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Charlie MacNeil, SASS #48580

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About Charlie MacNeil, SASS #48580

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  • Birthday 07/18/1957

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    48580 Life

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    Express Ranch, Oregon Territory
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    Hunting, shooting, and writing novels. Co-honcho of the Virtue Flat Shootist Society, Baker City, Oregon. I also shoot with my good pards at the Oregon Trail Regulators, La Grande, OR.

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  1. Charlie MacNeil 10-27-13 "Mister Stoakes, are you quite finished with this witness?" Judge Hostettler asked. "I am, Your Honor," Stoakes replied. "Very well, you may step down, Marshal," the Judge ordered. Charlie rose from his seat, reclaimed custody of the Greener from the bailiff and stepped back to stand against the wall near Brentwood, the shotgun held broken open and hanging from his forearm as he slouched against the whitewashed boards. "Mister Stoakes, you may call your next witness." "With pleasure, Your Honor. I call Mister Cecil Wallace to the stand," Stoakes replied smugly. He stood confidently scanning the crowded room for sixty very long seconds before someone in the crowd called, "I think Cecil just left on the mornin' stage ta Denver, him an' a whole passel of others!" A momentary flash of anger could be seen on the attorney's urbane features before he got himself under control once more. "Your Honor, my witness does not seem to be available. May I call another?" The Judge nodded his consent and Stoakes called another name. Over the course of the next five minutes, his confidence dwindling rapidly, the attorney called a long list of names, none of whose owners seemed to be present in the room and most of whom were not present anywhere within the town's environs, having left town by whatever means were available over the course of the past two days. As each name was called, and as each man failed to present himself for testimony, Stoakes demeanor became more and more desperate. "Your Honor, I seem to have run short of witnesses," Stoakes at last said in a much subdued and diffident tone. "I shall take the witness stand on my own behalf, and end this farcical mutation of justice once and for all!" He strode forward and seated himself. Brentwood swore him in and he began to speak in his own defense. History has not recorded the words Stoakes fairly spouted, flourished and embellished on his own behalf as he strode to and fro before the Judge's bench. History does record that the catcalls and laughter swelled with each listing of injustice done to his person and deeds of aid and succor for others reputedly done by him, none of which seemed to have been noticed by his fellow citizens. After some forty five minutes of dissertation, Stoakes began to wind up his testimony. "And further, Your Honor, the claim of falsification of documents and fraud is completely and totally without merit. Those documents deeding me all rights to the gold claims of Sheriff Linn Keller are true documents and will stand up in any court of law!" Stoakes strode forward, his confidence restored, and seated himself with a flourish in the witness chair and gazed expectantly at the Judge. Judge Hostettler stared wordlessly back at the attorney for several moments before speaking. "That was quite an inspired speech, Mister Stoakes," Hostettler began. "Too bad it's total poppycock." Stoakes sucked in a breath and opened his mouth to speak, but the Judge held up a restraining hand. "Don't bother to object, Mister Stoakes. It will do you no good whatsoever. And regarding your allegation as to the veracity of the gold claim documents, this is one court of law in which they will not stand as true documents." He picked up a thin sheaf of paper from the table in front of him. "I have known Sheriff Linn Keller for quite a long time, Mister Stoakes, and there is no way on God's green earth that he signed these documents. They are obvious forgeries, and you are an obvious blackguard who deserves nothing less that the worst possible punishment that I can mete out!" His voice rose. "Regarding the charge of assaulting an officer of the law, that one stands on its own merit. Marshal MacNeil's reputation for honesty precedes him..." "Yeah, he's pretty good at breakin' arms, too!" an anonymous jokester called from the back of the room, obviously referring to the plaster that burdened the attorney's right forearm. Ignoring the interruption, Hostettler went on, "...whose testimony I would take as gospel truth any time. Consequently, I have decided on your punishment." Stoakes stared at him, as stunned as if someone had walked up and handed him a live rattlesnake. "Get ready, 'cause that hothead is gonna jump the judge when he hears what Hostettler's got to say," Charlie whispered to Brentwood. Marshal and bailiff stepped quietly forward, Charlie leaning the Greener against a chair near the wall before moving up behind Stoakes. "But, but, Your Honor!" Stoakes sputtered, leaning forward. "Silence, Mister Stoakes!" Hostettler thundered. Stoakes wilted back into his chair. "I hereby sentence you to ten years in the Territorial Prison in Canon City, Colorado on each charge, to be served consecutively." He struck the table with the gavel. "This court is adjourned!" "No!" Stoakes suddenly screamed. He launched himself from his seat, his clawed fingers aimed for the Judge's throat. Hostettler stared at him calmly as the former attorney suddenly became entangled in the chair's legs, assisted by Charlie and the bailiff, and struck the floor with a resounding THUMP! that drove the air from his lungs. Before he could gather the wits scattered by the impact the two officers were on him, pinning him to the boards to yank his wrists behind him and clamp the manacles on him. They unceremoniously hoisted him to his feet, where he sagged between the two men until Charlie leaned over and hissed in his ear, "Stand up or I'll stand you up!" Stoakes forced himself upright, head hanging in despair. All that he'd worked so hard for, all his ill-gotten gains, were gone in an instant. He was sure that he would never come out of the prison alive.
  2. Linn Keller 10-25-13 I don't know who or how but I got spirited onto the train. At least they had a bunk set up for me in the stable car. I could lay down there and nobody could see me. I don't know which of the nurses rode with me and it don't matter. I was feverin' up again and weak as a kitten and Charlie could see it even when I was not about to: there are none so blind as will not see, and I was bound and determined not to see just how whipped I was. Thank God Charlie was there to belt me over the gourd with plain words. Much as I wanted the world to see the Sheriff was alive and well and on the job, it would have been far the worse for the world to see the Sheriff collapse in the street. I lay there and shivered like a wet dog. "Mommy?" "Yes, sweets?" Angela frowned at the yellow yarn that comprised her rag doll's hair. She had multiple of the fine ceramic dolls -- they still worn the French exemplar dresses her Aunt Bonnie scaled up and sold -- and even though Angela was getting to be a Big Girl, she still liked the rag doll her Mommy made her ... mostly because ... well, it was her Mommy that made it, and she made it especially for her little girl. "Mommy ... " Angela looked up at Esther, not quite sure whether she should say what was on her mind, but realizing she'd already pushed her sled over the lip of the snowbank and was ready to go whistling downhill. "I miss Daddy." Three simple words, spoken in the voice of a sad little girl, words Esther knew well; she'd spoken them herself, both as a wee child, and many times in the years of her growing-up; even yet, she missed the warmth, the strength of her Papa. "I know, Sweets," Esther said sympathetically. "I miss him too." "Mommy?" "Yes, Sweets?" "When is Daddy coming home?" "He's on his way home," Esther said, blinking as if she realized something surprising. "This very moment. He is coming home." Esther smiled at her daughter. "He's on the train. Would you like to go meet him?" "Yaay," Angela cheered, bouncing up on her toes and clapping her little pink hands, her face all rosy and pink-cheeked and smiling. "The Judge," I whispered. A cool, damp cloth wiped slowly across my forehead, sizzled as it traveled down one cheek, then the other. "The Judge has the papers. He's got the forgery. The evidence." "I know," the nurse soothed, her voice coming from a distance. I could see a set of telegraph wires running into the stock car and trees growing inside with cannon set between them. "Charlie," I whispered. "He's fine," the gentle voice said, and I closed my eyes and drifted in a hot sea, an invisible sun baking me as I floated on transparent wavelets. "Your fever will break soon enough," I heard, but I paid no attention. I was watching apples walk up the tree branches and down the trunks and line up in neat ranks behind the cannon. I could see them clearly through closed eyelids.
  3. Charlie MacNeil 10-25-13 "Hear ye, hear ye, this courtroom is now in session, the Honorable Judge Donald Hostettler presiding. All of you stand up and be quiet," the honest officer from the jail, in his role as court bailiff, called over the buzz of conversation in the room. There wasn't actually a courtroom in Cripple Creek, so the one decent hotel's dining room had been dragooned into service. The tables had been stacked against one wall except for one which the Judge had chosen as his "bench", the chairs arranged in rows. A trial was considered quality entertainment in any Western town, but this one was especially attractive considering who the guest of honor was planned to be. The officer, whose name was Leland Brentwood, looked disgustedly across the still chattering crowd, picked up the heavy cast-iron skillet and the steel spoon he had already sited on the Judge's bench, stepped up on the "witness chair" and began to beat the skillet with the spoon quite enthusiastically. In a matter of moments he had the undivided attention of everyone in the room. "All you boys get on your feet! This courtroom is now in session!" Chairs scraped and boots thumped as those sitting rose to their feet. "That's better! Now all of you shut up!" As Brentwood stepped down from his perch Judge Hostettler entered the room, trying mightily to hide the grin that threatened to burst through his solemn facade. He sat behind the "bench" and picked up his gavel. He rapped the gavel on the tabletop twice, said, "You may be seated" and waited while the crowd settled into their seats. He nodded to Brentwood, who stepped forward to pick up a sheet of paper from the tabletop. "Firelands County versus Milton Stoakes! The charges are: Assault on an officer of the law with intent to commit homicide Forging of mining claim documents and fraud and Resisting arrest." He returned the sheet of paper to its place on the table and stepped back to fold his hands behind his back. "Step forward, Mister Stoakes!" the Judge ordered. Stoakes pushed himself from his seat in the front row with his uninjured hand and strode arrogantly forward. Even from his cell he'd managed to get his suit cleaned and pressed and he knew he looked good. This was not his first time in a courtroom, though he'd never before been involved in a trial as the defendant. Hostettler pointed toward the witness chair. "Sit down, Mister Stoakes." When the lawyer was seated, the Judge went on, "You have heard the charges, Mister Stoakes. How do you plead?" "I plead not guilty on all charges, Your Honor," Stoakes answered confidently. His confidence stemmed from the fact that he paid out a considerable sum in gold each month for cooperation from the denizens of Cripple Creek's less savory environs, so he was sure he'd have plenty of "witnesses" to his innocence. What he didn't know was that the majority of his paid witnesses had left town already, and all but one or two of those still in town were sitting at the station waiting for the next stagecoach to anywhere. And that remaining one or two were maintaining the lowest possible profile. "And I will be acting as my own attorney." "Are you sure about that plea, Mister Stoakes?" the Judge asked. "These are very serious charges." "I'm positive, Your Honor," Stoakes replied. "Well, in that case, please return to your seat, Mister Stoakes." When the attorney had resumed his original seat, Hostettler, acting as prosecutor as well as judge, called, "I call Charlie MacNeil to the stand." He smiled slightly as he saw the confident smirk on Stoakes' face falter for a moment. Charlie strode from the back of the room, spurs jingling, Greener in hand, crossed bandoleers of gleaming brass on his chest. He tipped his hat back to hang by the stampede string and sat down. He handed the Greener to Brentwood, who grasped the shotgun with is left hand as he stepped forward with a Bible in his right. Unseen by the crowd, he grinned at Charlie. "Place your right hand on the Bible," he ordered. When Charlie had done so, he went on, "Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?" "I do," Charlie answered. Brentwood returned to his place behind the witness chair, laid the Bible on a nearby table, and stood with the shotgun at port arms across his chest. "Please tell the court what happened in the office of Milton Stoakes on the morning in question," the Judge ordered. "With pleasure, Your Honor," Charlie replied. He launched into a concise description of the events in the attorney's office, mincing no words while wasting none. The crowd sat silent except for an occasional cough as the Marshal told his story. Stoakes didn't speak through the entire narrative, which painted him in quite an unfavorable light. When Charlie had finished speaking, Stoakes rose to his feet and strode forward. "Mister MacNeil..." "Marshal," Charlie interrupted. "Excuse me, Marshal MacNeil," Stoakes said with a smirk. "What exactly is your authority in Cripple Creek?" "I'm a United States Marshal, Mister Stoakes," Charlie replied. "I have blanket authority over this part of country." "Really." It was a statement, not a question. "Blanket authority? How is that possible?" "It's possible because my boss says it is," Charlie replied with a cold lift of his lips. Someone out in the crowd snickered. "And what exactly did this faceless "boss" tell you?" Stoakes sneered. "His words were, verbatim, 'Get that place cleaned up, and don't be gentle about it. I don't care how you do it, just do it. And make an impression that won't be forgotten for a while.'" Chuckles and outright laughter erupted from the crowd now. The Judge rapped his gavel on the table. "Quiet, or I'll have this room cleared!" he ordered. The room went quiet. Nobody in his right mind wanted to miss what they were sure would be coming next.
  4. Linn Keller 10-25-13 I did some hard thinkin' once the prisoners were shuffled off to court. Charlie is right. Dead ... dead, I will do nobody any good. I closed my eyes and took a long breath, flinched: my chest still hurt when I tensed up or breathed in too deep. I oughta go heal up. Leave now ... show 'em you hurt the Sheriff, he'll run and hide ... I glared at the voice whispering between my ears. This was not my first poor idea. God knows I've messed up plenty of times. Did I mess up here? Yes ... no. No, I did what I had to do. They tried to bush whack me and damn near did. Was it not for that nice friendly horse trough to jump behind, I'd likely be occupyin' that fine fancy coffin I put in the root cellar against the day I'd need it. Warn't nobody to back my play. I was the only one to take care of me so I did and I come out on top, least wise until that other pair of bush whackers across the street laid into me. Now Cripple Creek was a mining town and like most boom towns it grew fast and it grew cheap and likely once the gold played out the place would be tore apart and lumber carried off to build another boom town, unless the place burnt down, of course ... but I'd looked over assays and reports and engineers' letters and I didn't figure the gold would run out in my lifetime. It wasn't easy to get, bound up in hard rock like it was, but I figured it would be steady, so I invested ... a wise move, as time proved. With that thievin' lawyer in front of the Judge, I thought, this'll show the world you can't slicker your way into my gold ... I proved you can't bush whack me out of the way so you can slicker the records ... A buggy drew near, stopped in front of me. "Sheriff?" the Chief of Police said deferentially. I looked up, casual-like. "Sheriff, the Judge asked me to give you a note." I nodded. I steeled myself for putting weight on my tore up leg and somehow managed to take two steps without a limp or collapsing. How, I don't rightly know, that leg wasn't worth a whole lot in that moment and Charlie was right, I needed to concentrate on healin' up, but I needed to see what His Honor had to say. I broke the seal, unfolded the foolscap, read. "Will there be a reply, sir?" the Chief asked, and I could tell the man felt like he was walking on egg shells. Apparently Charlie and company managed to put the fear into more than the criminal element. "My compliments to the Judge," I said, slipping His Honor's note into my coat pocket, "and my thanks." "Very good, sir," the Chief said, touching his cap-brim, then he clucked to the gelding and flipped the reins. I made my way around the jail house and got back to the doc's office by the back alley, taking my time, just sauntering along, rifle across my arm, looking around like nothing in the world troubled me, least until I got back into the doc's office, where I shut the door behind me, took two steps and leaned against the wall for several minutes, my eyes shut tight, shivering a little and sweat popping out on my forehead. Macneil was more right than he knew. I felt Doc's hands, firm on my upper arms. "I give up," I whispered. "Take me home."
  5. Linn Keller 10-24-13 The Sheriff's weight was casually on his good leg, the crescent butt plate of his engraved '73 rifle resting on his muscled thigh. He regarded the street with slow, methodical sweeps of his pale blue eyes, not looking over at the lean, weathered lawman leaned up against the sun warmed boards beside him. "You know what's wrong with what you just said, Charlie?" the Sheriff asked slowly. Macneil waited, knowing this was a rhetorical question, and that the questioner would supply his own answer. "Nothing," Linn continued. "Not one damn thing." Macneil waited, knowing he'd spoken his piece, now it was his friend and Brother's turn. "What you saw when you first laid eyes on me standin' here ... what you saw was pride." Macneil nodded slowly. "I wasn't about to let anyone see me hobblin' on a cripple stick, nor ridin' out in a buggy." "Buggy your sorry backside," Macneil rumbled. "I lined up an Army ambulance." "I will unscrew your head and shove it down a field gun." "Pack a lunch and bring some help." "You are a hard headed obstinate contrary -- "Flattery," Charlie interrupted, "will get you everywhere." "Yeah." Jacob leaned against the far corner of the building, far enough away to be discreet, elaborately ignoring the pair at the other corner. "I wanted to show 'em I was still alive and capable." "Like I said," Charlie murmured. "Yeah." Linn coughed, spat. "You're right and I admit it. Happy?" Charlie turned his head, glared at his old friend. "Yeah," he growled. "You're alive and I intend to keep you that way." Jacob sauntered casually toward the pair, stopping and leaning back against the building beside Charlie. The Sheriff sighed, resignation in the wordless exhalation. "I," he said finally, "am a damned fool." "No," Charlie said. "You actually give a good damn." "Jacob." "Yes, sir?" "You payin' attention?" "Yes, sir." "Good. First off, never be afraid to learn from someone else's mistakes." "Yes, sir." "Second, remember that Charlie was not the least bit bashful to call a spade a damned shovel." "Yes, sir." "Only a friend would boot my backside like that." Jacob hesitated, considering the two lawmen, both looking impassively out across the street. "Yes, sir," he finally said.
  6. Charlie MacNeil 10-24-13 Charlie and Jacob deposited their cargo in one of the less crowded cells in the jail. As Jacob swung shut the iron lattice of the door with a clang and snapped the lock, Charlie stepped outside and leaned on the wall alongside his friend. With a smile that was purely for the benefit of the watchers across the street and in a tone that totally belied his slouched and seemingly relaxed posture he growled, "What in hell do you think you're doin'?" Jacob, choosing to exercise discretion as opposed to valor, had wisely chosen to remain inside the building. He was pretty certain that the conversation that was coming would be something he wanted no part of. "My job," the Sheriff answered flatly, his words accompanied by a smile of his own that came nowhere near his eyes. "Your job is to get yourself healed up, you damn fool," Charlie replied. His tone softened. "I know, you're impatient to get on with the job. But you can't do the job unless you're completely healed. Why do you think we sent Sarah home?" "I'm not Sarah." "No, you're not. You're her father, who has to give her away to that there fireman in a few weeks time. You're also Esther's husband and Angela's papa, and as far as I'm concerned all those things totally outweigh any responsibility you might think you have to this damn county. There ain't a one of these ne'er-do-wells," he indicated the town in general with a tilt of his chin, "worth your life, nor are they worth leaving your family without husband and father just so you can put one more of them in the hoosegow." "What about the women and children of this town? Their my responsibility too, aren't they?" "Yep, they are. And because of what you did before you decided to do your lone rider act, and because of your lone rider act the day they ambushed your lanky carcass, and because of what that kid of yours that's been helping me since you've been laid up has done, the streets are safe for 'em again." "So I'm supposed to just lay by and let you, Fannie and Jacob do my job, is that it? How's that going to look to the people of Firelands County?" "Is that pride I here talkin'? I hope not!" Charlie snapped. "I'll tell you what it's gonna look like! It's gonna look like the wrath of the law came down on 'em when they chose to ignore it! It's gonna look like if you mess with the Sheriff, you mess with more than the Sheriff. You put the fear into 'em; we just made sure that they didn't forget that fear. Between the ones you killed the day they bushwhacked you and the ones we've thumped and tucked away since then, the outlaws and cutthroats have pretty much tucked their tails and run! This town is as safe as it's gonna get!" He took a deep breath, then went on more calmly. "You know as well as I do that there's always gonna be criminals. You can't put 'em all away single-handed. Now that things have pretty much settled down, it's time to start building a law enforcement presence that can take over when we all leave. And if you're dead it's gonna be damn hard for you to train anybody, don'tcha think?"
  7. Linn Keller 10-24-13 "Look-a-thar!" "What?" "Yonder, by the jail." "What, him?" "Yes, him, you damned fool! That's Pale Eyes himself!" "What! Old Pale Eyes? What's he still doin' in town?" "Didn't you hear? Where you been, y'idjut? Attair bunch set up an ambush an' damn neart kilt him! Hell, I thought he was dead, leastways til he come a-rarin' up off the ground all bloody sided an' run that-there shortgun 'a' his right up attair doc's snout!" "Hee! Hee! That's a good'un! Right up his snout!" "Ya, he's got a honker on him big enough t' take a gunbarrel! Ya shoulda seen it! He come a-rippin' int' attair barricade the set up --" "Sho! What now? A barricade? An' he come at it?" "At it hell! He come a-screamin' out from behind attair horse trough with a Gatling under his arm!" One man squinted at the other and said skeptically, "Gatling. Now howinell'd he crank it, hey? You ain't pullin' my leg now are ye?" The party of the first part glared at the party of the second part and said with an air of wounded dignity, "He had the crank on the bottom!" "Ya, I thought them back shooters acrost th' street got him!" "They did!" -- a hesitation -- "good Lord it ain't decently daylight yet an' they're a-draggin' another'n torst th' lockup!" "Good Lord" -- a shiver -- "I'd not wanta be in there!" "Nah!" The pair considered the rude shack thrown up around the infamous "Iron Box" used to confine the criminal; they watched that long, tall, pale eyed Sheriff, slouched against the front of the building, casually greet the pair half-carrying, half-dragging the latest criminal resident. "Damn!" the first observer breathed. "Look at him! Ain't nothin' wrong with him! Just a-standin' there like he'd never had s'much as a hiccup!" "You know somethin', Jake?" "Wuzzat?" "I'm jist awful glad I ain't no card sharper!" "Yew ain't smart enough t' sharp no cards!"
  8. Charlie MacNeil 10-23-13 "And you really oughta prop something under the doorknob when you tuck it in for the night," he added, eyes twinkling, "seeing as how this gent," he tapped the unconscious would-be assassin on the back of the head with the pick handle, "fully intended to do you harm." He bent and retrieved the double-barreled Remington from the unconscious fellow's limp hands. "Oh, and breakfast is ready." He turned and stepped back out into the hall, closing the door behind himself. Jacob stared at the portal for a moment, then quickly dressed and stamped his feet into his boots. He knelt and rolled the man's limp carcass over onto its back, just in case it might be somebody he recognized from a "Wanted" flyer or some such. Nope, nobody he remembered seeing before. He took a tight grip on a handful of grubby shirt collar, stood, opened the door and started toward the stairs, dragging his erstwhile assailant behind him, taking no care to prevent further bruises and abrasions to the man's epidermis as he made his way down the stairs following the smell of country ham and boiled Arbuckle's that drifted toward him. As Jacob reached the dining room doorway, his "companion" began to stir and grumble. "What the hell do you think yer..." he began to growl just before his cranium made sudden violent contact with the doorframe that put him out like the proverbial light once more. Charlie appeared, a cup of coffee in one hand and several rawhide "pigging strings" in the other. "Here ya go," he grinned as he held out the strings. In short order the man was hog-tied, gagged with his own dirty neckerchief and rolled into a closet, "out of sight and out of mind", as it were, and Jacob was tucked into a rasher of ham, fried taters and over-easy eggs, the food accompanied by copious amounts of coffee, biscuits and bee spit. Another day of law enforcement in Cripple Creek was beginning...
  9. Linn Keller 10-22-13 The Sheriff was never known for his patience. He was never known for stupidity, either. As much as he wished to be on the street and cracking skulls as necessary, he contented himself with sitting back, taking life easy and being thoroughly, absolutely, utterly, bored. As a matter of fact he sat back, content, for about a day and a half. Nurse Susan came in to find a damp, buck naked Sheriff, shaving in front of the mirror, not at all troubled by the fact that a woman just walked in on him as he scraped whiskers off his face. Nurse Susan's eyes bulged, her mouth opened and closed slowly, and her face turned a remarkable shade of red. "Breathe," the Sheriff said, smiling under his fluffy white lather-beard. "I, um," Nurse Susan said uncertainly, then stumbled as another nurse, shocked, fell into her from behind. "I shall want my clothes," the Sheriff said, unperturbed, and took another careful stroke under his chin. "He what?" Dr. Greenlees sputtered, spilling coffee onto the tablecloth. "Yes, Doctor, he is on his feet, he's shaving, he was -- he was --" "Naked?" the Sheriff prompted, grinning as he stepped into the good physicianer's breakfast-chamber. "Don't bother knocking," Dr. Greenlees muttered, setting his coffee down and shoving back from the table. "Just what do you think you're doing?" "I think," the Sheriff said, still with a broad, I'm-getting-away-with-something smirk on his face, "that I am standing here in my long handles and hat and enough appetite to eat a bull calf, all but hooves, horns and tail." He looked at Nurse Susan with an ornery expression, reached down and snatched up two slices of bacon. "I'll need a pound of this fried up, a dozen eggs fried and a loaf of bread." He bit into the bacon, chewed, closed his eyes and tilted his head back, relishing the taste; when he swallowed, he opened his mouth for another bite, thought better of it. "I'll need a pot of coffee as well, if you please." Dr. Greenlees stood, slowly, frowning as he habitually did; it was not a mark of displeasure, it was simply the expression into which his face most naturally fell. Nurse Susan looked from the physician's serious expression to the Sheriff's blissful visage, and back. Dr. Greenlees leaned the Sheriff's head back with a cool hand on his forehead. Drawing down the lawman's lower lid with a gentle thumb, he assessed the color, pursed his lips, released the eyelid. "Doctor?" Nurse Susan asked uncertainly. "He'll live," Dr. Greenlees said shortly. "Tell the maid we'll need a dozen eggs fried, tell her to fry up a pound of bacon and we'll need a loaf of fresh sourdough. You want butter with that, Sheriff?" The Sheriff bit down on the last of the bacon slice. "Don't forget the coffee," he mumbled. Jacob woke instantly, completely, his hand closing about the handle of his revolver. His thumb was tense on the hammer, his finger held back the trigger: he brought the hammer back fully, slowly, then released the trigger and let the muzzle direct itself toward the door. The knob turned slowly, carefully; he saw the door begin to move. Jacob's mouth was dry as he flipped the covers back with the gunbarrel, extended his arm: he slid out of the bed, crabwise, on the side toward the door. I shouldn't have trusted the lock, he thought bitterly. I should have propped with a chair or something! He slid closer to the wall, came up on the balls of his feet, crouched low, breathing through his mouth. There was a sharp, sudden woody note from without, the distinct sound of hand tooled hickory meeting a skull at a respectable velocity, muffled only slightly by the intervening formed felt of the luckless wearer's hat. The door flew open and a body collapsed into the room, the double barrel shotgun preceding it; Jacob saw the pale blur of the pick-handle's follow-through as gun and gunman both hit the floor at about the same moment. Charlie leaned in the doorway with an innocent expression on his face. "Rise and shine," he deadpanned, "there's work to do!"
  10. Linn Keller 10-22-13 Sarah sat on the rock ledge, staring thoughtfully into the distance, cross legged and unmoving. Below her, Snowflake grazed contentedly, cropping mountain grasses and shivering her hide occasionally in the lengthening sunlight. It would get chilly and fairly soon; the air was already cool, and Sarah knew that as soon as the sun stepped off the rim of the world and dove into starry darkness, it would get cold, fast. She'd done some thinking. She could not understand, at least at first, why she saw her several selves -- at differing points in time -- always fighting a desperate battle, always defeated, yet always returning. She was not certain whether these were memories of past lives, whether these were fevered imaginings of an active imagination ... Is there something I must learn that I keep ignoring? Her thoughts were confused until a moment's clarity, like water suddenly dropping its sediment and becoming crystal: What if I am showing someone else, in each lifetime, something they must learn? Sarah blinked. I've been just as constant in this lifetime as I was in the others. Just not as ... dead. She smiled, a tight, lopsided smile with one side of her mouth, then she snorted and shook her head. It's getting chilly. Time to go home. She stood and her belly reminded her that it hadn't eaten in far too long ... an hour, maybe, and at that thought, Sarah did laugh, then she began her careful climb down to the little meadow. As she picked up the saddle blanket and gave it a brisk snap, she wondered idly who in this lifetime she might have taught a lesson. Several someones, she thought. Maybe I can just be me from now on. Snowflake came pacing happily over, nuzzling at her, bumming a treat. "You're spoiled," she whispered, stroking the big black Frisian's velvety nose.
  11. Linn Keller 10-20-13 "Sir,you should have known better," Jacob said softly. The Sheriff glared at his firstborn. Jacob ignored the glare -- not an easy thing; he loved his father, he respected his father, he answered to his father both as son and as chief deputy, but he knew he was right and his father was ... too impatient for his own good. "Sir," Jacob continued, "you have a job to do --" "Dammit, don't you think I know that!" the Sheriff snapped, throwing his words as he slung his head: he got his good leg under him, rested his weight for a moment before gripping the table leg with one hand and raising to a crouch, more out of sheer hard headed contrariness than by any physical ability. His leg hurt like homemade hell, his chest and belly thumped like a tooth ache, his son was giving him hell and in his last try to walk, his leg collapsed and he hit the floor with all the grace of a slaugherhouse beef. He wallowed both elbows up onto the table, breathing through clenched teeth, then worked to a stiff arm somewhat upright posture and took a long, apparaising look at Jacob. Finally the Old Man nodded a little. "You're right, Jacob," he said. "I'm a fool and a damned fool but damned if I'll be a liar. You, are, right." "Yes, sir," Jacob said mildly. "You don't have to agree." "As you say, sir." The Sheriff sighed, looked at the pick handle Jacob parked against the wall when he came through the door. "How is it going out there?" Jacob's eyes were quiet. "It's ... interesting ... working with Charlie," he said slowly. "The man gets results." The Sheriff saw amusement in his son's eyes as he added, "I can see why Sarah said the man is fast. Fast ain't the word for it!" "He's alone?" "No, sir. He's weeded out the cops. One man can't be bribed, or at least nobody found his price yet. I don't doubt they'll try. He's running the jail." The Sheriff nodded. "What else?" "One of the cops Charlie had with him ... was dirty." The Sheriff's lips peeled back in a silent snarl. "Charlie went in to run that crooked lawyer Stoakes --" The Sheriff's eyes changed, his head turned two degrees more toward Jacob, and Jacob knew he'd just smacked a nerve with a ball peen hammer. "Sir?" "Stoakes?" the Sheriff coughed. "Yes, sir." The Sheriff's right hand tightened, trembling: the man raised it, slowly, opened his hand, glared at it as if it had just betrayed him. He looked past his splay-fingered palm at his son. "Stoakes," he said, pausing to breathe before continuing. "Stoakes. He's the one ... he tried ... he hired the bush whack ... the street barricade so they could kill me." The man sagged, his head dropping; Jacob, alarmed, powered across the room, caught his father before the man's knees failed altogether. Jacob's eyes widened with alarm. "You're burning up," he whispered. "Stoakes," the Sheriff wheezed. "Forged papers. Tried to take my gold claim. Judge ... the Judge caught him and stopped ... the Judge ..." Jacob dipped his knees, picked his father up: for all that Jacob was lean and muscled, strong and toned, his father was a solid weight in his arms. "Good God," he gritted between clenched teeth, "I don't wanta bust a gut!" "Stoakes," the Sheriff groaned. "Behind it all. Find him. Find ..." Jacob dropped his Pa the last half-foot back onto the bed. He laid a callused hand on his Pa's forehead. "I'll take care of it," he said in a low voice. Jacob considered how much more to tell his impatient, short-breathing father, or whether to tell him anything. "Fannie is doing good work too," he added, hoping it would be a comfort to the fevered lawman. "Miz Fannie," the Sheriff corrected, half-lidded eyes fever-bright. "Yes, sir." "And you?" Somehow Linn managed to raise a little off the pillow, then fell back, mouth open, his breaths loud in the quiet room. "I stopped in to say howdy. Otherwise I'm out with them." "I heard about Charlie's rules." The Sheriff's voice was faint. "Rest now, sir. That's your job right now. Rest and heal." He's done better than I could, truth be told." The Sheriff's eyes opened wide, then closed slowly. Jacob chewed on his bottom lip, turned as the door opened and Nurse Susan and another nurse came in, one with a steaming washpan and the other with several cloths. "He's got the experience, sir." "I know." The Sheriff's whisper was almost inaudible. "He's done this before." "Yes, sir." "How's... Fannie?" "The Red Tornado?" Jacob laughed, his face splitting into a broad and very genuine grin. "God help us, sir, I don't ever want to get on the wrong side of that woman!" The Sheriff managed a slow nod. "What... about... you?" Jacob stepped over to a table and proceeded to unload better than a half dozen hideouts of various kinds: an Apache pistol, a Reid knuckleduster, two pepperboxes, knives and a lead filled sap. "That's just one saloon," he said. The Sheriff nodded. "If you're not going to fall again," Jacob said, "I'd best go get back to work." "Go," the Sheriff whispered. "Yes, sir," Jacob nodded, turning his head to look vacantly at the ceiling. "Jacob?" Jacob stopped, turned back at the whispered summons. "Yes, sir?" "You're doing good work, Jacob. I am proud of you." Jacob smiled a little, nodding. "Thank you, sir. That means something."
  12. Charlie MacNeil 10-20-13 "Hello, boys!" Fannie called gaily as she pushed her way through the batwing doors of the Gold Bucket Saloon. The Gold Bucket was a favorite of the miners as well as those who were in the town for the express purpose of relieving, by hook or crook, the miners of what few dollars they might have in their pockets at any given time. Faro, poker, roulette, any conceivable means of lining the dealers' and croupiers' pockets with ill-gotten gains could be found in the Gold Bucket. Not to mention the long plank bar that was lined four deep with miners off-shift or preparing to go on-shift. But despite the noise in the room Fannie's entrance was heard and seen by most. Fannie saw no need to carry a pick handle. Hammering things into oblivion with a stick of wood just wasn't her forte`, as it were. She preferred to make a more dramatic impression. Hence the hip-braced Greener in her right hand... "It appears to me," Fannie drawled, honey-sweet, into the silence that had gradually followed her entrance, "that y'all," she turned her frosty emerald gaze on the many dealers, etc. in the room, "aren't doin' right by these hard-workin' fellas." She swept her left hand in an arc that took in the crowded bar as well as the tables. "So I'm here to lay down the law." "What law? We don' need to stinkin' law 'round here! We make our own law here, little girl!" a raucous voice called from somewhere back in the crowd of gamblers. "Come on out heah wheah ah kin see whom Ah'm talkin' to, sweetie!" Fannie said, exaggerating her drawl. The murmuring crowd slowly parted as a big man resplendent in a velvet-fronted cutaway coat, silk four-in-hand and ruffled linen shirt strode confidently forward. "Ain't you a pretty one," he smirked. "What're you doin' with that big ol' gun, little girl? You'd best put it down 'fore you hurt somebody." He grinned around at the crowd, wanting to make sure he had their attention. Fannie minced forward until she stood a few short feet in front of the man. She looked up. "You shuah ah a big 'un, ain'cha," she simpered. "Ah lahk takin' down the big'uns." In a flash of motion she whipped the Greener across her body, grasped the forearm with her left hand and slammed the steel buttplate of the double gun into the big man's crotch with her right. With a gassy scream of agony he doubled over, holding his injured real estate with both hands, crumpling to the floor where he lay gasping for breath. The entire crowd of miners flinched in sympathy, but no one came forward to help as Fannie lowered the muzzles of the Greener to the bridge of the big gambler's nose. His eyes flicked from the gaping double maws to the frosty green eyes behind them. "You were right, mister," Fannie said softly, drawl totally gone. "Somebody did get hurt. Now," her voice rose and she looked around the room, "any of you fine citizens who has a marked deck in his hand or his pocket, or his foot on the pedal underneath the roulette wheel, or anything else that isn't totally honest, had best step out the back door and find a way out of town. I'm not as generous as my husband; he's been giving thirty minutes. You've got five. Starting now. And somebody drag this," she nodded toward the man on the floor, "to the jail. Don't worry about being gentle, just get him there." She lifted the muzzles of the shotgun toward the ceiling as four men came forward to pick up the big man and carry/drag him toward the exit. Men, and a few women, began to drift, slowly at first, then faster and faster, toward the back door of the room, until all three faro tables, both roulette wheels and numerous poker tables stood abandoned by their previous overseers. The miners and cowboys who had been at the wheels and tables when their operators abandoned ship hurried to divide up the funds in front of them, arguing over who should get what until a piercing whistle shrilled through the smoky air. All eyes turned to Fannie once again. "Divide the cash evenly, gentlemen," Fannie ordered into the silence. "If you want to fight over it, take it out of town, like the rules say. But whatever you do, do it quick, because the tables and the wheels won't be here much longer." "What are going to do to my saloon?" the greasy-haired bartender wanted to know. "I'm going to make sure nobody else makes a dishonest living off of any of this stuff," Fannie replied. "Gentlemen, clear out!" She stuffed her ears with wads of oddly shaped beeswax she drew from her vest pocket, strode toward the first roulette wheel, drawing back the hammers on the Greener. Tucking the buttplate into her shoulder, she leveled the muzzles at the base of the wheel and pulled both triggers. In a spectacular shower of paint, wood, smoke and thunder, she made sure the wheel never spun again. When she had done the same to the other wheel, the three faro tables and several poker tables, she strode through the gaping crowd to the bar. Pulling her ear plugs she gave the bartender a wide smile. "You were saying?"
  13. Charlie MacNeil 10-19-13 Crack heads, indeed! So far, a pair of recently off-shift miners who had initiated a physical disagreement over some minor point at the bar of the Buckhorn had been administered hickory anesthetic and piled in separate cells in the jail to recover at their leisure. One cardsharp who thought he was slicker with a marked deck and a bottom deal than he was and who had argued his eviction from the town a trifle more vehemently than he could back up had been stripped of hideout pepperbox and three aces up his tailored linen left sleeve. In addition, the man had found himself tossed unceremoniously, somewhat the worse for wear, on the westbound stage. Three half-dressed "ladies of the evening" who had incorrectly deduced that the Marshal "wouldn't dare lay hands on a woman" had found themselves sitting on the same stage as the gambler, each with a small valise "stuffed" with a change of underwear and a five dollar gold piece as a stake and each wearing a horse blanket poncho scrounged from the depths of the nearby livery stable, courtesy of Fannie, who had no qualms whatsoever about laying hands on anyone as necessary. And the clock in the Empire Hotel lobby had yet to chime the one o'clock hour... Charlie strolled into the office of Milton Stoakes, Attorney at Law, pick handle dangling from his left hand, followed by his shadow. Stoakes stiffened in his seat for a moment, his gaze shifting from Charlie to the officer accompanying him and back before slumping back against the cushions. "What can I do for you, Marshal?" Stoakes asked, an ingratiating smile reminiscent of that of a stray dog looking for a handout pasted on his face. "You can saddle your horse and get out of town," Charlie replied. "What?" Stoakes squawked. "You heard me, friend. I didn't stutter in the least. You've got thirty minutes to pack what you can stuff in one bag and get out. You're done in Cripple Creek. And if you don't have a horse, you'd best buy one, 'cause it's a long walk to Denver or anywhere else. And don't even think about going toward Firelands." Stoakes glared at Weldon, the officer accompanying Charlie. "Are you going to just stand there and let him do this to me?" he demanded. "What do I, er, uh..." "What do you what, Stoakes?" Charlie asked with a smile of pure malice. "Pay him for?" From the corner of his eye, he saw the policeman flinch and his own, as yet unused, pick handle start to rise. A handful of seconds later the policeman suddenly found himself curled in a ball on the polished wood floor, struggling to make his paralyzed diaphragm move enough to draw in even a cupful of life-giving air. Somehow, before he could even think of evading the blow, the Marshal had managed to drive the head of the length of hardened hickory into the officer's belly hard enough that it seemed to have scraped his backbone. Casually Charlie lifted the man's pistol from the holster and relieved him of both pick handle and doublegun. "Stoakes, you saw the rules. You've been making folks hereabouts pay to keep their businesses from being wrecked by your thugs. The rules didn't specifically mention that sort of thing, but they should have. So I'm serving notice: the protection racket ceases right here, right now. Pick up your friend there on the floor and leave. If I see either of you an hour from now, I won't be nearly as gentle as I was this time." Stoakes stared malevolently at the Marshal. "You can't do this!" he raged. "I just did," Charlie replied calmly. "You'd best hurry. You're runnin' out of time rapidly." Stoakes' hand snaked under his jacket as he surged to his feet. "You'll pay for this! No man treats me like that!" he snarled as a short-barreled Colt appeared, hammer eared back. The pick handle in Charlie's hand lashed out, knocking the muzzle of the pistol out of line as smoke and thunder filled the room, the slug smacking into the wall to the attorney's right. Before he could recover and draw back the hammer a second time, Charlie was around the desk, hickory persuader locked in both hands. The butt of the stick of hardened wood lanced into the attorney's belly, slamming him back into his chair. The head of the length of wood crashed down on his wrist, smashing bone and dropping the pistol to floor. Hickory and jaw bone met with a thud, and Milton Stoakes world went dark. He awoke some hours later in a jail cell with a splint on his right wrist, a raging headache, and an "Assault on a law officer with intent to kill" charge hanging over his aching head.
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