The Letters of Henry and Sadie, Chapter 3: One Hung Low

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Henry
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“Lock up when you’re done, Henry.” Marshal Soames picked up his hat and headed fer the door. It was 2:31 a.m. The bars were closed. With no drunks in the jail to feed breakfast, he’d likely sleep in, grab breakfast at the GrubSteak around 9:00, and be back on duty by 10:00.

“That I will, Kendrick. Thanks.” He had me scheduled to come in at 11:00; I could study the stack of old Wanted posters fer a couple of hours–on my own time, of course–before racking out. Today was my eighteenth birthday. If I could identify the creepy guy with the droopy eye who’d made a pass at my fiancee, I’d count that as my birthday cake.

Old, Sadie had written. The fellow looked old. To her, that meant…what?

Sixty at least, or looking the part. If memory served, Grandpa Tam would be fifty next year, and my sweetie didn’t see him as being old.

Figuring out who this guy was…that was important. He’d obviously recognized Marie Trask, my Sadie’s gunfighting mother. Which meant without a doubt he knew the supposedly dead outlaw Trisha Cobb was very much alive and kicking in Huerfano County, Colorado.

Not good.

He wouldn’t go to the law over it. Even the dumbest outlaw out there could figure by this time that the Flywheel Ranch bunch had too much amassed power fer that to be a profitable way to go. Mess with Flywheel, and the whole bunch of us would jist shoot, shovel, and shut up.

Plus, the clan’s political power had been growing–as I understood it–ever since Dawson had represented Huerfano County at the Constitutional Convention in Denver. We were connected.

So no, it wouldn’t be a matter of trying to turn Marie in fer the reward posted some twenty years back. It’d be something more direct and more sneaky all at the same time. A personal vendetta thing, maybe. Bullet in the back of the head. Or if the assassin’s aim was lousy, maybe jist getting shot in the ass.

There had to be more’n a thousand dodgers in this pile. Where to start?

At the beginning. The oldest papers were from 1880, the year of Salida’s founding. Eight years ago…this old rounder would have maybe been making outlaw history–if he had one–long before that. But the odds on finding him actively holding up trains (or whatever) at age 52 as opposed to when he was 60…okay.

I fished out a couple of inches worth of posters off the bottom of the pile and began reading.

There was a remarkable variance from dodger to dodger. Some weren’t dated; some were. Some didn’t identify who was giving the reward money; some did. The likenesses of the outlaws were mostly sketches, often poorly done, but one did have an actual photograph.

No idea how they got Bighead Bronson to pose fer that one.

Some of the posters listed height and estimated weight. Lawrence Chatten aka Job Quarrels aka Ivan Rosen stood five-ten and had a scar on his right cheek. No mention of a droopy eye or weight or age. How big a man would Mr. Creepy be? Sadie hadn’t said anything about that, so…probably somewhere between five-nine and six feet at a guess.

She tended to notice height outside of those two limits. I stood six-two, something like 180 pounds; in her eyes I was tall. Got it from Mom, who at five-eight was no runt fer a female.

Both Grandpa Tam and Sadie’s Dad, Dawson Trask, topped out around five-eleven, with my Dad (Cougar Tamson) hitting five-ten. Them three were “normal” to Sadie’s eyes; everybody else was either “tall” or “short”.

The sky was starting to lighten by the time I locked up. I’d have to stay up long enough to pay my rent, then grab maybe two hours of sleep and get right back up if I was going to get a letter written to Sadie before I had to be back on deputy lawdog duty.

My room was a little rented addition on the backside of the GrubSteak, and the rent consisted of servicing the widow Hooper in her upstairs bedroom every morning before she rose to fire up the restaurant stoves fer another day. Sadie had hit that nail square on the head; curvy Hortense had indeed been interested in me.

Not that I’d be mentioning this latest development to my fiancee any time soon.

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Dear Sadie,

Please find enclosed several sheets of paper with descriptions copied from a few of the old Wanted posters kept in the Marshal’s office here in Salida. There are 21 men listed in total. Only three are said to have a droopy eye, but I thought it best to include those with a cheek scar regardless.

There was one I did not include who fits your description to a T: Droopy right eye, a scar to end all scars, and a way of creeping out young ladies.

Unfortunately, he’s also a three foot tall dwarf.

I’m thinking of moving on pretty soon. It won’t hurt the Marshal’s feelings or anything; he told me he knows a fellow with an itchy foot when he sees one. But the summer is flying by, and I don’t want to be stuck in southern Colorado through the winter. There’s too much country to see.

This job is starting to feel “safe” and “settled”. Can’t have that.

Where will I head next? (I can hear you wondering.)

Leadville, I think.

Leadville is a place I’d like to check out…and then leave well before the snows hit or I really check out, as in dead. I’ve become friends with a number of the miners who hang in the bars and/or eat at the GrubSteak on a regular basis. They tell me the city is–in their own words–“something else”.

A few details, organized like one of Grandpa Tam’s lists “by the numbers”:

1. The population is somewhere around 50,000 these days, the second largest city in all of Colorado (after Denver).

2. Founded in 1877 (because of the silver lodes) and incorporated in 1878, it stands (at an elevation of 10,200 feet) as the highest incorporated municipality in the entire nation.

3. Doc Holliday shot a guy there once, over a $5 debt or something stupid like that, but that was years ago.

4. It used to be a super-rowdy, ultra-dangerous place, before lawman Mart Duggan did his thing there a bunch of different times. Supposedly it’s more civilized now, but somebody still shot Duggan dead in the back of the head a few months ago. So I guess now it’s just normal rowdy, normal dangerous.

Ah, you don’t need a civics lesson in midsummer. I’ll quit blathering all over the paper.

Except to say, I’m thankful to your Dad for loaning me his Garza Surprise pepperbox pistols for the duration of my absence. From what I’m hearing, going around in Leadville showing my shooter on my hip could be asking for trouble.

I been practicing wearing that groin rig of his. It does take some getting used to, having ten bullets constantly pointed at my own privates, but better that than toodle around in a monster city like that without any smokepoles whatsoever.

Tell Dawson double-thanks, would you?

Love always,

Your Henry

Gaza Surprises

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Sadie
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My darling Henry,

I can’t believe I forgot your birthday! AGH-H-H-H!!! (*clobbers self on head with spatula*)

Happy late birthday to you! Happy late birthday to you! Happy birthday, dear future husband! Happy late birthday to you!

There. I feel better now.

Hope somebody made your birthday memorable. I sure didn’t do a very good job.

But you did, honey. We’ve identified the bad guy. Or rather, Mom figured it out, and then Tam–old Crazy Rifle himself–figured it out all over again.

See, Mom and I talked about this a lot. It was obvious the guy recognized her, and you know what that means. But it was also obvious the Tamson name meant something scary to him, too, so we had a double mystery. We were pretty sure this Gruesome Groper (Well, I bet he is a groper!) was trouble, and we didn’t much like not knowing for sure who he was.

One of the names you had on the list of outlaws with scars was Chauncey Devers. This Devers dude has more names than Flywheel has sapphires, I swear.

But it was the Chauncey that jogged Mom’s memory.

Chauncey Devers ran with, um, Mom and her family I guess you could say, back when she was thirteen or fourteen, somewhere in there. But he was always leering at her when her Dad’s and brother’s backs were turned. She didn’t say anything to them about it, though.

Then one time when she was fetching water from a little lake for a campsite they had going, he snuck up—sorta snuck up; Mom says she heard him coming through the brush–and tried to grab her.

I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but I got one thing clear: He grabbed, and she shot his balls off.

Excuse me. I meant to say, she shot one of his balls off. Didn’t really mean to, aimed where she thought it’d miss, but it turned out he was Chinese. You know, Hung Low. Ha ha.

(Side note: I got a chance last Sunday to run my potty mouth around a bunch of your Mom’s church lady friends. They got all red in the face–thought one of ’em might have a fit and die. Gonna have to clean up my act one of these days; I’m almost fourteen! Which, come to think of it, was about Mom’s age when she perforated Hung Low’s Swinging Thing.)

Anyway, she said he didn’t have the droopy eyelid back then, but it was him all right.

Then Tam and your Dad took the info in to Sheriff Olsen, and he set to work sending telegrams to see what he could find out about this Chauncey Devers aka Whatever.

The Sheriff found out he (Devers) had once lived in Fort Benton, way back in the day.

And that was enough for your Grandpa. “Fort Benton!” he exclaimed, and I swear you could see the wheels turning.

He says to tell you this character changes names more often than he does his socks, but he’s pretty sure he’s one of two guys–remember his tale about when he was riding back to the glacier country from Fort Benton that winter after getting his shoulder fixed? You know, those two guys trailed him, and he circled around, snuck up behind ’em, scared ’em half to death and took all their stuff?

Raunchy Chauncey is one of them two guys.

No, he don’t know which one. Probably the smaller of the two; he said I’d likely have noticed if it was the big ox. Unless he’s shrunk over the years or something.

Anyway, beloved, I done said all that to say all this because everybody wants you to know everything you can possibly know about this guy. You know, just in case. Here we go:

–Dumb as a box of rocks.

–Known backshooter, gutless face to face but more than willing to ambush.

–Known to hate anybody carrying the Tamson name

–Suspected (though not proven) of having raped children, male or female makes no difference. Did jail time once for sodomizing a horse.

Your Dad said to remind you there’s nothing more dangerous than a dumb-assed badman, so please be careful. He’s out there somewhere, and Leadville is as likely a place as any for him to turn up.

Lord, I hope you get this letter before you leave Salida. We all thought of sending you a telegram but decided not to ’cause we couldn’t know who might read it.

Love and lust,

Your Sadie

P.S. Speaking of lust, your little sister Phyllis–not Susie, Phyllis–is pregnant. Fourteen years of age, just one month older’n me, and she got one of the Ute Box Boys to knock her up. Yep, Daddy is eleven years old. Or maybe twelve; I don’t know when his birthday might be.

Yep, dear one, your baby sister is a slut.

Which I can say, since she’s my best friend forever and always. I’ve got a redskin-loving slut for a best friend. Cool, huh?

Note to any robbers who get hold of this letter thinking there might be gold inside the envelope: Knock it off with the attitude already. There is already plenty of Cheyenne and Comanche blood in the family I’m marrying into. Now we get to broaden our base. You could say we’ll be a Utified clan.

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