Gunslinger
Chapter 9

Copyright© 2006 by R. Michael Lowe aka The Scot. All rights reserved

Before daybreak Bart had taken a coach to the train station, only to learn the next train heading toward Lexington wouldn’t leave for more than five hours. Instead, he took the train to Indianapolis which was already loading. He had to show his Canadian Papers to the ticket agent, an Army captain looking for deserters, and the conductor, but he was finally moving. About half way to his initial destination another group of soldiers came through looking for possible spies and deserters. It seemed an important official from Washington was soon to arrive in Indianapolis, and they were trying to prepare for trouble. They all accepted his papers and French accent, but the Major who led this group wanted him to pack away his guns. Afterwards Bart and the Major sat together and talked for hours.

In Indianapolis Bart managed to book a Pullman car for the trip west, though they were headed for Springfield rather than St Louis. He ate a good meal in the dining car, and then exhaustedly returned to his Pullman. He lay across the comfortable bed, but it still took some time to get used to the clickity-clack, as well as the swaying back and forth. He never realized you could get seasick on a train. Eventually Bart fell asleep, only to be awakened at three in the morning with the news they were approaching Springfield. When they arrived he checked the schedule. The next train to St Louis was at eleven in the morning. He walked down the street and checked into a nice hotel. Brushing past a prostitute on the stairs Bart made it to the room and fell across his bed. He slept like a log until wakened by one of the hotel employees coming to change the sheets. It was just before nine.

Bart went downstairs and checked out. Next, he went to the hotel dining room and ate a good breakfast. With nothing else to do he headed for the railway station. On the way he spotted a men’s clothing store. Realizing he still had more than an hour he went inside and purchased a new suit and several new shirts. As a courtesy the store had someone freshen up his existing suit while they quickly altered his new one. He also purchased a new pair of boots that were comfortable and practical. He made it to the rail station just in time to learn the train to St Louis was delayed for two hours.

Walking back outside Bart grabbed a cab and asked where he could find the best hat maker in town. It turned out to be only a few blocks away. Bart offered to pay the cabby to wait for him, but the driver told him this was such a busy street, there was an abundance of cabs. He’d have no trouble getting a cab back to the train station.

Inside he looked around for awhile, until he found something similar to what he wanted. It happened to fit, so he convinced the haberdasher to make the alterations. It was black, and was a cross between a wide brimmed porkpie and a Stetson (which had not been invented yet). He added a hat band made of silver circles linked together. The haberdasher thought it looked stupid, but it gave Bart the perfect look he wanted.

He paid for the hat and caught a cab back to the depot. The train was still late, but Bart was told it should leave in less than thirty minutes. Actually, it was closer to an hour, but they were soon on the way to St Louis.

Shortly before dark the train arrived. After taking a cab to the docks Bart booked passage on a steamboat called Mississippi Dawn. It was scheduled to leave early the next morning, and by paying for a cabin he could actually spend the night on the boat. When he got on board with his bags, he now had two of them, he discovered his room was just down the hall from the gambling tables. After a good meal he decided to visit those tables, but only after rearming himself. He played with an Army Captain, a Kansas cattle buyer, and a couple of drummers. It was a just a friendly game where the conversation was long and the pots were short. This made it a pleasant and relaxing evening.

A little before ten Bart excused himself and headed for his room. After undressing he lay there for a while thinking about Bonnie and wondering how she was doing. Suddenly he felt stupid. He could have sent her a telegram. He would do so tomorrow.

The next morning, Bart was wakened by the blowing of the boat’s whistle. He caught a steward walking by his cabin door and asked him about sending a telegram.

“I’m sorry, Sir, but the boat is about to pull away from the docks, but for a dollar I can get one of the boys on shore to take it to the telegraph office.”

“A dollar?”

“Yes, Sir, but that includes the cost of the telegram.”

“Then I don’t see a problem. I need paper, a pen, and two minutes.”

“Paper and pen are in that wall cabinet. I’ll get someone lined up and will be back in two minutes.”

Bart found the writing supplies and wrote:

Mrs. Bonnie Simpson

Fairhope, Ohio

Heading from St Louis down river. Am ahead of schedule. Plan wedding for whole town. See you soon.

Love,

Bart.

He’d just put the blotter over it when there was a knock at the door. When he opened it there stood the steward. Bart handed the message and a gold dollar coin to the Steward and thanked him. He also gave the man another dollar as a tip.

The steamboat was miles below St Louis before Bart exited his cabin and headed for the main dining area. There he ate a pleasant breakfast that would’ve been frowned on in his time as having too much cholesterol. After tipping the steward he investigated the ship, and spent some time speaking to various people.

When he rounded the rear port corner he saw a mother and child standing on the rear deck. Unfortunately the mother was paying more attention to the richly dressed gentleman next to her than to her child. As a result the inquisitive child had climbed up on the rail to get a better look at the paddle-wheel below.

Suddenly the child begin to lose her balance and screamed. The mother turned around, but she was unable to react fast enough, and Bart was too far away. The gentleman who was the object of the mother’s attentions wasn’t in a good position, but instead of doing something for the child he ran off calling for a steward.

Bart consciously did something he’d only done subconsciously before. He grabbed the child with his mind, and held her teetering on the edge of the rail until her mother could grab her. Then, as the scolding mother led the child away, Bart stood stunned at what he’d done. After all, it was one thing to manipulate a playing card or two, but it was quite something else to hold a child, a living person, and keep them from falling into the turning paddle-wheel below.

Finally, after things had settled down and all the gawkers returned to other parts of the ship Bart made his way back to his cabin. There he lay on the bed and contemplated the implications. Slowly he began to move things in the room with his mind. What surprised him the most was it took no more effort to move a settee than a cloth napkin. With more experimenting Bart found he could even close off the gas to the light in his room. He also found if he wanted he could move things faster than the eye could follow. It was almost like they were being teleported, but at this point he had to see both the origin and the destination. He even tried to move himself, but he couldn’t make himself rise even an inch from the floor. He continued his experimenting until the steward came and told him the ship’s dining area would soon quit serving the noonday meal.

After eating a plate of excellent fried chicken, beans, and corn, Bart decided he’d stroll around the deck and help his dinner settle. He didn’t have another crisis like with the little girl, but he was able to look out at the distant shore and cause limbs to break and fall from trees.

At another place along the river he observed a man beating a young lad with a stick. The child couldn’t have been more than six or seven, and Bart decided there was nothing a child that age could’ve done to cause such a severe beating. Therefore, on the next downward stoke, the man’s arm hit something hard and sharp; something that didn’t actually exist, except in Bart’s mind. This blow caused the man’s arm to break and the stick to fall harmlessly into the water.

The man’s scream caused many along the shore to come running. Some of those that came tried to help with the man, while others seemed appalled at the child’s back and arms. As they disappeared from Bart’s sight a matronly woman was supervising the child being removed from the boat. In the overall scheme of things this was a relatively small incident, but Bart personally felt good at what he had accomplished.

Continuing his stroll around the deck Bart eventually ended back at the card table where he decided to just observe the action. He saw the men he’d played with the night before playing with two other men. From the look on the Captain’s face, this game wasn’t nearly as harmless or friendly. It didn’t take Bart long to understand why, as these two men were card sharks. They were dealing from the bottom, and were good at it.

What made it harder to spot was they were helping each other. It’s easy to get suspicious when each time a man deals he wins the pot, but it’s harder if the dealer is one of the losers. Also, they each had some of the others win small pots to defer the suspicion even more.

Not wanting to get active in the game or confronting these men he started manipulating the deck and undoing the efforts of the two cardsharps instead. In less than an hour the two confused men had lost all they’d won and more. The ‘losers’ finally excused themselves and left the room. A few minutes later, so did Bart.

When Bart entered his cabin he removed his hat, coat, and guns. Then, after removing his boots he laid down on the bed, and rested his tired eyes. As he thought about Bonnie and the people of Fairhope, for the first time his heart no longer ached for Jennifer or his father. He’d never forget them, but he knew this was now his ‘home,’ and Bonnie, Zeke, and the Sheriff were his family.

Slowly, Bart’s breathing deepened, and he was soon sound asleep. The only thing that woke him was the steward banging on his door. “Mister Simpson, are you in there?”

Opening the door with one of his pistols behind his left leg Bart said, “I’m here. How can I help you?”

“I just needed to tell you we’re approaching Cape Girardeau. The ship’s manifest says that’s your destination.”

Handing the young man a tip Bart responded, “Thank you. I’ll gather my things, but I’ll need assistance. I can’t handle two bags and my cane.”

“Not a problem, Sir. I’ll return to help you as soon as we’re docked.”

Bart closed the door and got dressed. He made sure both of his bags were ready and then waited for the steward’s return.

He’d barely sat down before there was another knock at the cabin door. He carefully opened it, only to find the same steward as before.

“Are you ready, Sir?”

“Yes, can you handle both of them, or do I need to carry my valise?”

“I can handle both of them, Sir.”

The young man grabbed both bags and followed Bart off the boat. He then obtained a cab and loaded the bags in the rear. Bart gave him a tip before he left to go back to the boat.

Bart thought, It’s just like in the future, but with horses.

“Where to, Sir?” asked the driver of the horse drawn cab.

“To the best hotel in town, and let’s pray they still have rooms available.”

“That would be the Mississippi House, Sir. As for a room, you shouldn’t have a problem. I just came from there with a group who be boarding the boat you were just on.”

The trip to the hotel took less than five minutes, and twenty minutes later Bart was in the restaurant eating a fine steak. In that time he’d also checked in and had his luggage carried to his room.

After dinner Bart wandered into the area of the hotel set aside for poker. He sat against the wall at an empty table and ordered a bourbon. As he nursed the poor imitation for good Kentucky ‘sippin’ whiskey’, he carefully looked over the room. When he finished the drink, he returned to his room. He hadn’t seen anything that drew his interest.

Back in his room Bart began to think through his plans. According to the newspaper he’d purchased in the lobby it was now the fourteenth of October. On the sixteenth, in anticipation of Grant’s arrival, Rosecrans was supposed to be relieved of his command of the Union forces in Chattanooga. On that same day Grant would leave Memphis and come up the Mississippi River to Cairo, Illinois. Early on the seventeenth the General was scheduled to board a train headed to Indianapolis. There he’d meet with Secretary of War Stanton to be given his official orders to take command of all the Union Forces in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

This was an extremely circuitous route for Grant to take to Chattanooga; but, according to history, this was the route he took. It was probably to meet Secretary Stanton, though Bart couldn’t imagine why it was that important. If Rosecrans could be ordered away from Chattanooga with a telegram why couldn’t Grant’s orders be handled the same way? Anyway, from Indianapolis Grant would go to Louisville, Nashville, and finally to Chattanooga. In addition, this train was carrying the Union payroll for the troops in Nashville and Chattanooga.

Though Bart knew their plans could change Dr Meyerhauf’s notes made distinct reference to this section of the trip. A portion of the radical militiamen from Idaho were to board the train in the first stop south of Louisville while the rest of them were to board in a place called Horse Cave. Dressed in Union uniforms they were to force the engineer down a spur toward a town named Glasgow. In between those places they’d rob the payroll and the passengers, and use that as a cover for killing Grant and his staff. It was Bart’s plan to be well established to Grant and the other soldiers as a fixture on the train, which was his reason for being on board the train from the start. It’d also enable him to react to any deviations in his enemy’s plans.

According to one of the men who trained Bart for the trip Meyerhauf’s overall strategy was actually brilliant. It’d take the railroad many hours to locate the train, and the train company wouldn’t realize the significance of the missing or murdered Grant. If the South could be told of the leadership vacuum an offensive could be launched that would drive the Northern troops all the way back across the Ohio River. One theory was that while the robbery / assassination was taking place the old German would journey to the Confederate headquarters in Northern Georgia to tell them of Grant’s death. It’d be up to Bart to keep that message from becoming true.

As Bart thought on these things the image of Bonnie’s running to him in her new dress suddenly entered his mind, and the other thoughts became superfluous. It was probably his teenage hormones plus the stress of his responsibility, but this image changed to that of a pregnant Bonnie sitting on a porch swing and reading to two young children. The house sat on the side of a hill looking down into a valley. A stream flowed through the valley and a herd of fine horses were grazing in the tall grass. It was so vivid he could’ve almost drawn the blueprints for the house. The image was still in his mind when he finally fell asleep.

The next morning Bart awoke refreshed and happy. The anxiety and awesome feelings of responsibility seemed to have taken a vacation, and, instead, his mind seemed filled with plans for his, Bonnie’s, and their children’s future. He also knew what he wanted to do would alter history, but it’d also make that future greener and more environmentally friendly. It’d also drastically change the economies of Southeastern Ohio and Northwestern West Virginia. Instead of poverty, disease, and sadness, it’d become a garden spot in middle America.

After eating a good breakfast Bart went to the largest bank in town, where he as able to establish a line of credit based upon the money he had on account in Cincinnati. Once that was done he began working with various businessmen in the Cape Girardeau area.

His first business call was to locate someone who could coordinate the shipping of his purchases. Those things that weren’t shipped directly from the east would be gathered and shipped by this agent, even if he had to hire a steamboat for an exclusive run up the Ohio.

At a dealer in heavy equipment Bart ordered the material for two steam powered sawmills, as well as a new item called a planer. He also ordered several smaller steam engines and some pumps that could be driven by a steam engine. Rather than pay freight from the east to the Mississippi and then back east on the Ohio, these things would be shipped to Fairhope direct from the manufacturer.

At a lumber yard Bart ordered ten barrels of heavy tar, and two hundred and fifty metal roofing panels. He paid an extra twenty cents a panel to have them dipped in zinc. These panels would be produced in St Louis, so a shipment directly home wasn’t in his best interest. While he was there Bart also ordered a hundred pre-made glass windows, thirty wood stoves, and a large assortment of nails, hinges, and other hardware.

At the office of a representative of some textile companies in the east Bart ordered a hundred bolts of felt to be shipped direct.

At a large feed store Bart found numerous sacks of black walnuts that had gotten wet and were considered worthless. The entire lot was purchased for a single dollar. In addition, large quantities of other seeds were ordered, including something the owner also considered worthless. It was called of all things, ‘blue grass.’ All this would be carried shortly to his freight agent.

As Bart was discussing what he wanted to do another shopper interjected, “Son, I’m called ‘Pops’. Are you interested in horses?”

“Pops I’m definitely interested in horses! I think the valleys of Southern Ohio could be good horse country.”

“Southern Ohio? I live in Northern Kentucky and I’ve some small herds of several different breeds. I really believe by carefully controlled breeding a superior horse can be developed. The problem is I’m out of money and have been told I have consumption. The doctor has said I’ll be dead inside two years. I’m on my way home from seeing my son in Kansas City. I tried to get him to take over my operation, but he has no interest in horses.”

“How much do you want for them, assuming they’re as good as you say?”

“I’d need enough to pay some men for bringing them to you, plus I need enough to live off of until this illness finally kills me.”

“Can you sell your place?”

“Nope, it’s leased land, and the lease has really already expired. The family that owns it doesn’t have the heart to throw me off the place.”

“Then why don’t you bring the horses to Huntington, West Virginia? Notify me, or my soon to be wife, you’re coming and when. We’ll meet you there to lead you to our ranch. If the horses are as you say we’ll cover the cost of your drivers and provide for your needs until you pass on.”

“And if I live longer than two years?”

“Pops, I didn’t put any limit on it. Besides, with your knowledge of horses I hope you live to be a hundred. Does that sound fair?”

“Son, you’ve got me mighty interested. What about money for things like a chaw of tobacco?”

“We own the general store, and if the store doesn’t have it, we’ll order it. In addition, if you’re involved with helping us with the horses I’ll see you also get some spending money.”

“Then, Son, you’ve got a deal. Tell me who I need to contact.”

Bart borrowed a sheet of paper from the store owner and gave the old man his and Bonnie’s names, as well as the name of the town where they lived. Bart looked at his watch while the old man was putting away the note. It was lunch time. “Pops, its lunch time. How about joining me for a meal?”

“Mister Simpson, I’d be glad to.”

“Pops it’s just Bart. You’re too old to be calling me Mister.”

“But, Son, it’s a sign of respect.”

“You trusting me with your future shows me more respect than all the ‘misters’ you’ll ever utter.”

The two men had a great meal, and they shared thoughts and ideas for the entire evening.

When they finally parted, Bart said, “Pops, I hope to see you within the month. We really need to get the horses over the river before it begins to ice over.”

Disappointed, Pops asked, “So, you’re headed down to Cairo and up the Ohio?”

“No. Actually, I’ve got to go west a ways, and then through Cairo to Indianapolis. From there I’ll eventually get home. That’s why I gave you Bonnie’s name as well as mine. I’ll send word to her about my promise, so if I’m not yet home you’ll still be taken care of.”

After the two men parted Bart checked the timing on the morning stage to Benton. He wanted to talk to a doctor he’d heard about, and then catch the train to Cairo. After reviewing all the schedules he was pleased to learn he’d arrive about an hour and a half before General Grant’s steamboat arrived.

Bart again had a good night’s sleep and was awakened by his requested wake-up call - a bellboy knocking on his door. After a good breakfast he had his bags brought down and placed in a waiting cab. He tipped the bellboy, complimented the manager for their treatment and headed to the stage office. The stage left on time and arrived in Benton about two hours later.

Slowly and carefully stepping off the stage Bart asked the ticket agent, “Sir, I’m here to talk to Doctor Martin. Can you give me directions, and may I leave my bags in your care until I’m ready to proceed on my journey?”

Observing Bart’s need for a cane he replied, “Sure, you can leave your bags behind my counter. I’ll put them there for you. As for Doctor Martin, if that’s what he really is, you’ll find him in the office over the barbershop.”

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