'The Seventh Man'

By Phineas Redux


Summary:— Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe and Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols, Deputies and lovers in 1870's Red Flume, Arizona Territory, USA, find the short visit of a stranger to the town has many consequences.

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

Copyright:— copyright ©2023 Phineas Redux. All characters are wholly fictitious representations, and the overall local geography may be questionable, too.

Disclaimer:— The content of this story is highly distressing and should be approached with some apprehension and caution; there is also some light swearing in this story. If any reader is of a delicate disposition I suggest avoiding this tale altogether.


"Eleven cents."

Sally, as always, paid over her two dimes with the air of losing the last coins she had ever earned, with a facial expression to match.

"Whiskey's gettin' too dear t'buy these days. Come Fall we'll all be on the wagon by necessity."

"Give it up, gal; you're givin' me a headache." From Henrietta, who had heard this depressing diatribe a million times before.

The Emerald Isle was a one-bit saloon that purveyed rye made on site, as was its beer. The quality of both severely lacking in taste, composition, and staying power—it being well known across the whole of Red Flume it took two bottles of the whiskey and about twenty glasses of the beer to come anywhere near comfortable intoxication.

"Where's my short bit?" Sally, in these circumstances, always well aware of her perks.

"Comin' ma'am, comin'; gim'me a dam' chance." The bartender only now scrabbling in the drawer that held the takings. "Ye so anxious t'drink as thet?"

"I knows my dam' rights," Sally just in the mood for a to-and-fro. "yeah, OK. A mite quicker next time wouldn't hurt."

"Loves just how much y'allus tries t'make friends with everyone ye meets, gal."

"Very funny, lady, just remember who's payin' fer this round, an' who might be payin' fer all the rest o'the night!"

"Thet's some mustang of a mood yer in t'night, baby." Henrietta trying to conceal her smile without much success. "Ease off some, a'fore someone takes offence; remember, we're off duty now."


"Another beer, thanks, 'tender." This from a young woman dressed in shirt and jean-pants who had rolled up a quarter of an hour since and stood by the bar alongside the two female Deputies. "Didn't take much o'the taste o'the last, by'n bye. Think ye could give the next a mite more o'a bite?"

"We only got Golden Brown or Dark Harvest; so, ye wants Dark Harvest?"

"Any chance o'it tastin' like real beer?"

"Funny gal!" The Bartender offended by this critical outlook towards his wares. "Ye wan'na spend real money, ye wan'na head over t'the Green Dragon? Their prices is higher than the Mayor's pay—but t'your sophisticated taste their rotgut might hit the spot."

"Rotgut's rotgut, take it as ye will." The young woman waxing philosophical. "Gim'me the Harvest then; just try'n make sure it's still alive as ye pours it out, eh?"

"Gal after my own heart." Sally nodding in agreement, shuffling round to face her companion drinker. "Been here long? As ter escapin' dives like this, I'd recommend the Blue Parrot on Lime Street—a two-bit saloon, but the beer's drinkable an' the whiskey passes muster, not like this hosses' piss."

"Glad t'h'yar same; thinks I'll take up yer offer, thanks."

"So, anythin' interestin' bring ye t'our neck o'the woods? Jes' askin' some idle's all."

The youthful, as yet anonymous, woman eyed the Deputy with a keen grey eye before answering.

"Suppose you two, Deputies as ye be, might be the best folks t'ask. Lookin' fer a fel'la called George P. Dawes. Acquaintance o'my Uncle, back in Phoenix. Got some business papers t hand over; cain't quite catch him on the move none, howsomever."

"Where'd ye think t'find him?" Henrietta becoming interested.

"Parkes Boardin' House, but he ain't thar—never was. Don't feel much like goin' round every other Boardin' House in this village, sure enuff."

Somewhat irritated by their homestead town being discussed in this light-hearted manner, Henrietta glanced at Sally before replying.

"Yeah, trailin' roun' a pifflin' village like this h'yar Red Flume might take ye, oh, some over a week at least, yeah. George P. Dawes? Never heerd o'him—you, Sal?"

"Seems the name rings a faint bell—gim'me time, a few days, an' I might recall." Sally doing her best. "What's he work at, might be helpful?"

"Hoss wrangler; told he ran a stable roun' here some'ers; but cain't find no trace o'sich in the two days I bin h'yar."

"Nah, nuthin' comes t'mind. Give us a coupl'a days—y'h'yar long yersel? Come over t'the Office on, say, Wednesday, see what we might'a come up with."

"OK, better than walkin' these dusty streets." The young woman finishing her beer with all the suggestion of draining a glass offered by Lucrezia Borgia. "This place built t'any kind'a plan, by the way? Been walkin' round fer near three days an' not found the town square yet; an' some streets, each day I tries 'em, seem t'lead t'different places each time."

"Yep, thet's Red Flume," Sally grinning widely. "The legend is thet if a stranger comes t'town an' finds his way back out on the first day, then with luck like thet he ought'a stand fer Senator!"

"What's yer name, jes' fer reference?" Henrietta pausing in her own drinking to hit a professional note.

"Mary Evans; I'm seventeen."

"Right, remember thet, thanks."


The following Wednesday came round in its usual manner, slotting itself naturally between the last dregs of a bygone Tuesday and the far-prophesied nature of a Thursday yet to be. The Sheriff's Office that morning was a hive of activity, unlike it's usual atmosphere, of an Undertaker's establishment on an off-day. Henrietta, ever positive in outlook, had started her shift by placing her boots comfortably on the desk, leaning back to rest her head against the rear wall preparatory to dozing peacefully for an hour; but this delightful habit was cut short almost immediately by the entrance through the door to the street of a large man in a red shirt and dirty trousers hauling a young boy by the ear.

"Get in h'yar, ye little reptile! Sheriff! Oh, it's ye, Depity Knappe! OK, sling this dam' thief in clink fast's ye like, thanks."

Lowering her extremities to the floor and sitting straight, robbed of her relaxation, Henrietta eyed her visitor with little of the milk of Human Kindness.

"What fer ye wan'na make sich a storm, Mister Hanratty? What's the young tyke done, anyways? If'n it's anythin' short'a outright murder ye may throw him back in'ta Society out in the street, thanks; I'm a busy woman."

"He stole a stick o'rasperry sugarcane, right out'ta the bottle a'fore my very eyes." Mister Hanratty clearly still suffering from the shock of the whole thing. "Two-cent stick o'candy cane. Why, if'n I let's every dem' towrag steal sich on a daily basis I'll be slumped in a back alley som'mers, drinkin' from a bottle wi' nuthin' in the world t'live on! Put him in jail this instant, or I knows the reason why!"

Henrietta shook her head, well used to this kind of response from several other store-keepers around town on an almost weekly basis.

"Mister, did he actil take the candy out'ta yer premises? Answer me straight now."

Held squarely to the facts Hanratty shuffled embarrassedly, shaking his head some uncomfortably.

"Well, not t'say out'ta the shop, no. Only 'cos I caught the little ripper a'fore he could make his escape, though!"

"Whar was the candy in question, when ye'd captured the boy?"

"Whar? Why, lyin' on the floor, by the counter—why?"

"Waal," Henrietta now delivering the death-blow to Hanratty's argument for condign punishment. "if'n it were whar ye sez, who's ter say, 'special in the Court o'Law, whether the lad warn't gon'na pay fer it, eventual? Thet'll be his Lawyer's defence, an' who's ter say him nay? You? Won't hold up fer a second in Court, an' ye knows it. Ye've grabbed him by his ear, given him an earful on the way over here too, I bets. Leave him be with sich a warnin'; won't trouble ye no more, I'm sure. A quick kick in the pants would'a done him a power o'good at the time, if'n only ye'd thought o'it. Go on, let him sling his hook. Boy, ye larned somethin' o'a lesson over this h'yar criminal acteevity o'yourn?"

"Yeah, s'pose."

"On yer way then; door opens when ye turns the knob, OK?"

Less than ten seconds later Henrietta and Hanratty had the Office to themselves again.

"Waal?" Henrietta feeling her job was done, anxious to return to her broken nap.

"Waal—yeah—waal!" Hanratty somewhat confused by this unexpected turn of events. "Waal—oh, dam'mit!"

Five more seconds and Henrietta was sole occupant of the Office once more, but not for long. The door again slammed open, to reveal the form of Miss Glamorgan, fresh from her shop in Lannigan Road, looking as much like an angry Valkyrie as one must have looked in real life.

"Depity Knappe!"

"Thet's me, shor 'nuff." Henrietta beginning to feel the strain of Life. "What kin I do fer ye?"

"Ye knows, I know, thet I runs a fine wool an' stitchin' shop over t'Lannigan." Miss Glamorgan standing on her pride, sitting on the visitor's hard-backed chair with the obvious intent of staying a while. "Well, I gets my wholesale from a company in Peascod, who gets thar wares fresh from Phoenix every month. Well, these last few weeks my stock's been goin' down like a sinkin' ship, businesss's been so good. I've been re-stockin' by mail t'Peascod an' my source thar; but communication's bin almost non-existent over the last week or two, an' now I hears, from a friend in Peascod, the business I uses has gone bankrupt!"

"Dear me!" Henrietta utterly failing to infuse her words with any aura of pity.

"Huumph," Miss Glamorgan well aware of this deficiency. "so, I allows, the faster ye goes over thar, t'Peascod, kicks the Sheriff thar in'ta life, an' squeezes the manager of the ill-fated business in'ta coughing up my money the better. Well?"

Henrietta sighed, seeing the morass this might well develop into if not handled right; that is, with low cunning and wile.

"Wholly a matter fer the Court, madam; nuthin' ter do with breakin' o'the Law—well, not as ter say sich at the start, anyways. What I'm sayin' is, it t'ain't my concern's, all."

"What!" Miss Glamorgan outraged by this slipshod attitude to her woes. "I am the victim of a brazen attempt to defraud me of money I have already unknowingly given over into the hands of a bunch of thieves. I expect recompence, and I expec's same now, thank ye! Waal, perhaps if ye were to get up out'ta that chair an' do something my complaint might be seen to in short order?"

"Miss Glamorgan, thar's places fer sity-atin's sich as this h'yar matter, an' thet's the Court. It's all 'bout Civil Law, not Criminal Law. I cain't do anythin' without a Court Order, an' thet won't be arrivin' till ye've put yer case through a reputable Court, in sight of a reputable Judge, who's come to a reputable decision in yer favor over sich, an' so given out a reputable Court Order I kin act on. Till then thar ain't a da—er, thet is, anythin' I kin do at all. Go over t'the Courthouse an' see the Secretary thar; he'll put yer right, sure 'nuff."

The door to the street slamming behind the frustrated shopkeeper might have heralded a period of calm for the brow-beaten Deputy, but such was not to be; the door rebounding on Miss Glamorgan's exit only to herald the arrival of Sally Nichols with an apprehended felon under her charge—she being less than calm as a result of as yet unknown circumstances associated with the apprehension of said felon.

"Get yer butt in h'yar, ye oaf!" Sally not in a polite frame of mind at all. "Harry, cell Number One, if'n ye pleases; this dem' redneck's gon'na be visitin' with us fer some long time ter come, I finds."

The chargee under discussion, to Henrietta's eyes, showed as a man in his late forties, around five feet seven in height, blue eyes, careworn face with a week's growth over his cheeks and a mustache that rivalled Friedrich Nietzsche's famous world-beating example.

"Hit me with it, baby, hit me with it." Henrietta rising to her feet, searching meanwhile in the desk drawer for the cell keys.

"Stand stiil, ya ape!" Sally giving orders like an old hand. "One word, one move, an' I kicks ye whar ye'll remember it fer yar's t'come! OK, this id'yeet jes' tried ter grift Mike Travers, over t'the Hollyar Saloon, in'ta handin' over his pile, under duress o'threatenin' ter blow his head off with a gun he had concealed about his person."

"Did he?"

"No, he didn't!" Sally as much angered by this childish attempt to spoil her day as anything else. "Held his hand in his pocket an' pretended t'have a thirty-two Lefaucheux thar. Mike saw through his grift right off an' pinned him ter the floor till I arrived. Dem id'yeet!"

Henrietta led the way through to the row of cells behind the Office.

"Waal, son, ye've gotten yersel' in a heap o'trouble, now. Judge Andrews don't like grifters, an' especial he don't like thieves with menaces. Ye'll be lucky if'n he don't give yer two yar in Phoenix Penn. Only yersel' t'blame; this way, we got the most comfortable cells in West Arizona—in ya go, thar."

Back out in the Office more was yet to come. Already standing there to meet the returning, and by now somewhat harassed, Deputies were no less than three more customers.

"Mister Brightman, what kin we do fer ye?" Henrietta greeting the well dressed man in a brown suit and matching Homburg.

"Mrs Woodley, what kin we do fer ye?" Sally addressing the woman now sitting on the only chair in the Office.

"—er, what was it, agin?" Henrietta searching her memory for the young girl's name as she stood beside Mister Brightman.

"Mary—Mary Evans."

"Ah, yeah," Henrietta hardly more clear on the matter. "So, what's ter do? You first, Mrs Woodley."

"I've come t'complain about Miss Fairley, who resides in the same Boarding House as me; she plays the pianee t'all hours o' the evenin', jes' when I likes a cosy sit-down with a newspaper. Cain't go on, is all I says; so's I'm h'yar t'have her put in her place. Ye'll find her in residence right now, if'n ye goes across sharpish, leddies."

"Mister Brightman?" Sally taking up the cudgels of Justice, in a probably futile attempt to waylay agreeing to this disagreeable duty on either her or Henrietta's part.

"As ye knows I'm Chair o'the town's Civil Committee an' I'm h'yar t'day t'put a decision o'our'n ter the Law—meanin' Sheriff Donaldson an' you two—whar be Donaldson, anyway? Ain't seen him these last few days."

"Over ter Garnet Creek—Sheriff's Convention; won't be back till Friday." Henrietta taking the opportunity to disengage from Mrs Woodley's woes.

"Hah!" Brightman taking not much notice, delving into a pocket to reveal a wad of papers. "Anyway's, h'yar be our Decision, duly noted by Lawyer Vernon o'this h'yar town. Here, this be yer copy."

Henrietta eyed the papers suspiciously, making no move to accept them.

"What be they about? Jes' askin' in case they don't meet the criteria due t'local Law, an' all?"

"They detail our Decision, the Civil Committee's thet be, thet we h'yar in Red Flume don't want no Chineemen, or thar wimen-folk, come t'that, settlin' in our fair unpolluted community, no-how. NO TER THE HEATHEN CHINEE, bein' our new maxim! Sounds good, don't it?"

"Jee-sus Chr-st!" From an appalled Sally.

"Any news o'George P. Dawes?" Mary trying not to smile gratuitously at this suggested answer to the arrival of unwanted foreign labour.

"Who?" Henrietta all at sea for the moment, her mind grappling over three different topics at once.

"George P. Dawes." Mary elaborating as necessary. "Remember, my Uncle wants ter—"

"Oh, yeah, I recalls." Sally nodding indifferently, her attention on other matters as well. "He's workin' out at the Double Line ranch, ten miles south. Head honcho thar, I recalls."

"Great, thanks." Mary nodding as she turned to leave the crowded Office.

"Now, whar was we?" Henrietta trying to bring a sense of purpose to a twisted set-up.

"It is your duty to see to my well-being jes' as soon as ye sees fit." Mrs Woodley, feeling somewhat left out, now on her high horse.

"The Civil Committee feels the manifestation of a Chinee ethnical presence would bring the tone o'the Community down somthin' awful; so's we stand united aginst sich bein' allowed ter occur, as one man!" Mister Brightman determined to put over his own point of view against all comers, standing firm and tight-jawed against all opposition.

"Jee-sus Chr-st!" Henrietta now herself clear out of patience.

"What about Miss Fairley's pianner, an' me?" Mrs Woodley sticking to her guns like a hero.

"What about some grub, h'yar!" A plaintive cry from the cells at the rear of the Office.


Saturday dawned bright and cheerful, though hot; the Sun doing what it did every other day of the week—shine far too strongly for anyone's comfort: it also— the day that is, not the Sun,—bringing the latest copy of the local newspaper, the Red Flume Messenger, renowned throughout its place of origin if nowhere much else across the Territory.

"See Ben Cartwight got hung over ter Phoenix three days since."

"Is thet so?" Henrietta not much interested as they sat in the Office. "Waal, he won't be botherin' us much in futur', no-how."

Sally grunted, her attention already on another piece of hot news recounted in still wet print.

"Sez h'yar thet the body of an unidentified man was found down a back alley in Plainsong, up north two weeks ago; said body showin' signs o'havin' bin tortured some comprehensive a'fore death; no culprit known so far."


"Meb'be." Sally sniffing censoriously. "What the hell's the world comin' to, I asks? We, the White Folks, are explorin' an' settlin' all over this h'yar country thick as mites on a cheese, but we don't seem ter get on with anybody else h'yar—be it Injuns, Chinee's, nor Mexicans."

"Mexicans, I understan'," Henrietta giving her opinion without fear or favor. "The others is jes' bad politics, is all."

"Yeah, take Injuns, fer instance," Sally on a roll with one of her pet complaints. "They gets a huge chunk o'a State, or Territory in our case, fer a Reservation all ter themselves, an' then up an' complain thet it ain't the right sort'a country, not what they're used ter! I mean, if'n I had most of a sixth of a State ter mysel' I'd be a happy lady fer sure; make a mint o'money out'ta same within a month; not like these dem' Injuns, sashayin' round leavin' dirt an' mess a'hind 'em everywhere they goes. No sense o'respec' nor gratefulness at all!"

"It'll all settle down in a month or so, take my word on it." Henrietta making her view public for any who might take it as Gospel. "I mean, what else might happen? An Injun War? Ha-Ha!"

"Joe Bloggs, the Editor o'this rag, says h'yar it's about time the Law-Officers o'this fair Territory were up t'Washington, pushin' fer us t'be made a State, pronto, fast's as ye likes, an' no argy-ments taken!"

"Thet'll never happen!" Henrietta sure of her position on this topic too. "Make us a State, an' thet'll mean Federal Law! An' whar'll thet set us, I asks? Right in the swamp, fer sure. Nah, won't happen, not in our lifetimes, anyhow. Settle down, an' read the comic page, gal."


Tuesday, and Henrietta and Sally stood out in the desert some way south of Red Flume with miles of nothing all round, staring at something lying on the bare sand by their boots.

"He's dead."

"He sure ain't alive no more." Henrietta allowing of what, going by the state of the body, couldn't be denied.

"What d'ya think killed him?"

"God knows! Look at the dem' state he's in. Someone worked him over compreehensive, fer sure."

Sally, unwillingly but necessarily, leaned down for a closer look.

"He must'a bin alive fer most o'this, judgin' by the blood. Looks like he was staked out h'yar alive. Mus' be Injun work, fer certin'."

"Not so sure." Henrietta shaking her head as she too gave the gruesome remains a closer examination. "Who're aroun' this region these days?"

"All sorts—Hopi, Yaqui, Navajo, Apache's, an' a whole host o'various others, in small groups."

"Don't think, all the same, Injun's did this."

Sally rose to her feet, eyeing her partner with interest.

"What makes ye say so? I mean, look at him—or what used ter be him!"

Henrietta had her answer to this.

"Yaqui's would'a beaten him t'death in one fell swoop; Navajo's would'a knifed him an' gone about their business after; Apache's would'a shot him out'ta hand an' walked away: none, no tribe I knows of, would'a done what's bin done h'yar—too much, too compreehensive, too much cold determined anger shown t'be some Injun, or war-party, even. Too messy, even fer Injuns; an' anyway, this must'a taken someone a mite o'time ter complete ter their satisfaction—no Injun would'a had patience enuff t'see this through."

"So, what're ye sayin', lover?" Sally raising an enquiring eyebrow. "A White Man? Who, an' more importantly, why?"

"Seems likely, at least in my view." Henrietta acknowledging this scenario. "Look at him, almost wholly skinned, his important pieces cut off, toes an' hands seen ter sim'lar. His face—waal, his face, I asks yer?"

Sally, having taken previous unwilling note of this aspect, declined to refresh her memory about it.

"Yeah-yeah, sure."

"Someone didn't like this character, from top ter toe, and made sure he covered every aspect of his displeasure when the chance came his way. All we got'ta do now is identify the poor sap."

"Identify?" Sally letting out a deep sigh. "Identify thet? Ye must be jokin'!"

Henrietta had already turned back to her mount.

"Come on, leave him be, no-one'll do anythin' about him, thet's certin'."

"What about c'yotes?"

"Not till night, an' by thet time we'll have gotten someone from the Double Line ranch t'bring him in; they found him, after all—it's only around five mile north o'here."

"OK, let's go, sooner we clar this up the better."


Sheriff Donaldson was in a quandary; it was a week after the discovery of the unsavoury remains in the desert south of the town and some level of understanding was filtering out of a dense fog of unknowing.

"OK, we've jes' got confirmation from Doc Harrison thet the remains is one George P. Dawes, out'ta the Double Line spread; some o'the boys thar identifyin' an ol' scar on the body."

"How'd they do thet?" Sally interested in the detail of the investigation. "I mean, the state it was in?"

"Inner leg, apparent; skin thar still in situ amongst the gen'ral destruction." Donaldson nodding as one who knew. "An' ye were right, Doc Harrison an' I both o'the opinion it warn't no Injun work; this was done by a squirrelly cold-blooded White Man, with intent an' determination."

"Some enemy on the spread?" Henrietta grasping at straws.


"So, what?" Sally eager for a quick conclusion to the messy case. "We go down ter the Double Line, interview everyone thar, an' pick us a likely suspec'?"

"No need." Donaldson on top of this prospect.

"Wha'ya'mean?" Sally all ears for an explanation. "I mean, we got'ta get someone fer the crime, surely? An' all the Double Line boys must be in the soup-pot o'suspicion?"

"Dawes left thar with orders from the Boss, MacClarity, to ride the line of the fence some three mile in length on the southern border of the spread. Meantime everyone else—an' I mean everyone—was dragged in'ta preparin' the herd o'steers fer their run north t'Phoenix. Took everyone available every minute of every hour over some three days preparation. No-one else on the spread left the environs o'the ranch-house over thet time. Nah, no-one on the spread was responsible fer Dawes' death."

Sally could only see an earlier sharply focused image in her mind.

"Don't thet jes' bring us back ter Injuns, then? Who else could'a bin responsible? If not the major tribes, then one o'the lesser—a group of misfits actin' on thar own, sort'a raidin' aroun'?"

"No dice." Donaldson adamant on this point. "If so they'd have done more, bin more active all round, everywhar. Folks would'a noticed; an' no-one's come forward t'report Injun activity out'ta the ordinary over the past month. Nah, it weren't no Injuns."

"Waal, who, then?" Sally all out of patience.

"If not Injuns," Henrietta attempting to bring Logic to the problem. "an' no-one from the Double Line, I don't see no citizen o'Red Flume doin' this, either. I mean, someone as mean as he must be, we'd a'ready know about fer sure. Anybody come ter mind, Sal?"

"Nah, I don't know anyone like thet. Must be meaner'n a rattler with a toothache, fer sure."

"Waal, give it time," Donaldson shrugging his shoulders. "somthin' may yet turn up, as these things does. What about thet Report about the dam' Civil Committee an' their id'yeet proposal about the s'posed Chinee menace?"

"Workin' on it, Charlie." Henrietta turning to this important matter. "Brightman ain't got a leg t'stand on, sure. Ain't more'n ten Chinee in the town as it is; two families, both in the laundry trade. Give 'em the shove t'pastures new, an' everyone in Red Flume'll be smellin' o'somthin' more'n roses in a short week's time!"



It was the end of another week, and the Deputies were sitting in the Sheriff's Office contemplating Eternity in their own individual ways.


"Dawes, name rings a bell's all."

Henrietta, preparing to take a well earned nap, this being a quiet afternoon, sat up staring at her partner.

"Which way?

"It'll come t'me, gim'me room."

Henrietta wasn't having this sloppy attitude.

"How long? A month? A year? A decade? What're ye thinkin', come on, spit it out?"

"Jes' the name hangs on my conscience some." Sally frowning over her faulty memory. "I knows I know; jes' cain't bring same t'mind's all."

"Thet's helpful." Henrietta not impressed in any way.

"Thar's somthin' about the name—heerd it someplace a'fore, don't know whar."

"We've bin makin' Reports on the awful sity-ation this past two weeks, near enuff; 'course ye've heerd the name a'fore; haven't we all?"

"Nah, somthin' more'n thet." Sally sure of her uncertainty. "I knows I know, I jes' knows, is all."

"Take a nap; prob'ly come ter ye in yer sleep, like things often does." Henrietta still focused on her own lack of same.

Sally however grabbed her hat and made for the door in a determined manner.

"Needs some fresh air; meb'be walkin' roun' the town'll spring my memory t'life; see ya later."

"If ye feels ye must, gal." Henrietta settling back doggedly to make advances into how many more than forty winks she could accrue over the next hour.

A mere ten minutes later her attempts at quiet repose were interrupted again by the Office door slamming open to reveal an energised Deputy on a mission.

"I remembers!" Sally throwing her hat on the desk in her excitement.

"What?" Henrietta still only half conscious. "What ya remember? The Alamo? The President's birthday? Queen Victoria's latest Jubilee? What?"

"Dawes! I remembers about Dawes!"

Henrietta was hardly clearer in her still clouded mind, frowning darkly over this statement.

"We all recalls dam' Dawes!" She scowling furiously in return. "Written enuff Reports t'choke a donkey over the dam' affair. So, what about dam' Dawes, now?"

"Thet young gal! The one we met thet time in the Emerald Isle—remember?"

Henrietta shook her head, instantly regretting this unwise physical exercise.

"Nah! I doesn't. Remind me."

"We was drinkin' in the Emerald Isle, an' this gal asked us about Dawes. Said her Uncle had business affairs with said character an' she wanted some t'find him. Ya must remember!"

Henrietta sat up straight, passed a hand over her face, took a couple of deep breaths, and finally returned to Life.

"Yeah-yeah, I does recall somthin' o'the sort. What about it? Ye thinkin' o'haulin' a seventeen yar old gal in over a hideous torture an' murder? Gim'me a break."

Sally shook her head.

"Ye recalls, some two weeks since, when Mister Brightman, an' some other leddy, was in here, spoutin' nonsense fit ter bring on a migraine? Thinks the gal, cain't remember her name, was thar too. May have told her mysel' whar t'find Dawes; we havin' made some investigation roun' about, ye remembers, I hopes?"

Recall, if not full at least partial, came to Henrietta as she thought about it, her eyes opening wide as she did so.

"Yeah-yeah, could be. But she couldn't possibly have, er, y'know."

"But she might'a bin involved, somehow?" Sally eager not to let slip such a strong possible lead. "Inveigled him in'ta goin' with her, out in'ta the desert whar he met his fate at the hands o'some other, misguided an' half-crazed, man, as yet unknown? We got'ta find her an' question her from head t'toe, an' mighty quick, a'fore the dam' trail goes cold fer ever."

"Whar be she layin' her blanket these days?" Henrietta trying bravely to come back to something approximating a professional outlook.

"Dunno!" Sally shrugging her shoulders. "She did mention some Boarding House, but I fails t'recall which."

"God, yer memory out'ta be ashamed o'itself, baby!"

"Fool! Come on, we can still get a search goin', it ain't near evenin' yet!"



The trail, at least insofar as finding the errant young girl, proved a lost cause; no-one in the town having any memory of her presence, all the visited Boarding-Houses adamantly denying ever having had her as a customer. Sheriff Donaldson, assailed on all sides by the two irate Deputies, finally caving-in and ordering them to visit the Double Line ranch and not to come back without the murderous culprit, in whatever state of Being best suited the Law-women in the moment.

"I finds a Trial would only be a messy business, annoyin' the citizens somthin' terrible an' allowin' of the Messenger t'print details thet're best left unsaid. Feel free ter shoot first, an' let questions find their own direction. Thar's no murderer like a dead murderer, remember!"

Two days later Henrietta and Sally stood in the ranch-house of the Double Line spread facing the Boss, one Henry MacClarity.

"A young gal? Name unknown? Talkin' ter George Dawes a'fore he disappeared? Nah! Cain't say I saw anything like, sorry."

"Did anyone else on the spread see anythin'?" Henrietta fishing for the least clue.

"Cain't say. Ye wan'na talk t'the boys? Some half dozen are still out on the prairie, won't be in till night. The boys on the High Fields won't be in till the end o'the week, campin' out, y'know."

Sally sighed, this being all part of Law enforcement and something she was well used to.

"We'll see those available; might need'ta come back sometime fer the rest, OK?"

"Sure, knock yersel's out!"

Ten minutes later the women were standing in the Bunkhouse speaking to an Indiana man.

"Bert Jameson, knew Dawes well; yeah, he did meet some gal a day or so a'fore he lit out fer the wild plains. Recall seein' him speakin' with her from a distance, half a mile, meb'be. Couldn't make out details, but a young gal, certin. She rode off an', like I said, two days later he rode out on some necessity or other of no real import. Never saw him agin. Is it true he was—"

"Yeah—very; don't ask." Henrietta making plain he wasn't going to get any further information on that topic. "So, ye couldn't describe the gal, at all?"

"Nah, too far off. Why, is it important?"

"Meb'be, thanks anyway. Anyone else, ye think, see this gal?" Sally reaching for whatever came to hand.

"Nah, wouldn't think so, but feel free to ask everyone. Thar's a mite o'the boys still out on the Plains, bye-n-bye, though."

"So we understand." Henrietta already sounding defeated. "Let's go to it, Sal."


Thursday dawned bright and far too sunny for comfort; but as this was the norm no-one took any notice. Everyone appertaining to the Double Line ranch had finally been interviewed, to no good result.

"How can so many, with a young gal in the offing, see nuthin' nor hear anythin'?" Sally non-plussed by this distressing lack of interest on the part of so large a group of healthy men. "Are they all blind, or what?"

"Them as does recall, probly doesn't want ter get involved, so quietly fergets total."


Henrietta fiddled with a Warrant on the desk in the Sheriff's office.

"Let's take another look at the Weekly Report from Phoenix, might give us some clues."

"After all this time? Hardly!" Sally taking the negative stance from the get-go.

Henrietta, however, was made of sterner stuff, sitting down to peruse the four page report of general Disturbance, Thievery, Cattle Rustling, Grifting, and Naughtiness across the board and the Territory and neighboring States. A minute later she sat forward with a gasp.

"Waal, lookee h'yar!"

"What?" Sally not in the slightest interested.

"Lem'me read it." Henrietta focused on the sheet of paper with deep concentration. "Three months since, a body, horribly disfigured, found near a creek just north of Plainsong, suburb of Phoenix; victim still unidentified; apparent tortured while still alive, details matchin' our own George P.."

"Oh, yeah?" Sally suddenly all ears.

"An' last yar, so it sez h'yar, another body found in an alley in the outskirts o'some place called Atkinson, Nebraska, matchin' t'a tee the natur' of these other two; he also unidentified. With our George thet makes three at least thet we knows of. Thar's a series goin' on h'yar, baby; an', I takes it, must be the same perpetrator in all three cases."

"Ya think?"

"Read fer yersel." Henrietta passing across the Report. "Three victims, all disfigured an' tortured while alive in the same way, over the last yar or so. Somebody's on a mission o'revenge, babe."

"Jee-sus!" Sally having read the Report and come to the same conclusion as her partner. "What d'we do?"

"Give Charlie the glad tidings, an' get in touch with Phoenix, I expec's. From thar, anyone's guess."

Anybody's guess turning out to be a quick train trip north to Phoenix for the two Deputies; the next day finding them both in the big city's Sheriff's Office talking to the inmate, Sheriff Rufus T. Morganthaler III.

"So ye got yersel's a cut-up no-namer o'yer own, eh?" Morganthaler on the ball from the start. "Bully fer ye; seems ter be some of a thrivin' market fer sich. Hopes thar won't be many more; special in my region, anyhow."

"We got us a name fer our'n." Sally making this public as an interesting side-note. "George P. Dawes! Ever heerd o'sich?"

Sheriff Morganthaler, who till now had been reflecting an attitude of mild disinterest, shot upright in his chair.

"Dawes! George P., ye sez?"

"The same, yeah. Why?" Henrietta on the lookout immediately.

"Ye may not believe it, but I has what's called a photy-graphic memory." Morganthaler trying not to instil a note of pride into this information.

"Meanin'?" Henrietta no more enlightened.

"Means jes', I remembers everything—an' I means everythin'!" Morganthaler letting rip with his capacity, unrestrained by any thought of boasting. "I looks at a community party out fer a barbeque picnic one Summer, the next Summer I can still recall everything on the menu, everyone who was thar, an' every incident, with those involved, thet took place over the whole day. I doesn't ferget anythin'."

"So?" Sally not quite up to scratch with this apparently insignificant news.

"George P. Dawes is, or was apparent, a felon who did ten yar in Charleston Penn, West Virginny, fer bein' involved in a bad rape thet happened thar some eighteen yar since. He was let out on ticket o'leave eight yar since, an' promptly disappeared. Seems the fool couldn't live under an assumed name, either."

"A bad rape?" Henrietta, against her better judgement, asking what had to be asked. "Ye recalls any details o'same?"

Sheriff Morganthaler scratched his head, bringing back to the light of day matters best left in the dark.

"Seven men took a widow prisoner, carried her out in'ta the woods, raped her individual over two days, then left her at the side of the road an' went thar merry ways. Jane Evans by name, I believes I recalls. Fancy she later had a baby."

"Sh-t!" Henrietta appalled by this information.

"God A'Mighty!" Sally's memory coming to the fore, a trifle late, at this. "Thet gal we met, back in Red Flume, Harry. She were seventeen, or so she said. Wait a minute—Mary, yeah, Mary—Evans, that were her—Mary Evans!"

A long pause ensued in the untidy somewhat airless Office while the Deputies absorbed this revelation, Henrietta first to react.

"She's bin searchin' fer them—all o'them, these past few yars; ready an' willin' ter extort condign Justice in her own way an', seemingly, found 'em all, or most o'them!"

"An' took care o'them comprehensively an' painstakingly in the real meanin' o'the term!" Sally filling in the blank spaces. "Wonder how many she's found so far? Half of them. More?"

"Waal, three so far; who's ter say how many others a'fore them?" Henrietta hardly wanting to address the subject. "Eighteen yar since? Sheriff, how many others, more'n Dawes, might'a been released since?"

Morganthaler considered the matter with a furrowed brow.

"I don't attempt ter call mysel' a genius, what with my memory an' all; but, I fancy they might all have bin released, over time. Mighty lax Laws over t'Nebraska, y'know."

Sally pondered the mathematics involved.

"Say the gal Mary knew about 'em. Meb'be made enquiries of the Law an' got all their names; or her Mother knew who they all were an' told her daughter?"

"Could be, yeah." Henrietta riding the same trail as her partner. "Say she started the search at fifteen; she's had three full yar t'complete her search. Seven men? Could be done, I s'pose."

"Whar be she now?" Sally covering a salient point.

"Depends whether she's actil found 'em all, or if some're still to find." Henrietta trying hard to place herself in the girl's boots. "If'n she's still searchin' she could be anywhere in the States an' associated Territories; if'n she's completed her search, she could still be hidin' out anywhere."

"What chance of findin' her?" Sally raising a curious eyebrow.

"Waal, depends; if'n she's gone in'ta hidin' none at all, I'd say." Henrietta facing facts like a hero.



The following weeks sped by, the Deputies harassed daily in their duties by all the usual incidents relevant to a thriving desert town with an active Community. Thieves were caught, others never found, one or two murders took place with the same results. One Bank robbery played out with end results that could only be described as a fiasco; and cattle rustling went on as if a national sport. Then one day a letter arrived, addressed to Sally and Henrietta by name, postmarked and stamped as having originated in Hawaii.


"The very same." Henrietta revolving the letter in her hand as if doing so would help identify its sender. "Who d'we know in Hawaii, lover?"

"No-one." Sally up for this straight out the box.


Sally gazed at her better half for a few seconds, then spoke up.


"Yeah, babe?"

"I got an idee."

Henrietta turned to lock eyes with the woman she loved most in all the world, diving into pools of brown that seemed bottomless; then she came to the surface once more.

"Very funny! OK, I'll open the dam' thing—happy?"


From the envelope she extracted two sheets of thick cream laid paper, carefully written over in dark ink with a straight even hand. The contents, skimmed over at first, suddenly caught her attention fully and she continued ro read slowly and carefully, taking in every word. Finally she put down the letter with a deep sigh.

"What?" Sally eager to hear the news from such a foreign part of the world.


"What's it say? Who's writin' news from half across the world t'us, lady?"

"Oh, here, read it yersel, but be ready fer a shock."

Sally, so invited, held the sheets close to her eyes as she read the contents herself—

'Dear Deputies, I finds it necessary and only polite to associate you both with the bare bones of what has taken place around your Territory these last few months. My name is Mary Evans, and I am the daughter of Jane Evans. My Mother, some eighteen years since, was involved in a multiple rape, by seven men, wherein she was horribly done by and finally had a baby, me. The men were all caught and identified, my Mother having found out their names during the course of her terrifying assault. They were all put in jail, but over the years were released individually at differing times. When I was twelve my Mother told me all the details of her attack, along with the names of all concerned. Mother died three years ago; after which I made it my duty to search out all those men who had participated in her ordeal and deliver a True Justice they had till now avoided. One man had died in jail, two others died of natural causes over the years after their release; one man was hanged two year ago for rustling in North Carolina: of the other three I found them. You probably have details of their demise in your official Reports so I will not go into details, except to allow that I made sure each of the three knew why I was doing what I did to them, and how much I took joy in doing so, without mercy. I killed all three, and I did so slowly and with malice aforethought to the highest degree, as you will know if you saw any of the bodies. Now that my duty has been satisfactorily accomplished I mean to disappear into normal life, never to be heard of again. It being my intent to form a new ordinary life, get married, and have a happy home life with beautiful children well protected from anything like the terror suffered by my unfortunate Mother. Don't look for me in Hawaii, by the way; I have merely asked, through other channels, the purser of the ship travelling there to post this lettter on his arrival. Sorry for any or all difficulties my actions may have brought on your heads. Of the three men I personally tortured and killed I sincerely hope one was my actual father.—Mary Evans. (I mean to change my name too, of course.).'

"Jee-sus Chr-st!"

"Waal, thar ye are, sure!"

The End


Another 'Red Flume' story will arrive shortly.