Tough Night in Tommyville

                                   Tough Night In Tommyville



Rude' awoke just as the wings of the 'hopper were stilled and folded back on to its upper

 fuselage. The landing had been perfect.  Rude' looked out the window onto a night scene

 of activity below.  Ground crew were hurrying about, checking the 'hopper for any flight

 strain, others rolled out fuel lines from the underground tanks.  Still others began

 unloading cargo and baggage destined for the stop here. Here being Thomasville on the

 west bank of the Lanyard river, territory of Arnold.   Rude' got a long yawn out while

 stretching out his long arms. He reached under his seat for his satchel bag, unstrapped

 himself from his well used seat and took some creaking steps towards the exit.   Most of

 the remaining passengers: a few soldiers, a missionary, and a handful male and female

 citizens were ahead of him out the exit.   Only Boatwright was still in his seat.   "Say hey

 "Long Man", you ready to go?" the shaven headed barrel chested gunman said to Rude'

 "Long Man" Manners, eye blink fast gun hand and freelance bodyguard.  Rip Tatum had

 sent for him, expenses paid and 1800 in his pocket.   Rip’s ex wife, Gracie and Daddy

 Green; long time river wolf and bushwhacker had made their presence felt.   There had

 been fifteen killings and a welter of both river and air jackings. The Regulars were being

 neutral; as long as their supplies and equipment came through unmolested, the rivals

 could have at it. Out here on the frontier it was how things played out. Rip wanted it

 to stay that way. 


 So the wire said to "Long Man”     "Let's at least take a stroll and get some fresh air and     

 some food,” Rude' said to his friend of over twenty years, eight as soldiers on the

 frontier, three of them as well paid strikers for eastern street lord Blip "Death' Tosten.


              The pair ambled down the ramp, seemingly casual, but eyes alert, with each step
measured. The fumes of the machines and workshops, contrasted with that of the natural smells of the night air.  The lights of the terminal did not overwhelm the radiance of the constellations above which shone clearly in the cloudless sky. The river was to the east behind some low hills.   Thomasvillelay to the north, its lights forming their own ground hugging galaxy. Before entering theterminal, they were met by two local strikers, young men, wearing their guns openly holsteredabout their waists.One had the acne scarred face of a delinquent, the other lookedliked he'd stabbed his grandmother over the last biscuit.  Several times.   “Nice welcoming party, Long Man. I was kindof hoping for a band and a speech from the mayor."     "It's early yet Boatwright, it might all be in town setting up." "Uh huh. Somethin'sbeing set up all right," Boatwright said dryly.


 The two locals stood under the outside lamp and looked at a 'type then up again at

 the two arrivals. Rude' grinned.              



Thomasville had been founded one hundred and twenty odd years ago, named after an

 easterner entrepreneur, Benjamin Thomas. The legends of Mr. Thomas, first perpetuated

 by Mr. Thomas in his later wealthier years, had him portrayed as a frontier born hellion,

 explorer, Nations fighter, scout for the cavalry of General "Ham fist" Hammond's

 bonafide elite Eleventh Lancers, fur trader and all around American hero@.

The reality was he had only been to the Northwest Territories and across the mighty
Lanyard River twice. Once, in what was his only true adventure, a journey upriver
to negotiate an individual treaty with the Chippewa-Sioux Nation for exclusive trading privileges, and thirty years later at the unveiling of the statue of "Corny"Cornelius Opopo, a true frontiersman and guide. Somehow thebronze image became that of the 5'6" and potbellied businessman,instead of the 6'1" west-man.


  Thomasville by then had become an important trade hub by that time.  A series

 of disasters, the tornado of '67, the occupation by regional separatists in '73 which

 culminated in a pitched battle and temporary siege by government troops, and the raid

 perpetrated by Tallyrandists revolutionaries from New France, in a cross border pursuit

 of the governor of the province of West Burgundy; a brutal,corrupt,monarchist, the Sieur

 De Montaigne.     That ended with the town being sacked and burnt to the ground, and

 De Montaigne's head stuck on the bronze barrel of Opopo/Thomas' rifle.    But the town

 was rebuilt each time, a military post was built up river to see such an invasion never

 took place again and colonists from the east and downriver came to settle in was to

 be noted as rich farmland.   But because of the lingering effects of regionalism the territory hadn't been declared a state of the Union, despite the presence of citizens in great numbers and a large garrison.   A succession of opportunistic or just plain stupid politicians wanted it to stay that way.  And so did theoutlaws, gamblers, smugglers, and renegades, locked out or unwilling to

 submit to the established crime lords of the east who flocked to the territory.


 Such a man was Rip Tatum.    Stanford "Rip" Tatum had parlayed a pool table, a green

 felt card table, and three Ohio River Valley whores into dominance of the shadowy

 side of the town. His first establishment was directly on the river; any recalcitrant

 customers either wound up swimming or floating face down the Big Muddy.


 From there he went into the barge business with an aggressive young Rasta Carib

 Islander, Royston Drowerd. From one barge they grew to a squadron of seven.

 When the first Aethernaught terminal in the northwest was built, a three airship operation

 was added that grew into a trans regional hauler of both commercial and government

 supplies. Then Rip met the voluptuous green eyed predator, Grace Neely-Baptiste from down river Cameron City. It was P- wallop at first sight. Grace, after a half year of polished demure

 poise and exquisite mannerisms, that won over the legit upper crust of Thomasville, soon

 got to making business deals on her own as well as having affairs.     Roys, one of the

 first lovers, wanted no further part in the shadier dealings spilling onto his legitimate side

 of the partnership.   He was talking, drunkenly, about wanting to be bought out. They

 found his body some twenty-five miles out of town, buried in a shallow grave, six bullets

 in him.     This finally blew the love haze from Rip, who sent the woman packing. Minus the two

 strikers she had kill Roys. Their bodies were never found.    Two years later, Grace returned, with a hardass from the Cameron City nest of vipers called the Banyon District, Lloyd “Daddy” Green.  A smiling, 6'3", 314 pound, coal black souled, redbone evil indulger. He led a gang of hijackers and thieves, preying on both river and air traffic. One of the reasons he hadn't been hung, as flagrant as his doings became, was he contributed to the campaign chests of certainpoliticians, local and national. But Cameron City recently hadcame under the control of true reformers and its jail cells and gallows were doing a brisk business. The idea of moving to wide opencountry suddenly seemed appealing to him as he listened to the enticing Grace andsniffing at the promised wealth,blood and possession of Grace in the distance.       Outside the terminal, a small line of carriages, both horseless and more  traditional, waited outside. The lanky youthwaved to one and a four horse conveyance came forward. Itresembled an old frontier

stagecoach body wise. Rude' suspected it was armored. The driver, coming into the light,

 was a red bearded white man with the look of a far westerner; leathery face, charro hat,

 and a fringed buckskin shirt. The striker went around the front pair, patting both roans’

 necks, and then pulled himself up into the shotgun's seat. To emphasize that, he placed a

 drum fed shotgun across his lap.  “I ain't giving that one a tip; he didn't open the door for

 us," Rude said climbing into the coach. "Now, now, Long Man. You're expecting weasels

 to act like poodles," was Boatwright's house masterish reply. Once they were seated they

 opened their satchels. Already wearing shoulder rigs, they took out their army issue .45s,

 they usually carried in  their rig's flapless holsters. They both slapped the magazines of their respective pistols fully into the heels.      


 After a moment, coming ahead of a luggage jockey pushing a flatbed cart with their

 suitcases and trunk, the more personable of the welcoming duo went to the back of the

 coach.     "You gents want your suitcases with you inside?" he called out. "Naw that's

 alright" Boatwright yelled back out the coach's window. There were sliding  metal plates

 in the windows. Also there were two low lit oil lamps inside. "I almost feel presidential,

 don't you?" Boatwright grinned sliding the window shut.    "I'm thinking of my speech

 right now. Should I be humble man of the people, or lofty wordsmith?"    "Man of the

 people, some of your words might go over their heads. I know they do mine."   "Aww

 Boatwright, you just being anti intellectual." "I ain't got nothin 'gainst Episcopalians!

 That girl in Silver Springs was Episcopalian, Some of my best friends..."  "Said you were

 the last to leave a party and the first to start a fight over somebody else's woman."   "That

 sir is a slander! I was an innocent bystander drawn in to the melees by the pleading eyes

 of the offended young women."   "That woman in Pittsboro wasn't so young."   “But her

 husband woke me up rather rudely."     They both laughed as the sound of the trunk being

 loaded came to them. A moment later the striker Dellums got in on the right side of the

 coach. He pulled from his vest a silver bound copper flask. “Local juice.  It's somewhere

 in the whiskey family.”  Dellums unscrewed the cap which served as a drinking mug and

 poured a shot of what did appear a citrus drink. "May I," Boatwright asked Dellums who

 actually smiled, further peeling back a bit his impression of the hardcore bravo. That

 changed to puzzlement when Boatwright instead of tossing it back, instead dipped a small

 thin strip of purple paper, into the cap. After a few seconds immersion, Boatwright took it

 out holding it up in the light for all to see. Where it had soaked in the liquid, it was now  a

 faded green. “Gaddamn! It’s alcohol and it’s drinkable but I don't know if any sane person would want to."  Boatwright as if to show where across that line he belonged, knocked back the

 drink in one swallow. “EEeyah! That'll burn off a hemorrhoid! One more please."Dellums did. Boatwright shook his head and smiled at Rude’.  “Remember when we were

 posted at Fort Millard and we were drinking Old Dirty Sock? Meet its cousin, New Filthy

 Drawers. Another shot please. Ahh! Thank you. "   "May I indulge, or are you in love,"

 Rude' said leaning against the corner of the coach, his long legs stretched out upon the

 opposite seat. "Mr. Dellums, would you be so kind as..." There was a violent lurching

 stop. Three shots rang out! "Green's bastards tryin' to do a bushwhack, " yelled down the

 young shotgun as the coach was turned and sped off down another less well kept road.

 Two booms of the shotgun highlighted the change in direction.    "They comin' after us!"

 "How you like this welcoming, Mr. Boatwright?"  Rude said no longer in his relaxed

 pose, drawing his .45. "Bout as much as gettin' shaved by a blind man with slush shakes,

 Mr. Manners!"  Shots pinged off the coach, telling Rude' it was armored.  And it wouldn't

 be long for the horses  slowed else become winded and useless.  He looked to

 Boatwright, whose eyes had lost all the previous good humor they once showed. He’d

 gone killer. Rude' turned to Dellums whose hand grasped the butt of his gun.   Rude’

 thumped the .45 against the roof several times. The coach began to slow. "My

 sentiments," Boatwright growled. Rude' opened the door on his side, as the coach came to

 a complete stop. "Thars a mess of 'bout seven or eight of the snakesuckas, " the driver

 called down . " Y'all up to it? "Rude and Boatwright said nothing as they took to both

 sides of the track. They heard horses coming up fast.


 "Trot on down a ways, we'll be right with you," was Rude's reply.   The coach rolled off

 into the dark.   The bushwhackers came right behind, some howling like the loups and

 coyotes.  Rude' took the first one, the. 45 held in both hands bucked as he pulled the

 trigger.   Boatwright took the last horseman, the strike sending the man's arms

 upward outstretched and he into a diver's plunge. Rude' sent the third falling back over

 the rear of his horse, falling in a heap amidst the now panic filled bushwhackers.

 Boatwright saw his second strike fall beneath the hooves of the man’s now bolting

 comrades’ horses. Wild shots from the survivors rang out in every direction, as they

 galloped off.    "Yo! Long Man! You up and whole?"   "Yeah! You?"   " I'm alright. Glad

 these stumblebums were amateurs.  If they had killed the horses things might have gotten

 mournful."  Both men walked up the road to where the dead lay.   "River trash. I'm

 surprised they know how to get on a horse let alone ride one,"  Boatwright kicking

 over the body of the one Rude' killed first.  The askew wool cap, the gold hoop

 earring, dark collarless pullover shirt, suspenders, and the corduroy pants tucked into the

 laborer's boots generally was what a west country river man wore. The Illinois Tickler in

 the beaded sheath and the second revolver in his belt said he no longer was a honest

 working man. And never would have that opportunity again. Steps behind them tensed

them up, expecting the river rats but both relaxed, a bit, as they recognized Dellums come

 towards them.  The full moon's bright radiance on his ugly tough's face softened it.  “The

 welcoming committee," said Boatwright now back in a jovial mood. "I had told Mr.

 Boatwright that we would be met by a band, not a band of bushwhackers."  Dellums was

 confused on whether to laugh loudly or keep quiet.           

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