Steeds 8

11 03 2017

“They’re here.”

Lee looked up from the papers on his desk to see a buckboard wagon drawn by two horses stop in front of the office.

Philip stood at the door separating the office from the jail and, shouting through the window, repeated, “They’re here.”

Lee, Philip, Chet, and Dorothy stepped outside the building and formed a line on the boardwalk. Philip had both hands hooked to the gun belt holstering a Model 1873 Colt Peacemaker.

“Good morning, Officer Lochelt,” Lee said.

“Mornin’ there, Sheriff Leall. Quite the welcoming party you’ve got here. Makes me feel a little like the Prodigal returning.”

“Would to God those two were prodigal sons turning,” Chet said.

“I don’t believe I’ve met your man on the bench next to you yet,” said Lee.

“Well now, meet Herman Schottlekorb.”

Herman raised his hat. “Mornin’.”

“He’s not a police officer. This is his rig, and he’s simply been deputized for the transport.”

“You made good time,” Lee said.

“We left shortly after sunup. Travellin’ twenty-three miles takes a while.”

“You timed it well enough, Emil,” said Dorothy. “Dinner’s still ready, and you’re welcome to it … even though you’re out of uniform.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard the ladies like a man in uniform, but I wear that thing only within the city limits of Mascoutin. Today, it’s just a badge and a gun.”

Dorothy added, “Herman, you’re welcome to dinner.”

“Thank you, ma’am. I’ve heard about your good cookin’, more an’ more often the closer we got to Uttica.”

“As far as Emil’s concerned, anything palatable is good cookin’.” Dorothy stepped off the boardwalk and to the side of the buckboard. “I understand one of you is Russell, and the other is Virgil.”

Both men lay sprawled in the back of the wagon, one leaning against one wall, and the other leaning against the other wall, each handcuffed to the railing above. Each also wore a ball and chain shackled to an ankle.

“I’m Russ,” said one. “Maybe you can figure who Virg is.”

“Oh, my. For that amount of detection, I may have to rely on the sheriff.” Dorothy walked around the back of the wagon to the other side. There she stopped and studied both men from that perspective. “Virgil, some of that dinner’s for you, too. And you can invite your brother.”

“Philip!” Emil called. He tossed his Model 1873 Winchester and got down from the wagon seat.

Removing a couple of keys from a pocket, he proceeded to unlock the closest pair of handcuffs. “Gimme your other hand here, Virgil.” Emil locked Virgil’s hand into the open cuff. Emil then performed the same task with Russell. After opening the tailgate, he stepped back and said, “All right, boys. You can come on off.”

Russell stood, picked up his iron ball, and walked to the end of the bed. Thinking better of jumping off with the ball in his hands, he let it drop to the floor.

“Hey!” Herman said. “This ain’t government property. It’s mine.”

“Tell it to the judge tomorrow,” Russell said.

“I might just do that.”

Russell jumped down and retrieved the ball.

Virgil scooted his way to the end of the wagon without standing and slid over the edge. Taking up his iron ball, he followed his brother.

Lee said, “Herman, you can park your rig on the west side of the building, but I suspect the horses want water and oats now, not later.”

“They do. I’ll park at the livery.”

“We’ll save you some dinner.”

“Thanks.”

Emil, following both prisoners, silently motioned at Dorothy to stand well away from them. Chet led the way into the building. Philip tossed the rifle back to Emil and followed Chet. In went Russell and Virgil. Then Lee. As Emil passed Dorothy, he quietly said, “I didn’t want your feet within range of one of them dropping a ball again, accidently or otherwise.” Dorothy followed him inside.

After having passed through the office, Emil said, “Chet, I see you’re empty. You’d best lock ‘em in separate cells. And make that cells separated by one in between.”

Chet did so.

“Now, boys,” Emil said. “I’ll remove the shackles. Virgil, you first. Put your ankle where I can reach it, and I’ll unlock that ball and chain. Then roll it on the floor beyond the bars; no tossing.” The ball just fit between two of the bars. “Put your hands through, and I’ll remove the cuffs.”

Emil stepped to the other cell. “Russell.”

That finished, Emil said, “Let’s eat!”

Lee said, “You must have transfer papers.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Other documents?”

“In my pocket. Here ya go.”

“Chet’s got the table set,” said Dorothy. The layout consisted of an array of gray porcelain enamel plates and cups and steel forks and knives with blackened wooden handles. “Grab a chair. I’ll bring the food.”

“What about us?” Virgil asked. “You invited us, too.”

“I have trays. Be patient.”

“What’s on the menu?” Emil asked.

Dorothy answered, “Pork an’ beans. Biscuits. Parsnips dug this spring. Asparagus cut this morning. An’ rhubarb cut this mornin’, made into a pie. A couple-three pies, actually.”

“Sounds edible.”

Chet assumed a stance between the table and the cells.

“Three chairs left here,” Emil said to him.

Chet nodded. “Let us pray.” He looked at Russell, and then at Virgil, indicating he intended to include them. “Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for the night, and for the pleasant morning light, for rest and food and loving care, and all that makes the world so fair. Help us to do the things we should, to be to others kind and good; in all we do, in work and play, to be more loving every day. This we pray in concert with the Holy Ghost and in the name of Christ Jesus, the Son and our Savior and Lord. Amen.”

Dorothy and Lee repeated in unison, “Amen.”

Chet took a seat at the table.

“You got a church yet?” Emil asked.

“The Church belongs to Jesus,” Emil answered. “If by church you mean a building that serves as a meeting place for a local communion of saints, no.”

Lee said, “Their congregation gathers in any of a number of locations hereabouts. Sheds and haylofts, usually. Sometimes the county courtroom. When the weather is nasty, a schoolhouse. When the weather is nice, outside under a few trees.”

“What about your boss? Or bosses, as the case may be. Don’t they, or he, do something to help?”

Emil said, “Lee is Methodist. Philip was reared in a Roman Catholic orphanage. Both denominations are of the episcopal persuasion, and so bishops are in place, and they do perform duties. The Lutherans have their synod. I, however, am not a clergyman in any of those denominations. Indeed, I am not ordained as a clergyman in any denomination.”

“So what are you?”

“God granted His grace to me through the ministry of Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey….”

“Who?”

“Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey,” said Lee.

“Like them, my dear wife and I are what many call lay ministers. We are both non-denominational and inter-denominational. We preach and teach the Holy Bible wherever, whenever, and to whomever, as the Holy Spirit leads and empowers.”

“Moody and Sankey, they’re not from around here.”

“Mr. Moody was born in Massachusetts, but Chicago more or less became his home away from home after the war. That’s where I first heard him, after my time in the war.”

“Oh, yeah? What outfit did you serve with?”

“Quantrill’s Partisan Rangers.”

“What?”

Chet did not respond to the question.

Emil looked at the others at the table. No one said anything, but no one seemed surprised at the admission. Emil then asked, “What’re you doin’ here? Shouldn’t you be in Missouri, or Arkansas, or Texas … or some such place?”

Chet answered, “When Captain Quantrill was killed in Kentucky, I deserted. Instead of going south, I came north. To Chicago.”

“Why?”

“What is it General Sherman is said to have said about war? It’s true. The demons of war had taken possession of me, and I wanted to escape. I was no more successful getting away from my demons than was Jonah when he tried to get away from the Lord God.

“They came right along, and another joined them in tormenting me: demon liquor. At first, liquor silenced the others, but only for a time. Soon, they haunted me unceasingly. I drank more and more to render myself senseless to them. To pay for the alcohol, I stole from other drunks. Early on, I picked pockets after they had passed out. Then I commenced beating others of them still standing for money and watches and rings and whatever else seemed to be of value. When I couldn’t steal enough, I begged. I even engaged in the foul entertainment of sipping from spittoons for coins tossed at me by howling sots.

“I was in jail, out of jail, in jail, out again.

“And then, and then … it smote me: I am myself a slave. I am a slave to sin and to Satan, and my lot is worse than any of the evils Mr. Douglas has described. And Mr. Moody explained, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.’

“And now, with my dear wife, I am a servant of the Lord God proclaiming to other slaves freedom in His Son.”

“Way up here,” Emil said.

“As was the Apostle Paul, Dorothy and I are tentmakers. We support ourselves in our ministry. Sheriff Leall has given us the means to do so.”

“Along with the county,” Lee added.

“But what about your family?” Emil asked.

“Chet’s kin were all killed in Missouri,” Dorothy said.

“Quantrill,” Emil repeated.

“Hey!” Virgil shouted. “You get to know Frank and Jesse?”

Chet turned to look at Virgil, and then at Russell. Both stood at the bars of their cells listening. “I was acquainted with the James brothers. I knew their names, and I knew them by sight, but we weren’t friends.”

“You boys mind yourselves,” said Emil. “If he rode with Quantrill, he knows how to thump more than just that Bible he’s got in his pocket.”

“What is it these boys are accused of stealin’?” Dorothy asked.

“Hardware,” said Emil. “They stole it in broad daylight from the railroad depot, actin’ as proper as you please, like they were Arlowayne Lancaster’s best employees. Then they took the stuff across the county line and went door to door, sellin’ it to farmers cheap. Barbed wire. Chicken wire. Rope. Even lightnin’ rods.”

“You didn’t cross the line to catch them.”

“Didn’t have to. One of the farmers came into town wantin’ to buy more fence. Seein’ the price, he asked Arlo why his fence was so much more expensive than what he got from those fine, enterprisin’ young competitors who come to his place a couple weeks earlier. Didn’t take long for the Chief an’ me to figure it all out after that.”

“According to the documents, the Barnetts don’t reside in Tuscumbia County,” Lee said.

“They stole the hardware in the county, and I caught ‘em in the county. In the city, actually. They were in the process of buyin’ handguns at Van Henry’s.”

“Yeah, and if you had waited just another five minutes, you’d never have taken us,” Russell said.

“Yeah,” said Virgil. “We’d have blasted our way outa town.”

“Sounds like somethin’ you ought to repeat to the judge tomorrow,” said Emil.

Lee asked, “When will Chief Kaatz arrive?”

“Oh, he’s not comin’. Since I did most of the work, he figures I can handle it in court, too. No, he’s got another crime to solve.”

“What’s that?”

“We got one or more thieves stealin’ horses.”

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