Read Shootout of the Mountain Man Online

Authors: William W. Johnstone,J. A. Johnstone

Tags: #Jensen; Smoke (Fictitious character), #Fiction, #Westerns, #General

Shootout of the Mountain Man (4 page)

BOOK: Shootout of the Mountain Man
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“Come in, Pearlie,” Sally called.

Removing his hat, the young foreman came into the room.

“Something I can do for you, Pearlie?” Smoke asked, looking up from the stereoscope he was holding in his hands.

“Yes, sir, I reckon there is, if you are of a mind to allow it, that is.”

Smoke put the instrument down. “Allow it? What is it I am to allow?”

“Me and Cal have been thinkin',” Pearlie started.

Smoke chuckled. “Now that is something I would like to have seen. Imagine, you and Cal both thinking at the same time.”

“Smoke, don’t tease so,” Sally scolded.

Smoke laughed. “All right, I’m sorry. But it did seem like a funny thought to me.”

Pearlie chuckled as well. “Yes, sir, well I admit that thinkin’ ain’t somethin’ me an’ Cal do all that well. But thinkin’ is what we was doin’ all right, and what we’d like to do is ride off to Denver and see if me an’ him couldn’t ride in that there rodeo they are a’ holdin'. We could win us some money.”

“Are you saying I don’t pay you two enough?”

“No, no!” Pearlie said quickly. “We don’t mean nothin’ like that. It’s just that, well, sir, me an’ Cal is both pretty good riders an’ we would just love to prove it, is all.”

“Smoke, stop teasing them so. You knew they were planning this. I told you all about it.”

“I know,” Smoke said. “I was just having a little fun is all. I’m sorry, Pearlie, of course you and Cal can go. When are you leaving?”

“The rodeo is a couple of weeks from now. We figure on leavin’ about Monday of the week of the rodeo. That is, iffen you don’t mind.”

“What do you think, Sally?”

“I have no problem with them going,” Sally said. “But his grammar?” She screwed up her face. “It is positively atrocious.”

“Now who is teasing him?” Smoke asked.

“I’m not teasing, I am teaching.”

“You plan on being a teacher forever, do you?” Smoke asked. “You gave up that job a long time ago.”

“Teaching isn’t a job,” Sally replied. “It is a never-ending commitment. Yes, I will continue to teach for as long as I live.”

Getting up from the table where he had been looking at the three-dimensional pictures, Smoke walked over to Sally, then leaned down to kiss her on the forehead.

“And I will continue to learn as long as you are willing to teach,” he said.

“Me too,” Pearlie added.

Sally laughed. “Pearlie, you are—a challenge,” she said.

Three days after Bobby Lee was brought into Cloverdale under guard, his trial got under way when Judge Briggs came through town as part of his circuit. Briggs arrived in a carriage that was driven by a black man who was also his bodyguard. His Honor, Judge Jeremiah J. Briggs, was a tall, thin—some might even describe him as cadaverous—man. He had a sallow complexion, sunken cheeks, deep-set eyes that were so brown that there was little delineation between iris and pupil, dark, bushy eyebrows, and dark hair. He wore a black suit with a burgundy vest and matching cravat. Because there were only two lawyers in town, Briggs appointed one as the prosecutor and the other as defense counsel. Arriving at ten in the morning, Judge Briggs gave the lawyers, both for the prosecution and the defense, until two o’clock that afternoon to prepare their case.

“I expect to have this case tried and adjudicated before supper,” he said. “Do you think we can do that?”

Ray Roswell, who had been appointed as the prosecutor, nodded confidently. “Your Honor, I have an entire trainload of passengers who were witnesses to the murder. I expect this to be a quick and easy trial.”

“Mr. Reid, will you have time to prepare you case by two o’clock?” Judge Briggs asked the defense counsel.

“Easily, Your Honor,” Reid said. “There is little to prepare for. Unfortunately for me, it seems to be an open-and-shut case against my client.”

“Very well, court will convene at two o’clock sharp,” Judge Briggs said.

Reid went directly from the meeting in the judge’s hotel room to the jail, where he asked to speak with the prisoner.

“He’s back there,” Deputy Harley Beard said.

Bobby Lee was lying on the bunk with his hands laced behind his head when the door from the sheriff’s office opened and a fat man with a florid face and thin, blond hair stepped into the back. He was sweating profusely, and he held a sweat-soaked handkerchief in his hand.

“Bobby Lee Campbell?” he asked.

“Cabot.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Bobby Lee Cabot,” Bobby Lee said. “That’s my name.”

The fat man pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and looked at it, his lips moving as he read the print.

“Yes, Cabot,” he said. “That’s you?”

“It is.”

“My name is Jack Reid. I’ve been appointed as your defense attorney.”

Bobby Lee extended his hand, but saw that Jack Reid made no effort to reciprocate, so he pulled his hand back.

“Why am I being appointed an attorney?” Bobby Lee asked. “I can afford my own attorney.”

Reid wiped sweat from his face before he answered. “There are only two counselors in Cloverdale,” he replied. “The judge has appointed Mr. Roswell as prosecutor, so that leaves me for you. ”

Bobby Lee nodded. “I guess that answers my question, doesn’t it?”

“I’m here to help prepare for your defense. We go to trial at two o’clock this afternoon.”

Bobby Lee looked up at the clock that hung from the wall at the end of the small corridor that separated the two jail cells from the back wall of the sheriff’s office. It read twelve-fifteen.

“That’s only an hour and forty-five minutes,” he said. “That doesn’t leave us much time, does it?”

“It’s time enough for the defense I have planned,” Reid said.

“What defense is that? ”

“I have looked at the case of the prosecution, Mr. Cabot. And my advice to you is to plead guilty, and throw yourself upon the mercy of the court.”

“What?” Bobby Lee replied sharply. “I’ll do no such thing! I was not a participant in the robbery, I was trying to stop it.”

“Mr. Cabot, the entire train saw you riding with Dodd and the others,” Reid said.

“Yes, of course I was riding with them. It was all part of the plan. I was to ride with them and gather information as to when and where their next robbery would take place.”

“But the entire train saw you with them,” Reid said again, as if he had not understood a word Bobby Lee said. “It will be their word against yours.”

Bobby Lee shook his head. “I don’t deny I was riding with Dodd. The passengers did see that, but what the passengers could not see was my intent. Why was I riding with Dodd?”

“Is that really the case you want to make?” Reid asked.

“Of course it is the case I want to make. It is the truth, so I can do little else.”

“All right, I’ll do what I can, but don’t expect much,” Reid said without enthusiasm. He turned to leave. “I’ll see you in court at two o’clock.”

“Wait, that’s it? You are leaving now? That’s all the preparation you are going to do?”

“What else is there to prepare?” Reid said. “You tell me that you were with Dodd because, somehow, you had planned to trap him and the others. Right?”

“Yes,” Bobby Lee replied.

“Then I am prepared.”

Bobby Lee watched his lawyer waddle through the door and close it behind him. Now, for the first time since being put in jail, he began to think that he was not going to be able to get out of this.

At two o’clock that afternoon, Deputy Beard led a handcuffed Bobby Lee into the courtroom, which was actually the ballroom of the Depot Hotel.

“Sit over there behind that table,” Beard said, pointing to a table at which sat the still-sweating Jack Reid.

“Good luck, Bobby Lee,” someone called, and looking toward the crowded gallery, he saw Doc Baker, the man who had called out to him, Nate Nabors, and Minnie Smith. Nabors owned the Gold Strike Saloon and Minnie worked for him.

Minnie smiled bravely at him, and Bobby Lee smiled back.

Those three seemed to represent the only friendly faces in the entire crowd. In the face of nearly every other person present, he saw anger and hatred of the man they had already convicted in their own minds. Just across from Bobby Lee sat Ray Roswell, the prosecutor. He was tall, dignified-looking, with piercing blue eyes and silver hair and a neatly trimmed silver beard. He was wearing a suit that fit his slender body well. Bobby Lee groaned inwardly. If the jury was going to make its decision on the appearance of the respective lawyers, he had already lost.

When he looked toward the jury box, Bobby Lee saw not one friendly face. He only recognized one juror, and it was a man he had beaten in a game of poker a few weeks earlier. The man had lost a considerable amount of money, and had accused everyone else at the table, including Bobby Lee, of cheating.

Sheriff Wallace came in through another door, stood just inside the door, and called out in a loud voice.

“Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye! This here trial is about to commence, the Honorable Jeremiah J. Briggs, presiding. Everybody stand respectful.”

The Honorable Jeremiah J. Briggs came out of a back room. After taking his seat at the bench, he put on his glasses, fitting the earpieces very carefully over each ear, one at a time, then cleared his throat.

“You may be seated,” he said.

There was a rustle of clothing and the scrape of chairs as the gallery, large enough to overflow the courtroom, responded.

Judge Briggs picked up a piece of paper and looked at it for a moment before speaking.

“There comes now before this court defendant Bobby Lee Cabot, charged with murder, pursuant to the shooting death of August Fletcher on the night of August twenty-first in the current year. Is the defendant represented by counsel?”

“Yes, Your Honor, I am counsel for the defense,” Reid answered.

“Is the state represented by counsel?”

“Yes, Your Honor,” Roswell answered.

“Very well, we may proceed. Would the bailiff please bring the accused before the bench?”

Sheriff Wallace, who was acting as bailiff for this trial, walked over to the table where Bobby Lee sat next to Jack Reid.

“Get up, Cabot,” he growled. “Present yourself before the judge.”

Bobby Lee was still handcuffed, and had shackles on his ankles. He shuffled up to stand in front of the judge. Reid went with him.

“Bobby Lee Cabot, you stand accused of the crime of murder, specifically the murder of August Fletcher, Mr. Fletcher being at the time of his demise a messenger for the Nevada Central Railway Company. How do you plead?”

“Not guilty, Your Honor,” Bobby Lee said, speaking the words loudly and distinctly so that everyone in the courtroom could hear him.

“Prosecutor, make your case,” Judge Briggs said. Folding his arms across his chest, he leaned back in the chair and watched as Roswell rose from his seat, then approached the jury.

“Gentlemen of the jury,” he began. “You have been assembled here today to adjudicate the case of murder. It is a difficult duty, but a duty of great honor, for in it lies the entire underpinnings of our republic. You are exercising the rights and privileges secured for us by thousands of brave young men who died upon fields of battle, men who gave their last full measure of devotion so that, for as long as our republic shall endure, men like you can perform the noble duty of providing a fair trial for those such as the accused.”

Ray Roswell was smooth in appearance and language, and it was immediately apparent that he had won the respect of the jury. He gave an impassioned opening argument to the jury, calling upon sympathy for the slain messenger, evoking the image of a loving husband and father of three, taken from his family by the brutal act of murder.

“Defense may claim that his was not the finger that pulled the trigger, but by law, that does not matter,” Roswell pointed out. “He was in the act of committing a felony and, during the commission of that felony, an innocent man was killed. That makes everyone concerned equally guilty. I am confident, in fact I fully expect, that at the conclusion of this trial, you will exercise the most solemn duty of your purview, and that is to find guilty, and recommend the penalty of death by hanging for the defendant Bobby Lee Cabot.”

“No!” a woman’s voice called out from the gallery, and though Bobby Lee recognized the voice as that of Minnie Smith, the judge did not know who had called out.

“I will have no more verbal responses from this gallery,” the judge said sternly. He looked toward the defense table. “Counselor, present your defense,” he said.

Reid put his sweat-dampened handkerchief on the table, then walked over to the jury. By contrast to Roswell’s smooth and dignified appearance, Reid’s suit hung in such a misshapen fashion that he looked for all the world like a stuffed sausage. His voice was thin, and difficult to hear.

“That Mr. Cabot was there, we cannot deny. It was a full moon that night, and though it had rained earlier, the clouds moved away, which meant that my client was seen by nearly everyone on the train, bending down over the body of poor Mr. Fletcher. In fact, three passengers from the train disarmed Mr. Cabot and brought him here to jail. But"—Reid held up his finger as if making a salient point—"Bobby Lee Cabot is not the man who did the actual shooting. And I ask you to bear that in mind.”

As Roswell had just pointed out to the jury that it didn’t matter whether Bobby Lee had been the shooter or not, everyone in the court looked at each other and shook their heads in total contempt for Reid’s efforts.

“You are fired,” Bobby Lee said when Reid sat back down.

“You can’t fire me. I’m the only other lawyer in town.”

“I’ll defend myself.”

“You know what they say. The man who defends himself has a fool for a lawyer. ”

“I couldn’t have a worse fool for a lawyer if I chose the town drunk,” Bobby Lee said. “Your Honor, I am firing my counselor,” he called out.

“Your Honor, I object,” Reid said.

“You object to what, Counselor?”

“I object to this man firing me.”

“Objection overruled. He has every right to fire you, and every right to defend himself.”

“Thank you, Your Honor,” Bobby Lee said.

BOOK: Shootout of the Mountain Man
8.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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