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This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. All rights are reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
Product names, brands, and other trademarks referred to within this book are the property of their respective trademark holders. Unless otherwise specified, no association between the author and any trademark holder is expressed or implied. Nor does it express any endorsement by them, or of them. Use of a term in this book should not be regarded as affecting the validity of any trademark, service mark, or registered trademark.
The images are Calatraval1.jpg by Jeff Muscato and Dragoon Baby Dragoon.jpg by Hmaag. Both images have been placed in the public domain by their copyright owners. The trimming of the files, adding or text, and merging was done by Ernest Bywater. All rights to the images are reserved by their copyright owners.
11 April 2021 version
Published by Ernest Bywater
E-book ISBN 978-1-312-13320-4
Note: UK English is used in this story, except for dialogue by a US character where US English is used in the dialogue and some nouns.
The titles in use are a Chapter, a Sub-chapter, and a section.
While they drive I watch my surroundings with great care and I'm thankful they've made an error. The mistake was natural enough but a crucial one for them, whomever they are. What was it, you may ask? They kidnapped the wrong man! Maybe I should start a bit earlier, about a life-time earlier, or more.
Traditions and Education
I don't know the exact reason why or how it came about, but for some hundreds of years it's been a family tradition to use a particular set of names for most of the children and the first born male in each generation is named Ed. A few hundred years ago a second tradition started where parents tried to name as many males in each generation with names similar to Ed. It's silly, I know; but don't yell at me as I had to live with it for the first half of my life. Here's how it works.
At heart our family is a large clan where each major branch has a clan matriarch who manages the minor things like naming children and disputes within the family. When a child is born the matriarch is told of the birth and a name is agreed on by the matriarch and the parents. You can use non-traditional names, but if she doesn't approve of the name you can't use it. There's a small cash payment from an old family trust for the first born male in each generation and to get the payment they have to be called Ed. We don't know if the naming or the money came first as the traditions are that old. The naming approval goes on the time when you contact the matriarch because she issues the name then and it's silly to change a name after it's issued due to a delay in telling her. So the tradition is the official first born is the first one the matriarch is told about, regardless of what the clocks or calendars say about the time of the child's birth.
The day I was born two cousins were born as well. As near as we can tell from the hospital records we were all born in the same minute. I was born in Sydney while my cousins were born in Melbourne and Adelaide. At the time the matriarch was in Perth visiting other family members. My Dad was the first to make contact so I got the bonus: a whole twenty-five hundred dollars for my university fund. OK, it wasn't much, but when you add it to what my parents put aside plus interest over almost twenty years of good investments it was enough to make me a full fee paying student when I went to university so I had no education loan debt called a HECS debt here in Australia. As a full fee paying student I also had more freedom about how I did my studies.
Dad and his two brothers were very much into puns and other word games so I was named Ed Ward Edwards; my cousin in Adelaide was second in and named Edward Edwards; while the one from Melbourne got lucky with Edmund Edwards. Yes, our families called us all Ed as a short name. At major gatherings for Christmas etc. I got called 'EW' or 'Sheep' while they got 'Double E' and 'Double E Two' or 'Two.' The matriarch wasn't surprised when Edward and I had some strong words with our fathers when we got old enough to think it safe enough to do so. Just a few bruises worth all round, and they cut back on their puns.
At first the naming wasn't a problem because we lived so far apart; it's amazing how a few days travel time separation can make things easier to bear. When I was about nine my uncle in Adelaide got a promotion with a move to Sydney. He found a house in our street but on the other side of the road. Due to some quirk of the educational system the boundary between two schools ran down the middle of our street and we went to different schools; so this made things at school bearable. Without the possibility of school based troubles we got to liking each other and spent a lot of time together after school and on weekends. Although we never ended up at the same high schools or universities we did end up living together in a rented house we shared. That was until he got married and I moved from our shared house to the flat his new wife used to rent.
He studied sociology and politics to end up with three degrees and he became famous for his books on the political and social dynamics of the nineteenth century. He specialised in the mid to late nineteenth century with a focus on the USA. I mostly studied chemistry to become a research chemist with degrees in chemistry, biology, nursing, computer science as well as the training to be a paramedic working as a volunteer paramedic.
Going to America
In early 2005 my divorce is finalised in the Family Court of Australia. It's a long and heated case because I don't have as many investments or as much money my ex-wife thinks I do, and she fights hard to get them. She was badly misled by the funds I managed for other family members because I seem to have a knack for picking the good ones to invest in.
The marriage was OK for eight years then she finds the statements for the several hundred thousand dollars of investments and she was upset I'm not spending any of that money on her. Because I control it she can't accept I can't spend it. The divorce process takes nearly three years of bitter court battles; thank heavens we have no children. Early in the fight I hand all of the monies back to the owners and I help them to find new investment managers, thus I cease getting the income for that work.
During this I spend a lot of time with Edward, Margaret, and their three kids - the kids are real sanity savers. During the last few weeks of the case it also helps their sanity because I spend a lot of time looking after the kids while they get ready to move to Albuquerque to take up his new job as a professor at the University of New Mexico. They'd been impressed with his latest book on how the mineral finds in New Mexico affected the society and politics of New Mexico and surrounding states, except Texas, while also affecting the national politics and economy. He showed how a better management of the exploitation of the minerals or a difference in timing would've had a major impact on the national and local politics as well as their society's development. It was controversial and it made for a lot of discussions in the relevant journals for a while.
Anyway, I'd given up my job last year due to the total stress of work and the court. However, with the court now finished I'm at a loose end while helping them get ready to move. Most of the cash I did have is spent on the court case so both my ex and I end up with next to nothing.
All of the furniture etc. is sold and they're about ready to leave when Edward's current employer's senior staff gets around to responding to his written request to finish his contract early. He'd gone ahead with getting ready to go over early to do some sightseeing before the start of the new contract because his boss and his boss' boss had both given him approval. The higher up denied his request for early termination about two weeks before they're due to fly out. Man, is he angry about it.
After some long talks on how to manage around this I decide it's time for me to help my cousin by being a stand in for him to help the family in transit and to settle in. I apply for a US visa and I'll use Edward's tickets to help Margaret with the kids. When I put in the application I don't realise they're the wrong papers when I use the e-forms Edward got for his application. I thought all the information wanted was a bit extensive for a six month holiday, but I fill it all in and send off the copies of papers they want with an apology for late lodgement plus a request for fast processing along with extra fees. Luckily for me an old friend is at the US Embassy so it goes through fast and is approved, thanks to their file on me from some previous work with the Australian and US governments.
With the rest of us going to the USA Edward will stay at my flat and close it up before joining us in nine weeks. I've nothing worth keeping left so I tell him to sell it all and hand the keys back because I don't want to pay rent for four months of non-use. I'll get something when I return from America, if I do. I'd noticed my visa allows me to work in my field so I'm giving staying there for a while some serious thought.
I arrive in Los Angeles looking like a harassed father when I manage the kids while Margaret manages the paperwork. We make the shift to the hotel in Disneyland in one piece, somehow, and we have a good week there before we move on with the rest of the planned sightseeing. In the suite we have I take over one of the bedrooms for the kids while the girls share the king sized bed with Margaret. We arrive in New Mexico six weeks after leaving Sydney. Once in Albuquerque we're quick to set up home for the family in the house the university found. I must admit we do look and act a lot like a family group while out and about due to us all being very close as a family and I'm the kids' favourite 'uncle.'
Margaret and the kids are off somewhere for the day shopping while I'm in the backyard tidying it up a little before I put up the children's swings and things. Just after midday I take a break, a shower, and I get dressed to go to get something to eat at a nearby mall. When I exit the house a car pulls up and two men in dark suits get out of it. They look like your typical government bureaucrat types.
One looks down at a photo in his hand while saying, “Edward Edwards?”
I stop and reply, “Yes, I'm Ed Ward Edwards. What's up?”
He responds, “Immigration, passport please?” Like a good little boy I reach into my pocket where I carry my passport because when we arrived I was told to make sure to keep it on me when out and about, and I hold it out to him. He opens it to examine the visa. He holds it out and I reach for it. When I do take hold of it his friend stabs me in the arm with a needle and he presses the plunger down on the syringe.
I've an extreme phobia about needles so the shock of a sudden stab with a needle triggers a mild physical shock. I start to collapse due to the shock. The first one catches me while the other puts his needle away then he tosses an envelope on the porch. They soon have me in the back seat of their car, belted into the seat, and we're driving away.
While I sit there and start to recover from the shock I decide to play along with them to find out what the score is. I wonder what it is they injected me with because they seem to expect a quick action from it, but it's doing next to nothing to me. I put that aside for now as I make a note of what they say and where we're going. Sometime later, while I'm being thankful about their error, we enter a large estate with a name over the gates.
About two that afternoon Margaret comes home to find an envelope on the porch. She picks it up while she shepherds the family into the house. Once inside she opens it and she goes white with shock.
The top sheet reads:
Mrs Edwards, we've kidnapped your husband. We wish to use his knowledge for a while. Do nothing and he won't be harmed. Go to the police and we'll know about it, then we'll kill him when we're finished with him.
She stands there staring at the note for a few minutes.
Gulping, she goes to the phone and rings her husband in Australia. He's annoyed as he answers, due to having to jump out of the shower to answer the phone. The time difference makes it early morning for him and he's getting ready to go to work. She says, “Cousin, I need advice. Ed's been kidnapped, they say they've taken him for his knowledge and he'll be released unharmed when they're finished with him unless I go to the police. What should I do?”
At first he's a bit surprised about things, but he's quick to catch on and says, “For the moment the best thing is to just sit tight and see what happens. I'll see what I can do about coming over to help out as soon as I can get away from here. In the meantime, don't talk to the police or they may kill him. Put the note in a plastic bag in case it's needed as evidence. I should be able to get to you in a week or so. Contact the university and tell them he's unable to attend for a few weeks due to an accident, and hope they won't insist on talking to him. That should buy you some time.” She agrees and hangs up now they're both on the same page of how to play this situation.
Having warned her husband, Edward, Margaret says a silent prayer for her cousin in-law who she's come to love like a big brother. Next is a call to the university. The fact they don't ask for any details makes her very suspicious of the university staff she talks to.
Margaret figures these people probably do have a police contact and may even have a tap on her phone. She looks up a phone number and makes a phone call about getting a handgun and a carry license for her own protection.
This is followed by a trip to a gun store to select weapons and fill out forms. She's surprised she can get one so fast, but the owner points out the checks for her visa would have done all that's required for the local gun laws. So, if immigration and the police give approval she'll be armed as soon as the papers come back in a few days and he's allowed to let her have the gun then.
In the meantime she contacts an old friend of her father's about hiring security for the children. The contact is a beached Marine who runs a security and bodyguard service. An hour later she has two armed security guards at the house while her father's friend, Little Joe - all six foot four inches of him, is reading the note after she explains the situation to him.
Now all she can do is worry, and to trust it all works out OK.
I look up at the name above the gate - 'The Cause Academy of Social Research and Advancement.' I sit there, keeping still, and wondering what this place really is. We pull up near a door at the back of one of the several buildings on the grounds, park, and they carry me inside. A few minutes later they have me in a room and they lay me on a table.
A man in a medical gown walks over while asking, “How long since you administered the barbiturates?” After he's told the time he adds, “We'll wait another fifteen minutes before we start the programming.” He proceeds to confirm my age and weight before checking some charts and getting out bottles of drugs to start drawing some into needles ready to use on me. I almost smile when I see the labels on the bottles through my squinted eyes, because it's now clear they wish to brainwash me.
You may wonder why this makes me happy. I know the drugs well, and I know they'll make a normal person unable to move or do anything while the recorded message burns into their brain to program them with instructions. But the tape has no effect unless the drugs have their full effect, and those drugs will have very little effect on me beyond making me a touch groggy and a bit slow.
When I was a child I got into my grandmother's 'lollies,' and I finished off her new bottle of them. The doctors had a fun time dealing with a two and a half year-old boy who overdosed on a full bottle of the maximum dose of barbiturates. They pumped my stomach and poured many other drugs into me to counter the effects. Whatever they did worked because I lived, but it changed my biochemistry a bit. Barbiturates have absolutely no effect on me now, and when I had to go through a special course to make me resistant to truth drugs as part of one of the special government contracts I worked on some years back they found I had a much higher than natural resistance due to the earlier incident. The drugs they intend to use on me here won't have any effect useful to them.
I lie there and ready myself to just accept the needles this bastard is about to stick me with. The time is almost up when another man walks in and says, “Are we sure we have the right person? I was told Edward Edwards and this man's passport is Ed Ward Edwards.”
The first man from the car says, “He's got the right date of birth. He matches the airport photo of the man who went through customs on the flight with the family. His passport has the next entry sequence to the wife, and he's been with the family since they arrived. He looked after the kids while they went through Disneyland. If he isn't the right one, what the hell is he doing making like he's their father? We've been watching since they arrived, and this is the first time he's been alone. The passport and photos match, the name matches, I think someone upstairs made a mistake when they said the name and just read it as one instead of two names.” The new man examines everything and nods approval. Seeing this the doctor injects me and places headphones over my ears.
Knowing I can't handle the four of them I just lie there and I listen to the recording so I'll know how I'm supposed to be programmed. I feel my muscles relax a bit while the drugs have the little effect they'll have on me. At the same time I hope Margaret will see the need to act as if I am her husband, because I'm dead once they realise their mistake.
A few hours later the doctor and the other two men come back to remove the headphones. I memorised how I'm supposed to respond, so I reply as expected when tested on the programming. The men lead me off to put me into a minimal bedroom to lay down for a normal sleep.
About fifteen minutes later I hear a car leave, so I get up. I'm careful while I check the room for cameras etc., and I wonder how bright these people are because I can't see any. None in the hall either, and none in the room I was in when I arrived. I go into the attached office to check out the desk. Not much in the way of papers, but I do find a note with a funny word on it. Smiling, I turn to the computer and I move the mouse.
The screen saver stops and I'm looking at a password request. I enter the funny word and hit the 'Enter' key. The computer opens up. Great, it's in Administrator mode. I create a new account with administrator capability and a password. The computer reveals some very interesting information about the organisation plus what's happening. Finding a bunch of spare thumb drives I copy a lot of files to two drives for later examination if I lose access to this computer. I get about an hour to use the system before I hear a car stop outside. I'm quick to log out and start the screen saver again before returning to my bed.
Knowing they don't have tight physical security makes me wonder how good their other security is. I soon learn all of their security, physical and computer, is very poor. So I've a virtual run of the place as long as I don't let them see me and I behave as expected when they're around.
I'll diverge a bit to tell you what I find out from their computers and what I do. This is a short summary of the events from my activities accessing their systems over my time with them. The desktop computer I use is connected to the main campus network which links to their national network, so I'm able to have access to everything after I do a bit of useful hacking I learned to do as part of my computer science degree.
1. The campus is used as a college campus part of the time, so they can't put cameras in the dorms like the one I'm in at the moment. But they know all of the people are well brainwashed and programmed so they're secure - they think.
2. The organisation is the current version of a group called 'The Lost Cause' who think the South was betrayed during the US Civil War and they want to re-establish the South with full slavery etc., but even more so. They class Hispanics, Mexicans, Indians, and Jews as slaves; also anyone who doesn't support their extreme views should be a slave as well.
3. They plan to change history by altering the outcome of the US Civil War. When I learn the details of the plan I understand why they want my cousin and his knowledge.
4. I re-program the computer to destroy the time machine and the records of it once the last shift of the expedition I'm part of is made, and it'll start their self-destruct system as well.
5. I also set up a program to brainwash their people while they undergo sleep teaching.
6. I change the slave brainwashing to be less effective for them than intended while it puts me at the top of the command structure of anyone who receives any brainwashing from now on.
7. I memorise a list of all of the finished and intended actions to bring about the change in history, and also the names of all their operatives already sent to the target era.
8. Their banking program is set up to automatically send a lot of money, in small amounts of only a few thousand dollars each, to welfare programs they hate; like education and health for urban poor, most of whom are Blacks and Hispanics. This is part of my way of getting back at them for kidnapping me.
9. Their investment program is set to pick bad investments so it will lose a lot of money. Thus making it harder for them to fund their activities in this time.
10. Information about past criminal activities from their files is set to be emailed to law enforcement organisations.
11. I change some of the equipment requirements for the time travel expedition I'm scheduled to be on to be more suited to my needs for living in that time.
Over the next several weeks I'm taught, along with five others, the many things they want me to do on the trip as well as a lot more of the brainwashing. I learn how to handle mules, horses, Great Danes, rifles, pistols, shotguns, an old style covered wagon, plus how to do campfire cooking, and tracking. I pay close attention to learn all this well, because I know my life will depend upon knowing it very soon. I wonder how my cousins are holding out, but I push that aside as I know these people will kill me the moment they know they grabbed the wrong person, so my life is on a very thin thread until we ship out.
By the time we're ready to be shipped out all is ready for the time transfer. We've a range of weapons and things that look the same as those from the era but are much better due to being made from higher quality materials. All of the cooking items are a lighter weight and made of much more durable alloys, but look like the cast iron of the time. All of the guns are top quality steel and won't rust or easily break down. We have two sets of guns due to being sent to an era where weapons improvement is rapid. The wagons are beauties: they look like normal wooden ones of the day but are a little bigger and lighter because they're made of wood laminated to titanium alloys with lots of hidden places in them. The sides are higher than normal with a higher seat so it gives a better view and more protection. The canvas looks like the canvas of the day but it's a special weave of Kevlar and it's bullet proof against the normal guns of the era as well as being much more weather proof and longer lasting.
Unknown to the organisers the wagon loads change a lot! I double the number of era weapons, quadruple the balls and gunpowder order, quintuple the load of salt, triple the dog food and fodder, add thirty crossbows with nine hundred bolts and five thousands extra heads, and add a dozen swords that are a cross between the Army Foot Artillery sword of the day and a Roman Gladius, the handle and scabbard looks like the artillery sword that's just coming out of use while the blade is like a Gladius so it's wider and heavier with a double edge made of high quality steel. Round titanium strap-on arm shields eighteen inches in diameter with an up curved edge to catch spears and blades. The ten inch steel Bowie knife is changed to a twelve inch high quality steel one as four inches is taken up with the handle in both, and now two hundred of them instead of twenty. My masterpiece is to add titanium chain mail and helmets covered in a hard leather coating with chamois and linen backing. All of the other clothes are a quality mixed weave of denim and Kevlar for extra protection, the boots have titanium toe caps and plates in the soles with rubber soles like Army general purpose boots. I'm surprised they get it all done in time, but they do. I'd hate to be having to pay the bill for it all because my changes increased the cost tenfold. All of the bedding is a mix of Kevlar, space blanket, and wool instead of plain wool blankets; even the animal blankets are this blend. Plus some air-cell mattresses for us humans as we must get a good night's rest!
Each expedition member was to get only one of each weapon but I've issued us two each: Bowie knife, .44 calibre 1855 Colt Repeating Carbine - not officially released until late 1856 but who'll know about that where we'll be, Colt Dragoon Model 3 revolver in .44 calibre, 12 gauge Colt Revolving Shotgun with a full choke in a twelve inch barrel and a pistol grip plus lead shot for them. The guns use percussion caps to fire but are modified with the Adams-Beaumont single / double action mechanism as an added bonus by me. Also, all of the grips are a special compound that looks like wood but is a form of plastic that grips the hand well so they won't get too slippery. With my changes we get double the guns, a longer Bowie knife, a sword, a shield, and a crossbow. Some of the changes are a little bit ahead of their real time, but they won't be noticed by the locals.
The time travel group consists of four leaders of The Cause, four early twenties women, another specialist who's a geologist, and myself. The women are to look after the camp, food, and provide sexual services for the four leaders while Steve and I provide specialist services and act as general camp slaves to look after the animals etc.
The animal contingent is eighteen well-trained high-quality mules, three teams of six - one team for each wagon and a spare team; twelve well-trained Great Danes as war dogs who are all bonded to the four women, Steve, and me; twelve high quality and well-trained horses trained to ground hitch as well as a whole lot of other useful skills.
We spend many days practising with everything and proving we're competent to use it all while the four 'leaders' stand around ordering the rest of us about. We don't like it but we do as told and programmed to.
During this period I spend a lot of time at night sneaking around to move various munitions as well as hacking into their computers. I've now got the place set to self-destruct after we shift out. That should stop them from sending further expeditions after us. The equipment will blow up, claymore mines will kill the senior people here to see us off, and the base self-destruct system will activate. All at the press of a switch by one of their own people who I program at night too.
Time to Go
After being here ten weeks it's time for us to be shipped out. In the last week I learn they're on a much stricter timetable than I thought, if we don't transfer on time it'll delay them two years to recalculate the time shifts. I'm not so worried about being caught out now since I'm a critical part of the mission support team and I can't be replaced as such.
On the set day we all move everything over to the transfer station. Steve, Mary, Sue, Alice, Donna, and I have spent the previous couple of days finishing the wagon packing to be evenly balanced and to match certain weights. The animals are all set and we're ready to go in order.
There are three transfers to be made. The first is the four leaders, the horses, the spare set of mules, and the four women. The second shift is Steve with one set of mules, a wagon, and six dogs. While I go last with the second wagon, a set of mules, and the last six dogs. We're all fully armed for the transfer in case of an unexpected problem at arrival. Because all of us slaves are programmed they expect no trouble from us.
The platform is almost a square shape and the length of the wagon is based on the platform size. The mules are harnessed to move the wagon over onto the transfer platform then the tongue is unpinned so the mules can stand beside the wagon as a group. Both Steve and I have to stand between the lead mules and hold them in place, since we've practised this it's no problem. With the first shift one woman stands with the mules while the other three women and three leaders stand between two horses each. The fourth leader has his rifle in his hands in case there's an unexpected problem at the arrival site. You never know who is where in those days and some Indians were causing trouble all through the target period.
We're all dressed in very warm clothes because we expect it to be cold where we're arriving. We're being sent to arrive early in the year toward the end of winter and the start of spring. For some reason in the way the mathematics work they can't pin it down with any more accuracy than a few weeks either side of the target date of the end of the first week of February, so we can be anywhere from early January to the start of March. Either way, it's going to be a little cool to start. They can't pin the exact arrival date down, but by having the shift loads of closely matching values they can ensure we all arrive at the same time. The shift load is calculated as an amount of the weight and the living biological material. There's some aspect in the calculations I don't understand where a living person or animal is of the same load value as a much higher weight of inanimate material, thus the great care with matching the wagon loads to equalise the shift loads for their final calculations. I'm also lucky in their system automatically recalculated the power needs for the shift to compensate for the heavier load of materials created by my changes to the list of things being taken. In an odd twist of fate the extra load of gear helps to balance out the large biological component of the first shift as the issue with the calculations relates to the dates and not the actual power levels.
There's fifteen minutes between each transfer so we can get each group ready while the previous one can get out of the way at the arrival spot, thus the time between transfers is the same at both ends. I watch the first two go off without a hitch and I get ready. I stand there and watch the man throw the switch. The room goes all funny and it fills with rainbow colours. Then the room is gone and the colours are very bright. Then I'm standing in bright sunlight in an open field.
Having sent the last transfer of the expedition Doctor Wilkins turns back to his control bench to start the procedure of powering down the equipment. Behind him the senior leaders of The Cause are breaking out the drinks while they wonder how long it will take for the Time Effect Shockwave of their changes to pass down the time-line to reach them now the main work group's been sent back in time.
A smiling Doctor Wilkins activates the last switch, a new one that's to be used only at this time. Unknown to him the switch activates a relay which sends a number of commands to computers and devices around the compound. He's still smiling when the seven Claymore mines in this end of the room detonate and rip out his life, along with that of the other thirty-four people in the room. He's almost dead when he starts to cry while he watches his life's work, the Time Transference Machine, ripped apart by large explosions within it. He's dead before the rest of the compound's high security buildings start to explode when their self-destruct devices detonate as per the program activated by the last switch.
In the time between the switch activating and the detonations a number of computers send high-speed data downloads to several law enforcement agencies around the country. These files contain all of the information on The Cause, its members, and their criminal actions.
The sound of a dozen buildings blowing up and bursting into flame is very loud, so it's no wonder when people in the surrounding area call in the sounds and smoke to the emergency services. The emergency people soon arrive, and they call in other agencies when they get the situation under control enough to find evidence of the violation of numerous federal laws on firearms and explosives.
In the following months the members of The Cause are arrested and dealt with for treason and other crimes. Thus ending The Cause as a viable organisation in 2005.
I look up to see everybody as I expected them to be, almost. There's two people not of our travel group with the leaders, but I recognise them from the photos in the computer files as they're two of the advance scouts. They're a danger I hadn't planned on and I can't let them get away. I pull out my Dragoon pistol and I'm very quiet while I cock it. Taking aim over the back of a mule I yell out, “Gahsnoozle, protocol fifty-one,” then I fire at the scout furthest from me.
Everyone starts to turn toward me when I yell. All of the members of my expedition stop and stand still when they hear my command. The man I aim at falls backwards with a large hole near the top of his chest and the base of his neck, so he's dead or dying. The other scout starts toward cover when he sees the gun in my hand so I track him while I re-cock the Dragoon. He almost has his own gun out when I fire again and I hit him in the upper right arm. He screams and drops his gun. Re-cocking my gun I walk over to smile down at him while pointing my gun at his face.
He doesn't know much, but he tells me it's February second, how I can get the fifteen thousand dollars in gold waiting in an Albuquerque bank, and the wagons are carrying a million dollars in gold coins. This wasn't to be made known to the expedition until after they reached Santa Fe to hand the gold over to the senior co-ordinators in Santa Fe as that way they won't feel tempted to make off with it. He's here to see it gets safely to Santa Fe. I thank him for the information and I keep my side of the bargain. When he started talking I stopped prodding his wound with my knife, and when he finished telling me all he can I give him a large shot of heroin to stop the pain and to kill him quickly instead of leaving him for scavengers to chew on while alive. He's most helpful when given the alternatives. I don't blame him for being helpful.
With that finished I walk over to each of the leaders to give them extra instructions while I activate protocols fifty-five and fifty-six to make them my absolute slaves. I go to Steve to give him instructions while activating protocols fifty-four and fifty-two to give him most of his free will back as they forbid him from harming me or allowing me to come to harm while he must obey me. He glares at me when I tell him to strip the dead and pile their gear in the first wagon. Now for the girls to activate protocols fifty-three and fifty-two as these leave them like Steve but include a little kicker about sex; if they ever voluntarily have sex with someone they can never refuse them after that.
Protocol fifty-one is a basic command to stand still and await further instructions. I gave them all that because I wanted to hold off giving individual instructions until after I knew what was happening here. The original brainwashing instructions had only thirty-two protocols so by jumping up into the fifties I doubted anyone would find them. Number fifty-two gives the programmed slaves back their free will while it allows them to remember all that's happened to them up to now. Thus they remember how they were treated at the academy as well as their original programming. Saying they aren't happy about the knowledge would be an understatement of the most extreme sort! The protocols I activate for the leaders removes their free will and makes them obey the rest of us as slaves, it also forces them to protect us with their lives. So they're now little more than zombie guards and workers just like they intended for us to be for them. Gahsnoozle is the program release / activation word.
Being the sort of person I am I set protocol fifty-two for them to remember all of the programming and once it's activated none of the other programming or release code words will work. My use of fifty-two has removed all of my ability to give them extra programs, and they now know it. Because they now know all of the programs, even the previous protocols I gave them and didn't use. It'll be interesting to see how they react to me once they go through it all in their minds.
With that done we set about moving away from there. The mules are hitched to the wagons, the spare horses and mules are tied behind them, the gear from the scouts is put into the lead wagon, the women sit two per wagon while the rest of us mount horses and we head out.
I want us to get away from here before we start to readjust loads on the wagons because too many people know this location; both now and in the future. Because of the way the time transfer machine works we end up physically on Earth in the exact same place where we start from, just in another year. The Academy is in mountains east of Albuquerque and that's where we are now; it's just the metropolitan area of 2005 hasn't reached us in this time of 1855, not by a long shot.
We're on a small plateau at the southern end of a fair sized canyon with a place called Three Gun Spring just a touch further north of us. Going south down the canyon is downhill all the way, a bit of a slope, but not one we can't handle. About five or six miles later we're out of the canyon and we soon come across an often used trail going east to west. We follow the trail while I study the good terrain maps we have from 2005. Some miles down the trail I turn us further south for a few miles and we leave the trail. We soon enter another canyon and move south-west into the canyon. About an hour into the canyon we have some nice mountains putting us out of the line of sight of the trail we were on with close mountains on three sides as well. It's late afternoon by now so we're quick to set up camp and to start unloading the wagons.
It doesn't take Steve and I long to find the gold coins we didn't know were there; forty strong boxes of them, each with twenty-five thousand dollars in ten dollar gold coins. We reload the wagons with the gold in the lead wagon by starting with the strong boxes in a row just behind the driver's seat. This gives us a row of five boxes wide and eight boxes deep to making a good area for a few people to sleep in. The area behind this is stacked level with barrels and boxes, mostly salt and ammunition for the guns. We tie it down tight then put padding and bedding on top before we tie the cover down again. Extra guns are loaded and put in easy to reach positions on the inside of the wagon. Water barrels and cooking utensils are put where they were tied to the outside of the wagons with the water barrels between the wheels on both sides.
We reload the other wagon by making a tight and even load with the barrels and boxes to about three feet behind the seat and about two thirds of the wagon's height. Tied down with padding and bedding it leaves a good space on top of the load for the dogs to sleep in the wagon and room at the front for a couple of people to sleep as well.
While we do this the ladies feed and water the animals with the help of our slaves, and they start cooking a nice meal. When the food is ready we all sit down to eat and talk about the future.
When I'm asked what I intend to do, since I'm the only one with some command authority now, I tell them, “Before I was kidnapped I had a family I loved and they loved me. For all intents and purposes they may as well be dead because I'll never see them again, and they'll never see me. This is eighteen fifty-five while they're in two thousand and five, that's one hundred and fifty years away. I'll be dead long before then, no matter what. So I've got a lot of hate stored up for these people just there. Their intention is to make the whole of the US a slave based economy like it's a copy of the Plantation area of Georgia so I really want to see these people hurt, and hurt very badly. I intend to use these resources to find and execute every one of their sixty-seven other agents in this time while I also set up a way to counteract everything they intend to do here. Unknown to them I know their full plans. Although I didn't know about the gold being shipped now because the plan called for that to be in the next transfer. But I can use it to fight them, so I will. Next stop is Albuquerque to collect the other gold then to Santa Fe to deposit the gold and to get started fighting them. After that is to buy all of the land I can in New Mexico to stop them from making the economic changes early. I've no intention of forcing anyone not part of The Cause to help me, but I'd appreciate the help. These four I'll use, but without any concern for how they're expended.”
The rest of the intended slaves nod agreement before they ask more questions, which I answer to the best of my ability. I finish eating and I leave them to discuss things amongst themselves. I send the four slaves off to sleep under the trail wagon, place four of the dogs on guard, and I send the rest of the dogs into the trail wagon to sleep. They seem very happy with the top bunk in there. Back at the campfire I say, “With the dogs on guard I don't think we need a guard to sit up all night long. But if you disagree feel free to work out a watch list. I'm off to sleep in the lead wagon, you ladies may join me if you wish with no obligations. Steve, please sleep in the trail wagon as I want one of us in each wagon just in case of any trouble.” They all nod their acknowledgement of my words and they go back to their discussions while I climb into the wagon to go to sleep. A short time later the women join me in the wagon and we just cuddle up while we sleep.
We've an early start at dawn with the ladies cooking breakfast while we men folk get the animals ready for the day before we clean up the campsite. We're off and moving within an hour of waking up. One thing I do is to make sure all of our guns are fully loaded and ready for use if needed. I've one of the slaves put on the clothes of one of the dead scouts and take their weapons while he scouts ahead of us. If he gets killed I don't want to lose any of the 'modern' gear.
We eat a cold lunch while we drive, then we stop just before dark to set up camp and eat a hot meal. This time I've the wagons draw up beside each other and facing in opposite directions. We picket all of the animals between the wagons and set a guard tonight. We're camped beside a regular trail so we've a much higher risk of being attacked during the night than we did last night.
The next morning we're up with the dawn again and we're soon on our way. We reach Albuquerque about noon and we stop outside a place selling hot meals that's run by some Mexicans. We get down and set the animals right with food and water before we go inside for a hot meal while leaving Apollo, the alpha male Great Dane, in charge of the wagons. The meals are a lot spicier than I'm used to but are very tasty. The woman serving us smiles when I order a large jug of fresh milk to have with the meal along with glasses for us to drink the milk from.
We're ten of the fifteen non-Mexicans in the building and the other five laugh when we start drinking milk with our meal. They leave when we're about halfway through our meal. Soon after they leave I hear Apollo growl a warning. I nod at my companions then I go outside.
Two men are trying to climb on the wagons while another is drawing his pistol. I think he intends to shoot Apollo. I swivel my shotgun up to point it at him, I carry it on a loop of canvas over my shoulder so it hangs down at my right-hand ready to use. I say, “The moment your gun clears leather this shotgun goes off. Now move along away from my wagons while you can still walk.”
These three are to my left and the shotgun is aimed that way. A fourth man to my right grabs at his revolver on his hip. I lift my right hand slightly while my left grabs the butt of the Dragoon I've in a holster positioned across my belly. I have them this way so I've a weapon at hand height and ready to use with either hand as being ambidextrous is very useful! The fellows on my left go for their guns when I turn a bit to my right. All four have their hands on their guns and have them part way out of their holsters when I fire both of my guns. The one on my right goes backwards with a shocked look on his face while he looks at the cloud of gunpowder smoke in front of my belly. I'd fired while still holstered and he didn't expect that. The two nearest me on my left get a decent load of shot each and are blown into the third. He's knocked against the wagon. Apollo leans down to crunch his neck and the man drops, dying with a broken neck. Two shots and four down, not bad. All four will soon be dead because the others will bleed out in a few minutes.
After confirming they aren't a danger I look at the fifth man to leave the eatery. He's standing beside his horse with his hands in clear view. Gulping, he takes slow moves to unhitch his horse, mounts his horse, and rides off down the street. I smile at him and he nods back while he leaves.
Returning to my meal I ask the owner if he can send someone for the undertaker. He nods yes and he motions to a young boy nearby. The lad darts out the door and vanishes. I reload both guns while I walk back to my chair to sit down.
A few bites later a large man with a badge on walks into the place. He says, “Miguel, you run the quietest cantina in town. How come I got four bodies at your front door?”
Between bites I look up, “I don't like people who draw on me. They went to get in my wagons without asking. When my dog warned them they went to shoot him. I got there in time to suggest they leave. They all went for guns. You'll notice they all have weapons in hand. I got two with the shotgun, one with my pistol, and my dog got one from the wagon's seat. The owner sent a boy for the undertaker. Please see to the collection of the valuables from the bodies and return them to me. I'll pay for the undertaker to bury them because I don't believe in leaving garbage in the street.” The man stares at me for a moment, slowly nods, and walks back out. Stripping the dead is standard practice in this time and place.
Miguel says, “The Town Marshal, he waits for orders before taking action. Those men belonged to the men who own most of the town and the Marshal. They don't like people hurting them or their men.” He speaks Spanish, and Mary translates for me. (I won't mention such trivia in future unless I think it important to the situation.)
When we're finishing I hear movement outside and a short warning bark from the wagon. Standing up I motion Steve and the ladies to a safer place in the cantina. I draw my Dragoon, ready the shotgun, then I order Peter and Fred to do the same. These killers are only alive now because I thought I could use them to save my life in situations like this.
I give them their instructions then I get directions to the back door. Exiting the building I take great care to move along behind it and the next one before turning toward the street. On entering the street I can see more than twenty men spread out with rifles and pistols pointed at the cantina entrance. I get ready to shoot them from behind as I wait for my distraction to finish their slow count to two hundred.
A moment later everyone opens fire at Peter and Fred when they burst out of the cantina. Their protective mail stops the rounds aimed at their chests while it offers no protection for arms or legs so they're as good as dead from many hits, but not yet. They take careful aim when they open up with their shotguns and Dragoons at the same time as the bad guys. I also open up on the bad guys from behind. I first shoot the Town Marshal with a .44 ball in the middle of his back while the two beside him share a shotgun load between them. In less than a minute Peter and Fred have accounted for six with their shotguns plus another six with their Dragoons. Both are bleeding in a number of places and are laying back against the front wall of the cantina. Fred gets one last shot off to wound a man to his left. I've shot another two with my shotgun, and two more with my Dragoon. So that's twenty of them down and they don't yet realise I'm outside behind them.
The most amazing thing is with all the lead flying around not a single mule or horse has been hit. I think on this miracle when I reload my shotgun while I take care moving to the wagons. All the enemy between me and the wagons are dead or dying. There's only four across the street with rifles and two with pistols just down the street beyond the cantina entrance as the rest are dead. From here I've a good angle on Steve as I look through the cantina door. I wave him back and he nods yes. They'll stay put until I say otherwise.
With great care I move up along the trail wagon and reach behind the seat. In both wagons I've a number of loaded rifles and pistols set there for quick access. I slip another holster and Dragoon over my head so it's under my left arm for a right-hand cross-body draw then I take out a rifle. I move to place the rifle across the front of the wagon while not exposing much of my head. Unlike all of these fools I've a very low head silhouette because I've no hat on as I left my hat in the cantina.
Taking aim at the rifleman that'll be hardest for me to reach I fire at where I think his head is behind the water trough he's using for cover. From this angle I'm shooting a little down at a point just above the water level. A hole appears in the far side of the trough and there's a nice red splash on the shop wall behind it. I'm very certain he's out of the fight. A voice yells, “Shit, Jim's dead. Where's they at?”
I move the rifle a bit to aim at the next man who's behind a couple of stacked up wood boxes. Thinking and hoping they're empties, because the tops are open, I aim at where I think his belly is and fire. He screams and staggers back with both hands to his torn open stomach; from here I can see a couple of big splinters amongst the red. The next man near him jumps up and starts to run. I hurry him along with a .44 inducement between the shoulder blades. He does a beautiful forward flip to land on his back. Shit, I thought that was all Hollywood hype; the bugger is lying there with his legs kicking while he dies.
Expecting the two down the street to try to move up on me I point my rifle down that way while I ease back up the wagon to lie down in the dirt under it to look down the street at ground level. Beautiful, I can see a set of feet amongst the far horses, another behind a buggy wheel, and to my left is another pair behind a water trough that's not quite resting on the ground. I take aim at the one amongst the horses.
A perfect shot. I hit where I'm aiming at just above the ankle. He screams and falls down, dropping his pistol in the process. I got both legs and there's blood jetting out of the far one. He's out of it.
Aiming at the one behind the buggy I fire. I hear a scream and I can now see the man lying on the ground. Another round in his belly and he's out of the fight for sure. That's the rifle empty so it's back to the shotgun and the Dragoon.
Standing up again I lean the rifle against the wagon while I take the shotgun in my left hand and draw the shoulder mounted Dragoon with my right. After taking a breath I charge out from the rear of the wagon and aim the shotgun at the last gunman. He's starting to bring his rifle around when I point the shotgun and fire. He ducks, he pops up again, and I fire another round. He ducks again. He starts to sit up to try with his rifle again when he spots me standing over him with my Dragoon pointing at his groin.
With an evil smile I say, “Put it down and give it up or I'll blow your balls off.” With slow moves he lowers the rifle to his side and moves his hands above his head. I call out, “Steve, come and check things out, please. I think I've got them all but I've got a prisoner so I can't double check.” The only response I get is a blur when Steve leaves the cantina to start to check the dead in the area. Looking at my prisoner I say, “Loosen the gun-belt.” He does as told. “Who ordered this?”
He gulps, and says, “Benson and Harrison at BH Land.”
I nod to him and I motion him to mount, “Get on your horse and ride west. Don't stop before you leave New Mexico or I'll finish you - slowly.” He nods before he takes off going west after a very fast mounting up.
I pick up both guns and I move to the next dead man. I strip him of valuables and weapons. Looking up I see Steve, Harry, and Tom are busy doing the same while the ladies are looking after the animals. Miguel is staring at the carnage. It takes ten minutes to strip all of the dead and place the valuables on the seat of the lead wagon. We also take anything of value in their saddlebags and the mail from Peter and Fred.
To Steve I say, “Keep an eye on things, please. When the undertaker arrives have him give Peter and Fred proper burials, the rest can go in a common grave. The lad who went to get him can have his choice of the horses from the dead.” He nods. “I have to go and finish some business with two guys called Benson and Harrison at BH Land.” Another nod. I finish reloading my guns before I place the rifle and extra Dragoon back where I got them from. I smile at the ladies then I head up the street.
About three hundred yards up the street I find the undertaker in a side street arguing with the boy Miguel sent. I say, “If you're waiting for the Marshal to send for you it'll be a long wait. He's lying in the street with the rest of his murder crew, all dead. Get on down there to clear away the bodies.” The undertaker gulps and starts to move out. “Where do I find the BH Land?” He gives me directions of down three blocks and right for two blocks. I thank him and move off while he heads in the other direction.
Several minutes later I'm walking into a large office in a building that takes up most of the small block. There's a number of people sitting around a big table having a meeting and I recognise two from the Cause Photo File. I say, “Benson, Harrison.” The two I recognise look up at me. “I object to people who pay people to kill me so I've come to rescind the orders.” With that I point the shotgun at one, the Dragoon at the other, and I fire both at once. Neither has a chance to even reach for a weapon before they become headless corpses. I couldn't take a chance they had on some sort of light armour because these two are high enough up in The Cause to take that sort of protection. The others at the table all jump back. I walk around the table to check them out. Both are dead, and both have some lightweight body armour of some sort. Rifling their pockets I come up with a few hundred dollars in coin and I pocket it.
One of the others says, “This is murder and robbery.”
I give him an odd look while saying, “They ordered my murder so they're as guilty as the men they sent to kill me. Now the whole gang of killers is dead and I'm collecting any valuables off them, as is usual after a shooting. I'd suggest you complain to the Town Marshal, but he was with the main group of killers and is dead. Good day to you.” I nod at them and I walk out the door. I'd bet they're working out how to split the shares of the dead before I leave the side-walk. There's a lot of people standing around and staring while they wonder what the shooting is about. I smile while I tip my hat at the ladies and nod at the men.
When I arrive back at the cantina they're still loading the dead. I tell the undertaker he has two more at the BH Land office. Both he and Miguel stare at me when I say I shot the two who paid these killers. Steve and the ladies are the only ones who believed I'd just go and do it. I must admit, three months ago I would've doubted I do it myself; but not now, and definitely not in this now.
I pay Miguel for our meal and the damage to his cantina from the cash I collected up the road. I also pay the undertaker from the same money. Then we load up to go further into town because we've a bank to visit. Harry and Tom are good at herding our extra horses.
At the bank I go in to hand over the receipt I got from the scout. The manager is about to challenge me when he notices the gunpowder stain on my shirt. He takes a closer look at me and my weapons then he slowly nods. A few minutes later he has four men bringing several saddlebags of gold coins out. I nod my thanks and turn toward the door. When they follow me the manager asks, “Aren't you going to count it?”
I turn to look at him while saying, “I was told you're trustworthy and a good banker, so why should I? If it's short at the other end I'll just come back to take it out of your hide.” He gulps a bit but he doesn't go white, so I think it's all there. Anyway, I don't care if it's a bit short because I got it for free. I'm just keeping it out of enemy hands.
I stand in the wagon while the men hand the saddlebags up to me. I slip them out of the way into the compartment under the driver's seat. Boy, this is one expensive bed I have here. I thank the men as I give them a couple of dollars each as a tip. They smile and go back to their other work, whatever it is.
We mount up and head back the way we came. We have to go north but I don't want to go through the town since that may be too dangerous at the moment, so we'll go around. I also want a word with Miguel. We soon reach the cantina again. The next time I see a place like this I'll know what it is. I didn't at first, because this is the first one I've seen.
Miguel is outside talking to some people when I ask if he knows where I can find several good men seeking some work. I want some extra guards to see we get to Santa Fe in one piece, followed by setting up a ranch somewhere, and they can stay on as ranch hands if they wish. He smiles as he says he knows of some he'll show me if I follow him down the street. He starts to walk so I wave him to one of my new spare horses, and he laughs while he mounts up.
We soon come to a Mexican village on the south edge of town, it looks like it's almost abandoned. Miguel shouts, and a dozen men come out of some of the buildings. He rapidly speaks to them, but it's too fast for Mary to follow let alone translate to me, so I don't know what he says.
After a minute or so he turns back to me and says, “I've a dozen good men who want the work but are worried how their families will be fed while they're away.”
I nod, asking, “Can they be trusted? Will you place your life on oath to bind theirs? I know you, not them, will you guarantee them to me?”
He gulps and nods yes while they all gulp too. I nod back and get off my horse. I climb onto the lead wagon to go inside it. I'm soon back out with one of the saddlebags of gold. I place twelve stacks of ten dollar gold coins on a bench as I say, “There's one hundred dollars advance against their wages to care for their families while we're away. I don't know how long I'll be in Santa Fe so I'm making sure their families have enough for a long period. If they get killed while working for me I'll look after their families as if they're my own. Those who want the work can take a pile to hand to their wives, get some changes of clothes and things to take with them then select a horse from my spares, plus I'll place a pistol and rifle with each horse.” With that I start walking along the horses slipping a rifle into the boot on the saddle and hanging a gun-belt with pistol on the saddle horn, all of them are from my cache of weapons from my recent enemies. None of them can believe a gringo will trust a Mexican with so much money.
At the urgings of their wives the men soon grab a pile of gold coins and hand it to the women before ducking inside to get their gear. Miguel is most apologetic when one young man of about sixteen years of age takes a pile of gold to give to an older woman, it's clear she's his mother and she has four younger children with her too. He looks like he can do a man's work so I just smile while I give reassurance the young man is welcome at a man's pay. He smiles his thanks. However they go about spending this money it's a welcome contribution to the economy of the town's Mexican community.
A few minutes later I tell Miguel to keep the horse he rode out on and we head to Santa Fe by going around the town.
A couple of our new staff are quick to move out as flankers while another couple move up as scouts. I smile because it's clear these men know what they're doing, so I leave them to organise things themselves.
By the time I'm hungry again the oldest of the new men has taken charge of my new work crew and he has the youngest herding the spare stock. We stop for the night's camp and he sets the wagons up in a 'V' shape with a rope across the open side as a corral for the stock. The men get a big shock when they see so many large dogs hop out of one of the wagons when I send the Great Danes out for an exercise run.
It's not long before they're all back, each with a rabbit they caught for dinner. Steve and I skin and gut the rabbits then give them back to the dogs to have for their supper. We also set out some pans of water along with some dog food for them. After dinner we clean the rabbit hides for later use.
Meanwhile the ladies organise a hot meal and we all sit down to eat it together. That's another surprise for the Mexicans because they're used to gringos insisting they eat apart. I have them go through an introduction process while we all try to remember everyone else's names. I point at Jesus as I say, “You all seem happy with Jesus being the foreman so that's now official. He's now responsible for seeing to the organising of the guards and hands as well as deciding where and when we camp. He's the trail boss. Us dumb gringos will be close-in security for the wagons because we'd get lost out there. Mary translates, and she gets quite a few laughs at my speech, but also plenty of smiling nods for my acceptance of their knowledge and experience.
Soon after eating we settle down to go to sleep. Jesus has two men on guard and they know to respond to any reports from the dogs. Both the men and dogs work two hour shifts in pairs with Apollo assigning the dogs for each watch.
When we get ready to settle down Sue asks if she can sleep with Steve. All of the girls have looks of surprise when I say, “Sure, if that's what you want. Look, I'd be very happy to have you all as bedmates. I've also set up your commands so you'll be my permanent bedmates once you do. But if you want someone else feel free. I've no intention of taking any of you against your will. But make sure you intend any interaction with me to be long term because once you offer yourselves I'll make you mine on a permanent basis, regardless of the number involved. So, Sue, if you want Steve, go for it. Go and make both of you happy. Oh, one other thing, make sure this is what you really want because the permanent trigger I set will activate with the next man you voluntarily have sex with. Give yourself to Steve and you're his forever, but he doesn't know that.” She smiles before she ducks off to his wagon and bed. The rest of us settle down to sleep. The Mexicans are sleeping under the wagons by their choice.
After breakfast the next day we start to get ready to move out when Steve asks if he and Sue can ride together in the wagon. I give approval, then Alice asks if she can ride in his place. Again, I approve.
We move out in good order: Steve and Sue on the trail wagon with Harry and Tom flanking their wagon, Mary and Donna are in the lead wagon with Alice and I as flankers. Since we're riding right beside the wagons we can talk if we really want to, but we need to shout and I find it too much trouble, so we don't - as a general rule. Jesus has men out as flankers and scouts with young Pedro herding horses again. He doesn't seem to mind the job and he's happy to be doing any work while being paid the same as a grown man so he can feed his family.
Under Jesus' wise leadership we take our time getting to Santa Fe, spending fourteen days on the road. I see no reason to rush the mules or wear them out. Along the way we stop at a few small settlements and I notice how bad the Mexicans are treated by many of the gringos.
Note: I learn in the New Mexico Territory of that time there are three major ethnic groups, the Caucasians or Americanos or Anglos, the Indians of a number of tribes, and the Mexicans. I soon learn the Mexicans break into two obvious groups, Mexicans and bandits, while the Anglos break into Anglos and gringos and bandits. Anglos treat the Mexicans OK while gringos treat them like dirt and the bandits of both groups are best dead. It's sad to say there were very few Anglos in the New Mexico Territory in 1855, which is why they're surprised with my treating them as equals, but there are a lot of gringos. We soon fall into the habit of calling them gringos too, until they prove they deserve better.
We make a mid-afternoon arrival in Santa Fe and head for a Mexican owned stables Jesus knows of close to a nice cantina. We soon have our animals in an almost empty large stables. Few gringos do business with the Mexicans and this once busy stables is almost broke. Little work since this became part of the US and business fell since the gringos took over. He's glad of the business, more so when I insist on paying top dollar for exclusive use of the premises yet I allow his regular clients to stay as I only want to keep any strangers out of the building.
After tending the animals we go next door to have a meal at the cantina. There's a few sour looks at us gringos by the locals until I insist my crew sit and eat with me. I get a few smiles of humour from the men at my order of fresh milk with the meal, but the Mexican ladies serving us know its properties and they smile with understanding.
With no hotels that suit us in this part of town we go back to sleep in the wagons. Most of the men stay for some more drinking. After I pay for all our food I advance the men some more money to do a bit of relaxing. Jesus tells me not to worry because he'll keep an eye on his men, but he sends Pedro back with us. We settle down and have a good night's sleep, despite being woken up when the men return just a little drunk.
After breakfast the next morning I get ready to go into the main part of town to get an idea of the place as well as some information. For the first time I put on a new holster rig one of the men made for me at my request. He's a very good leather worker and it's perfect for what I want.
My new holster is more of a harness as it's a single unit that crosses my back and goes around my waist as well as over my shoulders. Under each arm is a holster for a Dragoon ready for a quick cross-body draw, two more from each hip and tied to my thighs with a fifth in the cross belly position. The shotgun is secured with its butt where my right hand comes to rest at my right hip, with the web sling about its centre of balance. There are pouches for paper cartridges of gunpowder and spare shot for all of the weapons. A sheath for a Bowie knife in front of the right shoulder with the handle down, another sheath is across my belly under the revolver - handle to the right, and two more knives have been added to my boots. So I'm ready to go into town with four big knives, five heavy revolvers, and a shotgun. I also have a back pack almost as wide as my shoulders which covers me from the neck to the waist which is about a hand's width deep. This is in case I want to carry anything, it can go in the pack so I can still keep both of my hands free.
Those twelve inch Bowie knives may sound big, but that's the full length of the knife while the blade is eight inches so one fits nicely on the shoulder with the handle just above where I need to reach for the pistols and the belly knife is all but hidden under the gun there.
I even have a new hat that looks like a cross between a Mexican hat and a gringo hat. They took my spare Texas style hat and worked on it for all of the trip. Now the brim is wider and flatter with a small upward curve on the edge and the front is straight. It's more like an Aussie bush hat, and I like it a lot.
Each of the ladies gives me a checking over while smiling. I'm about to leave when Jesus walks back in and sees me. He says something and everyone who knows Spanish almost dies laughing. It's several minutes before I get a translation: he'd said, “Mother of God, he looks more like a Mexican bandit than any Mexican bandit I've ever seen or heard of. When he walks into a bank they'll hand the money over before he even asks.” Even I have to admit I look to have a heavy load of guns and it's a good line. I'm sure some think it's excessive fire power, but you don't get breaks to reload in a shooting unless you're in a large group, while I want to be able to out gun anyone after me, because I wish to stay alive a long time.
Jesus assigns two of the English speaking men to accompany me and he adds some comment about they're needed to see I know how to get back here. He's becoming a real comedian, at least he thinks he is. It's a sad thing most of the men think he is too. Oh well; we head out. They have a pistol and carry a rifle each. We walk down the street.
There seems to be an almost invisible line between the old Mexican town and the newer American town of Santa Fe. When we near this line we're confronted by a couple of cowboys from a saloon close by.
One of the cowboys says, “You Mexs can turn around or leave all that hardware right here.”
He's shocked when I say, “You can back off and leave my guards alone or you can die. We're going into town to make some enquiries.”
They both shake their heads while they try to place my accent, as it's clear I don't sound like a Mexican. One moves closer to get a better look, then he says, “He's no Mex. Why the Mex outfit?”
I watch them while I say, “The guns are because I've had numerous threats and attempts on my life, the hat and clothes are because they're more comfortable. The Mexican guard is because they're more reliable and honest than any others I've met so far. Now out of my way, please.” They're hesitant when they back off while they try to think about what we represent.
While we walk further into town I tip my hat back a bit more to make my fairer skin a bit easier to see. I'm hoping it'll reduce some of those types of trouble makers.
A few minutes later there's a crash of gunfire as five men charge out of a building on our left about twelve yards away. They're carrying heavy saddlebags on their shoulders, have their lower faces hidden, and have guns in their hands while they shoot at people in the building. It's a robbery of some sort. I don't even think while I whip the shotgun up, draw the Dragoon from under my right arm, and open fire on them.
I aim the revolver at the man nearest the horses and the shotgun at the two closest together. When I fire my two sidekicks open up on the other two with their rifles. The two jumping off the side-walk are hit by the shotgun and land on their backs, the man swinging onto his horse is flattened against it with a .44 kick in the middle of his back, followed by him falling to the ground. The other two men are knocked down by the .44 calibre balls out of the rifles appropriated from my dead enemies.
I call out, “Hey, you inside, they're all down. What's going on?”
Two men walk out with pistols in their hands: one looks like a clerk while the other is in what passes for a business suit around here at this time. The suit gives me a long stare then talks. This is the office of a local stagecoach run who'd just had an express box in with some gold coin and these men wanted to take the coin for themselves. The manager hastens everyone on their way and we take time to reload. We're quick to go through the belongings of the dead to appropriate everything of value. While we all wait for the undertaker to arrive to take away the garbage I've a talk with the manager about the town's banks. Although there are a few some have started closing due to the troubles back East and only two look like weathering the current crisis. The Bank of Santa Fe and the Harrison Bank of Georgia. After the Town Marshal visits I leave my new horses under the care of the stagecoach manager while we continue into town.
When I visit the Harrison Bank I see the brother of the Harrison from Albuquerque in the manager's office so I give it a pass. Over to the Bank of Santa Fe. Owner and Manager is Saul Thomas, a man of the Jewish faith, I meet him and I'm quick to develop a liking for as he's a good man.
The Bank of Santa Fe has a new vault and sound security rules. He's surprised when I ask to see the books to check out the liquidity status, he's a bit short but not by much. As long as he doesn't get a major long run he should survive the current panic. I further surprise him by discussing the panic and the situation in town. He has a few friends in smaller banks and he's concerned they'll go under. He'd like to help them out but he has to look after his own customers first.
I turn to him and say, “Mister Thomas, I'm very happy with what I see about your bank and I'd like to put nearly all my money here. But there are types of people I'd rather not see it loaned to, despite how secure it is. In fact, I'd rather not see them get any loans at all. While there are others I'd be in favour of giving loans to, even if they are at a higher risk. My main criteria is the quality of the person first; second is what it's for; and the security is third. I've a substantial amount of gold coin to deposit or invest. Do you think we can come to an agreement?” He nods yes as he asks about my preferences. “The people like Mister Harrison and his friends, I don't like supporting such ignorant bigots or any business run by such or employ such in senior positions. I'm ready to take more risks with family businesses set up by Mexicans as well as encouraging them into expanding into other fields of business. I don't know if you're familiar with any people from my homeland, but I'm an Australian of Welsh and Irish ancestry with some Scottish and English in there too. So I'm well acquainted with bigotry and I hate it in all forms.” He smiles because we're on the same page. “As well as investing money in the bank I need a local partner to manage a business for me to buy land in a certain part of the territory to establish a huge ranch, can you recommend someone reliable?”
He recommends someone, and this is the fifth person to name him so I think I'll see James Peters, lawyer. Then Saul asks the big questions from his point of view, “How much are you wishing to deposit with us? And why did you say deposit or invest?”
I smile as I say, “I'm happy for it all to be a deposit if you want, but I'm also happy to make an investment that leaves you as the majority investor because you'll be running the bank. The choice is yours. At the moment I've one million dollars to invest. I raised the investment aspect because a cash investment of a few hundred thousand by me would change your liquidity ratio and enable you to help out your friends.” He's stunned and he rocks back in his chair while he gasps for breath.
After a moment he says, “If it's OK we'll set up two hundred and fifty thousand as a forty-five percent investment in the bank and the rest as a deposit.” I nod yes. He stands and goes to the door to call out, “Isaac, run to Mister Worthing then Mister Irving, tell them I can help them and to come quickly. Jeremy, you take the same message to Mister Berlin and Mister Bright.” He turns back to me to ask, “How soon can you get the money into Santa Fe? To do what I want to do I'd need it here within a month. Two of those men wish to sell out and retire while the other two just need a loan to cover current liquidity problems. The two purchases will give me three bank offices nicely spread throughout the town.”
I smile as I say, “The money's already in town, I just need to bring it here. I'd originally been intending to deposit it with Mister Harrison, but I met his brother in Albuquerque and I disliked him. Enquiries show this one's just as bad so I looked around again. Now I'm here and you can benefit instead of him. I'll also be sacking my original adviser next time I see him. He knew I disliked bigots.”
Saul smiles, “That explains a lot. Harrison is in a worse liquidity situation than I am but he acts as if he has no worries. He even told a few close friends he's expecting a large cash investment soon. Now I wonder how he'll go without your money? He'll probably be closed within a month.” I smile at the thought. “Can you please go and get the money now, I'll stay open longer if I have to just to make sure it gets locked away safe.” I nod yes and get up, then I leave after we shake hands.
We get back to the cantina in time to have a good lunch after picking up our new supply of horses and weapons on the way. There's some good hearted joking when I tell them we have some work this afternoon since we have to go to the bank. I want everyone along as armed guards and ready for plenty of trouble because being ready may stop it forming.
We're ready to move out just after lunch. I'm leaving the trail wagon with Pedro to keep an eye on it and the spare animals with three of the ladies and two of the dogs as support.
We take the lead wagon with Alice driving and Jesus in the shotgun seat, they've four shotguns and rifles with them as well as two pistols each. The leather worker is making everyone a four gun shoulder and hip holster outfit, Steve and I are the only ones done so far. Jesus has all of his men armed with two pistols and a rifle each so all are ready to start shooting. Three men on horses in front of the wagon with three men on horses behind it, plus a man on foot each side beside the lead mules, and another each side of the last mules. Harry and Tom are armed and walking alongside the rear wheels while Steve and I are loaded for bear and are walking beside the front of the wagon. The orders are to stop and hunker down to manage any shooting as I don't want any running fights. If anything starts we're to stop and wipe them out before moving on. Sixteen armed people spread out to bring six or seven guns to bear at an attack from any angle. It's a tough looking force we make as we move through town. And that doesn't include Apollo leading the last line of defence. Two of the bitches in the wagon lying on the gold itself with the other eight dogs spread out under the wagon. They're in a line and are almost impossible to see. One between each pair of mules with the other five in a head to tail row under the centre of the wagon. They'll be a real surprise from the shadows. We form up ready and start moving to town. We get a strong reaction while people scurry to clear the side-walks. I don't blame them because we must look like a small army on the move.
Just when we pass that invisible line the Town Marshal steps out with some armed deputies. So I call a halt and walk up to him while saying, “Afternoon, Marshal, I'd appreciate it if you'd spread your men out along the side-walk. I've a significant amount of money in this wagon and I intend to get it safely to the bank. All these people are my armed security guards and we're going through now. We'll kill all who try to stop and rob us. Any attempt to stop us will be seen as a robbery attempt.” He stands there and stares at me for a few minutes before orders his men to spread out on either side of us on the side-walks.
Turning to me he says, “You start any shooting, except at a clear robbery attempt, and we'll shoot at you.” I nod agreement because my people are under orders not to shoot unless I say so. We even have a few different words to signify different types of responses we worked out over lunch.
We head off again and all of my people smile at the gringos running to get out of the way of the Mexican Army they represent. It takes about half an hour for us to make our way to the Bank of Santa Fe at a slow walk and pull up outside it. I smile at the look on Mr Harrison when he watches our strange parade head down the street toward him where he stands on the side-walk outside of his bank.
When we stop the Marshal sets his men out to block access from the side streets while Jesus has his men form up around the wagon. Alice moves to the street side and sits there with a shotgun in her lap. Jesus and Steve get in the wagon to start dragging the strong boxes out to place them on the wagon seat, Harry and Tom lift them from the seat to the side-walk, a line of Saul's people grab them to carry them inside. I stand there cradling a rifle while I watch everything within a few hundred yards. It takes just on an hour to get all of the strong boxes into the bank as they're very heavy. I toss one of the saddlebags over my shoulder and I grab another with my left hand then I nod at Steve, Alice, and Jesus.
They issue some orders which has the group reforming with a smile and a difference. My two Mexican bodyguards and Harry peel off to join me, Jesus gets on one of the horses, Tom takes over the wagon, and the rest of the foot team get into the back of the wagon. With a wide circle of his hand Jesus orders the column around. The wagon turns around, and they head to the stables at a much faster pace with two of the Marshal's deputies running to keep up. The Marshal smiles and follows us in.
Inside the bank we see a number of Saul's people standing around with shotguns, the cash boxes are piled in the vault with one on a table, and Saul sitting at the table. I walk over to hand him the keys to the padlocks on the boxes. He opens the first one and he starts to count as the man beside him checks random coins for fake ones. About forty-five minutes later he has them all piled on the table and he says, “Twenty-five hundred ten dollar gold coins and all the correct assay. Twenty-five thousand dollars per box, forty boxes, that's one million dollars as said, once I finish counting them all.” We all laugh when the Marshal's eyes almost pop out.
The Marshal takes a breath, and says, “One million dollars, what do you intend to do, buy up the whole territory?”
I smile while saying, “No, just half of it.” This gets a few more laughs, and a pensive look from Saul, I think he suspects I'm serious. I shake the saddlebags as I say, “Saul, I trust you not to steal from me, I'll just go back to the front to have someone count this lot while I check the paperwork you have for me to sign.” He nods yes and he waves at Isaac who leads me away to a desk in the main part of the bank. Another person comes over to start counting the saddlebags' money in front of me while I read and sign the paperwork to open an account in the name of the business I gave Saul earlier, Rome Investments. I sign the papers for RI to be a bank part owner. The papers list Steve and the ladies as the other RI officers so they can also draw on the money. I'm done with the papers at the same time as the teller finishes counting the saddlebags, ten thousand five hundred dollars in gold coin.
Leaving Isaac I ask the Marshal to accompany me on a visit across the street. He gives me an odd look, but he agrees to go with me. I leave Harry to keep Saul happy I'm satisfied with his counting, and I have my two Mexican bodyguards stand just inside the doors of the bank. Because they're flanked by two of the deputies I expect little trouble there.
With the Marshal and two deputies I enter Harrison's bank and ask for him. He comes out and looks at me, no offer to enter his office. Being this public suits me better, anyway. I say, “Harrison, Wilson died on the way here. I'm now the senior partner and I've decided to place all of the funds and investments in the Bank of Santa Fe. So you're not going to get the huge investment you were expecting as I've just placed it all across the road. I do hope you weren't dumb enough to count your chickens before they hatched and spread yourself too thin. I changed banks because The Cause murdered my family. Goodbye.” His eyes go wide and he starts to quiver while he reaches for a gun. “Please do, go for a gun so I can blow your murdering bigoted guts all over that wall behind you.” He stops and looks at the Marshal who moved away to cover both of us when I mention the money changing banks.
I smile when the Marshal spins around to grab a withdrawal form. I notice many customers have gone to write withdrawal forms instead of making the deposits they originally had. I also notice a few people haven't left the bank but go back to fill in withdrawal forms. The ones at the tellers are changing the forms they have there and the tellers aren't happy with what's happening. Harrison and I stand there staring at each other for a few minutes. While we do people take out their money and dart outside. By the time Harrison is back under control the Marshal is back with all of his money and his two deputies are in line for theirs. The bank is full of customers with withdrawal slips after their money.
We cross back to Saul's bank and the Marshal has a word with his two deputies there who then dart over to the bank. I pull my two men a lot further inside to avoid any risks of ethnic trouble.
Back in the vault with Saul who's just opening the third box, I say, “Saul, I just had a word with Harrison. He was rude enough to insist we talk in the main area of the bank. I told him the money he was expecting is now here and he isn't getting a cent. All the clients who heard have withdrawn their money and are quickly telling others. So I expect him to close his doors as soon as he can and not open them tomorrow. I also expect him to empty his vault to disappear with all the cash he can later today. Maybe the Marshal or County Sheriff can be persuaded to keep an eye on him, his partners, and the bank, to see that doesn't happen. Anyway, once he goes under I'll support you in any sort of buyout. Go through his list of loans and depositors, and you should take over those you know I'd be happy with you taking over. Just come up with a balanced list so you take over the accounts and transfer them here by recognising the balances as they stand. OK?” He looks up and nods yes. We both turn to look at the Marshal. He's leaving, moving fast and accelerating. “Saul, I trust you, take your time to count the money when you feel safe doing so, don't push yourself to rush it through or take any risks. I'll head back to my people now. I'll see you tomorrow, don't work too late, and make sure you have extra protection now.” He just nods his agreement with me.
My guards and I go out the back door and we head off behind the shops for a few blocks. We get back to the stables without any trouble.
Another enjoyable afternoon and evening in the cantina then back to the stables for the night.
With no more worries about the gold I feel it's time I allow the ladies to relax in an uptown hotel. I speak to Jesus about this and he agrees they should have the chance. We hire a buggy then load some clothes and stuff to move us Anglos to the town's best hotel. I organise for the boys to keep an eye on things and the animals with the cantina set to feed them on my bill by paying a lot in advance. I leave most of the dogs with the wagons under the control of Diana, the alpha female while I take Apollo, Thor, Woden, and Mars with me. The ladies ride in the buggy while us men ride horses. We all go armed and carry shotguns. The dogs jog along as an escort beside the buggy while we ride behind it.
The desk clerk is surprised when I walk in and order four rooms, I think he expected me to rob him. There's a bit of a hassle when the dogs go to follow us upstairs. The clerk says, “No dogs allowed in the rooms.”
I smile back while saying, “They're well trained guard dogs to protect us. Now, I know what you said, and I know you know. But, do you want to try and explain that to the dogs?” He gulps as he shakes his head no. I don't blame him, he's small, a bit weedy, and Apollo out masses him. That ends the no dogs in the rooms issue.
We split up the rooms - Steve and Sue in one, Harry and Tom another, the other ladies in the third, while I have the fourth. One dog will sleep in each room for added security. The horses and buggy go in the attached stables.
Santa Fe isn't a huge town yet, but it's still a respectable sized place with several streets in the business district. We find a nice restaurant for lunch then to the stores with ladies clothes and back to the restaurant for dinner. I don't mind because it makes the ladies happy and Steve is having fun watching Sue model stuff for him. I stand outside to watch the street with Harry and Tom, we also talk to anyone who'll talk to us as we're just passing the time of day while talking about things in general.
After dinner, on the way between the restaurant and the hotel, I see some men drag a well-dressed young man into an alley. I tell the rest to stay here while I dash into the alley. They're turning the far corner when I enter. A dash to the end, make a careful check around the corner - both ways, and I follow. Two men are holding the young man against the wall of an outbuilding behind this store and two more are beating him up while a fifth stands nearby. I draw my Dragoon and the shotgun when I step away from the wall. I now have a nice target of one beater and the watcher for the shotgun and the second beater for the Dragoon, all clear of the young man. I fire both weapons and all three targets fall at once. I aim the Dragoon at the man on the far side of the target while he draws his pistol, he changes his mind when I rearrange his chest with a .44 calibre ball. The last man lets go of the man and he puts his hands up. I smile and shoot him too. I can't afford to leave witnesses to point fingers or gunmen at me. A quick check to confirm they're dead, and I check their valuables. The only thing worth taking is a Derringer the watcher has. He's also on my Cause Kill List so this is a bonus situation for me.
I lift up the young man because he collapsed when they let him go, and put his arm over my shoulder while I move him away from the area. I'm sure someone will soon investigate the shots. A few minutes later I'm in another alley near the rest of my people. I call out to them and explain what happened while I reload my guns. I tell them to return to the hotel while I see the young man home then return to the hotel. We have an argument. In the end I agree to wait here for a while. A few minutes later Steve returns with Woden then he goes back to the hotel.
With the young man giving directions and Woden checking the way we make our slow way through the back streets to a house in the better part of town. After I knock on the back door a large black woman opens it to let us in.
She swings the door wide and motions me in while she says, “Master James, what are you doing coming in the back way?” She speaks with a thick local dialect, but I can't reproduce it so you get it plain.