Innocents' Massacre cont'd
“Everyone is here Stone. What’s the word from this nigger?”
The old man’s wavering voice was filled with fear. He sat bent in his chair in the center of the bank. He was a shriveled creature who looked to have been of small stature even in the prime of his life, which was clearly well passed. Milky film covered bitter old gray eyes that held a sense of importance time could not dull. His features were sharp but had lost their delicateness with age. Elegant well-tailored clothes hung from his slender frame as loosely as once taut skin. The long white hair down to his shoulders seemed to shimmer, but could not distract from the liver spotted bald top of his pate. His twisted arthritic hands grasped the gold horn topped cane that kept him sitting upright in some semblance of authority and self-control. But his body shook lightly with a palsy that betrayed his frailty. In the middle of Lindsey Bank and Trust of Necessity, Jonas Groupier held court. Thus it was appropriate that he sat in lush environs. The Bank itself was opulent with cherry oak shining proudly everywhere. It was, its deceased owner had been proud to pronounce the finest bank west of Austin. His court was made up of the armed and diligent young men of Necessity. Men who where dedicated to the town and its last living founding father. Some were stationed at the curtained windows looking out nervously at the deserted streets of the town. Damien and Matt Jones stood sentry at the front door. Sheriff Miles stood in their midst before the last surviving elder his face a mask of exhausted reservation. Still he took a moment to choose his words.
“Mr. Groupier, that boy’s left ta talk to the Apache. If all is well he should return on tomorrow and we can move ahead with trying and hangin’ them old injuns. That is if that replacement Judge gets here from Austin.”
An uneasy quiet filled the room. The Jones boys glowered behind the Sheriff at the mention of the Judge. Their father had been the Judge of the town and they took his death as heavy as they took their embarrassment in the Saloon the day before. Groupier’s body shivered noticeably at the thought of his dead friend. Sheriff Miles looked at the clock on the wall as if it suddenly consumed all his attention. The ancient white man’s voice spit out hate.
“I financed the settlement of this town. I directed its growth with my long dead partner Rhinehold and the five murdered men in laying your jail Stone! Together we defended this land, this town duly deeded to us by the United States of America---“
The Sheriff’s scowled, as he interrupted Groupier’s litany, one heard by every citizen of this Necessity whenever the founding father had someone’s attention, undivided or otherwise.
“Yes sir, an’ I don’t aim ta allow this problem to go any farther. I jus’ wanted to keep the townsfolk outta danger and follow the proper-“
“Barrington, perhaps you should stop waiting on this government house boy and solve our problems…dammit my problem, in a more aggressive way. They’ll come after me next!”
Mr. Groupier slid back in his seat, his cane lolling in his hands. Caught in a fit of shaking, he could not speak. The men around him looked expectantly, waiting for the command that would allow them to alleviate his distress and theirs. But silent immobility reigned until the ancient collected himself. He collected himself enough to mumble.
“ I thought we had taught them damned Apache a lesson enough.”
Sheriff Miles turned back to at the bent shaking figure. He studied the well-dressed wraith with a new eye. A glint leapt to his tired eyes, then thinking better of the timing he softened his look.
“If the Injun Agent can’t work this out we’ll deal with it your way. But I would rather not endanger the women and children of this town. This whole area is infested with Apache brethren. We don’t know how many they got hiding in the hills much less the reservation. Me an’ my Deputy will keep an eye on the path from the town to the Reservation…for Agent Patrick’s return. If he don’t solve the problem we will.”
The room filled with the grumble of the foolhardy and the ignorant. Barrington heard young men sound like this before they faced a desperate enemy they knew nothing about. He also knew that grumble was nearly always followed by death. The unnecessary death of romantic men who thought they understood battle. As he walked toward the door he brushed past the Jones boys. Matt stared away his face red. Damien stared hard at Barrington, his face twisted with malicious intent.
“That nigger caught us unawares. That’s the only way he took my brother and me. Hell it was good you were there to save him from a right good trouncin’.”
The Sheriff opened the door. He paused a moment.
“Sure son. Too bad I won’t be there to help ‘em with them Apache hunh? Now they might give him a real tussle.”
As the doors of the bank closed Sheriff Miles heard the Groupier call to him.
“I am Necessity Stone. I made this town what it is. If they’re trying to kill the founders I’m the last! If I die at their hands Necessity will fall. I am Necessity!!”
With that the door closed and locked. Barrington walked away his mind moving way beyond his liking. He thought back to his soldier days fighting the Mexicans, of the family he never took the time to make, but mostly he thought with great trepidation the things men do out of necessity.