Welcome to Melvinís Short Stories
©Diamond in a Goldmine
Written by James Gilbreath
††††††††††† Teresa Weltson locked the bakery door and headed for home, alone. She had no reason to worry even though it was after dark in a rough-and-tumble mining town. It was a trip she had made every night for the last two years and everyone knew her.
††††††††††† She looked and cooked like an angel. The 16 year old girl ran the bakery and all the big, mean, ugly miners would do anything the 4 foot nine, 95 pound red head told them to do.
††††††††††† She baked pies, cookies and doughnuts that would have suited European royalty, much less a bunch of crass, foul-smelling, American commoners. These men took care of this young girl. They wouldn't let anyone harm her much less harm her themselves.
††††††††††† Teresaís father, Jed Weltson, was also a miner and knew the caliber of men who walked the streets of the Boomtown. They used the language so iniquitous and downright filthy, hell wouldn't allow it. They got stinking drunk and beat each other half to death, then would sleep in their own puke and urine. But when it came to women they curbed their language and were regular gentleman. They changed from demon to Saint in the blink of an eye.
††††††††††† Teresa was as safe on the streets of this town after dark as she would have been on the golden streets of heaven. At least that's what she thought.
††††††††††† Before she realized she had a reason to scream she couldn't. A big, rough, dirty hand clasped over her mouth. The smell of ether filled her senses as everything went black. She was carried away into the night with no more sound than a few dry leaves rustled by a winter breeze. She was gone.
††††††††††† Jed Weltson wasn't too worried when Teresa was late getting home. He knew she sometimes met that Tim Kyler boy. They thought they were getting away with it, but Jed knew. He didn't like that boy, but he didn't carry on about his courting Teresa, because Jed didn't want to lose his daughter. She was all he had left after his wife had died trying to give birth to their second child.
††††††††††† After mother and baby were buried Jed had taken his seven-year-old daughter and headed for the mountains where he staked a claim, built a home and† gave Teresa the best life he could.
††††††††††† His thoughts were suddenly interrupted as a horse pulled up in the yard. Jed went to the cabin door as a stranger was dismounting. Jed froze as the light from the open door splashed on the approaching man's face. It was a cold, hard face that needed a shave. But that was barely noticeable beyond the heavy scar tissue that stretched from eyebrow to chin. Jed stared at the milky eye under the scar rather than the man's good eye.
††††††††††† "I've got a message," the man spoke through scar deformed lips. "If you want to see your daughter alive you'll sign your holdings over to Mr. Bocamp."
††††††††††† "You've got Teresa?" Jed took a step toward the man. In a blur the man's hand dropped and rose. It now held a 45 which was aimed at Jed's face.
††††††††††† "I'll be back at sunup for your answer." The man grinned as he added, "I wouldn't tell anyone else our little secret if you know what I mean." Scarface backed up to his horse and mounted, still holding the pistol and never taking his eyes off the Jed.
††††††††††† Unconsciously Jed stroked his graying beard as he watched the disfigured man disappear into the night. Jed knew what he had to do. Teresa meant more to him than any amount of gold and his mine was one of the biggest producers in the area.
††††††††††† G. Riley Bocamp had tried everything to get his hands on Jed's claim. Until now the attempts had been barely legal and unsuccessful.
††††††††††† Jed knew he could spread word of the kidnapping and every man in a 100 mile radius would ride down on Bocamp and he and his men would die a violent death. But Jed also knew his daughter would die, too.
††††††††††† Of course, he knew if he complied with the kidnappers she might be killed anyway and he, too would probably die, which was what he would want if anything should happen to Teresa. Jed knew he had no choice. He had to give in to bocampís the demands.
††††††††††† He turned and went back in the cabin, but as he pushed the door to it was stopped by a hand slapping against it. Jed turned to find Tim Kylerís gray eyes staring from the darkness.
††††††††††† Jed didn't have time for this. "Teresa ainít here, boy. You best get on home."
††††††††††† "I know she ainít here. I heard what that man said to you. I just want to know what you intend on doing?"
††††††††††† Jed snorted. A tinge of anger was in his voice. "I intend on getting my daughter back."
"I figured that. I just want to know how?"
Jed was silent a moment. "This ainít none of your concern, boy. You just get on home. I'll take care of my daughter."
††††††††††† Tim took two quick steps toward Jed. The boy may have been only 17, but he was full-grown, over 6 feet tall and near 190 pounds. It was all muscle, bone, and guts.
The boy stopped with his face so close to Jed's Jed could feel Tim's breath and it was hot. "This is my concern as much as yours. I love Teresa. I don't see how anyone could love her anymore than I do and that includes you. I want her back alive as much as you do. Now, we can go our separate ways and stumble over each other or we can work together. Which is it going to be?"
Jed just stared into those cold, gray eyes. He knew the boy was determined and at that moment he realized the boy truly love Teresa. Just like himself he believed the boy was willing to die for her.
"I don't know what else to do but sign my claim over to Bocamp."
"Listen, Mr. Weltson. I know G. Riley Bocamp all too well. He cheated my folks more than once and I still believe he was somehow responsible for their deaths."
"But that was an accident, boy. There was no reason at all to suspect they were murdered."
"I know, but it was all just too convenient for Bocamp. The thing is, Mr. Weltson, I don't believe for a minute he plans to let Teresa go no matter what you do. The man's a liar, a cheat and a bully. You can't trust one thing he says or does."
Deep inside Jed agreed. "I've got no other choice."
"Yes you do. Let's you and me go get her back."
Jed almost laughed. "You and me, boy? How are we going to stand up to Bocamp and his armed cutthroats without getting Teresa and ourselves killed?"
"I figure he plans to kill you and Teresa anyway as soon as he gets what he wants. He can't take a chance on leaving any witnesses."
"But we don't even know where he's keeping her."
"I've got a pretty good idea and a pretty good plan, too. You want to hear it?"
Jed just stared at this boy who was becoming a man right before his eyes. Then he caught himself saying, "yeah, let's hear it."
"The moon will be up in a couple of hours and it's gonna be near full. It's gonna help us, but it's gonna help them, too. The advantage will be ours, though, since we know we're coming and they don't."
It was after midnight when Jed and Tim wrote away from the small
Bocampís mines were only a few short miles as the crow flies, but along the winding mountain trail it was some 10 slow and careful miles.
Most of Bocampís mines were operating at full capacity, but there were a few that had been abandoned. The one Tim had in mind was around the mountain from the others all by itself.
To carry out Tim's plan they were carrying several sticks of dynamite. Each man had a rifle and a shotgun. Their most important weapons were the heavy razor sharp bowie knives strapped on their hips opposite their pistols. Neither of them was skittish about using their knives on the men they were about to encounter.
Jed had to agree. Tim's plan was a good one. Assuming Teresa was where the boy thought she was.
About a mile from the abandoned mine Tim and Jed dismounted. They hobbled their animals and headed into the rocky terrain on foot staying off the main trails.
They knew Bocamp had about 100 miners on his payrole, but they wouldn't be in on this. The hired gunmen Bocamp used as his personal enforcers were the only ones Tim and Jed had to contend with, only a dozen gunmen. Jed almost laughed, but he couldn't.
G. Riley Bocamp couldn't get to sleep. He was too keyed up. Tomorrow one of the richest mines in the territory would be his.
††††††††††† Jed Weltson was wasting his time and it made Bocamp angry to see the waste, since he had the equipment and the manpower to start the Weltson mine relinquishing its full capacity.
††††††††††† Bocamp sat upon the edge of his bed and lit the lamp. The illumination on the clock showed it was 2 AM. He knew he wasn't going to get any sleep that night, so he got dressed and went to the kitchen to make some coffee.
††††††††††† He had never married and he had never regretted it. He had never had time for a family. He was strictly business and that was all that ever mattered. The kidnapping had been just business and the subsequent murderers would be the same. He would tell people Weltson and his daughter just up and took off after selling Bocamp the mine. A few people might be suspicious, but those dumb miners would never figure it out.
††††††††††† Bocamp knew for a fact what would happen if he let the two live. The word would get out about his kidnapping the girl and his life wouldn't be worth an open handful of dust on a windy day, even with all his hired guns.
††††††††††† He was here three years back when two drifters got drunk and raped one of the few women in the area. The two men were beaten to death and their bodies thrown over a cliff and left for the scavengers.
††††††††††† Bocamp drank his coffee and waited while the minutes ticked slowly by; just a few more hours. A shiver went up his spine and he grinned. It wasn't a pleasant grin, but then, he didn't have to look at it.
††††††††††† Tim and Jed had found only one guard on duty. The others must be inside the mine probably asleep.
††††††††††† Jed watched as Tim slipped up on the unsuspecting guard, who was sitting on the ground with his back against a large flat boulder. The man's head was nodding. With Bowie knife in hand Tim crawled silently onto the boulder and moved like a snake across the rock. He could hear the man's heavy breathing. With one fluid movement Timís left hand slipped across the man's mouth and as the head snapped back, the big, razor sharp blade slid across the man's throat. Tim felt the blade hit the backbone without a sound.
††††††††††† Under Tim's hand the man's mouth had formed a black hole with a scream stifled deep inside. The man's wide eyes stared at nothing. Tim let go of the head and the lifeless body quietly fell over on to the heavy bed of pine needles.
††††††††††† Tim felt no qualms or remorse for his dastardly deed. He was raised in a violent land, at a violent time. Evil men killed if they weren't killed first. Tim's daddy said, "Never give an evil man an even break, cause he ain't about to give you one and don't let him talk you into thinking he will. In fact, don't let him talk at all." This was not the first evil man Tim had killed.
††††††††††† Had he considered the possibility these were innocent men? No. He knew of no other reason men would be at this abandoned mine. There was no doubt in his mind. They had Teresa in there and he was going to get her back or die trying.
††††††††††† Tim silently move back to Jed and motioned him into action. They had already made their plans before they got close so now, no words were needed.
††††††††††† Jed had just started to move out when a voice shattered the night as a man stepped out of the mine entrance. "It's just me, slick. I got to take a pisser. Don't want you shootiní me."
††††††††††† Slick wasn't going to answer and the man didn't seem to care. Neither did Tim. The man's last act on earth would be watering pine needles.
††††††††††† With his silent deed done Tim slowly eased the heavy body to the ground, then waved at Jed and their plan was back in motion.
††††††††††† Tim wiped his knife blade across the dead man's shirt and slipped the deadly weapon back into its sheath. He didn't plan to use it again tonight. He palmed his six-gun and double checked the cylinder before he quietly moved toward the mine entrance.
††††††††††† He could see inside enough to make out five bed rolls laid out around a campfire of now smoldering coals. One of the beds was empty. He couldn't tell if one of the beds contained Teresa or if she was farther back in the mine. He couldn't see anything but pitch black beyond the bed rolls.
Now all he could do was wait for Jed and hope Teresa didn't get hit in the upcoming melee of gunfire. He had to make every shot into the mine hit true. Any bullets ricocheting off the rocky walls could be deadly to Teresa.
††††††††††† Jed moved to a spot about 50 yards from the mine where he had a clear shot at the entrance. To his right was a steep incline to a stream bed.
††††††††††† He took three sticks of dynamite with varied lengths of wick to stagger the blast. He lit all three wicks and threw the red sticks as hard as he could toward the stream. He then steadied his rifle on the black mine entrance and waited.
††††††††††† When the first blast shook the earth the startled men jumped from their sleep. They stumbled around a moment trying to clear their heads. When Tim saw Teresa wasn't among them he stepped into the open and began firing.
††††††††††† The second blast rumbled as Timís first shot caught a Bocamp rider in the stomach and the man doubled over. The other men began to scramble for their weapons as Tim shot another man through the side of his chest.
††††††††††† The third blast rocked the night as Tim fired again hitting a man low in the thigh. The fourth man came out firing wildly as Tim's steady gun fired. The bullet struck the man at the bottom of his throat. The man fired a last careless shot that hit the thigh-shot man in the back. That man died wondering who shot him. Perhaps he thought the girl finished him off. It would be the topic of conversation in hell. He could discuss it with his friends.
††††††††††† The man who was gut shot was still alive, but not for long. Tim ignored the moaning as he relieved the man of his weapons.
Tim reloaded his gun as he walked cautiously into the pitch black of the mine. He called Teresa's name and heard her muffled voice. He quickly found her and carried her bound and gagged body from the heavy, choking gun smoke in the mine.
††††††††††† When Jed arrived Tim had the gag off and was untying her hands and feet. The moment she was free she threw her arms around her father. She was crying. So was Jed. Even Tim felt a tear rolled down his cheek.
††††††††††† After a lot of hugging, laughing and crying Tim found the men's horses and set them free. Animals shouldn't have to pay for the transgressions of men.
††††††††††† "Scarface isn't among the dead," Tim commented.
††††††††††† "He's probably with Bocamp, waiting for sunup to come get me."
††††††††††† Tim pulled out his daddy's watch and held it toward the moonlight. "That's a couple of hours," he said then he smiled. "Let's go. I want to be there when he shows up."
††††††††††† The sky was turning purple in the east when Scarface rode into the Weltsonís yard. The moon was still illuminating the mountain community. He dismounted and stood facing the front door of Jed's cabin. His hand hung beside his 45. "Hey! Old man! You ready to go for a ride?" He became agitated when he got no response from the dark house. "Hey! Get your..."
††††††††††† "Can I help you?" Tim interrupted. The startled man jerked to his right toward the voice, his hand pulling the gun from its holster. Tim pulled his gun, too. Both men fired.
††††††††††† Scarfaceís bullet was high. Tim's bullet hit its mark as it passed through the man's heart. Scarface was dead before his head hit the ground.
††††††††††† "Well," Jed said as he walked from the cabin with Teresa at his side. "It's over."
††††††††††† "Not yet," Tim added. "Not as long as Bocampís still around."
††††††††††† "I'll just put out the word of what he did and he will be dead before the sun sets."
††††††††††† "If I'm not back by noon, then do that.Ē
"Where you going, boy?Ē Jed asked with apprehension. He had grown real fond of Tim and wanted him as part of the family.
"I've got to take care of something before I can rest." He walked over to Teresa and held her tight, then kissed her. She and her father both knew what he was going to do and they knew they couldn't stop him even if they wanted to.
After several minutes Tim let Teresa go and held out his hand to Jed. Jed just looked the hard, callused hand.
"I'll go with you," Jed said.
"You stay here and take care of Teresa. Besides, me and Mr. Bocamp go back a ways. It's become real personal, kind of a private matter, if you know what I mean."
Jed's smile confirmed that he did. "You're one to ride the river with, son." Now he shook Timís hand.
"You may make a pretty good father-in-law after all, regardless of what people may say."
The smile on Jed's face slowly melted as Tim's words sunk in. He started to comment, but Tim was already walking away. Teresa held back her laughter.
Tim got Scarfaceís hourse and led the animal around the corner of the cabin. In a few moments Jed and Teresa her hoof beats pounding down the road as Tim rode away leading the extra horse. Teresa said a silent prayer for her man.
G. Riley Bocamp didn't get up from his desk when he heard the two horses coming up the road. He looked up from his work and smiled as he heard them stop in the front yard. In a matter of minutes the Weltson mine would be his. He almost giggled with excitement.
Yet he heard only one set of footsteps move across the front porch, then through the house. Something was wrong. Why was there only one?
The door of his office swung open and Bocamp turned to see the familiar face of Tim Kyler. Tim's father had been a splinter under Bocampís skin. It had festered to the point where he ordered them killed and the house burned down on top of their bodies. He had meant for the boy to die, too, but he had been away at the time.
As far as Bocamp knew no one ever suspected the couple's death was more than an accident. So why was the boy here?
††††††††††† "What are you doing in my house, boy?"
††††††††††† "I've come to kill you."
††††††††††† "Now, why would you want to kill me?" Bocamp asked as if he didn't know.
††††††††††† "The girl you kidnapped is my fiancť."
††††††††††† Bocamp was taken by surprise. He really hadn't known why the boy was there.
††††††††††† "By the way," Tim added, "she's not kidnapped anymore. We got her back." Tim was enjoying the look of shock slowly creeping across Bocampís face. "None of your men will be coming to help you either."
††††††††††† Bocampís hand jerked toward his desk drawer. He heard a swishing sound and was suddenly looking down the ominous black hole that was the barrel of the boyís gun.
††††††††††† "I wouldn't do that," Tim cautioned. "I could shoot you to death, but it wouldn't be nearly as satisfying as beating the life out of you with my bare hands."
††††††††††† Bocamp smiled. He was good with his fists. Real good. He had left several men crippled and even put one man in his grave. Now this young whelp was challenging him. He didn't need a gun.††
"Okay, boy. You want a fight? You got it."
"Move away from the desk and keep your hands where I can see Ďem."
When Bocamp had complied Tim put his gun back in the holster, then untied the rawhide strip around his leg and unbuckled the belt. He laid the gun belt on a chair by the door. His eyes never left his nemesis.
Bocamp continued to grin as Tim walked across the room toward him. "A lamb to the slaughter," Bocamp thought.
His right hand suddenly lashed out like a striking snake, but Tim was ready and moved like a ghost. Bocampís fist hit nothing and it threw him off balance. Tim's fist hit him in the side of the head and Bocamp saw stars as he fell to the floor on his hands and knees.
Before the bigger man could recover Tim kicked him in the ribs producing a loud grunt as the breath escaped from his lungs. Before Tim could repeat Bocamp moved like a cat and was on his feet. He had come to the realization he wasn't up against a green kid.
The two circled each other as Bocamp sized up this new situation. New tactics were being quickly laid out in his mind. This was going to be a fight to the death and the victory was up for grabs
Bocamp faked a left and Tim fell for it as Bocamp's big right smashed into Tim's face, lacerating his lips against his teeth. Bocampís left broke Timís nose as the boy stumbled backward against the desk.
Bocamp was immediately on him hitting Tim in the head and face without pause, until he was stopped suddenly by a sharp pain in his side. Had the boy stabbed him? There it was again.
Tim used all his power to punch Bocamp in the body. A popping sound with a flash of pain and a gasp for breath told both men ribs were broken.
Bocamp grimaced every time Tim swung his arm. Bocampís punches were losing their power as Tim's fists were becoming like sledgehammers as he beat Bocamp mercilessly. The big man finally went down beside his desk and stayed down.
Tim staggered slightly as he walked over to his weapons and strap them on. His knuckles were beginning to swell making it hard to tie the rawhide strip around his thigh.
Both eyes were swollen. One was nearly shut and his lips felt like wadded up paper as he rubbed his tongue across them. His ears were all right, though and he heard Bocamp opening the desk drawer.
Tim turned to face Bocamp who was slowly pushing his hand into the drawer. His eyes, too, were almost swollen shut and it hurt the man to breathe.
Tim dropped his swollen hand to his side. "I am ready when you are."
Still sitting on the floor, Bocamp slowly pulled the gun out with his swollen right hand. Tim waited until Bocamp pulled back the hammer with a loud click before he drew his gun and fired.
The shot was deafening and deadly. Through the powder smoke Tim watched Bocampís body stiffen then slump over on the floor. The gun in his hand went off creating a jagged splintered groove across the wooden floor.
Tim knew where his bullet had struck his enemy. He knew the man was dead as he left the house and stepped out onto the front porch. The morning sun felt good on his swollen face. As he stepped into the saddle he realized how tired he was. It seemed like ages since he had slept.
He felt good though. He had Teresa back and an extra bonus, her father now liked him. Tim tried to smile but it hurt.