Read California Crackdown Online

Authors: Jon Sharpe

California Crackdown (9 page)

Fargo sat down beside the kid, watching everyone on the street. It had been a long day and the wounds in his shoulder were aching again. He could use a good night’s sleep as well.
When Walt and Jim finally arrived, Fargo had Walt carry Daniel back to the Mine Shaft Saloon. The hotel attached to the saloon was where they had stayed and left their gear, expecting to return tonight. They put Daniel on the floor in their room and tied him securely to the large metal-framed bed.
Fargo got his own room, then went back to see if the kid was awake yet. It was no surprise that he wasn’t.
“Take turns guarding him. And make sure he doesn’t get away. He’s got a lot of talking to do tomorrow. I’m in the room next door.”
For the second night, the moment Fargo lay down on the bed he was out like someone had snuffed a candle. The rays of the sun the next morning woke him.
This morning his shoulder felt a little better. He checked under one bandage and then pulled it off. The doc had stitched both wounds and they looked like they were healing just fine. He started to put on his shirt when he realized the heavy stitches would catch on the cloth. He quickly taped the bandage back on. Maybe a couple more days and he could again wear a shirt without it. Maybe.
The room next door sounded like a factory going full tilt. All three men were snoring like it was a competition to see who could be the loudest. And to be honest, Fargo couldn’t tell.
Walt was in the chair, his pistol on his lap. Jim was on the bed, and Daniel was still tied up on the floor.
Fargo moved silently just inside the door and then slammed it behind him.
Walt came out of the chair, sending his gun spinning across the floor.
Jim jerked and rolled off the bed on the window side, coming up a moment later with his gun in his hand.
Daniel jerked upward and then was slammed back against the floor by the ropes holding him.
Fargo forced himself not to smile. “Good morning. I hope everyone slept well. I know I did.”
Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Walt sheepishly moved to get his gun and Jim stood up, holstering his.
“Oh, my head hurts,” Daniel said, moaning. “And my nose. You broke my nose. And if someone doesn’t find me a bedpan or an outhouse real soon, there’s going to be a mess right here on the floor.” Then he looked at Fargo with sober recognition. “Now I recognize you from last night. You’re Fargo.”
“Untie him,” Fargo said, “and we’ll all take him out back just to make sure one of us stays awake.”
As Walt leaned over to untie him, Daniel recognized him too. Then he glanced over and recognized Jim. The kid who had been trying to show a strong face against the hangover and likely kidnappers suddenly broke down and cried like a girl.
“I didn’t know, I didn’t know,” he kept saying through the sobs.
Walt finished with the ropes and stepped back, glancing around at Fargo with a puzzled look on his face.
“Get him on his feet and out back,” Fargo said to both Jim and Walt.
They yanked up the sobbing man like he was a rag doll and half carried him out the door and down the hall toward the outhouse.
“What didn’t you know?” Fargo asked Daniel as they went through the back door. The alley was a small street lined down the center with a dozen outhouses serving the hotels on each side. No one else was in the alley at the moment, but there was no way of telling if there was someone in one of the narrow, wooden structures.
“That it was my father’s gold they were after,” Danielsobbed, tears flowing over his broken nose and making lines in the dried blood on his face. “I didn’t know. Sarah said it was from the Constitution mine. I’m pretty sure her father’s behind all this.”
“And that allows you to rob and kill men for gold?” Fargo asked, even more disgusted now at the sobbing boy. No wonder Sarah Brant could manipulate this kid. He was as weak and as stupid as they came.
Walt opened the outhouse door and Fargo shoved the kid inside really hard, slamming him into the back wood wall.
“Come out when you’re finished and can stand on your own two feet and be a man.”
Fargo looked first at Jim, then at Walt. “Both of you stay here and guard him. And if he tries to escape, shoot him.”
“Gladly,” Walt said.
Jim only nodded, but clearly didn’t disagree with Walt.
“When he’s finished, take him back to the room and tie him up again. I’ll be back.”
With that, Fargo strode off toward Marshal Davis’s office. He was so disgusted at the son of his good friend, he didn’t know what to do.
Fargo stamped up onto a wooden sidewalk and brushed past two men. He needed to calm down and think straight. And the best way to do that was to talk to the marshal and find out if he had any more information about the men in that box canyon yesterday.
He knew it was Sarah Brant and her father behind all this. Daniel had told him that much.
“Fargo, you sure made a lot of enemies up there when you made those men throw away their boots and guns,” the marshal laughed as Fargo entered the office.
“Just doing my civic duty, Marshal,” Fargo said. “You station a couple of men up there to watch for who comes up that trail?”
The marshal smiled real big. “Actually, didn’t need to. They arrived while we were still there. Two men, both foremen at the Brant mine, rode right into our trap just easy as could be.”
“Are they talking?”
“Nope, not yet. They’re claiming they were just on the wrong trail and lost. We’re going to hold them until the circuit court rides through here next week. I figured I might as well let a judge decide what to do with them and keep them out of the coming fight.”
Fargo nodded. This man was not stupid. He had been in the West as long as Fargo had and knew what a battle between two major mines was like. “Thanks. I appreciate that.”
“So, you find Daniel?”
“Yup,” Fargo said, the anger at the kid coming back. “In a brothel, drunk as a skunk. We sobered him up and he started crying like a little girl, claiming he didn’t know it was his father’s wagon full of gold.”
“What, he thought he was out riding for fun or something?”
“Claimed he thought they were after the Constitution’s gold. Claimed that Sarah Brant had told him that.”
“Robbing and killing for a woman,” Marshal Davis said, shaking his head in disgust. “There’s nothing new under the sun, is there?”
“Doesn’t seem like it,” Fargo said.
“So, you want to bring him in and let him cry here in jail and point some fingers? It might save a fight up in Placerville.”
“I honestly don’t know what I want to do with the kid,” Fargo said. “I feel like I owe my friend Cain to take care of his son and get him back to his father. But Cain may just turn him over to you anyway. If Cain is still alive, he’s going to be as disgusted as I am. This kid was involved in robbing his own father’s gold and killing his men. I can’t imagine Cain allowing that to stand and be forgotten.”
“Knowing Cain, I can’t either,” Marshal Davis said. “But to be honest, if Cain is dead, I’d want to take Daniel up into the hills and put a bunch of bullets in his arms and legs while he tries to crawl away.”
Fargo looked at the marshal and then laughed. “I knew I liked you for a reason, Marshal.”
They both laughed. Then the marshal said, “Well, let me know what you do with him. But keep in mind that this area has tamed down enough that there is real law here these days that sometimes gets the job done.”
Fargo stuck out his hand and shook the marshal’s firm grip. “Just as long as we get justice, that’s all I care about.”
As Fargo opened the door, the sound of gunfire broke over the city from the direction of Fargo’s hotel. His gut told him that it had to do with Daniel.
He glanced back at the marshal, then took off at a run, the marshal after a moment pounding along right beside him, matching him stride for stride. Both of them had guns out of leather and both were ready to fight.
The gunfire lasted for less than twenty seconds and then there was silence before the normal sounds of the city filled back in. Fargo didn’t like the sound of that silence at all.
As he and the marshal rounded the corner to get behind the hotel, he saw Walt step from behind a large wooden container and stare at the outhouse, his gun still in his hand. A moment later, Jim came out the back door of the hotel, looking around cautiously, his gun still in his hand as well.
“What happened?” Fargo demanded as he got close.
Jim pointed at the open second-story window in the back of the hotel across the narrow street filled with outhouses. And Walt pointed to the roofline of another building.
“They started firing before we had time to react,” Jim said. “There were four, maybe five of them. They had us in a cross fire.”
“Five,” Walt said. “We took cover and returned fire, but they didn’t seem to care about us. They just poured lead into the outhouse and then backed away as we fired back.”
“They were firing rifles,” Jim said. “Some of the shots were going clear through the outhouse and pounding into the dirt.”
Fargo didn’t want to open the bullet-riddled wooden outhouse, but he forced himself to.
Inside, Daniel had been sitting with his britches still up and his belt tied. His eyes were wide-open in surprise and red from crying. His shirt and pants were a mass of blood and holes. A moment after Fargo opened the door, Daniel fell forward into the dirt.
“There was nothing we could do,” Walt said.
“Yeah,” Jim said. “The kid just sat in there and cried and wouldn’t come out, right up to the moment they opened fire.”
The marshal spun around to a deputy who had just run up. “Get men guarding all the ways out of town. Look for a group of five men leaving on horseback.”
Fargo shook his head. “No use, Marshal. Those men are long gone. We’ll have to take care of them later.”
Fargo felt sorry all over again for his old friend Cain. If the man was still alive, he’d now have to hear that his son had been murdered.
5
Two hours later, they had Daniel’s body wrapped in a tarp and strapped on the back of a horse as they headed out of Sacramento. Fargo scouted ahead of the other two, making sure that no one would attack them on the way back. He didn’t think anyone would, but he liked being prepared. And with the Brant thugs, there was no telling what they would do next. Besides, scouting helped keep his mind off of the coming task of telling Cain that his son was dead. More than likely Cain had seen Daniel during the robbery, so it was impossible to guess how Cain would react to his death.
If Cain was still alive
.
Fargo wouldn’t let himself think too long about the possibility that Cain hadn’t made it. The man had been so strong through so many fights. He had to be here for this one. Sarah and Henry Brant were going to pay for what they had done. Fargo was going to see to that. And their men were going to pay as well. They couldn’t be allowed to take over Cain’s mine, whether Cain and Daniel were alive or not.
At the intersection in the road that led either into town or to Cain’s mine, Fargo left Walt and Jim to the task of taking Daniel’s body back to the Cain home. He kept on going into town, got his Ovaro stabled and brushed and fed, and finally headed to the hotel. He couldn’t delay it any longer. He had to face the outcome of this eventually. At least he was going to see Anne again.
The bright sun of the day beat down on him as he walked, heating his shirt and making his shoulder ache.
Fargo went through the door into the saloon and, like the first time, Anne was behind the bar. He couldn’t believe how much just seeing her cheered him.
She happened to glance up as he let the batwings close behind him. Her face lit up like a child seeing a Christmas present.
She rushed around the bar and hugged him so hard, his wounds hurt. But he didn’t care. Just having her against him, pressing into him again, felt great.
She took him by the hand and led him into the back room, to her private office.
“Are you all right?” she asked. “I heard you were shot.”
“Through the shoulder,” Fargo said. He pointed to the wound on the front. “It came out the back. I’m going to be just fine. But tell me, how’s Cain?”
The smile dropped from her face and she motioned for him to sit down in a chair near her desk where she could sit and face him. “He didn’t make it through the first night. I’m so sorry, Skye. The doc did everything he could, but the wound was just too bad.”
Fargo felt himself go numb.
His friend had asked for his help, his protection, and now both his friend and his friend’s son were dead.
Fargo stared at the wall above Anne. How could he have miscalculated so badly? How could he have let the Brants get so far ahead of him?
Anne sat there, holding his hand, letting him take in the news, the very thing he hadn’t let himself think about over the last few days.
Finally, she said softly, “Tell me what happened.”
He went back over the details of the last three days, from the ambush to the killing of Daniel.
“What’s going to happen to Cain’s mine and all his gold and buildings?” she asked after a moment.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Fargo said. “But I can tell you this: Brant and his men will not get it. Not while I’m alive.”
She reached forward and squeezed his hand, smiling. “I know that. But we need to put some sort of legal basis under this and get the mine to someone. Did Cain have a will?”
Fargo shrugged. “I doubt it. Not the type.”
“So, who deserves to get that mine and those buildings and all the money in the banks in Sacramento?”
Fargo looked over at her, then smiled as he saw where she was heading. “His men. Some of them have died for him and that mine.”
“Exactly,” Anne said. “I’ve heard of a few owners giving parts or all of their mines to their workers. It’s possible to do.”

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