Learn more about Destination Santa Fe: Book Four of The Clint Mason Series
Copyright William F. Martin. All Rights Reserved.
It felt good to be out of Cortez Crossing. There was a lot going on behind the scenes there, but Clint had seen enough. Two nights up in the mountains along the trail to Durango would be a welcome break from the tension in that town. His new focus was trying to find the widow and son of Bob Hayes. He did not want to get involved, but felt some obligation to her well-being in that he had killed her ex-husband. Most likely, she was better off without that hired assassin, but Clint needed to know for his own peace of mind.
Durango was a bustling town with a steady influx of people from the east. The gold and silver strikes drew all kinds of people, mostly those that wanted to get rich fast without too much work. The Golden Dollar Casino and Saloon was as fancy as any he had seen in San Francisco. Prices were very high, indicating that gold and silver were in ample supply.
The first order of business was to safely store his money. He had been carrying a fortune in gold dust and gold coins. There was almost two hundred pounds of the stuff in the saddle bags on his three horses. The horses would be glad to lose that load. The Grand Hotel, which was next door to the Golden Dollar Casino, offered a large safe for his saddle bags. The price for the safe storage was a very expensive room. Clint was more than willing to take that option.
The hotel maid took his western cut suit and extra jacket to be brushed and pressed. Rolled up in a bedroll for the horseback ride across the Nevada and Utah territories, the clothes had held up pretty well. His fancy clothes from San Francisco set the handsome young gambler apart, but he might need to rethink the gambler look.
A hot bath and shave, plus the newly pressed shirt and jacket, put him in the mood for some serious gambling. He had the money to back an aggressive style of play. Durango was big and money was flowing easily. He should be able to make some serious money. He was already rich in his present state, but the challenge to win ran strong and deep within him.
Clint had decided to keep the name of Charles Martinez until his banking deal in Santa Fe was complete. Those large money deposits being transferred from the San Francisco bank had used the Martinez name. Mr. Jenson, the banker at the Santa Fe bank, would be expecting a Charles Martinez.
Martinez was a very common name in the area. Clint decided to start introducing himself as Butch Martinez which was a nickname for his father. It could help reduce the chances of someone associating him with the supposedly dead Charles Martinez out in San Francisco.
A week of gambling and living in the luxury hotel was great, but it did not produce any information on a Linda Hayes, nor her son. The money was good and more than covered his costs. It was during one of the poker sessions that Clint picked up a possible new line of work. A rough and obnoxious player bragged about his job and the poor little surveyor chief he worked for. This player talked about a frail little survey party chief, Tim Dawson, that could not manage his crew. The crew wasted time and Tim Dawson would eventually be chewed out by the railroad supervisor. Mr. Dawson was married to a beautiful woman and had two small children. The survey crew even talked about his wife behind his back. The Dawson family had been moved out to Durango from St. Louis about two years earlier to help build the Silverton to Durango link, a narrow gauge railroad spur. If Clint could get a job working for this little surveyor, then his wife may know the Hayes woman. Families with small children were not very numerous. The vast majority of people were single males working the mines, or men with families back home that needed support.
The decision was made to abandon the slick gambler look and take on the look of a field surveyor. Clint found an old shack to rent and moved his gold and horses out of town.
It took only a few days of watching the survey crew to identify the target crew chief. A little more patience and Clint found Tim Dawson’s living quarters, wife and two small kids.
By casually observing the survey crew at work, it soon became obvious to Clint that at least three of the crew were lazy troublemakers. One of the men was the loud mouth. Clint knew he could work his way into the confidence of the survey chief by dealing with any or all of these troublemakers.
Two of the troublemakers hung out at one of the most seedy saloons on the Durango strip. Clint, in his dirtiest clothes and several days of beard growth, fit right in. He played the part of an easy mark, so it wasn’t long before the big, lazy survey worker joined his poker table. Clint fed the men some easy wins and let himself be bluffed out of two more good size poker pots. Then, a fumble of his coin pouch let the target see that Clint had several more gold coins. This set the bait, so Clint excused himself to look for better luck down the street. His sharp eyes caught a signal between the two surveyors and a third man behind a post, the third troublemaker from Tim Dawson’s crew. Clint had overlooked him when he was scouting the saloon.
After cashing in his saloon chips for a few dollars, Clint passed through the batwing doors onto the boardwalk. His slow pace past the saloon windows changed to full speed at the nearest alley. He did not want to take on all three, so now was not a good time unless he could separate them. He sprinted to the next back street. Seeing a livery stable about mid-block, he darted into the darkness. After a few minutes, his eyes adjusted. A singletree was hanging on the wall next to him. It would make a heavy club. He would have to be careful because this heavy piece of wood with metal rings on both ends could kill a man. Clint just wanted to disable one or two, thus taking them off the survey crew. Clint’s luck held. The three men split, with the largest one looking into the stable where Clint was hiding. As the other two moved on down the narrow back street, one called back to ask for their horses. The big man moved on down the center isle and took three horses out of the stalls. He had lit a lantern, so Clint had to keep in the shadows. The big man was too lazy to walk his horse outside, so he mounted the horse in the barn. Clint’s hands had found an empty burlap feed bag. As the rider came up the passageway of the barn within a few feet of Clint’s hiding place, the burlap bag was thrown just in front of the horse. The startled horse bucked and the big man’s head hit the underside of the loft floor. He fell to the ground, out cold. Just to make sure he could not report to work, Clint brought his big club down hard on the man’s arm and hand.
The three horses bolting into the street brought the other two men running. Clint stayed in the shadows until they had dragged their friend into the street and caught the horses. It took some doing, but they got the injured man onto his horse. The two men were cursing the big man for mounting his horse inside the stable.
Once they had cleared out, Clint moved on down the street to another saloon to play cards like nothing had happened. He spotted a fourth survey crew member at one of the tables. Clint eased into a seat at another table and was busy playing poker when one of three that Clint had seen in the back street came looking for the fourth member. The man was pointing to his hand and arm, but Clint could not hear the words. He was sure the fourth man was being told about the big man’s injuries. As the two went out, Clint felt the eyes of the messenger stop on him. The two left without a word, but Clint was sure the word would get back that the man they had planned on robbing was doing just what he said. He had gone to another saloon to try his luck.
Early the next morning, Clint went to the railroad field office inquiring about a surveying job. He left the name of Butch Martinez and he could be contacted at the Blue Horn Café. Clint made a point of introducing himself at the Blue Horn Café and relating that he was looking for some survey work. In following the daily movements of Tim Dawson, Clint already knew that he occasionally ate at the Blue Horn Café.
The very next day one of the witnesses told him that Tim Dawson needed to see him. The rumor was out that one of the survey crew had gotten hurt the night before. The little waitress seemed to have a slight smile on her face as she told the rumor to Clint. He also learned from her that Tim Dawson and his wife were really nice people, but they were having a hard time in this rough and tumble western town. The waitress knew that the Dawsons were city folk from back east, maybe St. Louis.