Steeds 32

24 05 2017

“Is this necessary?” a seated Gomer asked as Philip locked one wrist shackle and then one ankle shackle to a fence post near the left side of Lee’s desk.

“Think of it as precautionary, if nothing else,” said Lee, who sat in his chair parked at the center of the desk.

“But that other guy back there, he’s not wearin’ any chains.”

“Who? Zeke? He’s not a prisoner.”

“He was in a cage,” said Gomer. “He was there before I got here, and he was there until after sunup.”

“Zeke puts himself in there from time to time. He’s subject to occasional fits of melancholia, which in the past resulted in temptations to drink … and that meant drinking into drunkenness.”

“So he’s the town drunk.”

“No. More recently, to combat temptation, he has resorted to locking himself away from access to liquor when the mood strikes. He describes it like a spell of foul weather. When clouds gather and the sky becomes overcast, he gets in before it rains.”

“In jail.”

“Yes, among friends.”

“So he’s the town character.”

“No,” said a voice from the back. Dorothy came through the doorway with a tray holding metal cups and plates. “I daresay if you were more like Mr. Walgenbach, you wouldn’t be in here.”

Philip removed a cup of coffee and a plate with two doughnuts.

“It is written, ‘we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.’ Zeke does exactly that in this town, cleanin’ one place of business after another. That includes the bank and the courthouse.”

Lee removed two cups and two plates of doughnuts from the tray.

“So what if he’s a janitor-for-hire?” Dorothy said. “You could learn a thing or two from him. People trust him with their property. Would you trust you?”

“Hey!” said Gomer. “How come I get only tepid water instead of coffee?”

“The coffee’s hot,” said Dorothy. “You don’t get something you could use to scald either of these two law officers.” With that, she left them.

“Zeke comes here to be among supportive friends,” Lee iterated. “Chet and Dorothy Oakley, my jailors. Deputy Carlisle, whom you’ve met. Deputy Redman, standing here. And me. I am Sheriff Leall, by the way.”

“Howdy-do,” Gomer said with no conviviality.

“And you are?”

“Why should I say?”

“Come, come, now, Gomer,” said Lee. “You introduced yourself to men in the saloon. You introduced yourself at the hotel.”

“If you already know my name, why do you ask?”

“Please. Do I understand correctly that you are one Mr. Gomer Whelchel?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you. How was your breakfast earlier?”

“I’ve had better. Then, too, I’ve had worse. I should be eatin’ at the hotel.”

“And how is the horse business?” Lee asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I understand you sell horses in the city of Milwaukee.”

“Why would you think that?”

“You were in a saloon yesterday evening. You were conducting business while you were socializing. It’s a common practice among traveling salesmen. Or were you too drunk to remember now?”

“I was not drunk,” Gomer insisted. “So there’s no reason for that other deputy to lock me up.”

“You were disorderly, to say the least.”

“I was not.”

“Deputy Redman, if you please.”

“Yes, sir.” Philip handed Lee two handguns.

“This is a handsome brace of matching Colt single action revolvers. Caliber 38 Winchester Center Fire. Barrel lengths of four and three-quarters inches. Nickel plating. Staghorn grips. These belong to you?”

“Of course they do.”

“I thought so. They appear they’ll fit perfectly into those shoulder holsters you’re wearing. Deputy Redman has prepared a hand receipt for these, and also for your wallet, money, and train ticket. You can have your pocket watch back now.” Lee handed it over.

“How about my chaw?” Gomer asked.

“Later,” said Lee. “When you’re not in my jail.”

“And why exactly am I in your jail?”

“Are you too hungover to remember pointing one of these Colts at a citizen and the other at a uniformed officer of the law?”

“I said I wasn’t drunk.”

“So you remember drawing these weapons and threatening people in that saloon last night.”

“That citizen of yours was fixin’ to attack me.”

“Why?”

“He spit on me.”

“Wait. Eye-witness testimony says you spit on him.”

“After he spit on me.”

“Eye-witness testimony says he sneezed on you.”

“Same difference.”

“Why did you spit on him?”

“He spit on me. And what does the Good Book say? Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Oakley will be able to discuss that at length with you. For now, let me ask how drawing a pistol on a person constitutes absolutely equal retribution for being spit upon.”

“Not for spittin’. I said he was attackin’.”

“What do you mean by attacking?”

“He was goin’ to come for me. He was comin’ at me.”

“More details, please. In what manner was he going for you?”

“He was fixin’ for a fight.”

“A fist-fight.”

“Yeah.”

“And how do guns equal fists?”

“I wasn’t shootin’ at him. I wasn’t even pointin’ anything at him. I just showed him and everybody else that I was armed, and that he should back off and cool down. Don’t you guys do that with your guns?”

“You did point something at him,” said Lee. “One of these. And the other you pointed at Constable Smythe.”

“I was trapped. All those men had filled their hands with weapons and had me surrounded. What would you do if you were in my place?”

“Weapons? You call chairs and tables weapons?”

“Would you like to get hit with a chair, or two, or three?”

“Those men had the chairs and tables up to protect themselves from .38 caliber bullets.”

“So you say.”

“I do say, unless you have more to say about the situation.”

“They should have just let me leave. Or they all should have gone. Nothin’ else would’ve happened.”

“Really?” Lee slid a large piece of paper to the center of the desktop and turned it right-side-up. “The picture of the man printed on this wanted poster looks awfully much like you. The picture looks professional. It’s not a sketch; it’s a photograph, probably done by a man in that line of work. I see indications of a studio backdrop. This means that the depiction is of high enough quality for me to suspect the subject, indeed, is you.”

Lee held the poster so Gomer could inspect it. He then moved it back to the desktop.

“But wait,” said Lee. “The poster says the man wanted is named Montgomery Beacom.” Lee put a hand to his chin. “Oh, I get it, Gomer. Gomer is a name nicked from Montgomery. And as for Whelchel, files I have here in the office say the name of a fellow sheriff is Whelchel. Jacob Whelchel, sheriff of Wood County. This poster came to me from Wisconsin Rapids, which is the seat of Wood County.” Lee looked at Gomer. “What would you do if you were in my place?”

Gomer said nothing.

“The initials engraved on that watch are MLB. What does the L stand for?”

No answer.

“How did you come to pick a sheriff’s name for an alias?”

No answer.

“Deputy Redman.”

“Sir.”

“Take this poster along, just in case there is hesitation on the part of the hotel desk clerk. Get the key to Gomer’s room, go up there, search it thoroughly, and bring everything back that apparently belongs to him. That includes any laundry he may have given hotel staff to clean.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And while you’re at it, stop at the telegraph office and send a telegram to Wisconsin Rapids informing Sheriff Whelchel we have Beacom.”

“Yes, sir.” With that, Philip left the office.

“I’m not whoever that Beacom is,” said Gomer.

“No?” Lee studied the two revolvers. “I look at these Colts, and I see what someone may fancy as a dueling pair.”

“What? Two guns? So what? Many men have two guns. More than two guns.”

“How many men carry two handguns?”

“Some.”

“True. Some. Usually officers of the law and outlaws, and sometimes some of those men have been both.”

“I suppose.”

“How many men carry two matching handguns here in Wisconsin?”

Gomer shrugged.

“Are you an officer of the law? Is Deputy Redman going to find some kind of badge in your gear?”

Gomer shook his head.

Lee looked at the guns. “That poster says you’re wanted for dueling. That’s an odd accusation relative to all I see on other posters. But I see here what can pass for dueling pistols. And in the saloon last night, you didn’t just leave after having been sneezed at.”

“Sneezed on.”

“As you say. A patron carelessly sneezes on your back and neck. Do you turn the other cheek, to use the expression Jesus used, as written in the Good Book?”

Gomer does not reply.

“No. You get even, or try to get even, except all you succeed in doing is escalating the situation. Then do you leave? No. You dare the man to make matters worse … for himself, for others. That sounds like pride to me, the kind of pride that honors honor killings, the kind of pride that comes before a fall.”

 

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2 responses

26 05 2017
kursi kantor

Excellent ѡway of telling, and niᥙce post to get facts
about my ppresentation topic, which і am going to dᥱliver in school.

26 05 2017
D. Raymond-Wryhte

Thank you for reading and commenting. Allow me to emphasis that the blog post, as well as Steeds in its entirety, is a novel … a work of fiction. My work is based on many facts that pertain to the middle section of the United States of America as things were in the year 1882, especially in rural districts. However, do be careful in making your presentation. If, for example, you are discussing 19th-century police procedure, you will want to read non-fiction works of history.

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