Phantom Creek
Chapter 10

Copyright© 2019 by Wendell Jackson

Sheriff John Pogue was bearing the frustrations of good his investigation coming to dead ends. The search of Bailors ranch came up short on finding the three Saddle tramps. It was plain to see that hey had grabbed their gear and moved out. The worse was they did find the corral with the rustle cattle, and missing truck. Finding the body was easy as the smell and ravens led them straight to it. The dead man was identified as Chancy Madsen, the brother of Trooper Wallace Madsen, of the State Police. That was what made the whole mornings investigation go sour. Wallace was with the sheriff at the ranch when word came that a body was found at the corral. From what Barbara Bailor had told him, He figured that was where the body was, and had kept trooper Madsen with him to avoid problems if the man went off on his own. Having a distraught out of control relative of the victim at a crime scene could ruin an investigation. So the sheriff tried his best to keep Trooper Madsen away from the gory elements of the crime. It was a job that couldn’t be done.

There was no stopping trooper Madsen from going to the grave site. Seeing the remains of his brother, added fuel to the anger and hate he felt for those responsible for his brothers death. Since the Saddle tramps appeared to be long gone, the attention was focused on the Wakefield boy. The one seen riding away from the corral with a shovel. Having been over ruled by all Madsen’s fellow state troopers, the sheriff felt compelled to bring him along when they went to pick up young Tom Wakefield.

Leaving a detail to secure the grave site and turn the rustled cattle over to Kinkade, the rest of the posse piled into the cars and pickups, and headed for the Wakefield ranch. Sheriff John Pogue appealed to the division head of the state troopers, to leave Madsen behind, but the head bull wouldn’t hear of it. Even though everything was taking place in the Sheriff’s county, the state troopers were going to see to it, that their fellow officer had a hand in bringing the killer of his brother to justice.

Tom heard the sound of many engines coming up the un improved road along Phantom creek. He had just let a rock fall back on his hand, bruising his fingers, when the sound of the approaching vehicles came to him. Constance had warned him that they might be coming. He was shaking the grit off his injured hand when the vehicles began coming to a stop on the old road a few yards away. A tall heavy set man got out and nodded towards Tom, he heard the man ask some one, if he was the one. A positive reply came from one of the men as they all lined up and started down towards him. Thinking he might as well get it all over with, Tom climbed out of the dug ground. knocking the dirt off his pants as he waited for them to approach, he wondered how he was going to explain that they were really after some one else.

Trooper Wallace Madsen didn’t give Tom a chance to explain anything. A huge right fist caught Tom square in the face, sending him back into the unfinished well. Wallace jumped in and began landing punishing blows to the young man, trying his best to do as much damage as he could. Sheriff Pogue, yelling for him to stop, leaped forward only to be held back by other troopers and friends of Trooper Madsen.

The physical blows landing on Tom, knocked him flat on his back. The continued doubled up fists that smashed into his face, stunned him to the point he couldn’t defend against the onslaught. Sheriff Pogue knowing that Madsen intended to kill the boy, reached for his gun and held it against the Division commanders head.

“Stop em right now, or I blow your god damn brains out.” The revolver was cocked as he spat out the words.

The State police officer didn’t think the Sheriff would actually pull the trigger, but he wasn’t going to take a chance. He gave a nod to the other troopers standing around watching the scene, and they reluctantly jumped in the half dug hole to pull Trooper Madsen off the battered and blooded boy. It had only taken a minute but Wallace Madsen had busted up Tom to a awful mess. The result of the huge man pounding on the teenager was grotesque, two of the volunteer posse members threw up at scene before them.

“We don’t know if its him or not.” The Sheriff shouted at the uniformed police. “Now get him out of that hole.”

Trooper Wallace Madsen, being restrained by his fellow officers, had blood spattered on his face, as he took in heavy breaths. He didn’t feel that he was finished and would have continued if anyone had relaxed their grip on him.

Shoving his revolver back in the holster, Sheriff Pogue motioned for some of his own men to get Tom out of the hole. The State Division officer seeing the gun being holstered, said with unveiled anger. “I could kill you for that.”

“Yeah, and if I hadn’t stopped it, his father would be killing you.” Then nodding toward Madsen. “You keep that SOB under control, he’s had his pound of flesh.”

Tom being held on his feet by two men, was covered in blood and at the moment was not aware of his surroundings. Sheriff Pogue directed the men to place him in his patrol car. Disgusted at what Madsen had done to the boy, he turned back to the gathering of state police, “Well you’ve brought this investigation to a halt. We won’t be getting any information out of him, not in this condition.”

The completely dazed Tom was put in the Sheriffs patrol car, as the rest of the men began climbing back in the other vehicles. The Division Officer approached the sheriff and stated that he hoped he understood, that they couldn’t just use velvet gloves on the boy. They had a fellow officer that needed to extract a bit of revenge.

“You better understand,” The Sheriff glowered at the State Trooper. “I’m still a fraction of an inch away from killing your officer for what he’s done. This isn’t the right Wakefield. I know the boy and his family. This isn’t the one.”

“Then why did you bring us out here?”

“We follow the leads. A horse, a Sorrel horse was seen, with a rider. There’s plenty of Sorrels on every ranch on this whole range. Now instead of possibly finding out where those Saddle bum’s are, we have a young boy beat senseless by your grieving fellow officer.”

“You knew what was going to happen. So don’t play all high an mighty with me. You might need a return favor some day. We’ll be there when you do. Just remember that.”

“Yeah, I’m guilty of that. I never thought he would try to kill him. Not when there’s still three other men, we need to find.” The sheriff climbed into his patrol car and said with a final note as he closed the door. “See you back at the Command post. We have to get this boy to a Doctor.”

Austin and Paul rode up as the dust still hung in the air. The cars and trucks were gone, having left the clouds of dust in their wake. A quick questioning glance between them, the two men rode hard and fast down to where Tom had been digging the well. Seeing the blood on the rocks and sides of the metal frames, they knew Tom had been injured.

“What the hell, happened here?” Paul looked from the digging, down towards the fading dust clouds from all the traffic on the dirt road. “We better get in that truck and catch up with them.”

“Drop your saddle and bridle, the horse’s can find their way back.” Austin dismounted and began unsaddling his horse. “They’ll be quicker to head for home unsaddled.”

They quickly had the saddles off and left the horses standing by the well. Austin climbed in the truck, Tom had driven that morning with the tools and supplies. He soon had the vehicle rumbling down the road, leaving another rising dust cloud behind them. The truck was old, but Austin pushed it to its top speed, anxious to find out what has happened to his son.

The dust rose so thick that the line of cars couldn’t follow close behind. Several vehicles in front of the sheriffs car raised so much dust, that he slowed down in order for it to clear. He was worried about the young man sprawled out in the back seat. He was still bleeding, but alive. That he could tell from the agonizing moans coming from the boy. What was worrying the sheriff now, was facing Austin Wakefield and explaining why his son was beaten. He’d expected the boy to be roughed up some, after all, Barbara Bailor wasn’t one to exaggerate. If she’d seen a Wakefield riding a Wakefield horse, and thought it was Tom, it was identification enough for him. Deep inside, he knew if a Wakefield was involved with rustling and killing, it wouldn’t be Tom. There was only one he knew that was capable of the a crime and that was Harold.

Several cars ahead of the Sheriff, Trooper Wallace Madsen was still brooding. Turning to the men sitting on each side of him as they rode in the back of the state police car. “I’m not done with him yet.”

“He’s busted up pretty good, Wallace. We can’t take a dead man in, not with that Sheriff.” The officer on Madsen’s right tried to point out. The cop on the other side agreed, saying. “Not with all the witness’s standing around.”

“Makes no difference. The man was resisting arrest. You saw him try to hit me.” Madsen gave them both a look, that they had better seen the young man resisting arrest. The men sitting in the front, gave each other a warning look, wondering what to expect next. They didn’t have any love for Trooper Madsen, but he was a fellow officer and they would back him to the hilt on extracting revenge. They just didn’t like having to do it after the sheriff intervened.

“When we get there, he’ll betaken in side the Command Tent. The Sheriff will phone for an ambulance, and then I’ll make the move on him. You guys make sure you crowd around. I just want one more shot at him, and he’s done.”

“They’ll be all over in side that tent.” The officer riding shotgun in the front, twisted around to speak. “No telling who will be in there. Friends family, his girl friend. Forget it, you’ve done enough.”

“Like hell, I have. We will be getting there ahead of the sheriff. Just go and make sure its us that help him out of the patrol car. I’ll do the rest. You guys have everyone crowd around, and like I said, It will be over and done.”

“Hell, why not just shoot him.” one of them sarcastically stated.

“Stick with the plan, and we all walk away clean.”

Three car loads of State Police pulled into the Walker Service Station, before the Sheriffs car could be seen approaching. The officers drew near other state uniformed men, and gave them a heads up. Most were only told to form a shield around the suspect, and move together as one towards the Green Command Tent. The sheriff would be in a hurry to make a phone call, leaving the movement of the suspect to his underlings. It would be at that time the suspect would try to escape. The rest would just be swift justice.

Constance was looking out the window from inside the restaurant, along with several others. She and her mom had spent the night in a little tent set up by the sheriff. He didn’t want them to returning home, with the three ranch hands still on the loose. Now with all the traffic turning in off the highway, Constance knew the results of the mornings operation would soon be coming in.

“I expect they will be bringing Tom with them.” Barbara said mostly to her daughter, but loud enough for the rest of the people standing around inside the restaurant could hear.

“I Told you, he isn’t involved in it.” Constance snapped angrily at her mother. She moved quickly to the door and went out side to better observe events.

The Kinkade family was there, waiting for their father to get back from seeing to his rustled cattle. Dora had only learned of the rustled cattle from the sheriffs phone call last night. The news that Tom might be involved came as shock to her, as she like so many others knew the young man to be of higher caliber. It wouldn’t have surprised her if it had been Harold they were bringing in, as he seemed to take a special delight in cheating strangers out of Gas and money. Dora Kinkade could understand Constance Bailors concerns over Tom being arrested, as word got out that the posse had gone out to the Wakefield Ranch to do just that. What perplexed her was that Alice showed no concern about Tom at all. John showed some interest in that it was exciting, Tom being arrested. Alice who had been sweet on him for several years, was stone faced. Dora couldn’t detect any emotion in her daughter at all. Alice was like her father in that regard.

A few people were still eating breakfast in the restaurant, as Barbara Bailor looked around. It was the only excitement the small clump of houses and service station had seen in years. She had to wonder where old man Walker was. In asking about his whereabouts, the cook and waitress Lara Woods, Grumpily stated that he was on a binder, slouched over behind the bar. Seeing Constance was standing with some others just out side, Barbara moved towards the Bar, tucked away between the restaurant and the Service Garage. Indeed she could see Walker propped up against the back wall, his hand resting on the bar holding an empty shot class. She had no doubt that it had been filled and emptied many times.

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