Mr. Bartlett sat in the land office, finishing up his paperwork, his mind distracted by the Navi case. A knock at the door disturbed Jed’s thoughts. Jed called for his quest to enter. A greenhorn looking gentleman with a bola hat and a nice suit and tie entered.
“Mr. Bartlett? Jed Bartlett?’ The man asked.
“That’s Correct.” Jed answered leaning back in his seat.
“The Lawyer?” The man continued to question.
“Yes.” Jed answered looking curiously at the man.
The Man stepped forward and offered his hand. ““Good to meet you sir. I am Reginald Prescott the third. Up from Albuquerque. I was hoping I could retain your services.”
Jed shook the man’s hand. “When?” Jed asked.
“Indefinitely sir, or at least until the situation is resolved.” Prescott said as he took of his hat and nervously played with it.
“Well, I am currently busy for the day, if you come back and see me tomorrow we can talk.”
“Well this is something that can be dealt with over time sir.” Prescott said, not wanted to be kicked out so quickly.
“Alright.” Jed continued to lean back in his chair and motioned for Prescott to continue.
“Well, I work for the first Bank of Albuquerque.”
“Yes I’m familiar with it.”
“Yes, and I’m sure your aware that we own a good stake in the First Bank of the West here in town. You know my father had the privilege of working with your father. Before the war I mean.”
”Alright.” Jed didn’t like the man mentioning his father and was now worried about the content of the discussion.
“When I heard that you came down to practice in New Mexico, I was please. Because you see, we need an honest man on this job. You are a honest man Mr. Bartlett?”
”So I’ve been told.” Jed said a little surprised at the question. Jed could tell that this man was very nervous.
“Good. We have a situation.”
“What sort of situation?”
“Well first I want to give you this.” He reached into his coat and pullout a billfold. He took out $200 and placed in on Jed’s desk. “That’s a consultation fee. So now you are under retainer for the talk and we are bound by the lawyer client privilege.”
Without thinking Jed scooped up the cash and quickly placed it in his lock box. ”Of course sir” he answered.
“Excellent as long as we are clear on that.”
Mr. Prescott stood quietly for a moment, obviously trying to figure out where to begin. “Over the last few months The First Bank of Albuquerque have seen a number of irregularities.”
“What kind of irregularities?” Jed’s interest peaked.
“Well, as you know largest commodity on the market is Ghost rock and the fine miners of your town pull quite a bit of it out of the Big Burro Mountains.“
”Ah yes the big burrito mountains.” Jed quietly commented.
“The big burro mountains I believe sir.” Prescott said, looking a little confused.
“Since ’63 when Ghost Rock came on the market, other commodities have been less scrutinized, if you know what I mean.”
“Like silver and gold?” Jed questioned.
“Yes sir. We’ve been noticed that some unfavorable rocks have been showing up.”
“Yes, painted rocks sir.”
“Ah Fool’s Gold!” Jed exclaimed, now understanding the nature of the talk.
“Yes, fool’s gold. We had a Ranger on retainer for a while. Unfortunately he was called back east, so he cannot continue the investigation. But he believes that the irregularity could be traced back to Harmony.”
“So you think someone in Harmony is painting rocks and passing them off as gold?”
“Yes sir. Now this is mainly our own fault. Our standards have not been up to… well, standard, if you know what I mean. But we can’t let this out. If people know that some of the gold we have is not real gold, it would ruin the bank sir.”
“So you’re saying that there is fake gold in the bank of harmony right now.”
“We removed that fake gold already sir and we would like you to head up an investigation. Now I know you’re not a Ranger or law in that sense. But we don’t know the people here. You know the lay of the land. You’re in the mud, as they say. So we would like you to look into this matter further. We want you to use whatever resources at your disposal to bring these men to justice.” Prescott paused to gauge Jed’s reaction, but could not tell what he was thinking. “Now we will offer you $10 a day. On top of that any associate you bring in $5 a day and a bounty of $25 for each head. That bounty could be dead or alive, but we would be grateful if at least one of these men were brought back alive for trial. A trail will help put this matter to rest for the few people who are aware of it and it will tell the public that you can’t mess with the coffers of the CSA. Now if you’re too busy, well this conversation will remain between us.”
”So when you say you want to hire me on retainer, does that mean you want me to stop seeing all other clients?”
“Negative sir. We do not want to interfere with your business. We have taken care of the initial problem. Our bank tellers are aware of the situation and are scrutinizing deposits more fully. So there is time. There is time sir. We just need someone to head up this investigation.”
“I would be happy to as soon as you sign these documents.” Jed reached into his desk and began writing up a contract for his services. When he was done, he handed it to Mr. Prescott. Mr. Prescott looked over the document and was satisfied with the information.
After the contract was signed, Jed continued. “OK well, I’ll run this over to the judge at my next appointment and have it certified.”
“And then we’ll be in business sir.”
Prescott shook Jed’s hand again. “I’ll be in town for three days. I’ll be staying at the Remington. Here is my business card. After I leave you can reach me in Albuquerque. If this goes well, then we may be able to form a strong relationship sir.”
“Fine fine. How do you prefer your correspondence? Mail, Pony Express or telegraph.”
Prescott thought about it for a moment. “Preferably handwritten because of the sensitive nature of this business, but I will take telegraph for short important messages.”
“Alright, sounds good.”
“I hope this will be the start of a great relationship between your office and the First Bank of Albuquerque.”
”So do I, yes. So is there someone I could speak to if I have an urgent need?” Jed asked as he stood to walk Prescott out.
“Yes. You can talk to Richard Baker. He’s a city manager.”
“Well, good day to you sir.” Jed shook Prescott’s hand once again.
“Good day.” Prescott said and left the land office.
Jed spent a few minutes locking things up in the office and putting on his coat and hat. Jed took a moment to look around the office, ensuring that he had everything, before heading out to Judge Timmons’ house.
After returning to Fu’s Laundry, Lily picked up a load of laundry to be delivered around town. She gathered up the laundry and placed it in her small wagon and hooked up her donkey, Xiaofan. She headed out around town.
As she neared The Jade Lady Bathhouse, two drunken miners stepped out in front of her with a third miner coming up from behind. Lily stopped the cart and tried her best to look small and innocent.
The First miner looked the young Chinese woman up and down with a leer.
“You look kinda Perddy!” The lead miners said.
Lily just sat there quietly, hoping that they would move on. Fearful of any repercussions that might befall her community if she did anything to these men, she waited for them to get bored with her and leave. One of the miners walked up next to her and began grabbing at her. Lily tried to move further down the wagon seat to prevent him from touching her. Lily prodded Xiaofan forward hoping to block them with the wagon, but the Miner in front of the wagon quickly grabbed Xiaofan’s reigns and stopped him from moving. Before Lily could react, the Miner next to her grabbed her and dragged her off the Wagon into the mud.
The three miners slowly move toward Lily as she slowly got to her feet. She glanced around and saw that she was near the Jade Lady Bathhouse and decided to make a run for it. The three men gave chase. Lily was able to quickly out pace one of the miners, but the other two were quickly on her heels. The leader of the miners tried to grab her. Lily turned quickly, and as her grandfather had taught her, she grabbed the man’s hand and flipped him into the mud. Pleased at the results she turned to run.
Lily got about ten steps before the second miner tackled her to the muddy ground. Her breath was completely knocked out of her. Pinned under the miner, Lily used his weight against him and reversed the pin. She was able to slip though his grip and flip out from underneath him. She planted her foot on his back as she sprang up and started to run again.
It was at this time that Lily noticed the Sheriff standing in the alley. As quick as she could, she ran behind the Sheriff. The miners were picking themselves off the ground, when they noticed the Sheriff.
“Gentleman!” The Sheriff said with authority.
All three men stopped in their tracks, looking at the Sheriff as he brushed his coat back to reveal his gun.
“Sheriff.” The lead miner said. His voice cracked a bit.
The Sheriff looked at Lily hiding behind him. “You ok, Lily?”
“Yes Sir.” She answered keeping her eyes on the three miners.
As the Sheriff looked back, one of the miner bolted. The other two looked around, a hint of fear on their faces.
“I’m giving you a warning, but only this once. Now get outta here.” The Sheriff growled.
The miner’s didn’t have to be told twice. They bolted from the alley into the street. Once they were gone the Sheriff covered his gun and turned to Lily.
“You’re a willy one, throwing men all around.” He said with a smile.
“They were out of balance.” Lily answered.
“Ya, you’ve told me that before. I still don’t understand that.”
Now out of danger Lily stood up straight. “My grandfather says that good balance is important and they didn’t have good balance.”
The Sheriff laughed. “Well, your grandfather is a good man, but next time kick them in the balls girl.”
“But they would have complained.” Lily said, obviously scared of any repercussions.
“That’s fine, they were out of line. Don’t be afraid of them complaining. I don’t know about no balance thing, but if you kick them in the ball they would defiantly not have any balance. Now what are you doing?”
“I was delivering laundry.”
“Well, I need your help getting to Mr. Becker’s unseen.” The Sheriff told her.
“Ok, Sure, but can you help me first?” Lily asked sheepishly.
“Sure what do you need?”
Lily looked back toward the Bathhouse. “Auntie Zheng doesn’t like dirt on her laundry and as you can see I’m too muddy.”
“She won’t mind me helping?” The Sheriff asked reluctantly.
“Not at all she would be honored to see you.” Lily told him.
The Sheriff and Lily went out into the street and maneuvered Lily’s wagon and Xiaofan toward the bathhouse. The Sheriff picked up the stack of laundry and entered the bathhouse, while Lily waited outside. The bathhouse was an elegant building. Silk curtains and tapestries lined the walls and doorways. The Sheriff could feel the steam coming from the other room. What struck him the most was the sweet smells that floated throughout the bathhouse. Before he could take it all in Mrs. Zheng appeared to greet him.
The Sheriff explained to her that Lily had been attacked and had gotten dirty and asked him to deliver the laundry. Mrs. Zheng was very happy to see him and playfully chided him for not coming in more often. The Sheriff, under the impression that the bathhouse was a house of ill repute, politely declined Mrs. Zheng’s services. Mrs. Zheng, continued to flirt with him and tried to explain that the bathhouse was simply a place for relaxation.
Finally the Sheriff broke down and agreed to come back next Tuesday for a bath and a message. Mrs. Zheng, having finally trapped the Sheriff was very pleased. With the date set, the Sheriff quickly fled the bathhouse. Outside Lily inquired if Mrs. Zheng was mad and the Sheriff reassured her that she was not. With the laundry dealt with, the Sheriff climbed into the back of the wagon with the dirty laundry and covered himself up. Lily then led Xiaofan to Mr. Becker’s house.