The Reckoning: Chapter Two

Reckoning

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

Deadwood, South Dakota

Tuesday,

September 11, 2001

 

 

 

The day started badly.

And then it got worse.

Like the rest of America, Brick sat transfixed, watching the television set, not believing his eyes. And not trusting them either—ringed with moisture, as they were.

So many dead. So much brutality.

Brick had never killed anyone.

But then, the day wasn’t over.

 

 

The City of Deadwood began in lawlessness. In the early 1870’s the land was in dispute—an official treaty between the United States Government and The Lakota Sioux guaranteeing to the Indians ownership of the Black Hills until the end of time. The Sioux even got it in the white man’s writing. Didn’t matter in the least of course, when in 1874, famed American hero Colonel George Armstrong Custer led an expedition into the Hills and announced the discovery of gold. This led to the implementation of the golden rule; namely, that he who has the gold, gets to make the rules.

Just two years later Colonel Custer would pay for his sins with his life—his bloody corpse stacked, like so many thousands of others, as cordwood on the pages of history.

The blatant illegality of the settlement of Deadwood soon forgotten (at least by the white-man) more sprung up alongside it, fueling the greedy aspirations of the gold seekers, thousands of which poured into the Hills each month.

The process was endless. The Indians were not—the result a foregone conclusion.

And then there was Hickok.

As in James Butler. Otherwise known as Wild Bill. The Prince of Pistoleers. Another real-life American hero, even in his own day, although more myth than man. He likely would have been long forgotten, along with the town, if it were not for the fact that probably the most notable thing the man did in his life was to die. Oh, not so much that he died, but the manner of it. The story is well known. Sitting in Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon on Main Street, with his back to the open door, he played his last hand, trading a pot of gold for a brainpan full of lead as Jack McCall walked up behind and blew old Bill into the next world. It was August 2, 1876. Custer’s body, up there on the Little Bighorn River, had hardly begun to rot. It was a tough centennial year for America.

To this very day, the poker cards that Bill held (aces and eights) are known as the “Dead’s Man’s Hand.” But Bill died that the town might live, tourists rushing to the site of the shooting for a century and better. They were still flocking to it this late summer afternoon, September 11, 2001—when the robbery and shooting went down.

Deadwood had not seen anything like it—not since the long ago days of Wild Bill, anyway.

Brick was at home when the call came in.

 

At the Century Bank Plaza, three people were already dead—and three more were being held inside as hostages. Two women and a one-year-old child. There were two gunman—in an attempted bank robbery gone bad. Something so simple as the bank manager and his assistant—the only ones with the combination to the heavy and old-fashioned safe—being out of the building at the same time. And that almost never happened. But this day, of all days, was unlike others.

By the time Brick arrived on the scene, a little more than thirty minutes after the first call went out, the bank building was surrounded by cops, and a makeshift communications center had been set-up just around the corner, at a bakery.

Chief Wiggins had make telephone contact with the robbers. It was directly to him that Brick reported. Wiggins had just hung-up the phone as Brick approached.

“Brick—good to see you. We can use all the help we can get today.”

“No problem Chief. I think if I had watched my TV any longer today, my head would have exploded.”

“I know what you mean. It was on at the station too. What a damned day!”

“What’s going on here, Chief?”

“Two dumb as shit robbers walk into the bank and draw down on the two tellers, demanding they open the safe. Two ladies and a baby, plus old man Smith, the security-guard, and a janitor are the only ones there. The manager and assistant manager have left early for the day. They rightly figured, I guess, that the bank wouldn’t be getting a hell of a lot of business today anyhow, so they went home to watch the news from New York themselves. Of course, they were the only ones with the combo to the safe.

“Old Smith tries to draw, but he’s way too old and slow for that shit, and he takes one in the chest. Dead as he hit the floor. One of the lady tellers starts screaming her lungs our and gets a bullet in the brain for her effort. The second teller the shit-bags drag out from behind the counter and over to the safe. I guess they didn’t believe her when she told them she couldn’t open the thing, so they pistol whipped her to death—or maybe they just did it for the hell of it.

“At this point the janitor, who has remained unseen at the back of the bank, decides that perhaps that isn’t the safest place to be right at the moment, and shags it out the back door at about the speed of light. That’s how we know what went down.

“They might have gotten away clean at that point, but for Lt. Evans’ squad-car that just happens to pull into the bank at about that moment. He was simply stopping off to cash a check, and almost got dead himself when one of the perps opened up on him from the bank door. He took one in the lower leg, but it’s not too bad. He’ll be fine. Evans did a good job keeping them inside the building with just his revolver while calling it in on his dashboard radio.

“We got the place surrounded now, and the State Police boys are helping us out, so no one’s going anywhere. The big problem now is the two customers and the kid. I’ve talked to the perps on the phone. Nut-cases. Almost totally out of control. A couple of red-neck bubbas with guns. They’re threatening to kill one at a time each hour for the next three hours unless we provide a police helicopter to take them out of here. Say they’ll start with the kid. They say they want to go to Mexico. Guess they’ve seen way too many cowboy movies—the dumb shits don’t even know that Mexico would extradite their sorry asses right back across the border as soon as they set down.”

“How much time before the first one?” Brick asked.

“About twenty minutes.”

Brick let out a low whistle. “Not a lot of time. Got a plan?”

“Yeah,” Wiggins said. “I told them we couldn’t land a chopper here in the middle of town. Too many buildings, power-lines, etc. Said we’d drive them and the hostages to the chopper in a squad-car. The chopper will be sitting in a field just at the north end of town. We’re going to make a big deal out of flying it over the bank on the way there. That way it will all sound a lot more legit. State’s providing the bird.

“There is only going to be one unarmed cop driving the squad-car. He will be in his underwear to show he’s not armed. There will be a sixteen shot Beretta taped under the dash just to the right of the steering wheel column. Once inside, the cop is going to take them out with that.”

“Why inside? It’d be easier before they get in.”

“Maybe. But they’ll be using the hostages as shields. I figure them to put one in the passenger seat. Probably the single woman. Momma and papoose will go in the back. That means the officer will have to draw, turn and shoot behind him and not let the hostage in the passenger seat get in the way. I’d like to see them dead with one shot each to the head.”

“Small target.”

“Well, we’ll need someone that can shoot—and look good in their underwear. Know anybody?”

“I was off duty,” Brick smiled.

“You were off duty. I know you’re damned good—but ever shot anything but paper?”

“No—but there’s a first time for everything.”

“Can you handle it?”

“I can handle it. Where’s the car?”

“Just around the corner.”

“Okay then. Let’s get this done.”

Chief Wiggins picked-up the phone and punched in the numbers to the bank.

As Brick made his way around the bakery and to the waiting car on the next street, the police helicopter flew in low, passing over the besieged bank and on its way to an open field just north of town.

Brick stood at the trunk of the car stripping to his tee-shirt and white boxers. He kept his shoes on. Getting into the black and white and putting it into gear, he gently made his way around the bakery shop, onto the main road, and then slowly turned into the bank parking lot.

Stopping about thirty feet from the front door and turning off the ignition, Brick sat behind the wheel, and waited patiently for his five passengers to appear.

As he waited, Brick reverted to an old habit, often used to relieve stress. He whistled softly, almost under his breath.

The tune was Careless Love.

 

When the two robbers exited the bank building about two minutes later, the first thing that Brick noticed was that they seemed to be a lot smaller than he would have expected—shielding themselves behind their female hostages as they were.

So much death—from such small men.

With a sigh, Brick pulled the secured pistol from under the dash and carefully removed the tape from the grip, tossing it to the floor in a ball. Then he swung the cruiser door slowly open, and unwinding his large frame from the driver’s seat, carefully exited the vehicle, the sixteen-shot Beretta casually dangling by his right side as he stood and faced the slowly advancing men.

The robber on Brick’s left, seemingly the older of the two, pulled-up short—his heartrate quickening as he saw the large pistol in the hand of the police officer. His eyes widened in surprise at the sudden turn of events.

His partner took several more steps before he too stopped—pulling his hostage up tight against his body—and pushing the barrel of his pistol hard into the side of the woman’s head. The muscles of his forearm bulged as he death-gripped his handgun. His hostage stiffened her body in fear—her eyes wild in fright.

Brick was the first to speak—his tone even and controlled—no hint of a smile crossed his face.

“Put your guns carefully on the ground boys. We don’t want them going off accidentally by dropping them. Then let the ladies go, and step back three paces. You do that, and I give you my word that you’ll live to see the inside of a prison cell. Disobey me, and you die right here in the parking lot.”

“Are you out of your mind, you son-of-a-bitch?” the older of the two asked.

“Most of the time—yes. But not today. Do as I say.”

“Why should we do as you say, asshole?”

Brick’s own forearm grew slightly larger as his grip tightened on the Beretta.

 

“Because I don’t like to hurt people.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED .  .  .

The Reckoning: The Watchmaker – Book Three – Chapter One

Reckoning                 

      The Reckoning

   THE WATCHMAKER—Book Three

                   The Final Chapter

 

              Lee Capp

                         The Reckoning

           Copyright © 2015 Lee Capp

Cover Design and Interior Layout by Laura Shinn Designs

http://laurashinn.yolasite.com

 

 

                         License Notes

 

All rights reserved—this book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

The Reckoning is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination solely, or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as in any way real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

                        Acknowledgements

 

I am very grateful to my lovely wife and eternal companion, Bea, and my late brother Dale (passed February 14, 2015) for their endless support and encouragement. Thanks to you both for your input, as well as bearing up under countless readings. Also many thanks for all the suggestions for improvement. Most, if not all, of your contributions were better than my own. This book, and indeed the entire series, simply would not exist without both of you. Endless love to you.

Thanks once again, to my good friend, Matt James Schutt—the spiritual ancestor of fictional watchmaker Matt McCabe, and as fine a young man as is likely to be found anywhere on the planet. To Matt and his lovely bride to be, Cassie Bruner, I extend my heartfelt thanks, and love to you both as well. As you go forward to new adventures and to a lifetime together, always know—my heart goes with you.

Thanks to you all. You’re the best—and it’s been such a pleasure to have traveled this road, in the company of those I care about.

 

 

THE RECKONING

 PROLOGUE

 

 

 

Long Island City Athletic Club Arena

Long Island City, Queens, New York

Friday, December 17, 1897

 

The crowd roared as the blows fell, its bloodlust well worked-up. To a man, those in attendance (and it was mostly men) would likely have said they came for the art of boxing, or perhaps the science of it. Truth was, of course, it was about the blood. It was always about the blood.

. . . And the money. The smart money was on Creedon.

Creedon wasn’t having a very good night though. Fifteen rounds into a twenty-five round match, he was in real trouble. Round sixteen, and he couldn’t answer the bell. Bloodied, battered and bruised, it was over. Choynski, his manager, threw in the towel.

All of a sudden, Dan Creedon wasn’t middle-weight Champion of the World anymore.

The Kid was.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE  

 

Bellevue, Washington

St. Patrick’s Day,

Tuesday,

March 17, 2015

 

For the first time in nearly a month, it wasn’t a rainy day. Not that it was a sunny one either. The sky had been leaden gray all morning, and as afternoon gloominess settled in, it only became more somber. But it wasn’t raining—and that, here in the Pacific Northwest at the tag end of winter—was something worth shouting about.

My name is O’Brien. John Albert O’Brien, to be precise. Just Johnny to my friends. It has always been my fortune, throughout my life, to have good friends. Here, in my forty-fourth year, was no exception. I was on my way to see one now. Matt McCabe. Just a kid, so to speak. He was like a son to me. A son that just happened to be almost eighty-five years old.

To those who did not know him well, Matt McCabe might appear to be a callow youth, somewhere in the range of twenty-something. Twenty-two—again, to be absolutely precise. To the day. And he would never get any older. At least that was, until he solved his little “problem.” Actually, come to think of it, his really big problem. You see—Matt’s a time traveler—and he owns a magic pocket-watch. A pocket-watch with real attitude.

And a taste for blood.

And Callow? I’ve known a lot of men in my life—tough men. Men of action. Men who would make you dead quick if you got in their way very much. Matt McCabe was one of those, make no mistake—his baby-face notwithstanding.

I’m a writer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bragging. A lot of writers’ author great works; literary tomes, volumes of great artistry, beauty, pageant, grace, inspiration, and knowledge. Me—I write tawdry detective novels. About a guy named Jack McGuire. He’s a lot like me. Worn down. Kind of a loser—and, kind of a hero too—in an offbeat way. He carries a gun, and a badge. Without that, Jack would probably be a one-man crime spree—again, kind of like me. I used to carry a badge too. That was before I took a bullet in the spine and got pensioned off the force.

I still carry a gun.

Guess I forgot to mention. I’m also a private-eye.

And murder is my specialty.

Matt McCabe is my partner. I was on my way to his house now. He lives in a little western Washington town called Bellevue. In a modest house set back in the pines—near Phantom Lake. A modest house—for a small mansion. Matt’s a millionaire—many times over. The man has taste though. It’s not that pretentious. He has good taste in women too. Matt is married to one of the best looking, and incredibly nice ladies of all time. Her name is Linh, and she is an Asian beauty. And she’s pregnant, with their first child.

Linh’s a cop too. On the Bellevue force. The Bellevue Chief of Police is a cranky old guy named Howard Carter. He’s a friend and former partner, although we kind of have a history. Like we were once both married to the same woman. Although not at the same time of course. Her name was Janis and she left him for me. It put a strain on our relationship for a while, but we we’re all over it now. She finally left me too, but not by choice. She buried up in a Bellevue cemetery—a victim of cancer. I miss her every day, but I’m finally getting my life back in order. Clean and sober. Jan would have liked that.

She would have liked Maggie Moran too. That’s my on-again, off-again girlfriend. Maggie’s a keeper alright—but sometimes I think she may be just too smart for me.

I live in hope however.

My office-girl (or I guess I should say office-lady) is a tough old bird named Emily Hatcher. Late middle-aged. A peach. I know I couldn’t take her in a fist-fight. She’s recently widowed—but coping a lot better than I did. No sloppy-drunk routine for her. Emily’s the “eye” in my private-eye firm, which I lovingly call WE—or, Watchmaker Enterprises. An ex-IRS agent, she’s damned near a computer and personal-information gathering genius.

Without her I’m a one-eyed dick—and hey, nobody wants to see that.

Danny Pogobo is another cop-friend from the Mercer Island PD, and part-time investigator for WE. A native of Samoa, he’s about the girth of an extra-large palm-tree, and is not the kind of guy you would want to meet in a dark alley. Or even a well-lighted one, for that matter. A guy I know I could trust with my life—and have.

Larry the fish-guy is a sarcastic old SOB. I like that in a confidant and snitch. Sixty something. He works in a Bellevue big-box store—selling fish, of all things, and giving away for free, information, inspiration, logic, and good old-fashioned common-sense, which, as it turns out, isn’t always all that common anymore.

He’s a sounding-board, and worth his weight in gold—a couple of times over.

That’s pretty much my circle of friends.

Oh yeah—there’s a new one now. Joshua McCabe. He’s about forty-two or so years old. He’s the estranged grandson of Matt McCabe. Joshua blames Matt for letting his father, James McCabe—Matt’s son, that is—die. Yeah, I know—but you heard it right. It’s like the old baseball saying—you have to have a scorecard to know the players.

Joshua came back into Matt’s life at the first of the year, after a long absence. They’re getting along pretty well—so far. He’s either here to help Matt with his little problem—or to kill him. Matt and I just haven’t quite figured out which one it is yet.

Like I’ve said so many times—Matt McCabe’s life—well . . . it’s a lot like mine.

Complicated.

 

Welcome to my world.

Ghosts . . . and The City of Tombstone

Boot Hill

It was the summer of 1964. I was fourteen years old at the time. I wouldn’t turn fifteen until August. And this was only July. It was, as I said—a very long time ago.

Best of all was the fact that I was headed west. The direction of my dreams. The direction of my fantasies. It was the land of the wild buffalo—and the equally wild Indians. The land of Pecos Bill, Black-Bart, Wild Bill Hickok, and most of all—that all-time most amazing figure of the old west . . . the incomparable Wyatt Earp.

Back in ’64, the old wild-west wasn’t all that far in the rear-view mirror. Considered to be closed in 1886, with the surrender of Geronimo, we were only looking at seventy-eight intervening years—not the long, long century and a quarter of today. Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp had only been in his grave for thirty-five years. Heck, he only cashed-out his chips a mere twenty years before my own birth.

It was the decade of the television western. Sugarfoot, Cheyenne, and The Lawman rules the airways. The Duke controlled the movie-palaces. Interest in the old west, and indeed all things western—was at an all-time high.

Dude ranches were in.

My sister, Lorraine Gene Caplin (everyone just called her “Gene”) was taking one of her patented long summer road-trip vacations. She liked to cover around eight-thousand miles in twenty-fours or so days. Sometimes she even stopped a minute or two to see things. I remember once we visited Disneyland in California.

Stayed for thirty minutes too!

It may have set a world-record for shortness.

Gene was a great lady. She was single her whole life and didn’t like to travel alone. Therefore she would invite different family members to make the summer pilgrimages with her. 1964 was my turn. And like I said . . . it was WEST.

I probably wasted about half of my junior-high-school years, sitting up in the third floor library reading everything I could get my hands on concerning the frontier west. Sure, I should have been studying my various subjects and doing homework, but that silliness wasn’t for me. Instead, I had discovered Paul Horan’s Pictorial History of the Wild West—and I was reading it to tatters.

Such attention to my studies was exactly how I got to be where I am today. Okay—perhaps that’s not the greatest example—and a story for another day.

This particular year—1964, that is—we were making a long clockwise loop. Starting in Michigan, we headed southwest to Arizona, then up the California coast to Washington, and then across the upper west, on our way back home.

One evening we came to a junction of two state highways. Good old-fashioned two-lane blacktop, and not very well-traveled either. It must have been around eight or so when we reached this junction, as the sun was fading fast. As I remember it, it was in southern Wyoming. There was not another car in sight.

Gene pulled off to the shoulder to take a look at the map. That’s when we spotted the kid. By “kid” I mean a young, probably teenaged Native American boy.

The junction of these two roads was at a particularly scenic spot. There was a sort of butte around a hundred or so yards off the road. It rose perhaps a hundred or so feet above the desert floor. There was absolutely no buildings or any other sign of development anywhere in sight. It might have been a scene from a hundred years before, as the rocky butte rose high against the setting sun and the rapidly darkening sky behind it.

And there he sat, a young boy, mounted on an Indian pony, complete with bow and quiver, and partly silhouetted against the dark-blue horizon. On the very top of the butte. It was probably one of the most scenic tableaus I have ever seen in my life. It was simply beautiful—and iconic.

Boy on horse

We waved. He did not wave back. It was as though he didn’t see us. Gene grabbed her camera. So did I—we both snapping photos at almost the same time. We continued to watch for another minute or so—and then the youth simply turned his pony around and slowly made his way off the back side of the butte—and out of our sight.

Gene finished checking her map, and we finally got under way again—the Indian boy largely forgotten in a day or two. It wasn’t until we got back home that we talked much about him again, as we recounted the trip for the rest of the family.

Gene and I anxiously put our precious rolls of film in at the drugstore to be developed. These were the old days and you had to wait—with great anticipation—for about a week or so until they came back from Kodak.

When they did, we were in for a surprise. There was our butte alright—sans both the Indian boy and the pony. They were nowhere to be seen, in either my photos or my sister’s. We made a lot of excuses. The lighting wasn’t very good. We were some distance away. He was probably there in the photos alright, we convinced ourselves—we just couldn’t quite make him out. After all, these were hardly modern digital masterpieces. Mine was a Kodak instamatic—hers, a Brownie Hawkeye, if I remember right.

Anyway, we quickly forgot all about it.

That is—until a couple of years later—1966 to be exact, when we made another trip to pretty much the same area. Sure enough, we ended up, once again—at the very same intersection of the two state highways. This time it was broad daylight. Once again we pulled over—mostly for old time’s sake—remembering the night we had seen the kid on his horse.

Of course, he wasn’t there. But something else was. This time, right at the base of the butte, was a modern gas-station and café. Well-lighted and doing a land-office business with a ton of cars around it. We both commented on how much things could change in just a couple of years. We both laughed and said that if we were an Indian kid, we certainly wouldn’t go out for a night ride anywhere near that gas-station eyesore either.

Like I said—we laughed and went on our way.

Trouble was, there was a slight problem with what we were seeing—and Gene and I both knew it—although we left it unsaid.

That gas-station and restaurant looked like it had been sitting at the base of that butte for a heck-of-a-lot longer than just two years. More like about twenty. Yet only two years before—all we had seen was an Indian on a hill.

An Indian that refused to show up on photographic paper.

To this very day—I wonder what it was that we really saw that night.

Maybe—just maybe—an actual, real-life, living, breathing slice of western American history.

I guess we could have inquired at the café. I guess we could have found out just how old that structure really was. We probably could have found out exactly when it was built.

But we didn’t. Maybe we thought, in some deeper level of our minds—that we just didn’t need to know everything. Maybe we figured that some things are just better left in the realm of the spiritual—and the divine.

I go back there often in my now old man’s mind—to a night, by the road, at the base of a hill, watching a boy on a horse—in the year of, heaven only knows.

Boothill (2)

 Which brings me to the subject of ghosts—and The City of Tombstone. It’s been said that the town is filled with them. When the founder of Tombstone, old Ed Schieffelin, prospected for silver in the mountains of southeastern Arizona, he smelted his samples in the fireplace of an old adobe cabin out in the desert, just outside present-day Tombstone.

The cabin was called Brunckow’s cabin, after the man that had built it. There were so many killings around the place over the years, both by Indians and white-men, that it was said that graves—and ghosts—lay thick around the place. Often, the cabin is referred to as the most haunted place in Arizona.

The ruins of Brunckow's cabin.
The ruins of Brunckow’s cabin.

Tombstone Bird Cage

It is also true within the city—with perhaps the most haunted location being that of the famous OK Corral—where the Earp brothers and Doc Holiday hurled several recalcitrant cowboys into eternity at the business end of three forty-five caliber “peace-makers” and one twelve-gauge shotgun—wielded by “The Deadly Dentist” himself.

The ghosts however, only seem to come out at night. I have been to daytime Tombstone many times in my life and did not encounter any apparitions. Not so, it seems—after dark. There, and then, the ghost guides rule, with at least a half a dozen “ghost walks” around town, led by a “spirit-guide” only too happy to dispense history and legend to eager tourists—in about equal measure.

Tombstone BC Interior

Seems that sometimes the ghosts will even pose for a photograph or two—usually in the form of “orbs” in the picture. These “orbs”, or rounds specks of light of differing dimensions, equal an awful lot of spectral activity.

For some reason—and I don’t know what it is—“orbs” are always associated with spirits and ghosts, and in many more cultures than just ours too.

crystal palace

Tombstone CP Int.

Anyway, I was never much of a believer. That is, at least, until March 14th of this year, when I happened to be in Tombstone and stayed late. Well beyond dark. I want to tell you—it’s true that one can certainly feel the presence of “something” there in the darkened streets, alleys and byways of the place still referred to as “The Town Too Tough To Die.”

I put it all down to imagination—walking around the town-site and taking a lot of pictures, same as any other tourist. One in particular stands out. It is taken on Fremont Street—one street over from Allen Street (the most famous street in frontier history) and the actual location of the gunfight in “the vacant alley somewhat near the OK Corral.” That’s Fly’s photography studio to the left. The vacant lot is now behind the gate in the center of the photo. The Harwood death house is out of the frame, just to the right of “Blood Alley.”

OK Photo

Yup, you guessed it. Full of “orbs.” Are they simply flares from the many gas-lights? Or are they the disembodied spirits and souls of the departed losers of the famous gunfight. Three men died mighty hard there—one crisp October afternoon in the year of our Lord, eighteen hundred and eighty-one.

Did they ever depart? Of do they linger there still, re-fighting the famous battle, one more time, each and every night—lost souls—too tough to die—forever trapped in the town of the same name and appellation.

I dunno. You take a look at the photo—and then you tell me.

Thanks for reading.

In a couple of days I am going to start the serialization of my third novel—The Reckoning: The Watchmaker – Book Three.

Looking forward to it. Until then—goodnight. And don’t let the bedbugs—or the ghosts—bite.

Tombstone Sunset

 Dumb joke of the day:  When ghosts talk, how do they speak?  .  .  . Gravely.