Learn more about Destination Santa Fe: Book Four of The Clint Mason Series
Copyright William F. Martin. All Rights Reserved.
The railroad office was full of gossip and concern on Monday morning. Apparently three men had tried to steal some explosives from the railroad yard, and they exploded on them. The sheriff and the railroad guard were unable to identify the bodies. The guard had reported that he had heard some noise and was going to investigate when the explosion went off.
The sheriff was sure it was some of the same gang that had looted the railroad last year. A mule was found tied outside the yard near an alley, but there were no other clues as to the identity of the three bodies. A part of a survey transit was found near the bodies, indicating that they must have looted the survey office.
Tim Dawson busied himself taking inventory of his supplies to see what was taken. They had taken a new transit and leveling instrument that had just arrived, plus two cases of dynamite. The crooks must have had some inside information to take the most expensive items in the supply room. Clint told Tim that he had repacked the dynamite Friday late. The boxes were too heavy and awkward to haul on their horses, so he had stuffed six saddle bags with the dynamite for easy transport Monday morning. He must have left a few sticks in the dynamite boxes. If two full crates of dynamite had gone off it would have leveled the buildings near the passageway.
After a little more discussion, Clint organized what was left of his crew and headed up the trail to deliver the dynamite and continue the field survey work. Each day the survey team grew more productive with Clint’s training and close supervision. Without Pete Jones as a bully, the team seemed to work much more cooperatively and each individual seemed to find his own task. It often took some reassignment on Clint’s part, but the survey team started to think and solve problems on their own. One of the men had a considerable education, so Clint was able to transfer the notebooks and recordkeeping to him.
Two weeks passed and there were no threats against the railroad crews nor any robberies reported. Tim started to relax. Clint knew that Tim had been concerned about the safety of his men, himself and his own family. Tim’s supervisor, John Stevens, had already given Tim some praises for the work that the survey team was producing. Mr. Stevens also gave Tim and all his men a raise. The survey crew was working with one less man, but working off the backlog that had developed. The extra time Tim spent in the office allowed him to produce the work drawings for the construction crews.
Things had gone so well for Tim since this Butch Martinez had joined his team that Tim invited his new party chief to join his family for Friday night supper. He had bragged so much at home about Butch that Tim’s wife insisted that he be brought home for a meal. This was the opening that Clint had been hoping would develop. Tim’s wife was almost a carbon copy of her husband – small, very shy and meek, but smart and a good cook. Clint enjoyed seeing this nice family relaxed and entertaining a new friend. There were enough subtle comments for Clint to detect the tension this family had been under. Mrs. Dawson would sneak a look at Clint when she thought he wasn’t looking. The look was of respect and relief that this man had done so much for her husband.
After dinner when the kids were sent to bed, Clint worked the conversation around to other families or friends in Durango. How were the schools? Did the kids have other friends to play with? How long had the family been in Durango and where was their last or their best town? Ms. Dawson was quick to say that she missed St. Louis, her brother and sister and their kids.
In Durango, they had only met about six other parents with children close to their kids’ ages. Ms. Dawson went down the names and mentioned Linda Hayes, a widow with a boy just the age of their oldest. It didn’t take much urging to get Ms. Dawson to go into the gossip about Ms. Hayes. The poor lady had been married to a hired gunman, who worked for the Starr Company out of St. Louis. Her husband and she had separated just before he was killed in a gunfight out in California. She wanted to return to St. Louis, but Ms. Hayes’ only sister had moved to Durango. Ms. Hayes had not been able to find much of a job in Durango and was living with her sister’s family and their three kids. Ms. Hayes was a beautiful woman and some of the men in Durango gave her a hard time. Her sister’s husband wanted Linda to find her own place.
It was rumored that Linda Hayes was trying to earn enough money for a move back to St. Louis. She had taken a waitress job at The Durango Café and Saloon which was making her good money, but the male flirtations were terrible.
Ms. Dawson had wanted to help Linda, but one of Tim’s crew was most attracted to Linda. The big man had gotten his arm and wrist hurt in a fight almost a month ago. Tim was afraid that if his family got involved in helping Linda leave Durango, it could cause trouble. It was Ms. Dawson’s information that the injured worker was spending a lot more time at the café and harassing Linda. Tim was also dreading the return of the injured man because he had been a friend of Pete Jones. Those two had made life miserable for Tim and must have been a contributing factor to the slow work of the survey crew. Since both of those men had left and Mr. Martinez had joined Tim’s crew, everything had gone smoothly.
Clint thanked Ms. Dawson for a fine dinner and excused himself. It was early Friday night, a good time to check out the information on Linda Hayes. Clint had been letting his main hobby – gambling, suffer as of late. The Durango was an easygoing place, and it ranked in the middle of the town’s saloons. A slow surveillance of the place let Clint know that the injured troublemaker was not present.
Clint picked a small poker table and requested to join the five players. It was a friendly group and Clint quickly blended into the conversation. He played his cards to not win any big pots, but demonstrate that he was a good card player.
The café portion of the complex opened directly into the casino and saloon area. It was not long before one of the players excused himself for a break in the café. The other players teased him about the fact that it was time for Linda to come on duty in the café. The man blushed a little when the others suggested his wife wouldn’t appreciate his gawking at that pretty waitress. He rebuked them with the statement that looking didn’t hurt anyone. The group filled Clint in on the pretty waitress named Linda. She worked only four hours a day between seven and eleven p.m.
They had heard that she took care of her sister’s kids during the day. Her sister looked after her son while she worked the evening shift. They all thought she was a nice lady that had hit some hard times. The number of male customers at the café had picked up a lot between the hours of seven and eleven, six days a week. She was a good waitress and very pretty. They all admitted they enjoyed the scenery, and agreed it was a shame that some men were obnoxious and hassled her a lot.
It was about that time the group of players pointed out the big man with a sling on one arm, saying that he and Pete Jones had been the worst of the group. They had not seen the tough Mr. Jones for some time. The entire group disliked the man with the injured hand and arm. Clint confessed that that big man looked a lot like the man he had gotten in trouble with in the recent past. The big man soon started toward Clint’s table with a mean look in his eyes. He opened the challenge with a question, “Aren’t you the man that took my job at the railroad survey office?”
“I do work at the railroad office,” Clint replied after a moment. “I’m not sure what job you’re asking about, but when they asked me to run their survey crew, I needed the work, so I took it.” The other players at the poker table began moving back away. Clint then offered to buy the man a drink and moved toward the bar, giving the other players some relief. The big challenger wasn’t having any of Clint’s offer, so Clint said he was getting himself something to eat in the café. As Clint moved away from the other players headed to the café batwings, the slow sound of exhaling breath arose from the other players.
Sensing that it was a good time to jerk his challenger’s chain, Clint turned to the red-faced man and suggested that he could ask Linda to fix him a good steak. The man lost control and lunged at Clint just before he got to the doorway between the saloon and the café. The fury in the man’s eyes and charging body did not catch Clint by surprise. The charging bull of a man was coming at Clint with his head down. A slight side step and a downward blow with both hands together like a big club drove the man down and headlong into the doorway jam. The thud was heard all over the saloon and probably the café as well. The man was knocked out with his good hand and arm right in front of Clint. A quick stomp and Clint could feel the small bones of the hand give way. The man was out so cold that not a sound was made. The pain would be felt when he woke up. The saloon guards came over and dragged the downed man out the front door of the saloon.
The poker players came over to see if Clint had been hurt. It had all happened so fast. No one seemed to have noticed the stomp that Clint had put on the downed man. The saloon guards even came over to apologize for the hassle that Clint had been through. The man that had caused all the problems went by the name of Tom Allen. He was a known troublemaker and when he teamed up with Pete Jones, no one wanted to confront them.
Everyone was suggesting that Clint should get out of town. Those two men were real mean and his life could be at risk. Clint waved the warnings off and invited his table players to join him for a big piece of pie and coffee in the café. One of their group was already there, probably enjoying the looks of a pretty waitress. The whole group pushed through the batwing doors and joined their buddy. The gossip was flying around the café about that big troublemaker Tom Allen getting his head bashed by this young man. The four poker players had to tell all the details about Tom coming over to their table and accusing Mr. Martinez of stealing his job. They were slapping Clint on the back and bragging how he held his cool and had even offered to buy Tom a drink in the café. The four witnesses each had a slightly different story and each version had to be told in its entirety. The waitress came over with free coffee and giant slices of apple pie for the table. She was very happy that her number one troublemaker had been carried out stone cold.
Clint added his version to the tale by saying how scared he was and how lucky that the big man had missed him and crashed his head against the doorway post. The beautiful waitress Linda Hayes was all thanks and showers of praise for Clint. The other poker players were just about dying with all the attention Linda was paying to the group. It was a fun time for all.
Several of the other customers from the saloon came by the table to caution Clint about Tom Allen. Tom was a mean man and when he woke up, it could be big trouble for Butch Martinez.