Trail to Shasta (9781101622049) (4 page)

BOOK: Trail to Shasta (9781101622049)
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EIGHT

It was several days later when they disembarked in Saint Louis and Clint installed them all in the Magnolia Hotel. He had left his horse, Eclipse, there in the capable hands of a smithy he knew would take good care of him.

When he put the ladies in their room, Bridget asked, “Will we be able to see anything of the city?”

“Yes,” Clint said, “I'll take you out for supper, but first I have to go and check on my horse.”

“And horses for us?”

“A wagon anyway,” Clint said. “We'll need a wagon in order to transport your luggage.”

“That makes sense,” she said.

“I'll be back in a little while. Get some rest.”

“It seems like you are always telling us that,” Bridget said. “Hurry back, please.”

“I will.”

He left them at the Magnolia and went over to his friend's blacksmith shop.

* * * 

Ahern and Kemper followed Clint and the two women to the Magnolia Hotel.

“You ever been in Saint Louis before?” Kemper asked.

“Yeah,” Ahern said. “There's a smaller hotel around the corner we can get a room at.”

“Then what?”

“They gotta be stayin' overnight,” Ahern said. “I'm gonna send a telegram and get some instructions, but I think this is where we're gonna make our move. Come on.”

As Clint entered the shop, Jerry Trask looked up from the horse he was shoeing and spotted him.

“There ya are,” he said. “I was hopin' you wouldn't come back and I could keep Eclipse for myself.”

“At least that way I'd know he was in good hands.”

The two men shook hands.

“How's he doing?” Clint asked.

“He's fine,” Trask said. “He's been eatin' well, has a nice shine to his coat.”

“Good.”

“Just a little depressed,” Trask added. “I think the big guy missed you.”

“That's good to hear,” Clint said. “I missed him, too.”

“He's in the back. Lemme finish this horse here, and then we'll talk and have a drink.”

“Okay.”

Trask went back to the horse he was shoeing while Clint walked to Eclipse's stall.

“Hey, big fella,” he said laying his hands first on the horse's rump, then his neck. Eclipse reacted to the familiar touch. “How you doin', boy?”

The big Arabian nuzzled his hand and Clint rubbed his neck hard.

“We'll be out on the trail soon, big fella,” Clint said. “You been cooped up long enough.”

“Clint!”

Clint left the stall, found Trask standing there.

“Come on, I got a bottle in my office. Let's have a drink before you leave.”

“I won't be taking him out 'til morning, Jerry,” Clint said, “but a drink sounds good.”

They went into Trask's office.

* * * 

“You like him,” Bride said.

“Who?” Bridget asked.

“Mr. Adams.” Bridget was braiding Bride's hair, and looked at her sister in the mirror.

“You know I do.”

“Did you . . . on the train, did you . . . do anything?” Bride asked.

“No,” Bridget said. “I wanted to. I almost did. But I promised you, didn't I?”

“Yes, you did.”

“Well,” Bridget said, “I may not always, but this time I am keeping my promise.”

For now, she thought.

* * * 

Ahern came into the room, and Kemper looked up from the bed he was reclining on.

“Did you get an answer?”

“I did.”

“So what do we do?”

Ahern sat on his own bed.

“We take 'em now,” he said. “Those are our orders. They get no farther than this.”

“So when do we do it?”

“After,” Ahern said.

“After what?”

“After I get to the Magnolia and find out once and for all who we're dealin' with.”

NINE

Clint knocked on the door, which was opened by Bridget.

“Thank God you're back,” she said.

“Why? Is something wrong?”

“We're hungry,” she said.

“Oh,” he said, “well, we can take care of that right away. Are you ready to go?”

“We are ready.”

They left the room and walked down to the hotel lobby with him.

Outside Clint said, “We'll walk. There's a restaurant not very far from here.”

There was still plenty of daylight, so the girls were able to see something of the city. And its buildings.

“Some of them are so big,” Bride remarked to her sister. “I have never seen such big buildings like these, and the ones we saw in New York.”

“You won't see big buildings like these when we get further West,” Clint told them, “but you'll see some very big country.”

“We have some big country in Ireland, Mr. Adams,” Bridget said. “Big and green.”

“I'm sure you have, Miss Shaughnessy.”

“Have you never been?” she asked.

“I never have,” he said. “England is as close as I came. And I think for the remainder of the trip you and your sister should start calling me Clint.”

“Very well, Clint,” she said, “and you may call us by our Christian names—Bridget and Bride.”

“That's great,” he said. “Here we are.”

They stopped in front of a restaurant with a huge front window covered in stenciled lettering.

“Steak?” Bride asked.

“Steak,” Clint said, “and as much as you want.”

They went inside.

* * * 

Ahern and Kemper entered the Magnolia Hotel lobby and stopped just inside.

“Stay here and keep watch,” Ahern said. “Let me know if you see them.”

“How?”

“Figure it out,” Ahern said. He walked to the front desk.

“Can I help you, sir?”

“Yeah, I'm lookin' for a friend of mine, supposed to be registered here.”

“And his name?”

“Jones,” Ahern said, “Roger Jones.”

The clerk looked at the register very intently, then said, “I'm sorry, sir, we don't seem to have your friend registered here.”

“Really?” Ahern asked. “That's odd, because a friend of mine said he saw him here yesterday.”

“And he registered with us?”

“That's what I was told,” Ahern said. “Oh wait, I was also told he had two women with him—two Irish women. Young and pretty, they are. Maybe he registered them, but went someplace else himself.”

“I suppose that could be,” the clerk said. “I would hate to think—well, we did have two young ladies register with us yesterday. Their name is Shaughnessy.”

“That's it, that's the name,” Ahern said. “I was tryin' to remember their last name. Are you sure Jones didn't register?”

“Well . . . there was a gentleman with them, and he did register, but his name is not Jones.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, sir, quite sure. You see, I remember, because . . . well . . .” He leaned on the desk and lowered his voice. “The man was Clint Adams.”

“Clint Adams?”

“The Gunsmith,” the clerk said.

“Well, of course,” Ahern said, reacting quickly, “I knew it was Clint Adams, but I thought he was going to register under the name
Jones
, not under his real name.”

“Ah, I see,” the clerk said, straightening up.

“Are they in their rooms now, do you know?” Ahern asked.

“Oh, no, sir,” the clerk said. “I saw them go out just a few minutes ago . . . to dinner, I believe.”

“I see,” Ahern said. “Well, thanks. I'll stop by later.”

“Very well, sir.”

“Oh, one more thing.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Don't bother mentioning to my old buddy Clint that I was lookin' for him. I want to surprise him.”

“As you wish, sir.”

Ahern slipped the man a dollar and said, “Thanks.”

He walked over to the door, where Kemper was waiting, fidgeting from one foot to the other.

“Well, what—” Kemper started.

“Outside,” Ahern said. “Let's get out of here!”

TEN

Bridget and Bride both ordered steak, and once again Clint ended up with a plate almost filled with extra potatoes.

“This is marvelous,” Bridget said.

“So much better than the steak we had on the train,” Bride said.

“The steaks will get better the further West we get,” Clint told them.

“Really?” Bride asked. The only time she had spoken directly to him at all the entire trip was about steak.

“Oh yes,” Clint said. “If there's one thing we know how to do in the West, it's cook steak.”

“I heard you were also very good at riding and roping,” Bridget said.

“Oh yeah, that, too,” Clint said.

“And bronco riding,” Bridget said. “Can you ride a bronco, Clint?”

“I have in the past,” Clint said.

Bride swallowed the piece of steak she'd been chewing and asked, “What's a bronco?”

* * * 

“The Gunsmith?” Kemper asked as they walked back to their own hotel. “The goddamned Gunsmith?”

“That's what he said.”

“Maybe he's wrong,” Kemper said. “Or maybe he's lyin'.”

“He was tellin' the truth,” Ahern said. “It's the Gunsmith.”

“Well, I didn't sign on to face the Gunsmith,” Kemper said. “We need to get out of this.”

“Not what I was thinkin',” Ahern said.

“You mean you want to face him?”

“I mean,” Ahern said, “if we're goin' up against the Gunsmith, I want more money.”

“Ah!”

“And I mean a lot more money,” Ahern said.

“But we can't spend the money if we're dead.”

“Don't worry,” Ahern said. “I've got a plan.”

“A plan to stay alive?”

“Yes.”

“And still make money?”

“Yes.”

“Well, then,” Kemper said, “I'm listening.”

* * * 

This time at dessert they settled on one piece of pie each—peach for Clint, cherry for Bridget, and apple for Bride.

“What can we do after this?” Bridget asked.

“Well, we can walk around and look at the city a bit more,” Clint said, “but we should get back to the hotel before dark.”

“Let me guess, Clint,” Bridget said, “you want us to rest some more.”

“Yes,” he said, “we're going to get an early start tomorrow.”

“Did you get us a wagon already?”

“I made arrangements with a friend of mine,” Clint said. “The wagon, team, and my horse will be waiting for us in front of our hotel in the morning.”

“Shouldn't Bride and I shop for some new clothes?” Bridget asked.

“We'll do that in Council Bluffs,” Clint said, “but there probably are some clothes you should put in one trunk.”

“Which trunk?” she asked.

“One you won't be opening again for a long time.”

ELEVEN

Clint walked the ladies around the city a bit more, and then they went back to the hotel.

“What a beautiful city,” Bride said. She seemed to finally be loosening up a bit, although the comment was directed to her sister.

“Yes, it is,” she said. “And a beautiful river.”

“I would love to ride a riverboat,” Bride said.

“Can we?” Bridget asked Clint.

“I'm afraid not,” Clint said. “But once your sister marries Ed, I'm sure he'd be happy to take you ladies on the riverboat.”

“Mr. O'Neil is a hard worker,” Bridget observed.

“Yes, he is,” Clint said.

As they walked past the front desk, Clint noticed the clerk looking at him with a worried expression. When the clerk noticed Clint looking, he averted his eyes.

“Why don't you girls go on up to your room,” Clint said. “I'll be along later to answer any questions and say good night.”

“Very well,” Bridget said. “Come along, Bride.”

He watched as they walked up the stairs, then turned and went over to the front desk.

“Mr. Adams,” the clerk said nervously. “W-What can I do for you, sir?”

“You can tell me why you're so nervous,” Clint said.

“Nervous? I'm not nervous.”

“Come on, son,” Clint said. “Don't make me drag it out of you.”

The young man looked crestfallen, his shoulders slumping.

“A man was here looking for you.”

“For me?”

“Well,” the clerk said, “he didn't ask for you by name, but later I realized what he was doing.”

“And what was he doing?”

“He flummoxed me.”

“Flummoxed?”

“Made a fool of me,” the man said. “Got me to tell him your name.”

“Wait a minute,” Clint said. “Try explaining this to me slower.”

“Yes, sir.”

After a few minutes Clint understood what had happened.

“Don't feel bad,” Clint said. “There are other ways he could have found out who I am.”

“Thank you, Mr. Adams,” the clerk said, “but I guess that don't make me feel better about bein' fooled.”

“I understand,” Clint said.

“What should I say if the man comes back?”

“I don't think he'll be coming back. He'll know you told me about him.”

“But . . . he told me not to.”

“But you did anyway,” Clint said. “He'll know that. And thanks.”

Clint left the desk and walked up to the second floor. He considered stopping at the girls' room, but instead went directly to his.

He'd had the feeling once or twice that they were being watched, but his attention had mostly been on seeing that the Shaughnessy sisters got what they wanted, and needed. Now he realized they might have been followed, all the way from New York—even from the docks.

He went to the window and looked down at the front of the hotel. There were people walking by in all directions, but he didn't see anyone who might have simply been watching the hotel.

He went to his bag, took out the curled-up gun and holster, uncurled it, and strapped it on.

BOOK: Trail to Shasta (9781101622049)
10.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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