Cadwallader - Chapter 7 - The Trail Forks

 

By TK Hugh

Editor's Note: The following is Chapter 7 of a fictional, yet realistic story about a man by the name of Ben Cadwallader, who just spent some valuable time in the desert. Dust in your boots, the cyclic motion of the horse beneath you, the smell of a campfire, and the heat of the sun in a hot New Mexico desert. This will be a bimonthly, long-running story in a special department within the magazine. --Carrie Aulenbacher, WMD Managing Editor 


I left Navaho Wells just before daylight. I had stayed at the Trading Post with old man Ingersoll fussing over me for too long, if you could call two days too long. So early that morning I gathered what little I had and wrote Ingersoll an IOU for the pistol he gave me. The man had treated me well and I aimed to pay him back, once I managed to get my gold. The varmints had snatched it and tried their best to kill me to boot. They would soon learn, as many had before, the Welsh don’t die easy.

So there I was riding bareback toward Mora, ill-fitting shirt, run down boots and I was wearing a fourth hand hat that fit wrong just about everywhere. But I also had a canteen full of fresh water, a razor-sharp knife and a pistol that would shoot straight, which gave me comfort. I still wasn’t completely feeling my best, but I felt better than I had in a long time.

I had been riding about an hour when a thought suddenly gave me chills. What if the Freys didn’t go to Mora? What if they had put my gold in a bank? I had no way of proving that the gold was mine, either the nuggets or the coin. I shook my head and tried to put the thought out of my head.

“One thing at a time Maben,” I said aloud. “One thing at a time”.

**

After three days of riding as the crow flies, I saw Mora in the distance. It was just before daylight and the full moon showed the town before me all sleepy and peaceful. My gut told me it would be anything but that.

I slid off Red (ever since that animal saved my life I had been thinking of him by name), grabbed a hand full of bridle trace and starting walking toward town. I was still about a mile away, and believe you me I wasn’t real eager to walk again, but I needed time to think.

Mora was mostly a Mexican town and had its troubles in the Mexican-American war, but it was now thriving at the foothills of the Christo’s range. There were always drovers and cattle moving through there, so if the Freys weren’t in Mora, there was a good chance that someone would remember when they might have passed through.

As I entered the town on what I supposed was the main street I looked around and it was pretty much like every other town in the territory. There may have been a lot more sombreros than regular hats being worn, but there was still the usual assortment of storefronts. I spotted the livery and went over. I only had five silver dollars to my name at this point (for some reason the Freys didn’t bother to go through my pockets), but in this country you always take care of your horse first.

Eastern people sometimes had a hard time understanding why horse thieves were hung out here. That’s because they never had to try and walk across a desert. As recent events had shown, a horse can be the difference between life and death. Stealing a man’s horse is as good as attempted murder.

The hostler gave me a wary look as I walked up, and I didn’t blame him. I didn’t even have a saddle on my horse.

“Take good care of my horse,” I said as I held up a dollar. “He could use a bait of oats if you have them.”

“Mister, if you don’t mind me askin’, what happened to your saddle?” He took the reins from my hand and began to walk into the livery. I followed behind and as briefly as possible I recounted just how I came to be here, and without most of the things that a man traveling alone would have. I left out the part about Nancy Frey. Western men weren’t too keen on bad mouthing women, although I had met more than a few who probably deserved it.

“That’s real interesting’”, he said as he hung a feedbag over Red’s head. “I had a young feller in here about a week or so ago offered to sell me a saddle and a couple of empty saddle bags. I only offered ten dollars, since I really didn’t need another saddle and he took it.”

Shaking his head and smiling a little he continued, “Acted like he cared more about gettin’ rid of the saddle than making a good trade.” He could tell by my silent stare that my interest in his story was piqued. He gave a nod over his shoulder.

“It’s over there, hanging over that stall gate,” he said pointing in the shadows where the light was just starting to come through a high window in the early morning.

I walked over and stopped short. “That’s my saddle,” I said without hesitation. Rubbing his chin, the hostler walked over and stood by my side and said,

“How would I know if that’s the truth or just wishful thinking from a man who came into town riding bareback?”

“Look underneath the back jockey, way back under the cantle,” I told him. “My initials are burned there, LMC.” He went over, lifted the back jockey and looked.

“Sure enough,” he said as he turned back to me. “Look Mister, I had me no idea that this was stolen property. I don’t cotton to thieves. How about you just take what’s yours and give me the ten dollars I paid the next time you come through here?” It was refreshing to walk in as a stranger and get an honest break.

“By the way, who am I talkin’ to, if you care to say,” he said as he lifted the saddle off the rail and moved it over to the stall where Red was still munching away at the oats. I stuck out my hand as soon as he had unloaded the saddle and told him my name as we shook.

“My name is John Roberts,” he said. “If that feller’ who stole your gear is still in town, you should check over to the town Marshalls. Not a whole lot goes on in Mora that Marshall Evans doesn’t know about.”

**

I was feeling a lot better as I left the stables and walked to the Marshalls office. The town was small enough that just a general wave of the hand was enough to point me in the right direction. As I opened the door and walked into the Marshalls office, I stopped and stared. It was one of the brothers that sold me Red back in Leadville!

He looked up from something on the desk and squinted at me for a second and then broke into a smile as he got up and came across the room with his hand outstretched.

“Well I’ll be,” he said shaking his head and my hand at the same time. “It has been a long time.” I agreed with him. “Please take a seat,” he said motioning to one of several hard backed chairs that were scattered around the room.

Without asking, he poured us both a cup of coffee from a very large pot that was on top of the stove in the corner. I could tell from the steam that it was scalding and would no doubt be strong enough to float a horseshoe.

“So, before you tell me what business brings you to our fine town, which will no doubt include the reason behind your lack of proper attire, please allow me to properly introduce myself. I am Robert Logan Evans. You may call me Logan. My younger brother, whom you have also met and who is busy on our rancho, is Robert Nolan Evans. As you may have deducted, my deceased fathers name was Robert,” he said with a look that conveyed mischief and which had no doubt charmed many a young woman.

“Now that introductions are out of the way, tell me, Deputy Cadwallader, what brings you all the way to Mora?”

“It’s just Cadwallader. Ben, if you prefer. I haven’t been a lawman for a while.”

“OK, Ben,” he started again. “Why are you in Mora looking like you’ve been rode hard and put away wet?”

So I went back over my story and recounted everything that happened in Las Vegas. I made sure to include the part about Nancy Frey and how she personally took a hand in trying to kill me.

He was listening intently, occasionally stopping me to ask questions. When I was done, he pushed back from his desk and leaned back in his chair.

“Ben,” he said as he absently rubbed his hand over his face, “You have yourself a real problem.”

He suddenly got up from behind the old desk and began to pace and talk at the same time. “I have no doubt that things happened exactly as you say, but for the law to get involved you have to prove it. Unlike your saddle, your gold has no initials burned on it. Your outfit has either been sold or dropped in the desert someplace for the coyotes.”

He stopped walking around the room and looked at me. “Ben, as much as I can see it in your eyes, you can’t just hunt these people down. The law will not be on your side. You’ll become a wanted man yourself.”

For the first time it truly hit me, down in the pit of my stomach, what a relatively hopeless position I was in. By the time I could possibly track down the Freys they would be back East and protected by the law. I was right, and justice was on my side, but legally I didn’t have a leg to stand on.

“Alright, Logan,” I said getting up from my chair, “I admit that I’m in a bad spot. Do you have any suggestions?”

“Well, now that you mention it,” he said as a big smile came across his face, “I do”.




Stay tune for Chapter 8, in two weeks! --Carrie Aulenbacher

About the Author

T.K is a US Navy veteran and an engineer with over 30 years experience. 

He is a weapons enthusiast, and a student of the Old West. A man out of his time, he feels as if he should have been born a hundred years earlier. 

Both sides of his family arrived in America several generations before the Revolution. 






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