BARBARIA Installment 7
Finding no vigilantes, the posse rode away. The Marshal, still angry and frustrated, didn’t bother to say good bye. After his rude departure, it took Marshal Engles three weeks to get back to Fresno with a court order for the detention of Will and Pappy.
The decomposing bodies of the vigilantes had been found in the Salinas hills, and Engles was determined to interview the drovers in connection with the murders.
Engles had no solid evidence of their involvement, but he had been convinced by Will’s fit of laughter at their initial encounter that the man’s mockery was an indication of guilt. Engles’ superiors in Sacramento did not agree with his suspicions, and ordered him to stay put in Monterey to conduct a local investigation. He did so, and concluded that the victims were thrown to their deaths from a train above the gorge where they were found. Will and Pappy were on such a train, the night the vigilantes went missing . When Engles wired Sacramento with that information, he was informed that the train crew had been interviewed already, and had provided Engles’ suspects with a sound alibi.
In addition, on an unrelated case, the head office sent instructions to the marshal to familiarize himself with the facts of yet another missing person case. A girl had disappeared from a Los Angeles orphanage recently, and may have been the victim of kidnapping. The possibility of either an interstate or an international crime required that the Federal Marshals prepare themselves for involvement in the investigation.
In a fit of anger, Engles stood up from his desk and ripped the telegram to shreds. He loudly cursed the pig-headedness of the Sacramento Bureau. In his rage, he envisioned the uncontrolled hilarity of “Will Allison”, the offensive cattleman, openly mocking a U.S. Marshal in the presence of volunteer deputies, until the deputies themselves had joined in the laughter as well.
The Marshal also recalled, very clearly now, the derisive smirk on the lout’s face when Engles had fallen over backwards, getting down from the wagon of a diseased girl; a brown-skinned girl with delicious looking white legs.
Alabaster white. Delicious. As his rage began to subside, he paced the floor, thinking of the girl, and he felt stirrings of lust. The extraordinary and unexpected contrast had aroused him at the time, and the memory was doing so again. His penis hardened as he conjured up the alluring darkness of the child’s face and arms, and those dangling alabaster legs.
The man stopped pacing and looked down at the bits of torn telegram beneath his feet. The brown and white girl was the missing orphan, of course. He had seen the kidnapping victim with his own eyes on the Chowchilla Road. That laughing buffoon was not only a murderer, but a kidnapper as well. The idiots in Sacramento would have to listen, now. To hell with them. Engles decided not to even ask for permission.
There was no Federal Officer located in Fresno, but Engles had two agents under him in Monterey, who had been sent to assist on the vigilante investigation. He wired the Fresno County Sheriff, and instructed him to get on up to Madera to look for a bunch of Mexicans herding cows for two white men.
By then, of course, most of the Obregon party was already back in Vacaville, except for the Indians, Eli and Felix, who had been frequenting saloons and brothels in the Monterey area for two weeks, conducting their own investigation, and Will and Pappy, who were drinking and gambling with dozens of other transient whites in Madera. At least Will was drinking and gambling. Pappy did neither, and when Will went broke, his friend wouldn’t loan him a nickel. Of course, Will didn’t even ask. He knew what the answer would be.
The Sheriff of Fresno County was not an ambitious man. He did not have the time, and certainly not the inclination, to search the countryside for particular white and Mexican cowboys, when half of the men in the region were either white or Mexican cowboys. So it was with great reluctance that he rode out to the stockyards in a freezing north wind full of dust and the smells of cow dung, and began asking questions and looking at brands. He didn’t even go to Madera, just sent a telegram to a rancher friend up there.
After Will had lost his cattle drive earnings at the card tables, he and Pappy decided to go back to the town of Chowchilla, having learned that a rich farmer there, who lived in a house that looked like a European castle, was seeking to hire bilingual white men to oversee his work force. The pair got jobs supervising Mexicans in the bean fields along the river, and that’s where Engles caught up with them, nearly a month after they had parted company with Jorge and Raphael.
This time Engles had just two men with him, but they were career federal officers, not deputized railroad workers. Engles was certain by now that Will and Pappy were responsible for two crimes: that of the murdered vigilantes, and the kidnapped orphan. He arrested the pair, and put them in irons.
* * *
When William Allison and Horace Mouton first came to California together from Oklahoma, they were young, somewhere in their teens. At least, Will was “somewhere”, because he didn’t really know how old he was, but he was sure he was older than Horace, who did know his own age. Horace was sixteen, and a foot taller than William, and habitually addressed his friend in the diminutive, as “Shorty”, “Kid”, or “Little Willie”. Will Allison didn’t like that, but he allowed Horace his fun, and ordinarily wouldn’t fight him over it. Will would challenge others, however, who attempted to follow his friend’s lead. It soon became a favorite pastime of Horace to start fights, using Will as bait.
“Howdy, my name’s Horace, and this here’s my friend, Shorty.”
“Uh-huh. Glad to know ya, Horace. Shorty.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Don’t call you what?”
“What you just called me.”
Then the fight would begin. If it seemed as though Will might take a beating, Horace would step in and rescue him. Either way, Horace would smooth things over among the combatants as they doctored cut lips, facial abrasions and bleeding noses after the battle, by explaining the game to the target, and offering to buy him a drink, which was seldom refused. With bad feelings in abeyance, the question inevitably came up.
“If you’re so damn touchy about your name, why don’t you just fight old Horace here, instead of everybody else in the state?”
“Can’t fight him.”
“Well, you’d never know by looking, but he’s my Pappy.”
Forty years later, when both men were arrested by Federal Marshal Engles for questioning in connection with the murders of the Monterey vigilantes, and the kidnapping of Frances Hogan, age eleven, from the San Fernando Mission Orphanage, Will was no longer known as Shorty, but Horace was still Pappy.
* * *
“The thing is,” Engles growled at the pair as he circled them, chewing his tobacco and spitting, not on the ground, but directly onto the boots and pant legs of his captors, “I don’t believe in coincidences.”
God damned cops always say that, Will said to himself.
The Marshal had the men chained to one another, back to back, against a Live Oak, five miles off the Coalinga – San Luis Road.
God damned cops, Will went on in his mind, Always telling you it ain’t no such thing as a coincidence. What they really mean is, ‘You’re the one we got, so you must be guilty,’ then they beat the shit out of you ‘til you confess. Hell if they don’t!
Engles had invented the interrogation technique of spitting on people, quite by accident. As a young New York City policeman, he used to spit on criminals out of contempt, and also to vent his anger, when they would not confess to crimes of which he was certain they were guilty. Engles had learned that, in many instances, the humiliation of being systematically spat upon had the effect of breaking down the willfulness of the accused, so that when the beatings began, his victims seemed less defiant.
Since he also enjoyed expectorating on people with impunity, for reasons that he did not clearly comprehend, nor had any interest in comprehending, Engles had adopted the practice as something of a signature enforcement technique. His colleagues, for the most part, found his eccentricity enormously entertaining, although few ever joined him in the game. When they bandied about nicknames for him, such as “Old Phlegm” or “Spit ‘em up”, he was pleased, and took the references as good-natured compliments.
“You two boys brought a load of cattle through Monterey on the night those vigilantes disappeared, and their bodies were found in a ravine below the tracks, on the way to San Luis, where you unloaded.” He planted a big one on Pappy’s chest, and continued to walk and talk, “When I came after you, looking for those missing men, who I was thinking were fugitives, you thought that was very, very funny.” He stopped in front of Will and made a direct hit on his throat, so the juice dribbled down under the man’s shirt.
“Then there’s the matter of that white girl in the wagon, fixed up to look like a Mexican” Engles went on, “I want you to tell me all about it, you understand? Tell me all about it, now! I want you to start the talking, Cowboy,” Engles said to Will, “I want you to tell me, first, just what was so funny that day, about being chased down by a US Marshal and his posse?”
Will was too angry to speak, but he was also afraid to die. He believed that a man who would chain up another man and spit down the front of his shirt would also kill the son of a bitch. Will looked Engles in the eye and started to ask the bastard what he was talking about, but didn’t want to get spit on again, so he said, “I was laughing at Pappy’s horse, jumping around like a polecat with a corn cob up her ass. Your deputies were laughing, too, in case you don’t remember. Hell, maybe they killed them vigilantes.”
Engles confronted Pappy again. “That right, Mr. Pappy? Was that old boy laughing about your horse jumping around?”
Pappy grinned and said, “Yeah, well, that was about half of it.”
Engles spit on Pappy twice, once on each shoulder. The Marshal could hit the mark at ten feet. That was probably one of the reasons he liked to spit on people. He was good at it. “Is that right? Well, then, tell me the rest. What was the other half?” Will cringed. He was afraid Pappy was going to say something sarcastic, and get them both killed.
“He was laughing because he was glad you didn’t recognize him,” Pappy said. He continued to grin, but Will kept his mouth closed tight, just in case.
“Recognize him? What the hell are you talking about?” Engles marched back around the tree and took a hard look at Will. “Who the hell is he? Who the hell are you, Mister?”
“That there’s Shorty Allison you’re looking at, Marshal,” shouted Pappy from his side of the tree, “Shorty Allison out of Oklahoma. Robbed the Tulsa First National Bank 6 months ago, then lit out for California with $40,000. Been here ever since, and as far as I can tell, ain’t spent a dime of that money yet.”
The two Deputy Marshals, who had been sitting on some rocks nearby, out of the heat, suddenly stood and walked toward the prisoners. “You mean ‘Albertson’?” one of them said to Pappy, “Tiny Albertson?”
“Holy shit!” said the other.
“Well, maybe. He told me he was Shorty Something-or-other. I like to just call him ‘Shorty’, you know. ‘Shorty for short!’ Ha-ha-ha,” Pappy chuckled at his unappreciated play on words.
“You shut your damned fool mouth,” yelled Will, jerking against his chains.
“Engles!” said one of the deputies, “There’s a nice reward for this hombre. Five or six hundred.”
“Hell, Shorty, you never told me that part,” Pappy said, “By God, Marshal, I ought to get that reward, ain’t I?”
“My name ain’t goddam Shorty, goddammit!” Will was getting more agitated.
“Hell, no, it ain’t,” said the deputy, “It’s Tiny, that’s what. Tiny Albertson.”
“Don’t call me that,” Will fumed at the deputy.
“Don’t call you what? Tiny? Shut your goddam mouth, Tiny!” The deputy, not given to spitting on people, backhanded Will across the face, knocking his head against the tree, causing him to bleed and feel dizzy.
“Well, what about it, boys? Do I get that reward, or don’t I?” Pappy asked.
Engles, who had been silent for several minutes, decided to take charge, again, of the interrogation. “You two,” he addressed the deputies and pointed at Will, “take this sorry fool and chain him up over there behind those rocks, and stay with him. But don’t beat on him. Just stay with him until I call you back. I want to have a little private talk with the other one, about his reward.”
The deputy who had hit Will started to object, “What do you mean, his reward?”
Engles grinned and winked, so the deputy remained silent. He unlocked the chain on Pappy’s left wrist, which loosed Will’s right arm, chain attached. Will immediately swung at the man, and the momentum of the swing wrapped the chain around his neck. Will grabbed the loose end of the chain and lifted up.
Pappy ran around the tree and found himself behind the other deputy, who was attempting to free his partner from Will’s strangle hold. Engles, meanwhile, was back-pedaling in the direction of the horses. Pappy punched the deputy at the base of his skull, knocking him into the tree and stunning him and causing blood to run down his face and onto his shirt. Then he slipped his own chain under the man’s chin, and copied Will’s strangle hold. Engles took off running, then, running toward the horses for a firearm. He stumbled on the way, which frightened Pappy’s horse, who had never liked Engles since the first time they had met. None of the animals were tied, so when one started running, Hell bent, the rest followed. Engles screamed at them to stop, but that just made them run faster for about a half-mile, then they stopped.
“Goddammit, quit choking the son of a bitch,” said Pappy, “ All he did was call you Shorty. Ain’t worth hanging for.”
Will eased up and allowed the man to cough and gasp.
“Look at that spit-crazy bastard,” Will said, “Think he’s going to catch his horse?”
“Naw, I don’t think so. He ain’t very good with horses. And you know how they love to run on a day like this, with the breeze and all.”
“What do you think he’ll do?”
“Think he’ll come back over here?”
Pappy laughed loudly, “I know he’s stupid with horses, but I don’t think he’s dumb enough to come around here after all that spitting he done.”
“Well, what the hell. He’s going to have to walk back to Chowchilla, I guess. Ain’t that right?”
“I guess,” Pappy smiled, “You want to hold my man’s neck, here, while I unlock our chains?”
“Right. You want to go get that crazy mare of yours? Think you can catch her before that idiot gets to town? Shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours.”
“Shit, I don’t know. Hope so. She ain’t a bad animal, you know. Just playful.”
Pappy bent over to unlock the chains, and Will watched Engles give up on catching his horse, and start moving at a trot in the general direction of town. Then Will turned his eyes in the opposite direction where the horses had gone into a grove of trees to the west.
“Well, I’ll be ….,” said Will, gaping into the distance over Pappy’s shoulder.
Eli and Felix emerged from a grove of trees about a thousand yards away, leading five horses toward them. Before the caravan could draw near, Will waved them off, then he and Pappy chained the deputies to the tree and blindfolded them. Will started to say something, but Pappy put his fingers to his lips, and they walked over to where the new arrivals were holding the horses.
“Did you see that Engles fella?” asked Pappy in a low voice, so the blindfolded agents couldn’t hear.
“Oh, yeah,” whispered Eli, “We been watching him use you boys for a spittoon this morning.”
“Did he see you?” asked Will.
“Naw, We stayed out of sight. The horses found us pretty quick, though.”
Felix said something in Miwok, and Eli translated.
“The Marshal’s saddle bags are full of money and valuables,” said Eli, “That stuff belong to you?”
“It’s all mine,” said Pappy, “This here gambling man is lucky to still have his shirt and pants. He damn near bet his boots on his last hand.”
“Felix thinks we ought to get out of here while the getting’s good,” Eli said.
“Just give me one more minute,” Pappy said, retrieving his belongings from the saddle bags, “I want to have a little talk with those government men over there before we leave.”
Pappy slung a canteen of water over his shoulder, and walked back to where the agents were chained, and stood over them. “Shorty wants me to tell you something,” said Pappy. He placed a hundred dollar gold piece into each man’s hand, and explained what they were. Then he took the coins from their hands an pushed one down into each man’s pocket.
“That’s for keeping your mouths shut,” Pappy said, “Shorty says there’s plenty more where that came from if he don’t get caught. If he’s still on the loose in six months, both you boys will get a thousand dollars each. He knows your names and where you work, so don’t worry about not getting paid, unless he gets caught, of course.”
“What do you want us to tell Engles?” asked the man who had slapped Will, “and who the hell are you?”
“I’m one of the fellas you overheard whispering, ain’t that right?” asked Pappy.
“Yeah,” said the other man, whose face was a bloody mess, “but we couldn’t hear too good.”
“Sure, but you did hear ‘Texas’. And ‘Houston’, you think, and a name,” Pappy went on, “Max, you think. Yeah, that was it. Max, in Houston.” He placed the canteen on the ground next to the men. “There’s water here. Careful you don’t spill it all, trying to drink with those chains on.”
Pappy walked back to the gathering of friends and horses, mulling over what they should do next, now that they were fugitives from justice and all.
Will figured their best chance was to hide out in San Francisco, around the Barbary Coast, “Because they got so damn many criminals hiding there already, nobody’s going to notice two more.”
Pappy didn’t agree. He wanted to go up in the mountains.
“Felix thinks you’re both right,” said Eli. “He says one of you should go to the city, and the other to the mountains. Us two, soon as we get our tracks covered around here, we’re getting back to Vacaville to let Raphael know what’s going on.”
“Tell Raphael I’ll get to that Golden Spike place as soon as I can. Probably take a week or two, ‘cause I’ll be going the long way around,” said Will.
“You’ll be going to your old mining shack, ain’t that right, Pappy?” Eli asked.
“Yeah, that’ll be best for me. Tell ‘em I’m going to cut my hair off and grow a long beard. I’ll stay through fall and be snowed in for the winter, so nobody will hear from me until next March, at least.”
“Don’t suppose you boys could loan a fella a few dollars,” Will said to Eli, making him laugh. Even Felix smiled.
Pappy, who had been checking his horses feet and re-cinching his saddle, climbed on to the animal’s back and began easing away from the others. He called back over his shoulder, “After you loan him the money, get him into a card game. You’ll get it all back in five minutes.”
Eli handed over some bills and coins. Will stuffed the money in his saddlebag and tipped his hat in thanks.
“Guess I’ll be going before the posse gets here. Don’t want to make it too easy on them,” Will said, then cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted in the wind at Pappy’s receding backside, “Take care of yourself, Old Man!”
Pappy raised one arm in the air without turning around.
“He’s my pappy, you know. I don’t like him much, but a man has to make allowances for family, don’t he?”
“Felix says we should get moving. Make time while this wind is up to blow over our tracks,” Eli said, “If we’re lucky, it will start raining hard before the posse comes. He thinks we’re going to be lucky.”
“When the hell does Felix tell you all of this stuff? When the hell you tell Eli all this stuff, Felix? I hardly ever hear you say a damn word.”
The three men rode due west together for a while, then stopped, shook hands and parted company. Will continued west and the other two turned north. The wind soon shifted direction, and began swirling in from the southwest, bearing the smell of water and electricity. Thunderheads were stacking up overhead. The fugitives were going to be lucky.
That afternoon, the Office of the United States Federal Marshal in Sacramento received a telegram from Chowchilla:
OKLAHOMA BANK FUGITIVE TINY ALBERTSON INVOLVED WITH VIGILANTE MURDERS AND ORPHAN KIDNAPPING STOP ACCOMPLICE PAPPY STONE STOP BOTH ESCAPED FROM CUSTODY STOP HOLDING TWO OFFICERS HOSTAGE STOP NO MEN FOR POSSE HERE STOP ONLY MEXICANS STOP SEND MORE AGENTS STOP