Rio Pecos Compound: Chapter 11.

07 Jan
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 11.

A month of hard work at the ranch took Clint’s mind off the title hearing pending in Santa Fe. Joe Black, the blacksmith, had become a welcome member of the community. Almost the entire Kansas settler group had pitched in to build Joe a set of quarters next to the big ranch barn that was serving as a blacksmith shop and repair place. When Clint introduced himself as Cliff Martinez, there was a small smile on Joe’s face, but not a single question. Clint could tell that Joe recognized him as the Mexican hide-trader, but not a word was said. It was a secret between them. They both benefited from this arrangement, so why dig any deeper?

Clint could not put off the trip to Santa Fe any longer. He must find out if Johnson and Atkinson were going to carry through on the challenge to his ownership of Rio Pecos. Arriving at his old house in Santa Fe with three horses was a bit showy, but he might need the extra mounts if things went sour.

After cleaning up his place, he made the rounds to see who was in town. There was no sign of Atkinson or his guards. Johnson’s table at the Golden Mint was empty, but reserved. The land office still had the notice for his ranch title challenge posted on the board. The hearing date was one week away.

A trip out to look over Johnson’s ranch complex provided a little information. He spotted at least three of Atkinson’s bodyguards around the bunkhouse and on Johnson’s front porch. It looked as though Johnson was holding up in his own house or maybe was being confined by Atkinson’s men. Clint thought back to the first meeting he had witnessed between the two men. He could guess that Johnson wanted to back out of the hearing and Atkinson was making sure that Johnson would carry through on his part. Clint returned to Santa Fe anticipating the arrival of Atkinson. The loss of the survey records and the additional disputes up north might convince Atkinson this particular fraud wasn’t worth the risk. But the hope that this whole thing would just blow over was dashed the next day with the arrival of Atkinson with half a dozen gunmen.

The very next day, Johnson came into town with the three Atkinson men, plus at least four of his own men. It definitely looked like Johnson was being escorted and not just guarded. The meetings were held in the hotel, so Clint could not observe the reactions between the two men. This setup was calling for a little more persuasion or pressure.

Clint took his crossbow, some rags and grease and headed out to Johnson’s ranch. A close overlook of the complex located a target. A large stack of hay was piled against the side of the largest barn. The tree line was close enough so that Clint’s crossbow could launch a flaming arrow into the haystack from tree cover. Wrapping a greasy rag around an arrow took only a few minutes. Getting the grease to ignite took some effort, but finally it caught fire. The long arching arrow hit its mark. Within minutes, the flames had spread from the haystack to the barn. Clint made his way back out of cover to his horse and returned to Santa Fe.

To get the full benefit from his plan, Clint needed to get a message to Johnson about his barn fire before a rider could get here from his ranch. A message left at the Golden Mint bar would do the trick. But it was not very easy to get close enough to Johnson’s favorite barmaid to slip a note onto her tray. Clint had to wait for the right moment and he knew that time was running out. When a drunk started hassling the barmaid, she became fully occupied dealing with the disturbance. That was what Clint was waiting for. A quick step past the lady’s tray and the note lay in open sight when she got back. She saw the paper immediately and gave it to the bartender.

The note was then sent by foot over to the hotel. It took only a few minutes before several men showed up to quiz the bartender and barmaid. A lot of the saloon customers started moving out of the place. This questioning was getting too intense and the crowd could feel the tension. Clint joined a small group that made its way out onto the front porch and then dispersed. Clint moved on down the street to the general store. He made himself busy buying a few items, but stayed close enough to the front windows to watch the hotel front entrance. It was almost no time before a rider came at full run to the hotel. Even at this distance, Clint could see black soot all over his clothes. He must have helped fight the barn fire before coming to town with the report. It did not take long before Johnson and Atkinson appeared on the hotel front porch. There was an energetic exchange, but it was obvious that Johnson had had enough. A few minutes later, horses were brought up from the stable. Johnson and his men saddled up and rode out of town toward his ranch. Atkinson was left standing on the hotel front porch with his men waiting for instructions. The whole group finally moved down the boardwalk to the hotel.

Within 30 minutes Atkinson came out and barked some orders. Several of the men had had horses at the hotel hitching rail. These men mounted up and headed down the street to the livery stable. Within minutes a buggy was brought to the hotel along with enough horses for everyone. Suitcases were brought out of the hotel and loaded onto the buggy. Finally Atkinson left town with his gang in tow. Clint had high hopes that this exodus of the land title challengers, those who were challenging title to his land was a victory for him and for his village. But, he would have to wait for the announced hearing in a few days before he would know for sure.

In the meantime he had some free time to work on his rented quarters and maybe to gamble. It was hard for him to work inside his house when a good game of cards was there waiting for his skills. Working on someone else’s building was not much inspiration. Upgrading one’s own property was much more rewarding. The owner of his rental house obviously had not put much into it himself.

The very next day, the owner spotted Clint at the bar and invited him to join their card game. The game was friendly enough, but the landlord was not a very good card player. It was soon apparent why his house had not been maintained. The owner was losing his money at cards, so much so that one of the other players at the table held a promissory note on the very house Clint was renting.

This was revealed when a player put a promissory note in with the other liens against Clint’s residence. The owner then offered to sell the house to Clint to satisfy the note if only Clint would give him $100 for the title. One of the players jokingly cautioned Clint that there may be other liens against that old house and they all agreed that the rundown house wasn’t worth $100. Clint, in a good-natured way, accepted the offer and bought a round of drinks. Everyone at the table signed as witnesses. Clint could tell that the players thought their friend, the landlord, had gotten the best of the Mexican hide-trader.

For the next couple of days, Clint was busy fixing up the old house. Now that it was his, the efforts changed from work to pure fun. It was all in the attitude; ownership does something to the mind.

Clint took the property title papers over to the land office. He needed a good excuse to look around to find the current state of the challenge to Rio Pecos without casting any suspicions on himself. The title clerk was all business when Clint gave him the handwritten title papers. This type of transaction was common. In fact, Clint was surprised that the liens against the property had been recorded.

The clerk had a separate book for recording liens and lien satisfactions and the change was handled very smoothly. Then Clint was asked who would hold the new clear title to the house. Clint asked if the new owner had to be present to record the title in his name. He was told that that was not necessary if Clint knew his legal name and address. Clint then gave Cliff Martinez as the new owner. He would be renting the house from Sr. Martinez of Rio Pecos. The clerk immediately recognized the name and went over to the bulletin board and retrieved the hearing notice. He told Clint that Johnson and Atkinson had dropped the claim against the Cliff Martinez and Brad Mason ranch down on the Rio Pecos. The clerk hadn’t believed that their claim would hold up because that very ranch had been surveyed by a government surveyor over five years ago and recorded in this very office.

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