The Gunsmith 394: The South Fork Showdown by J. R. RobertsThe Gunsmith 394: The South Fork Showdown by J. R. Roberts

The Gunsmith 394: The South Fork Showdown

byJ. R. Roberts

Mass Market Paperback | September 30, 2014

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DAM CROOKS

Secret Service Agent Jeremy Pike calls on the Gunsmith to help investigate the South Fork Sporting Club outside Pittsburgh, where the likes of Dale Carnegie and Henry Frick go hunting—and don’t take kindly to strangers. When Clint’s reputation earns him an invitation to the exclusive club, he starts asking questions that the venerable members would rather not answer—especially about the dam on their property that’s about to burst, leaving the town below to suffer the consequences. But negligence is only one of the dirty secrets he discovers, and soon it’s time for Clint to go on a hunting trip of his own…
 
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J.R. Roberts is the author of the long-running Gunsmith western series, featuring the adventures of gunslinger Clint Adams.
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Title:The Gunsmith 394: The South Fork ShowdownFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 6.75 × 4.2 × 0.6 inPublished:September 30, 2014Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0515154970

ISBN - 13:9780515154979

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“The dam needs to be repaired,” Charles said, “in more than one place.”ONEPittsburgh lay sprawled out in front of Clint Adams as he regarded it from the saddle. He’d been to big cities like New York and Chicago, and other major cities like Denver and San Francisco. Pittsburgh had grown by leaps and bounds since the one and only other time he’d ever been there. A major city now with paved streets and multistory buildings. He knew there’d be elevators and telephones there. He didn’t mind telephones, but he didn’t like elevators. Not one bit.“Let’s go, big fella,” he said to Eclipse, urging him into a canter. “Time to get down to business.”*   *   *As he rode into the city, Clint saw the electric streetlights, the trolleys, and an occasional automobile. Pittsburgh was marching determinedly toward the twentieth century.He reined in Eclipse in front of the Steel House Hotel and dismounted. He grabbed his carpetbag and rifle and entered the lobby.The lobby had a high ceiling with a crystal chandelier, and was furnished with a half-dozen burgundy divans and just as many armchairs. The people milling about, entering and exiting the dining room, elevator, and staircases, were mostly well and expensively dressed.He approached the front desk, and the clerk—also well dressed—eyed him dubiously, with one eyebrow arched.“Yes?”“I need a room.”“Indeed,” the man said. “The rooms here are quite expensive, you know.”“Is that a fact?” Clint asked. “You want me to turn my pockets inside out for you?”“Sir?”“So you can count my money?”“Sir,” the man said, “that won’t be necessary.” The clerk turned the register to face him. “Just sign in and we’ll see what we can do to find an appropriate room.”“Thank you.”Clint signed his name while the clerk made a show of trying to find him an “appropriate” room. Clint noticed he was looking along the bottom row of keys.“Problem?” Clint asked, turning the register back around.“Uh, no,” the clerk said, “I’m just, uh . . .” He glanced at the register, then stopped and took a good long look.“Adams?” he asked.“That’s right.”“Um, the Clint Adams?”“I don’t know of another one,” Clint said. “Is that a problem?”“Uh, no, sir, Mr. Adams,” the clerk said. “No problem at all.”The clerk suddenly reached up and took a key from the top row. “Here we go.”“Thank you,” Clint said, accepting the key.“Would you like help with your bag, sir?”“No,” Clint said, “I’ve got it, thanks.”“Just let me know if there’s anything at all the house can do to make your stay more pleasant, Mr. Adams.”“I’ll do that.”Clint picked up his bag and rifle and walked to the stairs.“Mr. Adams?”He stopped, turned, and looked at the clerk.“We have an elevator.” The man pointed.“What floor am I on?” Clint asked.“The third.”“I can walk,” Clint said, and started up the stairs.*   *   *After Clint Adams disappeared up the staircase, the clerk waved to one of the bellboys.“Yes, Steve?”“Jimmy,” Steve Edison said to the bellboy, who was actually three years older than him, “find Mr. Frick.”“Sir?”“Henry Frick,” Steve said. “You know who he is?”“Well, yeah, but . . . I ain’t never talked to him.”“Well, find him and give him a message,” Steve said.“What’s the message?”Steve wrote it on a slip of paper and passed it to Jimmy.“Just give him that.”“Okay.”“Do it now.”“I’m on duty—”“No, Jimmy,” Steve said. “I’ll cover for you.”“Well, okay,” Jimmy said dubiously.“You won’t lose any tips,” Steve promised as Jimmy left.TWOIn his room, Clint set the rifle down in a corner, dumped the bag on the big bed. The clerk had given him a large room. He had no way of knowing if it was one of the largest, though.The hotel had indoor plumbing, which he’d seen a few times before. Water running into a basin from outside, a “water closet” with a pull chain flush toilet. The toilet had first appeared in England during the 1870s but, at the start of the 1880s, had begun appearing in the United States.He washed up and made use of the toilet, then went back down to the lobby. The clerk straightened his back as he saw Clint approaching the desk.“What’s your name?” Clint asked.“Steve, sir.”“Steve, how is the steak in your dining room?”“The best in town.”“Are you supposed to say that, or is it actually the best in town?”“Well . . . it’s pretty good for a hotel dining room,” Steve said. “But there are restaurants in town with better.”“Thanks for the honesty,” Clint said. “I’ll try it and let you know.”“Yes, sir,” Steve said. “By the way, sir, you can sign your check in the dining room and then the meal will be charged to your room. You can pay for everything when you check out.”“Is that a fact?”“Sir,” the clerk said. “It’s for your convenience.”“Well, thanks,” Clint said, “but I’ll probably just pay for my meals as I eat them.”“Yes, sir,” Steve said, “as you wish.”Clint waved a hand and walked over to the entrance of the dining room. As he peered in, he saw that the place was very busy, but he spotted several empty tables.When a man in a tuxedo approached him, Clint said, “I’d like that table,” pointing to one against the wall.“Are you a guest of the hotel, sir?”“Yes, I am.”The white-haired man bowed at the waist and said, “Follow me, sir.”Clint followed him to the table he’d requested. The man allowed Clint to sit, then tried to put his napkin in his lap.“That’s okay,” Clint said, grabbing the napkin, “I’ve got it.”“Yes, sir,” the man said, with no offense taken. “I’ll send your waiter right over.”“Thank you.”When the waiter came, Clint ordered a steak dinner and a pitcher of beer.“Would you like to sign the check to your room, sir?” the man asked.“No,” Clint said, “I’ll pay.”“As you wish, sir.”The waiter left, returned first with the pitcher of beer and a mug, and then with the dinner platter. Clint cut into the steak and found the first bite acceptable, possibly because he was particularly hungry.He commenced eating with gusto.*   *   *Henry Frick’s business was steel.Ever since the building of the Eads Bridge in Saint Louis—the first bridge ever built from steel—steel had become one of the most valuable commodities in the country. Frick had partnered with Dale Carnegie, and the two rich men were becoming increasingly richer.The bellboy found Frick in his office, but wasn’t allowed to see him. He was stopped at the desk of the man’s secretary.“I’m supposed to deliver this personally,” he told her.“Giving it to me is delivering it personally,” she assured him.“I don’t know . . .”She extended her hand and said, “I do.”He stared at her for a few moments, then gave in and handed it over.“Thank you,” she said.He remained standing there, obviously expecting a tip.“I presume the man who sent the message will take care of you,” she said.“Uh, well, yeah.”“Then off you go.”He frowned, then turned and left.The woman stood up, went to her boss’s door, and knocked.“Come!”She opened the door and entered.*   *   *Henry Clay Frick was in his mid-thirties. While he sat at the helm of his own company, H. C. Frick & Company, he was also the chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company.He sat back in his chair and watched his attractive secretary as she walked toward his desk.“A bellboy just left this for you,” she said, handing him the note.He did not immediately read it.“Bellboy from where?”“The Steel House.”“All right,” he said. “Thank you.”He watched her hips sway as she walked to the door and left. Then and only then did he unfold the note, secure in the knowledge that his secretary had not read it.THREEClint took a walk after he finished his palatable, if rather unremarkable, meal. Later he’d ask the clerk for the names of those restaurants he’d mentioned.When he returned from his walk, he was surprised to see an expensive hansom cab with brass lamps parked in front of the hotel. He didn’t think anyone would come looking for him so soon.He entered the lobby as nonchalantly as he could, heard someone call out his name. He turned to see a man walking toward him, wearing a black suit.“Yes?”“Sir,” the man said. “I have a cab waiting for you outside.”“And why would that be?”“Mr. Frick has invited you to supper.”“But I had a late lunch.”“Pardon my saying so, sir,” the man said, “but you wouldn’t want to miss this meal.”“Is that right?”“Yes, sir.”“Then maybe I should change my clothes?”“No, sir,” the man said, “you’ll be fine the way you are.”Clint followed the man out to the cab, entered as the driver held the door open for him.*   *   *Clint felt the cab draw to a stop, felt the carriage shift as the driver stepped down. Then the door opened and the man appeared.“This way, sir.”Clint stepped out and found that they’d stopped in front of a restaurant called the Four Leaf Clover Steak House.“Are the steaks good here?” he asked.The driver turned to look at him and said, “They’re excellent.”“Good.”“This way, sir.”As he followed the driver, they marched right past a doorman and a maître d’. They walked past diners seated at white tablecloth-covered tables, with expensive china and silverware. The diners were nattily attired—the men in well-tailored suits, the women in brightly colored dresses and gowns.The driver led him to a table where a bearded man in his mid-thirties sat. There was a bottle of champagne on the table, in a bucket of ice, but it hadn’t yet been opened. The man was holding a glass with some amber liquid in it.As they approached, the man had the good manners to stand.“Mr. Adams, please meet Mr. Henry Clay Frick.”“Mr. Adams!” Frick said, extending his hand. “Delighted, sir, absolutely delighted.”“Mr. Frick.”“Thank you so much for accepting my invitation to dine with me.”“Well,” Clint said, “I’ve been told the steaks here are excellent.”“They are, they are!” Frick said, his eyes positively glittering. “Please, have a seat.”Clint nodded, sat as the driver held the chair for him.“That’ll be all, Jason,” Frick said to the driver. “You can wait outside.”“Yes, sir. Enjoy your meal, gentlemen.”The driver withdrew, and a waiter approached.“May I?” Frick asked Clint.“Please.”“Two T-bone dinners, Carson,” Frick said, “with everything. Onion?” he asked Clint.“Smothered in them.”“Onions, as well,” Frick said.“Yes, sir,” the waiter said. “Shall I open the champagne, sir?”“We’ll take care of that ourselves,” Frick told him.“As you wish, sir.”Frick’s suit was impeccably tailored, probably cost more than a good horse. His shirt had been boiled to a blinding white.“I understand you’ve just arrived in Pittsburgh,” Frick said.“Only just,” Clint said.“I hope you’ll forgive me for accosting you so soon upon your arrival, but when I received word that you were here—”“From someone at the hotel?” Clint asked.“Yes,” Frick said. “I like to know when people of note come to town.”“I see.”“And the Gunsmith,” Frick went on, “well, who could be of more note than you?”“Lots of people,” Clint said.“You’re modest,” Frick said. “Your reputation—your legend—has spread across the entire country.”“Mr. Frick,” Clint said, “I don’t mind letting you buy me an excellent steak dinner, but please stop talking about my reputation.”“As you wish, sir,” Frick said. “I actually have a special reason for inviting you to dine with me, but why don’t we leave that for after dinner.”“That suits me,” Clint said.The waiter brought their meals, and true to his word, Frick remained silent while they ate.FOUR“Well?” Frick asked later. “What’s the verdict?”Clint sat back in his chair and said, “That was one of the best steaks I ever had. No, not just the steak, but the whole dinner.”“And would you like dessert?”“Do they have peach pie?”“They have every pie imaginable,” Frick assured him.They asked the waiter for a slice of peach pie and a slice of apple, with coffee.“Well,” Clint said after one taste, “this pie and the coffee both live up to the rest of the meal.”“Good,” Frick said, “I’m glad to hear that. And there are even better restaurants in Pittsburgh than this one.”“I find that hard to believe,” Clint said.“I’ll show you,” Frick said, “that is, if you stay in town long enough. What brought you here in the first place?”“I just thought I’d come east for a while,” Clint said. “It’s been many years since I’ve been in Pittsburgh.”“Well,” Frick said, “many things have changed. In fact, that’s one thing I wanted to talk to you about.”“Yes,” Clint said, “you did mention you had something you wanted to say to me. Since you’ve given me one of the best meals of my life, I suppose I can give a listen.”“Wonderful,” Frick said. He finished his last bite of pie and sat back. “Do you know who I am? I mean, have you ever heard of me?”“Mr. Frick,” Clint said, “I know about the work that you and Mr. Carnegie have been doing. With steel, I mean.”“That’s good,” Frick said. “Well, several years ago some colleagues and I—and by that I mean about fifty of us—started a club near here, near South Fork, above the dam.”“A club?”“It’s called the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. It’s very exclusive.”“Meaning it’s only for the rich.”“Anyone can join,” Frick said. “Anyone who can afford the club dues, that is, and who is approved.”“Meaning the rich.”“Do you have some resentment toward the wealthy, Mr. Adams?” Frick asked.Clint took a moment before answering.“Keeping in mind that it’s my money that is buying you the dinner you just ate,” Frick said lightly.“I have resentment,” Clint said, “toward rich people who misuse their money.”“Meaning?”“Meaning they try to . . . gain power over a town . . . a state . . . and country even.”“You mean like someone who uses his money to try and take control of . . . the government?”“I don’t know,” Clint said. “That sounds like we’d be talking about all politicians.”“Do you have something against politicians?”“I have the same problem,” Clint said. “The misuse of their power.”“And do you think that running an exclusive fishing and hunting club is a . . . misuse of power and wealth?”“Not necessarily.”“Perhaps, then,” Frick said, “you should take a closer look.”“How so?”“I would like to invite you to visit the club as my guest,” Frick said.“Why?” Clint asked. “I don’t have the money to join, even if I like it.”“There are instances when a person is asked to join, and the club dues are waived. It is a . . . special membership.”“And I would have to qualify for this?”“Yes—but I am not asking you to apply. I am only asking you to come as a guest. Just to . . . see what we have, and what we do . . . and who we are.”Clint waited a moment, then asked Frick, “How’s the food up there?”*   *   *The driver, Jason, took Clint back to his hotel.“Thank you,” Clint said as the man opened the door of the carriage.“You’re welcome, sir.”“Tell me, Jason . . . can I call you Jason?”“Of course, sir.”“Have you been to the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club?”“I have had that honor, sir.”“Are you a member?”“Oh, no, sir,” Jason said. “I simply drive Mr. Frick to and from.”“Have you eaten there?”“I have been fed in the kitchen, with the staff.”“Do you think I should accept the invitation to visit?” he asked.“I believe you should be honored, sir.”