K&H ROUND ROBIN
Flint Rock, Texas
Jenny sighed and straightened her good black skirt for the umpteenth time, absently noting that it was the same dress she had worn to her son’s funeral and the subsequent trial for killing her son’s murderer. Good and bad she and this dress had been through together, and she hoped that this was one of those times that ended up good. She didn’t wait well, and waiting to talk to a judge, well that just made the waiting that much worse.
As Judge Callahan entered the hotel room, what was left of the room anyway, where he had set up to interview, Jenny had the fleeting thought that she had hoped to never be sitting in front of a judge again.
“Now you realize, you’re not accused of anything ma’am, I’m just trying to get to the bottom of this…this…whatever is going on here.” He gave her a slight smile, trying to put her at ease.
“You don’t have to call me ma’am, Jenny will be just fine.” Without realizing it, she gave him her “special” smile, the one she used to entice men into betting more at her blackjack table, and it generally worked.
Judge Callahan just looked at her for short pause, cleared his throat, settled back into his chair and picked up his notes. “Well, Jenny, why don’t you tell me what happened, the way you saw it.”
Jenny was quiet for a moment, trying to decide where to begin. “Well, your honor, you see, it all started with a telegram…”
Jenny stared at the piece of paper in her hand. All it said was “Job waiting in Flint Rock. Ask for McCreedy. H&C” It was cryptic, but she figured that those few words were all the money they had to spend on a telegram. She laughed to herself – she could almost hear Heyes arguing with the telegraph operator about whether Flint Rock would cost him for one word or two since it was the name of a town and really should just cost him for one. She had to smile at how those boys had looked after her since Billy had been killed. Why, if it hadn’t been for them and Lom, she would be in prison right now. She could never repay them for all they had done for her, and now they’d found her a job knowing she was getting desperate for one. She used her last few dollars to buy a stagecoach ticket to Flint Rock, knowing that Heyes and Curry wouldn’t steer her wrong.
The job turned out to be running a saloon, called the Golden Slipper, for Patrick McCreedy. He had won the saloon in a poker game and he had no interest in running it himself, so he had tried to offer the job to Heyes and Curry, and they, having no interest in working long-term for McCreedy, had immediately thought of Jenny as the perfect person. McCreedy hired her on their recommendation alone. Jenny had heard of him, and despite his reputation, she and McCreedy had struck up a sort of a friendship.
Other than the occasional over-enthusiastic, drunk cowboy she had to deal with, Jenny enjoyed her job at the Golden Slipper. She would sometimes hear rumors about the goings-on at the Michaels’ ranch or hear of trouble stirred up by Bo Michaels and his siblings, but so far, none of it had touched her personally. They avoided the Golden Slipper, and the talk was that there was bad blood between them and McCreedy, so they steered clear of the saloon, there being several others in town they could frequent. Jenny feared that it might not always be that way, but for the present, she didn’t let those kind of thoughts intrude.
Trouble always managed to find its way into Jenny’s life one way or another though, and this time it rode in the middle of the night in the form of a large group of horsemen dragging someone in to the jail down the street. The hoofbeats and the yelling drew all the customers out of Jenny’s saloon, so she followed them out to see what all the commotion was about. She gasped when she realized she knew the man half-standing, half-falling in the middle of the street, his face bloodied, hands tied to a rope that had been used to drag him who knows how far. She pulled her shawl tighter around her and slipped out amidst the crowd, trying to ignore the yells of the men screaming “We hang murderers in this town” and “String him up now.” Clear of the crowd, she ran to the telegraph office, pounding on the door to awaken the rather grumpy telegraph operator. She knew that Heyes and Curry wouldn’t need more than the words “Lom’s in trouble in Flint Rock” to make them come running, and Lom looked like he could use all the friends he could get.
At this point in her story, Jenny cleared her throat and reached for a glass of water on the table in front of her, although she was wishing it was something stronger. “You see your honor, I owe Lom a great debt; if it wasn’t for him, I would most likely be in prison for murder.” Judge Callahan raised an eyebrow at this news, but remained silent.
“I know, it’s hard to believe, but I did kill a man.” Jenny continued. “Although I prefer to consider it justice rather than murder, as the man in question killed my son. Still, the law says that you can’t kill someone, even under those circumstances. If it hadn’t been for Lom’s testimony, the judge wouldn’t have given me a suspended sentence, on the condition that I didn’t get in trouble for the next several years. I knew when I saw Lom that I had to help him the way he helped me...”
It took Kid and Heyes a couple of days to get to Flint Rock, and Jenny prayed every day that the mob wouldn’t win out and hang Lom rather than waiting for the circuit judge to get there to conduct a trial. Tensions ran high and Jenny had broken up more fights in the last couple of days than she had in the whole rest of the time she had been there. The last group she had thrown out had started a fight over one cowboy calling the other one a “Canadian sheepherder,” whatever that meant. She sighed, hoping this would all get straightened out soon. She had managed to get in to see Lom once, taking him some food and passing the information that their “mutual friends” were on the way and to not give up.
Despite everyone’s hope that Lom would get a fair trial, the circuit judge ended up being in Michael’s pocket, just like the rest of the area law enforcement, and Lom was convicted and sentenced to hang. Jenny wasn’t clear on the details, but apparently one of the town’s “pillars of the community” had been murdered and several witnesses said they had seen Lom arguing with the man and then murder him in cold blood. The funny thing was, the murder had happened on Bo Michael’s ranch, and all the witnesses were either related to Michaels or worked for him. The whole thing stunk, and it seemed to be up to Lom’s friends – judging from the number of people who came to help, he had a lot of them - to prove him innocent.
Lom’s hanging was scheduled for one week after the trial, which didn’t give them a lot of time to prove Lom innocent, if that was even possible with all the cards stacked in Bo Michaels’ favor. Jenny’s saloon was the logical meeting place, and she was privy to all the planning and investigating going on. It was interesting to see how the group, made up men on both sides of the law, worked together for a common cause.
Jenny leaned back in her chair and paused in her story again. “You see Judge, we tried so hard to prove Lom innocent, because he’d helped us all in one way or another, but we were blocked at every turn by the local ‘law enforcement’ which was really just enforcing Michaels’ laws. Time ran out for Lom, so Mr. Smith came up with a plan to delay the hanging until some ‘real’ law could be brought in…”
“Dynamite, Heyes? You do love to see things blow up, don’t you?” Jenny sighed.
Heyes gave her that famous grin. “Now Jenny, you know I’m always careful. Besides, we’ve run out of options, and they’re going to hang Lom in the morning. If the gallows and any tree tall enough to hang someone on somehow get blown up, well, that’ll give us another week or so while they build another gallows. Keep this to yourself though; the fewer people involved with this plan, the better…”
“I know you’re right Heyes, it just seems like nothing is going right at the moment.”
“I know Jenny; trust me, this will at least buy Lom some time.” Heyes gave her a quick one-armed hug and headed out the door, followed by Kid and Jim Stokely. There was a railroad camp a few miles outside of town and they had found a whole shack full of dynamite the railroad used to blast tunnels. They figured the railroad wouldn’t miss a few sticks…
The bar was strangely empty that evening – only Marshall Stone and Lom’s cousin, who called himself the Virginian, were left playing a half-hearted game of poker, and a few trail-weary cowboys drinking at the bar. The town seemed to be holding its breath, waiting for something to happen.
After dark, Heyes waved at Jenny from outside the batwing doors of the saloon, signaling that they were set to go. Heyes had told her earlier he was going to wait until about midnight to set off the dynamite, hoping that everyone would be either asleep or at least inside the saloons so no one would get hurt.
Jenny was wiping down the bar about 11:45 when Wheat and Kyle sauntered in, looking pleased with themselves.
“You boys look like the cats that ate the canaries.” Jenny poured them each a shot of whiskey.
“Yes ma’am. We came up with a plan to break Lom out of jail.” Wheat puffed out his chest.
“You don’t say,” Jenny said, a bit worried about this development, especially with these two. “And what plan might that be?”
“Well, let’s just say, that on the stroke of midnight, that jail might be missing a wall or two…”
“Or three or four, as much dynamite as we put on there…” Kyle said with a laugh.
“Oh no, not you too. I need to tell Heyes…” Jenny moved from back of the bar and was stopped by Mac McCreedy coming in the door.
“Where are you going Jenny? I need a drink to celebrate. In fact, I’m going to buy everyone a drink.”
Jenny groaned. “What are you celebrating?”
He pulled her in close so she could hear his whisper “Well, I wanted to teach that Bo Michaels a lesson, so I slipped a few sticks of dynamite around his saloon over on the next street. It sure was nice of those railroad fellas to leave their dynamite laying around and give me the means of getting back at that man and getting rid of the competition all in one fell swoop. It’s set to go off at midnight.” Mac leaned back from Jenny, a smug expression on his face.
“Oh this is awful!” Jenny pulled away and ran out the doors, knowing she only had minutes to get to Heyes and try to stop the chaos that was sure to follow. She almost knocked over Harry Briscoe, who was trying to come in the same door she was running out.
“Watch it there, you almost knocked me over.” He pushed Jenny aside rudely. “Ah Mr. McCreedy, there you are. I hid the rest of the dynamite just like you asked me too. I figured no one would look in my hotel room; it’s safe and sound next door.”
“Next door?!” Jenny almost screamed in frustration. She did yell at the men in the saloon though. “I think I would take cover somewhere else if I were you…you have less than five minutes before this whole town blows up!” Chaos ensued as the people in the saloon headed out the door and out of town. McCreedy happened to have a buggy right outside and he scooped Jenny up and made a hasty exit out of the town.
They got about a half-mile away before the first explosion happened. It was like the 4th of July as the sky lit up with one explosion after another. Jenny was frantic to get back into town to make sure Heyes, Kid, Lom and the others she didn’t get to warn were alright.
“As you can see Judge, thankfully no one was hurt seriously. The town didn’t hold up quite as well though…” Jenny shrugged and leaned back, having caught the Judge up on the events that had happened until now.
The Judge leaned back in his chair as well, his hands folded over his chest, as he thought about Jenny’s story. “Well, it seems to me that if Sheriff Trevors’ friends care about him enough to blow up a whole town, then this case against him needs some serious investigation.” He stood up and shook Jenny’s hand as she stood up to leave. “Thank you for your testimony Jenny. You’ve helped answer a few questions I had.”
Jenny left the hotel feeling much better than she did when she went in. And well, leaving out a mention of those few little sticks of dynamite she had secreted in the storeroom of the saloon after Heyes had told her about his plan didn’t really make THAT much difference to the story she told the Judge, now did it…