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The Long Arm Of Power








From: 'firebrand' Trevison

Presently Corrigan lit a cigar, biting the end off carefully, to keep it
from coming in contact with his bruised lips. When the cigar was going
well, he looked at Braman.

"What is Trevison?"

Pale, still dizzy from the effects of the blow on the head, Braman, who
was leaning heavily on the counter, smiled wryly:

"He's a holy terror--you ought to know that. He's a reckless,
don't-give-a-damn fool who has forgotten there's such a thing as
consequences. 'Firebrand' Trevison, they call him. And he lives up to what
that means. The folks in this section of the country swear by him."

Corrigan made a gesture of impatience. "I mean--what does he do? Of course
I know he owns some land here. But how much land does he own?"

"You saw the figure on the check, didn't you? He owns five thousand
acres."

"How long has he been here?"

"You've got me. More than ten years, I guess, from what I can gather."

"What was he before he came here?"

"I couldn't even surmise that--he don't talk about his past. From the way
he waded into you, I should judge he was a prize fighter before becoming a
cow-puncher."

Corrigan glared at the banker. "Yes; it's damned funny," he said. "How did
he get his land?"

"Proved on a quarter-section. Bought the rest of it--and bought it mighty
cheap." Braman's eyes brightened. "Figure on attacking his title?"

Corrigan grunted. "I notice he asked you for cash. You're not his banker,
evidently."

"He banks in Las Vegas, I guess."

"What about his cattle?"

"He shipped three thousand head last season."

"How big is his outfit?"

"He's got about twenty men. They're all hard cases--like him, and they'd
shoot themselves for him."

Corrigan got up and walked to the window, from where he looked out at
Manti. The town looked like an army camp. Lumber, merchandise, supplies of
every description, littered the street in mounds and scattered heaps,
awaiting the erection of tent-house and building. But there was none of
that activity that might have been expected from the quantity of material
on hand; it seemed that the owners were waiting, delaying in anticipation
of some force that would give them encouragement. They were reluctant to
risk their money in erecting buildings on the strength of mere rumor. But
they had come, hoping.

Corrigan grinned at Braman. "They're afraid to take a chance," he said,
meaning Manti's citizens.

"Don't blame them. I've spread the stuff around--as you told me. That's
all they've heard. They're here on a forlorn hope. The boom they are
looking for, seems, from present conditions, to be lurking somewhere in
the future, shadowed by an indefiniteness that to them is vaguely
connected with somebody's promise of a dam, agricultural activity to
follow, and factories. They haven't been able to trace the rumors, but
they're here, and they'll make things hum if they get a chance."

"Sure," grinned Corrigan. "A boom town is always a graft for first
arrivals. That is, boom towns have been. But Manti--" He paused.

"Yes, different," chuckled the banker. "It must have cost a wad to shove
that water grant through."

"Benham kicked on the price--it was enough."

"That maximum rate clause is a pippin. You can soak them the limit right
from the jump."

"And scare them out," scoffed Corrigan. "That isn't the game. Get them
here, first. Then--"

The banker licked his lips. "How does old Benham take it?"

"Mr. Benham is enthusiastic because everything will be done in a perfectly
legitimate way--he thinks."

"And the courts?"

"Judge Lindman, of the District Court now in Dry Bottom, is going to
establish himself here. Benham pulled that string."

"Good!" said Braman. "When is Lindman coming?"

Corrigan's smile was crooked; it told eloquently of conscious power over
the man he had named.

"He'll come whenever I give the word. Benham's got something on him."

"You always were a clever son-of-a-gun!" laughed the banker, admiringly.

Ignoring the compliment, Corrigan walked into the rear room, where he
gazed frowningly at his reflection in a small glass affixed to the wall.
Re-entering the banking room he said:

"I'm in no condition to face Miss Benham. Go down to the car and tell her
that I shall be very busy here all day, and that I won't be able to see
her until late tonight."

Miss Benham's name was on the tip of the banker's tongue, but, glancing at
Corrigan's face, he decided that it was no time for that particular brand
of levity. He grabbed his hat and stepped out of the front door.

Left alone, Corrigan paced slowly back and forth in the room, his brows
furrowed thoughtfully. Trevison had become an important figure in his
mind. Corrigan had not hinted to Braman, to Trevison, or to Miss Benham,
of the actual situation--nor would he. But during his first visit to town
that morning he had stood in one of the front windows of a saloon across
the street. He had not been getting acquainted, as he had told Miss
Benham, for the saloon had been the first place that he had entered, and
after getting a drink at the bar he had sauntered to the window. From
there he had seen "Brand" Trevison ride into town, and because Trevison
made an impressive figure he had watched him, instinctively aware that in
the rider of the black horse was a quality of manhood that one meets
rarely. Trevison's appearance had caused him a throb of disquieting envy.

He had noticed Trevison's start upon getting his first glimpse of the
private car on the siding. He had followed Trevison's movements carefully,
and with increased disquiet. For, instead of dismounting and going into a
saloon or a store, Trevison had urged the black on, past the private car,
which he had examined leisurely and intently. The clear morning air made
objects at a distance very distinct, and as Trevison had ridden past the
car, Corrigan had seen a flutter at one of the windows; had caught a
fleeting glimpse of Rosalind Benham's face. He had seen Trevison ride
away, to return for a second view of the car a few minutes later. At
breakfast, Corrigan had not failed to note Miss Benham's lingering glances
at the black horse, and again, in the bank, with her standing at the door,
he had noticed her interest in the black horse and its rider. His
quickly-aroused jealousy and hatred had driven him to the folly of
impulsive action, a method which, until now, he had carefully evaded. Yes,
he had found "Brand" Trevison a worthy antagonist--Braman had him
appraised correctly.

Corrigan's smile was bitter as he again walked into the rear room and
surveyed his reflection in the glass. Disgusted, he turned to one of the
windows and looked out. From where he stood he could see straight down the
railroad tracks to the cut, down the wall of which, some hours before,
Trevison had ridden the black horse. The dinky engine, with its train of
flat-cars, was steaming toward him. As he watched, engine and cars struck
the switch and ran onto the siding, where they came to a stop. Corrigan
frowned and looked at his watch. It lacked fully three hours to quitting
time, and the cars were empty, save for the laborers draped on them, their
tools piled in heaps. While Corrigan watched, the laborers descended from
the cars and swarmed toward their quarters--a row of tent-houses near the
siding. A big man--Corrigan knew him later as Patrick Carson--swung down
from the engine-cab and lumbered toward the little frame station house, in
a window of which the telegrapher could be seen, idly scanning a week-old
newspaper. Carson spoke shortly to the telegrapher, at which the latter
motioned toward the bank building and the private car. Then Carson came
toward the bank building. An instant later, Carson came in the front door
and met Corrigan at the wire netting.

"Hullo," said the Irishman, without preliminaries; "the agent was tellin'
me I'd find a mon named Corrigan here. You're in charge, eh?" he added at
Corrigan's affirmative. "Well, bedad, somebody's got to be in charge from
now on. The Willie-boy engineer from who I've been takin' me orders has
sneaked away to Dry Bottom for a couple av days, shovin' the
raysponsibility on me--an' I ain't feelin' up to it. I'm a daisy
construction boss, if I do say it meself, but I ain't enough of a fightin'
mon to buck the business end av a six-shooter."

"What's up?"

"Mebbe you'd know--he said you'd be sure to. I've been parleyin' wid a
fello' named 'Firebrand' Trevison, an' I'm that soaked wid perspiration
that me boots is full av it, after me thryin' to urge him to be dacently
careful wid his gun!"

"What happened?" asked Corrigan, darkly.

"This mon Trevison came down through the cut this mornin', goin' to town.
He was pleasant as a mon who's had a raise in wages, an' he was joshin'
wid us. A while ago he comes back from town, an' he's that cold an' polite
that he'd freeze ye while he's takin' his hat off to ye. One av his arms
is busted, an' he's got a welt or two on his face. But outside av that
he's all right. He rides down into the cut where we're all workin' fit to
kill ourselves. He halts his big black horse about forty or fifty feet
away from the ol' rattle-box that runs the steam shovel, an' he grins like
a tiger at me an' says:

"'Carson, I'm wantin' you to pull your min off. I can't permit anny
railroad min on the Diamond K property. You're a friend av mine, an' all
that, but you'll have to pull your freight. You've got tin minutes.'

"'I've got me orders to do this work,' I says--begging his pardon.

"'Here's your orders to stop doin' it!' he comes back. An' I was
inspectin' the muzzle av his six-shooter.

"'Ye wudn't shoot a mon for doin' his duthy?' I says.

"'Thry me,' he says. 'You're trespassers. The railroad company didn't come
through wid the coin for the right-of-way. Your mon, Corrigan, has got an
idee that he's goin' to bluff me. I'm callin' his bluff. You've got tin
minutes to get out av here. At the end av that time I begin to shoot. I've
got six cattridges in the gun, an' fifty more in the belt around me
middle. An' I seldom miss whin I shoot. It's up to you whether I start a
cemetery here or not,' he says, cold an' ca'mlike.

"The ginneys knowed somethin' was up, an' they crowded around. I thought
Trevison was thryin' to run a bluff on me, an' I give orders for the
ginneys to go back to their work.

"Trevison didn't say another word, but at the end av the tin minutes he
grins that tiger grin av his an' busts the safety valve on the rattle-box
wid a shot from his pistol. He smashes the water-gauge wid another, an'
jammed one shot in the ol' rattle-box's entrails, an' she starts to blow
off steam----shriekin' like a soul in hell. The ginneys throwed down their
tools an' started to climb up the walls of the cut like a gang av monkeys,
Trevison watchin' thim with a grin as cold as a barrow ful ov icicles.
Murph', the engineer av the dinky, an' his fireman, ducks for the
engine-cab, l'avin' me standin' there to face the music. Trevison yells at
the engineer av the rattle-box, an' he disappears like a rat into a hole.
Thin Trevison swings his gun on me, an' I c'u'd feel me knees knockin'
together. 'Carson,' he says, 'I hate like blazes to do it, but you're the
boss here, an' these min will do what you tell thim to do. Tell thim to
get to hell out of here an' not come back, or I'll down you, sure as me
name's Trevison!'

"I'm old enough to know from lookin' at a mon whether he manes business or
not, an' Trevison wasn't foolin'. So I got the bhoys away, an' here we
are. If you're in charge, it's up to you to smooth things out. Though from
the looks av your mug 'Firebrand's' been maulin' you some, too!"

Corrigan's answer was a cold glare. "You quit without a fight, eh?" he
taunted; "you let one man bluff half a hundred of you!"

Carson's eyes brightened. "My recollection is that 'Firebrand' is still
holdin' the forrt. Whin I got me last look at him he was sittin' on the
top av the cut, like he was intendin' to stay there indefinite. If ye
think he's bluffin', mebbe it'd be quite an idee for you to go out there
yourself, an' call it. I'd be willin' to give ye me moral support."

"I'll call him when I get ready." Corrigan went to the desk and sat in the
chair, ignoring Carson, who watched him narrowly. Presently he turned and
spoke to the man:

"Put your men at work trueing up the roadbed on the next section back,
until further orders."

"An' let 'Firebrand' hold the forrt?"

"Do as you're told!"

Carson went out to his men. Near the station platform he turned and looked
back at the bank building, grinning. "There's two bulldogs comin' to grips
in this deal or I'm a domn poor prophet!" he said.

When Braman returned from his errand he found Corrigan staring out of the
window. The banker announced that Miss Benham had received Corrigan's
message with considerable equanimity, and was rewarded for his levity with
a frown.

"What's Carson and his gang doing in town?" he queried.

Corrigan told him, briefly. The banker whistled in astonishment, and his
face grew long. "I told you he is a tough one!" he reminded.

Corrigan got to his feet. "Yes--he's a tough one," he admitted. "I'm
forced to alter my plans a little--that's all. But I'll get him. Hunt up
something to eat," he directed; "I'm hungry. I'm going to the station for
a few minutes."

He went out, and the banker watched him until he vanished around the
corner of a building. Then Braman shook his head. "Jeff's resourceful," he
said. "But Trevison--" His face grew solemn. "What a damned fool I was to
trip him with that broom!" He drew a pistol from a pocket and examined it
intently, then returned it to the pocket and sat, staring with unseeing
eyes beyond the station at the two lines of steel that ran out upon the
plains and stopped in the deep cut on the crest of which he could see a
man on a black horse.

Down at the station Corrigan was leaning on a rough wooden counter,
writing on a yellow paper pad. When he had finished he shoved the paper
over to the telegrapher, who had been waiting:

J. Chalfant Benham, B-- Building, New York.

Unexpected opposition developed. Trevison. Give Lindman removal order
immediately. Communicate with me at Dry Bottom tomorrow morning.
Corrigan.

Corrigan watched the operator send the message and then he returned to the
bank building, where he found Braman setting out a meager lunch in the
rear room. The two men talked as they ate, mostly about Trevison, and the
banker's face did not lose its worried expression. Later they smoked and
talked and watched while the afternoon sun grew mellow; while the somber
twilight descended over the world and darkness came and obliterated the
hill on which sat the rider of the black horse.

Shortly after dark Corrigan sent the banker on another errand, this time
to a boarding-house at the edge of town. Braman returned shortly,
announcing: "He'll be ready." Then, just before midnight Corrigan climbed
into the cab of the engine which had brought the private car, and which
was waiting, steam up, several hundred feet down the track from the car.

"All right!" said Corrigan briskly, to the engineer, as he climbed in and
a flare from the fire-box suffused his face; "pull out. But don't make any
fuss about it--I don't want those people in the car to know." And shortly
afterwards the locomotive glided silently away into the darkness toward
that town in which a judge of the United States Court had, a few hours
before, received orders which had caused him to remark, bitterly: "So does
the past shape the future."





Next: A Telegram And A Girl

Previous: Beating A Good Man



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