Read California Crackdown Online

Authors: Jon Sharpe

California Crackdown (8 page)

The marshal actually seemed glad to see him, and a little worried. “You all right? One of Cain’s men said you were wounded.”
“Took one in the shoulder,” Fargo said, “but I’ve had worse.”
Marshal Davis nodded. “Sorry to hear about Cain. He was a good man.”
Fargo glanced around to make sure no one was in the jail who could overhear the conversation. He trusted his sense about this man, and he knew this marshal’s reputation. The man could be trusted.
“Cain was shot, but he may not be dead just yet,” Fargo said. “I don’t honestly know. I sent him with one of his men to hide in a hotel in Placerville. I don’t know if he made it or not, but I figured it was the better hand to play, letting the bushwhackers think he was dead.”
The marshal looked confused. “Why?”
Fargo spent the next few minutes telling the marshal everything he knew about Henry and Sarah Brant, and all the details, including Daniel’s presence among the robbers.
“The kid’s using the neighbor’s mine to make a play on his father,” the marshal said, clearly disgusted.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Fargo said. “Before he joined in with the Brants, Daniel was a good kid. A little gold hungry, but still a good kid. I think Sarah Brant is the one pulling his strings.”
“Henry Brant is known for cutting corners and taking shortcuts. And I’ve heard his mine is starting to play out. It would make sense he’s using the kid.”
“I heard the same thing about the mine,” Fargo said. “And there are rumors that they’re digging underground toward Cain’s tunnels. But to confirm all that, I have to find Daniel.”
“If he’s still alive,” Marshal Davis said. “If Henry Brant thinks that Cain is dead, it would be simple to kill Daniel and take over the Cain mine.”
“My thinking exactly,” Fargo said. That was his biggest worry outside of Cain living. Daniel didn’t have a very long life ahead of him if Fargo didn’t get this cleared up.
“So what can I do to help?” Marshal Davis asked.
Fargo had been hoping the marshal would ask that question. “I’ve got some ore to recover, so I could really use your help looking through town for Daniel, if you know what he looks like.”
“I’ve met him. You think he’s here?”
“I’m not sure, but one of the robbers left the wagon and came into town. I’m guessing it was Daniel. If I don’t find him with the gold, he’s either here or already dead.”
“What do you want us to do with him if we find him?”
“Don’t arrest him,” Fargo said. “That would tip them off to what you know. Just keep an eye on him until I get back and can work some truth out of the kid.”
“You got it,” the marshal said. Then he smiled. “Your men are down at the Mine Shaft Saloon near the river. You need a few more men to go with you on your recovery operation? I could spare a few to join you. I wouldn’t mind coming along myself, to be honest.”
Fargo shook his head. “No, thanks. This one is personal. I’m going to go it alone. I’ll let you know what happens.”
“Can’t say as I blame you, Fargo,” the marshal said. “Good hunting.”
Two hours later, after a good breakfast, Fargo turned south at the intersection off the Placerville road, once again following the wagon tracks.
Three miles south of Sacramento, the tracks turned off the main trail and headed back east and into a deep valley coming down out of the mountains. There was no doubt that this trail dead-ended up this valley. The trail had obviously been seldom used, so it would have almost no traffic. Fargo had to respect the choice of a hideout by the robbers. It was close enough to town and the Placerville road, yet isolated and easy to defend and guard.
Fargo veered off the trail and took the Ovaro up a ridge, moving slowly and carefully, following game trails that ran along the valley sides.
An hour later he found what he was looking for. Near where the canyon turned into a box canyon against three steep walls of rocks, a wisp of smoke from a fire drifted above the trees.
From that camp there was only one way out. It was a camp that was easy to defend from attack, but it also made Fargo’s job a lot easier. He had them trapped like rats in a water barrel.
He left his horse in a safe place, then with his heavy carbine in hand, he scouted the area around the camp.
There looked to be three men in the camp. Daniel was not one of the men. Fargo had been right that it had been Daniel who had gone into Sacramento. Fargo just hoped the marshal and his men could find him and protect the stupid kid.
At the moment the men were standing around the campfire, drinking coffee. Cain’s wagon sat near where they had tied the horses, and it was still loaded with the gold. Clearly, this was just a stopover point until someone told them what to do with their loot.
They realized too late that they’d been joined by a fierce-looking man with a Henry and a real unfriendly voice.
One of the men started to go for his gun but his friend said, “Don’t be stupid, Dave.”
“I want the guns pitched as far as you can throw ’em. Then I want your boots off and I want you to toss them too. Far as they’ll go.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“Nobody important. But you killed somebody important, at least to me. So just be thankful I don’t shoot you bastards down right here and now.”
The harsh words made them move quicker. They bitched and moaned of course—it was humiliating, throwing away your guns and boots—but they did it.
When that was done, Fargo said, “Now hitch up the horses. I’m taking the wagon.”
“They’ll think we took it,” one of them complained.
“I’d say that’s your problem, not mine. Now get it done.”
A mile beyond where the men had camped, Fargo found a place to pull the wagon off into some cover behind some rocks so it couldn’t be seen from the trail. He tied up the horses and then went back for his own horse.
He tied the Ovaro to the rear of the wagon. When he got back to the main trail, instead of turning back north, he went south away from Sacramento. It would be a good ten miles out of the way to circle around and back into town that way, but that was better than taking a chance of meeting any of the Brant men coming for the gold.
Right now it was better to let Brant and his people think that his men had been robbed of the ore they had robbed from Cain. It might give Daniel another day of life.
Maybe.
He got the gold into the bank before it closed and then told Marshal Davis where he could find the robbers. So far, the marshal had had no luck finding Daniel, but as he said, most of his men didn’t know what Cain’s son looked like.
“We’ll find him,” Fargo said. He thanked the marshaland then headed to where Cain’s two men should be waiting for him.
He found them both sitting in the Mine Shaft Saloon at a corner table, their backs to the wall. They both had drinks in front of them, but it was clear they were too worried to drink much. A deck of cards lay on the table between them, but no cards were dealt.
One was a solid middle-aged man with a wide mustache. His name was Jim. The other was Walt. From this angle, he looked like he could bend a railroad spike with his bare hands. Cain had told Fargo that both men were good in a fight and both had ridden the range at times. Fargo had a good feeling about them.
As Fargo entered the run-down saloon, both had their hats pulled low over their eyes. But when they recognized him, they jumped up and pushed their hats back, smiling. Patience and waiting were clearly not their strong suits.
“How ya doin’?” Jim asked as Fargo approached the table.
“Are we going after them?” Walt asked.
“Doing fine,” Fargo said, indicating that the men should follow him out to the street. “Doctor said I would live. And I already took care of the robbers and Cain’s gold is delivered and where it belongs.”
“Fargo, the stories they tell about you don’t go anywhere near far enough,” Jim said, shaking his head.
Fargo didn’t want to ask just what tales Jim had heard.
“Damn,” Walt said. “We missed all the fun.”
“I have a feeling the fun is just beginning,” Fargo said. “If you call men getting shot
fun
.”
“If the man deserves to be shot, yeah I do,” Walt said.
Fargo glanced at the strong kid and said nothing.
“Any news about Cain?” Jim asked.
“Nothing,” Fargo said. “We’ll find out soon enough. Right now we have to find Daniel.”
“He was part of the bunch that robbed us and shot his father,” Walt said, his words showing his disgust and anger. “I couldn’t believe it, but he was. I had a clear shot at him and didn’t take it. Wish I had now.”
“I had a clear shot as well,” Fargo said. “Daniel may have had reasons for what he did, or maybe he was duped by Sarah Brant. We have to find him and find out. He’s in town somewhere. Or at least he was yesterday.”
“I’ve heard stories about that Brant woman,” Jim said as they reached the sidewalk and Fargo led them toward the center of town. “They say her mother left because of her.”
“I was warned to stay out of her clutches because she liked to cut off men’s privates,” Walt said, shuddering. “But everyone says she’s a looker.”
“I met her once,” Fargo said. “And I don’t doubt either story. And if Daniel was wrapped up in her charms, there’s no telling what he would have done for her. But right now we’ve got to find him.”
“Mind if I pound some sense into him if I find him?” Jim asked.
“Yes, I do mind,” Fargo said. “You find him, either of you, and you come and get me. My gut tells me this kid is in danger. We have to find him before they do, now that they think his father is dead.”
“I sure hope he’s not,” Walt said.
Fargo couldn’t do anything but agree with that. He wasn’t letting himself think about Cain dying.
When Fargo reached a general store close to the center of town, he told Walt to go south along Main, checking out every hotel and saloon. “Ask the desk clerks if Daniel Parker has checked in.”
Fargo sent Jim north doing the same thing.
“I’m going to check some of the brothels,” Fargo said.
“You get all the good jobs,” Walt said, smiling.
“Just had more experience in those places,” Fargo said. “We meet right back here in an hour. And remember, don’t let him see you if you can help it. Just come and find me. Don’t do anything to spook him.”
Both men nodded. Fargo left first. Before Walt and Jim separated, Walt said, “Not everybody’s gonna believe us.”
“Believe us about what?” Jim said.
“Working with Fargo. The Trailsman.”
Jim laughed. “You’re probably right. I met a newspaperman once—he told me he didn’t think that Fargo even existed.”
“I’ll bet some of it’s exaggerated, though,” Walt said.
“Some is. But not by Fargo. People just like to have heroes and they make up things about them.”
“One thing I heard was that he fought two black bears at a time.”
Jim laughed. “I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen.”
“Another thing I heard was that down in Louisiana he killed an alligator with his bare hands.”
“Now that one I know is true. Met a man who actually saw it.”
“But he ain’t—I mean, he could still be killed.”
“Sure he could. Just like us.”
“He’s prob’ly been up against tougher men than Brant before.”
“Tougher, maybe. But not any greedier.”
Walt nodded agreement and the men went on their separate ways.
After three times out and back, none of them had had any luck, so Fargo bought them all lavish steak-and-potato dinners. If Cain lived, he wouldn’t mind feeding the men who were trying to save his son. And if he didn’t live, he wouldn’t care that Fargo had spent his money.
In the three hours, Fargo had personally visited more than a dozen brothels, been propositioned by a dozen women, and been tossed out of one house by a madam who knew him from Denver. He had helped one of her girls get away from her to marry a grocer who was headed west. It seemed the madam still held a grudge and could handle a very large Colt.
Both Walt and Jim complained about their feet hurting and how they hadn’t realized just how big Sacramento had become. Fargo was surprised at that as well. He’d always thought of Sacramento as a bustling but fairly small city.
After dinner they headed back out.
Two hours later Fargo found Daniel sitting in the front parlor of a brothel. He was drunk, so drunk that he could hardly move. It was clear he had been flashing money around like he had more than enough of it. And Daniel’s money was like honey to the girls, who took turns sitting on his lap, kissing him, giving him more drinks, and relieving him of his money.
Fargo walked into the parlor and pushed one girl gently aside before yanking Daniel to his feet. “You’re coming with me, kid.”
“Hey,” protested the madam, a large woman with enormous breasts that seemed to want to escape from her low-cut sheer robe in a thousand different directions. “You can’t go taking my customers.”
“Yeah,” Daniel said, trying to pull away from Fargo’s grasp. “Who are you anyway?”
“I work for your father,” Fargo said, then solidly punched Daniel square in the nose, sending blood gushing and the kid slumping, out cold. More than likely he hit the kid a little harder than he needed to, but he was still damn angry at Daniel.
Fargo held Daniel up and fished for the kid’s money, tossing the entire wad of bills to the madam. “Sorry for the mess and the problem,” Fargo said. “The kid’s now broke.”
“Pleasure doing business with you,” the madam said as the bills vanished into the massive canyon that was her cleavage.
Fargo tossed Daniel up over his good shoulder and went out the door held open by one of the girls, ignoring the looks from passersby as he headed back to where he was to meet Jim and Walt.
He propped Daniel up on a bench and wiped some of the blood from his face while he waited. The kid was still out cold and likely would be until he slept off all the booze.

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