When Jim Keaton learns that his brother Billy has died and has left him an inheritance, Jim leaves his home in Del Rio, Texas, a sleepy border town along the Rio Grande River, and travels to Denver. He hears about his brother's dealings with the diamond fields and sets out to investigate.
Jim finds himself settling into the corner where Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming meet. While looking for the diamond field, he runs into hardheaded Ed Cole, a man set in his ways who uses public ground for sheep grazing. Befriending Cole places Jim in the middle of a nasty range dispute that could become deadly at any moment.
Suspicion arises when Jim recognizes Tom Horn, a former Indian scout but now a range detective with a reputation for eliminating rustlers without a trial. Horn is working on Cold Spring Mountain masquerading as a man named James Hicks. When men start dying, blame is placed on Horn. Only Jim knows the truth, and he's not sure he can or wants to handle that burden.
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DIAMOND FIELDS AND DEATHTHE FRAMING OF TOM HORN
By Bob Jourdan
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Bob Jourdan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA cold chill hit Jim Keaton as dusk settled over the streets of Denver. Even in the warmth of summer, the mile-high city changed dramatically when the sun dropped behind the mountains. He pulled his vest together, buttoned down the front, and continued his stroll along the streets.
He had never been in a city of this size before, and he found everything about it interesting, charming, and curious. Plateglass windows fronted every shop, and buildings extended as far as the eye could see, all brick and stone, many several stories tall. Streets were paved in places with the same bricks and stones, with carriages and wagons clattering about. And of all things, streetlamps lit every block. Turn-of-the-century progress had invaded the Queen City of the West, and Jim wanted to take in all he could in the short time he would be there. People strolled along every avenue, apparently doing the same thing. Many of the men were dressed in city suits and ties, escorting ladies in their long, full skirts, often carrying umbrellas even though there was not a cloud in the sky. He enjoyed sights never seen back in his hometown of Del Rio, Texas, a sleepy border town along the Rio Grande, pressed hard against Mexico.
A few folks glanced fleetingly at Jim, who was obviously not a city fellow. His six-foot frame was taller than most, and his dark bronze complexion showed that he was a Southwesterner, one accustomed to working out on the open range. His raven-black hair would have caused some to mistake him for a Mexican, but his soft blue-gray eyes would give him away. And then, of course, his relaxed attitude did not seem to fit in with the hustle and bustle of scurrying city dwellers, always in a hurry to nowhere.
Most shops along the streets were closed or closing, with the exception of the saloons that seemed to be on every corner. In the businesses that were still open, lamps burned, and their soft golden glow lit the interior just enough to allow the last customers to gather their goods. A leather shop caught Jim's fancy. The windows were filled with items familiar to him from his work with livestock. He was intrigued with the dozens of bridles and bits, spurs and saddles, all lined up for display. In the remote villages where he had spent his life, it was unusual to find more than a couple of these items in any one store.
As Jim studied the various goods through the glass, he noticed the proprietor moving toward the door, apparently just closing for the night. The door swung open, and out stepped a trim, nice-looking young lady, not at all the usual tired and matronly type most often seen running businesses. She appeared to be in her early thirties, probably of Spanish descent, with long black hair and typical dark-brown eyes that often flashed black as ebony, with a bright sparkle.
"Come in and look around. Still have a few minutes before I have to lock up. Got lots more good things inside." The lady was genuinely interested in her business and wanted to give Jim a chance to see what she had, things that most working folks seemed to always need or want.
"Oh, no ... I don't need anything. Just looking," Jim said. "More things here than I've ever seen in one place."
"Well, you come on in while I get things settled down for the night. There are some new things not shown in the window."
Jim stepped toward the door and then hesitated. "Will you be open very long?"
"Open just as long as you might need. I'm the owner, so I don't have any set time for closing. Let me show you something I've just taken in, something you might be interested in."
Jim moved inside, taking notice of things not in view from out on the street. There were heavy coats, wool blankets, shirts, boots, slickers—things he had not brought along with him from Texas, but things he might need if he stayed north very long.
"Oh, I'm Jody Quintana. And who are you?" the lady asked.
"I'm Jim ... Jim Keaton. Came up from Texas for some business with the lawyer down the street. Got to meet with him first thing in the morning."
"I thought you might be from out of town, Jim. And since you are looking at things in my store, I'd guess that you are a stockman, not a miner?" Jody observed as she moved from table to table, squaring things up, making them look nice for tomorrow's opening.
"I've always been around livestock, Miss Jody. Never been a miner. But that's part of why I'm up here. Lost my brother 'bout three months back to a mine cave-in. Got to take care of his will. Maybe you know the lawyer ... Mister Douglas Fitch?"
"Why, yes, Jim. He's a really nice man. His office is just a couple of blocks away. He does all my legal business for the store. You'll like him. Honest fellow too. But, Jim, let me show you what I just got from a spur maker down your way in Texas. His brother came up here a few days back with a gunnysack full of spurs. Name was Boone. Ever hear of them? Both make spurs, but what I want to show you is the best of them, marked B. Boone, the brother that didn't come along. His work is something to see!"
Jim knew he might have to buy a set of spurs if he stayed around very long. When Jody took him to a table toward the back of the store, he saw the best-looking spurs he had ever come across. Most were common, but several sets showed Mexican silver inlays, copper lines, highly polished steel, various types of rowels, and finely cut straps with bright buckles. Jim's old spurs back in Del Rio were plain and somewhat rusty with well-worn straps. The Boone spurs looked like they would last a lifetime.
"Look 'em over, Jim," Jody encouraged. "Try some on. I know you'll like those marked B. Boone. You look while I close down before going over to Antonio's for supper. Best eating place in town!"
"I'm staying at the Brown Hotel, Miss Jody. Food's pretty good, but I've been on the stage a few days, eating at stage stops," Jim said as he looked over the fine B. Boone spurs.
"Jim, if you'd like, you can go over to Antonio's with me. Best steaks around! Besides, it will be dark, and I'd appreciate having you with me. Sometimes those rough miners get out of hand, you know, just rowdy, but sometimes drunk."
Not only were the Boone spurs something Jim really liked, but here was an offer from a very nice-looking lady that he could not pass up. "I'll just take you up on that, Miss Jody, after you box up these spurs fer me. And I'll buy you a steak too. Maybe we can talk a bit about that there lawyer friend of yours."
The evening flew by, filled with delightful discussions, the kind Jim could not get in dusty stage stops. Jody was knowledgeable, intelligent, and, the best-looking lady Jim had seen anywhere. Although she was a solid business person, she displayed a quiet, soft side not seen out in distant settlements. She was single and had built her business with the few dollars left by her parents, who had literally worked themselves to death a few years earlier on the old homestead out on the dry, dusty prairie. Jody and her younger sister sold the homestead and moved to Denver to escape the drab life on the poor farm.
"Jim, I've had a wonderful evening with your company. But I've got to get back to my place over the store. It's late, and I have to open up early in the morning. Walk me back to the store, and you will only be a couple of blocks from your hotel. When you get done with Mister Fitch tomorrow, drop over and tell me how it all went. Maybe we can find time to go to Antonio's again."
Jim watched Jody walk up the flight of stairs to her home over the leather shop. They exchanged waves, and Jim walked on to the Brown Hotel.
The last few days had been eventful for Jim, to say the least. He arrived in Denver following a long, rough stagecoach ride of several days, all the way from the Texas-Mexican border. He had received notice from the Denver lawyer that his brother, Billy Keaton, had lost his life in a mine cave-in somewhere in Colorado. Billy had set up his will with the law firm some ten or twelve years earlier, realizing that his lifestyle as a drifting miner constantly on the move was rather precarious. The will directed the firm to contact Jim if he died and to hand over to Jim any and all proceeds of investments made by Billy through the law firm.
As soon as the state posted the death certificate, Douglas Fitch verified the death and sent the notice of Billy's will to Jim. Billy's investments had done very well, and now Jim's inheritance was worth thousands of dollars. The simple way to handle the entire process would be for Jim to travel to Denver to close out all details of the will and take possession of the proceeds.
Jim met with Douglas Fitch the morning after his arrival in Denver. Fitch was a quiet fellow, average looking from any aspect, thin gray hair, small mustache, and deep-set inquisitive eyes, the kind that caused folks to open up and talk plainly with him. He was a listener, doing just what good lawyers had to do. But today things were different. He had to fill Jim in on how his brother, Billy, had come to retain the small law firm to hold all his investments along with his will and power of attorney.
"I first met Billy back in 1888 or so, after he came out of the Rock Springs country where he had been involved in that famous diamond hoax of '72. When he filled me in on all the details and set you up to be his legal heir, he also said he had kept most of the story of his part in the scam from you, but he did tell it all to your folks. I understand they passed away about three years before Billy contacted me. That right, Jim?" Fitch asked as he arranged several files before him.
"Well, yes, they both passed on while I was still in school. I do remember Billy coming home and telling me some of th' things he had been doing. I was just a school kid back then, Mister Fitch. That was way back in maybe '73, '74. I was in th' second grade or so, going to that one-room school there in Del Rio. Billy did tell our folks all about what he had done, and after he left, we talked about it enough over th' years till I sure did know some about it all."
"Let me quickly run over some of the details so you will know how this inheritance came to be, Jim," Fitch offered. "You see, Billy had been drifting around the gold fields of California for a while, getting nowhere, when he partnered up with a couple of fellows named Arnold and Slack, Philip Arnold and John Slack. The three hit it off pretty good and soon made a gold strike. When a group came along and offered to buy them out, they took it. It was the best money they had seen since starting their gold prospecting. Now, this Arnold and Slack were not criminals as such, but they had a little streak of shrewdness in them that sometimes got them in trouble. No doubt, they were bright. But after getting a little money and becoming disgusted with how some prospectors hit and some didn't, they figured it was time to try to pull the wool over some of the big-time financiers. They planned to salt a bogus mine with diamonds and various gemstones and then have them look it over with the expectation that in the end they would buy the thing at some ridiculous price. They were thinking big, Jim. Thinking of roping in fellows like Horace Greeley, the Rothschild family, old General McClellan, and a few others that might be fooled into thinking they were ripping off a couple of ignorant prospectors.
"So, before leaving California, Arnold and Slack took a big part of their strike money and quietly went around buying all sorts of rough gemstones, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. Billy wasn't in on what they planned at that time, but he knew they used up most of their share of the money. Then they all boarded the train and headed east to Wyoming Territory, getting off at the coal-mining town of Rock Springs. Arnold and Slack knew the country south of the town—there were very few scattered ranches and lots of wild, open country. And because the area was so unknown, those two bright, roguish fellows hatched the plan to use their gemstones to salt a small place out in those remote mountains."
This all fit together with what Jim had heard over the years. But he never knew how it had started. And never knew Billy's involvement, at least not in detail. He had learned from his folks that Billy had a part in the famous salting of the so-called diamond field somewhere in northwestern Colorado on the Wyoming line and that Billy was paid a handsome fee for staying out near the diamond field as a watchman.
Fitch continued with more details. "Now, Jim, your brother really didn't learn of the salting plan until the three of them headed out from Rock Springs, heading south into that unsettled country. It was only then that Arnold and Slack told him just what the plan was. And since Arnold and Slack had bought the gemstones, Billy would not be a primary partner. But if he wanted to go along, they could use him. They offered to pay a good fee if he would make a camp and stay somewhere near the salted field as a sort of watchman while they went back to San Francisco to let the word out about the diamond strike. Billy jumped at the offer. When they picked out the right spot on that low bench off what's now called Diamond Peak, Billy pitched in and helped spread those various gemstones around. They worked for several days, punching holes in the ground and dropping a stone in each and then stomping the holes shut with their boot heels. Some were put into the fissures and cracks in the flat rocks that covered large areas of the bench. The weather would cover any sign of their work after a few weeks or months."
Fitch pulled one file from the stack in front of him and opened it, removing a few sheets, some flat single sheets, some folded. "I've got a pretty good description of just where that old diamond field ought to be, Jim. And there's a crude old map here somewhere that Billy drew up too. Shows the diamond field and the trail over to where he put up a one-room cabin and stayed on as watchman till it was all over."
Fitch shuffled through the papers and pulled several from the stack. "Yes, here's the old map and some of the papers that show a lot about the diamond hoax. That thing sure set the financial world in a spin, Jim. Those two fellows succeeded in duping dozens of prominent men from all over—California, New York, even reached over to Great Britain. Most of them are named in these old newspaper reports. That Rothschild fellow must have been hit pretty hard; he committed suicide not long after. Seems the group paid Arnold and Slack something like six hundred thousand dollars. The first thing the general public heard about a diamond mine out there was when it hit the headlines as a diamond hoax, catching all the big shots in losses. It was exposed by a fellow with the national mapping outfit, or maybe he was with the railroad mapping outfit. Anyway, when he exposed the deal, it didn't take long for folks to drop any idea of going out there to strike it rich in diamonds."
Jim looked over the old papers and took notice of the hand-drawn map, the sort that an unskilled prospector would render. It showed several mountains and streams, some with names but most without. Jim was accustomed to using maps made by the military when he served in the army in General George Crook's outfit in Arizona during the last of the Indian wars. He had been assigned to a scout group as a teenage private when the last Apaches were rounded up. Then he was transferred to Fort Concho, back in Texas, where he continued scouting. Since the Indian wars were about over, he was sent on routine patrols from Fort Concho across to Fort Bliss, staying in outposts like McKavett, Lancaster, Quitman, and others. He soon resigned and headed back to Del Rio to make his living repairing windmills and filling in with cowboy work.
"Jim, if you would like to go through all these files, they are all yours," said Fitch as he passed a few pages of the records to Jim. "We've been handling Billy's affairs for many years, making the first investment with his money from the big hoax. Then we moved the investments around when it looked like a better return could be made. Actually, we about doubled the value for him. With Billy's inheritance you will be quite well off. There's maybe around twenty-five thousand dollars by now."
"Did you say twenty-five thousand dollars? You don't mean twenty-five hundred or maybe just twenty-five dollars? Why, Mister Fitch, that's more than I've made in my lifetime! Is this for real? Would it really come up to that?" Jim was startled by the amount.
Excerpted from DIAMOND FIELDS AND DEATH by Bob Jourdan Copyright © 2011 by Bob Jourdan. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is so wonderful to read. Esoecially if you know any Wyoming history. The story gies right along with another book called the Roadside History of Wy.