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Clearwater

Clearwater by Bobby Woodall
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In 1879, a small town in the Indian Territory is robbed by a murderer who has just escaped execution. The town springs in to action and quickly forms a posse -- an aged sheriff, a retired Pinkerton Operative, an Indian scout, and the bank’s president, who has secretly embezzled all of the town’s money.

Can the town find a savior before the town goes under? A band of men from the East decide to battle the odds and find the killer.
SynergEbooks; February 2005
250 pages; ISBN 9780744303322
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: Clearwater
Author: Bobby Woodall
 
Excerpt
CLEARWATER
by Bobby R. Woodall

CHAPTER THREE


David White stayed where he was for a moment. When he thought he had waited long enough, he slipped into the entrance of the barn. He held his hands out in front of him to make sure not to bump into any obstructions. Looking like a sort of ghost, he was walking stiff legged and with his hands thrust out in front of him.

Slowly he made his way to the front of the barn, stopping when a horse snorted after he mistakenly bumped into the side of the stall. He could hear the loud snoring of Tom above, but figured that to be a help, for when the snoring stopped, David knew that the sleeper was awake and that he must be more careful. Upon reaching the doorway, he squatted beside the entrance and looked out on the sleepy little hamlet.

The moonlight allowed him to see the buildings as if it were still dusk. David thanked his stars for the bright moon. He smirked as he cast his gaze about him, his beady eyes darting here and there were taking in everything.

Across the street was a telegraph office and a general store. Along with these businesses, a leather shop and restaurant were on the same side of the street. The newspaper office was on the corner. Next to the newspaper office was the leather shop. A sign hanging to one side of the leather shop door said:

HAIR CUTS SHAVES
UNDERTAKING TEETH PULLING SURGEON


To the right were the saloon and the sheriff’s office and across it emblazoned in bright large letters was THE CLEARWATER COMMUNITY COMMERCIAL BANK. The large edifice sat squatting like fruit in a bowl.

"Ripe enough to pick," he thought. "A fat plum and I’m just the man to pluck it."

The bank was separated from the sheriffs’ office by an alley. The hotel next to it boasted of cane chairs and benches on the front porch. Potted plants were siting either side of the hotel door like door attendants. The sound of merriment, glasses tinkling and the loud pinking of a piano let David know the saloon was going full swing. The bank stood formidable across the alley from the sheriffs’ office. The jail had a brick front and bars were at the window. It looked black and foreboding.

"At least it’s closed," David muttered, as he looked at the darkened windows of the building. He could not discern whether the jail had occupants or not. The killer was just thankful that he was not one of the guests of the county.

He then glanced back at the object of his desires. According to the letters emblazoned in gold-colored paint across the window of the bank, Gale L. Loughmiller was the president; Ron Edwards, the vice-president and chief teller. Ron was also the only employee of the bank and according to Gale.

"That’s all we need," he said. Gale did not want too many people to know of the bank’s assets or his sometimes nefarious dealings. "The less that knew, the better," it seemed to him.

A short time later, cowboys were seen streaming from the saloon. David knew the saloon would be closing down for the night. He waited. The cowboys mounted their horses and galloped out of town. That left one horse at the hitch rail. The horse stood there and patiently awaited its owner. Finally, the owner showed up.

David saw a cowboy come staggering through the saloon’s batwing doors. The cowboy stumbled down the steps, went to the hitching rail and untied the lone horse. He pulled his means of conveyance from the hitching post and then the fun began. David smiled as he watched the drunken cowboy try to get up on his mount. The man would get one foot up in the stirrup and the horse would shy away. The wrangler and horse went around in circles for quite awhile. Finally, he got up on his saddle. The bowlegged equestrian grabbed the reins with both hands. He wheeled his steed and started slowly down the street toward the outskirts of town.

"I wonder, how far he thinks he’s going to get," David mused to himself, as he saw the drunken cowboy was leaning precariously in the saddle. He watched the receding back of this modern-day paladin of the plains and his transportation fade into the darkness of the still night.

David moved quietly from his hiding position. He ran to the side of the watering trough in front of the bank. He immediately dropped to his knees, breathing heavily, as he had not done much physical activity in a long time. After catching his breath, he was rising from this position when he heard a noise. Ducking his head and he hurriedly scooted back into the shadows cast by the lights from the saloon.

It was only the bartender coming outside to move a few chairs back into the saloon. He was preparing to close for the night. He gathered the chairs and took them into the saloon. In a moment, the bartender returned, placed his hands behind his back and stretched. The barkeep scratched his belly, then looked up and down the street. The bartender was short, portly and sweating profusely. He had on baggy trousers held up by red suspenders. His belly hung so far over his belt, it seemed to defy the law of gravity. Black garter belts held up the sleeves of his sweat stained white and blue striped shirt. Boots that were run down at the sides with the leather drooping over the heels were his footgear.

The bartender took a soiled handkerchief out of his rear pocket and proceeded to wipe his damp brow, which was glistening in the light of the moon. He wiped his forehead and blew his nose. Placing the soiled napkin back in his rear pocket, he hitched his trousers up a little. Then the barkeep pulled the saloon doors shut tightly, locked them, paused to stretch again and hurried down the street.

David watched him vanish around the corner of the street. He waited. The town was quiet as a tomb and appeared to be as empty as his stomach. The customary cur was asleep.

"Nothing like a yapping dog to spoil a man’s plans," David thought. "Time to make my move," he muttered, as he slowly left his concealment at the partially filled watering trough.

David hurried to the side of the bank. The building had one large front bay window. Hurrying to the alley, which separated the building from the sheriff’s office, he looked and saw another window about five feet from the ground. Its mate was further toward the back. All the windows were dark.

"The side window’s the one I want," David thought, as he moved forward to the alley.

He looked around and his gaze fell upon a water barrel under a rainspout. David ran to the barrel and saw that it had water in the bottom. Emptying the barrel of its contents, he drug the hogshead underneath the window. David climbed atop the cask and he was happy to find that he could reach the windowsill. The killer took out his sharpened spoon and began to pry at the caulking in the panes of glass and achieved nothing. It was taking too long, by his reckoning, so he peeled off his shirt. Taking his shirt, he wrapped his hand in it. Then turning his head to shield his eyes from the flying glass, he broke out the window. He looked around to see if anyone had heard the noise. David discerned no movement so he turned back to the window and raised the sash. He wiggled into the opening.

David came down on top of a desk barely missing the upturned spike that held receipts. He jumped off the desk and found himself in front of a teller’s cage. The light from the moon made checkerboard shadows in front of the teller cage. Other light filtering in a window cast shadows on the interior of the bank. They reminded David of part-time guards guarding the bank’s contents. Like shadows they posed no threat to him and he happily walked among them. He moved behind the small wooden barrier in front of the cage and quickly pulled out each drawer to reveal . . . nothing!

"I'm a killer, not a safecracker," he thought, as he looked at the vault. It was too hard for him to break into. In the dimness, he could see a door beside the vault. "That must lead to the bank president’s private office," he thought.

David grinned as he started toward the door, pausing long enough to grab a candle and a handful of stinkers from the side of a teller’s cage. Making sure the drapes were pulled and satisfied that it was sufficiently dark for him, he drugged the lucifer across the wire mesh, held his hand up to protect the match and applied the flame to the candle. He held his hand in front of the flickering wick of the candle as he started toward the door. His progress slowed as the flame began to flicker. Reaching the door, he stopped and, holding the candle in his left hand, opened the door. The glow from the candle cast an eerie glow on the scene.

The room was twenty feet by fifteen feet, with a back door. He checked to make sure the back door was locked. Satisfied, he surveyed the room. An oval rug took up half the floor. On the wall above a large oak desk hung a picture of the president of the bank. He was shaking hands with some senator from back East. A heavily draped window was at the left of the desk. On the opposite wall were pictures of various railroads. Inside to the left of the door was a coat rack. The rack held: umbrellas, mackinaw, slickers and a woolen coat. On the top of the rack were a black felt bowler, a railroad conductor’s hat and a woman’s straw hat with a red ribbon.

David went to the desk and sat down in a swivel chair. He spun around to begin his search of the drawers of the desk. He pulled out the top drawer, which revealed paper clips, cloth bands and a pair of scissors. David shut this drawer and reached down to pull out the bottom drawers. One had a pile of dirty rags while the other had bank papers; some deeds, notary seal and blank bank drafts.

"Hrump!" David exclaimed. Disappointed with his find, he began to shut the drawer with the rags quietly. "So far," he thought, "nothing that I can use."

It was while shutting the drawers he heard a metallic click in the lock at the back door. He glanced at the door and saw the doorknob start to turn. Thinking fast David hurried across the room and quickly hid behind a sofa in front of the draped window. He pulled an overstuffed chair to one end of the sofa. The chair slid softly on the carpet. This chair helped to conceal him; he felt more secure.

"Sure the bank has the money?" a squeaky voice softly asked.

"I saw ‘em bring it in this afternoon," a deep voice replied, also in a muffled tone of voice. "We just go into the front room where the vault’s at. I place the dynamite. Boom! We sashshay over and clean out the vault. Then we waltz out the door and hightail it to the border. Just live high off the hog and have pretty señoritas at our beck and call. We’ll have enough money to get them to do anything we want."

"I can hardly wait until that bank clerk sobers up in the morning and finds his bank key is missing," the whimpering voice cackled.

"Shhs!" deep voice ordered. "Be quiet!"

"I know!" squeaky retorted. "I know!"

The two intruders came in the back door and started toward the front. They came abreast of where David was hiding. David reached out and grabbed the back one by the throat, as he reached down and pulled the man’s gun out of his holster.

"What . . . !"

"Now, what would you boys be up too?" David asked in a menacing voice, pulling the hammer back on his gun and pointing at the one in front, who had whirled around to see his partner held by a stranger. This man had a gun thrust unceremoniously under his partner’s ear. The barrel of this gun never wavered, nor did the hand that held it.

The hostage David was holding immediately wet his trousers and fainted. David threw this one to the floor in disgust. Still pointing the weapon, he looked at the one still standing.

"Okay you! Drop your gun!” David said, while moving toward the man. “Talk quickly or so help me, I’ll decorate the walls with your tiny brains."

One of the men had a pockmarked weasel face, with a livid purple scar coursing down the left cheek. A dirty gray slicker covered a thin body. He had on a pair of boots with the heels run down and a brown felt hat, whose brim was broken and was always falling down. The brim hid dishwater hair that threatened to peek out from under the hat. He had four front teeth: one gold, two were black tarry stained and one completely black. Tobacco juice had dribbled down his chin to stain the front of his gray slicker. When the wind shifted in the room, David would swear that he could smell the fear that emanated from this filthy person.

"There’s no need in that," the man said, his voice trembling. Dropping his gun to the floor and shifting from one side to the other and back again. He looked at David, tried smiling and with a pleading voice told in a shrill voice of his mission.

"My name’s J.O. Jensen. My partner here is Clovis Hardesty. Me and him were planning to make an early withdrawal from this here bank. Course you being here first, we’ll just mosey along."

As he was saying this, he began to crab sideways toward the back door. Clovis started to regain consciousness, evident by his eyes starting to flicker open. He started to arise when David hastily thrust him back to the floor. He then looked at J.O., who had suddenly stopped his progress and was standing quite still. J.O.’s eyes were locked onto the barrel of the gun pointed at him. The longer he looked, the bigger the bore seemed. In just a moment, the black hole of the barrel seemed to him to encompass everything.

"Hold it right there," David ordered, motioning with the gun. "You sit right down there and make yourself comfy, I’ll tend to your compadre."

The semiconscious man had on bib overalls, one strap hanging onto dear life by a thread. Worn-out boots with holes in both soles were on his feet. A flour print shirt torn at the collar was loosely draped on his thin frame. His crumpled filthy black felt hat lay on the floor beside him. David took wire coat hangers, parts of twine from the desk and tied up Hardesty tighter than a Christmas turkey. Then as an afterthought, he pulled Hardesty’s filthy bandanna from the dirt-encrusted neck and stuffed it in the prone man’s mouth.

The old man was starting to gag a bit, but quickly quit, as he stared at the unfeeling face of the man who had him covered and now tied up. He immediately saw that his captor was without any feeling of good will toward him and Jensen.

"Look, maybe we can be friends," J.O. whined, unconsciously scratching under his right arm. "You know after all, I’m sure you’re a right nice fellow."

David watched this poor excuse for a human and almost got sick to his stomach. But, who knew?

"They might just be useful to me," he thought. "Think, David, think!"

"These two just might be the solution to my problems," he thought, suddenly smiling as he came upon a new plan. He began to take a fresher interest in them. David grinned as he pondered these latest developments. Rob this bank and leave two bodies behind. A fitting present to the town for giving him the money he needed in his escape. He smiled, his lips pulled back evilly to show his yellowed teeth.

"J.O. had the dynamite, so I’ll need him. However, what would I do with the other?"

As if to answer him, Hardesty rolled on his back and brought his hands up to his chest. He started to squirm on the floor and breathe heavily. His nostrils were quivering as if in pain and his eyes were starting to get wider. Quickly, J.O. rushed to the squirming man, heedless of David and removed the gag from Hardesty’s mouth. Hardesty quivered, his eyes starting to roll upwards in their sockets. A thin line of gray dribble began to form at the corners of his mouth. His emancipated body was starting to twitch horribly.

"Say!" J.O. exclaimed, looking up at David. "I think ole Clovis is having another one of his spells. Wait here and I’ll run out to our horses and get his medicine. Be quicker than a wink. Won’t be a minute?"

"You seem to forget," David said, motioning with his gun. "You're covered. You’re not going anywhere unless I say so. You catch my drift?"

J.O. was alternating the looks being given between David and his fallen companion. Beads of sweat were starting to form on his forehead. He began to rock as he shifted his weight from one side to the other. J.O. was busy wringing his hands and looking dejectedly down at Hardesty. He remembered Hardesty was his only friend, but this man had a gun pointing at him and it was not wavering any.

"Sort of damned if I do and damned if I don’t," he thought. Then he looked at David again, stopped swaying on his feet and hurriedly decided, "I’d better do what this fella says to do right now," he thought. J.O. nodded to David.

"All right," David tiredly said, as he motioned with his gun. "Go and get the medicine, but remember one thing. You take longer than one minute and your friend here will have three eyes instead of two. Know what I mean?"

Nodding his understanding, J.O. hurried out the back door. J.O. had just closed the door, when David looked down at Hardesty and smiled at him coldly. David hovered over the tied victim.

"What has to be done, has to be done," he thought. He relished what he was going to be doing. "Good bye, friend," David said, as he squatted next to Hardesty and placed his hands on Hardesty’s throat. He began to squeeze his hands. The veins on the back of his hands stood out in stark relief. Hardesty’s eyeballs began to protrude, as his face took on a sickly, gray pallor. He raised his hands to grasp David’s arms, only to just as quickly let go as he moved them to the hands at his throat. His tongue began to hang out of his mouth obscenely and his feet began to beat a tattoo the floor. David squeezed harder and put his full weight on top of the poor derelict.

Once this task was finished, David quickly grasped Hardesty’s hand and just as he had expected the door opened. In rushed J.O. breathing hard. He looked at the body, gulped audibly and turned to David.

"Is he . . . ?" J.O. whimpered, dejectedly sitting on the sofa, his eyes were widening in disbelief. "Clovis and I went back some ways to our childhood. Now Clovis was dead and it was my fault I guess," J.O. thought resignedly.

"Yep," David said, trying his best to look sincere. "He told me that if you’d only hurry. He knew that this’s going to be the big one. I was afraid to run out and get you. Besides, he was holding my hands awfully tight."

J.O. looked forlorn and lost as he sat on the sofa. Presently a tear meandered down his wrinkled face. He reached up and wiped his eyes with the back of a leathery hand. The novice robber looked at David and asked what he was going to do now.

"I need someone to lead me and this one was just that someone to do that, lead me," he thought, reaching up to wipe a stray tear from his eyes.

"Tell you what we need to do now," David said, as he arose from beside the body of Hardesty, speaking with an air of authority and headed toward the door of the office that led into the front of the bank. He knew that the other man would obey him without any question. "We’re going to blow that vault, get the money and hightail it out of here. Follow me!"

J.O. followed David meekly into the room with the bank’s vault. He had brightened up considerably, for he now had a leader. He was happy, so happy he began to softly hum to himself. His long friendship with Hardesty almost forgotten, but he remembered that Hardesty was dead and he was alive. That was all that mattered to him now. Shrugging his shoulders, he docilely followed David.

They went into the front room and J.O. placed his tools down in front of the vault. He took a few sticks of dynamite from his satchel, taking care not to move too quickly. Assuming an air of some importance, he looked at David.

"Get behind that desk and don’t move until the big bang’s over."

J.O. dragged a stinker across the back of his pants and applied the flame to the end of a four-foot fuse. While the fuse was sparking as it raced to the dynamite, J.O. hurried and hid the other side of the teller’s cage. He quickly placed his hands over his ears.

David had already thought of the untimely end of J.O. Jensen. His criminal brain had previously conjured up a decent enough scenarios. When the townspeople found the bodies of these two vagrants, they’d wonder at the identity of the bodies and possibly mill around for a while. Then the townspeople would form a posse and start a heavy pursuit. David figured on being long gone from the scene.

"I’ll take the money and other valuables and scatter a few trinkets on the floor. By the time the money’s counted, I’ll be so far away the bank people would have to chalk up the robbery to fate," he thought. J.O. placed his fingers in his ears and watched the fuse sparkle as it raced toward its end at the vault’s lock. David had crawled behind the sofa and turned his back to the sofa as he braced himself.

"I sure hope the old codger knows what’s he doing," David pondered, while trying to make himself as small as possible behind the piece of furniture. He tucked his feet under him and covered his head with his hands. "If he don’t know, then this’ll be an added excuse to kill him. As if I needed a reason to kill anyone or anything. Sometimes I think I kill for the simple reason that I like to," he thought, grinning to the dark.

The explosion was terrific. It seemed as if a small earthquake rocked the building. The walls vibrated, the windows were blown out and smoke covered everything. Through the smoke David could barely discern the outline of J.O. weaving on his feet. He arose from his hiding place, waved his hands to clear the smoke and rushed to J.O.’s side.

"All right, friend?" David asked. Not because of concern over J.O.’s welfare, but worry that J.O. might not be in any condition to complete the plan he had devised. David wanted help in loading the horses with his reward. Then he would eliminate J.O. according to the time table he had set up, not before.

"Just shook up a little," J.O. answered, taking his bandanna off to wipe the powder from his face. He was thrilled to think that David really cared about him. "Being part of his gang might not be so bad after all," he thought, as he hurriedly dusted off his pants.

He looked up to see David move to the blown vault. The doors were askew and David noticed the sacks of currency and a few gold bars and some silver that gleamed dimly where they stacked them on the vault’s shelves.

"Not a bad haul," he thought. Chuckling to himself, David figured himself as a rich man. "Let’s load up then," David said, hurrying toward the damaged vault. He had already taken three cotton bags from the back office to cache his loot safely. "Two for me and maybe one for J.O." Then David thought again and considered, "Why share at all? It’s three bags for me alone," his greedy mind coming to the forefront again.

The outlaws started to fill their bags with the silver, gold and currency deposited in the vault. David loaded the bags, while J.O. took them outside to lash them to the horses. J.O. had carried the last bag out and was headed back into the bank when he heard a strange voice come from inside the bank.

"Put your hands up!" Noel Green ordered, pointing a scattergun at David. He had heard the explosion as he was walking home after closing the stagecoach office. Noel knew beyond any doubt, that the bank was being robbed.

The stage manager hurried back to his office, unlocked the door and retrieved a shotgun from the place where it was hanging on the wall. Then he turned and quickly ran to the bank. Noel had peered through the window of the bank and saw the dust from the explosion plus the culprit loading the loot from the bank vault. He tried the front door and was happy to find it unlocked. Now he was standing holding a shotgun on the robber!

"Where’s the sheriff or his deputy?" Noel wondered, as he was holding the shotgun on the robber. "No matter," he smiled. “Won’t the town be surprised to hear of my heroic action? Even Kenny would be in awe. No longer would he be looked on as a mere clubfooted stagecoach manager. Wells, Fargo may even offer me a substantial bonus for this daring arrest," he thought, smiling at the success of his apprehension. Visions of the glory clouded his mind.

It was while Noel was thinking of these things that J.O. slowly slid up behind the stage manager. He was within two feet when he shoved his gun in the back of Noel. Noel stiffened and dropped the shotgun. It clattered on the hardwood floor.

"Should of set the hammer on the shotgun," Noel thought. "It’d surely have discharged itself from the impact of hitting the floor," He knew the sound of the explosion had probably already alerted half the town.

"You put your hands up!" J.O. said, pushing the gun harder into Noel’s back. He grinned at David over Noel’s shoulder. "I bet you’re happy to have someone like me," he thought, feeling elated at being able to help his new boss.

David was inwardly cursing his capture by this man, but was relieved when J.O. showed up. Thinking fast, David was elated. His problem of getting rid of J.O. was here.

"The gods must be smiling at me today," he thought, happy at the latest development.

David waited until Noel had turned toward J.O., then he pulled out his gun. David squeezed the trigger and a slug went crashing through Noel’s skull. After the man fell, J.O. came rushing over to David’s side. He had a perplexed look on his features. David was calm looking as he glanced at the body of the stage manager.

"What’d you go and do a fool thing like that fer?" J.O. whined, jittering in place. "We could of tied him up and left. There weren’t any call for that."

"Sure we could of, but we didn’t," David said, emptying the spent shell casing on the floor. He replaced the spent cartridge and holstered his gun. "‘Sides, he’d been able to describe us to the law. I thought we’d already decided who’s going to be running this gang. Me, am I right? Or maybe you’re having second thoughts?"

J.O. shook his head no, then began to scratch his head. He turned away from David and headed toward the back door. He was still scratching his head and thinking of the latest happening, when David pulled the scatter gun from the cold hands of Noel’s. He pointed the shotgun at the back of J.O.’s head and pulled the trigger. The blast from the weapon took off the top of J.O.’s head. David drug the corpse to lay beside the other two.

The front door was ajar from the blast. David thought of how amiss he had been in going through the window. The door still had the key in the lock.

"Looks like someone was in a hurry and forgot to lock the door. Could of simply opened the door," he smiled ruefully. Quickly he hurried over and locked the door.

A short time later, David could hear the clamor of voices and the pounding at the front door. The bank robber glanced up to make sure it was securely locked. He even had gone so far as to move a desk to sit in front of the door.

"If I’d time," he thought. "I’d have wedged a piece of lumber under the door knob. Almost a perfect picture," he thought, "sort of neat and tidy,"

David took one last look at the two bodies and grinned at his efforts. He smiled as he went to a coal oil lantern lying on the floor. The globe was broken, but it was otherwise undamaged. He picked this lamp up and quickly unscrewed the cap on it.

"Dummies, never thought to go around the back way," David said, as he splashed coal oil from the lantern on the bodies and around the floor. Then he reached into his pocket and brought out a match that he drug across the back of his trousers. He threw the flaming article on the floor and the resulting blaze started quickly. After throwing down some papers to feed the blaze, he got the fire going good. He gave a quick glance at his handiwork, ran to the back door and slipped out. David jumped astride his victim’s horse and waved his hat to spook the other horse to run in front of him. He galloped out of the alley, dodging a low-hanging sign as he rode out of town. Skillfully, he skirted the horses tied to the hitch rails as he urged his mount faster down the street. The flying steeds’ hooves hurled pieces of dirt. He was fast disappearing from town headed to the south.
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ISBNs
9780744303322
9780744303346
9780744303353