'How Dan Anders Went Home'

By Phineas Redux

—OOO—

Summary:— Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe and Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols, Deputies and lovers in 1870's Red Flume, Arizona Territory, USA, experience in person the dramatic, humorous, and sad Odyssey of a well-known town character.

Note:— Influenced by the 'Wolfville' stories of Alfred Henry Lewis, with particular acknowledgement to Bret Harte.

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

—O—

Ol' Dan, as he was universally known, was a failed businessman of Red Flume from way back; a failed prospector, failed cowpoke, failed store-owner, failed barkeep, believe it or not, failed insurance salesman, failed patent stove supplier, failed bear hunter, accounting for the loss of his first finger on his left hand, and failed paying customer at the Yellow Lantern saloon on Carsey Street, Red Flume, where Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe and her lover and fellow Deputy Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols were this evening presently spending an idle hour enjoying themselves amongst the crowded clientele; but he was, at least, sort of paying for the several drinks he had already sunk with the outrageous stories of past personal victories of his early years he was reciting to those on either side of his stance at the long bar—nobody really believing him, of course.

"Yeah-yeah, barkeep, put it on my slate, I'm comin' in'ta five hundred dollars next month from business transactions up t' Garnet Creek fer sure—pay ye off then. Whar was I?"

"Ye'd jus' struck silver in Oakland Holler, Kentucky, back in '57; aimin', ye said, ter hit New York an' live like an Eastern Prince. How'd it pan out?" Henrietta, on his left side mighty amused by his imaginative memories, as was Sally on her left hand.

"Ah, yeah, I recalls," Dan pausing to imbibe most of his fifth drink of the evening. "Waal, like I said bein' loaded down with thet much silver ain't child's play by any means, ladies an' gents. Ye wouldn't believe the hordes o' long lost relatives comin' out'ta the woodwork, implyin' life-long love o'my very shadder each askin' fer a measly ten thousand double eagles jes' ter tend them over fer the summer, sort'a grift!"

"Which ye coughed-up without complaint t'everyone askin', eh?" Sally having her little joke, with a low snicker. "Thar-by explainin' ye'r present inability ter find as much as a tin nickel in yer pants!"

"Wheay!, leddy, thet ain't nice; here's me risin' above the mere sorrers an' misfortins o' daily existence over the years, an' ye here makin' fun o'my tribulatin's thar-in! Life ain't, ye'll find, if'n ye live as long's I hev, a ever-lastin' piece o'cherry pie, y'knows. Nah, mostly it's made up o' kitchen scrapin's, an' lucky t'get them, gen'ly! Whar was I?"

"Headin' fer the Big City, ter beard the High Rollers in their dens. What was yer plan? Ter marry a likely-lookin' daughter, meb'be?" Henrietta coming it as light-hearted as her companion.

"Nah, tried sich, didn't pan out—nobody'd take me on, figure it were my untrammeled Western manners." Dan shaking his head in remembrance. "My spittin' promiscus on the floor when visitin' high-falutin' neighbors, scratchin' mysel' when the opportunity offered, diggin' in'ta the vittals at dinner like a starvin' shipwrecked sailor, drinkin' out'ta the bottle at table of an evenin', jes' meanin' thar-by t'get sociable with the other guests, ree-lee-vin' mysel' in a handy bucket in the kitchen while visitin' friends, as is quite normal west o'the Pecos. Took all 'em the wrong way, apparent, dam' near everyone I met. Headed fer the hills after three months; found I couldn't stand the strain o' cee-vee-lised life any longer, no-way!"

—O—

The Sheriff's office in Red Flume was full to overflowing this gentle warm morning of June 187—Sheriff Charles Donaldson himself sitting in stately glory behind his small desk, Henrietta and Sally dressed in their usual get-up of jeans, shirt, short jerkins, boots, wide-brimmed hats, and gunbelts, occupied the far side while no less than three citizens took up what little space was left in the poky room.

"Hold hard!" Donaldson striving to take command of the trio of unhappy customers."What's this ye're all tryin' ter say? Ol'Dan Anders tried ter assault all three o'yer simultaneous? I doesn't believe sich, whatever!"

"It were on Slade Street, jes' half an hour since." Bob Norris sounding and looking like a distressed whale. "He came up ter us, all three of us jes' goin' about our in-dee-vidal business t'gether, as yer do, an' attempted ter touch us all in sequence fer ten dollars."

"Did he succeed?" Sally raising a sceptical eyebrow.

"Nah," Frank Carson shaking his head strenuously. "Take us fer dem' fools?"

"We all declined the business opportunity, one after the other." Sam Baring sighing like an abandoned house dog. "Nah, Bob said; Nah, Frank, said; Nah, I said, then he took ter vociferatin' some wholesale on each of our relatives, ancesters, an' gen'ral pes'nal characters. Jes' like ter a riverboat pilot, sure!"

"Then took a step back, twirled his left fist, jes' preparin' fer physical acteevity, y'unnerstan', an' hit me on the nose! Look, thet thar's blood, as clar as my name's Frank Carson."

"What d'yer want, then?" Donaldson getting down to the grim details.

"What we wants, Sheriff, is dem' Justice." Norris shaking his head in the affirmative this time. "Yer the Sheriff, this's the Sheriff's Office, out back, in the rar' ye got cells—well, now yer got a tenant fer same,—go to it!"

Driven into a corner, as he was, Donaldson glanced meaningfully at his Deputies.

"Oh, God!" Henrietta catching his drift straight-off, as did an equally gloomy Sally by her side.

—O—

They found their quarry half an hour later on Venables Road, sitting on the sidewalk, boots in the dusty thoroughfare smoking the remnant of a cigar probably found discarded somewhere in the dirt earlier.

"Hi, Dan, yer rapscallion, what's this about yer assaultin' those three guys yer tried ter carpet-bag fer ten dollars, back away's?"

"Huh!" Dan not in the least put-out. "All's I wanted was ter give 'em an opportunity of comin' in'ta a business arrangement with me whar-by they'd get twenty per cent at three months; but none o'them'd take me up on it, dem' id-yeets!"

Sally wasn't having any of this wooly thinking, she being a sharp accountant in her own way.

"What kind'a deal's thet? Ten bucks from each, an' whar'd ye be at three months when payment came due? Still on yer uppers in some side-alley drowned in beer an' red-eye so's yer didn't know what dem' day it was."

"Yep, it's the hoosegow fer ye this time, Dan." Henrietta laying a hand on the sitting man's shoulder. "Ye comin' quiet, or does I bust my Colt over yer head jes' ter show willin', yer unner'stan's?"

Dan took a puff on his cigar, eyeing his accosters from under beetling brows.

"What'd I do? Cain't recall any activ-eety o'worth this past mornin'. What thet scoundrel Carson say I did? Whatever, I didn't, no way. Who ye gon'na believe, him nor me? I'll take it t'Court, so I will. Judge Henry in town still?"

"Judge Henry died four year since, ye ol' soak." Sally bidding the last of her patience goodbye. "Fell off his hoss in a drunken stupor an' broke his neck on landin'. We got, as ye knows fine well, Judge Barford now; a right fine hangin' Judge too. What, ye wan'na hang fer bootin' Carson on the conk, or what? Can be arranged, I'm sure, if'n yer really willin'."

"Oh, piss an' damitty!"

"Yeah, jes' so; come on, the cell's dry, we fixed the leak in the roof, you'll like it fine."

—O—

"Waal, we got the reprobate bang t'rights in the cell." Henrietta nodding sarcastically as she confronted Sheriff Donaldson in the office ten minutes later. "So, what now? Three meals a day; water as required; coffee when shouted fer; washin' rights, an' don't he dem' need sich; lavatory wants, an' I ain't gon'na be the one ter empty his bucket every day, Charlie, no matter how hard's ye pleads."

"Me neither," Sally standing up for her own part in not attending to the old deadbeat. "Ye can see ter thet yersel', fer sure. How long's he stayin', anyway? He gon'na go ter Court, get sentenced, or what?"

"Hell, no!" Donaldson adamant on this detail. "Only cause Judge Barford unnecessary anxiety; probable give him five year if we put Anders for'rard in court. Nah, I'll keep the dem nuisance in the cell fer a coupl'a days, let him dry out an' come ter his senses, what little he may have left, then kick him back out in'ta Society. What else is thar t'do?"

"It'll jes' be a on-goin' nee-cessity, y'know." Sally shaking her head. "He ain't gon'na get any better—fac', he's visibly gettin' all the worse over the last few months."

"Yeah," Henrietta backing-up her lover. "used t'be ye could hold a conversation with him an' get some sense thar-by; now, he hardly knows his own name. An' as fer these dem' business oppertunities he keeps foistin' on folks he bumps in'ta in the street or whichever saloon, waal, he couldn't run a real honest ter goodness business fer ten minutes without drivin' same in'ta the ground complete."

"Yeah, he's a has-been; the pinnacle of his achievements bein' some thirty year in the past with no-whar's t'go in the future now, only annoyin' folks along the way thar." Sally nodding in concert with her partner. "He ain't got nuthin' but a downhill path ter the grave, an' thet destination's loomin' some ever surer, day by day, I fears."

A gloomy silence descended on the unhappy group, pondering the outcome of the decrepit man's activities.

"Is he sick?" Donaldson meditating a faint possibility in his mind. "Could we foist him off on the Infirmary over ter Phoenix, d'ya think?"

The two women gave this idea some attention before Henrietta shook her head.

"Nah, sure, he's old—don't know quite how old but very, fer sure. An' he gets drunk on other people's charity often as he kin; find him unconcious in a alley most days. But sick, as sich? Nah, I don't fancy, in fac' likely ter go on fer decades yet, I'm thinkin'."

Donaldson scratched his chin in irritation, finally coming to a decision.

"I'll keep him here fer a week, try'n get him some real sober, if'n thet's possible; then give him ten bucks out'ta my own pocket, a lecture on livin' a moral life, kick him in'ta the street, an' see how long it takes him ter get dead drunk agin'. Any offers of any better plan, gals?"

Sally and Henrietta exchanged glances.

"Nah, may as well give what yer says a go; won't come ter anythin' o'course, but at least shows we're willin'." Sally being as cynical as her nature allowed, which was quite a lot, actually.

—O—

It was the next day, and Dan was cutting up rough.

"What yer mean I cain't get a drink of an evenin' whiles incar-cee-rated? Ain't thet goin' against my Yoo-man rights, or sumthin'?"

"Dan, yer in jug, not a fancy New York hotel." Sally trying her best to instil common-sense. "All thet's on the drinks card is water an' coffee. If ye really insists on lashin' out, though, figures I kin get ye a glass o'sarsaparilla whenever ye chooses. How's about it?"

Dan told her whatabout it, and she turned her back on the old renegade without another word. Back in the office, only Henrietta present, she found her own voice.

"His breath stinks like a grizzly, he needs a bath, he belches an' expectorates all over the floor, an' his social manners is non-existent. What say I knock him on the head one dark night whiles Donaldson ain't lookin, an' dump the remains in some narrer alley well away from here? It's a plan."

"Charlie'd only get some spiteful, goin' behind his back like thet." Henrietta shaking her head sadly. "Not thet it ain't a swell idee, lady."

Sally hadn't finished coming up with ideas to off-load the problem, though.

"How's about we rent a room in the Golden Lion Hotel, chain him ter the bedrail an' bring his food daily? Could keep him out'ta trouble fer months thet way."

Henrietta again shook her head.

"Don't wan'na sound like a school-ma'am, lover, but thet's kidnap an' would only end in us in a cell fer our trouble! Nah, we'll jes' need ter suffer till Charlie lets him go a week from now. Buckle down an' take it on the chin till then."

"Gawd!" Sally not in the least impressed with this. "A week o'listenin' ter his whinin'—he's already tried ter get twenty bucks out'ta me fer a fish-packin' grift he sez is presently bringin' in thirty per cent a month over t'Lake Chagwell."

"Dearly hopes yer said no." Henrietta giving her lover an appalled stare. "The only thing comin' out'ta Lake Chagwell's dam' dirty water, mud, an' frogs. Ignore him; his business suggestions, head ter tail, is all hot air an' Betty Martin, as ye well knows."

"Iirrph!"

But Henrietta on her part had been exercising her own brain cells, to some effect.

"Ye knows thet idee o'Donaldson's yester'een?"

"Which?" Sally sitting at the desk and bringing out one of her .32 Smith an Weson revolvers, idly examining the cylinder in a meaningful manner.

"About sendin' him ter the Phoenix Infirmary fer treatment."

"Yeah; take aroun' a coupl'a years fer sure—but we nixed thet, didn't we?"

"One angle o'it, sure." Henrietta nodding with an evil smile. "But there be more'n one way o'skinnin' a bar', ye knows."

Glancing at her loved partner Sally finally realised her own personal dark-haired beauty had something solid in mind.

"Oh, yeah? Lem'me have it, then. What?"

"He, Anders, ain't sick, not physical any'how's." Henrietta warming to her theme as she spoke. "He bein' a downright coast t'coast drunk don't make no matter round these parts, neither: I mean, who'd notice another dem' drunk in Red Flume or anywhar' else within a radius o'fifty mile? Hell, no-one! But there be another way."

Sally was still enmeshed in the fog of unknowing.

"Yeah? Glad t'hear sich. At the risk o'soundin' some anxious t'get the news—what, fer G-d's sake?"

"We tells the Docs' over t'the Infirmary Dan's brains is addled like a month old egg." Henrietta grinning broadly as she laid out her plan. "Make out he's as mad as a March hare or a c'yote with the jim-jams. Bound ter work; I mean, one conversation with Anders an' all the Docs' must agree he's half-seas over in his intellec's fer sure, foregone conclusion sort'a thing. Thet'll get him a two-year holiday in the Infirmary fer sure, an' he'll be out'ta our hair meb'be fer evermore."

Sally pondered the idea, taking it from all angles, finally finding it less than ideal from her point of view.

"All very well, dear, but it stinks, is all."

"Oh, come on, baby," Henrietta wheedling her lover with a little simper. "Cain't be all thet bad, surely? Why, even now he hardly answers t'his own name. What more d'ye want?"

Sally shook her head, replacing her gun in its holster as she did so.

"Won't work, leddy. Them Docs over t'Phoenix is mighty well-read an' high-up in the intellec' game. They'd see through our little scam in a jiffy. Why, they knows every dem' form o'physical sickness from head ter toe. Likewise they got experts who kin sketch yer brains from one side t'the other. They wouldn't read Dan as mad, jes' old, is all. Two days after we deliver him he'll be back with us with a certified clean bill o'health thet'll stand him in good stead fer years t'come. Thet there bein' what I calls not a good outcome."

Henrietta considered this moderate and intelligent description of the likely upshot of her plan for a few seconds then accepted defeat.

"Oh, f-ck!"

—O—

The evening card game at the Wild Rooster saloon on Graven Street, Red Flume, always attracted a set of high rollers—not many of them good poker players, mind you, but what can you expect! This evening, a week after Dan Anders had completed his short stretch in the cells and been kicked back out into Society, saw five men sitting round the large table in the main room of the popular saloon, cards in front of them, piles of chips likewise, bundles of coins and paper money to hand and an admiring crowd standing respectfully round admiring the run of the game. Among the players was, miraculously, Dan himself whilst in the crowd Henrietta and Sally looked on with less than admiring glances.

"How in Hell'd he get a seat here?" Sally flummoxed right down to her boots.

"Told Howard Jenkins, local cattle baron, he'd got a foolproof system fer beatin' seven card stud thet'd win out over the odds every time."

"An' Jenkins fell fer it?" Sally hardly able to believe her ears. "Must be comin' down with brain fever. How much'd he back the ol' soak fer?"

"Figures some fifteen hundred dollars or so."

"Jeez, thet's plain crazy!" Sally's expression showing the full scope of her disgust. "Why, look at the ol' bag o' rags! He's surely already drunk, with a full glass o'Red Eye to hand; chewin' on a quid o'baccy as he goes; an' judgin' by the tone of his voice hardly able t'connec' one word t'another. Jenkins final discovers the depth of his imbecility he'll take him out in'ta the desert, selec' a nice hole, an' we'll never hear o'Anders agin'."

Much taken by this possible outcome to the night's communal enjoyment Sally paused to delight in the likelihood, then smiled broadly.

"All we need'ta do, doll, come t'think on it is let things pan out as they dem' well must, accordin' t'all the Fates, wave Anders a fond farewell, an' never be bothered with him agin'. Don't see no downside ter thet, mysel'."

Henrietta, made of sterner and more morally upright stuff, shook her head despairingly.

"Will I never get ya t'see the broad righteous path, lady? Thet plan'd break, oh, some seventeen Territory Laws an' probable a deal more Federal one's, too. An' we, bein' duly elected Depities, would be right at the front o'the firin' line in the due catastrophe resultin' in his demise, don't yer see?"

"Oh, dem'!"

Meanwhile the game was in full swing; on one side of the table sitting by Dan's left shoulder, and already looking as if regretting his choice of chair, Ben Jamieson corral owner bent forward over his cards as if eager to protect the vital strips from all see'ers, especially Dan. On Dan's right George Bellairs, a hefty squarely-built rancher, twiddled his cards nervously as if hardly knowing what to do with them. The other two players on the far side of the table consisted of Henry Kelly, dry-goods empire builder of note in the town, and Darlene Connors, a lady of private wealth who mightily enjoyed a game of poker and a good night's entertainment.

"Come on, Dan, ain't yer gon'na ante-up?" Jamieson riled at his opponent's apparent disinterest in the game.

"Gim'me time, I'm thinkin'."

"Thinkin'! First time this yar', most likely!" Bellairs making what he obviously thought a doozy of a joke.

"Hey, watch yer lang'widge, fel'la! Ladies present." Dan responding in kind.

"Let's keep this dem' game in play, shall we?" The lady in question asserting authority. "My cards is gath'rin' mildew from inactivity as things is. Make yer ante, Dan, an' let's get some movement round this dem' table a'fore the dem' stars come out."

"Yeah, I came here t'make a killin', me feelin' real lucky presently." Kelly pushing back his wide-brimmed hat and looking daggers all round the table. "Is this here a poker game or a kids' tea-party? Will some-one, fer God's sake, ante-up so's we kin get ter gamblin', or what?"

Pushed to his limit Dan scratched something indecipherable in a notepad by his left hand with a stub of pencil, gazed at these markings for a few seconds, then anted $10 in chips with a sweeping gesture.

"Here, what's this?" Henry Kelly not at one with his fellow gambler. "You tryin' ter bend the odds, or which? This here's a straight-up gamblin' game; we don't want no carpet-baggers aimin' ter fix the odds their way. What yer up to thar, Dan?"

"So's I got a system—so give me room t'lay things my way, OK?"

"Like Hell!" Henry taking instant enmity to this proposal. "Lay yer dam' pen down, leave off yer dam' system, an' let's play dam' cards straight-up like gentlemen. Take yer cards fer Chr-st's sake!"

Dan, some overtaken in drink—he having started early that evening with such an unexpected advance of cash from his less than intelligent sponsor—and deep in his system, which held no logical, or indeed mathematical, basis in reality, stood wholly in opposition to this request; he remaining stolidly seated meanwhile, being already physically incapable of rising to his feet for one reason and another.

"I'll take what cards I feels necessary, when I feels sich necessary." He gazing round the table somewhat goggle-eyed, chewing on his mouthful of soggy tobacco, before expectorating massively on the floor to his left, just missing Jamieson's boot, then looking suddenly distressed as if having lost his train of thought. There was a pause, as of an iceberg in the Northern ocean deliberating on its next move, after which he quietly keeled over sideways falling from his chair to join the dust, dirt, and spittal on the bare floorboards, completely insensible, his poker system a thing of the past as every other of his plans and strategies over the past years.

"He's out!" George Bellairs taking charge like a major-domo. "Nix his play; let's get on with the game fer real now. Someone get thet pile of rags away, wiil ya? I ante's twenty—who's ter match me?"

"Grab him, Sal!"

"Why? What's he t'us?"

"We don't, Jenkins, thar, will an' yer knows what thet'll mean?"

"What?"

"A cosy eternal bed in a hole in the sand sum'mers out in the desert's what. You take his feet, I'll take his dem fool's head."

"Oh, sh-t!"

—O—

The cell block, consisting of a line of six cells, was beginning to smell as a result of its only occupant. An aroma mainly of alcohol, mixed with clothes that had never seen a wash in three years, and the downright animal stench of a human body which had likewise never felt soap or water for an equal if not longer period—Dan Anders was in residence once more. Out front in the small office an interesting discussion was taking place over this very fact.

"Why cain't I take charge o'the ol' reprobate?" Howard Jenkins, cattle baron extraordinary and man of almost incalculable wealth, stood four-square in the room, hat nearly touching the ceiling, growling in subdued anger.

"We have Anders sqar t'rights, don't worry." Sheriff Donaldson determined to have his say and remain immovable. "He's in custody an' here he stays till Monday mornin' an' the weekly Court under Judge Davis. He'll get a month fer sure, don't worry yer'sel', Mr Jenkins."

"But I does worry." Jenkins determined on his side to gain his argument. "We, Dan an' I, bein' in the way of business partners, sort of. I jes' wants ter see him, er, duly get his rights—what's due him's all."

"How much money ye lose ternight, Mr Jenkins?" Henrietta pinning the question of most import.

"Lose? Money? What yer mean?"

"We all knows yer payrolled the ol' drunk fer his poker play. How much?"

"Waal, don't see what thet may be t'you, at all." Jenkins humming and hawing at this unwanted request. "But, some three hundred bucks; an' I ain't seen the remainder o'twelve hundred, neither. The ol' soak's skivvied it away sum'mers we cain't find. Twelve hundred! Fifteen hundred all told. I wants it back, or reven—thet is, I want's ter know the dem' reason why's all!"

"Thar ye be, Jenkins." Donaldson completely in command. "Anders is here, here he stays, as the law allows, an' here he'll be till comin' Monday when Judge Davis'll give him his just dues—at least a month in chokey. As ter yer dollars, fear's ye've seen the last o'them. Committin' yer'sel ter a business deal al'lus entails the loss as well as the profit aspect of sich deals. Ye've lost, an' thar be an end of it. G'bye, Jenkins."

"G-d'd-m!"

With which expletive, given its full force and flavor, Jenkins exited the office in a black rage.

"Waal, here we be agin'." Sally making free with the reality of the situation.

"What ye goin' ter do, Charlie?" Henrietta pretty much already knowing the answer.

Donaldson made himself more comfortable in his chair.

"What do—jes' what I said, keep the ol' reprobate in custody till Judge Davis has a chance ter hit him over the head with the Territorial Laws, see what the outcome may be, an' go on as required from thar!"

—O—

The outcome, as it transpired two days later, was that Judge Davis, being a man of deep thought and high intelligence, did indeed throw the Book at Dan Anders.

"Call yersel' a gentleman? Call yersel' a American? Call yersel' a businessman? Call yersel' a sober character? Call yersel' a poker player? Hah! Twenty-one days in the cooler, and good-day t'you, sir!"

That same afternoon, Henrietta and Sally having been peremptorily sent, not without loud and sustained disappointed complaints on their parts, on a mission of no real import to Yellow Creek that would keep them out of the way for the rest of the afternoon, Sheriff Donaldson and his two remainnig male Deputies, Bob Rankine and Fred Samuels, took Anders in hand. First, after some difficulty ending in downright physical aggression on their side as well as the victim's, they stripped him down to his skin, led him to the rear kitchen area, more or less threw him in a tin tub full of hot soapy water where the Deputies held him in place by the presence of their bear-like paws leaning on his shoulders; soap was administered without mercy to all those major parts within reach, accompanied by the terrified cries of a man who had never washed, as to say really washed, since the conclusion of the Civil War; his long ragged hair suffering the same fate by the simple means of his head being thrust down into the water between his knees till his torturers were satisfied that at least the majority of ingrained dirt had been dealt with; then he was allowed to rise and leap from his tub of shame with an alacrity that belied his age.

"Gods, look et the state o'thet water!" Looks like tar! How in Hell ye'd cart all thet dirt around single-handed, Dan?"

"Yankee b-st-rd!"

But Sheriff Donaldson was always one for precise definition.

"I hails from Kentucky, ye ol' ape!"

"Rebel b-st-rd, then; an' be dem'med t'ye, too!"

"Kentucky was neutral, ye knows."

"Jeez! Well, b-st-rd, anyways, wherever it were yer demon mother dropped ye!"

"Dan-Dan!; ye has a way o'makin' casual conversation thet riles yer interlocutors ter immediate physical retribution."

"What the hell ye talkin' about? An' gim'me my dem' clothes, I feels like a plucked chicken standin' here-aways."

Donaldson had stood as much as he thought necessary, though.

"Bob, dress the ol' ragamuffin, in those ol' abandoned clothes we've got in the slop trunk, an' if so he cuts up rough don't be easy over it! George, fix him some bacon an' beans ter his cell, an' make sure the door's double-locked behind yer when yer leaves him ter refresh his appetite. Twenty-one days, Dan; an' every one without the benefit of as much as a sip o'whisky, jus' so's ye knows."

"Oh, come on, Sheriff; a man cain't survive without a drink thet long. Why, it'd be like traipsing over the desert without water! Even ye couldn't be thet mean—could ye?"

For answer, feeling that he had the last word at last as well as the last laugh, Donaldson contented himself by simply smiling grimly and turning on his heel to disappear in the direction of his front office; leaving behind a distraught prisoner.

"Holy Hell, an' black demons! I wants a dem' drink, an' I wants it now! An' I wants same served reg'lar every dem' day I'm in residence h'yar, Bob! An' dem' Donaldson ter Rebel Hell, be he Kentucky or not!"

—O—

Only ten days into the old reprobate's sentence Doc Hampson sat in the Sheriff's office regaling Henrietta and Sally with the details surrounding his latest patient.

"Did ye hav'ta bring me in on this c'yote's carcase?"

"Doc Riley's out t'a pregnant woman over t'Garnet Creek." Sally grinning widely. "Only ye, Doc, only ye."

"Hiirmph!" Doc Hampson not looking in any way happy. "Anyways, wan' my report?"

"S'pose." Henrietta hardly interested. "He gon'na kick the bucket? If so, kin ye see yer way ter lettin' sich occur when neither I nor Sal here's on duty."

"Har! I ain't, sadly, a prophet." Hampson admitting his deficiences. "Les'see – patient Dan Anders, age, God knows—early seventies, I'd guess. – state o'health, God, where'd I start! His kidneys an' liver,—I took a urine sample, y'know—very kind o'him ter provide sich, even if most went over my dem' boots. Whar was I, ah, yeah? Piss sample, dark as mollasses; his interior equipment must be double-marinated in alcohol over a period of several decades. Last time I saw a sample o'sich intensity the provider had already been dead some ten yar!"

"Dan'l, sadly, ain't dead." Sally unfeelingly providing the latest update on the prisoner with a cool nod in the direction of the cells. "Thet's him cursin' fer his lunch right now! When's he gon'na kick the bucket, then?"

"Who kin say." Hampson shook his head. "These dead-beats, soaked in whisky over years, some kin last fer decades more without tryin'. Ye'd be surprised."

"Hell!" Henrietta sounding her disappointement without a care for who heard her.

"But thet ain't all; nary the worst by a long way."

Both women sat up, noticing the glint in the Doctor's eye.

"Whar by?" Henrietta eager for information.

"Ye'll both have noticed the constant spittin' he does everywhar?"

"Hell, yeah, me an' Harry hev'ta sweep his cell, an' the corridor outside, with a wet mop every dem' day." Sally complaining loudly. "Whar it all comes from, I don't know."

"I do." Hampson nodding knowingly. "Lung trouble. Congestion of both lungs; sort'a on-goin' pneumony kind'a thing. I kin give him some pills an' a bottle o'oil o'carriseed, but it won't do much good. Not over the other things."

"Other things?" Sally raising her eyebrows intently. "Doc, ye sure knows how t'rope a gal in with yer hints an' intimations. Come on, spill the beans, some. We're his kindly Lawful keepers, we ought'a know."

Taking this request and explanation with the pinch of salt it so obviously required Hampson growled low and came up with the goods.

"He's got a tumor in his chest, next the spleen; chest pain an' slight swellin' in said area showin' clar'; also another sum'mers high in the upper intestine. Thet showin' up per his bloody, er, stool as ye noticed when his overnight can was emptied. Definite sign o'advanced cancer thar, fer sure."

"Jeez'us!" Sally, even considering her lack of concern, rather taken aback.

"He's gon'na die then, Doc?" Henrietta more able to face the facts.

"Die? O'course!"

"How many yar yet, then?" Sally trying to make up for her former coldness.

"Yar's?" Hampson laughed quietly. "His drunken-ness'd sure take thet long, meb'be ten yar at least still! But his tumors, an' proportionate sickenin' as they all contribute ter him weakenin' an' crumblin' like to an' ol' dry tree? Why, I reckon, an' I speaks from experience, he cain't no-how have more'n three month straight left t'annoy the local community. Come the Fall we'll be talkin' of him in due reverent remembrance fer sure, thet's all!"

—O—

Two weeks later Dan, having been let out from durance vile on health grounds, sat this sweet warm morning of late June on the edge of the sidewalk on Carrington Road, Red Flume; Henrietta and Sally by his side, contemplating Life and Eternity.

"Nah, I has no intent ter leave this h'yar world these next decades, at least!" He holding forth on his personal expectations that way. "Clar t'the next, new-fangled twentieth century, fer sure, leddies! My robust health fittin' me fer sich a long run some easy, not ter ignore all the business oppertunities I allows I has in the immediate an' future offing!"

"What about what Doc Hampson tol' yer?" Sally attempting to bring some faint aura of reality to the old man's warped view of his position.

"The Doc's a good enuff guy, I allows." Dan being charitable and expansive with his compliments. "But he ain't no sooth-sayer; he ain't got the four-up straight flush on people's lives he thinks he does—at least, not mine, sure as Kentucky beans!"

"He tol' yer t'go easy on the Red Eye, didn't he?" Henrietta striving to instil some level of understanding in the bedraggled man.

"Hah!" Dan on home ground here, ready to defend himself against all comers. "Alcohol is the nectar of the Common Man, leddies; certified fac'! I been drinkin sich all my life, since I was eleven yar ol'. Hasn't done me no harm yet, not will ter I annoys the local coffin-maker some time in the early nineteen-hundreds—sich meetin' bein' some more'n twenty-five yar away yet!"

"Ye still takin' yer medicines?" Sally coming it the stern school-ma'am.

Dan assumed a hang-dog guilty attitude, with slumped shoulders under his ragged jacket.

"O'course, why shouldn't I be?"

Quite clearly, to both women, he was telling something pretty far from the exact truth, but what was to be done?

"Dan, take yer pills, an' yer bottle o'snake oil Hampson gave yer." Henrietta trying hard to sound a note of determination in her tone. "He didn't prescribe them jes' fer the fun o'the thing, ye knows. He's tryin' ter keep yer raddled carcase alive some, fer sure; an' ye ain't exact helpin', boozin' like a cowhand on a spree every dem' night."

Dan was mighty grieved by this cold reflection of reality.

"Ma'am, I drinks in moderation an' won't be requirin' the attention of no sky-pilot these comin' decades, thank ye both kindly. Now, if'n ye don't mind, it already bein' past third drink time this afternoon, I has an appointment at the Blue Bandana whar a bunch o'my friends eagerly awaits my presence. May I bid ye both a fond farewell till whenever?"

—O—

The following weeks assumed an even flow of activity; Dan would drink himself insensible before his unconcious form was hauled back to the dirty room he rented in a rundown boarding-house on Tyler Street; The Law, represented by Henrietta and Sally or whichever other Deputy happened to find the broken-down layabout, having long given up on taking him to the cells—a useless procedure that only caused more trouble for the Law than it was found to be worth. Doc Hampson kept him provided with various medicines, ranging from the latest laudanum-based sedatives to mixtures hardly better than snake-oil itself. Dan imbibing such as the feeling took him, maybe yes, maybe not depending on his mood or more often his level of intoxication. Inevitably his state of health began to deteriorate faster than ever; after another month he looking more like a weather-beaten scarecrow than a human being. Henrietta remarking on this collapse on the latest occasion they were called to sweep the sidewalk clean of his unconcious, drink-sodden semi-corpse.

"Looks mighty like he's dead already." Sally standing over the immobile figure slumped against the side of the house wall.

In answer to this contumely the still unconscious Dan farted protractedly, the smell driving both women some yards back out of the danger zone

"Seems not, lover."

"Hah!" Sally still holding her nose. "OK, you take his legs, I'll take his head."

But Henrietta wasn't as simple as all that.

"In yer dreams, lady. We stands h'yar an' waits his pleasure is what we does. Nuthin' doin' till he wakes up, is all—so's he kin stand on his own feet an' perambulate back ter his digs pes'nal."

Sally snorted at this evidence of weak cowardice in the face of the opposition.

"We got things ter do, baby, places ter be; Red Flume dependin' on our presence in all sorts'a places ter defend the cits an' 'Meriky as a whole. Leave the ol' sot ter wallow in his drunken-ness, let's go!"

But Henrietta was in one of her staunchly moral moods.

"Duty, baby. Comes in all forms, some nice, some not so nice. This h'yar bein' one o' the latter. Grab the moron's head, then."

"Oh, sh-t!"

Back at his room in the broken-down boarding-house they confronted the owner Mrs Prentice, a lady of broad presence, short height, and high-temper.

"What fer ye doesn't clean this flea-pit, leddy?" Sally giving the proprietoress a piece of her mind. "Look-it this dem' room! Looks mighty like a possum nest I saw one time in Tennessee. Hell, a person cain't live in these conditions; ye wants we gets Sheriff Donaldson ter come round an' slap ye with a Court Order allowin' yer fixes this place up or closes down? We kin do the same any day, yer knows."

"I takes no measure o'idle threats, madam!" Mrs Prentice standing-up for the low level of her household management. "Since Mr Prentice saw fit ter head out fer San Francisco ten yar since without so much as a perlite g'bye I've run this place by myself, not believin' in wastin' money on idle little chits o'servants, eatin' me out'ta house an' home, whiles expectin' ter receive wages fer what little they'd do roun' the ol' place. No, I gets along on my own jes' as well's I feels right; 'course the place's seen better days, but what or who hasn't? Includin' yersel's, ladies, if'n ye doesn't mind me statin' sich!"

Sally, being told to her face that her best times were already behind her, turned white then a peculiar shade of pink that boded no good in the immediate future. Henrietta, faced by the beginnings of an irate Valkyrie on a mission of bloody and violent revenge—an attitude and stance she knew Sally was perfectly capable of without thinking—grabbed her soul-mate and left the squalid den hotfoot. Out on the sidewalk Sally regained the power of speech and made good use of it, in three languages, for the next five minutes; finally coming to a conclusion like an eight-day clock winding down.

"Finished?"

Sally found some further remarks not yet applied to the situation—she applied them, with meaning.

"OK now?"

A silence descended on the sidewalk, a stunned female passer-by looking back over her shoulder as she hurried away, clearly impressed with Sally's range and grasp of the more vulgar elements of the English, French, and Apache languages.

"Rraa-rrgh!"

"Glad yer feelin' better, ducks." Henrietta taking the positive outlook. "Come on, let's head back ter the Office; got'ta keep Charlie up ter date, ain't we?"

"Next time we stumbles over thet dem' bag o'bones, I looks some careful all roun', takes my Smith an' Wesson an' puts a slug in his dem' head!" As she spoke Sally looking mighty like a coyote with a raging headache. "Thet same dealin' with the whole problem mighty definite from all possible angles. A little messin' aroun' with the scene o'the accident an' we kin make it look tol'ble like suicide, easy!"

Henrietta was horrified.

"Sal, ye got a imagination them Eastern magazine writers back in New York'd be jealous of. Jes' so long's I kin keep ye from makin' fantasy reality's all! Sich lately bein' almost a permanent occy-pation fer me, I got'ta say!"

—O—

The door flew open, crashing against the office wall with violent force and a loud bang; Henrietta and Sally thereby finding themselves in the presence of James Findlay, business-man of Red Flume and surrounding communities—a man of large prestige, means and power in the world.

"I been g-d'd-m carpet-bagged! Me, Jim Findlay! Carpet-bagged t'my dem face! Waal! Get up, get on out, an' dem shoot the dem b-st-rd!"

Over the next few minutes all became plain, mostly as a result of Henrietta's calm, precise questions—Sally meanwhile silently sitting to the side looking mean.

"So, Dan Anders inveigled ye in'ta partin' with a thousand dollars?" Henrietta hardly able to believe this aspect of the man's tale of woe. "How in Hell'd ye let thet take place? Ye surely knows Dan from way-back, surely?"

"Ain't set eyes on the ol' deadbeat these six months." Findlay allowing his lack of up-to-date knowledge. "Dressed in a black suit, some faded an' shiny with years but presentable; looks kind'a below the weather these days, I got'ta admit. Spun me a story of bein' head of a group of business-people wantin' ter import large quantities o'fish from the West Coast, under ice, y'knows. Also ter build ice factories ter keep said fish fresh on thar travels. Gave me some printed pamphlets, looked good, sounded good, spoke ter one o'the financiers he'd said were in the game with him, Bart Reynolds, good man o'business, gave me the go-ahead. I shelled out the greenbacks, an' jes' this mornin' finds the whole thing's been a swindle. Me, an' all the other partners, diddled like childrem out'ta every dem cent. Never was no fish stocks, no chance o'any ice factory, no nuthin'; Anders spun a straight swindle from first t'last. Find him, beat him up some sore, then use the remains fer target practice, I'll supply the ammunition without a groan!"

Sally spoke up for the first time, a gentle sneer forming on her lips.

"Ice factories? In Arizony? How'n Hell ye fall fer thet childish grift, Findlay? Ain't ye got any sense at all?"

The embarrassed business-man let out a sigh of discontent.

"The other partners were all known ter me, so I thought it was on the up-an'-up, didn't I? Anders sounded pretty much like he was spinnin' a true tale. Seemed a good business deal on the face o'it. So's I went in, lookin' fer a fair profit. Lost a g-d'd-m thousand dollars as a result!

"What ye wants we do, Mr Findlay?" Henrietta getting down to the bricks and mortar of the situation.

"I wants his carcase embalmed, wrapped in chains, an' locked-up in Phoenix Penitentiary fer the rest o'his dem life's what I wants, leddies!"

"Whar be he at the moment?" Sally coming down to basics, rising from her seat with a look of cold determination.

"Over ter the Black Diamond, last I heerd." Findlay scowling widely. "Not thet I've bin thar, jes' heerd's all. I goes thar, I shoots the reprobate out'ta hand then goes home ter a good dinner's all!"

"Stay here." Henrietta accompanying her lover to the door. "Don't go anywhar's till we returns. Come on, Sal."

—O—

At this time in the early afternoon the long public saloon of the Black Diamond was virtually empty, except for two men at a table at the far end of the room and Dan Anders sitting in solitary splendour and a brand new suit and boots at a table halfway down; Henrietta walking up to the table with a forceful stride.

"Dan, what in Hell ye been up ter these days?"

The swindler looked round at his visitors with a happy innocent expression.

"Hallo, leddies, park yersel's some easy. What's yer licker? Anythin' goes, me bein' some in the money. Bartend, three whiskies, in tall glasses, mind. So, what kin I do fer ye both? Want some sound business advice? I'm yer man! S'cuse me, whiles!"

With which apology Dan leaned over to expectorate mightily on the bare floorboards at his feet before recovering his composure.

"Ye don't sound too good, ol'timer?"

"Jes' a touch o'the phlegm's all, nuthin t'worry over." Dan looking all the same very much less than healthy, his face a curious grey colour. "Si'down, let's get t'talkin'. What's up with the world? I've jes' completed a mighty fine deal—eight thousand dollars I've raked in! Al'lus told ye both I was a business-man o'means an' capability, didn't I?"

"Yeah," Sally taking-up the main point. "we heard about thet business deal! Some mighty fine griftin' goin' on thar, partner. How'n Hell ye swindle eight business-folks out'ta all thet money? Ye some kind'a magician or what? What ye thinkin' o'doin' with all thet pelf? Goin' home, wherever sich may be, ter swan it bigtime in front of the jealous relatives, or what?"

"Goin' home? Mighty fine idee, sure." Dan nodding contentedly as he swallowed a deep mouthful of raw whisky, bringing on thereby another coughing fit. "Gim'me a mo, leddies, this dem phlegm's gettin' the better o'me ter-day."

Henrietta and Sally, having taken seats on the opposite side of the round table from their suspect, gazed at the old man as he made fair to attempt giving the floorboards a new overall glazing of something far from varnish.

"Ye still takin' yer medicine?" Sally dropping her cold attitude for one more worried over the man's evident ill-health. "Ye takin' the laudanum drops as per Doc Hampson?"

"Yeah-yeah!" Dan shaking his head in such an indecisive manner as to let doubt remain in his listeners' as to his real meaning. "Drugs, laudanum, oil o'whatever, all's the same, nuthin' really works, not in the long run. Talkin' o'goin' home, figures I may be doin' so mighty soon, but not ter the ol' homestead! Ain't bin feelin' tickety-boo at all these last few days—not ter say really tickety-boo!"

Henrietta and Sally sat back on their respective chairs, examining their companion, gazing around at the empty saloon, wondering individually and together what their next step was going to be, but both realising full well the gravity of the position they knew Dan was now in. Finally Sally stepped up to the breach to administer the legal rules in the case.

"Dan, time ter come along with us. We need'ta get ye in a cell mighty quick's all. Ye've surely pulled a fast one on a eight-horse team o'business-folks, an' they ain't, in-dee-vid'l or t'gether, happy at bein' so carpet-bagged. Down thet drink an' come along o'us, some quiet, OK?"

But there was no reply; Dan sat immobile on his chair on the other side of the table having taken no further interest in the flowing conversation for the last minute; head down, chin resting on his chest above his new silk waistcoat—he at last having indeed finally gone quietly home, while no-one took notice of his passing, to a residence far fairer than any he had ever imagined for himself in his wildest dreams.

The End

—O—

Another 'Red Flume' story will arrive shortly.