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Sep 4 11 4:09 AM
Crowe Crossing MemberBen Perver
Sep 6 11 6:35 PM
Wet Russelling Watery Wench
Ben Wade was restless, had
been for days now, and nothing could make the feeling go away. Night time was
worse – too much time to think, not enough in the small cell to distract him –
and his thoughts sometimes spiralled out of control. He wasn’t used to that; in
fact he wasn’t used to anything about his position right now. He was currently
at the mercy of another man and that irked him beyond belief, particularly
since that man wasn’t doing anything to take charge of the sorry situation.
He tried to concentrate on
the picture he was sketching but the light cast by the candle wasn’t strong enough
to work by so he gave up on it. He glanced over at his cellmate with a scowl. Thompson
was sound asleep on his bunk, had been ever since lockup at eight o’clock, and
Ben knew he wouldn’t wake until the morning bell forced him up. He’d never been
a particularly talkative companion but since getting transferred to the labour
gang he’d become downright mute. He didn’t even talk in his sleep any more… Ben
didn’t know if it was exhaustion or stubbornness which had stilled his tongue;
all he knew was that he’d been two weeks on the work team, tormented daily by
Garwood and Rafferty, but was no closer to providing a plausible escape plan of
his own. He still rejected Wade’s idea of getting out through the hospital,
doggedly refusing to get himself injured even when the small sacrifice might buy
his freedom; and all he seemed to do was work, eat and sleep. Even the
whispered night time conversations had ceased, since he was always asleep when Cartwright
came by the cell, and every day of indecision and inaction took Ben a day
closer to his trial. He simply didn’t have time to sit around and wait on a man
who was always too tired to think and so he’d begun working his own plan and
putting things in place.
He’d sought Cartwright out
the day after the idea had come to him and outlined the proposition. Cartwright
was a rational man who immediately saw the sense of it, though he also balked
at the idea of his buddy getting hurt and Ben wondered about the nature of
their relationship in the real world. Cartwright seemed to genuinely care about
Thompson, was fiercely protective of him and that was foreign to Ben’s own experience.
He’d ridden with men who were ferociously loyal, prepared to do anything he
asked of them, but he knew their devotion was a mixture of fear, avarice and
envy rather than any real liking for him. Ben Wade didn’t need friends; they
only tied a man down and compromised his actions, but Cartwright’s loyalty
closed the door on another notion he’d had: one which comprised leaving
Thompson to rot in Yuma while he rode into the sunset with his buddy. He now realised
Cartwright would never agree so the one remaining option was getting his
stubborn cellmate hospitalized against his will. It hadn’t taken long for an
idea to form there either. It wouldn’t be pretty but he didn’t really give a
shit; he was only doing what was necessary to keep his neck out of a noose.
Cartwright had known nothing
about the tunnel in the hospital but promised he’d look into it. He’d done it
pretty quick as well. Three days later he’d come by the cell after dark and
this time it was Ben who’d held a conversation with him in whispers. Cartwright
informed him he’d not only investigated the tunnel, but also located all the
necessary keys and was in the process of getting copies made. He needed money
for supplies and to buy a boat, since it was less complicated than stealing one,
and Ben had peeled off three hundred dollars from Cort’s stash and pushed the
notes through the bars. Cort wouldn’t know it was gone – he never went near that
hole in the ground – but he’d find out soon enough. A week later Cartwright told him everything
was set up and ready to go, and then things started to get gnarly. Cort was hauled
before the Governor, apparently for cheeking some of the guards, and
subsequently spent two days in the hole with a lot of bruises. Ben hoped the experience
might spur him into action and, with nothing to do except sit in the dark and
think, he might even come up with a sensible plan, but he was disappointed on
both counts. The best Cort had to offer was getting hold of some guns and
shooting their way out, which was a sure way of getting them all killed
Ben glanced over at him with
renewed impatience. He picked up a bottle of whisky from the floor beside his
bed and rolled it in his hands before taking a long draught. He was anxious to get moving but couldn’t do
anything until he’d spoken to Cartwright again. He was expecting the guard to
drop by any minute now...
A light metallic tapping woke
him from a restless dream and it took him a moment to realise he’d fallen
asleep. The noise was coming from the direction of the cell door and he got to
his feet, noting how the candle had burnt down half an inch since he’d dozed
off, and limped over. Cartwright was outside and he spoke in a low voice. He
sounded a little fretful.
“We got to put this plan into
action soon. Garwood’s figuring more ways to get Cort put in the hole and he
ain’t no use to us there.”
Ben frowned. “He ain’t no use
to anyone right now. He’s too tired to even think straight and it’ll get worse.”
Cartwright grunted his
agreement. “How you figuring on getting both of you in that hospital without
looking like you planned it?”
“It’s best you don’t know,
Cartwright. Your buddy’s got no plan worth a shit and he’ll thank me for it one
“If you hurt him bad I’ll
shoot you dead!”
Ben chuckled softly. “Don’t
be foolish, son. How’s he gonna escape if he’s too sick to move?”
Cartwright considered that.
He seemed deeply vexed but didn’t press the matter. “When we gonna do it,
Ben’s heart started thumping.
Cartwright shook his head. “Won’t
work. I’m on duty until two in the morning.”
“The night after then. How are
you getting inside the hospital, Cartwright?”
The young guard shrugged. “I
joined their poker game and they play every night. They like having me there
‘cause of the money I lose.” He snickered quietly. “Speaking of which, you’d
better give me that roll of cash we smuggled in. Once we start this thing there’s
no coming back to this cell.”
Ben could see his logic and
he quietly moved his bunk and prised up the rock below. He felt around for the
money and his hand brushed a full bottle of whisky. It had been sitting there for
two weeks – a vital part of his escape plan and now on the brink of being
utilised. He found the money and took it out. After a moment’s thought he
pulled out his drawing books as well. He crossed back to the window and slid it
all through the bars.
“Look after them books; they’re
precious to me.”
The guard nodded, stuffed the
money into his pants pocket and shoved the books up inside his shirt. He grinned.
“Getting sentimental, Wade?”
Ben ignored him. “What time
does the card game finish?”
Cartwright considered for a
moment. “About midnight.”
“Then be ready to move right
after. What about the boat?”
“It’ll be outside the tunnel.”
Ben frowned. “If you moor it
out there it’ll be seen.”
Cartwright shook his head.
“Guard tower’s on the other side of the prison.”
Ben wondered for a moment at
his ignorance. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the perimeter patrols, son.
Every thirty minutes some guard is gonna be gazing out across that river. A
boat is sure to get his attention!”
“You leave the fine details
to me, Wade.”
A flicker of doubt crossed
Ben’s mind and not for the first time. He leaned close to the bars.
“Who else is in on this plan?
Is there someone you’re not telling me about?”
Cartwright smirked. “It’s
best you don’t know, Wade. I’ll be seeing you…”
Then he was gone and Ben
returned to his bunk. He knew sleep wouldn’t be coming any time soon so he dug
into the whisky and tried to put his whirling thoughts into some kind of order.
He’d suspected for a while there was somebody else tied up in this operation: Cartwright
had gotten things into place too damned quick for a man who only got one day
off a week and spent most of his time inside the prison walls. The presence of
an unknown collaborator bothered Ben greatly since, once outside and free, he
needed to be sure what he was up against. Cartwright and Cortez Thompson were
known quantities; he understood their characters, knew how to play them and his
priority was to drive a wedge into their friendship. That was vital if he was
to stand any chance of taking command of the outfit, since he wasn’t about to
be a pawn in another man’s game. He needed both of them for his immediate
purposes and he needed them to follow him willingly. A fourth party, or
parties, might jeopardise that plan…
He brooded on the problem
until his eyelids began to droop; the truth of the matter was that until he’d
met the additional man, or men, he couldn’t figure out exactly how to proceed.
He replaced the whisky bottle
in the hole and covered it all up, then settled down to sleep. Thompson was
snoring gently, oblivious to the ordeal awaiting him and Ben smiled. He couldn’t
take much pleasure from another man’s pain; what he had lined up was a
necessity and nothing more, though Thompson would probably hate him for it. Ben’s
stomach twisted as he considered the notion of Thompson abandoning the gold
bullion and turning to a gun in order to settle matters. There weren’t many men
Ben feared facing in a gunfight, but he was sharing a cell with one of them.
He was confident it wouldn’t
come to that though. So far neither of them had mentioned how they’d almost killed
each other six years ago, though both bore the scars on their bodies. The
fight, and events which led up to it, could never be forgotten but Yuma wasn’t
the place to renew a grudge and Thompson was smart enough to recognise that.
Once outside though, it was only a matter of time before the same trouble flared
up and Ben was ready for it. He still held the same ace he’d possessed six
years ago, and he was eager to play it again…
Sep 7 11 8:38 PM
Sep 11 11 7:27 PM
Sep 12 11 6:17 AM
Sep 12 11 5:24 PM
Sep 12 11 7:57 PM
Sep 14 11 7:22 PM
Sep 15 11 6:32 PM
Sep 16 11 9:41 AM
Sep 16 11 9:02 PM
(or rather, bad things for a certain feller...)
Sep 19 11 6:59 AM
Sep 19 11 8:40 PM
Sep 20 11 8:03 AM
Ben Carter leaned in the
doorway of the guardhouse and gazed out into the shadowy exercise yard. The sun
had set a long while back and it was full dark inside the prison now. He was
tense, twitchy and his eyes kept drifting towards the high security cell, barely
seven yards away. He could see the dim flicker of candlelight inside and
everything seemed calm, though he was sure it wouldn’t last. Earlier, Ben Wade
had brushed past him as prisoners began moving towards their cells for eight
o’clock curfew and muttered under his breath.
“Stay on your toes,
Cartwright, and be ready to move.”
Ben looked over his shoulder at
the clock on the wall inside the guardhouse; it read a little after nine.
Captain Coughlan was behind his desk, writing a letter, and four other guards
were sitting around and reading the daily reports. The place was quiet,
orderly, and it only served to worsen his unease. He turned his face back
towards the yard before anybody noticed his nervousness and Coughlan’s voice
drifted across the room.
“You looking for something to
Ben turned to face him. “No
sir. Just taking the night air.”
Coughlan eyed him and Ben
resisted the urge to squirm. He felt as though the man could see right through
him and it took some strong resolve to keep his expression neutral and gaze
“Take a turn around the yard
if you need air; otherwise there’s plenty of reports which could use your
Ben nodded and seized his
Winchester rifle. Anything was better than reading a pile of dull paperwork and
it meant he could pass close to the high security cell without attracting
He was halfway around the
perimeter of the yard when he heard the noise he’d been dreading. There was a
sudden crash of breaking glass, shockingly loud in the silence of the prison
night, closely followed by somebody yelling. It was unmistakably Cort’s voice
and it didn’t let up. Ben began running towards the cell, his heart hammering
and stomach churning. He saw Captain Coughlan and the four others all hurtle from
the guardhouse and by the time he reached the cell he was right at the back of a
crowd of men. One of the guards was fumbling a key into the lock while, inside,
Cort continued to yell a steady stream of obscenities. There was an
overpowering smell of whisky and Ben could feel glass crunching under his feet.
Desperate to see what was happening, he shoved his comrades out of the way and
got a clear look through the barred window of the cell an instant before the
guard pushed the door open. What he saw made him feel a little nauseous. Ben Wade was
on his bunk, struggling and cursing and Cort was on top of him, pounding him with
Ben was shoved aside in turn
as the other guards all rushed inside. They seized Cort, hauled him off the
bunk and he fought them all, trying the whole time to get back to Wade They were
having real trouble controlling him and Captain Coughlan grabbed Ben’s rifle,
stepped forward and chose his moment carefully; slamming the butt of the weapon
into Cort’s stomach just as he seemed about to break free. It only slowed him
up a little but was enough for the guards to get a good grip on him.
“Take him into the yard and
don’t let go of him!” Coughlan sounded breathless. He swung round to face Ben.
“Fetch the irons and be sharp about it!”
Ben raced back to the
guardhouse and grabbed a set of manacles and leg irons from their pegs on the
wall. They were heavy and he struggled with their weight as he carried them out
to the yard. The four guards had Cort pinned to the ground but he was still
struggling like a demon and cursing them all at the top of his lungs. There
were guards up on the catwalk, pointing their rifles and yelling threats,
but they were wasting their breath. Whatever had happened inside the cell had
driven Cort well beyond the point of reason and rational thought. More guards
were coming through the various strap iron gates which led into the yard, a
couple of them holding lanterns, but all Ben could do was stand and watch with
his jaw hanging open, appalled by the scene before him. The irons were snatched
from his hands by two of the new arrivals, who then proceeded to chain Cort’s
wrists and ankles. Once the restraints were in place the other guards let go of
him and stood back. Cort struggled to his feet with difficulty then just stood
there, glaring at them all, breathing hard and reeking of whisky. Eight guards
formed a close circle around him and he sneered.
“It needs all of you cowardly
fucks to beat on one chained man?”
He spat on the ground and one
of the guards drove a rifle into his back, just above his right kidney. Cort
grunted with pain and fell to his knees. Another man kicked him in the ribs and
sent him sprawling. Ben prayed he wouldn’t try and get up again but was
distracted by Captain Coughlan shouting his name. The Captain was beckoning him
back to the high security cell and he hurried across, wondering what had
Ben Wade was lying on his
bunk. His face was bone white, covered in livid wheals and coated in a fine sheen
of sweat. Blood was tricking from his nose, lip and right temple and his breath
was laboured and ragged. He was grimacing with pain and had his right hand
clamped across his ribs. The Captain was sitting on the edge of Cort’s bunk,
watching him intently, and another guard stood by the door; his rifle poised
and ready. Coughlan looked up as Ben entered.
“Cartwright, I want you to
inform the Governor of tonight’s events. Come back here directly with his
instructions, though I’m pretty sure he’ll want to see the guilty parties.”
Wade snorted loudly. “I ain’t
guilty of nothing. That son of a bitch got drunk and tried to kill me!”
Coughlan watched him
carefully. “Where did he get the whisky?”
“Damned if I know.” Wade
tried to push himself up on the bed, cursed quietly and gave up on the job.
“But he drank enough of it to
fell a horse then decided he wanted to pick a fight.”
The Captain nodded. “You
should go to the hospital, Wade.”
Wade shook his head and
caught Ben’s eye for a fraction of a second. “Not until I’ve seen the Governor.
He needs to hear the truth.”
Ben took that as his cue and left
the cell with his head spinning. He could only imagine what had gone down
earlier but Wade appeared genuinely hurt and Cort seemed to have lost his mind.
He walked slowly past the group of guards in the yard; still clustered around
Cort who was now sprawled on his back in the dirt. There was blood on his face
and his eyes were closed. He wasn’t moving, seemed unconscious and right now
oblivion was probably the best place for him. Ben picked up his pace and
hurried through the maze of gates and passages towards the Governor’s office.
He knocked twice, waited for the command to enter and then delivered his news.
Farleigh’s face darkened as
he listened to the report and he issued orders swiftly. Both prisoners were to
be brought before him, restrained and kept apart, and he wanted to see Captain
Coughlan immediately. Not much had changed in the exercise yard on Ben’s return:
Cort was still out cold but the guards surrounding him had relaxed and some
were smoking cigarettes. Ben diverted to the guardhouse for a set of handcuffs
and then headed back to the high security cell.
Coughlan was still there but now
Wade was sitting up on his bunk with a cloth pressed to his face. The other
guard was also present, rifle aimed and ready, and Ben relayed Farleigh’s instructions.
The Captain stood up quickly.
“Put those handcuffs on Wade then
you and Jones here accompany him to the Governor. If he can’t walk then make
sure you help him. What’s the situation with Thompson?”
Ben shrugged. “I think he’s
unconscious, sir, but he’s restrained and guarded.”
Coughlan nodded curtly and
then left the cell. Ben approached Wade’s bunk and jangled the handcuffs.
“You know the drill, Wade.”
Wade smirked and held out his
wrists obligingly. Ben locked on the restraints and then stood back.
“Can you walk?”
“I can try.” Wade swung his
legs over the edge of the bunk and tried to push himself up. The effort drained
his face of all colour and he grimaced and cursed.
“I lost count of how many
times that fucker punched me in the kidney; I’ll be pissing blood for the next six
Ben nodded at the man called
Jones and together they helped Wade to his feet. He walked slowly, gingerly,
and Ben could hear breath whistling between his clenched teeth with every step
he took. If he was acting then he was doing a damned fine job but somehow Ben
doubted it. His stomach twisted at the thought of how he might genuinely be too
badly injured to play any part in the escape plan, only twenty four hours away…
Wade slowed his pace even
more as they passed the group of men in the exercise yard and he scowled at the
chained, motionless figure on the ground. One of the guards threw a bucket of
water over Cort but it took a long while before he reacted and appeared to
slowly regain consciousness. Ben gripped Wade’s arm more firmly and urged him
“Pick up your heels, Wade. We
can’t keep the Governor waiting!”
In spite of their haste they
still spent fifteen minutes outside the office while Farleigh spoke with
Captain Coughlan. After that Wade was ushered inside and permitted to sit on a
chair while Jones was dismissed with orders to fetch prisoner Thompson under
heavy guard. Ben and the Captain stood discreetly in opposite corners of the
room, hands on the grips of their side arms, while Wade was questioned.
Farleigh drilled him hard,
demanding every detail of the fight with intimate clarity but Wade’s story was
simple and he stuck to it with the tenacity of a man who’d been dreadfully
wronged. Cortez Thompson had returned to their cell with a bad temper and
bottle of whisky, which he’d proceeded to drink without offering his companion
even a single drop. He’d gotten progressively more drunk and angry until an
innocuous comment by Wade had pushed him over the edge. He’d thrown the bottle
of hooch at the window then launched himself at his cellmate, pounding him with
the relentless strength and endurance of a man who spent eight hours a day
breaking rock. Wade had been powerless to resist and could only endure the
assault and wait for the cavalry to arrive.
His story was smooth and
plausible, heightened by the blood and bruises all over his face, and Ben had
to keep reminding himself that this version of events was most definitely not what
really happened. Farleigh questioned Wade with the ingenuity and finesse of an
attorney at law, but every attempt to trip him up in his story failed. By the
time they were done Wade was slumped in his chair and visibly wilting. Voices
outside the door informed them the next party had arrived and Farleigh decided
that two of the guards out there should accompany Wade to the hospital while
the remainder stayed with Thompson, whom he considered extremely dangerous.
Coughlan stuck his head
around the door and issued some curt orders; two guards came in and helped Wade
from his chair and out of the room. A moment later Cort was dragged inside by three
other men. He was wet, bleeding and unsteady on his feet as he was positioned before
the Governor’s desk. The guards stood behind him, rifles raised and he was not
offered the comfort of a chair even though he was swaying alarmingly, weighed
down by the heavy restraints and very likely a concussion. Farleigh watched him
coldly, wrinkling his nose with distaste.
“You stink of whisky,
prisoner. Where did you get that bottle?”
Cort stared at him and didn’t
say a word. Farleigh tried again.
“I’ve had Wade’s side of the
story so you may as well give yours. I’m a fair man and I’ll reserve judgement
until I’ve heard all the facts. Where did you get that whisky?”
Cort snickered quietly. “You
already made your judgement. Why should I even waste my breath?”
Farleigh’s fists clenched until
his knuckles went white. He was fighting to remain calm. “Anything you say will
have a bearing on the nature of your punishment, Thompson, so I’d strongly
advise you to state your case.”
Cort shrugged. “That bottle
belonged to Wade. I don’t know where he got it but there’s a regular supply of
hooch to our cell and he drinks every night.”
Farleigh nodded. “And you
don’t touch a drop, of course…”
Cort looked at him for a long
moment then awkwardly pulled up his sopping wet tunic to reveal the red scar on
his lower midriff, chains clanking loudly as he did so.
“I got that a year ago and it
messed up my guts. I can’t drink hard liquor without puking and getting the
shits. You smell whisky on account of Wade pouring it over me while I was sleeping,
then he threw the bottle at the window.”
The Governor smiled with
obvious disbelief. “Why would he do that?”
“To provoke me. He wanted a
fight and by God he got one.”
“You hurt him bad, Thompson and
he’s on his way to the hospital right now. So I’m compelled to ask, again, why
a man would put himself through that.”
Cort scowled. “You’d have to
The Governor leaned back his
“I did ask him! I’m not
particularly interested in the finer details of this sorry affair but
everything I’ve heard so far points towards you as the instigator.”
“It’s a lie.” Cort’s voice
was quiet and the Governor ignored him.
“We do not tolerate drunkenness
or violence inside this prison, Thompson. Prisoners who fight are dealt with
severely and we always make an example.”
His eyes flicked towards the
guards flanking Cort and they stiffened and gripped their weapons more firmly.
Ben exchanged an uneasy look with Captain Coughlan, who looked as unhappy as he
felt. What was coming next would not be good for any of them…
Farleigh considered for a
while and then fixed his gaze on Cort.
“Tomorrow morning at seven
o’clock you’ll be brought to the exercise yard and flogged before every man in
this prison. Six lashes for attacking and injuring your cellmate, six
additional lashes for bringing contraband into this facility.”
Cort stared at him for a
moment, as though stunned, then lurched quickly but unsteadily towards the desk.
“You’re a fucker, Farleigh. I
should have shot you in Nogales instead of your buddy!”
The guards behind him grabbed
his arms, hauled him backwards and he struggled with them, though the heavy
chains impeded his movements. Farleigh for his part seemed only amused. When he
spoke again his voice was smug.
“And a further three lashes
for insubordination, which brings the current total to fifteen.” He smiled
broadly. “You keep it up as long as you like, Thompson, but your back will feel
the consequences come morning.”
Captain Coughlan stepped
forward and he seemed anxious. “Governor, I believe we should review the facts
before implementing such drastic measures. Everybody’s in a state of agitation right
now; I think we should wait until things have calmed down and then reconsider.”
Farleigh looked at Cort,
still struggling and swearing at his captors and shook his head slowly.
“Cortez Thompson is an
animal, Captain, and he’ll be treated like one. Take him to the hole so he can
fully consider the significance of tonight’s events in the darkness and cold.
Tomorrow he’ll pay for them in full."
Sep 20 11 6:34 PM
Tomorrow he’ll pay for them in full."
Sep 21 11 7:15 PM
Oct 1 11 5:56 PM
Cort was awoken by a hand on
his shoulder, shaking him firmly, and a voice in his ear, repeating his name
over and over until he opened his eyes blearily. It took him a while to
recognise the voice, even longer to recognise the face looking at him,
illuminated only dimly by a distant light source he couldn’t fathom. It was
Captain Coughlan squatting beside him and he seemed decidedly unhappy.
“Can you hear me? I’ve got
somebody here to take a look at you.”
Cort tried to see who else
was present, but the action of lifting his head hurt enough that he only got a
glimpse of some shadowy figures in the near distance. He was laying on his side
on a hard, comfortless surface and when he tried to move he heard something
clank and found himself impossibly burdened by weight on his wrists and ankles.
He grunted with the effort and decided it was best to stay where he was. Coughlan
“Do you know where you are?”
Cort struggled to remember.
The last thing he’d been fully conscious of was listening to a stream of venom
dripping from Ben Wade’s lips, pushing him relentlessly towards the point where
all resolve was shattered and he’d been overcome by a blinding rage. How he’d
gotten from that point to this place was currently lost in a maze of half
remembered fragments and he wasn’t sure any of them were even real. All he knew
was that right now he was wet, cold, hurting and apparently restrained.
Coughlan barked out an order.
“Cartwright, bring those keys
over and release him.”
Ben Carter’s face came into
view and, despite an almost overwhelming relief at finding his friend so close,
a deep set caution made Cort remain silent. Ben looked even less happy than
Coughlan as he unlocked the heavy manacles, but he didn’t say a word. Free of
their weight, Cort rolled onto his back and blinked up at the men above him.
Coughlan was still frowning.
“You’re in the hole,
Thompson. Do you remember how you got here?”
Whoever was holding the lamp brought
it closer and the light hurt Cort’s eyes. He threw an arm across his face and
tried to get his whirling thoughts in order. He remembered attacking Ben Wade,
relishing the feel of every punch as it struck home, every grunt of pain which
escaped his cellmate’s lips, and then the room was full of guards. He
remembered, with a wince, being dragged into the exercise yard, chained and
then beaten. It was his own fault – he should have stayed down after the first few
blows but he was too angry and he’d gotten up several times before somebody hit
him round the head and knocked him out. He remembered waking up soaked to the
skin, being hauled before the Governor and finally, with a jolt, he remembered
what was going to happen tomorrow morning. Maybe it was morning already? Maybe
that’s why all these men were in the cell with him…
He sat up in a rush, overcome
by the unjustness of the whole situation. Why the hell had he been thrown into the
hole, bleeding and hurting when Wade had started the fight? Why was he getting
punished while Wade languished in the hospital? He scrambled to his feet, ignoring
the pain which announced itself all over his body and backed up hastily, trying
to get away from them as fresh anger began burning in the pit of his stomach.
“I ain’t getting whipped on account
of that fucker Ben Wade. He started that fight and it ain’t fair!”
The Dark Cell, colloquially
known as The Hole comprised a strap iron cage set up in the middle of a rough-hewn
cavern, and he fetched up hard against the metal bars and glowered at the men
in there with him. There were four of them, two still in shadow and he tried to
size them up, wondering if he could possibly fight them all. Coughlan stepped
forward with his hands outstretched in placation.
“Calm down, Thompson. I don’t
agree with Governor Farleigh and as second in command of this facility, I’ll do
my best to reverse his decision. Nobody should be punished until we have the
full facts, and I absolutely do not believe in whipping prisoners! Mister
Furnley’s here to examine your medical condition and I’d advise you to stand
still and let him do his job. He’s only an assistant but the doctor’s currently
occupied with Wade.”
There was a derisive snort
from one of the shadowy figures. “I’m better qualified than you might think,
Cort recognised the voice,
also the faint trace of petulance in the statement, so he wasn’t surprised at
all when Toby Furnell stepped into the lamplight and looked at him
appraisingly. The kid didn’t show a flicker of recognition and soon turned to address
“If you leave him in those
clothes he’ll catch fever.”
Coughlan nodded. “I’ll take
care of that.”
He motioned to Cort. “Strip
off, Thompson, let Mister Furnley look at you properly.”
Cort was more than happy to
oblige. He shucked off his cold, wet garments, which still reeked of alcohol
and Toby lit a candle. He came close and examined the gash on Cort’s forehead,
just above the hairline.
“How you feeling? Any double
Cort shook his head and
grimaced at the pain it caused. “How the hell would I know? It’s too dark to
see jack shit!”
Toby smiled a little. “I
reckon you got a concussion. Let me see…”
He brought the candle up
close to each of Cort’s eyes in turn then moved around him slowly, gently
probing the sorest, most bruised parts of his body and asking a few more questions.
Cort was shivering by the time he was done and Ben Carter passed him a dry uniform
which he pulled on quickly while Toby gave his report to Coughlan.
“He’s got a pretty bad
concussion and some cracked or fractured bones. I can’t comment on internal
injuries until we get him to the hospital for observation and tests.”
Coughlan looked thoughtful
and seemed to have believed Toby’s exaggerations. Cort was no doctor but he
could feel the difference between bruises and broken bones and he was pretty
sure it was the former he was suffering now, even though it felt like he’d been
run over by a mule train. He leaned against the cell bars and slid down them
slowly until he was sitting on the rough stone floor. He rested his aching head
in his hands and listened to the soft buzz of conversation above him, not
bothering to try and hear the actual words. The intense emotions and exertions
of the past few hours had exhausted him and despite his desperate situation,
the awful contemplation of what was going to happen at seven o’clock, he felt
like he could sleep for a week. Coughlan’s voice roused him.
“I’m going to see Governor
Farleigh now. Given your physical condition I’m recommending you be taken to
the hospital and the punishment cancelled.”
Cort grunted his appreciation
and lifted his head to watch the small party leave, though Ben Carter hung back
to collect his sodden uniform and the iron manacles. Cort wished he would say
something but all Ben offered was an uneasy smile as he locked the door to the
cage. Something urgent occurred to Cort
and he called after the Captain.
“What time is it?”
Coughlan consulted his pocket
watch, squinting in the flickering lamp light. “Not quite midnight.” The smile
he offered was more confident. “Don’t worry, Thompson, we’ve got plenty of time
to straighten out this sorry affair.”
Then they were gone, the
outer door slammed shut and the cell was plunged into absolute blackness. Cort
listened to bolts outside being shot into place, the faint crunch of departing
feet and then he was alone in absolute silence as well. He knew from his
previous spell in The Hole that however much he needed it, sleep would not come
easily – the place was too cold and uncomfortable – and despite his fatigue,
the aches and pains all over his body, his mind was whirling. Given Farleigh’s
resolve to make his stay in Yuma prison as unpleasant as possible, he doubted
anything Coughlan could say would change his mind. That meant he was looking at
more pain and humiliation in just a few short hours and the unjustness of the
situation continued to rile him. He was determined Governor Farleigh would pay a
heavy price for his vendetta, if he ever got out of this cursed place…
With nothing at all to occupy
his senses, he could not prevent his mind from revisiting events which had
brought him here. Cort had known Ben Wade was out to make trouble as soon as they’d
gotten back to their cell for lockup. Ordinarily he could ignore his cellmate’s
incessant jabber and fall asleep right away, exhausted by his day’s work on the
labour gang, but tonight Wade was choosing subjects deliberately designed to
keep him awake. He’d begun by insisting Cort state the exact details of his escape
plan and pursued the matter vigorously. Cort stalled for a while, then became
annoyed by his persistence. He’d told Wade bluntly that he’d get no information
until he’d given up the names of the men involved in the bullion robbery; Wade had
bluntly refused to tell him anything until he was outside the prison walls,
which led to something of an impasse.
It was exactly what Cort had
expected and the truth of the matter was that he had no escape planned at all.
He’d decided a while back that a man like Wade should never be allowed to walk
in the free world again – he was too dangerous, manipulative and unpredictable
for any kind of plan formed inside the prison to work effectively on the outside,
and Cort knew there was little chance of him ever dropping the names the US Treasury needed.
They would have to kiss their gold bullion goodbye, it was only money after
all, and though the deaths of the men protecting it were unfortunate, should Ben
Wade escape Yuma then men would continue to suffer by his hand. Cort wasn’t
exactly overjoyed to be spending more time inside the prison, slogging out the days
until Wade’s trial and execution, but it was infinitely preferable to riding
with the fucker on the outside and he was determined to see him dead and buried
before instructing the US Marshal’s office to get him the hell out. They
wouldn’t be happy with his actions, not publically anyway, but he was certain
they’d be glad to have gotten rid of an expensive menace like Ben Wade for good.
He knew Wade must be troubled,
his trial was only two weeks away after all, and he drew a quiet satisfaction
from his cellmate’s unspoken frustration and fear. However, Wade didn’t seem as
concerned as Cort would have expected and, surprisingly, he let the matter of
the escape drop. He fell silent, plucked a fresh, unopened bottle of whisky
from his safe in the floor and rolled it between his hands thoughtfully for a
few minutes. It was long enough for Cort to begin drifting off to sleep but
Wade soon started talking again and he’d changed tack completely, focussing on
the one thing on earth that was sure to get his cellmate’s undivided attention.
The shocking story, told with
dramatic flair and much embellishment, was one Cort was intimately familiar
with, one he’d spent fourteen years trying to rationalise with no real success.
It recalled the destruction of his family; the violent, futile death of his
mother and younger sister, and was the single reason he’d accepted this Godforsaken
mission to Yuma prison. Because Ben Wade knew who’d committed the atrocities
and that was the only name Cort had ever required from him. Three years in the
service of God had tempered his need for bloody retribution, until recently
he’d wanted only to see the guilty man brought to justice, tried and hanged. A
week ago he’d convinced himself he didn’t even need that, fancied he could let
Wade take the identity to his grave, figured it wasn’t worth the effort of
breaking him out of prison for the sake of a name which would likely be as
false as the one he’d provided six years ago. Then he’d watched Cort ride away
to gun down an innocent man and Cort had almost killed him for the deception.
He wasn’t sure he was strong enough to keep from doing it all over again, and
couldn’t afford to put himself in that position.
But all the old feelings
flared up inside him nonetheless. He was certain Wade was showing part of his
hand here, laying some pretty major cards on the table while holding back his
ace. Cort couldn’t begin to imagine what that ace might be and he didn’t much
care. All he knew was that right now his cellmate controlled the balance of
power and he was determined not to react or let Wade push his emotional buttons
as easily as he’d done in the past.
Unperturbed by his silence, Wade
began talking about a man he’d ridden with once, the same villain who’d
destroyed Cort’s family and taken so much pleasure in the deed. The picture he
painted was painfully vivid and Cort responded by pulling all his blankets over
his head. They blotted out Wade’s voice but not the memories of being eighteen
years old and crossing the burned and blackened threshold of his family home,
finding the charred and brutalised remains of his loved ones inside. He was too
late to save them, too young and inexperienced to have any means of finding
their killer and he’d been consumed by impotent rage. It drove him ruthlessly
and relentlessly forwards, into a life of lawlessness and ultimately into the
company of John Herod…
Cort had fought hard to
control the emotional blaze which Wade’s words had lit. He kept reminding himself
how he was a man of God, a US Marshal and would not allow himself to be
manipulated by a devious outlaw. He was about to get up and hammer on the door
of their cell, intent on reporting his cellmate’s troublemaking to the guards, when
he’d felt warm fluid trickling onto his shirt and pants. He whipped the blanket
off his head, certain Wade was pissing on him, but found something more
unsettling. Wade was standing beside his bunk, dousing him in whisky and
wearing a broad grin as he intoned words of heresy.
“You will know the truth, and
the truth will make you free.”
The quotation came from the Book
of John and it infuriated Cort more than anything which had gone down tonight.
A man like Wade had no business quoting the Bible and he’d surged to his feet,
finally pushed beyond the point of reason. Wade hurled the bottle at the barred
window and it smashed as Cort cannoned into him, knocking him onto his bunk and
pounding him with every ounce of strength in his body, which was considerable
after two weeks spent busting rock. Wade hadn’t put up much of a fight, which wasn’t
surprising, but the guards had arrived quickly and he’d paid a heavy price for
his loss of control.
With an effort, Cort jerked
himself away from the violent memories and found himself back in the dark
silence of The Hole. Just thinking about the fight had gotten his heart racing
and blood was pounding loud in his ears. He stood up slowly and turned
carefully, feeling for the bars of the cage and resting his burning forehead on
the cold metal. Time had no meaning here so when the outer door clanked open
and meagre light washed into the cell, he didn’t know if he’d been alone for
minutes or hours.
He squinted at the group of men
coming in and even in silhouette recognised the bulk of Garwood and Rafferty.
They were walking slightly ahead of a shorter figure, two additional men
bringing up the rear and his heart sank. This did not bode well for him on any
level and when Governor Farleigh came into view his worst fears were confirmed;
there would be no reprieve. Farleigh seemed amused.
“Expecting someone else, Thompson?”
He approached and stopped a
few feet short of the cage. Cort gripped the bars and watched him, praying he’d
come a few inches closer so he could reach out and throttle him. Farleigh didn’t
“Captain Coughlan made a
convincing case against punishing you tomorrow. He told me you were unwell so I
had to come see for myself.”
He motioned to Rafferty.
“Bring that lantern closer, Warden; let’s get a look at this profoundly injured
All five men spread out in a
line and studied him. It made Cort twitchy; he felt like an exhibit in a freak
show, or a zoo, and also got the distinct impression they were toying with him.
“He don’t look hurt to me.”
Rafferty’s voice echoed around the stone chamber. “You want me to check him over
Cort scowled. “Come in here
and you’ll be leaving on a stretcher.”
Rafferty laughed and pulled a
heavy baton from his belt. Garwood followed suit and Cort moved into the centre
of the cage, preparing for another fight. He glanced at Farleigh and the man’s
smug expression goaded him into some rash words.
“How did a spineless bastard
like you ever bluff his way into the army, Farleigh. How many soldiers died on
account of your cowardice?”
The words hit the Governor
like bullets and his expression changed abruptly. Farleigh suddenly resembled a
cornered rattlesnake and he sounded like one as he hissed out his reply.
“All you should be considering
is how you’ll manage fifteen lashes tomorrow, prisoner. There’s nothing wrong
with you a hard flogging won’t cure and you’ll stay on that digging team until
the day you hang...”
Cort sneered. “Is that
supposed to scare me?”
Farleigh acted as though he
hadn’t spoken. “… And you’ll be spending every night in The Hole for the next
month; chained to the floor.”
Garwood spoke up and he
sounded eager. “You want me to fetch the irons now, Governor?”
Cort glared at the fat
warden, fists clenched, and Farleigh considered for a moment as he appraised
the situation. Finally he shook his
head. “Let him be for tonight. We don’t
want him missing tomorrow’s entertainment on account of real injury, do we?”
Somebody sniggered and Cort
spat on the floor, scowling at them. They were all laughing as they filed out
of the cell and for the second time in one night, he found himself alone in
absolute darkness. The failure of Captain Coughlan’s appeal didn’t surprise him
but right now he didn’t care. He was so mad that the prospect of getting
whipped in front of the whole prison didn’t bother him remotely. He’d simply use
it as an opportunity to show Farleigh, every damned inmate in fact, how Cortez
Thompson was tough enough to take any punishment dealt him. Once he was out of
Yuma he’d have the time and resources to make everybody responsible pay a heavy
price, if he managed to survive that long.
His gun hand moved
reflexively as he anticipated revenge.
Oct 1 11 6:38 PM
Oct 3 11 9:44 PM
Oct 4 11 7:19 AM
CatherineYVR wrote:Our Cort is in serious need of some anger management training! Despite not being stupid, and his time as a preacher, he still lets himself get goaded into acting stupid!Of course, it does make for an emotionally involving story.
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