Refuge (Robledo Mountain #2)
Chapter 7

Copyright© 2020 by Kraken

We rode into my usual camp in the copse of trees just north of Santa Fe two weeks later. Her wounds were healing nicely. She hardly seemed to notice the wound in her arm at all but was still slightly favoring her side. However, we were both tired. Tired of riding, tired of trail food, tired of sleeping on the ground, tired of being dirty, and just plain tired.

I helped Anna off her horse, took her in my arms, and hugged her tight giving her a big kiss in the process. “One more night of sleeping on the ground and we’ll be in the best hotel in Santa Fe, sleeping in the best bed they have to offer, eating good food in restaurants, and getting a hot bath on demand,” I said wistfully. “In the meantime, the stream just behind you is a good place to clean up a little, while I unload and set up camp for the night.”

I unloaded the mules, unsaddled the horses, and set up camp while Anna was just out of sight at the stream. When she came back, she was in better spirits and worked on preparing our last trail supper for a few weeks. Over supper we talked about how much we missed hot showers, and in her case a hot bath as well.

We slept in late the next morning, not bothering to get up until well after sunrise. We did our Tai Chi and katas before settling down to fix breakfast and clean up. We were in no real hurry and relaxed the entire morning. After lunch, I dressed in city clothes, saddled my horse, gave Anna a hug and kiss, told her to keep her weapons close, and rode into Santa Fe.

After much discussion on the trail, Anna had convinced me to leave her with the mules and gold while I went into Santa Fe and made arrangements with Hiram, for us to come in after nightfall with the gold. I was still more than a little concerned leaving her alone out here by herself, but she argued the mules would warn her of anyone or anything approaching, and she could handle it from there.

My first stop in Santa Fe was at the hotel where I got their best suite for four weeks. When they asked about baggage, I simply said it would be coming later. With that accomplished I walked over to the bank and found Hiram in his office as usual. I knocked on his door and he waved me in with a smile. He offered me a glass of scotch as I was sitting down which I readily accepted.

After the first sip he looked over the top of his glass and said, “I was starting to get really concerned for you after what happened on your last trip here. I’ve got the wagon over in my barn just so you know. Now, not that’s it not good to see you hale and hearty, but what brings you to town?”

“Well, I promised my wife a trip to Santa Fe, so here we are,” I replied with a laugh.

“Wife? What wife? When did you get married? Where is she?” Hiram was talking so fast he was almost tripping over his tongue.

“Slow down just a mite, and I’ll answer all your questions, Hiram,” I replied with another laugh.

“I married the girl in Las Cruces I told you about. We were married in March. My last trip here convinced me not to put it off any longer. Unfortunately, the attacks haven’t stopped since my last visit. We’ve been attacked in Las Cruces and on my land. Everything seems to point to someone here in Santa Fe orchestrating everything. But that’s a subject for discussion on a different day. At the moment Anna is outside of town waiting for me to get back before we both come into town together.”

He nodded and then stared at me. “You have a deposit to make I take it?”

“We do. If you’re amenable, we’ll bring it in just after sundown.”

“Certainly, I’m amenable, Paul. I’ll handle it personally and no one but the guards will know anything until tomorrow morning. I’m more than a little concerned, though. After your last visit there’s been more than the usual interest in you and the location of your strike. I don’t think anyone here at the bank talked out of turn, but I just can’t be sure.”

“I understand, Hiram. One of the reasons we’re here is to see what we can find out about who is behind all this and the reasons for it. It’s more than just the gold though, because the last few attempts made it clear that the priority is for us to be dead. By us I mean both Anna and me. We are staying at the hotel for the next four weeks so we should be safe enough as long as no one knows we’re coming in tonight,” I said before finishing my drink. “Thanks for the drink. We’ll see you tonight at the back door after sundown.”

I rode back to camp by a circuitous route, checking frequently for anyone trying to follow me. When I rode into camp, I found Anna already starting supper preparations. I gave her a hug and a kiss before telling her that Hiram was ready to meet us at the back door to the bank, just after sundown.

Anna had repacked all the panniers putting the bags of gold on top so it would be easier and faster to unload. I gave her a big smile as well as another hug and kiss.

“I’ll finish making supper while you change into a riding outfit, my love,” I said. Seeing her raised eyebrow, I hurriedly explained. “You riding into Santa Fe in cammies, even after sundown, will raise questions. An acceptable riding outfit will reduce the curiosity we’re going to draw from anyone we pass in town.”

She thought about that for a minute and then said she’d change after supper. She handed me a cup of coffee and told me to sit down and relax for a while, since we still had a couple hours of daylight left.

I was sitting by the fire drinking the last of the coffee before I put the cup away, when Anna came back into camp wearing one of her El Paso riding outfits. It had been months since I’d seen her in it, and I couldn’t help but stare.

She caught me staring and asked, “Do I look okay?”

I told her truthfully, “You are absolutely beautiful!”

Wham! Huge super megawatt Anna smile. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed that the last few weeks. I set my coffee cup down, got up, wrapped Anna into a big hug, and swung her around in a circle before giving her a deep kiss.

When we came up for air she asked, “Not that I’m complaining but what in the world was that for?”

“I’m glad you’re not complaining. That was because I just realized how much I missed your special smile the last few weeks, and I’m happy to see another one.”

She got a little upset at that. “I smile at you all the time.”

I gave her another quick kiss before answering her. “Yes, you do. But the smile I’m talking about is your special smile. The one that’s my reward when I do or say something that really pleases you.”

She cuddled deep into my arms, looked up at me with another one her special smiles, and said, “I like giving you my special smiles. I’ll have to remember to do it more often.”

We stayed cuddled up for another few minutes before breaking apart and mounted up for the last part of the trip into Santa Fe. Traffic on the road was non-existent until we entered the outskirts of town, where even there it was extremely light, as we’d hoped.

Anna looked around curiously in the half light of dusk. She finally turned to me and said, “It reminds me of Las Cruces only bigger.”

“A lot bigger, Anna,” I replied with a grin. “We’ll explore every inch of it over the next few weeks.”

Riding side by side and leading our mules, I directed Anna into the alley behind the bank and to the back door. I knocked on the back door and Hiram opened it immediately giving me a quick greeting and coming out with one of his burly guards. I introduced him to Anna and began unloading the bags of gold. It took the three of us twelve trips to get all the gold into the bank while Anna remained outside watching the alley.

We left the mules in back of the bank for the time being and gratefully accepted a seat in Hiram’s office. Anna was offered and accepted a glass of wine, while Hiram and I both had a glass of scotch. We chatted for a short time about the rigors of cross-country travel, leaving him with the impression we’d been traveling to Santa Fe from the north.

Taking our second round of drinks with us, we walked into the weighing room where Hiram went to work. We watched as he weighed the gold in 100 bar lots, as usual. We finished our drinks a few minutes before he finished weighing and waited for him to tally the results. When he was done, he looked up and told us he came up with 28,000 ounces. We told him that agreed with our tally, and then waited for the total sale price.

Hiram hesitated a moment. “The assay office is currently offering $12.50 per ounce. I’m willing to pay you $12 per ounce, if you tell me the source and purity of this batch is the same as your previous deposits.”

Anna and I looked at each other in surprise. I’d told her how much I’d gotten previously, and the price had seemed stable, so that was what we were both expecting. Hiram noted our surprise and gave us a smile.

“Riverboat and railroad travel are making transporting the gold easier and safer, while the supply of gold is dwindling again now that the California gold has about played out. The price may go back down again if the recent discoveries in Colorado prove out, but for now the going price is between $10.50 and $12.50 an ounce.”

“Thanks for the explanation, Hiram. That helps us understand, and we’ll happily take your offer.”

The total price came out to $336,000. I told him to deposit it all in my account and we’d be in tomorrow morning sometime, to add Anna to the account and conduct some other business. He gave us a receipt and we wished each other a good night, before we left out the back door to retrieve our horses and mules.

We rode out of the alley and down the street to the hotel, where we dismounted and arranged for a bellman to take our burlap bags of clothes up to the suite. Anna and I walked up upstairs arm in arm. I got a real nice megawatt Anna smile when I opened the door and Anna saw the suite.

We looked around both the living room and bedroom before I left to get the animals taken care of and bring in our saddlebags and scabbards. When I got back the bell man had delivered our bags of clothes and Anna was directing two ladies preparing two large baths that had also been delivered. As I watched, a never-ending stream of ladies entered the suite and poured hot water into each of the baths while others brought in towels, washcloths and two plush robes.

When Anna was satisfied, she thanked all the ladies, giving them a small tip before showing them out and closing the door. Almost immediately there was a knock on the door. Anna opened it to find the bellman delivering the bottle of Anna’s favorite cabernet I’d ordered and two glasses.

I enjoyed her beaming me another one of her special huge super megawatt Anna smiles as I poured us both a glass. After the first sip, Anna looked at the tubs.

“I’ve been looking forward to this all day,” she said before giving me a huge kiss.

We wasted no time and in just a few moments were both in the tubs luxuriating in steamy hot water and sipping our wine. We eventually got out when the water cooled down and slipped into the robes before cuddling on the couch. Later, finished with the wine, we went into the bedroom where Anna told me she’d thought up some new ‘possibilities’ she wanted to explore. I’m not sure what time we finally fell asleep, but we were both wrung out and extremely satisfied.

Both of us were fully rested the next morning and feeling refreshed for the first time since leaving the camp in the Caballo Mountains. We ran through our exercises and katas before unpacking and putting away the clothes. Anna was still amazed at the state of her dresses after all the time in the bottom of the panniers. She put on one of her dresses, which forced me into one of my suits. After all, I couldn’t embarrass her by wearing something inappropriate or plebian while accompanying her. Breakfast was really good; although to be honest, it could have been nothing more than ‘it was a meal someone besides us had cooked.’

Anna stopped at the desk in the hotel on our way out after breakfast to find out if her cousin had checked in. She’d told me that she had cousins in Taos that she and her mother had corresponded with over the years. The cousin she was interested in seeing again was seven years older than she was, and they hadn’t seen each other since Anna was five. Anna had written her cousin, Josefa, that we were planning on arriving in Santa Fe in late May, and Josefa had written back that the timing was perfect as she and her husband were planning on being in Santa Fe for a few weeks at the same time.

Anna came away disappointed as the counter man told her while her cousin was expected, they hadn’t arrived yet and were, in fact, slightly overdue. I told her if nothing else, we’d go up to Taos to see her cousin. Bam! Another huge super megawatt Anna smile beamed at me. What a great feeling!

We walked down to the bank talking about a possible side trip to Taos. In the bank, we were met by Hiram who took us into his office before handing Anna the account papers to sign. When she was done signing, he asked how else he could be of assistance.

“Well, quite a few ways as it turns out,” I said. “We’re going over to buy some more land, and we’ll need your assistance with that probably just before lunch. We’re also looking for the best lawyer in Santa Fe. Specifically, a lawyer with a good reputation in the area of Trusts.”

“I’ll handle the land transaction myself, Paul, just let me know when it’s ready. As far as a Trust, the bank can do that for you as well; but if you want the best, then Tom Stevenson is who you want. He’s a little hard to find so if you have a minute, I’ll write down the directions.”

At Anna’s nod, I said, “Thanks, Hiram. We’re more than happy to wait for the directions, as neither of us know Santa Fe at all.”

He wrote us directions to the lawyer’s office in his neat precise hand. As he was handing them to me, Anna said, “I also need recommendations for the best seamstress in town, and the best place to get good china and cutlery.”

Thinking for a moment, Hiram finally said, “I need to consult with my wife on those before making a recommendation since she’s the real expert.”

I took the opportunity to invite him and his wife to supper at the hotel tonight. He accepted and we agreed to meet in the lobby at seven this evening.

Anna and I left the bank and walked down to the land office, where in no time at all we’d purchased the 20,480 acres east of us, including the Doña Ana Mountains for the princely sum of $6,144. I still had a hard time believing the price of land in this time but gladly accepted it. He said he’d have all the paperwork ready for us at eleven.

We walked out of the land office with Anna looking a little glassy eyed. “Are you alright Anna,” I asked in concern.

She replied in a small voice. “Did we really just buy another 20,000 acres?”

I smiled down at her. “Yes, we did. Now you know how I felt the first time I was here and bought 40,000 acres.”

She gulped, grabbed my arm, and looked up at me. “I won’t believe it until I’m holding the deed in my hand.”

We walked over to the bank laughing over a quip I made about the deed being written in invisible ink. I was just reaching for the bank door when Dream Laura’s soft sweet voice came to my left ear. “Something is wrong inside Paul. Be careful.”

“What is it Paul?” Anna asked with concern etched on her face.

“Dream Laura just told me that something is wrong in the bank,” I replied. “I think she meant it’s being held up.”

“Our money’s in there, Paul! Please tell me you’re not thinking of letting them get away with it?” I started to reply but Anna cut me off. “It it’s me being here that concerns you, please remember our wedding day, and fighting the Navajo a few weeks ago. I told you then, and I’ll remind you now. We’ll face this together like we face everything else!”

I gave an exasperated sigh and just gave her a “Yes, Dear,” then said, “We don’t know what we’re walking into so be ready for almost anything.”

Anna simply nodded her head and, after checking to make sure the light shawl she was wearing was still covering her holstered pistol, said, “Open the door Paul and let’s get this over with.”

I opened the door, bowing Anna inside as she giggled, once again the smiling young lady. Taking my arm, after I closed the door behind us, it was difficult to tell that she had any idea of what was going on around us. The tightening of her hand on my arm while she continued to laugh let me know she was intently aware of everything going on around her.

It was immediately apparent that the bank was being robbed by at least five men. The five men we could see standing spread out in front of us, were all masked and, spread across the room, each holding revolvers. The two burly shotgun toting guards who were normally in the bank weren’t visible so either they were in on it or they’d been taken out somehow.

Anna and I looked at each other and broke into laughter again as if the robbery was a huge joke. As social etiquette dictated in this time, I had been walking on the street side of Anna on the way to the bank which meant that she was on my right as we entered the bank. The closest gunman was on my left and he walked up to us putting himself directly in front of me with his gun held low pointing at my waist.

I stopped laughing and looked around as if scared. I noticed that none of the men had their hammers cocked, but all of them were jumpy so it wouldn’t take much to set them off. Anna looked at the gun pointed at me, then looked up at me, and back at the gun. She started trembling and tears started pouring out of her eyes. Reaching over, I put my right arm around her, telling her everything would be alright, while hugging her close to me.

The gunman in front of me turned his head and told the others they had scared the pretty lady and started laughing. That was all the distraction it took.

Anna reached her left hand across me and shoved the robber’s gun arm out to my left, while drawing her pistol, and started shooting. My focus was on the man directly in front of me. With his gun arm out to the side, I gave him a quick sharp jab to the throat with my right hand while pulling my gun with my left, ready to join Anna. The man in front of me went down clutching his throat giving me a clear shot at the only robber left standing. I fired a round just as I heard Anna’s fourth shot and saw two wounds appear on the robber’s chest.

We both scanned the room as we continued to hold our weapons ready. We could easily tell that none of the five robbers were going to be getting up to continue anytime soon. It was very apparent that the four we had shot were dead, while the fifth was still struggling trying to breathe but his struggles were getting weaker and weaker with each passing moment.

Looking at the tellers standing in the far corner, I asked, “Where’s Hiram and the guards?”

The senior teller lifted his eyes from the dead bodies on the floor and replied, “They took them into the weighing room. One of the guards has to be in on this though since all the robbers came in through the back door and it can only be opened from inside.”

“I’ll take care of them. You go get whatever lawmen are appropriate and available,” I said determinedly.

As the teller was leaving, I whispered to Anna, “Find and pick up the brass while I go check on Hiram and the guards”

She nodded and holstered her pistol. She covered it back up with her crocheted shawl, before stooping to pick up the five empty brass from our pistols. I walked to the hall leading to the weighing room and back door. Not seeing anyone in the hallway I cautiously walked down the hall stopping to check two rooms with no one inside them before reaching the weighing room.

The door was closed, so I crouched down in the hallway with my back to the wall and used my right hand to turn the doorknob and push the door open. A shotgun blast ripped through the door at waist level as the door opened. I rolled into the doorway on the floor and saw Hiram and a guard hog tied and gagged on the floor with the second guard standing over them holding the shotgun. I fired two shots into his chest, and one at his head. All three shots hit him, standing him up straight before he fell to the floor on his right side.

Anna peeked around the corner ready to lend a hand, if necessary. I waved at her letting her know I was alright. Standing up, I walked into the room, bent down, and removed the gags from Hiram and the guard.

“Are there any others that you know of?” I asked.

“If there were, they were outside, and probably gone by now,” Hiram said as I used my jack knife to cut both of them free and then helped them stand up.

“I sent one of your tellers for the law. The other five robbers up front are dead, and as far as I can tell no one else has been hurt.” Hiram started to thank me, but I stopped him. “Thanks aren’t necessary, Hiram. It’s Anna’s and my money, too.”

I handed the guard the shotgun from the floor, and we all walked back down the hallway out to the front of the bank.

Anna said she’d already checked the back door and there were six horses in the alley. I gave her a big hug and kiss before holding her at arm’s length. “You, my lady, are not only an excellent actress, but a great shot as well!”

Again, she beamed me one of her special huge Anna smiles. While we were talking and cuddling, Hiram was going to each body and pulling the masks off their faces. After a quick look at each face he moved on to the next. When he was done, he turned to his tellers, and asked if they recognized any of the dead men.

One of the tellers replied. “They are all small ranchers north of town and have small accounts here.”

Hiram nodded and said he recognized them as well.

A short dapper man came rushing into the bank, stopped in front of Hiram, and demanded to know what all the shooting was about. Hiram clearly knew the man and did not like or respect him in the least.

Hiram, not a tall man by any stretch, looked down at the man and told him he was where the trouble was too late to do anything about it, as usual. The man started to bluster and then changed tack, demanding to know what the shooting was all about. Hiram started to tell him about the attempted robbery, but before he could get three words out the little man noticed the dead bodies.

“Who shot these men?” he demanded. “All five of these men were respected ranchers in the area and whoever shot them will be arrested for murder!”

Anna started to say something, but I took her arm and shook my head at her.

Hiram started to tell him about the attempted robbery again when the short man interrupted again.

“These were good upstanding citizens, tell me who shot them so I can arrest them!” he demanded once again.

Finally, I couldn’t take anymore. “Just shut up for a minute, and let Hiram tell you what happened before you go off half-cocked.”

Turning to me, the short little man started to bluster. I held up my hand, turning to Hiram, and asking, “Who is this officious little jerk?”

Hiram smiled at me and replied, “This is Deputy Town Marshal, Jeb Williams.”

I turned back to the deputy. “Where’s the Marshal? You obviously aren’t capable of doing this on your own.”

He sputtered some more but eventually said, “The Marshal was called to the outskirts of town about a possible shooting.”

Looking over at Hiram, I shook my head. “Hiram, tell the deputy what happened.”

Hiram started to tell the deputy about the holdup when the deputy started in again.

I lowered my voice and in a rough, gravelly, voice full of anger I said, “If you don’t shut up and listen, I’m not going to have much of choice but to kill you.”

That took him aback, and I indicated to Hiram to start again. This time he got through the whole story. When Hiram was done, he had each of the tellers tell their version of the story, which they did with little embellishment.

When they were done, I turned to the deputy. “Now you know what happened.”

He looked at me with anger in his eyes. “You’re under arrest for murder!”

I cocked an eyebrow at him and asked, “Who did I murder?”

“You murdered the five citizens who lay dead right there on the floor!”

“Did you hear what Hiram and his tellers said?” I asked in disbelief.

“That doesn’t matter. I’m the law here and I decide what’s murder and what isn’t!” he said in righteous indignation.

I’d had enough of this little jerk. Turning to Hiram, I was about to ask what he thought, when I heard the deputy tell Anna she was under arrest as well. I spun around to see him reach out and grab her shoulder. Quicker than the blink of an eye, the deputy was flying through the air, landing on his back a few feet away. I walked over to where he was laying stunned, grabbed him by the front of his shirt and lifted him up slamming him against a wall with his feet five inches off the ground.

Looking him directly in the eye, I softly said, “Where I come from, manhandling a woman gets a man shot. Try it again, and you will die.”

I dropped him to the floor, and turned to ask Hiram about the Marshal again, when I saw a flash of Anna going by and the sound of sudden scrambling behind me. I turned back around to see the deputy standing on his tip toes against the wall with Anna’s gun pressed up under his chin.

“Finish drawing that gun and gently hand it to Paul,” she ordered. “If you so much as twitch I’ll shoot you dead.”

The anger in his eyes had been replaced with real fear for the first time since he’d entered the bank. I took the gun from his hand, removed the cylinder, and handed both pieces to Hiram.

Turning back to the deputy I said, “If I see you carrying a gun again between now and the time the Marshal comes to find me, I’ll assume you are trying to kill me. I won’t hesitate to shoot first.” Turning back to Hiram, I asked, “Is the Marshal anything like this officious idiot?”

With a shake of his head Hiram said, “The Marshal’s a good lawman. In the deputy’s case he was blinded by family, since the deputy is his wife’s brother.”

“Deputy, it’s time for you to leave,” I said pointing towards to door. “The Marshal can get your gun back from Hiram. Make sure to get an undertaker in here to see to the bank robbers.”

He blustered a little before asking, “Where are you and your wife going to be?”

“Tell the Marshal if he wants to talk to us, we’ll either be here, the land office, or the hotel,” I replied.

That seemed to satisfy him, and he left. He was still angry, but he left. That was the important thing.

“The city council has been trying to get the Marshal to fire him for some time,” Hiram said as we watched the deputy close the door behind him. “Hopefully this will be the last straw.”

I asked Hiram if he was up to helping us close our purchase of land at the land office, or if I should reschedule for tomorrow. Hiram waved it off and said he wouldn’t let something like this interfere with bank business.

Getting his coat and hat from his office, Hiram joined us as we walked down the hallway towards the back door. Anna wanted to check the bank robber’s horses. We walked out the back door to find the horses were gone.

I looked down the alley just in time to see the deputy rounding the corner, leading all six horses out of sight. Shaking my head at Anna and Hiram in disbelief, I muttered the old military phrase about minor officials exercising minimal power to the maximum extent possible.

We went back through the bank to the street, and watched the deputy lead the horses down the street before turning the opposite direction and walking to the land office where Hiram authorized the transfer of funds to pay for the land. Anna and I thanked him and told him we’d be at the Governor’s office registering the deed, before going to the hotel for lunch if the Marshal came looking for us.

Anna was as impressed with the Governor’s Palace as I’d been the first time I’d seen it. Of course, the first time I saw it was in 1974; but hey, it was still an impressive building, even then. We wound our way through the various halls until we found the same office I’d been to the first time I’d bought land. The clerk was just getting ready to go to lunch but stayed long enough to register our deed and stamp it.

I thanked him and asked where the office to register my brand was. He invited us to walk with him, as he was going to pass the office on his way to lunch. As we walked, he told us that sometime in the next six months most of what I needed to do could be done in Mesilla as it was going to be the new county seat for Doña Ana county. He showed us the office we needed and left us outside the door.

We walked in to find a clerk fast asleep with his seat tilted back, and his feet on the desk. I closed the door a little louder than usual, waking the clerk. He sheepishly put his feet on the floor and sat up telling us he had a new baby at home that wasn’t sleeping through the night, yet. We smiled and told him we needed to register the brand for our ranch in Doña Ana county. We were done and on our way back to the hotel for lunch in less than five minutes.

We were enjoying our after-lunch coffee and talking about the trust we wanted to set up, when Hiram walked into the restaurant leading a distinguished gentleman wearing a star on his coat. I stood up and shook Hiram’s hand, as he introduced us to Town Marshal Stuart Simpson. I invited them both to have coffee with us as we talked.

After they sat down and ordered coffee Marshal Simpson told me he had heard his deputy’s version of what happened as well as Hiram’s and now asked me for my version. I told him what had happened from the time we walked into the bank, glossing over who killed whom in the process; and what his deputy had done, from the time he entered until he left.

When I was done, he looked at Anna asking her if she had anything else to add. When she told him ‘no,’ he sighed heavily and looked at Hiram.

“I don’t really have a choice after this but to fire the deputy,” he said. “I’ll do that as soon as I get back to the office.” He didn’t look happy and muttered under his breath, “I can only protect family so far.”

I took the opportunity to ask the Marshal if it was the custom in Santa Fe, for whomever killed outlaws to receive all their property as a reward. He said it was and looked at me curiously.

“In that case please ask this deputy to return the six horses the robbers were using, to me, here at the hotel. The last we saw of the horses he was leading them off down the street.”

He sighed again and told us he’d see to it.

I turned to Hiram and asked, “Who do I talk to about selling the five ranches outside of town I now own?”

He grinned and said, “The bank will handle it for you, since we hold the mortgages on all five properties.”

We sat drinking our coffee and chatting for a few more minutes before the Marshal left saying he had some unpleasant work to do. Before Hiram left to go back to work, I asked him where he got his scotch. He gave me the name and provided directions to the warehouse the business operated from.

Anna and I finished our coffee and left the restaurant to find the lawyer’s office that Hiram had recommended this morning. We finally found his office after a twenty-minute stroll, meandering through the market area. A young man sitting behind a small desk in the reception area looked up as we entered and asked how he could help us.

“We’d like to talk to Mr. Stevenson about a Trust,” I replied.

Asking us to wait just a moment, he disappeared through a door behind his desk. Less than a minute later he returned, telling us that Mr. Stevenson was available now as he waved us through the open door.

The young man shut the door behind us, and a man slightly older than us stood up from behind a large desk covered in paper, introducing himself as Tom Stevenson. Sitting us down at a table he asked how he could assist us.

I introduced Anna and myself before answering him. “We are newly married with a substantial amount of land and some money that we’d like to protect with a trust.”

The three of us talked about the trust generally, what we wanted protected, from whom we wanted it protected, how we envisioned it operating, and how we thought it should be organized. He explained some key legal terms and the impact of those terms on us as individuals if we used a trust exclusively versus some of the more common methods.

Before we knew it, we had spent over three hours with Mr. Stevenson. He took a last look through the reams of notes he’d taken, and told us it would take him two or three weeks to draft up the Dos Santos Trust as we’d discussed; but, when he was done with it, he was confident it would stand up to any legal challenges as well as the test of time. We made an appointment to come back and see him in three weeks and left.

Outside the law offices I told Anna it was late, but we were already near the warehouse Hiram had told us about, so we might as well check it out. She agreed so we walked down the street looking for the address. We found it about fifteen minutes later, two streets over from the law offices. We walked through the busy aisles looking at all the crates in the cavernous warehouse, searching for an office. A freight worker pointed us in the right direction, and we were soon in the office of the owner.

I introduced Anna and myself, letting him know that Hiram Greenburg had sent us. “We’re looking for high quality scotch, as good as or better than what Hiram buys,” I explained. “We’re also looking for a steady supply of a really good Cabernet. By steady, I mean a quarterly delivery of three cases of wine and a case of scotch.”

He sat for a moment in thought and then reached into his desk drawer pulling out a bottle of what he said was the best scotch he had ever tasted. Reaching back into the drawer, he pulled out two glasses pouring a small amount into each. He handed me one and encouraged me to taste it as he tried to hand Anna the other glass. Anna demurred telling him she preferred wine. With a shrug, he held up the glass in a toast to our health and took a large sip.

My nose confirmed it was indeed scotch and my taste buds told me it was very good and perhaps even great. I nodded appreciatively and told him it was really good. He finished his glass before telling me he had four cases, minus the one bottle, and hadn’t been able to sell them due to the cost. When he told me the price for a bottle, I almost spit out the drink I had just taken. I was still having problems with prices in this time and it seemed ludicrously low, but after a minutes thought I realized it was quite expensive for this time.

“How much for all four cases, and four cases a year, every year in the future?”

Now it was his turn to almost choke. He thought for a minute and reduced the price per bottle by two dollars. I told him I’d take the deal. Then I indicated Anna, telling him she preferred a Cabernet from a specific winery and asking him if he had anything from that winery or perhaps an even better Cabernet she could try. He said he had fifteen cases of that specific Cabernet, but he also had ten cases of a Cabernet that he found much more to his liking although it was also more expensive. He asked us to wait just a minute and disappeared into the warehouse.

When he came back, he was carrying two glasses of wine. He handed the first one to Anna asking her to taste it and tell him what she thought. She took a small sip after smelling it and gave him a smile telling him it was her favorite wine. He nodded and exchanged glasses with her asking her to taste this one and tell us what she thought. She smelled the wine and rolled it around her glass before taking a sip. She beamed a huge super megawatt Anna smile telling me it was fantastic. She handed me the glass and I took a small sip.

It did taste much better than the one we usually drank. It was subtle in the mouth, but then exploded on the back of the tongue without leaving that strong tannic aftertaste I detested. I asked him how much he wanted for all ten cases of this wine, and how often we could get more.

Anna took over at this point and negotiated what I thought was an outrageously low price for all ten cases, as well as another ten cases every year. She also negotiated for three cases of Chardonnay from the same winery, also with three more cases every year.

When he asked where it was to be delivered Anna responded by asking him if he did any business with Mendoza Freight from Las Cruces. When she explained that Mr. Mendoza was her grandfather, he told her that he did quite a bit of business with him and was expecting a couple of his wagons later this week. Anna asked him to add everything we’d bought - minus the opened case of scotch, which I was taking back to the hotel - to the next shipment to Las Cruces, and to have the drivers deliver it to Hacienda Dos Santos, on their way back to Las Cruces.

Anna and I walked back to the hotel arm in arm, me carrying the case of scotch in the other arm, as the evening paseo began in the plaza. Watching the young men watching the young ladies, with their escorts, stroll around the plaza was always entertaining.

Anna nudged me in the side and said, “I’m really happy we didn’t have to go through that before meeting.”

I agreed with her, meeting at the restaurant and later, her quinceanera, was much better for us. We arrived back at the hotel with enough time to clean up before meeting Hiram and his wife in the hotel restaurant.

Hiram and his wife entered the hotel lobby as Anna and I were coming down the stairs. Hiram introduced us to his wife, Helen. Once seated at our table, with drinks, we ordered. Anna and Helen wasted no time in starting a discussion on clothing fashion and where to get the best dresses and accessories.

I rolled my eyes at Hiram and told him it was going to be a long three- or four-weeks escorting Anna to the various shops as she continued her never ending quest in search of ‘The Dress’ not to mention china and cutlery. He laughed and said it was the price men paid to have women in their lives.

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