'Shoot-out at Meynell's'
By Phineas Redux
Summary:— Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe and Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols, lovers in 1870's Red Flume, Arizona Territory, USA, become involved in an attempted robbery.
Note:— Influenced by the 'Wolfville' stories of Alfred Henry Lewis.
Copyright:— All characters are copyright ©2019 to the author, and are wholly fictitious representations: the overall local geography may be questionable, too.
The far-famed bust-up which found enduring fame as the 'Shoot-out at Meynell's', took approximately 1 minute 45 seconds from start to finish. It occurred on the morning of June 5th, 187-, on Main Street, Red Flume, Arizona Territory; involving no more than 9 individuals, 5 of whom were armed. But the trouble wrapping the whole concern in a thick mist of obfuscation, not to say actual fog, was the fact that every witness recalled the incidents concurrent with the ongoing hold-up differently, vastly so; this leading, three days later, to a general disagreement at the preliminary coroner's hearing, resulting in a close shave, for all concerned, with an actual court case. It all starting when—
The Hold-up – Jeremiah's Recall.
"There I was, a'sittin' on the cheese barrel nearby the stove, same as I does every mornin', idly tellin lies with my two mates, Joe Cocklins, an' Hasty Perkins. Joe'd gotten his'self a right nasty cold in the head the day previous an' had subsequent tried the ol' remedy o' killin' it with kindness, ie, by drinkin' hisself in'ta a stupor by whisky inhalation; which in course, as any eed'yeet could'a tol' him a'fore he started on sich a ill-advised course o'home remedy, only left him thet mornin' with the same cold in the head, now accompanied by a mortal headache. He was jes' explainin' the symptoms he was presently sufferin' under when the whole gol'darn thing went off.
What's thet, mister? I bein' a mite deaf in the left ear, an' wholly so in the opposite. What? Oh, facts, details, ye sez? Har, an' wouldn't ye be good, if'n ye could get 'em, sez I. What? Get on with it? Well, dam' ye, sir. What, sir? I cain't use thet sort'a langwidge in this here trial? What, it ain't a trial? What is it, then? A pre-inquest interview—ain't never heerd o'sich a dam' thing. What? Stop sayin' dam'? Oh, well, if'n ye pleases; but I ain't gon'na be responsible fer mere slips o' the tongue, young 'un. What? Don't call yer thet? Well, I'll be da—hey, what's this interuptin me? Oh, ye doesn't want me ter say dam' agin'? Right, see what I can do fer ye thet way, youngster. Get on with it? Hell, if'n ye hadn't interrupted me half an hour since we could all be sittin' at our lunches by now. Oh, alright, don't get red in the face, young 'un; don't want yer poppin' off in a 'plexy, in front o' all these folk, does we? Dam' embarassin' fer all concerned, I'm sure. Oh, sorry, slip o'the tongue, don't take no note, youngster. What happened? Well, jes' let me get my memories in line astern; OK, it went this-a'way—first we'd bin discussin' Joe's ill-health, like I said; then we said hallo ter Snapshot when she barged through the shop entrance from Main Street, trippin' over the floor-sill like always—God, thet girl'll never larn.
What? Who's Snapshot? Hell, young 'un, everybody in the town knows Snapshot—in fact, I knows fer a fact you, yersel', knows her fine; what're ye tryin' ter pull on me? I ain't a id'yeet, yer knows? What? Oh, yer wants it fer the record? Well, let it be set down in writin' in thet there record thet Sally Snapshot Nichols came in'ta the store at some after ten, swore somethin' awful as she staggered across ter the counter, then asked ol' Meynell fer her usual day's ration o'licker'ice sticks; she dearly lovin' licker-ice, as everyone o'her acquaintance knows full well.
What? What've I stopped fer, ye asks? Jes' in case ye were contem'platin' jumpin' down my throat agin', fer leadin' the court astray in my recollections, is all. Oh, ye weren't? An' I kin get on with it as fast as I likes? Well, thank'ee kindly, young sir. So, where was I? My memory not bein', yer knows, what it once was. Oh, right. So Snapshot leaned on the bar, I mean's the counter, all idle like, she bein' at her ease among ol' friends, swappin bits o' her life story thet never actil happened with ol' Meynell—who was used ter this, she bein' an' ol' customer, he jes' lettin' her tongue wag fer its exercise, he bein' mighty forbearin' thet-a'way. An' so some time passed, I not bein', at this late date, able ter recall exactly how long—what's thet? It was only two days since? Yer don't say? I mustn't take the court, sorry interview, in vain? Well, da—oh, alright; it were some time later, who knows how long, not me. What? I am tryin' ter stick ter, what did yer jes' call 'em, agin'? Spee-see-ficks? What in dam—I mean's, what're they when they careers a'tween yer boots an' trips yer up? Facts? Well, why'n hel—I means, why'd yer not jes' call 'em by name straight, young 'un? OK, OK; let's see, where was I—no, don't jump in tellin' me where I was—I know dam' well where I was—al'lus I needs is a bit o'quiet an' gentle peace ter be able ter put same in words, fer the audience, here.
What was thet, mister? Sounded mighty like dam', ter me? It wasn't? Well, I'm blessed fer the fac', son. OK, les'see; OK, Snapshot had jes' told a whopper o'sich magnitude, even fer her, thet we-all was coughin' an' chokin'; tryin' not ter laugh out loud, so embarassin' the poor gal. What? Am I sure I'm actil rememberin' what happened? An' don't make personal jabs at other witnesses? Who'd thet be, then; an' when'd I do same? Get on with it? Hel—OK, OK; if'n ye'd jes' stop interruptin' my flow, I'd tell ye all yer needs ter know, is all. So, Snapshot had tol' her lie, with a straight face I was kind'a envious of, ter tell the truth. Wish I could lay-off some o' my tales with as innocent a tone o' voice an' expression. OK. OK, I'm comin' ter it, ain't I. Polly Jenkins was over by the fresh vegetable table, rakin' through the lettices like they was all rotten, searchin' fer the one thet'd do her fer dinner thet evenin'—what? Young 'un, these is the fac's in the case, if'n ye'd jes' let me tell 'em. God, I begin's ter unner'stan' how thet Mon-sewer Valdemar must'a felt, I believes.
What, in course I'll get on with it. Where was—oh, Polly Jenkins? Right, she'd made her play, an' seized a lettice from the wreckage thet'd been the stock on show; came over ter stan' by Snapshot, planted the lettice on the counter in front of Meynell, hisself, an' proceeded ter knock him seven ways sideways fer havin' the gall ter present sich out o'date musty ol' rags fer fresh vegetables. Meynell, bein' as I earlier referred to, a man of an almost angelic forbearance, jes' stood an' took this vitriol, like a hero. What? Is there any point ter my recollections, or is I jes' makin' the whole thing up? Dam' yer, sir. What? I cain't say so, in this here court? I dam' well can, sonny; an' I'd like ter see the man who'd stop me; not you, fer one, little man. What? Ye've a good mind ter hold me contemptible; oh, in contempt? Ha-ha, try, an' see what happens, is my rejoinder ter thet there threat, laddie. Get on with the dam' fac's? Well, seein' yer talkin' my langwidge at last, I believes I'll entertain ye in doin' jes' thet.
Right where were we? OK, Polly had jes' cussed out Meynell, her not usin' a single true ter life cuss word in the whole spat—she bein' a well-brought-up lady, the whiles. Astonishin', it was. An' then things went downhill, like to a wagon goin' hell fer leather down the slope o' Garnick Mesa. Two men jumps in the door from the street, pistols ter hand, each; the first, taller, gentleman rushes up ter the counter, pushes Snapshot some heavy-handed out'ta his line o'sight, fires off a shot at Meynell at point-blank range, it bein' no more'n seven inches, an' misses entire; killin', instead, a melon standin' mindin' it's own business on a shelf behind Meynell's head. Snapshot, meantime, had been thrown ter the floor by the robber's strong-arm actions, where she squandered aroun' tryin' ter regain her feet, but without much success she bein', as is her way, like a drowned whale when thrown on the ground promiscus' like; it takin' her a'etern'ty ter get ter her feet agin', al'lus. I tellin' ye all this 'cause it explains her inability ter return fire on the robber straight-off, in which case he'd surely a'been on his way ter the heavenly stagecoach halt a'fore she'd run out'ta bullets.
What's thet, sir? Yer beginnin' ter realise what poor Joe felt like? Well, cain't say as I entirely follows yer reasonin' there, youngster. OK, the robber's shot off his first round, the melon's now deceased, Meynell's caperin' about behind his counter, firin' off cuss words in three languages the whiles he's tryin' ter sweep the melon's mortal remains off his face an' shirt. Polly's started screamin' somethin' awful, like ter a banshee on a wild an' stormy night. Joe, by my side's, coughin' somethin' awful, too, at the strain o'the whole thing. Hasty's jes' sittin' entranced by the in-tire unfoldin' spectacle; while's I'm considerin' jes' how ter get the drop on the dam' varmint, who's now rampagin' along the main aisle o'the store, shoutin' obscenities an' dire threats ter murder us all, jes' 'cause he's now in a temper.
At this delicate point the second robber who'd, I got'ta admit, jes' bin standin' by the entrance mindin' his own business an' takin' in the antics o' his leader like the rest o' us, here came stormin' in head down, at a fair rate o'knots; it later unfoldin' thet Harry'd kicked his dam' butt fer him she, standin' outside some distance off on the sidewalk the whiles, finally recognisin' somethin' out'ta the ord'nary was goin' for'rard in the store. Who's Harry? Now, why'd yer got'ta show yer ignorance thet way, youngster? What, speak up? I cain't calum-nee-ait yer thet-a'way? Well, I'll be da—OK, OK, I won't, keep yer hair on, kid. Harry, is Harry Knappe; thet is, rightly speakin', an' I'm sure she won't take undue umbrage in my sayin' sich out loud in public, Henrietta Knappe, ord'nar'ly called Harry by all concerned. She bein' by common consent, the best bear-hunter west o'the Pecos, no opposition. I might here pause ter expand on the virtues of her pal, an' friend, an' partner, Snapshot Nichols; she bein' in her turn, as fine a shot with a point thirty-eight Smith an' Wesson as yer could meet anywhere in the mid-west.
But she, Snapshot thet is, bein' out'ta the game fer the present on account o'still flounderin' aroun' on the floor like a log in the river, Harry was left ter make out jes' what was goin' for'rard in the dark shadows o'the store. 'What in hell's goin' on, Sal?', sez she, turnin' roun' in circles tryin' ter make sense o'everythin'. 'Thet f-ck-r tried ter blow Meynell's head off, is what', sez Snapshot, from her prone position. What? Mind my dam' langwidge? What, agin? What'd I say this time? Good Grief, begins ter look as if I'll need'ta confine my speech ter words a child learns in it's first school-book. Where was I? Right, Snapshot's on the floor, shoutin' obscenities as loud's Polly's still screamin' wholesale ter all points o'the compass. Harry still ain't pinned her quarry, an' the second robber's tryin ter extricate hisself from two crates o'potatoes, he bein' almost buried in the things. Then the first robber, the one who'd gone on the rampage through the store lookin' fer victims ter ease his woes by shootin' in cold blood without rhyme nor reason, jes' 'cause he felt like same, showed up round the corner of the store's tables where the linens an' cotton goods were displayed.
'Thet's the f-ck-er', shouts Polly, comin' back ter rational thinkin' out'ta the blue; usin' those very words, which was about the most shockin' thing happened the whole hold-up. 'He kicked my ass', shouts Snapshot, by this time havin' crawled ter her knees, though still not in competition with the other participants in the shoot-out. 'G-dd-mit, there he be', shouts Meynell, finally havin' wiped enough melon innards off his face ter see agin'. 'Ah-ha', sez Harry, she bein' loaded fer bear an' holdin' her Sharps point fifty aimed straight at the miscreant. Then she fires off her shot, a Sharps' bein' a single-loader, yer knows. The bullet takin' the robber right in the midriff he goes backward as if kicked by a buffalo; destroyin' entire, in passin', the womens' dress display an' the ladies' fol-de-rols display; the bed-linen fallin' over his corpse as he hit the floor, coverin' him like a multi-coloured shroud.
Then things got even more dee-lit-arus ter people's health an' happiness; the second robber havin' found his feet an', in the confusion, havin' darted off in'ta the shadows hisself. First we knew where he might have brought-up there was a pistol shot thet took Snapshot's hat clean off, she bein', at dam' last, back on her feet. Takin', as was only ter be expected, umbrage some at this mark o'disrespect an' contumely on the robber's part, Snapshot pulled both her pistols t'gether an' proceeded ter lay down a field o'fire thet'd have made any Civil War General, facin' a heavy battle, proud. The fac' the store was as dark, in its backward recesses, as the Earl o'Damnation's study, meanwhile contributin' ter the fac' all her shots went wide missin', thankfully, every livin' thing in the store—includin', dam' it, the robber, in course.
Now, here we comes ter the incident whereof we all's mighty concerned an' saddened about. A shadow falls on the entrance door, a silhouette appears, big as a grizzly, a growl em'nates from same unidentified source, an' then a Winchester rifle goes off; yer bein' able ter tell their sharp crack anywhere. Harry, hit glancin' in the right arm, yelps like a stuck pig; Snapshot bein' taken at a stand in the course o'reloadin' but not anywhere's near ready, screams somethin' awful, drops her pistols, drags a Bowie knife from her waist-belt an' falls on the shooter with a yell. Seconds later there's dam' blood everywhere, she havin' sliced through, in her energetic activities ter cover every available part of the unknown shooter's frame, about four arteries an' several big veins. The shooter went down, screamin' fit ter be heard over ter Yellow Dog, takin' Snapshot ter the floor herself agin', too, in his throes.
Then the second robber, prob'ly encouraged by Harry now bein' the worse fer wear, jumps out'ta the shadows an' grabs her round the waist. Well, her bein' dressed all in man's attire, as usual, he gets a grip on her waistbelt an' won't let go. Harry, some hampered in her defensive actions by her wounded arm, manages ter get her own forty-five Colt out'ta its holster, jabs the barrel in his guts an' shouts somethin' along the lines, I not exactly rememberin' the pree-cise words, o' stand an' deliver. No, on reflection thet cain't be right. No, I recalls, she yelled 'Back-off, yer m-th-rf-ck-r, or I'll dam' kill ya.' The robber, his head still buried in the folds o' Harry's short jacket as he grappled her waist, an' also hampered some by his bandana mask, mumbled somethin' nobody heerd rightly; then thar was some more shuffling back an' for'rard as the robber, apparent, had thought better o'givin' up—so then Harry shot him. It were obvious 'cause most o'his innards came flyin' out in a red spray o'blood an' bits, all over the floor an' the shop-counter, an' everyone standin' in range. It were a bloody mess, in all ways imaginable. Ain't seen similar since Chickamauga.
What's thet? Get on with it? Thought I was? Anyway's, let's see, where've we all pulled up ter? OK, the first robber's lying dead on the floor; the second robber's lyin' ditto, curtesy o'Harry's Colt; the man with the rifle in the doorway has jes' succumbed ter Snapshot's ministrations with her Bowie; there's blood an' innards all over the shop an' the customers; screams as loud's a rail engine's whistle are echoing off the ceiling from various throats; an' the whole thing's a dam' catastrophe, considered every which way.
You all knowin' now, with hindsight, thet the man in the door was Garry Hempson, from Carlton's Dry Goods, who'd been made cognisant of what was goin' down at Meynell's an' had come over ter put his bit in—he jes', out'ta pure accident, takin' down the wrong victim, an' payin' fer sich mistake with his life—a Bowie in the hands of an angry woman not ever ter be taken lightly, obvious.
An' thet's my story; by which, I means, thet's what I recalls of the whole dam' thing. Take it from me, young 'un, me havin' been there an' seen the whole thing unfold in front o'my very eyes, thet's exactly how it went down. Garry's decease bein' wholly, from start ter finish, a pure accident an' in no way ter be laid at the feet o'Snapshot as a crime or whatever.
What? I kin go now? Yer sure yer finished with me? I got a lot o'other details I could set a'fore ye, an' this here audience, if needed. They ain't? Oh, well, please yer'sel's. I kin go now? OK, thank'ee an' g'bye. No, I kin find my own way out, all the same."
Miss Polly Jenkins' Testimony.
"Yes'sir, thet's my name, true enough; why'd ye ask, John Jacobson, ye havin' known me this past three year nor more?"
"Purely fer the court's, I mean, the hearing's records, ma'am; jes' answer my questions as we proceeds along, an' you'll find we comes ter the termination easy enough."
"Big words, fer a little man, John Jacobson."
"Miss Jenkins," Jacobson ignoring this rejoinder like an iceberg passing a barquetine, such being of no moment to it. "please tell the cour—er, hearing, what went down at Meynell's Store on the mornin' of June 5th, 187-; in your own words, as ye recalls sich events."
"Well, first off ye can discount every last word thet ol' soak, Jeremiah Davis jes' told ye; a pack o'lies from start ter finish." Miss Jenkins casting the miscreant in question, sitting at the back of the large saloon of the Crazy Garter, presently corralled to more pressing purposes than mere imbibing of spirituous liqours, a glance that would have turned the Medusa herself to stone. "Sich a pack o'nonsense I ain't never heerd a'fore in all my time. What really happened—ye wanting ter know what really happened, I taking it as said?"
"Ma'am, the cour—hearing, merely wishes to put the facts in the matter down on record fer all ter read an' consider afterwards." Jacobson doing his best under trying circumstances. "Please continue."
"Alright then," Miss Jenkins somewhat placated by these soft words of encouragement. "I was examining the fresh vegetables on display on a table about midway along the floor, opposite the counter behind which Mr Meynell was standin' conductin' his business; if ye can call standin' idle, with the expression of a dead gopher on his face, doin' anythin' at all.—what?"
"I said, please don't calumniate the other witnesses, ma'am."
There was a pause, while Miss Jenkins grappled with this unexpected level of conversation.
"What? What was thet, young man?"
"Please cease an' desist from casting unnecessary aspersions on the characters' of the other witnesses, ma'am—if'n ye pleases, thet-a'way, in course."
Another pause darkened the interior of the saloon for an appreciable time as Miss Jenkins considered the ins and the outs of this request. Finally, she screwed her face into what might be called an expression of determination and carried on.
"I was examining the vegetables, havin' in mind a nice lettuce salad fer dinner thet evenin'." She stopped to consider the young man standing in front of her chair, then the large audience at the saloon tables all round. "I'd only been at this important business, oh, only about ten minutes, when Miss Nichols careered in the entrance door, like a sack of turnips thrown off a wagon.—"
A high youthful, but outraged, female voice was heard from the back of the saloon, sayin' questionable things about Miss Jenkins; Jacobson instantly whipping round and pointing like an Old Testament Prophet about to lay waste to an unbeliever.
"Miss Nichols, pipe down, thar; thet bein' a court order. Ye'll have yer own say shortly, yerself; meantime let others' speak their piece a'fore ye. Carry on, Miss Jenkins, an' take no note o'what Miss Nichols jes' called ye; I'm sure she'll apologise, later."
"Thet harpie apologise? Thet'll be the day, I'm thinkin'." Miss Jenkins no way appeased. "Anyway's, what happened was this—jest as Miss Nichols barged in, flailing her arms like to a windmill in a high wind, other things took off, too. I'd crossed ter the counter, ter confront Meynell with the lettuce which showed least as a lost cause; Miss Nichols was chewin' on one o'her loved licker-ice sticks, like a young gal at a Sunday School outing—"
An interjection occurred.
"Miss Nichols, one more crack like ter what ye've jes' said, an' I'll have yer thrown in jail. I believe yer wishes ter apologise fer thet there nasty, unwarranted aspersion ye've jes' cast in Miss Jenkin's wholly innocent direction? What? Yer won't? Yer dam' well will, madam'; or this here duly warranted court'll know the dam' reason why.—thank you, thet not bein' so hard as ye might'a expected, eh? Carry on, Miss Jenkins; I thinkin' ye'll find there'll be no further outbursts from thet direction."
"As I was sayin', a'fore bein' interrupted ter no purpose," Miss Jenkins taking on the character of a barque at sea with all sails set. "I was engaging Meynell in discussion, about the poor quality of his so-called fresh vegetables, when the incident under examination here ter-day took place."
She stopped to gaze about her, knowing full well she had the attention of every ear in the long room.
"Yes, Miss Jenkins?"
"First-off, Miss Nichols was findin' it difficult ter tell Meynell, between a stuffed mouthful o'licker-ice an', I might add, across my own conversation with him, the first of her mighty expansive lies o'the day, when—"
Another break in Miss Jenkins' flow, caused by the same culprit, who just wouldn't give up defending her outraged person.
"Miss Nichols," Jacobson running out of patience entirely. "If I have to interrupt your own interruptions jes' one dam' more time ye'll spend the rest o'the week in a cell, d'ye hear there, madam? Thank you—continue, Miss Jenkins, if'n ye pleases."
" 'Meynell,' I said, 'yer a downright fraud, is what ye sets yersel' up ter be'." Miss Jenkins nodding at her own sagacity. "An' jes' as he was about ter defend hisself with some pitiful fool excuse the robbers appeared—like to the Four Horsemen o'the Apocalypse; only there was only the two, an' they was afoot."
The gentle sussuration of amusement, at this wild and not quite controlled metaphor, which passed through the spirits of the packed audience quickly died under the stern gaze of Jacobson, and the hearing continued.
" 'Ladies' an' gents, promiscus', said the first tall robber," Miss Jenkins getting back into her flow with consumate ease. " 'stand easy, an' put yer purses on the counter. I wantin' yer money, I wantin' it now, an' I wantin' it all'. Well, what could a poor terrified lady do, in the circumstances?—"
Yet another outburst from a now easily identified source.
"Miss Knappe, seein' yer companion thar, ain't in any shape nor form about ter take due notice o'the court's, I mean's this here hearin's, dignity nor due process, I'll kindly ask yer ter clap yer hand over yer partner's mouth any time this comin' hour she looks ter be about ter open same, fer any reason whatever. Thank'ee. Miss Jenkins, carry on; we all bein' on tenderhooks ter larn jes' what happened next."
Slightly ruffled, but brimful of resolve, Miss Jenkins set-to yet again.
" 'Sir, You're a blaggard, get out', I shouts right in his face." Miss Jenkins shuffling her shoulders with stately composure at her own courage in the face of adversity. "Miss Nichols here fallin' over her own feet, in her fear o'the moment, he steps up ter the counter an' snarls at Meynell, who was dippin' down in search o'the shotgun he keeps under the counter. Seein' this action the robber ups with his pistol and fires wildly, obvious not in any way meanin' ter hit Meynell, but jes' scare the livin' daylights out'ta the fool—"
A stormy brou-ha-ha here taking place at the back of the saloon, Miss Jenkins' memoirs had to come to a temporary halt for the nonce; but she sat in perfect self-possession, having become used, like the rest of the saloon's audience, to the source of the eruption.
"Miss Nichols, if'n it weren' thet ye yersel' is a major witness in these here proceedin's I'd,—I'd,—well, dam' me, I'd drag ye ter the cells mysel', enjoyin' every second o'so doin'. Will ye, fer Goodness' sake, shut up? Thank ye. Miss Knappe, a stronger grasp o'yer prisoner wouldn't go neither astray nor unapplauded, if ye pleases. Miss Jenkins?"
"The robber had shot off his first round," She waxing lyrical as the drama of the piece came to its head. "mortally wounding a melon on the shelf behind Meynell, who took the full blast of the resulting innards all over his face an' shirt. Why, I downright laughed, a'fore recollectin' myself, in the serious tone o' the occasion. But I refused to give up my purse; oh, you bet, Mr Jacobson; no two-bit roustabout's goin' ter walk off with my hard-earned cash in his pocket, no sir'ree. 'Sir,' sez I to his face, what there was on view above the wide dirty bandanas he an' his friend were wearin' fer purposes o'keepin' theirsel's anono-nyminous, 'Sir,' I sez, 'desist at once, this here bein' no place fer activities o'this natur'; go away.' Well, Mr Jacobson, him bein' told this, ter his own face, whiles in the course o'pursuin' his evil an' unlawful occasions, fair sent him wild with anger. 'Now I's dam' angry,' sez he, flailing his arms around something awful, 'Jes' fer which I now preposes ter shoot the whole dam lot'ta ye, one an' all.' After which statement o'intent he rushes down the aisle where the dry goods an' tin pails is kept, trippin' over things underfoot as he went, still shoutin' obscenities wholesale as his voice trailed off into the distance at the far end o'the store, wrapped in dark shadow; there bein' no lightin' worth the name in Meynell's outfit, ter his undyin' shame."
"Miss Jenkins, perhaps if you confined your recollections to the main incidents needing discussion?" Mr Jacobson risking his life in the search for clear facts.
Miss Jenkins, in the ensuing fearful silence, studied Jacobson as if looking at a bug on the ground in her path, wondering just how much effort to expend in crushing same underfoot.
"Mr Jacobson, I find I am the best judge of my own recollections, thanking you all the same." Having put him in his place with supreme indifference she carried on where she had left off, not for the first time that morning. "The first robber had disappeared in the shadows bewailing, as the Bard so aptly says, his outcast state; when the second robber, till now unregarded in his mere position of spectator to unfolding events, rejoined the fray in no uncertain manner. He came rocketing in the store, head down, as if propelled by exterior force—which, in point of fact, was exactly the case. Miss Knappe, out on the sidewalk, becoming aware, far too late in my opinion, that events going forward in the store needed the presence of someone of authority and competence, had finally taken notice, and applied her boot where it had most need. The robber, wholly beyond his capacity to regain his stationary position, whirled across the floor, passed the still recumbent Miss Nichols, what a hopeless woman by the way, missing her by inches, and ended amongst some wooden crates of potatoes which instantly flew apart, burying the poor man in their contents."
Another slight disturbance, quickly subdued, from the rear of the saloon showed where Henrietta was taking care of some further need to complain on the part of her associate; then Miss Jenkins, with a contemptuous sniff of disapproval, carried on.
" 'What's goin for'rard?', sez Miss Knappe, seekin' clarity where there weren't none." Miss Jenkins allowing herself a small smirk at this jibe. " 'There's a man, over among the tin pails, there-away's, who tried ter blow my head off', sez Miss Nichols, tinting previous events with a different shade from that they actilly had—"
A minor earthquake coming off in the rear of the saloon, the hearing came to a halt while calm was restored; Mr Jacobson, hard done by, struggling to regain control.
"Miss Nichols, are ye a woman o' these States an' affiliated Territories o'this here Unites States of Ameriky, or a Maenad of old rampaging like ter a mad-woman? Control yersel', fer Goodnes sake. Miss Jenkins, ye were in the course o'sayin'—?"
"At this point," She sticking her chin in the air, no way discomposed by these interjections. "the first robber re-appeared from the depths of the dark store. 'Thet's him.' Sez I, wantin' ter identify the culprit ter Miss Knappe. 'Thet's the sun'na'va—er, I mean, Miss Nichols here used foul language ter acquaint her partner thet the man was indeed the robber under suspicion of previous bodily threats an' actions."
Miss Jenkins here pausing to catch her breath and compose her mind, Jacobson gave her a moment then raised an enquiring eyebrow again.
"And so, Miss Jenkins?"
" 'Har, ye sunn'a'va'—er, Miss Knappe said something entirely inappropriate then, without any form of warning, shot the man in his gut, to awful effect."
Jacobson filling the silence as she contemplated, in her mind's eye, the scenario under discussion.
"Which was, ma'am. The court requiring facts and details, I'm afraid."
"He went down like a falling tree in the forest; Miss Knappe's enormous rifle, as everyone in the Territory knows full well, being able ter kill a grizzly at eight hundred yards on a good day. The robber, bein' some three yards off, never standin' a chance in hel—er, standing no chance whatever."
"After which?" Jacobson valiantly trying to keep the flow going smoothly.
"We'd, in the process of undergoing this calamity, lost track of the second robber; who had clambered free of the potato mountain that had saw fit ter try'n bury him forever; disappearing in the shadows like his compatriot a'fore." Miss Jenkins well in control of her story at this point. "From his safe position in the shadows to the rear of the store he obvious heard the shot that took out his partner, and decided this allowed of rebuttal on his part. From his unseen position he took a pistol shot at Miss Nichols which, I have to admit, very nearly succeeded where the first robber had failed. The bullet took her hat off, like to a hurricane had caught it. She shook her head in disbelief, said something I caught but refuse herewith ter repeat, then took both her heavy pistols in hand and set-to firin' at will; the noise bein' so loud my ears, today, is still ringing."
Another pause while she caught her breath again.
"And this's where Miss Nichols' loses all sense o'womanhood, an' goes off on a killin' spree against innocent citizens who's only wish is ter give a helpin' hand in tragic circumstances. Miss Knappe is standing well along the counter from the entrance, Miss Nichols is around halfway between the former and the latter, and poor Mr Hempson comes in the entrance, aiming to lend a helping hand, Winchester to the fore. And what does he see, I asks you all, in the dark shadows within the Store? Why, Miss Nichols in a frenzy, guns in hand, mouthing obscenities fit to appal the angels, and Miss Knappe, now merely a dark shadowy presence in the far distance, holding a mighty rifle like to a smoking cannon. Well, what was the poor man expected to do in the circumstances? He took his shot at what he thought was the robber, and hit her too; Miss Nichols screamed like to a madwoman, an' went fer him with her huge knife, knowin' perfectly well who he was, an' what kind'a awful mistake had initiated his actions; proceedin' therewith ter murder him in cold blood, lot's o'the same in fact, only it wasn't by any means cold, right there in front of everybody, as cool as anything—"
The crisis which now ensued, in the saloon's depths, outstripped by a good distance any that had gone before. Snapshot was enraged, Harry was hard pressed keeping her from drawing on her perceived accuser right there and then; Jacobson, outraged and appalled in equal measure, stood undecided what to do, and the other members of the audience hooted and cat-called in unruly delight. Finally, some sense of order returned as tempers calmed down, as much as certain ones could do so, anyway.
"Good God!" Jacobson never before in his entire career having had to deal with such uninhibited behaviour. "I ain't never seen the like, dam' it. Who's the criminals, an' who's the law-abidin' citizens here? Is there a difference?"
At last order came back to the Crazy Garter, not without some effort on everyone's part, and Miss Jenkins was allowed to continue her recollections.
"At which point, Miss Nichols being on the floor again, in pursuit of finishing off her business with poor Mr Hempson, Miss Knappe obvious decides she's run out'ta patience with all concerned. 'Holla, yer ape', she shouts, 'where be ye, come out an' surrender forthwith'. She obvious talkin' ter the second robber, still hidin' in the shadows. Out he comes, drops his pistol on the floor an' sez 'I surrenders, fair an' square'. Upon which Miss Knappe walks up ter him, cold as ice, sticks her pistol in his gut an' pulls the trigger. Well, what a mess—"
An affray, like to that which destroyed Pompeii, now erupting at the back of the saloon's long public room, all attempt at keeping even partial control of events broke down in disarray. Snapshot was enraged, Harry was ditto, only more so, Jacobson had never known nor experienced the like, and the audience were having a grand old time. It was a full-scale Donnybrook in all but name.
At last it was, not without the expenditure of a great deal of argument, shouted commands, some fisticuffs, and an air of deep resentments only partially controlled, that some air of calm returned to the saloon. Jacobson taking a deep breath and resuming the order of events.
"Miss Jenkins, please continue."
"What else is there ter say?" She obviously having her own opinion clear in her mind. "Miss Nichols murdered Mr Hempson, fer no reason whatever. Miss Knappe murdered the second robber in cold blood, in chill disregard of all human moral convention. I sits down adamant in the truth of what I've recalled here ter-day; thank'ee all kindly."
"Yeah, I knows the form—the truth, the whole thereof, an' nuthin' but, got'tcha sure. What be my recall o' the mornin' in question? Well, there ye be, an' no mistake—what a dam' shambles. Tell's yer all one thing fer certin' sure, Meynells' Store, from this day on, don't sell melons no more."
A roar of hilarity echoed in the saloon's room.
"So what happened? Right, it were like this, Hasty Perkins, Joe Cocklin, an' Jeremy Davis had jes' taken their usual positions by the cheese barrel, Miss Jenkins was annoyin' the hell out'ta the vegetables on offer—all fresh as daisies, I allows—an' Snapshot came a' thunderin' in, she never no-how takin' due account o'the small step from sidewalk ter the Store's floor. She canterin' up ter the counter, which she usin' ter stop her uncontrolled for'rard motion, she allowed she was mighty starvin' fer a few rounds o'licker-ice, as was her daily routine—she bein', everyone allows, some gone on thet there vegetable extract; if'n thet's what licker-ice actilly is.
What? Get on with it? Oh, well, if'n ye doesn't want the little details thet makes the paintin'? Yer doesn't? Hum. So, we was all gettin' on mighty fine as usual. Snapshot, feelin' no doubt I was an easy target, was extollin' her past adventures in detail enough ter make the dumbest fool smoke the fac' she was some embarassin' the truth with minor details of a gigantic natur'—but I, bein' used ter her lies—er, fine stories, took it all with a pinch o'salt, as everybody ought who has ter listen ter her interminable tales—what? Do get on with it, a'fore ye dies o'old age? Well, dam'me, sir. What's thet? Don't swear in this court? What next, I asks yer? Oh, OK.
So, the robbers' appears, an' not a moment too soon from my point of view, Miss Jenkins by now bendin' my ear somethin' cruel with her extrapolations on the quality, or lack of sich, belonging ter my vegetable stock. The thief in front arrives at my counter, says 'Stick 'em up, this here bein' a stick-up'; I tries not ter laugh, smilin' some peacable instead; his pistol goes off unexpected, hitting a melon behind me instead o'my own melon, ha-ha. What? Ye can do without jokes on this here auspicious occasion? Suit yersel'. I'm covered in melon insides, all over; what a dam' mess. Between my efforts ter clean my face an' eyes, I see's an' hears the first robber goin' off in'ta the shadows at the rear o'my store, apologisin' ter one an' all fer his accidental shootin' of my prize stock—yeah, I know, I ought'a get some oil lamps installed, everybody whinin' the same tune, but never takin' note of expences.
What? Thought I was gettin' on with it? The second robber, propelled by Harry's boot, comes sailin' in ter join the fun; certin' conversations takes place a'tween Harry an' Snapshot, she still wailin' aroun' on the floor, she never bein' one ter quickly resume a vertical stance, once knocked cock-eyed like ter a skittle. The first robber, full o'humility at his near killin' me, appears at the end of an aisle, obvious wantin' ter surrender; Harry, not knowin' what in hell's goin for'rard, whips round, her Sharps, as they will, goes off promiscus', an' the first robber meets the Heavenly Host rather sooner than he probably expected.
What? In course every word's the dam' truth. How can I be called ter order jes' cause my story don't fit no-ways with Miss Jenkins'? Gim'me a break, d'ye wan'na hear what actil happened, or no? Right. The second robber, meanwhile, has extricated himself from my potatoes, an' run fer cover in the rear shadows, too. Snapshot, mighty riled by everything, drags in'ta the light o'day her two Smith an' Wessons an' proceeds ter use my store fer target practice—only, thank God, not managin' ter hit anythin' other than various items of my stock; certinly not anythin' with a pumpin' heart, the Gods be praised.
What? A fantasy? Dam' yer, too, sir. What? I cain't say sich here? Well, yer the one makin' the rules. Carry on? OK. Mr Hempson, id'yeet thet he undeniably was—what? Casting aspersions on absent heroes? I'll be dam'med. Mind my manners? Haruumph! Hempson comes a'wanderin' in, holdin' no truck whatever with identifyin' his'self, Snapshot shouts him a warnin' of the events presently unfoldin', his Winchester goes off all unwarranted—Chr-st, cain't anyone in this town control their firearms? Harry's hit, to no real danger o'life, thank heavens; Snapshot, thinkin' ter grab Hempson's artillery a'fore he shoots some other innocent bystander, has dropped her unloaded pistols an' pulls her Bowie, more from instinct than fer any other reason, an' rushes ter hold back Hempson in a bear-hug. But, things goin' some amiss, she somehow manages wholly by accident, clear as daylight, ter cut Hempson's throat with her Bowie; the same never bein' in her plans at all, certin' sure to all thet witnessed same—exceptin' Miss Jenkins, in course, who must'a had some dust in her eye, in my opinion, throughout the whole course o'the entire catastrophe.
What's thet? Oh, the second robber? Oh, well his demise was jes' as accidental as all the rest. He came cavortin' out'ta the shadows, allowin' some vocal he was a spent force in the robbery lay, only wantin' ter spend the evenin' o'his years in a nice friendly Penitentiary. He comes up against Harry's side, grabs her waist fer support an', all accidental, manages somehow ter make her pistol, in her left hand, go off, thereby effectin' the removal of most o'his innards wholesale, along with his life. God, what a string o'bad luck all roun'.
I'm sayin' all the deceasements was accidental, with no degree o'malice aforethought? I should say so, laddie. A more terrible string of pure accidents I ain't never encountered in all my previous life. Thet there's my testimony, an' I sticks ter same, entire. I can stan' down, now? Right. G'bye."
The 'Red Flume Conqueror' has its Say.
'Dear Readers, on the morning of the 5th June previous, a shocking scene unfolded within the confines of Samuel Meynell's General Store, on Main Street. While going about their lawful purposes several outstanding citizens of our community were exposed to danger of life supreme in its horror. Miss Sally Nichols, whom all our readers will know under her pseudonym, was attending the Store looking to buy some comestibles, her long-time business partner Henrietta Knappe waiting outside, some distance along the sidewalk from the actual Store. Two evil robbers entered the establishment unannounced and proceeded to hold all therein at gunpoint. Sally was unable to offer resistance, having experienced an accident which found her on the floor in distress. Henrietta, appearing at the scene of the unfolding crime, entered the Store, but was denied apprehending the criminals as a result of the dark shadowy premises—oh, how often has this Editor received complaints from the Public concerning just this issue? Mr Meynell, the Conqueror asks you to repair this inadequacy forthwith!
Happily for all concerned our great, but now unhappily deceased, local hero, Mr Garry Hempson, from Carlton's Dry Goods, appeared on the scene, ready to contribute with his Winchester rifle. What can we say of ensuing events? At peril of his life Mr Hempson proceeded to walk through the Store, stalking his prey like a true bear hunter. The robbers, knowing their last minutes were upon them, shooting promiscuously at one and all, meantime; Henrietta Knappe herself sustaining a slight wound to the arm in the process. First one evil robber fell to Mr Hempson's fire then, in a hand to hand struggle in which Mr Hempson suffered a mortal wound by knife, he accounted for the second robber before himself giving up his heroic existence in saving all around him. The Conqueror hereby opens a Fund for the surviving family of this great hero, safe in the knowledge that many large contributions will be donated forthwith.'
The Next Day, Main Street, Red Flume, Arizona Territory.
"Every one a dam' liar. From head ter toe."
Sally, meaner than a grizzly in the Spring.
"I agrees with yer, wholesale, lover." Henrietta no whit less out of sorts. "I didn't think so many people could disremember somethin' in so many different ways. One gets it almost right; one tells a passel o'lies an' calls us both murderers; an' another tells a tale he made up as he went along; then the Conqueror fabricates a fairy tale from start ter finish, leaving us both in a light thet doesn't show us ter any reasonable advantage whatever. No wonder young Jacobson couldn't, morally speakin', make an adverse decision on what happened; putting the whole shebang, final, down ter righteous defence by all concerned, an' accidental death. Yer knows, young 'un, sometimes I wonders if this here community deserves our presence, at all?"
"Yer did say, some week since, a'fore all this broke, thet ye were thinkin' of goin' off on a big bear hunt, up to the Laronny Mountains, southwards?"
"I believes I recollects sayin' sich, yeah, leddy."
"Well, don't look far fer a companion, is all; I'm here, right by yer side, madam."
Henrietta paused on the sidewalk to consider the matter.
"OK, it's a deal, lover."
"Yee-hah! Who's gon'na pay fer all the extra ammo, jes' by way o'askin'?"
Another 'Red Flume' story will arrive shortly.