They reached the dam about half an hour later, or at least what was left of it. On the way, they’d passed by was appeared to be a couple of fresh blasts around a couple of old looking mines. Without being ordered to, Face had stopped at each of them and taken a quick look inside. Mostly he found old timbers and a handful of miner’s supplies. There were also some old iron cart tracks, now slightly bent from the heat of the explosions, stacked up against the wall of one of them. Walking out of the last one, he shrugged at the colonel. He hadn’t seen much of value inside.
“Well, perhaps BA and Murdock found something,”
BA was sitting on one of the boulders near the river edge, already sketching something, as they approached, while Murdock called out measurements.
“It had been fifteen feet across, I think,” Murdock yelled, “at the widest point.” He was very carefully making his way back to this side of the waterfall that had been created with the destruction of the wooden dam. The two men had tossed a rope across, and the captain was using it to pull himself back. The ground all around them was mud, demonstrating that it had until recently been the bottom of a small lake.
“Careful Murdock,” Face yelled as they got closer, halting
the horse’s outside the edge of the mud.
The captain looked up and grinned.
BA turned as well, and stood up.
“What’ve we got?” the colonel asked, crossing over to BA.
“Dam was about fifteen feet wide near the top, and about the same in height in the center, based on the position of the supporting stones, most of which are still here. Probably had flash planks on top, to prevent emergency floods, which sent any excess water down that channel over there,” BA pointed to a nearly bone dry deep channel etched off to the side of the hill. “Water would have gone down there to drop harmlessly off the nearest edge of the plain below. Useless now, of course.”
“With the dam gone, the river took the easiest route, which is straight down onto the plain and straight to the convent. They didn’t have a chance.”
“What’s it going to take to build it again?”
“Men, money, and time,” BA replied. “Look, colonel, I was thinking…Chris Larabee and his men are good men. If Murdock goes, or if we can get a message to one of the others, explain what is happening here, I bet they’d….”
“We already thought of that, BA,”
BA frowned, then looked down at his drawings. Blowing air out of his cheeks, he nodded. “Okay…well, the four of us can probably do this, but it’ll be hard.”
“Not to mention one of us will need to be on guard at all
“Three of us, then,” the sergeant said, then he grimaced. “You know we’ll be sitting ducks when we’re building the dam,” he muttered darkly, “should they take advantage of it, even with one of us on guard.” He shook his head, “We’re verging on the impossible now, colonel.”
“Isn’t that our specialty?”
BA had looked down again at his sketches, trying to imagine
it being built with only three men.
Without more muscle, it’d be impossible.
Perhaps a really good set of pulleys and levers….Out of the corner of
his eye, he had seen the habitual motion of his colonel, and was equally
expecting to hear the call for the lieutenant.
When it didn’t come, he looked up from his drawings.
“Something the matter?” the sergeant asked quietly. He looked over at the lieutenant, wondering what he was missing.
“You need all that?” he asked.
“Yeah. Otherwise it won’t work.” BA shrugged, “Face can get it.”
“You’re awfully sure, sergeant,”
“He’ll get it; he always does,” BA stated firmly.
Face looked over, his smile fading instantly. When Murdock saw his expression, his own
smile fell as well. The captain was no
blinder than the sergeant. Both Hannibal
and BA saw the captain’s lips ask Face the same question that BA had asked
“Murdock has told me his latest theory,” Face said, smiling again as he got closer to the colonel and BA. “I have to admit, I like it.”
“You would,” BA snarled.
“Oh, come now, BA,” Face said, grinning, “what could you have against music?”
“We don’t need a ‘theme song’!” the sergeant shouted. “Not now, not ever!”
“A theme song!” he said. “See, I had this idea. Every class of working folk has their own music, see. Sailors sing about the sea; Railroad workers about the railroad….”
“Cowboys about the range,” Face added, getting into it, “Gamblers about the game….”
BA snorted, “they do not!”
“I’m a gambler, I’m a rambler,” Face instantly started singing, “I’m a long way from home….”
“If the people they don’t like me,” Murdock continued, “let ‘em leave me alone!”
BA growled at Murdock, causing him to jump back a step.
“Anyway,” Murdock continued, still talking to the colonel though he had an eye on BA, “I was thinking we need our own music. Something upbeat that we can sing while we’re building something, like this dam, or the clever traps BA’s already designed to keep the bad guys away.”
“Here’s what I was thinking, and Face has already given me a staring point. We take a tune everyone knows, like ‘I’ve been working on the railroad,’ change it a little, then put words on it about us. After all, almost all the songs everyone knows are just old songs that have different words and a slightly different beat. And Face here plays the piano, so he says he’ll write down the tune for me. Maybe we can get it published! Then, whenever we enter a town, people will see us coming and start singing our song.”
“Oh,” Murdock couldn’t hide his disappointment.
“Now, hold on,” Face said, “that doesn’t mean we should nix the idea. So people won’t sing it for us when we enter a town, it’d still be great to know that people are singing it. Good publicity, now, wouldn’t it? Maybe change some minds about us? After all, Robin Hood only became a hero after the people wrote songs about him making him that way.”
“The government will do what the people want, in the end,” Face replied archly. “Think about King Richard.”
“The government also has its pride, Lieutenant. We make them jokes, the bounties on our heads will increase so fast it’ll make your head spin.”
“You’re mixing up the army and the government, colonel. All we need is to have the President pardon us and….”
“And you’re mixing fantasy with reality, lieutenant! Be serious!”
“All legends have their basis in reality, colonel! Who says that we can’t use the same tricks?”
“Tricks? You think our life is about tricking people? Of course, maybe yours is.” There was a distinct contempt in that voice. “Lord knows where you would be without us. In jail somewhere, I’d wager.”
“Oh, nice, very nice,” Face nodded. “Mock the hand that feeds you. Nice.”
“You? Feed us? Do not forget your place lieutenant, and who makes the decisions around here.”
“How can I forget?
You remind me constantly how much better you are.” Face’s eyes were narrowed in anger, his hands
“Hey, there’s plenty of time to talk about this later,” Murdock said quickly. “After all, it was just an idea…and my idea, don’t forget. Mine. Howlin’ Mad Murdock? Remember?”
“Yeah,” BA agreed, “and before Murdock goes crazy on us
again, maybe we should tell you what we saw on our way here?” The sergeant
“Of course, sergeant,” the colonel said coldly. “What did you find?”
“Well, you saw some of those abandoned mines on the way here, right?” BA asked. When both men nodded, Murdock picked up the conversation.
“There’s more than a dozen like it all over these hills up here. Most looked old and useless, like that one, but we found one that was different.”
“For one thing, there were two men standing outside of it with guns,” BA said.
“The Fishman brothers?”
“Not unless they both died their hair from red to black,” Murdock shook his head. “No, I’m thinking these were thugs hired by the Fishmans -- outsiders. We did see the brothers not too far away, though, making plans in a small encampment they’ve made for themselves. Outside those two thugs, though, we didn’t see tracks that there was anyone else around.”
“Could you check out the mine?” Face asked.
“Yup,” Murdock smiled. “I got inside while their backs were turned and got a pretty good look at what was so special. Being that we’re in the southern part of the territory here, I figured it would be a copper mine…or maybe silver.”
“No,” Murdock said, “It was something even better.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a tiny nugget and handed it to Face. The lieutenant glanced at it for only a second before turning large eyes on the captain.
“Gold,” Murdock said. “A whole thick vein of it. Who knows how deep it runs.”
“I’d want these hills,” Face agreed, his eyes unable to take themselves from the nugget.
“It belongs to the nuns, Face,”
“Yes sir, colonel; I’m aware of that,” he turned away again, looking away down the hill towards the pink building in the distance.
“All righty then,” Murdock said slowly, reaching out to take
the nugget back.
“So what about this dam?” he asked.
“Well, I’d say we can get something up in about a week, less if we really push, and if we can get everything we need,” BA said, “quickly.”
Face turned around, aware that the last comment was directed at him. BA walked over and handed him the pad.
“That’s what we need,” he said, tapping the page. Face frowned, reading the list. The frown turned into disbelief as he started reading down the list.
“30 five to fifteen foot wide beams, five inches in depth, several dozen stakes, nails, saws, hammers, a winch, four diamond cut cornerstones, fifteen steel rods….” He turned shocked blue eyes on BA, “You have to be kidding? Where am I supposed to get all this without any money and in the middle of nowhere? Hell, the tallest tree around here is a big juniper bush! Why do you think almost all the houses around here are built of mud?”
“Hey, you always said you could get anything anywhere,” Murdock insisted. “Isn’t that right, big guy?”
“That’s right,” BA agreed.
“Oh come on,” Face said, “diamond cut stones? A winch? steel rods?”
“You once found a gold gilt stage coach with velvet seats in the middle of the Badlands of South Dakota,” Murdock said, crossing his arms. “Surely this can’t be that hard?”
Face smiled, remembering, “Yeah, well….”
“How did you find
a gold gilt stage coach with velvet seats in the middle of the
Face, cut short by the comment, stared at
Ten minutes later, they’d just started preparing what they needed for the traps, when galloping hooves caused them to look up.
Face rode back towards them, the steel cart tracks from the mine under his arm. He threw them at BA’s feet.
“Fifteen steel rods, and three more for good measure,” he called. Pulling out the piece of paper from his jacket pocket, he pulled out a pencil from the other and visibly crossed that off the list. “And you’ll find good nails in the broken timbers in the mine. Some of those disused shoring timbers may even be strong enough to get you started with the supports. I’ll be back with the rest tomorrow,” he tucked the paper away and gave them a nod. Turning his horse around, he was out of sight before any of the others could say anything. BA knelt down, happily going through the steel tracks, testing their strength and smiling.
“He’s amazing, you know that? The way his mind works, it’s
amazing,” Murdock said, looking over at
“We have work to do, captain,” the colonel said quickly, turning away.
BA glanced at Murdock, neither hiding their worry.
Face rode back the way they had come, looking for the
structure he’d seen on the way to
After perhaps three hours, he saw it.
A grin blossomed on his face, and he turned his mare in that direction. In moments, he was slowing her down in order to tread more carefully around broken timbers that were strewn along the ground. Blue eyes measured their depth to be about five inches.
Jumping off the horse, he let her loose to graze in the long grass as he took a more careful look at the half ruined barn.
It was blackened along one side, from fire and smoke damage obviously, and much of the roof was caved in, but it had once been an impressive barn. At least two stories high, half of its high rafters still towered over his head as he ducked inside.
The grin grew as he spotted a large, rusted winch still hanging from one of the intact beams.
Nodding, he turned and walked back outside.
The sound of someone ratcheting back a rifle spun him to his left, and his hands rose instantly into the air.
A young woman with dark hair was pointing a rifle directly at his heart. Face gave her his best smile.
Instantly, her eyes widened and the rifle end fell back by her side.
“My gosh, I’m sorry Father,” she said, stuttering slightly in her embarrassment, “I thought you might be a squatter or some such. I’m so sorry!” Her cheeks were blazing now, making her very pretty.
Face’s smile grew, and he reached up to adjust the collar at his throat. It’s amazing how much mileage he got out of this particular disguise. He was glad he’d changed into it before coming on this particular venture.
“That’s all right, miss,” he said, a slight Irish lilt in his voice. “I was trespassing, wasn’t I? I just happened to see this wonderful barn from the road and came by for a better look.” He turned to look up at the structure, wondering how long ago it had been burnt. It looked to have been a while. As he moved, he pulled a pair of wire rim spectacles from his jacket pocket and put them on, as if to see it better.
“Oh, that,” she frowned, “Not much too look at now, obviously. It was a great barn once though. Fire took it nearly three years ago now.”
“Yes, I imagine it was very grand. Still is. Why haven’t you fixed it, may I ask?”
“No point really,” she said, shrugging. “It wasn’t really practical all the way out here. My family built a much better one over closer to the river on the other side of those hills,” she pointed behind her. The sun was getting fairly close to the horizon now, and the hills looked as if they’d been brushed with gold. “The grazing land’s better over there too.”
“So…you just left this here?” he asked.
“Not worth it to break it down. Not enough wood to build a new barn left, and there isn’t anything else we’d need it for.”
Face pursed his lips, digesting this information.
“Um,” she walked closer to him, “May I ask…why are you out here, so far from nowhere?”
He turned to look at her again, a dimpled smile on his face. “Oh well....” he sighed, “actually that’s a fairly long story.” Walking over to a low beam, he sat down and looked up at her. “You see, miss, at the moment, I am a shepherd without a flock…” She looked puzzled, so he quickly explained, “a priest without a congregation.” He shook his head, “And I’m afraid a priest on the verge of losing his faith.” He took his glasses off and put his hand to his face.
She sat down next to him, her eyes concerned. “Losing your faith? Oh no! How can that be?”
He shook his head, “Are you sure you want to hear this?” he asked honestly.
She nodded, “Yes. Absolutely.”
He smiled again.
BA cringed as Murdock’s off key singing reached his ears again from wherever the captain was setting his traps along the hillside. It reminded him of the noise he’d heard from a dentist’s once…the sound of someone in horrible, excrutiating pain.
A noise to his left had him on his feet and reaching for his gun, staring out into the deepening gloom.
“Show yourself!” he called.
The rustling got louder, and, from behind some small juniper bushes, a young, dark haired boy emerged, probably not more than ten years old. He had his hands up, and his deep brown eyes were open very, very wide as he felt BA’s stare on him.
The sergeant’s face instantly broke into a smile and he took his hands away from his sides.
“Hi,” he said softly.
“Ola,” the boy responded warily. He lowered his hands, but kept the look of someone ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble.
“You must be Miguel,” the sergeant said. “We were told to expect you.”
Miguel nodded, “Si, senor.”
“Sister Ethel also told my colonel that she’s teaching you English.”
Miguel nodded again, then smiled.
“You’re one of the soldiers?” he asked shyly.
BA chuckled and nodded. Miguel nodded back, his expression very serious.
“Habla espanol?” the boy asked. BA nodded. Miguel smiled more brightly, then continued in Spanish: “I heard the sisters talking about you through the walls. They say you’re going to rebuild the dam.”
“That’s right,” BA answered in English as he knelt down. Miguel was now looking down at him.
“I was…I was wondering if I could help,” the boy said, still talking in Spanish. “I could take messages to the sisters for you, or get you food. Anything you need….”
“That’s all right, son,” BA replied, “I think we’ve got what we need.”
“Sure, but maybe you need a guide? I know these hills better than anyone. And if you need someone to spy on those Fishmans, I can do that too. They’d never know I was there.”
BA’s smile fell, and he shook his head, finally speaking Spanish. “Miguel, that’s a very brave offer, but I think we’ll be okay on our own. Plus, I think it would make both the sisters and my colonel very worried if he knew you did that. Promise me that, unless we ask you, you won’t put yourself in harm’s way. Will you do that?”
Miguel shrugged, then looked next to BA at what the sergeant had been burying in the mud. “What’re you doing?” He asked this in English.
“Building traps,” the big man replied. “To stop anyone from catching us unawares, and hopefully to scare them off.”
“What are they?” Still speaking English, Miguel stepped closer, but didn’t get too close. He was clearly not a stupid child.
“A lot of noise, a lot of mud, and not much else,” BA replied. “You know, I’ve buried a good number of these around here. It might be smart if you didn’t wander around up here too much.”
Miguel frowned, then shrugged, “But, if you let me help you, I would know where they are and not step on them.” He looked back at BA, eyebrows raised.
BA laughed again, “you’re very curious, aren’t you?”
Miguel nodded and fell back into Spanish, “Sister Ethel says that its my best and worst quality. She says I’ll either end up very rich or very sorry because of it, probably both.” He shook his head, “Not sure I really understand that.”
BA sighed, “Well, I know what she means. And she’s right. But I wouldn’t let that stop you.” He stood up, “C’mon, I’ll show you around and introduce you to the others.”
Miguel smiled briefly and nodded, “Sure! Let me just go get my pony.” He turned and jogged back the way he had come. In moments, he returned, pulling a young paint behind him. BA grinned at the sweet looking beast.
“And maybe,” the sergeant said as the boy reached his side, “since you know these hills so well, you could recommend other places for us to set some of these traps?”
Miguel grinned, and nodded vigorously. “Oh, I can show you some great places!”
“Sounds like you’ve had a hell of a time, Father O’Herlihy.”
Face smiled at Hugo Block, the silver-haired owner of the Block Ranch, then let the smile fall as he sighed. “I admit…it is not the easiest thing to lose so many in such a short time, and to lose my home as well. But I am determined to find the funds somehow. If I gave up, then I wouldn’t be worthy to wear these clothes.” He touched the priest’s collar at his throat, then reached up to push his wire rim glasses further up his nose.
Hugo Block pursed his lips, while Face tried to keep his attention completely focused on him, not wishing to lose the mark he’d just spent the better part of an hour buttering up. Stella Block, Hugo’s youngest daughter and the young woman who’d accosted him at the ruined barn, sat close by “Father O’Herlihy’s” side and backed him up.
“And that’s why you were looking at our half-burnt barn? To see if you might get ideas for a church?” Hugo asked slowly. His fingers smoothed down the long white handlebar moustache he wore as he spoke, making it difficult for the conman to read his face as easily.
“Oh yes,” Face gushed. “I realized the moment I saw it that the architecture of the structure, thinking about what it stands for, it would be exactly the sort of building that would remind the people of my town why they came out here in the first place. The people are so lost now, as am I after what happened there, and I feel if I could just build something that would remind them of what it means to be a community…to be a family again…that I could rekindle their hopes as well.”
His sons all grunted in amazement, while Stella gripped Face’s hand in hers. Hugo leaned back in his chair, his tall body completely filling the high backed seat, and brought his hands together in front of his face as if he were thinking.
They were sitting in the main ranch house of the Block Farm, in the dining room, surrounded by the large Block family – from the owner’s old mother to the fourth generation great grandchildren running around in the background. Ranch hands, including the foreman, stood inside the door, eating their dinner and shaking their heads in dismay at the story they’d just heard. The ranch was palatial, much like the lands Block owned; Face hadn’t realized how rich they were until Stella had brought him here to tell his story to “the family.”
“Couldn’t we help him dad?” Stella asked, looking up at her father. “I mean, we’re not using the barn, and the idea of that wood going to a good cause, like building a new church….”
“What?” Face looked at Stella, his eyes wide. “Oh, Miss Block, no. I could never….”
“She’s right, dad,” another of the Block children, a son, said. “It’s just rotting out there.”
Face gave a nervous laugh, and stood up, “James, thank you, but I’m not….”
“If you can use it, why not?” Another son said, then looked at his father. “I know we always planned to use it ourselves, dad, but Stella has the right of it. It should go to a good cause like this.”
Face frowned, his eyes very soft. “You are all being very kind, but….”
“You say you’re riding to beg for money in order to buy wood and supplies,” Hugo said suddenly. “You wouldn’t have to do that if I gave you the wood from out barn.”
Face looked back at the ranch owner, then, nodded. “Yes. I admit, that is true. But, sir, I have no money to pay you for it. I can’t just….”
“You need wood. A winch. Cornerstones. We have those. Take them.”
Face swallowed, “Sir…that sort of generosity….I can’t even express….” He sat back down, his expression flabbergasted.
“I told you,” Stella said, nudging Face. He smiled across at her, then looked back at Hugo, his eyes serious.
“I will pay you for it,” he promised. “Once I get the church going, I will ask for donations to pay you back. The people do not have much but….”
Hugo’s eyes darkened, and he frowned. Part of Face wondered if he’d pushed the con too far.
“Pay me back,” the rancher said. “Out of donations? How long would that take, I wonder?”
“Well,” Face’s eyes darted to the other faces, “I...I don’t know. With the mine closings and the fires…it might take a while for the town to get back on its feet. But once I’ve told them of what you’ve done, I’m sure we could get the money by….”
“No!” Hugo held up his hand. “I will not take money from the hands of the poor! Take the wood, Father. Take it and use it in God’s name. I will have no more of this. That barn and everything in it is now yours.” He stood up, “My sons will strip it down and load everything onto a wagon for you tonight. I only ask that, once done, you return the wagon and the draft horses I will give you to pull it.”
Face stood up as well, “Mr. Block…how can I thank you?”
“Just keep doing what you do, Father,” Hugo replied, “helping those in need. That is all the thanks I require.”
One of the ranch hands gave a loud whoop, and soon everyone in the room was cheering and laughing. Face grinned as Block’s sons shook his hand, and Stella gave him a peck on the cheek.
The creak of a wagon and a joyful shout caused BA, Murdock and Hannibal to look up. Face waved cheerily back at them from the driver’s seat of a long wagon, on the back of which was stacked long, thick cut timber.
“Five feet to fifteen feet long timber,” Face called as the wagon got closer, “a heavy loading winch, saws, stakes, bolts and not just four steel cut stones, not four heat cut stones, but four diamond cut stones, as ordered!” He grinned.
Murdock whooped and jumped forward, running to meet the
wagon. BA laughed, and even
“Didn’t believe you could do it, lieutenant!” he called.
“Oh ye of little faith!” Face replied, watching as Murdock climbed up onto the still moving wagon to check out the wood.
“How did you do it?” Murdock gushed. “Where did you find this stuff? And a wagon to boot! Are those plow horses? Four of them no less!”
“Well, how else was I going to get it here?” Face asked cheekily. “On my back? This stuff’s heavy!”
“I knew he’d get it,” BA said soundly. He walked over to check the wagon just as Face pulled the team hauling it to a halt at the edge of the mire. “And these horses are really going to help. You solved one of my biggest problems by bringing these.”
“Well, they’re only on loan, I have to return them and the wagon as soon as we’re done,” Face admitted.
“No matter,” BA grinned. “This is great Face. I actually think we can do this now.”
“Still can’t believe you did it!” Murdock laughed.
“Of course I did it,” Face agreed. “All it took was my usual skill, determination, hard work….”
“What was her name?”
Face opened his mouth to say there wasn’t one…and found himself saying, “Stella.”
“Well, we’ve got the supports up,” BA said as he pointed to the where he planned to rebuild the dam. They’d obviously used the wood from the old mines as Face had suggested to set up a platform and overhead set of beams to hold the winch. Face paled as the idea of real labor loomed before him.
“Um…perhaps I should go and do a quick scout while you begin,” he suggested. “After all, I didn’t really get much sleep last night.”
Face gave him a sneering smile.
“So,” he asked, looking at Murdock and BA, “we get visited yet?”
“Yes,” Murdock shrugged, “this morning. Two fish and three goons. Spouted the usual drivel about backing the wrong horse…going to work for them instead at double whatever the sisters are paying…not going through with building the dam if we know what’s good for us….”
Face nodded. Yup – that was the usual. “Anything to worry about, you think?”
“Only after it’s built,”
Face frowned, “so what is the plan?”
Face laughed, “Yes…but what is the plan?”
“Build the dam. Stop the bad guys,” Murdock repeated from atop the wagon.
Face sighed up at him, “Yes, thank you for that clarification Murdock.”
“Okay, let’s build this thing…” The sergeant said, rubbing his hands together.
Both Murdock and Face were up to their waists in the rushing
water, the only thing stopping them from going over the falls being the thick
rope harnesses holding them and their own determination. Using the horses, BA was carefully lowering
the next beam into place, while the two men guided it in.
“Sing it again,” Face shouted to the captain.
“Doo dut doo…dut dut doo….” Murdock sang, his voice higher pitched them normal as he tried to make himself heard over the water. “What is that?”
“Um…in four time, uh…a quarter, eighth, dotted quarter…um…eighth, dotted quarter, half note…I think,” Face yelled back. “How come you went down instead of up?”
“The railroad song…it goes up after the fifth note. You’re going down on the third and down again on the fifth. You’re changing the notes as well as the tune!”
“I thought this sounded better!”
“Well...okay! It’s your song!” Face grabbed the edge of the beam and pulled it towards him. Murdock got it from the other end. “So what happens next?”
“It gets faster! Listen, here’s the beginning again….Doo dut doo…dut dut dooo…then…doo dut dut doo…doo didido doooo….”
Face laughed, “Murdock! That’s great! Then what?”
“The first three notes again, then four longish ones…doo doo dut dooo…do dididi dooo…and it all repeats, but, the last time, after the four long notes do doo dut doo dooo doo dididi dooooo.”
“Will you two shut up!” BA yelled. “We got work to do!”
“But BA, this is composing! I can’t just shut down my muse!” Murdock shouted back.
“Well your muse is as atonal as you are!”
“Actually, BA, I think his song is…” Face began.
“Shut up Face!”
“Right!” the lieutenant agreed quickly. As he spoke, he pushed the beam into place, using his weight to hold it in place. Murdock started lashing it with ropes.
“My muse,” Murdock grunted, gripping the rope in his hands and pulling, “is not atonal! She is a goddess! Goddess’s aren’t,” he grunted and pulled again to stop the beam from slipping, “atonal!”
“That’s because she’s not a muse!” BA answered, using his own weight on the ropes to help them. “She’s a tone-deaf demon!”
“Hey!” Murdock let up on the rope in order to glare at BA, and Face squealed as the beam rocked away from him. The captain quickly grabbed it again and the three men muscled it back into place.
“Nail it before the ropes give, Face!” BA shouted as Face tied off his lashings to set it.
The lieutenant lifted himself up onto the beam, straddling it, and grabbed the mallet hanging over head from the overhead support, quickly loosing the ropes holding it up. Then, with all his might, he brought the mallet down on the rusted steel stake sticking half out of the beam in front of him.
And missed completely; he also almost fell off.
“Damn it Face!” BA shouted, as Face shakily regained his balance and tried to figure out why he’d missed. He looked at the inch wide stake’s head, and frowned. How did he miss?
Maybe it had moved?
With a stubborn look, he wound up to hit the stake again.
And missed again. This time, his momentum sent him into the river. He came up spluttering.
“Face! You’re supposed to hit the stake! Not the water!”
“I know that BA!” Face shouted back, pushing his wet hair back from his face.
“Then hurry it up! Or switch places with Murdock! He may be nuts, but at least he can hammer a nail!”
Face shot him a dark look.
“Pretend it’s a piano key!” Murdock shouted. “I’ll sing the tune!”
Face raised his eyebrows at Murdock, but didn’t disagree as he got back up on the beam and leaned back, grabbing the mallet again where it swung back and forth like a pendulum from the rope connecting it to the support. As Murdock started singing the song he’d made up, Face proceeded to bring the mallet down on the first down beat. He grinned as he hit it straight on.
“Hey, it’s working!” he shouted.
“Will wonders never cease,” BA muttered, but he did give a small smile.
Swinging back, Face continued to listen to Murdock’s terrible signing and brought the mallet down again on the next downbeat. When Murdock finished the song, all three stakes that were sticking out of the beam were in, holding the beam in place atop the beam below it and allowing BA and Murdock to release the ropes.
“See?” Murdock crowed. “Told ya we needed a theme song!”
“You’re both nuts!” BA shouted at them, walking away to get the next beam. Neither saw the grin blossom on his face as Murdock’s tune whispered in his ear.
“Doo dut doo…” Face and Murdock sang together as they sloshed out of the river to help the sergeant, grinning like idiots, “dut dut dooooo…”
The townsfolk were fools.
He’d seen several of them come by and visit with the Fishmans. He’d come to recognize them from the reconnoitering he and the others had done in town. Mr. Duval, the owner of the hardware store; Mrs. Crabapple, the brothel…sorry, saloon…owner; Mr. Cortland, the livery stable owner; others…and, of course, the sheriff – Sheriff Cotton.
The last had been the one who worried
Whatever happened, that sheriff would have to go. The nuns wouldn’t be safe unless some real law was put in place and the Fishmans were put away behind bars.
He also considered trying to get in touch with some of the local representatives of the territory he knew, some of whom might consider getting involved. They were good men, and might be able to exert pressure on the government to send new law here.
The colonel pursed his lips.
He hated not knowing what to do.
He wished he understood why Sister Ethel had forbidden
Truth was, he’d accepted this work in part because he had secretly hoped to meet those seven men again.
Well…that and he’d enjoyed needling Face.
A smile touched his lips, and then instantly fell. The
tension between the two of them was still thick. He didn’t know where it had come from; why
he’d gotten so angry with the younger man.
Neither Sister Ethel’s straight-jacketing conditions nor his inability
to come up with a plan for what to do after the dam was built was Face’s fault. And yet, the kid made such an easy target
“Damn,” he muttered. At some point he knew they would both have to swallow their pride and apologize.
But damned if he was going to apologize first. The kid should have shut up when he told him to.
Why hadn’t Face just followed orders?
His eyes narrowed and he broke from his reverie to return to his watch on the camp below.
Sheriff Cotton frowned, thinking over what the Fishman brothers had told him about the four men building the dam…that they’d looked familiar. Three of them had come into town last night -- the sandy haired gambler type had gone to the saloon, the big one to the hardware store and then the blacksmith’s, and the older one to the restaurant…where’d he sweet talked Mabel Cartman, the restaurant’s owner…and the sheriff’s girl.
Cotton grimaced. He’d wanted to tear the gray haired one apart last night for talking to Mabel, but the Fishmans wanted them four to finish the dam first. But if that man made one more pass at his girl….
He frowned. Truth
was, he too thought he recognized the name the gray haired one had used when it
town last time:
Troops? Did he just think they were troops? Why did he think that?
The sheriff was a soldier once, part of the union army before retiring. He nodded. That was it. Those men weren’t just working together -- they were a unit. Like soldiers with their commanding officer….
He stood up like a shot, a smile growing on his face. Turning, he ran to the filing cabinet and pulled open the top drawer. The wanted posters were stacked up high in there, and he went through them very quickly.
Suddenly, his rifling stopped, and, slowly, he withdrew a single poster.
“Well, well, Colonel Hannibal Smith…,” Cotton grinned, “I knew I knew you.”