Fargo stood and then picked up Anne and held her close to him, kissing her hard. “Get a lawyer and a judge ready. I’ll be back with Cain’s will.”
Anne laughed. “I thought you said he wasn’t the type to write up a will.”
“I could be wrong,” Fargo said.
He kissed her soft lips one more time, enjoying the promise of a night in the feather bed with her, then turned and headed out the door. They first had to secure Cain’s mine legally for the men who would defend it; then it would be time for some real frontier justice.
The last miner came up from the mine, wiped off his face, and joined the meeting forming in the large bunkhouse. Men sat, sprawled, and stood everywhere, crowded around the wooden bunks. A number of women from the kitchens had joined the meeting as well.
Fargo couldn’t believe how many men and women had depended on Cain and his Sharon’s Dream mine.
Two hours before, Fargo had met Hank, Walt, and Jim at the ranch house. They had put Daniel’s body in the root cellar until they could bury it with his father in the small mine cemetery.
All three of them thought that they were now out of a job. They had no doubt that Brant would jump Cain’s claim and take over by sheer force. They were pretty much ready to bury Cain and Daniel and head down the trail. None of them would ever work for Brant.
Fargo took less than a minute to describe his idea. It got them excited again, and ready to fight.
“One small problem,” Fargo had said. “Can any of you write?”
Jim could. With Hank’s help, since he was the chief foreman and had been Cain’s right-hand man for the past six months, they got Cain’s safe opened and some samples of Cain’s writing laid out on the table.
After an hour of practice, Jim started writing the simple will that gave the mine over to Daniel. And then, if Daniel died within a year of Cain, the mine and all its assets were to go in equal shares to every man and woman working for the mine at the time of Daniel’s death.
As Jim practiced writing in Cain’s handwriting, Hank put together a list of the people who were working for Cain this last week. Fargo wouldn’t let him put his name on the list. He had no desire to own part of a mine.
Two hours after they started, the will was finished and the men were gathered.
Fargo stood back as Hank told all the men the bad news of both Cain’s and Daniel’s deaths.
“The funeral for both of them will be at sunrise tomorrow morning,” Hank said. “I expect you all to be there.”
There was a long moment of silence as the news sank in. Then Hank cleared his throat and went on. “I hold in my hand Cain’s will.”
Hank held up the paper and the envelope that had contained it. “Basically, it gives the mine and all the assets to Daniel.”
There was a murmuring among the men, but no one asked the next obvious question out loud.
“However,” Hank said, his voice carrying clearly in the crowded bunkhouse. “The will also says that if Daniel dies within a year of Cain, the mine is to go in equal parts to everyone working at Sharon’s Dream at the time of Daniel’s death. Officially, we now all own this mine and all the gold and assets that come out of it.”
The noise suddenly became deafening as the men shouted and cheered and slapped one another on the back.
Hank smiled and let them go on for a moment, then held up his hands for silence. “In one hour, twenty of us, with the help of Fargo here, are going to make sure this will is filed officially in the courthouse. However, we’re not out of the woods just yet.”
Hank nodded to Fargo and he stepped forward. “There is clear proof that the Brants and their men are behind the deaths of Cain and his son.”
Shouts of anger filled the room and Fargo let the anger wash over him. He was going to need all of them angry if they were going to win the coming fight.
Hank held up his hands for the men to calm down and let Fargo go on.
After there was silence again, Fargo continued. “They’re going to make a move on this mine, both above- and belowground.”
“Over my dead body,” one miner shouted, and the others agreed loudly.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” Fargo said. “But it looks like we’re going to have a war and it’s going to start real soon.”
“We’re ready,” one man hollered, and the others shouted their agreement.
“We’re all going to have to fight together. You should all wear guns at all times until this is settled and if you don’t have a gun, talk to Hank after the meeting and he’ll get you set up. And we’re going to need the best shots among you posted as sentries along the ridgeline between here and the Brant mine. And others guarding the road and the other sides of this area.”
“We’re with you, Fargo,” a man shouted.
“Good,” Fargo said. “Now let’s get to work.”
The Eastern papers often mocked the way justice worked in the West. In the East, black-robed men deliberated over laws and precedent before handing down their decisions. When they spoke to the lawyers before them they tended to sound self-important and pompous. At least that was the way the Western papers liked to depict those Eastern magistrates.
Here, the papers enjoyed judges who occasionally winked at the laws and statutes that supposedly guided them and made decisions quickly and without undue fuss.
This was generally the way it worked, anyway. But Fargo wondered if he wasn’t dealing with a transplanted Easterner when he met Judge Rupert T. D. Hodges, who was to rule on the filing of Cain’s will.
Peering over the gold-rimmed glasses that had slid down his pointed nose, Hodges constantly rubbed his fingers against a bald pate and sniffed as if he was coming down with a cold. He sat in a room that rivaled a small library in number of books. In addition to a massive globe, an equally massive lantern, and a relatively modest pipe rack, the hardwood floor shone and the mullioned windows gleamed with daylight.
Fargo was used to hanging judges who swilled whiskey and befouled the room with the smoke of cheap cigars as they made their rash and often mistaken rulings.
Fargo had told the judge why the people named on the list he handed over should become the official owners in equal parts of the mine. The judge offered neither word nor even expression. He lowered his head and began his seemingly endless consideration of the appeal.
Fargo and Walt and Jim exchanged many useless glances as they stood before his desk. Once, Jim sighed deeply. The judge peered up over his glasses and frowned. “Are you in a hurry, young man?”
It was like being back in a schoolhouse when the teacher decided to pick on you and make your life hell. “No, sir,” Jim said, his face red.
“Good. Because I’m not either.”
A well-polished grandfather clock in one corner ticked off the long minutes. The judge had a law book open on the right side of his desk. He consulted it frequently.
Then came the surprise. The judge looked up and said, “I’m granting your request. The people on your list will become equal owners of the mine.” He pushed his glasses up on his nose and called for his court clerk to come into the office. He spent a minute having his clerk read the will and the list of names into the court record, then said simply: “Good day, gentlemen.”
Outside the county courthouse, Fargo stood with Hank, Walt, and Jim. The sun had gone behind the mountains, casting the valley and the town into shadows. It was still hot, but there was the promise of a cool evening in the air.
“That judge was a right friendly gent,” Jim said. “Figured he’d invite us all for a drink.”
“Yeah.” Walt laughed. “With poison in it.”
Fargo laughed too, but then got right back to work.
“Get everyone ready and guards posted,” Fargo said to them. “When Brant and his daughter hear about this, they may try a full-out attack on the mine. If they can blow up the mine opening or shut you down in some way, then they can tunnel into the vein and claim it as theirs. Be ready. Both aboveground and below. For the first time, we’re ahead of them, and they’re not going to like that.”
“Let them come,” Hank said. “Thanks to your idea, every man working the mine has a real reason to fight. I doubt Brant’s men do. And that’s going to make a difference.”
“I have no doubt about that,” Fargo said.
“What are you going to do?” Walt asked.
“Get a good night’s sleep, first off,” Fargo said, smiling. “Don’t worry—I’ll be around. I’m going to be like a kid with a stick poking at a beehive when it comes to Brant. I have a score to settle.”
“If you need any help, you know where we’ll be,” Hank said. “And as long as you’re here helping us, we’ll keep paying you the same price Cain was paying you.”
“No need,” Fargo said. “Save your money. You have to split it a lot of ways. And besides, I tend to work alone. But thanks.”
“Thank you,” Hank said. He shook Fargo’s hand and then the three of them headed back to their mine.
Fargo turned and headed for the Wallace Hotel. Anne had gone back ahead of him after the judge had declared the will official. This time he went in the hotel entrance, nodding at the desk clerk before climbing the stairs to his room. Before he could put the key in the door, a soft voice came from down the hall.
“Where do you think you’re going, mister?” Anne poked her head out her door and smiled at him.
“I was hoping to get cleaned up, then a little dinner with a beautiful woman, a short love-making session, and a long night’s sleep. Do you know anyone who might want to help me with all that?”
Anne laughed. “I sure do. This way.” She stuck her arm out the door and gestured that he should come to her.
She swung open the door as he neared, showing him that she was standing there completely naked.
The sight took his breath away. She was one of the most beautiful women he had ever known.
He stopped for a moment just to stare, then stepped inside, afraid to even try a comment.
She pointed to the large tub in the corner. “I just happened to be getting ready for a bath and figured you might want to join me.”
“I could use a bath, but you probably hadn’t noticed,” he said.
She laughed. “Now that you mention it—” She looked into his lake blue eyes for a moment, then kissed him solidly on the lips.
He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and pulled her close, feeling her breasts push into him. It felt really good being back here with her.
She pushed him away and then slowly worked to take off his shirt. When she saw his bandages, she gasped.
“Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Let’s check,” he said. “I could use your help trimming some of the stitches the doc used on me.”
Carefully, with her help, he pulled off the bandage on his shoulder. Under it, the hole where the bullet had gone in looked red, but not swollen with any infection. It looked like the doctor had done a good job on that one.
She turned him around and carefully pulled off the bandage in back. That hole was slightly larger from what the doc had told him. Exit wounds usually were.
“How’s it look?” he asked her.
“Painful,” she said. “But healing. Trimming the ends of the stitching won’t hurt you, and a bath might even help them a little, make sure they’re clean. Do you have a fresh shirt to wear?”
“One,” he said.
“We’ll send the rest of your things to the laundry tomorrow. You need to keep clean shirts on these wounds until they finish healing.”
“Thank you, nurse,” he said, turning around and kissing her. “Anyone ever tell you that you have a great bedside manner?”
“And I thought it was just the uniform,” she said.
He laughed. “That helps, I have to admit.”
She helped him out of his boots and trousers, then into the tub.
It took him a moment to settle in to the hot water, but once he was in, he could feel the aches and tiredness in his muscles slowly draining away. There was sure something to be said about hot baths. At least after a few days like he had just had.
She scrubbed him down with a rough sponge like he was a horse, being careful around his wounds and then using only her soft hands on his private parts.
He tried to wash her as well, especially those hidden areas between her legs, but she kept moving his hands away, telling him to wait his turn.
Finally, when she was done scrubbing off a layer of his skin, she told him to lie back and enjoy the moment.
She moved to the other end of the large, narrow tub and sat up on the end, her feet still touching his, her legs open so that he could see her most intimate parts. If this wasn’t heaven, he didn’t know what could beat it.
Slowly, not missing an inch, she used the sponge to wash herself. She started with her neck, then worked down her arms, bending down every so often to dip the sponge in the water.
He watched her breasts move as she moved. He watched the soapy water run down her body, over her breasts, down her stomach, and through the fine brown hair between her legs. He was mesmerized following the water, staring at her every movement.
He was as hard as he ever remembered being, and it took every ounce of willpower he had not to take her right then.
She seemed to spend extra time on her breasts, moving them around, soaping them again, rubbing them.
Never, in all his life, had he felt so aroused by simply watching a woman. He never wanted the moment to end.
She had the look of intense lust that he had come to recognize. Her eyes were slits, not really seeing anything, her face filled with a smile of contentment.
She let out a low moan and looked at him.
He reached for her and she slipped down into the water, moving quickly to impale herself on his thick rod. As her warm slickness settled over him, she sighed and then shuddered, reaching a peak all on her own, without him even having to move.