Longarm #433: Longarm And The Stagecoach Robbers by Tabor EvansLongarm #433: Longarm And The Stagecoach Robbers by Tabor Evans

Longarm #433: Longarm And The Stagecoach Robbers

byTabor Evans

Mass Market Paperback | November 25, 2014

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Longarm’s riding shotgun to catch a pair of highwaymen…

They say actions speak louder than words. So when two masked men with sawed-off shotguns stop the South Park stagecoach, they don’t need to announce their intentions. Since the silent thieves are helping themselves to the United States mail, Deputy Marshal Custis Long is charged with reining in the robbers.

When he’s not driving the stagecoach to smoke out the highwaymen, Longarm is driven to distraction by the gorgeous and insatiable widow who owns the stagecoach line. But with the bandits lying low, Longarm starts to feel like he’s just spinning his wheels—until he sets a trap that will have the hushed highwaymen crying out for mercy…
Tabor Evans is the author of the long-running Longarm western series, featuring the adventures of Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long.
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Title:Longarm #433: Longarm And The Stagecoach RobbersFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 6.7 × 4.2 × 0.5 inPublished:November 25, 2014Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0515154873

ISBN - 13:9780515154870

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Chapter 1United States Marshal William Vail looked up from the telegram on his desk, a scowl flickering across his normally bland expression. He peered at his deputy and said, “I have some work for you, Long.”“Not more warrants t’ serve, I hope,” Deputy Marshal Custis Long said.“No, Longarm, I just got this. It’s a gang that has been robbing the mail. They’ve hit the Carver Express Company twice in the past month, and the local law isn’t doing anything to stop them. At least not according to what the express line people believe. That could just be a matter of personal differences. I wouldn’t venture an opinion about that. But there is no question that robbery of the mail falls under our jurisdiction as a Federal crime. I want you to go look into it.”“Carver,” Longarm repeated. Then he shook his head. “Don’t think I’m familiar with that line, boss.”“Yes, you are, just not by that name. Carver bought out Henry Blaisdell up in South Park. You knew Henry. This is the same deal under a different name. But they took over Henry’s mail contract along with everything else,” Vail said.“Ah, them I know,” Longarm conceded. “Two robberies of the mail?” he asked.The balding but still lethal U.S. marshal nodded. “Yes, and that makes it our business, not just Carver’s.”Longarm nodded. A tall man with seal brown hair and a sweeping handlebar mustache, he was a study in brown and black. The deputy wore a brown tweed coat, a calfskin vest, and brown corduroy trousers tucked into black stovepipe boots. Perhaps more important, he also wore a black gun belt strapped around narrow hips, the holster carried on his belly canted for a cross-draw and containing a double-action Colt .45 revolver.He reached into his coat for a cheroot, bit the twist off, and spat the bit of tobacco into his palm but, seeing Billy Vail’s scowl, did not light the slender cigar.“I’ll grab my bag an’ catch the next train up to Fairplay,” he said.Vail nodded. “Henry has the schedule,” he said, the Henry this time referring to his clerk.Fairplay was the major mining community in the South Park area. The railroad had recently reached it. The rest of the surrounding area of South Park was served by the stagecoach line formerly owned by Blaisdell and now, apparently, by Carver. Under either ownership, the mail contract gave the government a certain amount of authority and privilege.“If you find that you need help,” Vail said, “it’s as close as the telegraph line. Keep that in mind.”Deputy Custis Long nodded. “Don’t I always.”“As a matter of fact, no, you don’t always,” Vail said. “But do keep it in mind this time.”“Whatever you say, boss,” Longarm told him. The tone of his voice suggested that he did not at all mean it. But the prudent thing was to say it anyway.Longarm touched his forehead with one finger in salute, then left Billy Vail’s office. He retrieved his flat-crowned, snuff brown Stetson from the hat rack in the outer office and stopped at Henry’s desk to collect a fistful of expense vouchers before he headed home to get his carpetbag.Chapter 2“There won’t be another passenger coach up-bound until tomorrow,” the helpful clerk told him, “but if you hurry, you can catch the ore cars going to Fairplay. The only passenger leaving this evening is going to Silver Plume and that isn’t even the right direction. You want the Como route. But if you want to catch that one, you’ll need to hurry.”“Do I have time to get my bag?” Longarm asked.“If you rush, you should make it.”Longarm hurried out of the stately Federal Building on Denver’s Colfax Avenue and hailed a cab. He climbed onto the metal step at the side of the passenger compartment and gave the address of his boardinghouse.“And hurry. There’s something extra in it for you if you get me to my train on time.”“You got it, gov’nor,” the hack driver said.The man applied his whip and got Longarm home in record time.“Wait here. I need to grab my bag and be right back.”“Say, I’ve heard that one before. Once you’re gone, mister, I won’t ever see you again,” the cabbie said with a grunt of disgust.“Shit, if you don’t think I’m telling you the truth, mister, climb down from there and come with me,” Longarm suggested.The driver took him up on it, stepping down from his driving box and clipping a weight to his horse’s bit. “All right, now where?” he said.The man followed Longarm into the boardinghouse and upstairs to Longarm’s room. His carpetbag was always kept packed and ready for travel so it was only a matter of moments to grab it, take a last look around to make sure he was not forgetting anything—although he probably was—and head back downstairs.“All right. You wasn’t lying to me,” the cabbie admitted. He seemed almost disappointed to discover that his fare had been honest about his intentions. “Now where?”“Train station,” Longarm said.“Which one?”“Fairplay.”“I’ll have you there in jig time, mister,” the cabbie promised as he unfastened the horse from its tether and mounted the driving box. Longarm entered the cab, and the driver took up his lines and cracked his whip over the horse’s ears.True to his word, the man delivered Longarm to the train depot just in time for him to catch the up-bound string of now empty ore cars. They would load through the night and bring mineral-bearing ores back down to the Denver smelters the next day.There was no passenger accommodation, but as a deputy United States marshal, Longarm was entitled to passage amid the smoke and cinders in the caboose.Longarm handed a generous tip to the cab driver, picked up his carpetbag, and headed for the depot.Chapter 3It was nearly midnight when Longarm stepped down onto the cinders near the loading chutes in Fairplay, Colorado. The train crew would work through the night loading ore from the several mines in and near the small town and carry the ore down to Denver the next day.In the meantime Longarm needed to find accommodations for his stay in the South Park area, where the mail thefts were occurring.He hefted his carpetbag, took a last puff on the cheroot he had been smoking, and tossed the butt onto the tracks.The town was large enough to have two good hotels, another not so good, and a number of cheap flophouses where the hardrock miners slept. Longarm headed for the Pickens House. He had stayed there before.“Marshal Long!” the desk clerk greeted him when he entered the lobby. The man sounded genuinely pleased to see him.It took Longarm a moment to call the man’s name to mind. “Hello, Nathan. Would you have a room for me? I may be here for a few days.”“Please, Marshal.” Nathan sounded offended. “We always have a place for you.”Nathan rang a small bell and moments later a sleepy-eyed bellhop came groggily out of a back room. “Yes, sir?”“Take Marshal Long’s bag up to room eight, Johnny.”“Yes, sir.” The boy came around the registration desk to take Longarm’s carpetbag and lead the way upstairs to the small but clean and tidy room.“Would you like a pitcher of water, sir?”Longarm nodded and the kid, awake now, hurried away. Longarm did not know how far the boy had to go to fetch the water, but he was back almost immediately carrying a full pitcher.“Do you want a tub or anything?” the kid asked.“No, this will do for tonight.” Longarm gave the boy a nickel and bolted the door behind him.He stripped to his drawers and gave himself a quick wash to get rid of the feel of smoke and cinders left by riding at the back of the ore train then crawled gratefully into the clean sheets of the Pickens House’s bed.He still had the sense that he could almost feel the rumbling vibrations of the train and the monotonous click of the rails, but that did not stop him from dropping off to sleep within seconds of lying down.Chapter 4Longarm slept until well past dawn, unusual for him, but woke up refreshed. He dressed quickly and went downstairs to an overpriced breakfast—fifty cents for flapjacks and porridge, with no meat included. So much for the hotel dining room, at least in the morning.From there he walked through town until he found a barber shop and joined a small group of men waiting for shaves. Longarm kept his mouth closed and ears open, but no one was talking about the robberies. The barber, however, gave him a good shave and a splash of bay rum.“Any idea where I can find the stage line office?” Longarm asked when he got out of the chair.“Mister, you have to be new in Fairplay. There isn’t so much of it that anything could be hard to find. You just go down to the end of this block and turn right. The stagecoach depot is at the end of that block on your left.”Longarm nodded and paid the man for his shave. “Thanks. Reckon I’ll see you again now an’ then.”“Any time. I’m here every day but Sundays,” the barber said, turning and beckoning for the next man in line.Longarm exited the barber shop and ambled down the street and around the corner. Ahead he could see a set of corrals with heavy-bodied horses standing there swishing their tails. When he got closer, he could see the sign painted onto the tall false front over the building porch: CARVER EXPRESS CO., DAILY SCHEDULES, CHARLIE CARVER, PROP.He paused outside long enough to light a cheroot, then entered the stagecoach line office. There was a blond, middle-aged woman behind the counter fussing with some paperwork. She looked up when Longarm came in, a tiny bell over the door tinkling to announce his arrival.“Can I help you, sir? Our coach has already left on today’s run, but there will be another tomorrow.”Longarm leaned on the counter and produced his badge. “I’m hoping that I can help you folks, ma’am.” He introduced himself and said, “I’d like t’ speak with Mr. Carver if I may.”The woman laughed. It was an old joke for her. “I am Charlie Carver, Marshal, Charlie being short for Charlise. And yes, you may certainly speak with me. What can I do for you?”“You can tell me the lay o’ things here. All I know is that there’s been some robberies o’ the mail. That and the fact that Fairplay is serviced by the railroad now but you still have stagecoach service. So tell me about it, please.”“Would you like to come back to my office, Marshal? I have some fresh coffee on the stove there.”“Coffee sounds just fine, ma’am,” he said, removing his hat.She unlatched the flimsy gate that separated the lobby area from the ticket desk and motioned him inside. Her private office lay behind the ticket section. There seemed to be no other employees present. But then she had said that the Carver coach had already rolled for the day’s run.“Sit down, please. Can you take your coffee black? I don’t keep any condiments. I never use them myself.”“Black would be fine.”Charlie poured two cups and handed one to Longarm before she sat at her rolltop desk and turned her swivel chair around to face him. “What do you need to know, Marshal?”“How’s about we start with everything an’ go from there?” Longarm said.“Before we get into this, would you mind putting that cigar out? I’m allergic to them.”“Yes, ma’am.” Longarm crossed his legs and dutifully stubbed his ash out on the sole of his boot. He looked around, but there were no ashtrays or spittoons in the room so he tucked the cold cheroot into his pocket. “Now, where were we?”Chapter 5He liked the woman’s way of speaking. Calm, clear, and matter of fact.While Longarm listened, he sat looking at Charlie Carver. He liked what he saw. She was a handsome female although she tried not to show it. He guessed she wanted to be judged for what she did rather than what she looked like. That was a reasonable enough attitude. But she was a damned good-looking woman nonetheless.“There have been three robberies,” she said.“Three? I thought there were only the two.”“Then you didn’t hear about the one yesterday evening.”“No, I didn’t.”“It was the same as the other two,” Charlie said. “This is a small operation. We have only the one coach, and I don’t employ a shotgun guard to ride along. There hasn’t been any reason to worry about robbers expecting to take a gold shipment. Hasn’t been ever since the railroad reached Fairplay, and the trains began carrying ores down to Denver for smelting.”“What did they do before that?” Longarm asked.“They processed the ore up here as best they could, but everyone concedes that they were only able to extract a small percentage of the metal that way. Down below in the big smelters they achieve almost a ninety percent extraction.“The point is, of course, that we simply don’t carry anything of great value on our little route,” she said.“Tell me about the route,” Longarm said.Charlie shrugged. “There isn’t that much to it. We run six days a week. Not on Sundays. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays we make a circle in one direction. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays we turn around and make the same circle but in the opposite direction.“We service Bailey, Lake George, Guffey, and Hartsel. It’s just a big circle. We carry passengers, a little freight, and of course, the mail pouches. The Hedley brothers have a line that runs from Colorado Springs up through South Park and down through Trout Creek Pass to the Arkansas River Valley and on to Leadville. Our lines intersect at Hartsel. I don’t know if you are familiar with the hotel and the baths there.“Anyway, we exchange mail pouches at the hotel in Hartsel. Anything coming on to Fairplay we take. Anything to be carried down to Manitou or Colorado City or the like we send down by way of the Hedleys.“To tell you the truth, Marshal, our little line depends on the income we receive for carrying those mail pouches. There is precious little regular income beyond that. There are very few passengers nowadays and even less freight, so it comes down to the mail. What I fear is that our mail contract will be revoked if we can’t deliver.”The woman stood and began to pace and clench her hands together.“Ours is a tiny line. Even smaller since the railroad got here and our service area was reduced. Now it is just my driver and me. He takes care of the horses and the driving. I take care of the office.”Longarm reached for a cheroot by habit, remembered the lady’s allergy, and took his hand away. “How’d you come to own the line?” he asked.“I am a widow, Marshal. Bertram and I were married for more than twenty years. He was a mining engineer. He was killed in an accident underground. The company paid me a small death benefit plus Bert had taken out a life insurance policy. Between them, I would have had enough to live on for a few years, but then my funds would have been exhausted. I needed to find a source of income. I knew Hank Blaisdell was thinking of selling out and retiring to California, so I made him an offer. This is the result.”Longarm nodded. “An’ if the line folds?” he asked.“I really don’t know. I have no skills.” She laughed, a sound with no mirth in it whatsoever. “I’m even too old to become a prostitute. I don’t know what I could possibly do to survive without this little express line.”Longarm smiled. “Then let’s us see what we can do t’ keep any o’ that from happening, shall we? An’ the first thing we need t’ do is to find whoever it is that’s been robbing your coach an’ put ’em behind bars. I’ll need to talk with your driver. When will he get back?”“He won’t be back until evening, but of course I will introduce you to him,” she said.“All right, thanks.”“Is there anything else I can tell you? Anything I can do?”“Not right now,” he said, “but if I think of anything, I’ll let y’ know.”“Anything,” she said. “Anything at all.”Longarm stood and thanked her again then stepped outside. He was wanting a smoke in the worst way.But then he probably would not have been thinking so much about smoking except for the fact that he was not able to. That made him want a cheroot all the more. And as soon as he was out the door to the street, he was reaching into his pocket for that cigar he had not been able to finish inside.Chapter 6The beer at Ikey Tyler’s Bearpaw Saloon was flat and the whores ugly, but the beer cost only a nickel a mug—Longarm had no idea what the whores cost and was not interested in finding out—and the place had a good flow of customers even at the morning hour.That would be because several of the mines in the district operated around the clock, and because the shifts worked on varying hours, it was evening for someone nearly all the time.