A Glibertarians Exclusive: Mystical Child Part III
From the diary of Robert “Cairo Bob” Allen, 1841-1928
November 11, 1886 – Boise, Idaho Territory
I’d figured on having to ride up into the Nez Perce nation to find the man I was following, but sure enough, he found me, and on my second day in Boise, too. He was an odd fellow, too, just like the old man back in Carson City described him. Don’t think he had any worries about being scalped, that’s for sure, not with that pate of his. He had a hell of a proposition, too, and his timing was great, as I was pretty near out of money. I couldn’t have stayed in the Monarch Boarding House more than a couple more days, my wallet was getting as thin as a March wind in the mountains.
“Good God in the foothills, man, how long can this idiot Cleveland stay in office?” the drummer at the other side of the table was expounding – again. This time, at Bob’s second supper at the Monarch Boarding House, he was going on about silver-backed currency.
The only thing Bob knew about silver was that he’d never had much of it in his hands, and rarely less so than now.
“I tell you, he ought to be run out of Washington City,” the drummer went on. He slammed a fist down on the table, making the china jump. “Him and his bastard child.”
“Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa?” laughed another boarder. “Gone to the White House, haw haw haw!”
“Gentlemen!” Mrs. Dalby was just entering the room, bearing a large cauldron of chicken and dumplings. “I remind you, no talk of religion or politics at the table. If you wish to argue politics, kindly do so outside on the porch.”
Bob had learned quickly that Mrs. Dalby, although a widow lady well past middle age, was in fact a formidable woman with a will of iron and the voice of a top sergeant when events called for it. The drummer grinned sheepishly as Mrs. Dalby handed him a huge bowl full of steaming chicken and dumplings. “Sorry, ma’am,” he grinned. “Got a bit carried away, I did.”
“Kindly see that you do not do so again,” the Monarch Boarding House’s proprietor replied.
Bob ate up quickly – the supper was long on dumplings and somewhat short on chicken – and went outside to the porch to smoke a cigar he had won earlier in the day playing cards with the drummer. He had little interest in what he still thought of as Yankee politics, although the fact that Cleveland was apparently a Democrat appealed somewhat to the former Confederate that still lived within him.
Almost out of money, he reminded himself as he struck a match on the sole of his trooper’s boot and lit the cigar. He drew on the stogie; it was dry and acid-tasting, but he hadn’t had a smoke in weeks. Tomorrow, I either find some sort of work here in Boise or light out again.
A figure materialized on the corner of the porch and drifted towards Bob. Seeing the movement out of the dark in the corner of his eye, Bob instinctively grabbed at his holster, but his revolver was up in his room. At Mrs. Dalby’s command, no sidearms were to be worn in the house.
“Relax, friend, just wanted to speak with you,” a high-pitched, scratchy voice said. The man stepped into the light from the window; a short, rotund man, his bald pate shining in the dim light.
That’s him, Bob realized. That’s the man I’m looking for.
“Got another match?”
“Sure thing, friend,” Bob said. He took the matchbook from his jacket pocket and handed it to the man.
“Samuel P.C.E. Evans,” the short man said by way of introduction. He extracted a tobacco pouch and papers from his jacket pocket and quickly, expertly rolled a cigarette. Striking a match on the porch rail, he took a long drag and exhaled contentedly. He didn’t explain why he carried around the flock of initials.
“Bob Allen,” Bob said. The two shook hands formally. “They call me Cairo Bob.” He wasn’t sure why he had added that last. There was something odd about the round man, something that reminded Bob of someone.
“Cairo Bob?” Evans asked.
“Spent ten years in Egypt,” Bob explained. “After the war. The Khedive was building an Army, wanted help training his troops, and I had nothin’ else to do, so…”
“Ah,” Evans said. “Southron, then, are you?”
“That’s right. South Carolina.”
“From Virginia myself,” Evans nodded. “Well, the part they call West Virginia now. Spent three years in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. You?”
“Wade Hampton’s cavalry, purt near the whole war.”
“You and I, we may have been on the same field a time or two, then.”
“Reckon we were.”
Evans took another drag and looked at Bob sidelong. “Heard one of the boarders say you was looking for some work.”
“That I am,” Bob agreed. “Damn near down to my last dollar.”
“Would you be interested in heading up north into Canada for a while? Got a lead on something up north of the border; might be something pretty big. Need someone to ride up there with me, find a place called Pyramid Peak. We’d be looking for the grave of a fella buried up there somewhere.”
“What terms did you have in mind?” Bob asked.
“Fifty-fifty split of whatever we find,” Evans said.
“Well, fine. What are you expecting to find?”
“Ever hear tell of a Spanish explorer name of de Vaca?” Bob shook his head. “Story goes that he criss-crossed the country, looking for seven lost cities of gold. Now, history says he failed, but according to the Nez Perce, one of his soldiers, man name of Ruiz, found one of the cities. Streets not paved with gold, but plenty of bar and sculpted gold to be had. He recovered as much as he could carry but died up there in the mountains, up in Canada. He had a partner, who buried him up there and brought word back to the Nez Perce of the place called Pyramid Peak, where Ruiz’s grave is and where the gold is stashed, but the partner died before he could get back to civilization.”
“Why didn’t the Nez Perce chase this thing down, if they know all about it?”
Evans shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe they think the old boy was lying. Maybe they just don’t care. Anyway, I’ve been through that country up in Canada, and I think I may know the peak they’re talking about. I need a partner to help me get up there, find this place, dig up the gold and bring it back. What do you say?”
“Long ways up there,” Bob said reflectively. “We’d need a grubstake, maybe a pack horse each. All I got is my saddle horse and damn near no money.”
“Don’t worry none about that,” Evans shook his head. “I’ll arrange for grub and pack horses. If we find anything, I’ll take that stake back out of the gold before we divide it up.”
“That’s fair,” Bob agreed. “Nothing but. When you want to leave?”
“Best we do not draw too much attention,” Evans said. “Tomorrow, you go to see Colonel Appleton on the west edge of town. He sells horses. Find a couple of good strong pack animals. I’ll stake you, oh, ten dollars per horse; that should get a couple of decent ones. While you’re doing that, I’ll arrange for a month’s worth of flour, bacon, and beans. How you fixed for guns and ammo?”
Bob frowned. “Give me a moment to weigh that.” He though hard on the contents of his saddlebags. “Reckon I got enough powder and ball for my revolver. Got a Spencer rifle, almost out of rounds for it; got one full magazine and three empty ones. If anyone in town has any .56 Spencer, I could sure use some.”
“I’ll see what I can do. Do we have a deal, then, sir?”
“We do,” Bob said. They shook hands again, and Evans faded away in to the dark, disappearing just as he had appeared.
A man in the corner approached me for a match.
I knew right away he was not ordinary.
He said, “Are you looking for something easy to catch?”
I said, “I got no money.” He said “That ain’t necessary.”