Rio Pecos Compound: Chapter 4.

13 Nov
Cover for Rio Pecos Compound, Book Six of The Clint Mason Series by William F. Martin.

Rio Pecos Compound

Learn more about Rio Pecos Compound: Book Six of The Clint Mason Series

Copyright William F. Martin. All Rights Reserved.

Chapter 4.

The four Mexican guards that were staying at the ranch were given the task of hunting down the coyotes. This gave them a chance to practice their rifle skills and put them in a place to scout the outer edges of the range. The Navajos requested the coyote skins for tanning. The thin, soft hides of the coyote were a useful item for trading, plus they could be made into clothing. After almost two weeks, the Mexican guards were ready to join their friends in Santa Fe. The Basque and Navajos had their hides, wool, blankets and jewelry packed and ready for travel with horses and wagons. The sale of any livestock would be made another time.

The trip to Santa Fe went without any problems. Clint had separated himself from the group so he could keep his secret identity separated from the people from the Rio Pecos compound. By riding some distance from the wagons, he could serve as the scout and no one in his trading party would even know that he was looking over them.

The Rio Pecos wagons pulled into the Santa Fe traders’ camp near sunset and set up for the night. Clint snuck into his loft room in the stable without notice. The stabling of his horse made some noise, but Joe Black never came out of his quarters. A quick change of identity and Clint reemerged into the back alley as an unkempt hide-trading Mexican.

Information was his goal and saloons were the best source. It did not take long for Clint to spot his young Mexican guards, or at least three of them. He did not want to be recognized, so he kept his distance. The three young men were in one of the smaller and less flashy saloons. This surprised Clint. He had expected them to be partying with the best. Something was wrong.

Clint moved to another café and saloon for a quiet meal and more listening for gossip. He finally heard a reference to the four young Mexican gun hands. One of the guards had been drawn into a fight with a card player. The gambler had accused the young Mexican of cheating. The shooting was so quick that the young Mexican had never got his gun out of the holster. The local deputy sheriff ruled it a justified shooting. The gambler got off without a problem and took all the young dead man’s money. When the other three friends tried to protest, the sheriff told them to either clear out of town or be quiet. The sheriff then claimed the downed guard’s guns, gear and horse for his office to cover expenses. The gossip told of similar tales about that saloon, that gambler and that specific deputy sheriff.

The horse the guard had been riding was one of Clint’s better breeds. A little behind the scenes justice was in order. Clint had spent a good many nights with the downed guard and his friends around campfires on their long drive. Those young Mexican guards were as honest as anyone he knew. Clint was convinced the shooting had been deliberate and planned. Retribution would have to be carefully executed to avoid the three Mexican guards being suspected of a vengeful act.

Clint sent word back to the three guards about the traders’ camp and where they could join up with their other friends. He was hoping the seven young men would sit tight and not charge back into town. Santa Fe seemed to be controlled by the Spanish families. Also powerful were the large money people from back east or from Europe. The Mexican people and the Indians were low men on the totem pole. The deputy sheriff that was protecting the gambler was probably paid by the saloon owners, the gambler or other interests. This kind of law was very common in the West. Clint would have to tread softly. A run out to the traders’ camp tonight might head off a vengeful raid tomorrow.

A quick change of clothes and he was out at the traders’ camp just in time. All seven guards had worked themselves into a rage, a demand to seek justice for their fallen companion.

Clint laid out the setup in Santa Fe. If they carried out direct revenge, it would be held against them. He asked that they allow him a few days to work something out. Their Basque and Navajo traders needed protection, plus he could use all of them as guards on the return trip to Rio Pecos. In spite of the anger that was close to the surface, these young guns were smart and could see the wisdom in Clint’s advice. They agreed to avoid the Silver Spur Saloon while Clint worked out a safer scheme.

Clint found himself in a dilemma. He did not want to expose his true identify, but he also wanted to keep the rumor alive that anyone messing with Rio Pecos Compound people would be held accountable. The deterrence of that threat might save a lot of bloodshed. If he could convince the Mexican guards to escort the Basques and Navajos back to Rio Pecos, he would have time to deal with the gambler without getting the guards in trouble.

It only took two busy days on the market square for the Basques and Navajos to sell their wares. The ranch supplies were purchased the third morning and then they all headed back to Rio Pecos. The guards were not happy to leave unfinished business. But since the need to protect the families was a higher order of honor than revenge, they would wait to come back.

With all of the guards and Rio Pecos people out of town, Clint was able to go back undercover as a gambling hide-trader. The Silver Spur was his target and the breaking of the gambler was top priority. The gambler was a boastful type and a bluffer. Clint had observed him enough to know his every mood, stare and bluff. This gambler was not very good at countering the odds, thus, he depended on his deep pockets to buy most pots. This tactic would not work with Clint because of his wealth of gold, coins and dust.

It took some patience on Clint’s part to get into the card game. A show of gold coins occasionally did finally trigger an invite to fill an empty seat. Clint could tell that the fancy, clean gambler with his ruffled shirt and fine jacket was not eager for the company of this roughly dressed Mexican. The prospects of new money were too great and his greed overrode his distaste for Clint’s looks and accompanying odor.

Clint let the gambler buy a few pots before he made his move. The gambler’s table stakes were transferred to Clint’s side so smoothly that no one ever noticed. Clint had developed a habit of chewing mutton jerky. Every so often he would dig into his pockets to retrieve some. This misleading process allowed Clint to transfer coins from his table pile into his pocket. This kept his table stakes of chips and coins very modest. The other deception was to identify a player that was getting ready to leave the table. Clint could tell when a player was getting tired of the game. The trick was to let that player buy a couple of small pots, ensuring that they would leave with a small amount of money. This made it seem that winnings were being taken from the table by other players. This allowed Clint to continue draining the flashy gambler of his holdings.

A break in the game was called by the target gambler. It would resume in one hour. Clint knew that he had to get more money. This allowed Clint to unload some winnings, still keeping plenty to cover his action. During play, he had noticed a lot of eye contact passing between the gambler and the deputy sheriff. Both of them disappeared during the game break. Clint took the time to get a good meal and coffee, anticipating this last run may take some time.

The game resumed with the refreshed and dandified gambler buying drinks for the table. Clint knew this device well. Buy your opposition plenty of booze, fog his thinking and increase the other players’ risk taking. Clint would pretend to drink heavily and get sloppy with his cards. He could read the gambler’s plan to let Clint win a few small hands and make a big deal out of it. Then, the gambler would bluff everyone out of a big pot. This process went on for over two hours. Two of the other players ran out of money and were replaced by fresh players with money. Clint was keeping track so he did not lose ground during this tactic. In fact, he gradually increased his holdings by keeping most of it off the table. Clint could tell that the fancy gambler was so pleased with himself and his plan that he had not noticed Clint’s steady winning.

Another break was requested, and again the gambler and the deputy sheriff left together and headed into a back room. Clint was sure the gambler was starting to realize how much he was losing, so this next series would be his last chance to clean out the gambler. The gambler and the lawman would have to be watched closely. Clint offered to switch seats with one of the fresh money players, saying it might change their luck. He could tell that this well-financed business man was not pleased with how the cards were running against him. The business man was very pleased with the offer to switch chairs. The new position gave Clint a better view of the deputy sheriff and the rear door. The mirrors that Clint could now see provided him a complete view of the saloon.

The third round of gambling started with the fancy gambler buying more drinks, including a bottle for the table. From what Clint read in the faces of the gambler and the lawman, this was going to be the big kill. The series of play was well into the eighth hand when the fancy gambler tried to buy a large pot. He had made two bold raises to build up the kitty, then a giant raise to bluff three of the six players out. The fourth round was another monster raise that took the fourth player out, leaving only Clint and the gambler face-to-face over a huge pile of chips and gold coins.

The gambler then raised more than Clint had on the table. The gambler reached out to drag in the stack of money. Clint slowly pulled a leather pouch out of his pocket and tossed it on the table. “If you can match that, it’s a call. If not, the stakes are mine,” he said. In amazement, the businessman leaned over and poured the pouch out onto the table. He counted out almost $1,000-worth of $20 gold pieces.

The gambler was caught in his own trap. He did not have enough cash with him to call. The other players were quick to remind the gambler of the house rules. You could not leave the table to acquire more funds.

The next action had been anticipated by Clint. The lawman had moved around to a position directly behind him. The fancy gambler then accused Clint of cheating. Through a mirror, Clint could see the deputy pulling his gun at the same time the gambler was clearing the table with his pistol. Clint rolled over his chair and kicked the table against the gambler. The roar of gunfire filled the saloon. When the smoke cleared, both the gambler and the lawman were dead. Clint slipped his gun back into its holster after replacing three shells. He then crawled out from under the table and declared that they had shot each other. This idea planted that scene into everyone’s mind so that the whole audience told that same story to the marshal when he arrived to investigate. Two other people had been hit with flying lead, but they were not life-threatening injuries. Clint had gathered his winnings during all the excitement, before the marshal got there.

Clint was told how lucky he was because that gambler had killed six men over the last couple of years. In fact, he had killed a young, good-looking Mexican man only a few days earlier. His habit was to accuse one of the players of cheating and shoot him. The lawman was always a witness and would then declare the gunfight justified. The businessman again impressed on Clint how lucky he was to have survived the gunfight. If they had not shot each other, they would have shot him cold even though he was hiding under the table.

The doctor had arrived and he declared both men dead. The gambler’s ruffled shirt had been removed for the doctor’s examination. It was this shirt that Clint sneaked out of the saloon along with all his loot. There was so much turmoil that no one even suspected that Clint had shot both men. The marshal had taken his investigation serious enough to examine all the players’ guns. The only expended shells were in the lawman’s and gambler’s guns. The four players were released.

When they heard the complete story, the seven Mexican guards felt that justice had indeed been served. The blood-stained, ruffled shirt, a handful of gold coins, and the slain guard’s horse were all returned to Rio Pecos Compound.

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