Search this Topic:
Apr 16 11 3:08 PM
Crowe Crossing MemberBen Perver
Apr 21 11 5:25 PM
Wet Russelling Watery Wench
Carter’s back was stiff, his legs were aching and his stomach was growling. A day and a half spent on his feet in the
courtroom, on top of several weeks sleeping on a rock floor, were beginning to
take their toll. He wondered if he should ask a bailiff to fetch him a stool
for the afternoon session then realised he’d only get a bellyful of sarcasm
from Jack Bellows if he did…
the large number of public spectators in and out of court was time consuming
and tedious; anybody who left the room during the various recesses had to be
searched on re-entry and lunchtime was always the biggest job. Most people
elected to keep their seats during the longer break and bought food with them, not
wishing to lose their position or venture outdoors in the snow, but enough
moved around to keep Ben and the rest of Billy’s force fully occupied with
barely enough time to find anything to eat for themselves. A deputy shouldered
his way through the sizeable group of people sheltering from the snow on the
porch of the courthouse, and thrust a paper-wrapped package into his hands. It turned out to be a couple of lukewarm pies
and he ate quickly as he helped check people coming back in. The afternoon
session was commencing in exactly ten minutes and they hustled.
didn’t know what to make of the trial. Yesterday had been deeply frustrating for
anybody who knew Cort or was part of the contested events in Bisbee. The succession
of lies had affected his friend profoundly but Cort seemed in better spirits
today and the morning’s testimony had been a damned sight more convincing than anything
the prosecution’s motley assortment of witnesses could produce.
took his usual place by the window halfway down the courtroom, and Jack Bellows
joined him presently. They had a good view of the entire room from here and
could keep Henry Usher in their sights. He always took the same seat, flanked
by his two tame lawmen, and Ben had been watching him closely. The only flicker
of emotion he’d shown throughout was when he spotted Ben and Bellows for the
first time, though he’d swiftly covered his surprise and suspicion with a
baleful glare. Ben was quite surprised to find Usher in court on the second
day. Surely he’d realised things were not as they seemed? Then again, he was
arrogant enough to believe he still possessed the upper hand.
afternoon session comprised more sound testimony. Randy Quirrell from the Blue
Angel hotel corroborated everything stated by the morning’s witnesses then Billy
Reynolds and his most senior deputy made a mockery of the Marshal of Tucson and
county sheriff by describing how they’d had nothing to do with Cort’s arrest
and how he’d been a model prisoner throughout his lengthy incarceration. Jonathan
Briers surprised the hell out of everyone by calling Father Reuben as a
character witness. He told of the extreme remorse felt by the defendant, who’d
found it necessary to come to his church immediately after the shooting, but
said nothing about other events which had taken place there. Ben watched Henry
Usher closely during the priest’s examination but he maintained a poker face
and kept his eyes firmly on the witness stand throughout. After that came more
character witnesses – Charlie Barton, town mayor of Redemption, old Doc Wallace
and even Horace from the saloon. Jonathan Briers seemed to be concentrating on
quality over quantity and all of them testified as to how Cort was instrumental
in turning John Herod’s pit of depravity into a respectable, decent town to
live in, at considerable risk to himself and little in the way of remuneration.
Ben heard some of the women in the room gasp as the doctor described the injuries
he’d sustained and although he could only see the back of his head, he was willing
to bet Cort’s face was red.
session wrapped at six o’clock but it was nearly seven before he got back to
the jailhouse. He desperately needed a drink and considered detouring to a
nearby saloon but Jack Bellows wouldn’t hear of it, pointing out they were
still targets and shouldn’t get lulled into a false sense of security. There
was booze in abundance at Billy’s place but in truth Ben was weary of being
cooped up inside, looking at the same faces every night, and he craved
different company. There was nothing to be done though and he reminded himself Cort
had been in the same situation for over two weeks now. He wasn’t complaining
about it either.
in the parlour when he got back to the jailhouse, drinking a beer and talking
with Billy Reynolds. The room was rarely used but tonight there was a hearty
fire burning in the grate and the oil lamps and candles were lit, giving it a
cheery and inviting glow. Ben hung up his coat and hat in the office, returned
to the parlour then stood and listened to the conversation for a while. Cort
was animated and exuberant, his eyes flashing and Ben wondered which part of
today’s events had gotten him so excited. During a lull he took the opportunity
reckon things went well today, Marshal?”
smiled. “I’m proud of every man who stood as my witness.”
wasn’t convinced . “You look like the cat who got the cream! What’s going on?”
Reynolds was grinning.
getting a visit from a lady tonight and from what I hear, she worships him
already!” He laughed. “I offered him my chamber but he prefers to entertain her
“It’s not like that; I’ve never met her before.”
at him. “Who is she?”
seemed a little wary. “Jonathan’s sister.”
don’t exactly narrow the field. What’s her name?”
eyed him for a long moment before spitting it out. “Vivienne Furnell.”
words hit Ben like a steam engine. “She’s coming here? What time?”
at the clock on the mantel piece. “About now, I reckon.”
seen Vivienne Furnell inside the courthouse and knew she’d seen him, but he had
absolutely no intention of talking to her. Just looking at her brought back too
many guilty memories and he couldn’t handle a personal confrontation. He strode
across the parlour, intent on leaving the jailhouse, and Billy barred his way.
ain’t leaving. Bisbee’s a dangerous place while Henry Usher’s in town.”
Billy, I can take care of myself.”
shook his head and didn’t budge. Cort’s voice came from behind him.
coming to visit me, Ben, not you. Go and lie in your bunk if you don’t want to see
stared at Cort, who looked back calmly. Finally he nodded and Billy moved aside.
Ben returned to the office, meaning to get himself a couple of beers and
something to read. The cooler was right by the street door and as he leaned
down to grab some bottles there was a rap on the door. He froze, ignoring the
calls of the other deputies to get the damned thing and eventually Jack Bellows
stomped over, asked who was knocking and opened the door to Jonathan Briers and
was between them; tall and elegant in a long coat trimmed with fur and a matching
hat. Ben took a few steps backwards as they entered the room, feeling his face
burning with shame and guilt. He couldn’t look at her face so he lowered his
head and stared at her boots instead. The boots turned in his direction and
came closer. He backed up again, feeling his back hit the wall of the office
and the boots stopped right before him. Soft words reached his ears, designed
for him alone.
look at me.”
his head down and blushed even deeper. He felt her gloved finger under his
chin, pushing upwards until eventually he was forced to look at her squarely. He’d
forgotten what a fine looking woman she was, and suddenly realised why Cort was
so excited to meet her.
be embarrassed, Mister Carter. Toby told me everything; what you did for myself
and my children and what it cost you. We’re forever in your debt.”
shook his head. “If it wasn’t for me you’d still have a husband.”
blame yourself. I know who’s responsible for Greg’s death and I know Mister
Thompson will bring him to justice. I’m glad you’re on his side.”
kissed him on the cheek and his legs almost gave way. He managed to stammer out
a few words. “Uh… Cort’s in the parlour.”
nodded. “Why don’t you join us? I hear you and he are quite a team.”
considered it for a moment. It was tempting but somehow he didn’t think Cort
would appreciate his presence. Instead he showed Vivienne to the parlour and
stepped aside to let her pass. Cort stood
and offered his hand as she entered, wearing a shy smile and cutting a dash in
his fancy black suit. Ben had no doubt they’d
charm the hell out of each other and he closed the door and went back to the
office where Jonathan Briers was dissecting the day’s events in court,
surrounded by attentive deputies. He felt the day had gone very well, planned
to recall some of the prosecution witnesses tomorrow but refused to be drawn on
questions which might compromise his professional integrity.
the party broke up into smaller groups and Ben spent some time talking with
Toby, who affirmed everything Vivienne had told him. She really didn’t blame
him for the sorry events of the past, truly appreciated the money he’d left her
and his part of the effort to bring Henry Usher to justice. Ben was damned
relieved to hear it. She was with Cort in the parlour for just over an hour and
when they finally emerged, both seemed in good spirits. She kissed his cheek as she left the jailhouse
with Jonathan and Cort blushed.
it coy in the extreme and wouldn’t say a word about what had transpired between
them, despite some intensive curiosity and speculation, concentrating instead
on eating a late supper then drinking a few beers in the parlour with Billy.
Ben didn’t join them; he was still reeling from his close encounter with a
woman who had every right to hate his guts but actually possessed the decency
to forgive him. He retired early, seeking the solitude of sleep.
three of the trial began promptly at ten. The sky was overcast but it wasn’t
snowing and once again there was a full house. Jonathan Briers began calling
key prosecution witnesses, those who’d been most resolute in their stories,
then proceeded to tear their testimony apart inch by inch. Matthew Stearson’s
efforts to stop him were in vain and Ben marvelled at the skill of the man. He
kept his eyes on Henry Usher as the prosecution’s case unravelled and felt a
grim satisfaction as his poise began to falter. He kept leaning across to
whisper to the county sheriff and as the lunchtime recess began, Ben watched
the sheriff hurry down to Stearson’s bench and talk to him urgently. They
vanished into one of the private chambers together and he fought down a feeling
of unease as he left the courtroom to attend the usual security matters.
lunch Briers wrapped up his cross examination and Matthew Stearson was invited
to proceed. He responded by calling a new character witness. The man’s name was
whipped round in his seat, ashen faced and there was an outbreak of surprised
conversation in the courtroom. Ben stiffened as Usher stood, smiling benignly
as he smoothed down his suit and made his way to the front of the room. Judge
MacLean hammered on his desk for silence and Ben heard Jack Bellows curse
the hell’s going on? He’s got no business on that witness stand!”
figure it out either. Since the verdict of the trial was supposedly fixed there
was no good reason for Usher to get involved. He glanced at Bellows.
he don’t like seeing Cort presented in such a good light?”
was sworn in and Stearson proceeded to ask a few questions regarding his status
and occupation before moving on to the nature of his relationship with the
defendant. Usher spoke easily, in assured tones and he sounded plausible as
hell. He launched into a monologue which sounded rehearsed and struck Ben as
something he might preach in church on a Sunday morning.
met Cortez Thompson on three occasions and each time was in deeply unfortunate
circumstances. When a man leads an accursed life it has a habit of catching up
with him, however hard he runs. The first time was a chance meeting in the
desert between Hermosillo and Redemption. Thompson was a prisoner; starved,
chained and bleeding from continually resisting arrest…”
interrupted with a question. “How did he come to be in ermossHermosillo?”
smiled. “He was running a mission down there, masquerading as a priest. All he
was really doing, or course, was hiding from the law and his old gang while
taking advantage of the young females in his congregation. I hear the birth
rate in that town’s gone up quite considerably…”
Briers shouted objection on account of speculation and the Judge ordered Usher
to stay within the facts. Ben glanced over at Cort; he was sitting bolt upright
in his chair and his shoulders were trembling. Briers was murmuring something
in his ear but it didn’t seem to be having much effect. Usher continued.
Thompson was being hauled to Redemption on the orders of John Herod, who’d
located him and wanted to settle an old score. I admit to being taken in by his
holy act and helping as best I could by offering him water and begging his
captors to treat him kindly. I honestly expected Herod to kill him but he somehow
survived and the second time I encountered him he was posing as the Town
Marshal of Redemption. I witnessed him gun down two men in the street outside
the saloon. His friend and deputy marshal Ben Carter killed a third. The poor
beggars didn’t stand a chance.”
at the sound of his name and the blatant mistruth attached to it, but Cort shot
to his feet. “That’s a damned lie, Usher. Those men were working for you!”
Briers pulled him back into his chair and the Judge looked over severely.
contain your client, Mister Briers, or I’ll order him restrained!”
was wearing a smug smile and Ben’s heart sank. By reacting so vehemently to the
lies Cort was merely reinforcing them. Briers was talking to him urgently and
Ben prayed he was getting through. Usher continued glibly.
was hurt in the fight, hospitalised for two days and during that period I went
to visit him. I felt a heavy burden of guilt and the need to try and help him.
I offered him a job in my ministry: honest, God-fearing work which would help redeem
his soul by undertaking some good deeds on this earth to account for all the
bad. He turned me down flat.”
was on his feet again and lurching towards the witness box. Briers grabbed his shoulders
to hold him back and he struggled furiously.
offered me a job protecting your blood money, you son of a bitch. There’s
nothing Godly in that!”
MacLean banged his hammer on the desk and pointed at some nearby bailiffs.
will restrain him right now. I will not have behaviour like this in my court!”
the men produced a set of handcuffs from his pocket and both approached cautiously. Cort stood glowering at Usher as they were
locked onto his wrists and Ben took the opportunity to get close while the room
was in uproar and the Judge was distracted by a conversation with the court
it, Cort, don’t let him rile you like this. All you’re doing is backing up his
pushed Cort down into his chair. “Don’t give him the satisfaction of reacting. You’re
screwing up all the work we’ve put into this case.”
wasn’t listening and his eyes were unfocussed. There was something raging deep
within and Ben struggled to find words that might reach him.
on that stand because he’s scared. He knows people believe you and since most
of that jury know the truth about him, nothing he says is gonna make a difference
to the verdict.”
shook his head savagely. “Too many people believe he’s a fucking saint. He’ll
turn them around.”
swivelled in his seat and glared at Briers. “Recall Father Reuben. Ask him what
really happened in that church. Ask him why there were two men in there unconscious
and bound. Ask him….”
eyed him sternly.
to me, son; you’re not a defence attorney so don’t be telling me how to conduct
my business. Once Henry Usher is done, and I’ve had an opportunity to
cross-examine, we’ll evaluate our situation. Right now I’m asking you to trust
me and stay calm because if you speak out of turn again the Judge will have you
removed from this room. Do you want that?”
at him. “He’s lying, Jonathan.”
me with some intelligence, huh?” Briers sounded a little condescending.
was resolute. “Yesterday you told me you weren’t going to bring Henry Usher’s
name into this trial. You still think that’s a smart move?”
smiled tightly. “Henry Usher just elected to get involved in something which
shouldn’t be any of his business. That makes him an open target by my
stayed close to the prosecution’s bench as the court calmed down and Usher was
permitted to proceed. He picked up as though nothing had happened to interrupt
third time I met Cortez Thompson was in the jailhouse right here in Bisbee. I’d
gotten word about his unpleasant behaviour, his lack of humility and repentance
and I felt it my spiritual duty to speak with him and try to reach his soul. He
was locked in a cell and chained to the wall, a danger to every person in this
town and although I worried a little about my own wellbeing, God’s work took
priority. I tried in vain to reach him but he laughed at me, acted like a dog
and wished me physical harm. I left that place with a heavy heart. Some men are
beyond redemption and I fear Thompson is one of them.”
spoke up. “You submit all of this as a man of the Lord?”
nodded. “I sincerely do.”
I have no more questions.”
glanced at Cort. He was staring straight at the witness box but twisting and
worrying at the cuffs on his wrists; a picture of strain and anxiety. The judge
asked Jonathan Briers if he had any questions and he replied in the affirmative
then stood up.
Usher, as a man of God I’m sure you’re aware of the eighth commandment?”
folded his hands and smiled. “Though shalt not steal.”
would you agree that acquiring large sums of money by means of blackmail and
extortion might qualify as theft?”
smile didn’t falter. “It would depend on the circumstances.”
stuck his hands in his pockets and seemed to be considering something. “Try
this set of circumstances, Mister Usher. A God fearing man goes to church and
listens to the preacher’s sermon. Afterwards he pays a visit to the
Confessional, wishing only to cleanse his soul and make amends. The preacher
listens to his sins; some trivial, others not so, then absolves them and he
goes on his way. A little while later one particular sin returns to haunt him.
It takes the form of an armed gang who demand money from him in return for their
silence. Would the man be wrong to assume the sanctity of his confession to the
priest might somehow have been breached?”
shrugged. “He might assume that. On the other hand he might have loose lips and
let the secret slip in some saloon after a glass of whisky.”
nodded. “Or maybe that gang beat his secret out of the priest.”
shouted objection and the judge spoke up. “Where are you going with this,
you’ll indulge me, your honour, I’ll show you this man is not a reliable
objection was overruled and Ben began to watch Judge MacLean a little more
closely. For all his gruffness and ill temper, he was running the trial
remarkably fairly. His actions weren’t exactly those of a compromised man and
if he were really on Usher’s payroll, would he have allowed Jonathan Briers to get
this far in his accusations? There was another possibility of course, and Ben’s
heart jumped a little as it crossed his mind, but he didn’t want to get his
hopes up. Briers was talking again.
established how my client visited the church in Bisbee after shooting Tyrone
Williams; how he lit a candle and prayed for the soul of the man he killed.
Events which occurred afterwards were not previously revealed on account of
irrelevancy, but Mister Usher’s involvement has now called them into question.”
judge intervened. “Please get to the point, Mister Briers.”
prove my client stopped two men beating Father Reuben inside the Sacristy. He
left them tied up in the church aisle for the town marshal to find. They were
beating the priest because he refused to break the sanctity of his
Confessional, refused to give them the names of wealthy men who might then be
Usher still seemed totally calm, though his face was beginning to resemble a
mask, but Matthew Stearson’s face was red.
is this relevant to the validity of the witness, your honour?”
judge looked at Briers enquiringly. “I’m wondering the same thing, Mister
smiled slightly. “That church is part of Henry Usher’s ministry, your honour. I
therefore submit that he not only knew what was going on, but engineered the
scheme in order to make money illegitimately. When my client discovered the
truth and tried to stop the villainy which has been running unchecked while using
the church as a front, Henry Usher made it his business to prevent him by
bringing a bogus charge of murder by way of his close friend, Mayor Anderson!”
practically screamed objection and the judge banged his hammer again. “Mister Briers
you are out of order. I will see you in my chambers immediately and the witness
may stand down.”
erupted into boisterous conversation as the two men departed and Ben watched
Henry Usher get down from the witness stand and return to his seat. He looked
thoughtful but unflustered and immediately struck up a conversation with the
county sheriff. The defendant on the other
strode down the courtroom and slid into Jonathan Briers’ vacant seat. Cort was staring
at his hands and twisting and yanking at the cuffs again. He seemed thoroughly
preoccupied but surprised Ben by glancing over and speaking quietly.
do you reckon the judge is saying?”
shrugged and didn’t reply.
went out on a limb there. He might get thrown out of court…”
noticed Cort’s hands shaking and understood how the idea of losing his attorney
might be catastrophic.
think there’s more to that judge than meets the eye.”
sniffed. “He’s working for Usher.”
running this trial fairly and no dog of Usher’s would let Briers say what he
cocked an eyebrow, seemed momentarily hopeful, then looked at the cuffs on his
wrists. “He thinks I’m dangerous. That’s enough to hang me.”
spoke out of turn, buddy; twice! That’s the only reason you’re wearing those
things.” He gazed at Cort intently. “I reckon the next witness Briers calls will
show us where the judge stands in this.”
was another ten minutes before Jonathan Briers emerged from the judge’s
chambers and Ben spent the whole time trying to reassure his increasingly
nervous friend. As Briers approached he gave Cort’s shoulder a rough, encouraging
shake before vacating the attorney’s chair.
sat down, leaned close to murmur something into Cort’s ear and the effect was
startling. Cort straightened up, his shoulders went back and he actually
smiled. He looked up expectantly as Judge MacLean resumed his podium and
addressed the room.
Briers, you may call your next witness.”
stood up. “I’d like to recall Father Reuben.”
Apr 21 11 8:10 PM
Apr 22 11 7:42 AM
...I would like to smack Cort upside his hot head. though....
May 3 11 6:42 AM
as Father Reuben got to his feet and made his way slowly towards the witness
box. He looked as anxious as Cort felt. As he turned back to face the judge he
caught sight of Vivienne Furnell. She smiled at him, nodded encouragingly and
mouthed a couple of words which he interpreted as ‘stay strong’. He tried to
smile back but suspected it looked more like a grimace.
of the day’s proceedings had all but forced last night’s memories from his mind,
but he’d enjoyed a very pleasant hour in her company. Shy, quiet and nervous at
first – it was the first time in his life he’d entertained a woman of education
and breeding – she’d soon put him at ease with her light touch and easy manner.
They’d spent the time laughing and exchanging little stories of their lives,
instinctively steering clear of the darker elements which had served to bring
them together. She’d talked about her children and hopes for them, her home in
Phoenix and the wish to see her husband’s killer brought to justice. Cort had
spoken of his efforts as a priest and lawman and she’d remarked how many parts
of his character reminded her of Gregory. When he’d eventually worked up the
courage to ask if she’d be willing to speak up in the fight against Henry Usher
she’d smiled and told him that nothing on earth could stop her doing that. They’d
parted on the understanding she’d come and visit him as often as possible. He
hoped she might be able to come tonight. God knew his spirits needed lifting…
priest reached the witness box and glanced around warily. Jonathan Briers stood
up with a reassuring smile.
Reuben, how long have you been working here in Bisbee?”
years and seven months. I built that chapel
with my own sweat and blood.”
nodded. “And how long has your church been part of Henry Usher’s ministry?”
considered. “Fifteen months now.”
did you elect to join him?”
stared in Usher’s direction and frowned. “I elected nothing. I had no wish to
join his ministry but was given no choice. I was presented with an ultimatum,
by Usher himself, that I do as
instructed or be removed from my church and congregation. He said he had the
money and power to do it and I believed him.”
Stearson objected and the judge overruled. Briers continued.
the morning Tyrone Williams died my client, Cortez Thompson, came to your church
in order to pray. Please tell the court how you came to meet.”
priest’s eyes flickered over to Cort for a moment. “Two men were beating me in
the Sacristy. He came busting into the room with his gun drawn, knocked them
unconscious and tied them up. His only concern was to help a priest he’d never
met and he acted like a true saviour.”
were murmurings and mutterings from the public galleries and Briers raised his
voice a little.
were they beating you, Father Reuben?”
priest hesitated for a moment, screwing up his courage. Finally he spat it out.
condition of joining Henry Usher’s ministry, I was expected to pass on the
confessions of my congregation and for a spell I was naïve enough to do just
that. When an unfortunate and untimely death showed me the error of my way I
realised, too late, that he was using my information to blackmail the richest men
in town. On that day I refused to tell him anything more so he began sending men
to beat the truth from me. For some time now they have been unsuccessful.”
shouted objection several times and the judge kept over-ruling him. The unrest
in the courtroom was picking up and Cort turned to watch Henry Usher. He looked
deeply uncomfortable; his face was red and there were beads of sweat on his
brow. Ben Carter and Jack Bellows were standing nearby, cradling shotguns and
watching him closely.
MacLean banged his hammer and called for silence. In the sudden hush, Briers presented
his most pressing enquiry.
elaborate on the particular death you mentioned, Father Reuben.”
priest took a deep breath. “When Gregory Furnell died most folks figured it was
suicide. In truth he was blackmailed and robbed to the point of desperation.
With all his money gone, a young family to support and his career plan
hijacked, he was at his wit’s end. The despair and anxiety made him irrational
and he felt the only way out of the sorry situation was to take his own life. I
will forever live with the guilt of knowing I broke the sanctity of his
confession, but Henry Usher must take his burden of the blame!”
courthouse erupted into chaos. People stood up and started yelling and those
closest to Usher looked threatening as hell. Cort glanced over at Vivienne
Furnell but she was caught up in conversation with Toby. Neither seemed upset
by the statement. The blast of a pistol brought a respite and Billy Reynolds
shouted into the silence.
of you sit down now and shut your yap. Anyone who feels emotional can take their leave
but I’ll expect those who stay to behave in a mannerly fashion. If you can’t do
that you’ll be forcibly ejected!”
remained quiet enough for Jonathan Briers to conclude his examination.
state all this as a man of the Lord, Father?”
priest nodded. “I sincerely do.”
I have nothing further.”
Stearson took his turn and asked a few ineffectual questions which the priest
easily fielded. He seemed to sense the tide of the judge’s opinion had turned
and had accordingly lost much of his bluster.
moved pretty quickly after that. Billy Reynolds was briefly recalled to confirm
the presence of the two thugs in the church, and he embellished things a little
by stating how they’d become known to him as gamblers, thieves and ne’er do
wells. There were no further witnesses
to call so Briers and Stearson were invited to present their closing summary.
Cort was no legal expert but it seemed to him Briers had gotten the upper hand
by some considerable measure and he hoped the men of the jury, even those who
were party to their scheme, were suitably impressed. The Judge made his summing up, which included words
on the dangers of false prophets, and then the jury was instructed to retire
and deliberate their findings. The court was adjourned until morning but the
judge added a final caveat: that Henry Usher be removed to the Marshal’s Office
for his protection until the verdict was delivered.
almost laughed out loud when he heard that and Briers gave a restrained cough
of mirth. Together they watched the room clear out until only Usher and his two
tame lawmen remained. They all put up quite an argument but Billy had the
firepower and strength of numbers to quell their objections and threats.
Eventually Usher was escorted from the room and Briers took Cort to his private
chamber. Once there he produced a bottle of bourbon from a cupboard in his
desk. He poured two glasses.
don’t want to celebrate prematurely, but I reckon we could both use a drink?”
down and drained the liquor in one draught, using both hands on account of the awkward
sure you were going to ruin our case earlier.”
at the cuffs, wishing they weren’t there. “What did the judge say to you?”
smiled. “It seems Henry Usher underestimated the mettle of Judge MacLean. He
brought him here with instructions to encourage the jury to find you guilty and
sentence you harshly. It turns out the good Judge is another of Usher’s unfortunate
victims and he’s not playing ball anymore. He was reassured to discover how
many men in Bisbee are in a similar position to his own, and finds himself with
a perfect opportunity to do something about it.”
grinned. “Usher had better get used to sleeping in a cell!”
refilled both of their glasses, “You can’t stay in that jailhouse with Usher in
attendance; it presents a fundamental conflict of interest.”
fine by me. I’ll take a room in a hotel; I could use a decent bed for one
shook his head. “You know that’s not possible, not while you’re still the
defendant in this trial. There’s a lockup here in the courthouse and you’ll sleep
mouth went dry. Usher might be
temporarily compromised but his lawmen buddies weren’t. He had other personnel
in town too…
you shut me up in here I’ll be a sitting target. Anybody could sneak in and…”
interrupted. “I’ll be here with you and once the judge gives permission I’ll get
word to Billy Reynolds to send Ben, Jack and Toby along. You’ll be well
protected by your own deputies.”
relaxed a little when he heard that, though he was still wary of spending a
night outside of Billy’s fortress. Briers left him alone with the bourbon but Cort
noted the two bailiffs standing outside the door as he departed. Briers asked one
of them to remove the cuffs but the man shook his head and said the judge had
to give permission. A couple of minutes later Briers was back and he wasn’t alone.
He ushered Vivienne Furnell into the
room and she smiled and glided gracefully towards him. Cort’s heat began
racing, blood pumped loud in his ears and he only barely heard Jonathan’s
going to see the Judge and it might take some time. Viv will keep you company.”
he was gone and Cort took a hasty gulp of bourbon and stared into his glass,
embarrassed about the handcuffs and the reason he was wearing them. Vivienne
sat down in the chair opposite him.
don’t think I’ve ever met a man so shy. Are you always like this around
sounded amused and he shook his head and smiled ruefully. “This is the only
time I’ve been around a real lady.”
hard to believe.”
an effort he pulled his head up and gazed at her, taking in her alabaster skin,
soft, pink lips and sprinkling of freckles. She was wearing the green dress
again; it matched her eyes.”
only encountered common women and... er… those of the night.”
smiled. “All those years you spent as a priest, you were chaste?”
blushed a little. “Mostly.”
gazed at her intently. “May I ask why you’re so curious?”
Vivienne’s turn to blush. “I’ve been with only one man in my life; my husband
and the father of my children. I loved him and desired him but I’m a widow of
eight months now. While I mourn my loss every day, I can’t help looking at
other men and wondering… I can’t seem to get you out of my mind right now, Cort.”
words almost poleaxed him. If she was saying what he suspected then they were
on very thin ice. She wasn’t only intelligent and cultured, but beautiful and
alluring with it. He was deeply flattered but couldn’t begin to understand why
she’d be interested in him. This wasn’t the time or place to be even
considering it either; not with her brother likely to return at any moment. He
stood up and retreated to the other side of the desk, his face burning.
when the trial’s over and maybe I’m a free man, we could pick this conversation
“I didn’t mean to embarrass you. You have enough to consider without the words
of a foolish woman.”
aren’t foolish, but there are better men to look at.”
a little perplexed by that. “You’re decent, honourable and brave. You
fight for what you believe and people you care for. You have compassion, humility
and God in your heart. I don’t believe a man gets much truer than that.”
cold blooded killer, until that jury says otherwise.”
looked at him intently. “Not many people believe that.”
moment of awkwardness had passed and Cort ventured back to his seat. He sat and
leaned towards her, speaking softly.
years I was as bad as all those witnesses made out. Their accounts might have
been third hand and exaggerated, but at heart I was that man. I was greedy,
violent and dangerous. I drank, whored and gambled. I had no morals or ethics
and I took what I wanted when I needed it. Whether that happened to be money, property
or a man’s life, I felt no guilt and little remorse.”
looking for some kind of reaction to his words but there was none. She reached
for his hands and pulled them gently into her lap, eying the manacles.
they hurting you?”
shook his head.
has a right to change and better themselves, Cort. The creature you once were
no longer exists.”
his lip. “A part of him does, or I wouldn’t be here now.”
has the right to defend himself, or he’s no man at all. Greg did it with words,
you used a pistol. You’re both admirable and courageous men.”
touched by her words. She knew what he’d been, understood what he was still
capable of being, and yet here she was with his hands clasped in her own.
a kind person, Vivienne.”
giggled in a playful manner. “I could be kinder.”
him by surprise, he reddened again and she laughed. The atmosphere instantly
lightened and he laughed with her. Jonathan came back into the room at that
moment and seemed pleased to see them getting along so well. He had a key for
the cuffs and released Cort from them.
MacLean gave permission for you to be kept here tonight, and he has no problem
with your deputies standing guard.”
was distracted by Vivienne. She reached towards him again, grasped his wrists and
rubbed gently at the wheals the handcuffs had left.
said they didn’t hurt.”
smiled. “They were a little tight.”
poured bourbon for all of them and passed the glasses around.
going to stay with Cort and the boys tonight, Viv. Now the main business of the
trial is over I’m free to do that. I’ll walk you back to the hotel when you’re
gazed at her brother. “I’d feel safer here.”
shook his head. “You wouldn’t like it. There isn’t much in the way of comfort, you’ll
be in some uncouth company and Henry Usher’s supporters still pose danger to us.”
wondered if he was included among the uncouth company. Vivienne wasn’t deterred
in the slightest.
don’t care for the language I can put my fingers in my ears, Jonathan. As for
released Cort’s wrists and snapped her right arm sharply. A twin barrelled gambler’s
pistol dropped from the sleeve of her dress and into her hand. He couldn’t help
giving a surprised laugh when he saw it.
and his boys were real thorough in their search!”
“A lady has more than one distraction up her sleeve.”
was gazing at her. “Just don’t be complaining if things get tiresome, little
couldn’t imagine a better way to spend a nervous night than in her company and
they made their way to the lockup presently, accompanied by a bailiff and one
of Billy’s deputies. The other bailiff was sent down to the jailhouse with instructions
for Ben, Jack and Toby.
place was bigger than Cort had imagined. It occupied half of the court’s
basement area, had room enough for ten prisoners and was currently empty. Cort
took a tour: there was a cooking area, a communal area with hard
chairs and sawdust on the floor, toilet facilities and two dormitories with five
narrow bunks in each. There were small, barred windows set high up in the walls
but they were covered by snow and the sun outside had long since sunk. It was
so dark he could barely see and he tripped and stumbled a few times. When he
returned to the kitchen Jonathan and Vivienne had a fire going and several
lamps were lit. They were squabbling good naturedly about what to bring in for
supper and he lit a candle then retreated to the nearest dormitory. Vivienne
was a distraction and he needed to be alone to try and relax, consider the
events of the day and prepare himself for tomorrow. He lay down on one of the bunks. It was
chilly in the room and he pulled a couple of threadbare blankets over himself. He
put his head on the hard pillow and let his thoughts drift.
awoken by Ben Carter shaking his shoulder.
ready, Cort. You want any?”
stomach growled. He definitely needed supper! He followed Ben, bleary from his
nap, and found Jonathan and Jack Bellows joking together in the communal area.
It looked quite cheerful, warmed by a wood burner and illuminated with a couple
of lamps. Ben entered the conversation enthusiastically and Cort poked his head
into the kitchen. Vivienne was in there, stirring a pot of something which
smelled mighty good and humming to herself.
was nowhere to be seen and when he enquired Ben informed him he’d gone back
down to Billy’s office to collect Cort’s day clothes. It was a little after seven
and the food was ready. They didn’t wait for Toby but ate broth and bread and
drank beer from a crate which had most definitely not been in the kitchen last
time Cort occupied it. The mood was
lively and sociable. Nobody wanted to go ahead and celebrate outright, but a
positive verdict from the jury wasn’t far from their minds.
was on his fourth bottle of beer and beginning to feel the effects. Vivienne
was entertaining him with tales of her youth and the various ways she would
tease and torment her older brother. She’d enjoyed a happy childhood and a privileged
life. No part of him resented it but her stories brought back memories of his
own upbringing and younger sister. His early life was similar in some ways, but
very different in others and they shared tragedy. Vivienne had lost a husband
though still possessed both parents and her brother. Cort had lost his entire
family by the time he was eighteen. He’d dealt with the pain, confusion and anger
in the only way he could fathom – by burying it deep, refusing to give it light
of day and running wild. It had worked well enough but Vivienne had awoken a
desire to share that pain, knowing he’d have a sympathetic and understanding
ear. The current situation precluded any such intimacy however and though part
of him wanted to be alone with her, a more cautious part was damned glad that
was not the case!
persistent banging on the door to the lockup finally silenced the exuberant
voices in the room. It took a while for the sound to penetrate, being as the
door was up two flights of stairs and the conversation had become animated. Ben
Carter went up to see what who was there, his Remington drawn, and things went
quiet for a little while. Cort took a sip of beer, about to pick up his
conversation with Vivienne, when two pairs of feet clattered down the
and Toby burst into the room. Toby was red in the face and panting hard, like
he’d just run a mile. He wanted to say something but was bleeding from a head
wound and having trouble catching his breath. Ben spoke up instead.
church is on fire and Henry Usher is gone!”
May 3 11 9:20 AM
May 3 11 10:20 AM
May 3 11 1:23 PM
“The church is on fire and Henry Usher is gone!”
“The church is on fire and Henry Usher is gone!”
May 20 11 6:11 PM
May 20 11 6:21 PM
May 21 11 8:47 PM
May 22 11 3:36 AM
May 24 11 5:19 PM
Andii - Recording an album with my band...
Jun 26 11 8:23 PM
Jun 27 11 6:03 AM
Jun 27 11 1:32 PM
Jul 5 11 7:57 AM
HOUSE OF USHER
Ben pushed Toby into a chair.
The kid was swaying like he was about to collapse and blood was oozing sluggishly
down his left cheek. Jack Bellows’ eyes were narrow and his lips tight with
“Who did that to you?”
Toby shook his head impatiently.
He was still breathing hard and spoke with an effort.
“I slid in the ice on the way
here; hit my head on a hitching rail.”
Cort eyes were glinting and Ben
sensed danger. He pushed his handkerchief and a beer into Toby’s hands and
“Tell us what happened, Toby. The
The kid took a few gulps from
the bottle and pressed the handkerchief to the cut on his head. He tried to
pull himself together.
“I went over to the jailhouse
to get Cort’s stuff but when I got there the street door was unlocked and it was
empty save for that Deputy called Hawkes. He was tied up and gagged and looked
like he’d been beaten pretty good. He said Billy and the rest of ‘em went
running down to the church when they heard about the fire and not long after the
County Sheriff was banging on the door and demanding to be let in. Turns out he
had some buddies with him and they overpowered Hawkes and left with Henry
He paused to take a few sips of
“Where did they go?” Cort’s
voice was low but the menace it contained was enough to turn everybody’s head.
Toby shrugged. “All the roads
out of town are blocked so they must be here somewhere. I untied Hawkes and went
to the church; there’s a big crowd of people all throwing snow on the fire but
it’s gotten a good hold and I reckon it’ll burn to the ground.”
“Did you see the priest?” Cort
sounded agitated now and Ben glanced at him again. His whole body was tense,
like a rattlesnake about to strike, and he readied himself, certain his friend
was about to do something rash. Toby was shaking his head again.
“I didn’t see him but I’m
pretty sure Usher’s gang started that fire for cover while they busted him out
of the jailhouse.”
“It was revenge.” Cort got
slowly to his feet, his eyes flashing. “That priest helped me today, spoke out
against Henry Usher and now he’s getting punished…”
Ben took a few steps back
towards the door. He saw Jack Bellows get up, caught his eye and knew he was
thinking the same thing. He kept his
voice calm, though his heart was pounding.
“Me and Jack’ll go to the
church and see what’s happening.”
Cort shook his head. “If he
dies it’s my fault and I won’t have another priest’s death on my conscience!”
Vivienne Furnell gripped his
sleeve and tried to pull him back into his seat but he shook her hand away impatiently.
Jonathan Briers spoke sternly.
“Whatever idea you’ve got in
your head, son, you can forget it. You can’t leave this lockup without bringing
a whole heap of trouble on yourself, so sit down and calm down!”
Cort lunged towards the door,
knocking his chair over and scattering glasses and plates across the table and
onto the floor. Ben braced himself but Cort cannoned into him with enough force
to knock him back against the wall. He grabbed his arm as he tried to get
through the doorway and a moment later Jack Bellows grabbed the other. Cort
struggled like a madman, cursing and shouting, and nearly broke free of their
hold until Jack Bellows’ fist in his stomach gave them a brief respite. In the
moment of quiet he heard Jonathan Briers telling them to lock him in one of the
dormitories but even so it took the added assistance of Briers and Toby to drag
Cort down there, fighting and screaming bloody murder the whole way. When they
shoved him inside and threw the three sturdy bolts he sprang towards the door,
spitting insults and glaring at them like a man possessed.
Ben didn’t have the time or
inclination to reason with him. He needed to get down to the church, talk with
Billy Reynolds and tell him they had bigger problems on their hands than just a
fire. For Cort’s sake he hoped Father Reuben hadn’t been inside the church when
the fire started but, from Toby’s description, he doubted anybody could have
survived the blaze.
As they headed back to the
kitchen it transpired that Jack and Toby were of a similar mind. Nobody wanted
to stay inside while the situation in Bisbee was running out of control and
even Jonathan Briers insisted on going to see the judge and apprising him of recent
events. That would leave Vivienne Furnell alone with Cort. Ben had a few
misgivings but told himself she’d be safe enough so long as Cort was locked inside
the dormitory. There were two armed guards outside the main door at the top of
the stairs and they’d given Toby one hell of a hard time when he’d tried to
enter a few minutes earlier. They were court appointed, Ben was pretty sure
they’d keep any unsolicited visitors out and besides, he didn’t plan on being
gone for long.
Vivienne was clearing up the
mess on the kitchen floor when they returned. She straightened up and eyed them
“Is Cort still standing or did
you all find it necessary to punch him some more?”
Ben smiled grimly. “Cort’s
fine, but he’s mad as hell right now so I wouldn’t go near him if I were you.”
Jonathan took her arm. “Myself
and the boys are going into town for a short while. There are two guards at the
top of the stairs and they’ll have strict instructions not to let anybody else
inside. Will you be alright on your own?”
She stared at him. “I’m not
alone, Cort’s here…”
Jonathan eyed her knowingly. “If
Cort leaves this place he’ll be considered an escaped prisoner and as such can
be legitimately shot on sight. There are people out there prepared to do it as
well, so think on that little sister…”
She reddened slightly and he nodded.
“For his own sake, leave him where he is until we get back.”
She simply pursed her lips,
returned to the cleaning and they all trooped up the stairs. Ben left orders
with the guards that nobody was to be allowed entry to the lockup and they
hefted their shotguns and nodded their understanding. Briers peeled off to go
visit the judge and Ben, Bellows and Toby shuffled and slid their way down the steep
road which led to the church.
They were met with a scene of carnage.
The church roof had collapsed entirely and taken most of the outer structure with
it. Heavy roof beams and wooden joists were lying haphazardly, burning
intensely and the heat had melted the snow for several hundred yards around.
The gathered crowd seemed to comprise every resident of Bisbee and people were
watching silently or conducting muted conversations with their neighbours.
Everybody seemed dazed or shocked by what had happened and had given up trying
to fight the blaze.
It took them a good ten minutes
of searching faces before they came across Billy Reynolds. Three of his deputies
were with him, including the injured man Hawkes and the deep frown on Billy’s grizzled
face grew even deeper when he saw them.
“Aren’t you supposed to be
guarding your Marshal?”
Ben nodded curtly. “Cort’s
concerned about Father Reuben so we came down to check on him.”
Billy’s expression changed and
Ben’s stomach twisted at the profound sadness on his face.
“We’ve all been looking but
nobody’s seen him since before the fire started and well… it’s too early to be
checking the ashes…”
Ben gazed at the burning scene
before him but it was impossible to tell if any of the blackened and charred
remains on the floor might have been a body.
“This fire didn’t start by
Billy scratched his beard. “I
know it. This is Henry Usher’s work.”
Ben nodded. “And where do you
reckon he is now?”
“Still in town. I’ll get the
boys looking as soon as we’re sure this fire and crowd is under control.”
Ben had a better idea. He
beckoned Deputy Hawkes and the man limped over. His face was puffy and red and
he was holding a bloody cloth to his mouth. Ben eyed him grimly.
“What happened after Usher’s
men forced their way into the jail?”
Hawkes shrugged. “They beat me,
tied me up, then they took the keys and freed Usher.”
Did they say anything? Give you
any clue where they were going?
The man shook his head. “Usher
said something about getting money so I figured they had a bank in mind but we
checked ‘em all and nobody’s pulled a robbery. I reckon I must have heard
Ben frowned, he couldn’t figure
it out but then Toby butted between them and he looked scared as hell.
“Dammit Ben, it’s our money he wants. He’s going after
Cort and we left him alone and locked in a cell!”
Ben glanced at Jack Bellows,
whose expression confirmed his worst fears. Billy cursed hard under his breath.
A moment later he raised his voice and rallied his troops.
“Everybody up to the courthouse,
and prepare for a fight!”
Ben ran like Cort’s life
depended on it.
Jul 5 11 11:14 AM
Ben ran like Cort’s life depended on it.
Jul 5 11 12:35 PM
“Dammit Ben, it’s our money he wants. He’s going after Cort and we left him alone and locked in a cell!”
Hmmmm......musta been a good chapter. Ya got me all riled up!
Jul 8 11 6:07 PM
Cort sat on the edge of a bunk,
shaking with frustration. The blinding fury which had gripped him so recently
had diminished into a seething resentment which still threatened to boil over
at any moment. It was only the searing pain in his left shoulder, a result of
ramming himself repeatedly into the door of the cell, which reminded him how violent
rage could deliver nothing more than additional discomfort. There was no way
out of the cell; he’d yelled himself almost hoarse, shouting through the small,
barred window set into the stout wooden door, but to no avail. His friends were
either ignoring him or they’d all headed into town to check on the fire. Either
way he was stuck here for a while and he clasped his head in his hands, trying
to get a grip on his emotions.
Thinking clearly was
difficult; images of the burning church, the dying priest came unbidden. He
knew there was little he could do, even if he managed to escape the lockup the
man was long dead and nothing would change that. He couldn’t allow himself to
feel guilty right now; righteous anger and the prospect of revenge on the
people responsible felt so much better.
“Are you alright?”
A woman’s voice. Vivienne’s! He jerked his head up and stared
through the portal in the door. She was holding a candle and its light formed a
dim halo around her head. It was dark in the cell – Cort had kicked his candle over
early on during his rampage – and he realised she couldn’t see him.
He approached the window. She
looked a little nervous when she saw him and, with a stab of embarrassment, he
understood why. He gazed at her silently, unsure what to say. She’d witnessed
him acting like a rabid dog and he sincerely wished she hadn’t.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen
a man so angry...” She gave a nervous giggle.
“I’m not angry now.” His
voice sounded raspy and resigned. “The priest is dead, Henry Usher’s to blame
and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.”
“You don’t know he’s dead.
The others went to find out what’s happened and they’ll be back soon. I bought
something for you.”
She pushed a bottle of beer
through the bars and he clasped it and took a few eager gulps.
“I figured you’d be thirsty
after all that shouting.” She giggled again but the nervousness had vanished.
He was grateful for that.
“I’m sorry you saw… that you heard...”
It was Cort’s turn to be nervous. “I’m not proud I acted that way but I was feeling
scared and guilty and…”
She was shaking her head.
“You’re a passionate man. You were trying to do what you felt was right and
help somebody you care about. I respect that.”
Cort hadn’t known how tense
he was until she uttered those words. Her opinion of him was more important
than he’d realised and it seemed she wasn’t about to judge him on his recent
behaviour. He felt the tension drain from his body and he took another few sips
of beer, watching her carefully over the rim of the bottle. She seemed to read
his mind before the thought had fully formed.
“It’s just you and I here,
Cort. Jonathan said I wasn’t to let you out of this cell until he got back.
He’s gone to see the judge but he won’t be long.”
Cort nodded. He wasn’t about
to insult her by insisting she go against the express wishes of her brother. He
was still thirsty and he finished the beer in a few gulps, wishing there was
Again she seemed to read his
mind. “Can I fetch you another?”
He smiled. “I’d like that.”
“I won’t leave you alone.
I’ll stay with you until the others come back.”
He was relieved to hear it.
Talking with Vivienne kept his mind focussed on things more positive than
anger, guilt and revenge. He watched her tall, slim figure walk down the stone
passageway which connected the cells to the rest of the lockup. The candlelight
grew gradually dimmer and then she made the sharp, right angled turn, where the
passage fed out into the communal area, and then he couldn’t see anything at
all. He sat down on the edge of the bunk and waited. The intense darkness of
the cell seemed to hone his senses, or perhaps his imagination, and he fancied
that in the far distance came the creaking of wood, a murmur of voices. He went
back to the window and peered through, his heart beating faster. Was it Ben and
the boys returned with good news… or bad? He strained his eyes and ears but
everything was dark and silent, until suddenly he heard light footsteps
approaching fast. Seconds later Vivienne’s face was pushed up against the bars.
He only knew it was her by her scent. She was breathing hard and spoke in a
“There’s a whole bunch of men
sneaking down the stairs, Cort. It’s nobody I know...”
Cort’s stomach twisted. He
had a good idea who they were. It seemed Ben Carter had been right the whole
time and the burning church was merely cover for more insidious activity. He
was pretty sure what that activity would involve but Vivienne couldn’t be part
of the looming ugliness.
“Did they see you?”
“I don’t think so.”
Cort didn’t dare raise his
voice above a murmur but tried to convey the urgency of his message to her.
“They can’t know you’re here!
Go into the other cell and hide beneath one of the bunks…”
She interrupted him, sounding
frightened and anxious. “I can’t leave you in there. I’ll unbolt the door and…”
“Dammit Vivienne, if they
find me locked up they’ll think I’m alone and won’t come looking for you!”
“What are they going to do?”
She sounded terrified now and Cort struggled to keep from feeling the same way.
He kept his voice calm and low, willing her to see sense.
“Do as I say. Go hide and if
you get a chance find the others and tell them what’s happening. There’s no
sense both of us getting captured.”
Finally she obeyed, murmuring
something as she left though he didn’t catch her words above the pounding of
blood in his ears. He stayed where he was and a moment later he clearly heard voices.
There were several men out in the communal area and they obviously saw no need
for secrecy any more. Bright light appeared at the top of the passageway and two
figures came towards the cells, one carrying a lamp, and he moved away from the
window as they approached and pressed himself against the wall behind the door.
When they looked inside it would seem as though the cell was empty, though he
doubted it would fool them for long. He could tell by the angle of the light
that they’d gone into the other cell first and his heart hammered. He hoped to
God Vivienne had hidden herself well and it seemed she had because suddenly the
lamp was shining through his window, casting long, thin stripes of light down
the centre of the cell.
“Ain’t nobody in there!” Cort
didn’t recognise the voice but it sounded lazy and dismissive.
“Then why the hell’s it
locked?” The second voice was superior and patronising. He didn’t recognise
this one either. “
Cort knew a face was looking
through the bars because of the rank breath which blew into the room. He held
his own breath, his heart pumping fit to burst. If they came in he might have a
chance, use the element of surprise to overpower them, seize their guns and
shoot his way out of this trap…
His slim hopes were dashed
when the superior sounding voice spoke again.
“This cell’s locked for a
reason and I ain’t going in without Mister Usher’s say so. Go get him now,
Bates, you hear?”
Evidently Bates heard because
his quick footsteps receded rapidly but, before Cort had any time to collect
his thoughts, they were returning and accompanied by many more. The cell got
suddenly brighter, as though the larger company were all carrying candles and
lamps, and then he heard a voice he recognised; cultured and urbane.
“I never expected it to be
this easy but it seems lawmen really are as stupid as I keep hearing, current
company excepted, of course.”
There was a round of
snickering. Usher’s voice again.
“Let’s have a reckoning shall
we? I saw three deputies and one attorney at law leave these premises not ten
minutes since. That leaves one prisoner unaccounted for and I think he’s locked
right here in this cell.”
Cort was almost paralysed by
fear. He didn’t know how many men were outside but it was way more than he
could deal with alone. He listened as the bolts were drawn back and then the door
was opened cautiously. An arm came through the gap, clutching a pistol and he saw
a chance. He hurled himself at the door, ramming it back against the jam,
trapping the arm in the space between. He heard a yelp and a curse and the gun
dropped to the floor. He lunged for it in the same instant the door was flung
violently open from the other side, colliding solidly with his head. The impact
sent him sprawling backwards into the cell, pain exploded in his skull and all
his senses went dull.
He was dimly aware of a lot
of people in the room, voices raised in jubilation and mirth, and a few hard boots
collided with his stomach and ribs before Henry Usher’s stern voice ordered
them to stop. He was too dazed to take much in but Usher continued to talk and
he felt ropes tied to his wrists and rough hands gripping his arms. He was pulled
along for a while and then dumped on the floor. He wasn’t there for long; he felt
pressure on his wrists as the ropes tightened and then he was being dragged
forcibly upwards until he was hanging upright, his arms pulled painfully above
his head. It was a familiar sensation and he cast about his incapacitated brain
to try and find the reference. It came eventually. The stormy night in the
Marshal’s office in Redemption when Henry Usher had him tied to the roof joist.
Just like this…
He heard a voice protesting
as he was dragged onto his toes, just like before, and he thought he recognised
it but couldn’t figure out who it belonged to. Then Henry Usher’s voice cut in,
sounding a little muffled.
“Wake him up. He’s no use to
us like this.”
He was hit full in the face
by a torrent of icy water, cold enough to take his breath away and he coughed
and spluttered, barely able to breathe. It had the desired effect though; suddenly
he could see and hear again and he shook his aching head, trying to force water
out of his eyes, then gazed around.
His situation was not good. He
was surrounded by men and he counted nine of them. Henry Usher, the Marshal of
Tucson and County Sheriff he knew, Mayer Anderson was there as well and, with a
shock, Cort recognised Father Reuben. His face bore signs of rough treatment but
the expression he wore was a curious mix of defiance and revulsion. The
remaining four men were strangers but their identity hardly mattered. They were
muscle for hire and were standing close around him, ready to do their job.
Henry Usher stepped up and
eyed him balefully.
“Seems we’ve been here before,
Cort. Last time you were an inconvenience but now you’ve got something I need. I
won’t let you die until you’ve given it to me.”
Cort forced a smile onto his
lips, though it was the last thing he felt like doing.
“What you want is buried in
the desert, Usher, and I’m the only one who knows where. Even if I felt inclined to give you a description
of the place, you’d never find it.”
One of the thugs slapped him
hard across the face. The force of it made his left ear ring but he could hear
Usher’s voice well enough.
“I’m willing to take that
Usher stood back and nodded
to the four thugs.
“Get to work, boys.”
© 2017 Yuku. All rights reserved.