Will to Survive
Copyright© 2015 by Ernest Bywater
San Francisco, Day 2
Will wakes up at dawn. He’s used to having a female snuggled up to each side of him, but he’s surprised to find one is Ginny wearing one of his parachute cloth t-shirts as a night shirt. He grins while he slips out from between her and Ann. In a few minutes he’s dressed and outside getting the fire going when the ladies join him to start the cooking.
Looking down the expanse of the camp ground Will sees the boy from the undertaker so he waves him over. He’d set up near the middle of the camping ground to give them space to see approaching people and to be beside the small stream in it. In a few minutes they’re all enjoying a good feed from what’s left of a deer Will killed the day before they arrived in the town. They’ll soon need fresh meat again.
After everyone sits down Will says, “Camp Orders for while we’re in this town. No female is to be by herself and another must be close by, even in camp. If anyone, except myself, needs to do anything away from the camp you must have either Big Fawn, Happy Fawn, or me with you. At all times you’ll wear your guns and be ready to use them when attacked; note well, I said when, not if. The lodge, the wagons, plus an area of five paces around them is the camp limits. I want two of you in the camp at all times, and one must be either Big Fawn or Happy Fawn.” The ladies look at each other and at Will. He adds, “Yesterday we had to deal with two groups of robbers on the way into town. Last night I had to deal with a crook and another set of robbers. Even the Captain of the local police force admits women aren’t safe in this town at night.” The ladies turn to Will and they all nod their understanding. “Today I’ve a lot of business to do. You also need to get a set of clothes for Ginny and more for yourselves. Have one of the local area ladies make them for you. Miss Hattie can tell you who to go see. Find out how well Ginny can shoot and what sort of guns I need to get for her to carry.” That gets a shocked look from the girl. He turns to the boy, “What’s your name?”
“Toby Jones, sir.”
“I’m Will March and my head wife is Ann, also known as Happy Fawn.” He points to her and she waves at the boy. “Where can I get a lot of washing done?”
The boy smiles, “That’s what my ma does for a living. She’s good and Miss Hattie recommends her to all of her lodgers.”
Turning to his wives Will says, “I need a bundle of all our clothes that need washing and another bundle of all the clothes from the dead. I’ll take them down to get that done. You’ve all got too much to do to worry about that right now.” They nod yes and Ann details the others to go get the clothes once they finish eating. “I’ve a noon meeting and I’ll be back after that to eat. Then I want to go out and I’ll take two of the wagons with me, so please have two emptied for me.” Ann nods again. Then a general talk starts up about last night’s events and Ginny. When he’s ready to go Will adds, “Also organise with Miss Hattie for us all to have hot baths this afternoon or tonight.” All of the ladies smile at the request.
In a few minutes Will is carrying a big bundle of clothes in his right hand while Toby has a large bundle in each hand and is leading the way to his mother’s wash house behind her house a couple of streets away. While they walk Will asks about his mother’s charges and how much he thinks this will cost to do. Will is told five or six dollars, maybe seven.
When they arrive at the Jones Washing Service she’s surprised to see her son with a strange man. Will dumps his bundle while saying, “This lot is in need of a good wash, but the stuff in the two bundles Toby has needs a damn good wash, probably two or three times. All in hot water with soap.” She tilts her head so he adds, “This lot is the clothes my wives and I wear and they’ve been worn for a couple of days. The others are the booty from some fools who tried to rob us, so I don’t know if they’ve ever been washed and they’ll need a real good wash.” He places ten dollars in coins on the bench beside Mrs Jones and says, “I hope this will cover all that. Oh, my name’s Will March,” and holds out his hand.
She dries off her hand and shakes his before taking the money and saying, “Didn’t Toby give you my rates. This shouldn’t be that much.”
“We talked about them. To me they’re worth that much to get you to do them instead of my women. They’ve a lot of other things to do while we’re in town, so the convenience is worth an extra dollar or two. Well, to me it is, and I can afford it right now.” She smiles and takes the coins. He adds, “I don’t know if Toby told you, but Mister White is paying him to follow me around.” She frowns, “I usually carry a fair bit of cash and a few people have tried to rob me. That’s something that proves to be fatal for them and Mister White wants quick notice to get the work. So he pays Toby to tell him when I need him.”
“I’m not happy about him being near a shooting, but that can’t be avoided in this town. Please try to keep him out of it.”
“He’s paid to follow me, not to hold my hand. Although I will have him close to give me information, most of the time. When things look to be bad I’ll send him off a bit away from me. If you’re concerned about me speak to Captain Wilson. We got on well.”
“Are you the man he came to ask Jacinta to go see last night?” Will nods yes. “He must like you to suggest she go to work for you.”
Will smiles, “Don’t tell her, but she won’t be working for me for long. At the noon meeting I’m handing the place to her and the staff to work for themselves. I don’t need or want a saloon to run. So after the meeting she’ll be her own boss and part owner of the saloon.”
Mrs Jones smiles, “That’s good news. She’ll love that.”
They talk for a few minutes more, and Will is about to leave when he turns to place a dollar coin on the bench saying, “My camp is the teepee on Miss Hattie’s camping ground, use that to pay someone to take the cleaned clothes there when you’ve finished them. I know you’ll be too busy to do it yourself, but you’ll know someone who can.” She smiles and nods her agreement, so he turns and leaves while talking to Toby about where to find fairly honest traders near the docks.
At the Docks
They visit a few warehouses where Will doesn’t like the owners or the shifty way they behave. When they walk into the next one Toby tells Will the owner has a reputation for honest dealing: while he’s sharp with a deal he stays with the deal made. Will looks at the varied contents before approaching the owner who’s watching them looking around, and Will asks, “You got any good Kentucky bourbon for sale? I’m after a case of it if you have it and the price is right!”
The man waves toward a corner they haven’t reached yet, saying, “Yes, I got a few dozen cases last week. They’re worth twenty dollars a bottle at twelve bottles to the case for two hundred and forty dollars?”
Will grins as he replies, “Good luck on selling them at that price. I think you’ll still have it around next year. Ten dollars a bottle is what I’ll pay for a case here. I figure the freight costs and risks justify doubling the price to get it from there to here by ship around the horn.”
The man grins, “Well, you know how the business works and the costs. Why shouldn’t I get more for it?”
“Never said you shouldn’t! I just said I won’t pay that price. I’ll make my own before I pay that much for it! I’ll also want to check it first.”
They look at each other for a moment, both with wide grins. The man holds out his hand, “Dave Webb, trader. I’ll sell you a case at your price. Let’s go get one.”
Will holds his hand out, “Will March. Wanderer, soon to be trader and rancher. I’ll pick a case at random to test a bottle.” They walk to a stack of boxes and Will selects one from the third row, carefully moves the ones above it, puts his selection aside, replaces the others, and takes his case to the table where the man was sitting. They open it, open a bottle, and both of them have a nip from it. Will slowly nods his head saying, “The real deal!” He pays the man the one hundred and twenty dollars cash from the money he’s collected off his dead enemies since arriving. The man smiles on being paid. Will asks, “What else do you have?” Dave gives him a long list of various goods, some of which are what Will is after.
They spend the next hour or so checking items of stock while they make deals on a lot of stuff Will wants, with a promise to pay by bank note on inspection at the time of collection in a couple of weeks when his wagons are made. Dave promises to deliver the alcohol to the camp and they part as friends.
A bit further down the dock they find a man outside a brick building looking a bit glum, so Will asks, “What’s up?”
The man looks at him and says, “Last week I got in with a shipment of guns because they need them here. But the militia aren’t buying and the federal arsenal commander says he doesn’t have the authority to buy them. I know he does have the authority and he’s been told to buy new guns. Because they’re guns I have to keep them in a quality warehouse which costs more. I don’t have much money until I sell some and I still have to make a final payment on their purchase. I figure the arsenal commander and some of the gunsmiths are waiting until I can’t pay the note to then make a cheap deal with the maker to get them for less by paying off what’s left on the note, thus making me lose money. I don’t like how the people around here do business, not at all!”
While slowly shaking his head Will says, “This is my second day in town and I’ve already shot more crooks here than the total of renegade Indians and bandits I shot in the Fort Yuma area over the last two years. Half the people here are the salt of the earth and the other half are the opposite. Guess which half has the power and the money?”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. To make it worse the authorities will only let me sell the guns a case at a time and not retail.”
“I’m looking for a number of good guns! What have you got?”
“A shipload of the best Colt can make!” Will grins. “Latest revolving rifles and pistols in most calibres and barrel lengths. One thousand of each calibre for each type, plus five thousand spare cylinders for each calibre. All have a modified cylinder release for an easier and quicker change of cylinder, plus all use the same cylinder for each calibre. They’re part of a special manufacturing run done to order for another client.”
Will replies, “Let’s have a look at what you have in thirty-six calibre because I’m after twenty-four inch barrel revolving rifles, fifteen inch barrel revolving rifles, and Colt Navy revolvers in the same calibre, plus extra cylinders.”
“I’ve got a thousand of each of those and five thousand cylinders.”
They go inside to look over what he has, reach a deal on buying all of the rifles and revolvers in the types Will wants and plenty of cylinders too. The deal includes the man keeping them safe until Will can collect them in a couple of weeks. He’ll make a down payment to pay off the note to the maker and the rest by bank note on the day he collects them. The man locks up the warehouse and he nods at the guard when they walk off to the bank. The man prefers to deal with Wells Fargo so Will pays him there. The man has the bank telegraph his final payment back to Connecticut, the confirmation telegraph is soon received from Colt, and all are happy with the deal. They split company on leaving the bank.
A little way down the street Will sees a butcher shop and he’s taken by the range of hams he can see hanging there. He walks in to look them over, one looks very familiar but well out of place here. One of the men working the shop walks over and asks, “Interested in a ham?”
Turning to the man Will points at one as he asks, “Is that a Virginia hickory smoked, honey ham?”
The man’s eyes go wide, he nods, and says, “Yes! You recognise it?”
“If it tastes half as good as the ones I’ve had before I’ll buy three or four, if you have them.”
The shop is half full of women and it’s a little noisy when Will first enters, but it’s now quiet while the man thinks a moment. He takes the ham down to place it on a cutting block, out comes a knife, he slices off the end, and two slices of meat. Will takes the first slice and he takes a bite of it. He grins, picks up the other slice, and hands it to Toby. After his first bite Toby says, “I’ve never tasted anything as good as this slice of ham. It’s delicious!”
Will nods agreement, “Done to perfection! How did you get it here, how many can I buy, and for how much?” It’s then Will notices all of the women are watching the trio with the ham, and he wonders why.
The man gives him a price for the four complete hams he has and adds, “I come from Virginia. My father and brothers run the best shops for miles around, so, being the youngest, I came out here. I smoke my own hams. A local man raises the hogs and cattle then I butcher them.”
“Can you have a reliable person deliver my order to my camp beside Miss Hattie’s?” A nod yes. “Good, as well as the hams I’ll get a few pounds of fresh thin sausages and a few different flavours of travel sausages, if you have them.” The man names some sausage types. Very soon he’s calling a halt to what Will wants because he’s reached the limit of the handcart his son uses for deliveries. Will hands over the money for his meat and he also hands the butcher’s son a dollar for the delivery.
The man says, “I’ve been making these since I arrived a few years ago and these will be the first ones my family hasn’t eaten.”
“Why don’t you try slicing the ham up to sell it by the pound? That way they can buy a small amount to try. People are reluctant to pay much for something they haven’t tried and liked.” The man thinks while he gets the order together, then he nods at Will to show he’ll try it.
A few minutes after leaving the butcher shop Toby and Will are on the boardwalk in front of a general store when the doors of a saloon on the other side of the road open and some men walk out. Suddenly guns are going off and the window behind Will shatters. He pushes Toby to the ground behind some boxes on the boardwalk and he steps back the other way while drawing his guns.
Looking across the street he sees six young men in a circle around a seventh, all have guns out and are shooting in different directions.
Two of them are pointing their guns at Will so he shoots them both. The one in the middle blinks twice when his friends fall. He raises his gun to shoot at the same time the others turn their guns toward Will. A short flurry of shots ring out and the seven young men are down. The five balls they shoot at Will are all in the wall behind him. Will quickly swaps cylinders while crossing the road. He knows Toby is already off and running. Will goes through the pockets of the dead and he removes all of their valuables, gun-belts, and guns. He’s about to take their boots off when a man wearing a police badge walks up and asks, “What’s going on here? Why are you taking their boots?”
Will replies, “I was walking on the other side of the street when this bunch walk out of the saloon to start shooting at me. I returned fire and I proved to be a much better shot than they were. You can see the windows they shot out in the store and the balls stuck in the wall. I’m taking their valuables to cover the costs of the repairs and to compensate me for their unwarranted attack on me.”
The policeman looks them over, sighs, and shakes his head. He turns to a boy and sends him off somewhere. Will recovers quite a lot of cash from the dead, so he leaves them under the eye of the policeman as he walks across to the store with the seven gun-belts over his shoulder.
Walking into the store he sees the owner cleaning up the broken glass and Will asks, “How much do you think it’ll cost to fix your damage?” The man gives a price. “I see you sell guns. How many of these guns and belts will you take to pay for the damage?” The man looks the guns over and takes the best three, then he offers a price to buy the others. They reach a deal and Will pockets the money while knowing the man will make a good profit off of the sale of all of the guns.
In the street there are two more policemen talking to the first one and an undertaker Will doesn’t know is preparing to remove the bodies. Also Captain Wilson is running down the street toward the scene.
One of the cops looks at Will and asks, “You shoot these boys?”
Will replies, “Yes. Like I told the other man, they came out of that saloon shooting at me. I returned fire and I proved to be a better shot.”
“They started it but you shot all seven without getting hit. I don’t think so, Mister.”
“Have you asked anyone who was on the street what happened? It so happens I found out, during the fight, they can’t shoot worth a damn. So they were terminally stupid as well. I also made it hard for them to aim at me because I moved about while shooting. So I’m a good shot, their bad luck for picking on me.” Not liking the way this is going Will slips his hands under the front of his shirt to ready his two cross-draw guns for quick use by slipping the strap off and cocking them.
“Well, you’ve killed the sons of several prominent men in this town. So you’re under arrest for murder.”
“I suggest you go back and read the law. Ask any witness and they’ll tell you it was self-defence. The law doesn’t care who a person is as it’s meant to apply to all in an even and fair manner. Thus you’ve no legal grounds to arrest me. So any attempt to do so is an attempted kidnapping by an armed person and I can lawfully defend myself against you. Wearing a badge doesn’t mean you can break the law.” Will places his hands on his belt near the flap of his shirt front.
“I make the laws in this district. You’re under arrest for murder.”
“Ain’t a happening!”
The two new cops go for their guns. Will’s hands flash under the shirt front and whip the guns out at the same moment the two cops get their guns out of their holsters. Will’s guns are at the right level and pivoting toward them while the theirs are still coming up. Will fires both guns and both men stagger backward while shooting into the ground in front of them. The original cop stands there expecting to be shot, so he’s surprised when he isn’t shot by Will.
Captain Wilson hears the last few exchanges of words while he approaches the scene. He simply says, “Will, put the guns away!” Will glances at him, notices his guns are holstered, nods, and slips his guns back into their holsters. Turning to the cop Wilson adds, “Don’t draw on him and he won’t draw on you!” The first cops nods he understands. “OK, Rob! What happened, and start at the very beginning?”
“I got a report of a shooting and I came here, Captain. I found this fellow stripping the seven dead. He told me they came out of the saloon and started shooting at him so he fired back. He went across to see Old Man Davis about the shop damage and I asked a few witnesses about it. They confirmed the first shots came from the saloon side. I went in and the barman said the seven had been drinking very heavily celebrating a birthday. He knows them well. Each time one of them has a birthday the seven come in, get drunk, walk out, and shoot up the street. Today they left at the wrong time and the street shot back. Captain McCall got here and I told him what happened. He looked at the dead and swore. When this guy came out McCall said he didn’t think it was self-defence, despite me just telling him it clearly was. He went to arrest the man, got told he can’t because it wasn’t a legal arrest. McCall and Oates went for their guns and were drawing them before the man even moved. Yet he had his out and shooting them before they got theirs pointed at him.”
“Thanks, Rob.” Wilson turns to Will, “That sound about right?”
“Straight, true, and succinct. Rob is a good officer.”
“Right. Self-defence in all cases. Oh, I told White not to bother due to it being here. He agreed, but he paid Toby anyway. Now Rob and I have a few people to see. Oates had a wife and kid, McCall was single.” Will nods at the real message he gets with those words.
Just then the undertaker walks over and demands ninety dollars for removing the dead at ten dollars each. Will looks at him and says, “You better go ask the man who told you to remove them for the money. It wasn’t me and I’m not paying for what I don’t ask for.”
Will walks past the man to his wagon, climbs on, and strips the two dead cops of their guns, gun-belts, and pocket contents. All to the sound of abuse from the undertaker.
Wilson is working hard to hide his grin when he says, “The town will pay you the set five dollars for each of their cops, but you best talk to the families of the others about what they want to pay for. You can’t bill a man for work he didn’t order.” The undertaker’s hand moves to his gun, and Wilson adds, “Before you try that you may want to think about the cargo and who made it that way, as well as how.” The man goes pale, then he climbs up on his cart. He’s very quick to leave the area.
Will leads Wilson and Rob back to the store to do a deal for the last two guns and belts, plus the miscellaneous pocket contents. When paid Will hands the money to Wilson, saying, “I think Missus Oates needs this a lot more than I do.” He puts his hand in his pocket and adds a good handful of coins without even looking at them. Wilson grins as he nods.
Outside the store they split up. Toby catches up to Will when he stops outside a bakery. The smell is so good. When they leave the shop Toby is carrying a just bought basket of fresh baked food, a big basket.
When they get back to the field Mr White is there and he apologises about not going to the last shooting scene before he explains some of the town’s politics. Will nods his understanding and says, “The undertaker asked me for ninety dollars for picking up dead people I never told him to pick up, so I told him off. If Captain Wilson hadn’t got there I’d have probably had to get you to collect him as well.” They both laugh. He pays White for the payment to Toby because it wasn’t their fault he met scum outside of White’s approved operating area.
The fresh bread and buns are given to the ladies, some nice ham sandwiches are made, and then eaten while everybody gets told of the morning’s events by both groups. Will enjoys the looks on their faces when they get their first taste of the ham. After their early lunch Will is off to the Star Saloon to finish his business there.
Captain Wilson and Will arrive only a few minutes after Dave Wills does, so they aren’t late. It only takes a few minutes for Will to pay Dave for the work then for Dave and Will to explain Will is now out of the saloon business while all of the staff are in the business. They’re so stunned nothing is said for a long moment. It’s Jacinta who breaks the silence by handing Wilson some money while telling him it’s the pay owed to Mary for yesterday. She gets them all on their way back to work while giving Will a series of odd looks. So he says, “I’m not interested in the place, I don’t know how to run it, and I don’t want to come back here after I set up a ranch. This seems the best way for me to unload it to some good people.” She grins at him as she slowly shakes her head.
Dave, Bob, and Will leave together with Dave turning off to see another client, leaving the other two to return to Miss Hattie’s. Will says, “That meeting was how I like them: short, good results, and all are happy with the outcome.” Bob laughs as he enters the boarding house.
A few minutes after returning to the camp Will is leaving again, but he has Toby leading a horse pulling a wagon with Ginny leading a horse and wagon as well. Will is between, and a little in front of both while looking all around them. Several minutes later they walk into the yard of a wainwright recommended to Will by several people he trusts.
It’s a big operation with lots of people working at various tasks in the large yard with buildings around it. There appears to be a dozen or more wagons under construction. A large man sees them enter so he walks over to introduce himself by holding out his hand and saying, “Ben Logan, wainwright. What can I do for you folks?” He’s shaking Will’s hand and talking to him, but his eyes are glued to the wagons.
“Hello, Ben. I’m Will March and I want you to make me five special wagons of a similar design to these, but full sized.”
“Do you know how these were built?”
“Yes. I designed and built them. These are small to follow a horse and to reduce the size of the train of pack horses. I’ve got a design of what I want drawn up with dimensions, but it’s very different to the wagons you normally make. I brought these to show you and I’ll leave one with you as an example of the type and style of work.”
“Good! Why the stiffer canvas? Why the dirt? And why no tailgate?”
“No tailgate because the storage area is a totally waterproof box that floats when not overloaded. Good for river crossings that are too deep. I take a part load across, unload it, and then I ferry the rest. The canvas on the tray is to give better waterproofing and to reduce damage to the wood by minor bumps and the like. The canvas is multiple layers laid on, and into, the varnish on the wood so it becomes a laminated cover. The top cover is two canvas layers laminated in a similar way with a thinned out varnish. Final coating is two layers of varnish with the second put on before the first is dry and dirt sprinkled on it to become part of the final coat. That changes the look of the canvas from white. The darker colour is harder to see out in the scrub, and thus much safer. It also changes the outline to confuse the perception of people looking at it by not immediately matching any previous image. The wide wheels spread the weight over a larger area and they don’t sink into soft earth or sand as much as most wheels. The wheels on the new wagons are to be five times the width of these with four iron tyres on each wheel spread across the width instead of one huge iron tyre. That’s enough to reduce the wear, and it’ll save some weight.” While talking he pulls some papers out of his pocket, unfolds them, and hands them over. Ben studies the details on the drawings while he notes they also include instructions and reasons for the oddities in the designs.
Ben looks up while saying, “With all of my current work this’ll take about two weeks to get them all done, and they won’t be cheap. But I can see they’re very sturdy and will last better than anything else I’ve seen.”
“I’m camped over at Miss Hattie’s, work out a full cost and drop it to me. I’ll pay half in advance so you can get the materials, and the rest on final inspection and collection. That OK with you?”
Shopping and Shocks
Ben agrees with the terms so they leave and head off to get some other items they need. Next stop is a gunsmith for two good Derringers in .36 calibre for Ginny to carry, with holsters for them, but she puts the loaded guns into her pockets for now. Their main purchases are a few pounds of coffee, salt, flour, sugar, herbs, spices, a few sweets for the ladies, and a good Dutch oven Will spots.
They’re heading back to the camp when they spot a large group of men blocking the exit from a small yard in front of a ramshackle hut. In doing so they’re stopping a woman with two children from leaving, the woman and kids are carrying bundles. Will tells Ginny and Toby to wait with the horses and wagon before he heads across the street to the situation. Nearing the scene he hears some words being exchanged.