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STRIKE OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN
By William W. Johnstone J. A. Johnstone
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2012 William W. Johnstone
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDeekus Templeton had once ridden with Frank and Jesse James. It wasn't particularly a matter of pride for him, especially since the James brothers were well known figures ... even idolized in some places, while few had ever heard of Deekus Templeton.
What bothered Templeton the most was that he was the one who had planned the train robbery in Muncie, Kansas, where they got $30,000. That was the biggest haul from any train robbery the James gang made, and it was Frank and Jesse who were celebrated, not the one who planned it. Shortly after that, Templeton decided to go into business for himself.
He had learned that the Red Cliff Special would be carrying a money transfer of $50,000 from a bank in Pueblo, Colorado to the bank in Big Rock, Colorado, which was more than any job the James brothers had ever pulled. To stop the train, he had piled wood and brush onto the track.
"The train's acomin', Deekus!" one of his men shouted.
"Torch the pile," Templeton called, and a moment later a rather substantial fire flamed up from the pile of brushwood.
Smoke Jensen had gone to Denver with Pearlie and Cal to set up a plant that would ship beef, already butchered and processed, in refrigerated cars to markets in the East. Handling already processed meat was much cheaper than shipping live cattle, and the result was a greater profit to the rancher.
Smoke built the plant, not only for himself, but also for other cattlemen in Colorado as well as in Wyoming. He had left Pearlie and Cal in Denver to see to the final details, and was on the way back home, changing trains in Pueblo so he could take the Red Cliff Special on its overnight run. He would be arriving in Big Rock at six o'clock in the morning.
There were no sleeper cars on the train so Smoke was napping as best he could in the seat. The train had been under way for five hours when it came to a sudden, shuddering, screeching, and banging halt, stopping so abruptly it awakened Smoke with a start. He didn't know what was going on, but he knew it certainly wasn't a normal stop. He looked through the window to see where they were, but the lanterns that lit the inside of the car cast reflections on the windows, making it difficult to see through them, and into the dark outside.
"Why did we stop?" someone asked.
"Did we hit something? I was thrown so, that I nearly broke my neck," a man complained.
Though he couldn't see anything through the windows, Smoke could hear voices outside, rough and guttural, and he had a feeling the train was being robbed. He pulled his pistol and held it down in his lap.
"Everyone stay in their seats!" a man shouted, bursting into the car from the front. He was wearing a hood over his face, and he held a pistol pointed toward the passengers in the car.
"What is the meaning of this?" a man shouted indignantly. He started to get up, but the gunman moved quickly toward him and brought his pistol down sharply over the man's head. The passenger groaned and fell back. A woman who had been sitting with him cried out in alarm.
"Anybody else?" the gunman challenged. "Maybe you folks didn't hear me when I said everyone stay in their seats."
Another gunman came in to join the first. "What happened?"
"Nothing I can't handle. Is everything under control out there?"
"Yeah, ever'thing is fine. Just keep ever'one in here covered." The second gunman left the car.
The remaining train robber took off his hat. "Now folks, this is what I'm goin' to do. I'm goin' to walk down this aisle and hold my hat out." He chuckled. "You know, sort of like what they do in church. But I don't just want a coin or two like you do when you're in church. I want ever'thing you have. And if I see any of you holdin' out on me, why, I'll have to shoot you."
The gunman started down the aisle making his collection, and though the first few people cooperated, when he got to a young woman holding a baby, she protested.
"Please, this is all the money I have. I'm taking it to my husband so we can buy a house."
"I said, don't nobody hold back," the gunman said menacingly. "Now you just empty that bag of your'n into my hat."
"Leave the lady alone," Smoke said.
The train robber looked over at Smoke. "Mister, this here is a train robbery. Maybe you don't understand how train robberies work. You see, I take the money, and people like you give the money. So you might as well get your money out, 'cause soon as I get the money from the little mama here, why I'll be takin' yours."
"If you want to live, put the hat down now so the people can get their money back, and leave this car," Smoke said.
"If I want to live?" The gunman's laugh was a high-pitched cackle. "Mister, I'm the one holdin' the gun here. Or ain't you noticed?"
"Leave this car now, or die," Smoke said calmly.
"I've had about enough of you, mister." Pointing his pistol at Smoke, the train robber pulled the hammer back. That was as far he got before, in a lightning move, Smoke brought his own pistol up from his lap and pulled the trigger. Dropping his gun, the robber clutched his chest, and staggered back a few steps. "What the hell?" he asked in a pained voice.
One of the other train robbers jumped onto the train. Seeing his partner down, and an armed man standing, he fired at Smoke. His shot went wide and the bullet smashed through the window beside Smoke's seat, sending out a stinging spray of glass but doing no other damage. Smoke brought his own pistol around and squeezed off a second shot. The robber staggered back, hit the front wall of the car, then slid down to the floor in a seated position, already dead.
"What's going on in there?" Deekus Templeton shouted from outside the train.
One of the other men looked into the car, then jerked his head back. "Clay and Dooley are both shot dead!" he called. "I'm gettin' out of here!"
"You can't leave, McClain! We ain't got the money yet!" Templeton shouted.
"Get it yourself! There's only the two of us left!" McClain started to ride away but Templeton raised his pistol and shot him off the horse.
"Now there's only one of us," he said as he rode hard to get away.
When the train reached Big Rock the next morning the bodies of the three would-be train robbers were laid out on the depot platform. Each one had his arms folded across his chest. The hoods had been removed, and all three had their eyes open. A dozen or more citizens of the town were standing there looking down at the bodies.
Sheriff Carson was there as well, and he was talking to Smoke. "You say you only got two of them?"
"Yes, these two," Smoke said, pointing to the two men he shot.
"Yeah, that's Clay Brandon and Dooley Waters," Sheriff Carson said, pointing to the two men Smoke had shot. "The other one is Len McClain. If you didn't shoot him, who did?"
"There were four of them. It was the fourth one who shot this man."
"I don't suppose you heard his name called out," Sheriff Carson said. It was more of a wishful declaration than a question.
"No, I didn't."
"Well, the bank will certainly be thanking you. There was a fifty thousand dollar shipment on that train."
"That's funny," Smoke said. "If there was that much money in the shipment, why were they bothering with trying to steal the few dollars they could get from the passengers?"
One of the men in the crowd of onlookers was Deekus Templeton. He had already learned that Smoke Jensen was the man who had foiled his robbery attempt and stood behind the others, watching Jensen and the sheriff as they were engaged in conversation. He had heard of Smoke Jensen. Who in that part of the country had not heard of him? But it was the first time he had ever seen him, and he wanted to get a good look at the man. He didn't want to ever blunder into some foolish mistake as had Clay and Dooley.
Templeton smiled as he realized he had an advantage. He knew what Smoke Jensen looked like, but Jensen didn't know what he looked like.
Then he heard Jensen ask the same question that had been puzzling him. Why were they bothering with trying to steal the few dollars they could get from the passengers?
Phil Clinton, the publisher and editor of the Big Rock Journal had heard about the attempted train robbery and came down to the depot with paper and pen to interview the passengers. He also brought a camera with him, set up a tripod, then took a photograph of the three dead men. A good newspaperman, Clinton knew a picture would supplement the story, and he employed a very good woodcut artist who could make that happen.
His article appeared in the Big Rock Journal.
Attempted Train Robbery Foiled
Three Outlaws Meet Their Fate
The residents of Big Rock, and indeed of Colorado and other Western states and territories, are well acquainted with the many attributes, skills, and talents of Smoke Jensen. To his long list of accomplishments may be added preventing a robbery of the Red Cliff Special on Friday last.
It is to the fatal detriment of Clay Brandon, Dooley Waters, and Len McClain that they were unaware they were about to encounter Mr. Jensen and, as their final lesson in life, learn of his artistry with a pistol. Mr. Jensen, who owns Sugarloaf Ranch, located some seven miles west of Big Rock, was a passenger on the Red Cliff Special last Friday night, when the ill-fated robbery attempt was made. It was Mr. Jensen's presence, and especially his quick response, that saved the passengers' money, and perhaps even their lives.
That an attempt was made to rob the train is not surprising when one considers that locked in the safe of the express car, and being watched over by a bonded special agent, were fifty thousand dollars in negotiable United States currency. What is surprising is that, despite the large prize available to them, the robbers chose to augment that bounty with the meager collection of money they could glean from the passengers.
It was that particular ill-advised venture that caused two of the robbers to step onto the cars and there encounter Smoke Jensen. The result of that encounter was that Mr. Jensen has added further luster to his already illustrious carrier. It is said that the fourth would-be robber left the scene empty-handed. The identity of the fourth robber is not known.
Chapter TwoDijon, France
Pierre Mouchette was a French Army Officer and an 1869 graduate from St. Cyr, the leading military academy of France. After St. Cyr, he'd entered Saumur, France's premier cavalry school, and after leaving Saumur, he'd taken part in the Franco-Prussian War. It was there that he encountered the American general Phil Sheridan who was in France to observe the war. Sheridan had told him of the American West, and though it had no immediate bearing on Mouchette's military career, he remembered it later when, after his third duel, he was told he had gone as high as he was going to go in the French military.
In January of 1879, orders were cut appointing Capitaine Pierre Mouchette as disbursement officer. These orders called for him to transfer two and one half million francs from Paris to the army finance office in Dijon. Mouchette made very careful plans, selecting as his assistant a sergeant who was approximately his same build. They picked up the money in Paris, then went by train to Dijon.
In Dijon, they mounted horses and started toward the division headquarters. When they were but a mile out of town, Mouchette turned off the road.
"Capitaine Mouchette, where are you going?" Sergeant Dubois asked. "The headquarters is this way." He pointed down the road.
"This is a shorter way," Mouchette said.
"Shorter? How can it be shorter? This road goes straight to the headquarters."
"Would you argue with an officer, Sergeant?" Mouchette scolded.
"Non, mon capitaine."
"Then this is the direction we will go."
"Oui, mon capitaine."
The sergeant followed Mouchette dutifully until they were deep into a wooded area. "Capitaine Mouchette, forgive me, but we are now some distance from headquarters. I think we should turn back."
Mouchette turned toward the sergeant. "Do you?" he asked with a humorless smile on his face.
It was then Sergeant Dubois saw Mouchette holding a pistol leveled toward him. "Capitaine, what are you doing?" Dubois shouted in fear.
Mouchette pulled the trigger, and the bullet struck Dubois between the eyes.
Working quickly, Mouchette removed his uniform and put on the civilian clothes he had previously packed in his saddlebags. Then, stripping Dubois of his uniform, he replaced it with his own. "There now, Sergeant, you have just been promoted to capitaine. I salute you, Capitaine Mouchette."
It was not by chance Mouchette had chosen that particular spot, for earlier he had hidden a can of kerosene in the bushes. He poured kerosene on Dubois' face and set a match to it, keeping the fire going until all the sergeant's features were burned away and only a blackened skull remained. After that, he put his billfold in the pocket of the uniform Sergeant Dubois was now wearing. In it, were Mouchette's identity papers, the orders appointing him as disbursement officer, his membership card to the officers' mess, and a letter he had recently received from a military clothier in Paris, quoting the price of a new dress uniform.
With his deception completed, Mouchette crossed the border into Switzerland and journeyed to Geneva. There, he presented himself to the bank as a French businessman. "I shall be going to North America shortly to invest in a business opportunity in New York and I should like to change some French currency into American dollars. What is the current exchange rate?"
"It is five francs for one dollar," the teller said. "How much do you wish to exchange?"
"Two and one half million francs."
The teller made no reaction to the large sum. He picked up a pencil and began figuring the amount.
"Your amount comes to four hundred eighty-seven thousand dollars. That sum is, of course, less the twelve thousand five hundred dollar conversion fee."
The teller counted out the American dollars. "Do you care to recount it, Monsieur?"
"No, I'm sure it is all there."
"Then if you would sign this certificate, please?" Mouchette signed it as Antoine Dubois.
It was as Pierre Mouchette that he devised the plan to steal the payroll. It was as Antoine Dubois that he exchanged the francs for U.S. dollars. And it was as Colonel the Marquis Lucien Garneau that he boarded a ship in Hamburg, Germany, bound for New York. Lucien Garneau was how he would be known.
New York, New York
Garneau got off the ship in New York and immediately bought a local newspaper. He saw an article that caught his interest.
Intelligence From Overseas
Killer of Captain Mouchette Still at Large Sergeant Dubois Suspected of Heinous Crime
Captain Pierre Mouchette was appointed military finance officer with the responsibility of transporting a large sum of money from Paris to Dijon, but was foully murdered by one he trusted most. When Captain Mouchette did not show up at the appointed time, a search was launched, resulting in the gruesome discovery of the charred remains of the gallant captain and the discovery that both the money and the sergeant were missing.
It is believed that the cowardly Sergeant Dubois, animated by greed and a lack of personal morals, betrayed the trust so necessary in the military between the officers and the ranks, and when least expected, killed Captain Mouchette. The foul deed done, the disgraceful sergeant tried to cover his action by burning the captain's body. The attempt was unsuccessful as he was identified by his uniform and personal papers. The despicable Sergeant Dubois remains missing.
Garneau smiled as he realized everything had worked out exactly as he had intended. He went directly from Castle Garden, his point of entry, to Grand Central depot to continue his plan, recalling a conversation he'd had with General Sheridan, when the American general had talked about Colorado. He'd told how beautiful the mountains were, but what had most interested Garneau about Colorado was Sheridan's off-hand comment. "A person could go into the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and, if he wanted to, just drop off the face of the earth."
Finding a map of Colorado, Lucien Garneau put his finger on the chart with no particular destination in mind. The closest town to the tip of his finger was Big Rock, in Eagle County, so he bought a ticket for that destination and boarded the train.
Excerpted from STRIKE OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN by William W. Johnstone J. A. Johnstone Copyright © 2012 by William W. Johnstone . Excerpted by permission of PINNACLE BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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