'The Man From Peascod'

By Phineas Redux

—OOO—

Summary:— Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe and Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols, Deputies and lovers in 1870's Red Flume, Arizona Territory, USA, find their day full when an auditor from a nearby town comes to harass several business people in Red Flume.

Note:— Influenced by the 'Wolfville' stories of Alfred Henry Lewis.

Copyright:— copyright ©2022 to Phineas Redux. All characters are wholly fictitious representations, and the overall local geography may be questionable, too.

—O—

It all started on Wednesday, the 17th May, 187-, that is, when the Phoenix Flyer drove into Red Flume behind its six horses under the command of 'Crabby' Caleb Hoskins. As usual he brought his rig to a grinding halt outside the Appletree Hotel on Main Street, in a cloud of red dust and a horde of loud complaints from the passengers therein—the stage, that is, not the Hotel.

After the usual affray composed of the several passengers exiting the tight confines of the coach, stretching their legs and arms, complaining about the weather, the uncomfortable journey they had just endured, the ridiculous manner in which Crabby had handled his rig over the whole route, and the disappointment they now all severally felt, after examining their immediate surroundings, in their predestined destination, the necessary formalities were discussed and completed, Crabby ticking-off everyone's names on his passenger list before bidding each and every one a fond farewell by the simple action of ostentatiously turning his back on them and chatting to his shotgun-carrying mate with an air of having completed a job well done.

The Appletree Hotel, as was only to be expected, now became the cynosure of the accompanying activity of the released horde of travelling refugees; the entire group deciding to put-up there for varying lengths of time, thereby harassing the young desk-clerk out of his usual afternoon lethargy with a vengeance.

"Yeah, yeah, call me Jim, please." James Ancaster trying his best to appear professional, attempting to portray himself as a veteran of the Hotel business instead of a mere apprentice of ten weeks. "You first, ma'am; Mrs Folscombe? Right, room Two-Twenty, second floor, thanks, here's yer key. Next? Mr Anstruther, nice t'meet yer, room Two-Twenty-Two, thanks. Next? Mr-what's that? Horman? Hertman? Oh, Harman! No? Ah, Hartmann, got it, room Two-Twenty-Four. Next? Mr Parkinson? Right, room Two-Twenty-Six. And? Miss Davis, OK, room Two-Twenty-Eight. Many thanks, hopes y'all enjoy's yer stay here in the green oasis of Red Flume!"

—O—

That same afternoon, in the Sheriff's Office, all was quiet and Bristol fashion, the two Deputies presently resident there relaxing as was their official right; Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe, best bear hunter west of the Pecos, black locks flowing like a river down across her shoulders, and Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols, best shot in the Arizona Territory, her shorter brunette hair only neck-length though wavier than her companion and acknowledged lover by her side. They both dressed in their usual street clothes of blue jeans coloured shirts and short jackets, gunbelts round their hips; leather boots covering their feet with rather worse for wear broad-brimmed hats doing sterling duty protecting their heads.

They were engaged in desultorily going through a batch of mail which had arrived an hour earlier by special Pony Express from Tucson, though finding little of interest in the pile of papers and documents.

"Those new reg'lations about cattle-drivin' through the town streets have come, I see's."

Sally furrowed her brow at this, hardly interested.

"An' a fine lot anyone'll take of them, you see. What does the word prorogation mean? It's in one of these documents from Washington."

"What?"

"Prorogation."

Henrietta considered the question, frowning horribly over the conundrum, then gave up.

"Dun'no, ask me another."

"Huh! Some help. Batch of new Wanted posters here."

Henrietta perked-up at this.

"Anyone we know an' love?"

"Lem'me see." Sally poring over the wad of thick-papered sheets, flicking through the illustrated documents with verve and enthusiasm. "Ah, Laredo Dawes's gone up t'five thousand dollars. I could do with five thousand dollars."

"So could I," Henrietta putting in her own marker for the possibility of fortune beyond her dreams. "an' jus' remember, if we catches the bitch anytime soon half that'll be mine—jus' sayin'."

"Har!" Sally continued her search through the posters, not put off in the least. "See 'Bison' Pete Dawkins's down fer two an' a half thou. Wasn't his last poster, six month since, only made out fer five hundred, I'm sure it was? What's he been up to in the interim, I wonders?"

"Sum'thin' mighty dee-le-terious t'the Territory, surely!" Henrietta letting her imagination have full sway. "Branched out in'ter Piracy on the High Seas' or stealin' kisses off'n nice gals in the street an' runnin' off a'fore they can retaliate by slappin' his face fer him?"

Sally turned to her lover, giving her a thorough examination from sparkling green eyes.

"Harry, you worries me now an' agin'. What's thet docy-ment on yeller paper yer holdin' so tight in yer fist? Anythin' o'interest?"

Henrietta had been deep in said document while her loved partner wittered on, but now raised her own deep brown eyes to pin her lover.

"Oh, only the new reg'lations fer Depities' pay an' hours o'work's all. Shall I stuff it in the Sheriff's desk pigeon-hole an' ferget it ever cum'?"

Sally, a lady always on the lookout for that extra dollar, straightened in her chair like lightning, all attention on her compatriot.

"You'll do no sich thing, lover! Throw it across, I wan'na peruse thet there piece o'paper down ter it's under-drawers—Gim'me!"

For the next couple of minutes all life seemed suspended in the small poky office as Sally gave full attention to the matter that most mattered—whether she individually was going to receive a raise in pay or not—finally.

"What does 'pre-requisite on the party of the said part fulfilling all necessary scheduled attendant requirements', mean?"

Henrietta, who had read this dark and mysterious paragraph herself, shrugged her shoulders in defeat.

"Nary a clue, lady! Figure it ain't American—doubts if'n it's English either. Meb'be Norwegian, or sum'thin' like?"

"Idiot!" Sally taking no prisoners. "Hav'ta ask Charlie when he comes back, I suppose."

At this point the two ladies' were interrupted by the street door crashing open against the left wall to reveal a young man in checkered shirt, blue jeans, and dark leather boots, but not armed.

"Hi'ya, Tommy, what's-up?"

"Been sent over by Mrs Edwardes from the Majestic boarding house, Miss Knappe." The youth stood taking deep breaths. "Ran all the way—one of Mrs Edwardes's lodgers done gone an' blown his brains out with a forty-five! In his room—Mrs Edwardes opened her door on the sidewalk an' grabbed my arm like to a grizzly as I was passin' by. Tommy, she sez, Tommy go right along t'the Sheriff and get those idle womin depities ter vacate their idleness at once an' haul over here pronto—one o'my guests has done gone an' made a horrible mess, one way'n another. Go on, scram!"

Henrietta exchanged glances with Sally, before both rose to their feet.

"Lead the way," Henrietta indicating the still open door. "But no runnin', we'll get thar all the same by walkin' at a ceevil'ised pace. Come on!"

—O—

The scene of the crime was just as messy as Tommy had intimated; when someone puts a .45 pistol to their right temple and pulls the trigger all that can be hoped for is that the resulting disorder is not too widespread—a hope generally unforthcoming.

The body lay in the centre of the square room on the third floor of the boarding house; most of the head was simply missing, having spread itself, in small fragments, across the right side of the room. Blood had spattered across the bare floorboards, the far wall and even part of the ceiling. Post mortem the bowels and bladder had both done their business, staining his pants and creating an aroma of some depth and consistency. The pistol, a .45 Smith & Wesson, lay on the blanket of the small bed to the side of the victim where it had spun after the event. Apart from which everything was quite in order.

"Jeez, what a mess, what a smell!" Sally holding her nose as the deputies entered the room; Mrs Edwardes at their heels, from long experience much inured to scenes such as the present, in full command of her feelings. "Why'd he do it? An' why here?"

"Prob'ly wanted t'be found right away; burial accordin' t'Hoyle, an' sich rather than bein' eaten by cy'otes out in the desert a'fore bein' found." Henrietta surmising to good effect.

"He's fully paid up till Tuesday fortnight." Mrs Edwardes sniffing unreservedly. "Ain't on occasion of owing rent or whatever."

"Who was he?" Henrietta getting down to the nitty-gritty, trying not to step in the widening pool of blood on the floor.

"Joshua Cairns, held the dry-goods store on Lincoln Avenue." Mrs Edwardes up on this detail.

"How's the shop goin'?" Sally looking for possible relevant details.

"Far's I know no problems." Mrs Edwardes shrugging her shoulders. "Look, do he hav'ta lay here much longer? I kin get Jim an' Bob t'hoist him over ter Doc MacMillan's mortuary easy as pie, then they kin clean up here. What yer say?"

"Suppose." Sally shrugging her shoulders too.

"Suppose," Henrietta acquiescing along with her partner as they all turned to the door, still holding their noses. "but a'fore thet we got'ta talk with ya some yet; downstairs in some private office, meb'be?"

"Oh, OK, follow me, gals."

—O—

The small office was neatly furnished with a long sofa, a chintz covered easy chair and a small desk. Once Mrs Edwardes had ushered the Deputies in and waved them to seats they got down to the business in hand.

"OK, so, Mr Joshua Cairns, owner yer say of the dry-goods store on Lincoln?" Sally busily transcribing these details into her notebook by way of a short blunt pencil.

"Yeah, thet's so."

"What kind'a guy was he?" Henrietta putting in her cent's worth. "Friendly, easy-goin', or whatever? Have a lot'ta friends visitin', meb'be?"

"Pretty much the opposite." Mrs Edwardes nodding as well in the know on this topic. "Fearful church-goin' man, he was; every Sunday at ten o'clock without fail, sometimes on Wednesday evenin', too. Them as ever came ter visit seemed the like sort'a folks; very church-like; tight-wrapped all round and miserly-lookin' as all sin, if'n yer gets my meanin'."

"Humph!" Sally having now hit a dead wall in her questioning.

"These folks, any o'them have a hefty kind'a argy'ment with the deceased lately, thet y'knows of?" Henrietta following-up a different road.

"Nah, always in complete control o'his feelin's." Mrs Edwardes confident on this point. "Never raised his voice ter anyone in my hearin' the whole three year he's bin resident."

"Jus' a mo," Sally suddenly abandoning her notebook and rising to her feet. "I reckons I'd better impound thet there pistol Cairns offed his'self with, evidence an' all; don't want the dam' thing disappearin', curtesy of some idle passer-by, do we. Won't be a minute."

With which statement she disappeared, leaving Henrietta alone to carry on the interrogation.

"Waal, let's see." She hunting for some other topic to cover. "Anyone visit him ter-day? An' what time? Anyone see him close ter the time he, er, did the thing?"

Mrs Edwardes pondered this for a few seconds, raising a finger to her chin and frowning in thought.

"One man this mornin', around ten o'clock. He only stayed in Cairn's room, oh, ten minutes, then left. A church friend, I fancy; he had a dog-eared bible in his jacket pocket, I recalls. Prob'ly sumthin' ter do with the church service ternight, it bein' Wednesday, y'unnerstan's."

"Oh, ah!"

At which relevant point Sally returned, born down with the weight of newly found evidence clutched in her hands.

"Look'ee here, Harry; got the pistol, sure enough; but this here too—a last message he must'a writ straight a'fore doin' it. Lyin' on the bed beside the pistol. Take a gander!"

Henrietta unfolded the single sheet Sally passed across, turning it the right way up to read.

"Les'see—'It's too much, g'bye'! Waal, short an' sweet; seems somethin' riled him right down t'the bone. Any idee's, Mrs Edwardes?"

The lady in question simply gazed back with a look of confusion on her round face.

"No ma'am, I do not. Far's I thought he hadn't a worry in the world."

"Oh, well, we'll take all this back t'the office, see what Sheriff Donaldson has ter say. We may need ter speak with you agin sometime, Mrs Edwardes, but meantime y'can see ter cleanin' up an' all. Doc MacMillan's mortuary, behind his surgery, ye sez?"

"Thet's it, sure an' certin."

"OK, let's go, Sal."

—O—

An hour later, at Sheriff Donaldson's explicit orders, the women entered the dry-goods store in question, one young man attired in a cotton smock behind the long counter; the shop smelling of the usual variety of vegetables, leather goods, and coffee.

"What kin I do fer ye, ladies?"

"Depities, on official business." Henrietta taking the lead, looking around and seeing there were no other customers present at the moment. "When did ya last set eyes on Mr Cairns; we havin' reasons fer askin'?"

"Oh, well, let's see—uum, it'd have bin around two hours since, mid-afternoon more or less. Why?"

"Anyone visit him around then?" Sally wading in. "Not a customer, I means; someone else?"

The young man paused, gazing at the women with increasing concern.

"Waal, there was a man, came in around half an hour before Mr Cairns left to go home—he sayin' he felt ill."

"Description?" Henrietta aiming for the high ground.

"Ah, lem'me see, around five-six, sort'a tubby, but not fat, dressed in a black suit, nice black shoes; from the little I heard him speak seemed t'have a educated accent an' good manners—carried a heavy-lookin' green an' yeller carpet-bag, pretty well filled, I means."

"What'd they do?" Sally following-up her query. "What'd he, this visitor, say t'Mr Cairns?"

"Waal, I don't rightly know." The assistant shaking his head. "They jes' greeted each other in my presence, then Mr Cairns took him back-aways ter his private office, back there!"

"Can we go in thar, take note o'the terrain within, so ter speak?" Henrietta raising her eyebrows questioningly.

"Won't Mr Cairns object, ma'am?"

"I think not, laddie." Henrietta nodding to Sally to follow her. "Jes' keep an eye on the shop, we won't be long."

The office was small and windowless, not even a stove in the corner; but there were a couple of hard-backed chairs and a desk that looked as if it dated from the last century while against the wall stood a large wooden filing cabinet.

"Desk's covered in papers, lover."

"Noticed, Sal." Henrietta stepping over to rifle through the mess. "Not much idee of order here. Hallo, what's this?"

She picking-up an official looking missive and proceeding to read it with care.

"Ah-ha!"

"Ah-ha? What does thet sig'neefy, lady?"

"Jes' this, take a gander."

Sally, nothing loth, took the sheet perusing it with an eagle eye.

"Les'see,— 'Dear Mr Cairns, as you know we at the Athabasca Trading Company, Lannister Street, Peascod, Territory of Arizona, have over the last year advanced your business in excess of fifteen hundred dollars over which we must now insist on recovery in whole or major part. Our representative, Mr Parkinson, will visit to arrange immediate repayment at your convenience. Yours, Mr Jacob Mallory, President.' Waal, looks like poor ol' Cairns was in the sh-t after all."

"Seems so."

"Ya think Cairns had this here meetin' with this guy Parkinson, exchanged idle chat over this whopping debt, then went home and blew his brains out in despair?" Sally looking at the tragedy from the most melodramatic angle.

Henrietta raised her eyebrows but refrained from any answer, folding the letter and placing in her jacket pocket before turning to the door.

"Come on, leddy, let's get back t'the Office an' cut Charlie in on our findings."

"OK, dam' strange, all the same." Sally still searching in her mind for some more logical answer to the drama of the moment. "Don't seem like the sort'a thing t'end like this, though. Must be sumthin' else to it, mark my words."

—O—

The next morning dawned, as it usually does in Arizona, bright and sunny beaming from a cloudless sky. There was a substantial breeze blowing from the west causing fine dust and sand to eddy along the streets in an uncomfortably throat-catching manner; but being well used to such the citizens of Red Flume nonetheless went about their daily activities in fine fettle. The clock hanging outside Leroy's Pharmacy on Main Street showing 11.05am while Henrietta and Sally strode purposefully on their way to another incident just referred to the Sheriff's Office by an excited 12 year old messenger-boy.

"Where-away, agin?"

"Twenty, Olchester Road." Henrietta having this detail well in hand. "Some guy topped his'self by the age ol' manner, seemingly."

"Hanging?"

"Jes' thet, an' none other." Henrietta shaking her head censoriously. "Got'ta say, I thinks folks is makin' hay with the suicide angle these days. Wonder what caused this one ter take the express route ter perdition?"

"Meb'be find out when we views the scene. Hopes it ain't as messy as yesterday's fiasco." Sally expressing a certain amount of criticism of that event. "If yer gon'na blow yer brains out ye might at least choose a lighter caliber—thirty-two at most, y'know. Less mess, as it were."

"Sal, what in Hell'r ye talkin' about?"

"Nuthin', sis, nuthin'; look, here we be, an' looks as if the owner's awaitin' our arrival."

"Thanks for comin' so quick, Depities."

The man awaiting them appearing to be in his early fifties though of fine physique wearing a grey business suit and showing a healthy head of thick grey hair. From his sharp eye and determined expression the women implied someone of intellectual energy and intelligence.

"So, why're we here, may I ask?" Henrietta getting down to the details. "Where's this?"

"Where he lives—er, lived." The man shrugging his shoulders embarrassedly. "Lem'me put ye in the picture; I'm George Foulkes, I owns an' operates a realtor business. One of my partners, James Udale, didn't come in t'work this mornin' so I mosey's along t'knock on his door—he livin' in two rooms over this shop, y'see. So the door's open, so I goes in, callin' out the while over Jim. Next, I glances in the slightly open door of his bedroom an' finds his body hanging by a rope from the gas fixin' in the ceiling. Left him thar, there bein' no whit nor tittle of Life remainin' fer sure; his face an' gen'ral rigidity, y'see."

"Dear me!" Sally taken somewhat aback by this too detailed description.

"Show the way." Henrietta being of harder mettle. "After you, Mr Foulkes."

Udale's living premises, on the ladies entering ushered therein by Mr Foulkes, consisted of two rooms, a large sitting-room with two windows looking out on the street below, and a smaller bedroom. This being lit by a gas fixture protruding from the centre of the ceiling; Red Flume being up to a small Gas Company utility which had opened the year before. The late Mr Udale had annexed this metal pipe to his needs by tying a thin rope to it with the other end round his neck. An overturned hard-back chair lying sideways on the floor showed his method while his motionless body reflected the fact that he was now, and had been for some significant past time, wholly deceased and no longer a functioning member of the Human race. Sally took one glance then turned away to ostentatiously regard the other items in the room; while Henrietta gazed on the tragedy with the cool bearing of an old and tried bear hunter.

"Waal, ain't no doubt of the circumstances. Topped his'self with intent, surely. Any previous idee of his doin' sich, Mr Foulkes?"

"Nary a one, leddies." Foulkes shaking his head in astonishment. "Never knew he was in any kind'a debt, or the like. Nuthin' in his private life, thet I knew of, t'make him take sich a step. No, cain't think o'any reason why he'd do sich a terrible thing."

"Any letters or pieces o'paper lyin' around promiscus'?" Henrietta, feeling herself almost an old hand at suicides by now, picking up on a fairly important matter.

"Ain't looked, other things takin' precedence, y' realises."

"Yeah, jes' so. Sal, take a hunt around, see what yer can uncover, will ya?"

Two minutes later Sally, looking everywhere but at the elephant in the room, hit paydirt.

"Here's sumthin', lov—er, Harry." She holding up a thin sheet of paper picked from the floor lying nearly under the bed frame. "Jes' a short note—'Dam' the world, cain't anyone ketch a dam' break? Goodnight all!" Jim Udale.'. Short an' sweet. Sumthin' rubbed him the wrong way, seeming?"

"Waal, thanks for your information, Mr Foulkes." Henrietta becoming the professional Law-upholder. "We'll take over from here. First thing, we'll need ter get Doc Hampson over t'do the needful. Find out exactly when Udale did the deed, an' sichlike. More dam' paperwork, no doubt."

Foulkes left with a nod to the Deputies, leaving them in sole charge of the scene, Sally still loth to look squarely at the main object in therein.

"Any letters lying about?" She focusing on another important factor. "You know, yesterday, thet letter from the company pushin' fer repayment of a debt?"

Henrietta glanced round, then walked over to where a black jacket lay over the back of a nearby chair, taking something from one of the pockets.

"Another letter, pokin' out. Les'see-'Dear Mr Udale, your farm and land situated at the under-noted map-references have been mortgaged to our company for the past three years and have now fallen barren of payment over the last six months; we therefore hereby officially give notice that we are foreclosing said mortgage with the sole ownership reverting to us, the Athabasca Trading Company, Lannister Street, Peascod, Territory of Arizona. Yours, Mr Jacob Mallory, President.' Oh-Oh! What have we here?"

"Same bunch as yesterday." Sally's memory working fine under pressure.

"Better get back t'Charlie, see what he has ter say on the matter. Fancy a ride out t'Peascod, darlin'?"

"No, not really."

"Har!"

—O—

"What's Peascod got ter do with Red Flume?"

Charlie Donaldson, Sheriff of said community, angling for whatever clue might pop up from anywhere. Across the desk in the small office dedicated to the upholding of the Law within the town Henrietta and Sally both shrugged their shoulders in unison.

"In general nary a thing, boss." Henrietta passing on what little she had learned in the last half hour through diligent reading. "The Territory Directory, on the other hand, has some substantial t'say on the Athabasca Trading Company."

A quiet pause ensued, Henrietta having said her say awaiting constructive input thereby; her listeners, on the other hand, prepared for something more generous in the matter of detail.

"Tell us, then!" Charlie losing patience almost immediately. "What about the dam' company? How come their customers is committing harakiri left, right, an' centre so promiscus'?"

Henrietta snorted disdainfully in reply.

"Cain't really put sich at their doorstep, Charlie. Seems it's a catch-all kind'a concern; goes in fer buying-up all sort's of projec's, buildings, stores, land, farms, also gives out loans and mortgages. Like a kind'a amateur Bank."

"Why ain't it a bank, then?"

"Dun'no. Anyway's, seems it's a big concern, fingers in all sort's of pies."

"People in all trades an' concerns in debt t'them, apparent." Sally putting in her cent's-worth.

"An' them as has hit rock-bottom topping themselves in all directions, sudden?"

"Seems so, Charlie."

Charlie mused on this for a few seconds.

"Why now?"

"Eh?"

"Why're they-all hittin' the High road t'Heaven or the Other Place right this minute? Sumthin' pushin' them, out'ta the blue, or what?"

Sally picked up the two sheets of notepaper from the desk.

"These letters, which both the sadly deceased left behind 'em, seem t'implicate the company in some aspect of their deaths, at any rate."

Donaldson eased his tall frame in the desk chair, his aquiline features a picture of disgust.

"Not much t'go on, nevertheless." He thought some more, running fingers through his grey thinning hair. "OK, the first suicide was yesterday, thet's the day the Phoenix Flyer arrives, ain't it?"

"Yip." Henrietta sure of this minor fact at least.

"The which takes in Peascod on its way here?"

"Thet's so." Sally acknowledging this certain fact of life. "So what?"

"So, go t'the stage office an' find out what the passenger list was fer yesterday's arrival. See if'n anyone from Peascod came in it. If so, find 'em out wherever they may be holed up an' bring 'em t'me some pronto, OK?"

"Oh, sh-t!"

—O—

The clerk behind the dingy counter at the Madison Transport Stage Company's office had his filing well up to date, he having little else to fill his working hours.

"Yesterday's passenger bill? Here we be, so what was it?"

"Anyone come in from Peascod, nowhere else, jes' Peascod." Sally nearly snarling this request.

The clerk, in his late twenties taking his time picking through a pile of loose sheets, unruffled by passing Life.

"Yeah-yeah-umm-yeah-OK, only one passenger from Peascod, a Mr Frank Parkinson; payment per the Athabasca Trading Company, Peascod. Thet's all."

"More'n enough. So where is he now?" Sally pursuing this helpful fact to its uttermost.

The clerk looked up from his paperwork with raised eyebrows.

"How'd I know? I ain't psychic! Somewhere in the town, I supposes. If'n ye wants him so strong, go lookin' fer him's my advice."

Henrietta, seeing the way things were panning out, dragged Sally back out to the street, allowing her brunette companion little enough time to finish her broadside of colourful repartee against this snappy request from the clerk, who little knew how close to sudden death he had come himself.

"Take a breath, darlin', we don't want murder on our hands at this time o'day, do we? I mean, who'd we pin it on? Get a grip."

"The clown out'ta join the circus, with a attitude like thet's, all!" Sally fuming like a railroad engine under too much pressure.

"Where's the Flyer usual drop its passengers?"

"What?" Sally still too angry to think logically or calmly.

"The stage passengers, where're they usual dumped on arrival here?"

"Oh-Ah, the Appletree Hotel, I believes; yeah, the Appletree."

The lobby of the said hotel was rather plush of its kind, sofas, cane chairs, and palmpots abounding in the long room. The counter appeared to be the cynosure of a tall man in a grey suit and offhand manner, as well used to looking down from a great height on the mere hoi-polloi.

"Who're you?" Sally, still fizzing, aiming for the jugular on stepping-up to the counter, frowning horribly.

The clerk seemed, however, entirely unaffected by this approach.

"Who might I enquire is asking?"

"Listen buster, we're Depities on a mission, y'answer us quick an' sharp an' to the dam' point, or ye'll find yersel in clink before y'can sneeze, OK?"

"What my companion means is, have you a Mr Frank Parkinson stayin' here from yesterday, or not? Thet's all." Henrietta attempting to calm stormy waters.

The clerk looked doubtful, but finally deigned to consult his register.

"Yeah, Mr Frank Parkinson, room Two-Twenty-Six. Up the stairs to the right, but he ain't in presently. Went out around two hours ago, ain't returned yet."

"Know where he went?" Henrietta hardly hopeful.

"No."

"We may come back later, g'bye."

Back in the street Sally was still growling with ill-concealed anger.

"Where to now?"

"The Office, where we sits an' waits fer whatever Fate has planned fer us in the near future."

"Oh, a lot'ta good thet is, lover!"

"Ya think o'sumthin' better lem'me know, ducks."

"Don't call me ducks!"

"OK."

—O—

The evening of the same day fared no better for the deputies; when Sally returned to the Sheriff's Office just before 7.00pm she found Henrietta in sole charge waiting for the arrival of the two deputies who would take on the night-shift.

"Sam an' Pete not here yet?"

Assaulted by this request Henrietta slowly shifted on her chair, turning one way then the other giving the small office a sharp examination through narrowed eyes; then she looked at her partner again.

"Seems not, doll, unless they be hidin' under thet bucket in the corner, thar!"

"Fool! Well, he ain't thar, at the Applecross yet, neither; nor any hopes he'll return this day."

"Oh, who sez? Go back, do overtime, stick in thet dam' lobby till he barges in the front door, whenever sich may occur in the dark night—I'll relieve ya in the morning after a good night's sleep an' a hearty breakfast."

"Thet'll be the day, ol' gal!" Sally not taken in by this bluster in the least. "Hotel clerk tol' me he got a note, delivered by some kid, sayin' Parkinson had headed off out in'ta the desert t'visit some customer som'mer's out-away's; wouldn't be back ter his room till some late t'morrow, apparent."

Henrietta mused on this update, hardly happy with it.

"Where's thar, then?"

"Who knows—the Fates, Hoyle, The President?" Sally covering all options. "Not us, 'cause his note didn't say, my having saw an' read it both ways."

"Ah, sh-t!"

"Waal, yeah."

At which sorry and unhelpful point the night-shift finally put in their appearance, allowing the women to head home to a comfortable and relaxed evening.

"I ain't gon'na sleep all night, ye knows." Sally allowing this as they walked along the shadowy sidewalk.

"Why not, darlin'?"

"Worryin' over this dam' suicide business. I means, who's gon'na be next? An' where the dam's Parkinson gone, off in the desert som'mers? Things is only gettin' more complicated by the hour, is all, dear."

"Yeah, well, t'morrow's another day, let's see what it brings when it arrives—meanwhile we kin sing an' dance an' carouse the night away, cain't we?"

"God, ye're some gal, I gives ye thet, darlin'."

"I tries."

—O—

The next morning brought no let-up in the unfolding drama engulphing Red Flume; hardly had the Deputies arrived, around 10.00am, to start their day's duties when a young boy, straggle-haired, dirty clothes, mouth red-lined from a strawberry-flavoured gobstopper bulging in his right cheek, stepped in the office without knocking to deliver a ragged note.

"Who giv' it?" Sally, by now suspicious of every shadow that crossed her path, eyeing the small boy as if considering him as the springboard of all her worries.

"Some guy, why?"

"Thet ain't good enuff." Sally making clear her needs. "Give with the details, who was he—name, address, friends, work, married or not—come on!"

"How the Hell'd I know?" The boy not phased in the slightest. "Jus' some fell'a, grabbed my arm in the street, pushed this note in'ta my hand, said hit the Sheriff's Office fast as I likes, an' gave me this strawberry gobstopper ter keep me on my feet the whiles I was executin' my duty, so he said. Then he pushed off, don't know where, wasn't watchin'."

"Oh God!"

"Don't swear, it ain't nice—you, kid, not you, Sal." Henrietta taking command in this emergency. "So, hand it over then; what ye bin doin' with it, the whiles? Looks like a herd of el—eephunts took ter poundin' over it!"

"Got in a scrape with Bill Gareth on the way here, he's sixteen—but I gave him a bloody nose." The kid wiping his red mouth with considerable pride. "Don't know but some o'this ain't his blood more'n strawberry juice."

"Gawd, gim'me!" Henrietta at the end of her usual short tether. "Thanks, now hit the street, an' if I see ya fightin' anyone at all in the next week I'll run ya in'ta a cell fer the day a'fore ya can call fer ya mama, kid."

"Ya-boo-sucks!"

Henrietta made to rise but the boy was gone before either she or Sally could draw two breaths.

"Dam' kids these days. What's the country comin' to, I often wonders." Sally giving of her best impression of an angry school-mistress. "What's it say, then, now we've got it?"

Henrietta smoothed out the ruffled missive, giving it her full attention.

"Les'see—'To whom it consarns, I met Bill Hamilton ten minutes since, comin' in from the D-Bar ranch, he told me he'd met Jim Pierce on the way, him as lives near to Angel Falls fifteen mile nor-east o'here, who tol' him thet he, thet's Jim his'self, I allows, thet he'd met Arnie Barker jes' on the curve of the Green River Bend who allowed he'd seen the remains. Thet is, all thet's apparent left of what used ter be Frank Lemington, out t'the H-Triangle ranch, he havin' took his'self off by the expeedient o'puttin' the barrel of his Barker point Fifty shotgun in his mouth an' doin' the necessary thereby. Shockin mess, Arnie said, surely. Thought I'd let the authorities know in good time, so's ye can do the official, or whatever, yours, Ned Roberts.'. Who's Ned Roberts?"

"Never heard o'him. What d'ya think?"

Henrietta regarded her lover through half-closed eyes.

"What do I think, partner? What should I think?"

"Only askin', in these here days o' tragedy an' misfortune." Sally coming it all over melodramatic. "Red Flume, seeming, more like to a Greek Tragedy or the last act of Shakespeare's Hamlet these days then anythin' else I knows of, sis."

"Humph!"

"There's one thing I does know straight, anyhow!"

Henrietta glanced at her lover suspiciously.

"—'en what might thet be, darlin' o'my heart?"

"Where Charlie's gon'na send us, pronto, when he hears the latest."

"Oh, God!"

—O—

The Green River ran its winding course some twenty miles north-east of Red Flume, in rolling grassland admirably suited to cattle ranching of which situation several medium sized concerns had taken full advantage; the H-Triangle being among the foremost. It was some four hours after receiving the letter advising them of the unfolding tragedy that Henrietta and Sally rode up to the sprawling ranch-house itself. Awaiting them was the manager and head honcho of the large group of hands working on the many acres and around the hundreds of head of cattle bearing the well-known brand. The sky shone blue, the grass was green, the men all looked suitably dejected, as near to brown studies as ranch-hands could ever achieve, one stepping forward to greet the Deputies as they rode up.

"Mighty glad t'see ye both," The man was tall, heftily built and grey-haired though with a straight jaw and determined attitude. "Sent a messenger t'Red Flume two hour since, mighty fine work on yer part t'get here so quick. Jim Robinson's the name, head man aroun' here."

Henrietta and Sally dismounted and faced their host, a group of hands crowding round attentive and eager for the latest news.

"We had early information." Henrietta acknowledging this fact. "So, what's the layout? Frank Lemington had an accident?"

"Could call it thet, sure." Robinson shrugging his shoulders. "Roy Graham here rode in four hours since, he out fixin' fences, singin' out mighty loud he jes' heard a shotgun booming over t'the foothills. Went t'investigate, found Mr Lemington flat out on the grass, head blown clean off. Only knew it were Lemington by the clothes an' the Barker point fifty lying by his dead hand. Clearly must'a shot his'self, fer whatever reason."

"Sure on thet point?" Sally suspicious as all get-out. "Meb'be someone came along an' blasted him pers'nal?"

Roy Graham, a young lad still in his teens, stepped forward eager to impart his eye witness testimony.

"Nah, ma'am, ground soft an' damp; bootmarks easy t'read, also hoofmarks. Only Mr Lemington bin thar, no-one else."

"Sure o'thet, son?" Henrietta eyeing the lad with interest.

"Surely, ma'am." Roy certain of his facts. "I kin read tracks pretty well, no-one with him but his'self, fer sure. Wan'na read his note? Mr Robinson's got it."

Both women straightened at this remark, cold shivers running down their backs as they glanced at each other.

"A note?" Henrietta shaking her head in disbelief. "Les'see, Mr Robinson."

Reaching into the inside pocket of his dusty jacket Robinson held out a torn sheet of notepaper about the size of a small card.

"Roy found it transfixed t'a nearby fencepost by Lemington's jacknife; his handwriting fer sure, I'd know sich anywheres."

Sally looked over her partner's shoulder, both reading in tandem Henrietta speaking aloud as she went.

"Dear God, what a dam' day. One thing, then another, then sumthin' dam' else. Ain't there no dam' end ter bad news? G'bye all, it's bin fine while it lasted; Make sure an' round up them head holed-up in Cradley Canyon, Jim, a'fore the week's out. Frank.' Waal, there ye be. Topped his'self under the strain o'livin', sure enuff."

"Where's the remains?" Sally covering a point of interest.

"Waal, we thought we'd jes' leave things be till the Law showed up," Robinson showing some embarrassment. "it bein' sich a god-awful mess out thar, as it is. Thought we'd let the Law, now ye're both here, take care of, er, bringing in the body an', er, bits an' pieces."

Sally was up for diverting this unwanted job as fast as possible.

"Don't worry about us, or official red tape, Mr Robinson. You get some of your boys t'take a buggy out with a couple o'blankets; meb'be a bucket an' brush an' shovel too. We'll send Doc MacMillan over ter do the needful meanwhile."

"OK."

"Say, did Mr Lemington have a visit, anytime recent, with a man callin' his'self Parkinson?" Henrietta raising an eyebrow as she spoke. "Business concerns, thet sort'a thing?"

"Yeah, as it happens," Robinson nodding in agreement. "Fel'la came along late yesterday afternoon, holed up with Mr Lemington in his office in the ranch-house some hour an' a half, then rode off agin', Parkinson, thet is, don't know where to. Left Mr Lemington like he was bein' overborne by a whole horde of blue devils, sure enough; snarled an' spat at everyone fer the rest o'the day, then went off quick this mornin' jes' after breakfast; didn't know anythin' else till Roy rode up near ter midday with the information he'd blown his brains out."

"Oh, shit!" Henrietta having heard exactly that single fact she hadn't wanted to hear.

"F-ck me!" Sally not far behind in dejection. "What the hell is that man up to?"

"We'll jes' head back t'Red Flume," Henrietta regaining her composure with some difficulty, turning to her steed, along with Sally. "not much more we kin do here; Sheriff Donaldson may ask yer t'come in ter make an official report, legal details an' thet sort'a thing. Ye up fer thet?"

"Yeah, sure."

"OK, see ye then; come on Sal, let's get back an' brighten Charlie's day with another suicide note."

—O—

"This here's what someone, Mark Twain possibly, once called an infinitude o'depressin' news." Charles Donaldson giving of his inner thoughts as he sat in contemplation in the Sheriff's Office. "I am beginnin' ter get bored with the unlimited number o'folks committing harakiri round these parts."

"Y'ain't alone thar, Charlie." Sally giving of her own inner thoughts with a downtrodden expression.

"Bin ter the Appletree," Henrietta reporting on the latest news on their return late that same afternoon. "Parkinson ain't shown up thar yet. Don't look like he's gon'na mosey in t'day at all. Still out in the wilds sum'mers, eaglin' after his latest victim, probable."

"We got'ta find him an' stop him, a'fore he kills someone else, thet's fer sure." Donaldson shaking his head. "Any thoughts on where he might be headin'?"

A long pause ensued, neither lady having the slightest idea on how to answer this significant question.

"Right, it's too late ter do much ter'day." Donaldson taking command in this sticky situation. "First thing t'morrow I sends every dam' Depity I kin lay hands on out over every dam' trail leading away from Red Flume. We covers al the major trails an' towns—Yeller Dog, Montmorency, Angel Falls, Firbank, Peascod, Garnet Creek, every dam' where."

"What d'we do with him if'n we find's the rat?" Sally leaning forward on her hard chair, obviously with an idea of her own in mind.

"If he submits t'authority right off, good; if he shows any sign o'resistance shoot the dog; got'ta stop this outbreak o'madness at the source, sure enuff!"

"Got'cha, Charlie." Sally having heard just what most tickled her fancy in the circumstances.

"OK, boss." Henrietta not far behind her companion. "Right, we'll get some shut-eye, be ready fer whatever, t'morrow. Which trail should Sal an' I take?"

"Firbank's up round near t'the H-triangle spread." Donaldson musing on the geographical lay-out of the Territory. "Head on back thar, see what ye kin find. Remember, if ye find's him alone lasso him some strong; if he's talkin' ter some customer grab him too, stop whoever it may be from takin' the primrose path t'Eternity fer once."

"We'll do our best, Charlie." Henrietta rising to hold the office door for her loved partner. "Let's hope t'morrer brings better news than t'day!"

—O—

The township of Firbank lay in a spreading plain bordered on the east by the Galton River and west by the trail leading northeast towards Peascod. It sprawled over some fifteen acres, a medley of intersecting winding roads seemingly specifically designed to lose a pedestrian in the convolutions therein. There was no real centre, just a cross-junction of four streets heading in from varying directions. Finding any place pretending to be a hub of social activity turned out to be something of a problem for the two women when they rode in the following morning, there being no Sheriff in residence for the small community, but eventually they found themselves outside what appeared to be the only hotel thereabouts.

The lobby was small and dirty, the whole place looking as if it had been condemned some years previously but since forgotten by the demolishers.

"Jeez, what a dump, fancy Parkinson'd stay in a hole like this?"

"Soon find out." Henrietta stepping up to the counter behind which a short thin balding man in his fifties eyed the officers of the Law with some trepidation.

"What kin I do fer ye, ladies?"

"Cowpoke name of Parkinson stay here over the last few days?" Henrietta getting down to brass tacks straight away.

The clerk hesitated for a few seconds, undoubtedly considering cutting up rough about the privacy of his customers but, taking another glance at the two cold-visaged women, thought better of such a stupid standpoint.

"Yeah, stayed here two days, but he left last night, takin' a buggy nor-west, don't know where to."

"What's nor-west?" Sally frowning over her question. "Peascod?"

"Nah, more like Angel Falls." The clerk striving to be helpful, hoping his guests would leave quickly.

"Say what his intentions was, on arrivin' therein?" Henrietta hoping for the slightest clue.

"Nah, paid his bill, said he was off on his tour o'duty, whatever thet might mean, an' so hit the trail."

"Like tryin' t'catch a dam' sidewinder." Sally depressed down to her boots.

"He speak t'anyone whiles he was in residence?" Henrietta covering all eventualities. "In the way of business, I means."

"Not thet I knows of; jes' kep' t'his room while here; no visitors, though he did go out about the town most of yesterday afternoon an' evenin'; don't know where exact, though."

"Right, thanks; come on, Sal."

Outside, holding their steeds' reins, Sally had some questions.

"How far's Angel Falls? Twenty mile, or so?"

"More like fifteen, I fancy; take us a coupl'a more hours." Henrietta sighing mournfully. "At least it's a bigger hole than this dump, more hotels, a Sheriff in situ thankfully, his name's Rawlins I fancy. Well, there's nowhere else cryin' out fer investigation here, so lets hit the dam' trail."

"All this ridin' round the Territory, an' I bets one o'the other Depities'll find the rowster on their trail in the end." Sally falling into a black depression with the weight of worldly worries bearing down on her shoulders.

"Shall I sing a few carols ter boost yer up, lover, whiles we ride; or will ye survive without sich help?" Henrietta breaking out a grin.

"Don't even give it a single whistle, lady, or I'll do somethin' terrible, be warned!"

"Har!"

—O—

Angel Falls sat in the middle of a dusty plain made up of sand, grit, and bare rock, Alabaster Mesa standing some two miles north, this being where the actual ubiquitous waterfall made its play falling some 150 feet from mesa top to ground. The hamlet itself was rather rigidly set-out, using the grid system; the original City Fathers some twenty years before having seen New York and revered the concept ever since. Not that there was much of the town, it being set in a barren wasteland stretching from horizon to horizon; its raison d'être primarily being Alabaster Mesa as the spring of a silver lode which had been found by a starving prospector quite by chance and had, as these things do, started a short-lived Rush. The silver having quickly run out the remaining citizens found their day-to-day bread in a variety of trades, mainly growing corn which was the only crop suited to the dry terrain.

Sheriff Tom Rawlins, on meeting Henrietta and Sally in his office, proved a lawman of the old school; tall, lithe, fortyish, grey-haired with a flowing moustache hiding most of his lower jaw, and deep brown eyes like chestnuts; his voice low and gruff though friendly enough when not riled: his defensive weapon of choice an old but serviceable Tranter double action .44 cap and ball revolver.

"Mighty glad t'see friends from Red Flume, y'don't come along often enuff, fer sure—what kin I do fer y'ladies ter'day?"

In a few words, Henrietta placed their sad tale of ongoing tragedy before the Sheriff; when she concluded Sally also came in with her take on the seriousness of their quest to find Parkinson as soon as possible.

"Any idees, Sheriff?" Sally nervously scratching the rim of her battered hat held in her hand as they all sat round the desk. "Know where Parkinson is, right now? He leavin' a waste o'destruction in his dam' wake wherever he goes, apparent. If he's here in town there'll be bodies fer sure, jes' give it time. Hell, we may hear the shots from here!"

"Not knowin' of his history or presence till now I ain't made any search fer him." Rawlins musing on the problem. ""There only be one hotel an' a coupl'a boardin' houses in the township, so it shouldn't be a chore t'find him. As to victims, seems he's goin' fer business people, them as is associated with his business over in Peascod; what were it agin?"

"The Athabasca Trading Company," Henrietta on top of this detail. "Seems t'rule its customers with a rod o'iron; they fall short, they get a warnin' so extreme they gen'lly ups an' shoots theirsel's immediate, from what we kin gather of recent events."

"Humph, no way t'run a business, thet; sounds like a constant outflow o'customers with no return o'profit?" Rawlins not impressed in the slightest. "This here's a God-fearin', Law-abidin', reg'lar-run town; if'n thars one thing we does know about, from boots t'stetson, its how t'run a dam' business. We plays by the rules, which broke by whoever tempers run short an' some virile. Figure this Parkinson rattler comes across any of my business folks with his threats he'll be the one who gets his brains aerated in short order, pronto."

Both women sat back on their hard chairs, somewhat relieved by this information.

"The kind'a folks I likes ter meet." Sally nodding happily. "We thinks along the same lines."

"This carpet-bagger been runnin' this scam long?" Rawlins eager to glean the history of his quarry.

"Waal, he has a carpet-bag, sure." Sally admitting this minor detail. "Don't knows as he's out t'pes'nal downright milk folks o'their hard-earned cash, though. More like he's deliverin' letters of threat an' menace aimed at puttin' the fear o'everlastin' damnation in'ta his customers, thereby squeezin' them t'cough up the greenbacks t'Head Office as required. They not genar'lly bein' in a pecuniary position t'throw double-eagles around haphazardly, they tops theirsel's as the next best option. Gettin', I got'ta tell ya, t'be a dam' nuisance, trippin' over bodies with their heads blown off in every direction. Any gunshots of an anon-nee-mus natur' occurred nearby lately, Sheriff? Any well-known business folks lackin' in bein' seen aroun' an' about the last few hours?"

Rawlins shook his head.

"Ain't had no-one comin' in complainin' o'sich. No mothers or fathers missin' in action, far's I knows. Tells ye what, I'll send a Depity round the few boardin' houses, you two go t'the Pitcairn Hotel, south o'here on Harrison Road; we kin meet back here at midday, see what the outcome is. What ye mean ter do if'n ye finds Parkinson?"

Sally was up for this.

"Put him in handcuffs, leg-irons, waist-chains, gag, an' blindfold. Strip him of anythin' like to or actil a weapon, bang the butt of my Smith an' Wesson over his head jes' ter make him some woozy, prob'le. If, on the other hand he cuts up rough, or even mildly atrabilious, we'd sure be glad ter know the whereabouts o'your local mortuary fer dumpin' the remains!"

—O—

The Pitcairn Hotel exhaled an air of superiority in every direction, helped by the wide second-storey balcony running the full length of it frontage. The lobby was also wide, with a scattering of sofas and cane chairs interspersed by potted plants, a wide stair running up to the private rooms above. The person in charge of the long counter to the right of the main entrance turning out to be a military-looking man in his sixties.

"Yeah, ladies—er, Deputies, what can I do fer you?"

"Character by name of Parkinson residin' here?" Sally frowning terribly at having to pronounce the abhorred sobriquet. "If so, which room, then duck down under yer counter, put yer fingers in yer ears an' take no heed o'resultin' gunfire in the near future, OK?"

The clerk's jaw visibly dropped a couple of inches.

"Yeah—No—that is, yeah—I mean, no, what the Hell!"

"Parkinson!" Henrietta having no reserve of patience remaining by this time. "He here? Which room?"

"Two-five, up t'the left." The clerk still in a state of shock. "You ain't really gon'na shoot him are ye?"

"We sure are, buster!" Sally making no bounds about her intent.

"I jus' recalled," The clerk raising an arm to stop the women on their way to the stair. "He ain't here—true an' sure as I speaks—he paid his bill an' left 'bout two hours since, headin' fer Peascod. His business done, he said. Borrowed a length o'bandage an' a bottle o'Doc Leonard's Healin' Balsam before leavin'—someone havin' giv' him a mighty fine bruised jaw in the recent past, apparent. Still mutterin' the most awful blasphemin' as he left."

"Which way? Hoss, or buggy?"

"Buggy, Peascod way, likes I said. Two hour since." The clerk now eager to help if it meant no likelihood of a gunfight on his premises. "If'n ye ride out ter Alabaster Mesa, there's a trail right t'the top, ye'll be able t'see fer miles along the Peascod trail—prob'le see him in the distance still."

—O—

The view from the extensive flat top of the Mesa, when the women arrived there in a cloud of dust, was all the hotel clerk had boasted of; the view rolling out to the far horizon some eight or ten miles off. Cutting across the orange-brown terrain, mostly scrub and sand, the Peascod trail ran straight and true like a line on a map. Nearly on the verge of the horizon a trailing cloud of dust could clearly be seen glistening white in the hot sunshine as it rolled away across the pseudo desert.

"Thet be him, fer sure."

"Sure, doll?" Sally not so confident. "We come so dam' far, oughtn't we t'make real sure?"

"No pint." Henrietta assured of her stance on the matter. "We ain't got, when it comes right down ter basics, any real legal reason fer holdin' the rat; he ain't, pes'nal, done anythin' outside the Law, as Reg'lations stands. We grab him he'd prob'le get off in Court an' we'd be the ones gettin' fined!"

"Sh-t!"

"Leastways someone, seeming, got their revenge of the b-st-rd." Henrietta shrugging her shoulders and adjusting her hat. "A near busted jaw, makes a change from the subjec' o'the second part topping theirsel's, anyway."

"Pity they didn't bust it with a load o'eight gauge buckshot," Sally scowling nastily. "thet'd hav' made me laugh some, fer sure."

Henrietta twisted her reins bringing her steed's head round.

"Come on, gal, let's get back t'Red Flume fast's we kin. You need a coolin' bathe an' a rub-down with a warm towel."

Sally snickered as she rode beside her amour.

"Ye offerin', lady?"

"Fancy I am, doll!"

"Whoopee, race ye thar, lover!"

—O—

"What'm I gon'na do about the Athabasca Tradin' Company, an' pertikler dam' Parkinson?" Charles Donaldson, Sheriff of Red Flume contemplating this query from his female Deputies the next morning as they all sat round in his office.

"Jes' sich an' no more, Charlie." Sally for one anxious to bring the whole business to a conclusive end. "Harry an' I havin' busted our guts travelin' over most o'west Arizony the last few days after the dam' elusive rat."

But Charlie, in their absence, had been thinking deeply on the matter and had concocted a plan.

"What I kin say is thet we Sheriff's, thar bein' as yet no Marshall in the matter, kin come t'gether some hard t'make sure Justice is done all accordin' ter Hoyle; Peascod not havin' a Sheriff of its own. Me, Sheriff Rawlins, an' Sheriff Bolderwoode from Garnet Creek, kin band t'gether like to a Sheriff's posse an' scourge the ground the Athabasca Company sits on till their asses burns red an' hot! The which I means ter put in'ta operation this comin' Wednesday when we all meets up on the Peascod trail an' makes t'wards thet dam' community like the Scourges o'Egypt in the Good Book!"

Sally thought about this news for a few seconds.

"Kind'a likes thet set-up, Charlie. Kin Harry an' I come along, jes' fer the fun, y'knows."

"Got three other Depities on hand here," Donaldson considering the layout of his troops. "don't see why not; load yer weapons fer buckshot an' bear—we ain't takin' no prisoners. I means ter lock-up Parkinson here in Red Flume fer bein' the party o'the second part, accomplice after the fac' in attempted murder, accompanyin' a suicide, threatenin' behaviour, illegal business dealin's, an' jes' bein a downright dam' sun'nuva-b-tch!"

"Charlie," Henrietta delighted with this plan. "I, an' my compatriot here by my side, agrees wholehearted with this here plan an' gives it our dual blessin'—don't we, lover?"

"We sure does, light o'my life." Sally grinning like the Cheshire Cat. "Say, time's a'wastin', cain't we make it Tuesday, Charlie?"

The End

—O—

Another 'Red Flume' story will arrive shortly.