surrounding environs of the community, who, to tell the plain truth, were capable of anything, if offered enough of a reward.
Many things, both serious and merry, had occurred in the town's history; shoot-out's in Main St.; murders in the foothills or grass-plains close by; bodies turning up in dark alleys, chopped to pieces by Bowie knives; the usual sort of thing only natural to a township of Red Flume's character in its early years. But, folks opined, it had now taken on the respectful aura of a town that was going places in a hurry; and to prove this so had even dug up from somewhere an avowed dead-to-rights Judge, Frederick Garbie, to castigate the town drunks supplied by the Sheriff's office.
Everything had settled down to a nice quiet simple daily routine, where everyone was more or less happy; then the whole jamboree began to spiral out of control again, just as the '70's swung round on the calendar. The most exotic, and gossip-worthy part of which being the arrival, as more or less resident citizens, of two women. One, small in height, but high of temper and brunette of hair, Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols, stood some 25 years in age and brought with her a reputation for being something of a shootist; capable, it was generally agreed, of outdrawing a rattlesnake with her Smith and Wesson .38's. The other lady, strolling in nonchalantly a year after Sally, was the most famous bear-hunter west of the Pecos, 28 year old Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe. She stood six feet tall, of lithe build, long flowing black hair, and was never far from her Sharps .50 rifle, guaranteed to stop a bison in its tracks at 300 yards, or make a terrible mess of a human being at anything up to 800 yards.
This all came to a head some months later, when the ladies developed an affinity towards each other which the local rag, the 'Red Flume Register' playing its cards carefully close to its chest, categorized as a deep friendship. There was more than a hint of wrong-doing associated with the history of both women, though nothing Sheriff Charles Donaldson, lord of all he surveyed in the township, could ever put an official finger on. So the ladies came and went about their more or less lawful purposes, giving no-one any trouble; except for the occasional deadbeat or thief who got on their wrong side, so suffering lawful perforation either by Snapshot's .38's, she being mighty mean and hair-triggered thataway, or her paramour Harry, who could easily put a .50 bullet through her designated prey dead centre at three hundred yards, or ditto anything up to 600 yards if she felt really disinclined to be nice to someone. The .50 slug generally making such a mess there weren't ever any real need to call for the services of Doc Heminge, but rather those of the undertaker, Micah Johnson.
And so these happy, innocent days rolled on their merry way until, in the Spring of 187-, the Morgan Mahoney gang rode into town. It was a quiet Monday morning, everything and everybody was just waking up to the new week, when the group of seven bushwhacking, murdering, kidnapping, thieving, stagecoach-robbing, band o' ne'er-do-wells charged up the dusty Main St. and came to a halt in front of the Bank; they being, of course, bank-robbers, too.
Perhaps the best way of describing the next few minutes would be to simply reprint the article from the 'Red Flume Register' which came out the Friday following—
'As every fair reader now knows full well, it is a sadness to report, at precisely 9.28am Monday last, by the clock on the school-room front, the dreaded Morgan Mahoney gang came to this quiet peaceful outpost of righteousness; their avowed purpose being to burglarise the Bank of its contents. Dear readers, it would not be wrong to suppose Morgan, their leader, a dyed in the wool murdering varmint of the worst water, had in mind that the ensuing activities of his confederates would be in the nature of what, I believe, is termed a push-over. Two of his men stayed outside in Main St, looking after the others' mounts; the rest of the mean-minded gang, five in all, entered the large airy well-lit main hall of the bank. Here their carefully laid plans fast fell apart all round them, for already inside, about their various lawful purposes, were our valiant Sheriff Charles Donaldson, accompanied by those two, most feared ladies Sally Nichols and Henrietta Knappe. All three were armed to the teeth, as usual; the women, thusly equipped, being allowed entrance to the Bank under special decree of Sheriff Donaldson, who had some thought of employing the women to guard a shipment of monies due to go out on the stagecoach later that day. And so the renegade thieves entered, weapons drawn.
To say, honoured members of the community, that what followed was a shambles, within a disaster, wrapped round by a catastrophe for the unsuspecting decriers of the Laws of our fair Land, would not be to exaggerate. Hardly had all the thieves entered the establishment and made their requirements known by the most disgusting use of low language we, your brave reporter, have heard in some time, than the members of Law and Order opened up in unison. Two Colt .45's, two Smith and Wesson .38's, and a Sharps .50 rifle going off together in close quarters created, the knowledgeable reader will easily discern, a noise like unto the gates of Hell crashing-to in the echoing depths of Hades' Realm itself. Clouds of white smoke indeed obscured the vision of those few customers not personally involved; but, it could be seen moments later, three of the rogues had met their ends once and for all. One indeed, being the victim of Henrietta Knappe's prowess with a Sharps, had virtually ceased to exist as a recognisable member of the human species; there being, er, dear reader, rather a mess on the bare floorboards where his remains, oh so-precise description, lay.
The remaining two rogues, one of whom was Morgan Mahoney himself, fled the scene, catching up their horses' reins and riding off in a southerly direction with the two other men, soon to be lost sight of in a cloud of dust. It was Sheriff Donaldson's decision not, we assure the reader, un-assisted by the two brave ladies, to rush to their own mounts and pursue the renegades to their doom. But the brave harbingers of Law, Duty, and Order in our fine community were baulked of this excellent plan by the arrival of Joss Hawkins, of Hawkins' Livery Stable, Barker St., Red Flume, who now entered the Bank to bring news of the fleeing thieves. It would appear, from what Mr Hawkins had himself observed, the four remaining failed bank-robbers were halted in their tracks riding furiously along Canmore St., and heading for the open country beyond, by the sight of a group of other riders approaching from the opposite direction. In their guilt-ridden confusion the thieves certainly took these, actually wholly unassuming cow-men, for a posse already in hot pursuit. At this point Morgan Mahoney directed his followers down a side road, Cable St., where, clearly impressed by the magnificent architecture of one of the finest establishments honouring our town with its presence, they stopped outside the Tuchovsky Mansion and made their way inside, where they proceeded to barricade themselves in and await what might come—no doubt in expectation of shooting their way to freedom when the chance occurred.
It is a shocking reflection of our modern civilised times, dear reader, when it is possible for—'
Here the article rambles off into the realms of generality and moral outrage, where it can safely be left to find its own way forward. To return to the outcome of events on the morning in question, which later came to be known—in the following week's edition of the 'Red Flume Register', if you hadn't already guessed,—as 'The Siege of Cable St.' it is necessary to return to that morning; in what can only be called, technically speaking, a flashback—
"What for'n ye fired-off that dam' cannon by my right ear, ya dolt?" Sally speaking her mind to her loved partner as they stood in the gunpowder-clouded Bank hall. "Ya near blew my dam' head off."
"Sorry, gal." Harry Knappe casually reloading her Sharps' with an air of nonchalance slightly unfitting the scene around them. "Needs o' the moment, y'see. It were him or me, doll, an' it dam' well weren't gon'na be me."
"Yeah, yeah, excuses, always excuses."
The Bank hall, though wide high-ceilinged and brightly lit by tall windows looking on the street, was at the moment blanketed in clouds of smoke filtering in waves through the atmosphere like tobacco smoke in a crowded saloon. On the floor lay three dead bodies; one, curtesy of Harry's .50 rifle, very dead indeed.
"Well, they surely got themselves stopped outright, in the performance of their acteevities." Sheriff Donaldson tipping back his stetson and eyeing the panorama before him with some interest; his own .45 revolver still in his right hand. "Nobody else hurt? Good, good. Nice shootin' Harry; not t'say your's weren't jest as on point, Sal."
"Thank'ee, I'm sure." Sally acknowledging the simple fitness of this compliment with a toss of her head. "What about the two varmints who high-tailed it, like groundhogs down a hole?"
Before Donaldson could relieve himself of his plans in this direction the Bank street-door banged open and Joss Hawkins, proprietor of the local Livery Stable, rushed in.
"Seen 'em Sheriff, dead t'rights. Jee-sus, what a mess." He paused to wipe his sweating brow with a violently red neckerchief. "They was spooked by a passel o'cow-hands a'comin' in from the west; then all four o'them, the thieves that is, swerved in'ta Cable St., jumped off'n their hosses like scalded cats an' dived in the front door o'the Tuchovsky Mansion like good 'uns."
"Huh," Sally first to consider the terrain associated with the hiding-hole the thieves had chosen. "Two storeys, an' an attic. Front door, rear door, an' any number o'winders t'jump out'ta of. Reckon we should mosey along an' collar 'em like a bunch o'possums up a tree, Sheriff?"
"Seems like a workin' plan, leddies, let's go."
The Tuchovsky Mansion, built in a strange now long-outmoded style—if indeed such had ever been moded in the first place, but we digress—reminiscent of an ill-judged union between a Gothic Cathedral and a Russian country church, had been constructed with the money, and to the personal plans, of 'Big Jo' Josiah Tuchovsky; he having been in his time one of the luckiest of the original gold-miners of the early days of the community. A very nice gold-strike, in the mid-forties, setting him up for life, allowing him to expand his lifestyle and sense of occasion by drawing up plans for the mansion in question. Always having had, or so he put it about, a wish to return to the land of his forefathers, ie, somewhere now long mis-placed in Central Europe, he had consulted illustrated books on the cities and architecture of the area and designed his new mansion accordingly. The fact any established, diploma carrying American architect would have considerable trouble in placing in any readily identifiable accredited style, or even concisely technically describing, the finished edifice, having no effect whatever on the proud owner, who was very gratified indeed by the end result of his efforts; after years of hard work, and the damnedest struggle to get the dam' builders to construct the place properly—three foremen in a row telling him to his face, on having consulted his carefully drawn plans in his presence for the first time, they had never seen the like, no, not in a month of Sundays.
Several inter-connected cellars, a fine ground floor with vast rooms, an equally expansive second floor with bedrooms each owning to its own bath and other usual offices, and an attic level of huge echoing spaces where the servants had their cubby-holes, defined the general layout of the, for Red Flume, gigantic palace. Eighteen months after taking possession though Big Jo, bitten by the bug of the Big City, headed off to New York where, it had been told him by those who knew, larger mansions even greater than his were to be found like pebbles on the beach. Realising he had the money, and certainly the decided ambition, of showing those city-folks how a real Western magnate operated, Big Jo set off, keeping himself amused by drawing up the plans for his second, city, mansion; guaranteed, he boasted gratifyingly, to be some three times larger still than the puny effort he had thrown up in Cable St. And so he left, never to be seen again in the Arizona Territory, meantime selling his virtually unused house to Mr George Blackmore, an entrepreneur from Tucson who had one fine day had the idea of cooking meat and, separately, vegetables, and putting the results in tin cans and selling them in grocery stores. The fact this trial had proved a resounding success, bringing him in more money than he had innocently imagined resided in the cellars of the Government Bank Depository in New York, set him up for his own life; and, of course, the first thing he looked around for was a suitable wife, to share in his triumph.
Mary Cleredene, 34 years old, sharp as a tack, and a fairly new resident of Red Flume, knew exactly what the world was about, and what was the single simplest method of getting on in this Vale of Tears; ie, marrying someone with bucket-loads of double eagles. It can hardly be wondered at, therefore, that three days after he arrived in the small town, where he had business interests, Mary accidentally bumped into him on a street-corner. A whirlwind romance, a remarkably fast wedding, a short honeymoon in an hotel on the Hudson River, fifteen years of wedded bliss, wherein the couple went to all the best routs and crushes in Tucson and even New York, were seen by all the best in Society there, and made their mark in no uncertain manner; and then, the now 56 year old businessman's frame, buckling under the strain of being so damned energetic, going here, there, and dam' well everywhere that mattered, according to the High-society requirements of his determined wife, gave up the ghost one morning at breakfast, in between him ordering another pot of coffee and castigating the butler for not polishing the silverware to a fine enough reflective surface for his taste: leaving his prostrated relict one of the richest women in the Territory of Arizona.
The legal niceties concerned with Big Jo's will having been gone through with eye-popping speed, money carefully sown in all the right places having that outcome and effect in the legal world, and not actually liking the high life of the great city, Mary upped sticks and made a bee-line back to Red Flume, where she felt more at home; so finding herself, one fine Spring morning, sole chatelaine of still the greatest building in Red Flume, probably of the whole of Arizona, too, if the truth be told. Content with life, she settled down to the easy life, all her hopes and wishes having been supplied beyond her wildest expectations—and three months later the Morgan Mahoney gang, or what was left of it, hove up at her front door and barged in without so much as leaving their cards on the silver platter on the small table in the entrance hall, specially placed for that particular purpose.
All four thieves, an irate Morgan at their head, dashed in the wide marble-floored entrance hall, forbore to present their calling-cards, and swept into the large morning-room to the left-hand side. Here they immediately came face to face with the owner of the establishment who, as yet unknown to them, never liked unexpected visitors and never took prisoners.
"Ah-ha." Morgan being stumped for any other politer method of introducing himself and friends.
"Who are you? You are certainly not here by invitation." Mary laying out the basis of her objections clearly and precisely.
"We's dammed bank-robbers, leddy, an' you better take note o'same, if'n ye fancies still bein' alive by sunset." Morgan never thinking before he spoke to women.
"Then damn your eyes, sir." Mary dipped her hand in the silk reticule hanging from her left wrist, and brought it back out holding a small Remington .41 double-barreled pocket pistol, which she proceeded to put to good use. "Take that, dem' ye."
Her first shot winged Morgan high on his right shoulder, drawing blood though the heavy bullet merely grazed his skin. Her second shot found its target in the chest of Solly Hammond, standing to his leader's left side. It hit him just above the left lung, causing him to drop his own weapon and commence to keeling over and feeling sorry for himself. Mary, meanwhile, under cover of the gunsmoke occasioned by her actions, and the simple shock of a mere woman fighting back so valiantly, crossed to a side-door and exited swiftly, not forgetting to lock it behind her. Recovering from his minor wound Morgan jumped across to the door but found it impassable to his hand.
"G-dd-m an' Hellfire." Morgan at a loss for the nonce. "Solly, fer God's sake quit whinin'. Ben, Pete, out in the hall; there's more rooms there, an' the dam' staircase. Let's get the b-tch."
'The best laid plans, etc, etc,' as some worthy poet once remarked; to be clear, on again reaching the entrance hall the three remaining outlaws found the place apparently deserted.
"Where'd she go?" Pete never having been renowned for the clarity of his thinking.
"Ben, those rooms down at the end, there." Morgan taking command, as was his due right. "You, Pete, eediot thet ye are, up those dam' stairs, an' if ye finds the b-tch, blow her dem head off. Kin ye do that little thing fer me, d'ye think?"
Ben disappeared towards what he soon discovered was the kitchen area; while Morgan, intent on retribution, entered the dining-room. He had hardly registered the fact it was empty of his prey when another violent explosion sounded out in the hall, this time from the upper floor. There followed a thumping rolling series of crashes terminated by the sound of something heavy landing on the marble of the hall floor. Morgan, waving his .45 in the air and snarling wildly, dashed back there ready for instant defence if needed.
On the floor, at the foot of the staircase, lay the mortal remains of Pete; blood everywhere and the right-hand side of his face and head blown completely off. At the top of the staircase wafted a cloud of gunsmoke and from behind this effective barrier came the sweet tenor tones of a coldly determined householder with an attitude.
"You down there, I've done fer yer partner; some o'his brains is still drippin' off the ceiling by me as I speaks." Mary fully Queen of her demesne. "I's got a fifteen-round .44 Henry repeater here, in my hand as I speaks; an' I knows fine how t'use same. Y'got five minutes t'vacate my premises, or I avows afore the Lord, I'll kill ye all."
Making the most of a bad world, and recognising he wasn't in the best position, Morgan took all of three paces to cross the wide hall and re-enter the morning-room, where he found Solly lying on the dull brown floorboards, now apparently dead to the world.
Returning to the door leading to the hall Morgan poked his head cautiously round the door-frame, but not too far to show.
"Ben, stay where's ye are back there, the dumb b-tch's jest gone an' done fer Pete, is all. She's got a dam' Henry repeatin' cannon up there. So don't go an' try anythin'."
Unconsidered language, of remarkable fluency and range, showed that Ben had received the message and was considering it. Meanwhile things just continued to get worse for Morgan, whose attention was now drawn elsewhere, whether he desired same or not.
"Hey, you bums in there." Harry, outside in the street, having a considerable carrying voice when required. "Don't know what in Hell's goin' on in there, but if'n Miss Blackmore's so much as dis-arranged her hair a'cause o'ye, I'm a'comin' in an' rip yer balls off, sure as treacle tarts—y'hear me, Morgan?"
"Oh, dam' an' b-gg-ry."
Faced with a situation which would eventually become known as war on two fronts, Morgan found himself literally at bay. He couldn't reach the passage to the kitchen and rear area without crossing in front of the staircase and the house-owner's averred intentions thereon; neither could he exit the front door, Harry, whose reputation had preceded her, awaiting there. What to do; what to do?
Crossing the morning-room, though he had no idea it reveled in said sobriquet, he used the butt of his pistol to break a glass pane in the window.
"You, out there, I've got a maid here; she's in my arm as we speaks." Morgan making it up as he went along. "Ye get's t'Hell out'ta the vicinity, pronto, or I puts a ball through her pretty head, savvy?"
A moment later disaster struck. From the the window of an upstairs room facing the street came the sound of more broken glass.
"Leddy, take no note o'the renegado; I ain't got but two maids, an' they're both off about their own concerns, this morning." Mary giving the glad tidings, like that man who rode from, er, somewhere to, er, somewhere else. "Four rogues came in; I've done fer two, t'my certain knowledge, an' the man yer presently speakin' with's winged, hisself. The other's somewhere's around the kitchen. I got a Henry repeater, an' I knows how t'use same. If'n ye makes a head-on charge, I'll back yer intentions up from in here. Go to it, leddies."
Thinking on his feet, a situation he was reluctantly growing used to as the mental calibre of those who rode with him had gradually decreased over the years, Morgan headed back to the hall; but Nemesis awaited him there, as upstairs. Hardly had he unwisely stuck his head too far out from the door edge to summon the only one of his compeers still in one piece, than a bullet whined past his right ear and embedded itself in the opposite door-frame. Darting back to safety he let off steam in the classical manner.
"Jiggers an' damnation." He put a hand up to feel that, indeed, his right aural feature was still there and working, then sighed deeply; this seeming a proper occasion for such. "Ben? Ben, ye hear me?"
"Yeah, chief." Ben, surrounded by copper pots and pans and enclosed by heavy walls, not knowing how the cards were being played, and worrying about same. "What in Hell's goin' on? What's ter do?"
"Seems there's somethin' of a posse outside in the street." Morgan ticking the downsides of his present condition off as they all occurred to him. "That g-dd-m madwoman upstairs has blown the only sure-fire idee I had about gettin' out all peaceable an' sichlike. We's got two chances, seems t'me. We heads out the back way, an' runs fer it, hopin' to steal some hosses on our way; though I fancies we'll be dam' well bushwhacked by another posse o'depity's awaitin' thet very course if'n we does. Or we charges up those g-dd-m stairs, finishes-off that crazy b-tch some comprehensive an' with all due malice aforethought, then rushes out the front door an' hopes t'our good aim an' their bad, an' whatever luck's left t'us, t'make a clean getaway. Or—"
There was a pause, then Ben, eager for an answer, spoke up.
"What - Or, Morg?"
"Or,-we dam' well sits here, in this bloody palace, an' starves t'death; always supposin' the madwoman upstairs, an' those outside, gives us leave t'do so."
"Hell, they ain't no-way choices," Ben waxing more intelligent than he had over the last two months, if he had only known. "Them's jest different coloured tickets t'Hell."
"Well, if'n ye got anythin' better, don't hold it back." Morgan getting peeved.
"There's another shot, from inside." Sally raising her head as the three stood at the side of a house immediately opposite the Tuchovsky Mansion, peering round the corner of the stone building. "Fancy somethin's up, there-aways?"
"Jest Miss Blackmore keepin' them pinned down, is all." Henrietta knowing the sound of a Henry rifle when she heard it. "Sheriff, y'got your men round the rear o'the place, yet."
"Three men, with shotguns." Donaldson, now accompanied by two deputies, nodded in reply. "They try t'hightail it thataway, they gets blown t'pieces. In 'course, if'n they comes out that there front door, they likewise ends up spread across the immediate landscape somewhat liberal, too."
Henrietta considered the matter for some seconds, taking another sighting past the edge of the building sheltering them.
"Hmm, perhaps we ought'a let 'em stew a while longer, Sheriff." She nodded to herself, satisfied with her decision. "They ain't goin' anywhere; an' Miss Blackmore's got 'em dead t'rights at the end of her Henry at the moment. Yeah, give 'em another half hour or so, jest t'warm up their vitals an' make 'em anxious."
"It's a plan, lem'me think about it, whiles."
"What in Hell d'ye think ye're doin', up there, ma'am?" Morgan trying to engage with his opponent. "Ye cain't stand there, at the head o'the dam' stairs, an' fire off that bloody Henry' all day. How's about we parley's, like intelligent people? Wha'd'ya say, leddy?"
Mary, however, was made of stern stuff; she had brought herself up to her present position in Society by her own efforts and bootstraps, and she was damned if a lowly thieving rogue was going to upset her new-found equilibrium thataway. Anyway, she had a surprise up her sleeve which she now decided was the correct time to share. Keeping well back from the head of the stairs she took up position on the wide upper landing and shouted into the lower hall.
"Hey, you down there?"
"Yeah, I hears ya." Morgan thinking he was on the cusp of getting the upper hand at long last.
"What's yer name?"
"Morgan, Morgan Mahoney." The robber bucking up at the chance of spreading knowledge of his activities and basking in his fame. "I robs banks, an' sich; likely ye've heerd o'me?"
"Nah, never heard yer name spoke before." Mary putting the knife in with relish. "Ye're jest a low-down, thievin' piece o'scum, far's I can tell. There's only one o'two ways yer gon'na leave this mansion-house t'day, Morg."
Somewhat miffed at this lack of respect given his Territory-wide infamy, Morgan snarled contemptuously.
"Oh, yeah, ma'am? An' what, pleasin' yer honour, would they be?"
"Y'goes out that door on yer feet with yer hands up, or feet first." Mary knowing full-well when she had the dramatic high-ground. "My late husband, George Blackmore the 'Tinned Bean King', was a firearms collector; and what he collected is up here in these here rooms alongside me, now. I got Remingtons, I got Smith and Wessons, I got Savage Navy single-action percussions, I got other makes ye've never heerd of, but which is all strictly capable of shootin' wide holes in yer carcass. I got single-action, double-action, carbines, long barrels, Navy-issue, Army-issue, Henry's, Sharps'; oh, I'm forgettin' a mite o'Colts—George dearly lovin' Colts of all shapes an' sizes. And I got the ammunition t'go with every make up here, packets an' packets o'ammo. Sh-eet, I can start my own minor war from up here, no trouble. So, ye try'n storm this here upper floor an' I guarantees there won't be anythin' left o'ye large enough t'be soaked up with a sponge an' taken away in a tin bucket. Come up an try, mister,—I'm a' ready an' waitin'."
Morgan, comprehensively laid on his beam-ends, here resorted to language [which, the present editor begs to allow, is still far too low and crude for my contemporary readers' delicate ears; so, when I record his outburst as—
"Pish, tish, tosh, an' nonsense, ma'am, pleasin' yer presence."
—you can pretty definitively assume those were not the words he actually used on the occasion being recorded here. Back to the past—]
"Yeah, y'come up with a plan, yet?" Ben having a strict eye for his own well-being, munching the while on a cookie he'd found in a clay jar in the kitchen.
"I does jest that, partner." Morgan, driven to extremes and having less and less time to waste, had decided on a course of action, suicidal though it might turn out. "Listen careful, we gon'na need t'go fer it immediate I've stopped talkin', right?"
"—er, yeah, but—"
"Shut the dam' up, an' listen." Morgan hoiking the firing-pins of his two .45's back as he spoke. "We got'ta do this now, an' quick. We storms the staircase, takes out that mad b-tch upstairs, comes back down like coyotes with their tails afire, rushes out the front door, shootin' some promis'cus as we goes, an' hopes one o'us at least makes it out'ta range o'the Law long enough t'grab a hoss from somewhere's an' makes our escape. Got that?"
"F-ck me, that ain't no—"
Before he could finish Mary, who had heard all the foregoing and wanted to frighten the thieves as well as warn the Law outside that now was the time for heroics, let rip with her Henry rifle, sending all fifteen rounds ricocheting around the marble- walled as well as floored hall. Morgan ducked for cover well inside the morning-room, laying flat on the floorboards with hands over his head, praying the while. Ben darted back into the kitchen, coughing cookie crumbs as he went and trying not to choke to death at this apposite moment. While Mary, an expert shot, reloaded her Henry in a matter of seconds so that, when Morgan took the chance of showing his head again, to judge the lie of the land, he nearly had it shot off by a second broadside from above.
"Sh-t, Ben, this's it. They'll be a'comin' in from outside, now. Run fer the stairs; we got'ta wipe out this bloody b-tch. Come on."
The two fusillades did not go un-noticed by those waiting outside.
"Sh-t, Harry, time t'storm the place." Sally hoisting her two .38's and frowning darkly.
"Yeah, seems so." Henrietta nodded, straightening to her full height and weighing her Sharps rifle in her hand. "Sheriff?"
"Frank, give the signal t'those at the back t'stay put, in case they tries t'escape thet-way; if'n they does, guns a'blazin's the orders o'the day." Donaldson walked out into the empty street a few paces ahead of the two women. "Come on, gals, the fight's underway."
Ben, driven to it by the simple need for self-preservation, ran along the passageway from the kitchen to the wide hall, seeing his leader dart out from the room on the left as he approached; both with their weapons ready.
Morgan was first to engage the enemy, standing slightly to the side as he came to the corner of the staircase leading upwards, his .45's blazing ceiling-wards. As Ben reached the lower steps of the stairs Mary opened her defence, surprisingly with another .45 revolver; but she had it levelled in both hands, taking careful aim. Her first two bullets missed everything but the marble walls, ricocheting nicely anyway. Her third bullet took Ben in the throat and he fell down like a log felled in the forest, blood spouting horrendously from his awful wound. He lay unmoving, head jetting blood as it lolled at an awkward angle to his body, clearly no longer an active feature of the ongoing drama.
Mary paused to drop her revolver and pick up her trusty Henry, but lost time as it lay a few inches out of reach on the floorboards. Morgan, with only a finite number of bullets in his two revolvers, most of which had already been fired, judged it time to head for the front door, but here his luck, every last drop of such still remaining to his account, ran out as the door crashed open and first Sally, closely followed by Henrietta, advanced into the wide hall.
There was, finally, a hail of bullets from upstairs as Mary armed herself again with her weapon of first choice; the two women from outside, standing well apart, opening up with their two .38's and Sharps'; while Morgan, fighting for his life, let rip with his .45's; Sheriff Donaldson being out of the fight entire, having tripped on the flight of stone steps leading up to the front entrance, thereby breaking his left ankle.
The noise of four heavy revolvers, accompanied by two even heavier rifles, going off in more or less unison in the confined space of the hall was deafening to one and all. The air being obscured by clouds of thick white smoke as the shooting went on not helping either. The number of bullets smashing into the stone walls and ricocheting everywhere was frightening; their sounds, of screeching and whining and crashing only helping to make the scene of battle even more terrifying. The several wooden room-doors in the hall suffered multiple hits, wooden splinters flying through the air as shrapnel, threatening all there. The glass panels in the wide front door evaporated in shards and powder as the heavy bullets ripped through them, causing those lawmen still outside to hold back from entering the scene of ongoing mayhem.
The fact that Morgan Mahoney was firing at three moving targets, on differing planes; while his antagonists had a more or less stationary target to aim for, had its not unexpected outcome. All Morgan's few remaining bullets missed their targets; while each of his three opponents made significant hits at least twice each, with some subsidiary impacts of lesser, though still not minor, power. To put it in a nutshell Morgan, in the space of 4.3 seconds, was cut to pieces entire. His untenanted remains sinking to the floor in a spinning fall as the continuing bullet-hits whirled him round. Finally, on his hitting the floor and remaining still, apart from the jerks and twitches as further bullets hit both him and his late partner Ben,—just to make sure, y'understand,—the shooting came to an end. The last shot fired being by Mary with her Henry, standing at the top of the stairs and putting one last bullet in Morgan's corpse, just to relieve her feelings and because the son-uva-b-tch deserved such. Then silence returned to the great mansion. The Siege of Cable St. was at an end.
"How many?" Sally was amazed, not to say astonished.
It was a day later, and Doc Heminge, grossly overworked, had just come into the Sheriff's office with his post-mortem results.
"Eighteen, far's I can truly judge." Heminge consulting a sheet of paper covered in his spidery handwriting. "O'course, his insides was pretty comprehensively shot t'sh-t, beggin' pardon, leddies. I recovered three .38's, an' a single .45. No sign o'your .50 cannonballs, Harry; but plenty o'evidence at least two such had passed on through, the whiles."
"Eighteen bullet hits?" Henrietta was impressed. "So there was never any chance o'savin' the varmint's life, so ter speak?"
"Hah," Doc Heminge waxing philosophical. "T'save a life, y'need's a viable body t'work on. Morgan's body's presently jest a receptacle fer indeevidual pieces an' broken parts. The whole internal system, as y'might say, havin' broken down entire. Nah, he was dead after the first five hits, an' dead he's indubitably stayin'. Can I go now? I got all sorts of people to see about important things. How's the ankle, Sheriff?"
"Dam' painful still, sure y'can't spare any more o'that laudanum, Doc?"
"I'll come back in the evening, see how ye're doin' then. G'bye."
"Yeah, g'bye, dammit."
"So," Sally having spent some thought on the general panorama of events. "the whole of the Morgan Mahoney gang, all seven, is off the paybooks entire? That's some outcome, don't ye think?"
"Well, all in a day's work fer me, here in this ante-room t'Hell that calls itself Red Flume." Donaldson steaming up, due to the on-going pain of his injured foot. "I jest gets t'take home my ord'nary week's salary at the end o'the day; but you two citizens, havin' been so intimately involved in the huntin' down and annihilation o'said reprobates, comes in fer all the rewards goin'."
This was news to the ladies, both assuming expressions of surprise quickly followed by avarice, as the meaning of his words sank in.
"Ah-ha." Sally going into accountant mode. "Rewards? Let's see, fer Morgan himself, in'course; fer Solly Hammond, I seen it posted up outside this very office; fer one at least of the others, that Ben chap. Yeah, that'll do nicely, thank'ee, Donaldson."
"Huh, don't thank me, t'ain't my money."
"How's Miss Blackmore?" Henrietta coming back on track. "She seems a sparky kind'a lady."
"Got enough weapons in that dam' palace t'arm an army." Sheriff Donaldson heaved a sigh. "An' plenty o'determination an' iron-grit, too. I'm meb'be makin' plans t'court the leddy, an' make her the second Mrs Donaldson. Any advice, leddies?"
"Yeah, Sheriff." Sally on the ball, as ever; grinning widely. "Don't."
"Thanks a bunch." Donaldson snorted in contempt. "If'n that's all ye both got t'say ye can dam' well take yersel's off an' say it somewhere's else."
"OK, Sheriff." Henrietta heading for the door. "We'll probably hit the 'Yellow Knife' saloon, good whisky there. Meb'be bring ye back a shot, if that laudanum wears off early."
Before she could open the door, however, it was opened from outside as a young perky man came in. Dressed in a green and grey woolen suit with the most outrageously violent check ever seen in Arizona Territory, this was David Grantley, reporter for the local rag, the 'Red Flume Register'; he already having his notebook and pencil in hand.
"Regards o'the mornin', ladies; how's the foot, Sheriff?" Not one to waste time he already had part of his article ready. "Let's see—'brave Sheriff Donaldson, recovering well from the grave wound received in the carrying out of his duties, nonetheless responded quietly but with gentlemanly politeness to our questions and requests to repeat the details of Monday's dramatic events, in the great 'Siege of Cable St.' Yeah, that'll look good on the page."
"A hole in yer head'll look good too, Grantley." Donaldson and the reporter having a history. "Why don't yer down tools an' piss-off back t'Nevada where ye came from original, leavin' us all here in peace?"
"Now, now, Sheriff, the Public's needs before personalities, ye'll agree." Grantley never yet having been known lost for words, or brazen-ness. "So, details—I hear ye managed t'plug the party of the first part no less'n six times with yer Sharps', Miss Knappe? How'd ye manage that wonderful feat, in the circumstances, con'siderin' the Sharps' is a single-shot weapon?"
Henrietta eyed the young man with interest, never having had much to do with his particular species before; either in career choice or simply as a member of his sex. Men thataway being still a complete mystery to Henrietta, and not one she personally wished to hunt down and clarify.
"I reloaded fast, laddie; but not that fast."
"Ha-ha, very funny." Grantley considered this reply for a few seconds, then abandoned it. "Won't show well in the article, though; it bein' in too much of the way of a humorous nature, y'see. Got'ta keep things aligned to the main point o'the drama, y'll allow. Miss Nichols, no less'n ten bullets in the corpse? How'n Hell'd ye manage that? Far better than Miss Knappe's aim. An' with only a coupl'a tiny little .38's, too?"
Sally Nichols, alias 'Snapshot', had never been renowned for her calm temperament; coming close to the even more famous Calamity thataway. Now her brown eyes, like deep pools of peat-stained water, glowed red as fire; her frown taking on the tone and nature of that Assyrian who had come down like the wolf on the fold, if you remember your Literature from school. Only her paramour's quick action in clasping her drawing-arm in a tight grip prevented the number of corpses associated with the 'Siege of Cable St.' from advancing even higher, though at this late date.
"Grantley?" Henrietta glowered on the cause of dissension in the office. "What for ye came here, at all? With yer determination t'stir things up? Cain't ye jest write the dam' story as it bloody well happened? Everybody knows the dam' details; an' those ye don't I'm dam' sure yer imagination'll provide, regardless. Take a hike, laddie; afore ye gets in too deep fer even you t'crawl back out of. There's the door; Sal an' I are leavin', too. Don't let us stop ye, now; men, but not gentlemen, afore ladies."
Shrugging off-handedly, no way put out by his less than warm reception, Grantley put his notebook away in his pocket and took the proffered advice; walking out, as offered by Henrietta, in front of the two women with a nonchalant air which had Sally fuming again.
"Well, yeah, lover, cain't fault ye there, sure enough." Henrietta taking the stoic view. "So, the 'Yellow Knife'?"
"Too right, babe." Sally recovering as they walked along the sidewalk under the shade of the overhanging roof. "First drinks' on me, but don't think I'm makin' a habit o'sich, lady."
"Nah, nah, wouldn't cross my mind, darlin'."
The next issue of the far-famed 'Red Flume Register' as has been previously stated herein, all eight pages of it, came out on the following Friday; the front page entirely taken up with the after-effects of the great gun-battle a week earlier. It was, however, on page 4 that Grantley gave himself full compass—
'Dear reader, we now come to the wonderful acts of heroism exemplified in the various actions of those persons' on the side of Law and Order caught up in the unfolding drama of the now Territorywide-known, infamous 'Siege of Cable St.'. Taking up from our earlier article, we come to the point where the Widow Blackmore, ensconced in her drawing-room on the ground-floor of the magnificent Tuchovsky Mansion, found herself at the mercy of as unmitigated and scoundrely a group as ever walked the sands of Arizona; Morgan Mahoney, and his band of rogues. Meeting so unexpectedly with the unmannerly rascal in person Widow Blackmore, retaining all her womanly charm in the face of adversity, remained calm; engaging the man Mahoney in conversation, she afterwards told our reporter, in the hopes of bringing the remnants of his moral nature back to the surface. However, this course not proving viable, Widow Blackmore presented a small pocket pistol to the two rogues who were then before her. The men being astonished by this action, and words being exchanged, her pistol went-off prematurely, so she charmingly told us, hitting one of the men, not the scoundrel Mahoney, and preventing him from taking any further part in the discussion. Widow Blackmore then exiting the morning-room, wishing to leave the remaining Mahoney's presence.
What then might well be described as a stand-off took place; on the second floor the Widow Blackmore finding temporary safety in the fact that, opportunely, she was able to arm herself with an old rifle originally belonging to her late husband, George Blackmore 'The Tinned Bean King' of world-wide renown. After a few minutes when, we may certainly surmise, dear readers, Widow Blackmore trembled for her very life, a posse under the command of our excellent, if unfortunate, Sheriff Charles Donaldson, arrived in the street outside. Taking a few minutes to put themselves in order, those concerned including Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols and Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe, both admired markswomen in their own right, the final act of the drama commenced.
It cannot, at this late date, be fully known what trigger, if the term may be allowed in this context, dear readers, set off the final scene—sufficient to report that, a series of gunshots coming from the interior of the Tuchovsky Mansion, obviously fired by the scoundrels inside in a last ditch effort to violently assault Widow Blackmore, Sheriff Donaldson thought it more than time to enter the establishment and so return order from chaos. Sadly, due to a wound encountered outside the building, our estimable Sheriff was unable to take part in the final catastrophe. The Misses' Nichols and Knappe, however, made it into the entrance hall and there, in a veritable hail of gunfire and speeding bullets, amply helped by the Widow Blackmore from her high vantage-point, brought the tragedy to its conclusion; the rogue Morgan Mahoney being cut down and mortally wounded, the later appearance of Doctor James Heminge, our revered local representative of the medical establishment, not being able to offer succor—Mahoney having become deceased some minutes earlier.
And so the 'Siege of Cable St.', certain to fill pages of future history books and chronicles for centuries to come, came to its conclusion. Dear readers, what a dramatic—'
"What a steamin' pile o'horse manure." Sally, wholly un-impressed as she read the paper that morning at their usual table in the 'Yellow Knife' saloon. "Hardly anythin' truly set out as it happened. I was there, an' I knows."
"He's a newspaper reporter, darlin'." Henrietta shrugging the whole thing off, unconcerned. "Y'can't expect truth from sich; ain't in the way o'nature, y'know. Anyway, the reward—or should I say, rewards?"
"Eight thousand dollars, my lovely." Sally having counted each one individually only the day previously, before placing the majority of their fairly-won gains in the Bank at the original heart of the past affair. "A nice round figure. I likes nice round figures, Harry."
"Too true." Henrietta smiling cheerfully, for once. "A pile o'dough not t'be sniffed at, at all, t'my way o'thinkin'."
There was a short pause, as each woman contemplated their newly acquired riches.
"I got a plan fer how t'spend at least some of it, darlin'." Sally eyed her partner cautiously, knowing full-well how she was likely to respond.
"Oh, God, no. Please, no."
"I knew ye'd react thataways, I jest knew it." Sally glowering darkly as she threw the now unheeded newspaper on the dirty floor where it belonged. "What fer you're so down on my plans, all the time? Don't ye think I got brains, or what, gal?"
"Come on, ye can do better'n that, lover."
Keep a lookout for the next 'Red Flume' story.