VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of Informational Site Network Informational
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

A Rumble Of War

From: 'firebrand' Trevison

The train that carried Corrigan's letter eastward bore, among its few
other passengers, a young man with a jaw set like a steel trap, who leaned
forward in his seat, gripping the back of the seat in front of him; an
eager, smoldering light in his eyes, who rose at each stop the train made
and glared belligerently and intolerantly at the coach ends, muttering
guttural anathemas at the necessity for delays. The spirit of battle was
personified in him; it sat on his squared shoulders; it was in the thrust
of his chin, stuck out as though to receive blows, which his rippling
muscles would be eager to return. Two other passengers in the coach
watched him warily, and once, when he got up and walked to the front of
the coach, opening the door and looking out, to let in the roar and whir
and the clatter, one of the passengers remarked to the other: "That guy is
in a temper where murder would come easy to him."

The train left Manti at nine o'clock in the evening. At midnight it pulled
up at the little frame station in Dry Bottom and the young man leaped off
and strode rapidly away into the darkness of the desert town. A little
later, J. Blackstone Graney, attorney at law, and former Judge of the
United States District Court at Dry Bottom, heard a loud hammering on the
door of his residence at the outskirts of town. He got up, with a grunt of
resentment for all heavy-fisted fools abroad on midnight errands, and went
downstairs to admit a grim-faced stranger who looked positively
bloodthirsty to the Judge, under the nervous tension of his midnight

"I'm 'Brand' Trevison, owner of the Diamond K ranch, near Manti," said the
stranger, with blunt sharpness that made the Judge blink. "I've a case on
in the Manti court at ten o'clock tomorrow--today," he corrected. "They
are going to try to swindle me out of my land, and I've got to have a
lawyer--a real one. I could have got half a dozen in Manti--such as they
are--but I want somebody who is wise in the law, and with the sort of
honor that money and power can't blast--I want you!"

Judge Graney looked sharply at his visitor, and smiled. "You are evidently
desperately harried. Sit down and tell me about your case." He waved to a
chair and Trevison dropped into it, sitting on its edge. The Judge took
another, and with the kerosene lamp between them on a table, Trevison
related what had occurred during the previous morning in Manti. When he
concluded, the Judge's face was serious.

"If what you say is true, it is a very awkward, not to say suspicious,
situation. Being the only lawyer in Dry Bottom, until the coming of Judge
Lindman, I have had occasion many times to consult the record you speak
of, and if my memory serves me well, I have noted several times--quite
casually, of course, since I have never been directly concerned with the
records of the land in your vicinity--that several transfers of title to
the original Midland grant have been recorded. Your deed would show, of
course, the date of your purchase from Buck Peters, and we shall, perhaps,
be able to determine the authenticity of the present record in that
manner. But if, as you believe, the records have been tampered with, we
are facing a long, hard legal battle which may or may not result in an
ultimate victory for us--depending upon the power behind the interests
opposed to you."

"I'll fight them to the Supreme Court of the United States!" declared
Trevison. "I'll fight them with the law or without it!"

"I know it," said Graney, with a shrewd glance at the other's grim face.
"But be careful not to do anything that will jeopardize your liberty. If
those men are what you think they are, they would be only too glad to have
you break some law that would give them an excuse to jail you. You
couldn't do much fighting then, you know." He got up. "There's a train out
of here in about an hour--we'll take it."

About six o'clock that morning the two men stepped off the train at Manti.
Graney went directly to a hotel, to wash and breakfast, while Trevison, a
little tired and hollow-eyed from loss of sleep and excitement, and with a
two days' growth of beard on his face, which made him look worse than he
actually felt, sought the livery stable where he had left Nigger the night
before, mounted the animal and rode rapidly out of town toward the Diamond
K. He took a trail that led through the cut where on another morning he
had startled the laborers by riding down the wall--Nigger eating up the
ground with long, sure, swift strides--passing Pat Carson and his men at a
point on the level about a quarter of a mile beyond the cut. He waved a
hand to Carson as he flashed by, and something in his manner caused Carson
to remark to the engineer of the dinky engine: "Somethin's up wid Trevison
ag'in, Murph--he's got a domned mean look in his eye. I'm the onluckiest
son-av-a-gun in the worruld, Murph! First I miss seein' this fire-eater
bate the face off the big ilephant, Corrigan, an' yisterday I was
figgerin' on goin' to town--but didn't; an' I miss seein' that little
whiffet of a Braman flyin' through the windy. Do ye's know that there's a
feelin' ag'in Corrigan an' the railroad in town, an' thot this mon
Trevison is the fuse that wud bust the boom av discontint. I'm beginnin'
to feel a little excited meself. Now what do ye suppose that gang av min
wid Winchesters was doin', comin' from thot direction this mornin'?" He
pointed toward the trail that Trevison was riding. "An' that big stiff,
Corrigan, wid thim!"

Trevison got the answer to this query the minute he reached the Diamond K
ranchhouse. His foreman came running to him, pale, disgusted, his voice
snapping like a whip:

"They've busted your desk an' rifled it. Twenty guys who said they was
deputies from the court in Manti, an' Corrigan. I was here alone,
watchin', as you told me, but couldn't move a finger--damn 'em!"

Trevison dismounted and ran into the house. The room that he used as an
office was in a state of disorder. Papers, books, littered the floor. It
was evident that a thorough search had been made--for something. Trevison
darted to the desk and ran a hand into the pigeonhole in which he kept the
deed which he had come for. The hand came out, empty. He sprang to the
door of a small closet where, in a box that contained some ammunition that
he kept for the use of his men, he had placed the money that Rosalind
Benham had brought to him. The money was not there. He walked to the
center of the room and stood for an instant, surveying the mass of litter
around him, reeling, rage-drunken, murder in his heart. Barkwell, the
foreman, watching him, drew great, long breaths of sympathy and

"Shall I get the boys an' go after them damn sneaks?" he questioned, his
voice tremulous. "We'll clean 'em out--smoke 'em out of the county!" he
threatened. He started for the door.

"Wait!" Trevison had conquered the first surge of passion; his grin was
cold and bitter as he crossed glances with his foreman. "Don't do
anything--yet. I'm going to play the peace string out. If it doesn't work,
why then--" He tapped his pistol holster significantly.

"You get a few of the boys and stay here with them. It isn't probable that
they'll try anything like that again, because they've got what they
wanted. But if they happen to come again, hold them until I come. I'm
going to court."

Later, in Manti, he was sitting opposite Graney in a room in the hotel to
which the Judge had gone.

"H'm," said the latter, compressing his lips; "that's sharp practice. They
are not wasting any time."

"Was it legal?"

"The law is elastic--some judges stretch it more than others. A
search-warrant and a writ of attachment probably did the business in this
case. What I can't understand is why Judge Lindman issued the writ at
all--if he did so. You are the defendant, and you certainly would have
brought the deed into court as a means of proving your case."

Trevison had mentioned the missing money, though he did not think it
important to explain where it had come from. And Judge Graney did not ask
him. But when court opened at the appointed time, with a dignity which was
a mockery to Trevison, and Judge Graney had explained that he had come to
represent the defendant in the action, he mildly inquired the reason for
the forcible entry into his client's house, explaining also that since the
defendant was required to prove his case it was optional with him whether
or not the deed be brought into court at all.

Corrigan had been on time; he had nodded curtly to Trevison when he had
entered to take the chair in which he now sat, and had smiled when
Trevison had deliberately turned his back. He smiled when Judge Graney
asked the question--a faint, evanescent smirk. But at Judge Lindman's
reply he sat staring stolidly, his face an impenetrable mask:

"There was no mention of a deed in the writ of attachment issued by the
court. Nor has the court any knowledge of the existence of such a deed.
The officers of the court were commanded to proceed to the defendant's
house, for the purpose of finding, if possible, and delivering to this
court the sum of twenty-seven hundred dollars, which amount, representing
the money paid to the defendant by the railroad company for certain grants
and privileges, is to remain in possession of the court until the title to
the land in litigation has been legally awarded."

"But the court officers seized the defendant's deed, also," objected Judge

Judge Lindman questioned a deputy who sat in the rear of the room. The
latter replied that he had seen no deed. Yes, he admitted, in reply to a
question of Judge Graney's, it might have been possible that Corrigan had
been alone in the office for a time.

Graney looked inquiringly at Corrigan. The latter looked steadily back at
him. "I saw no deed," he said, coolly. "In fact, it wouldn't be possible
for me to see any deed, for Trevison has no title to the property he
speaks of."

Judge Graney made a gesture of impotence to Trevison, then spoke slowly to
the court. "I am afraid that without the deed it will be impossible for us
to proceed. I ask a continuance until a search can be made."

Judge Lindman coughed. "I shall have to refuse the request. The plaintiff
is anxious to take possession of his property, and as no reason has been
shown why he should not be permitted to do so, I hereby return judgment in
his favor. Court is dismissed."

"I give notice of appeal," said Graney.

Outside a little later Judge Graney looked gravely at Trevison. "There's
knavery here, my boy; there's some sort of influence behind Lindman. Let's
see some of the other owners who are likely to be affected."

This task took them two days, and resulted in the discovery that no other
owner had secured a deed to his land. Lefingwell explained the omission.

"A sale is a sale," he said; "or a sale has been a sale until now. Land
has changed hands out here just the same as we'd trade a horse for a cow
or a pipe for a jack-knife. There was no questions asked. When a man had a
piece of land to sell, he sold it, got his money an' didn't bother to give
a receipt. Half the damn fools in this country wouldn't know a deed from a
marriage license, an' they haven't been needin' one or the other. For when
a man has a wife she's continually remindin' him of it, an' he can't
forget it--he's got her. It's the same with his land--he's got it. So far
as I know there's never been a deed issued for my land--or any of the land
in that Midland grant, except Trevison's."

"It looks as though Corrigan had considered that phase of the matter,"
dryly observed Judge Graney. "The case doesn't look very hopeful. However,
I shall take it before the Circuit Court of Appeals, in Santa Fe."

He was gone a week, and returned, disgusted, but determined.

"They denied our appeal; said they might have considered it if we had some
evidence to offer showing that we had some sort of a claim to the title.
When I told them of my conviction that the records had been tampered with,
they laughed at me." The Judge's eyes gleamed indignantly. "Sometimes, I
feel heartily in sympathy with people who rail at the courts--their
attitude is often positively asinine."

"Perhaps the long arm of power has reached to Santa Fe?" suggested

"It won't reach to Washington," declared the Judge, decisively. "And if
you say the word, I'll go there and see what I can do. It's an outrage!"

"I was hoping you'd go--there's no limit," said Trevison. "But as I see
the situation, everything depends upon the discovery of the original
record. I'm convinced that it is still in existence, and that Judge
Lindman knows where it is. I'm going to get it, or--"

"Easy, my friend," cautioned the Judge. "I know how you feel. But you
can't fight the law with lawlessness. You lie quiet until you hear from
me. That is all there is to be done, anyway--win or lose."

Trevison clenched his teeth. "I might feel that way about it, if I had
been as careless of my interests as the other owners here, but I
safeguarded my interests, trusted them to the regularly recognized law out
here, and I'm going to fight for them! Why, good God, man; I've worked ten
years for that land! Do you think I will see it go without a fight?" He
laughed, and the Judge shook his head at the sound.

Next: A Mutual Benefit Association

Previous: Another Letter

Add to Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 547