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 Grift Graft

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CD Roberts
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Posts : 114
Join date : 2013-09-23

20160228
PostGrift Graft

This story begins a few weeks or some other undefined period of time after Cal's What a Man's Gotta Do (A Fair Day's Work). Heyes is still pretty sore after being cheated out of his poker winnings by Marsden and his men. If you want to know why he’s so sore, well, go back and read Cal’s story. You’ll be glad that you did!


“Dear Mister Marsden,” the lady said in a confidential tone, leaning towards the man sitting opposite her, “you heard the jeweler confirm the necklace’s value. And, I am willing to sell it to you for far less than it’s true worth.” Clementine Hale paused, dabbed at her eyes with a lacy handkerchief and sniffed. “It’s a family heirloom and my brother and I wouldn’t be doing this if we weren’t so desperate.”

“Here now, little lady, you go ahead and compose yourself. Have a little more of your coffee, go on now.” James Marsden was the sort of a man who had the ability to express compassion in a way that did not diminish his natural masculinity. That, along with his height of six feet, dark hair, and good features created an attraction few women could resist. Clementine was not immune to his charms.

She took a sip obediently and smiled trustingly at Marsden through her tears. The couple sat at a table beside a large window at the ‘Good Eats Diner’. Beside the window, notices were pinned into the wall. Prominent were announcements for an upcoming speaker traveling the lecture circuit, Reverend Herkenhoff. Those announcements were riddled with exclamation points. The speaker’s name, the date, the subject, the description were followed by these points, all to convey that the risks of ignoring the Reverend Herkenhoff’s lecture would result in a final journey that would finish below and not above.

“I am considering your proposition.” And, he most certainly was. A valuable necklace in exchange for a fifth of what it was worth. “I am fond of you, Miss Hale.” That was true as well. Clementine Hale wasn’t beautiful, but she was reasonably pretty, witty, and fun to be with. He’d spent a delightful week treating her to meals at the hotel and the diner they were seated in. He even went on a picnic with her, and surprisingly enough, he’d enjoyed it. Even more importantly, he hadn’t caught her in any errors or contradictions in her tale. Oh yes, he was sorely tempted. He wanted to believe.

But his faith was tempered with reason, and years of experience as a card sharp. “However, I want to meet your brother before we complete our transaction.”

“I understand, Mister Marsden —  Jim.” Clementine tentatively touched his hand with her fingers gloved in lacy-white  cotton, and quickly, shyly withdrew them as if she had been too forward. She looked up, blushing. “I may call you Jim?”

He nodded, only too pleased with the intimacy. “Of course you may, Clementine.”

“He’ll be arriving on the morning stage. I can’t wait to introduce you to him.”

Marsden pulled out his pocket watch and glanced down at it. “It’s near half-past eleven. The stage should have arrived by now. We can walk to the hotel to meet your brother.”

Clementine was looking out the window beside their table as he spoke. “We won’t have to. Here he comes now.” She waved excitedly out the window at a man, lean, brown-suited and be-speckled, walking towards the diner. “Oh, I’m so happy, you’ll meet my dear Ambrose.”

Marsden smiled at Clementine and looked out the window. But, as the man neared, Marsden’s smile faded. He looked back at Clementine who was still waving out the window. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms as ‘Ambrose’ entered.

Clementine stood and reached her arms out towards the man. “Oh my dear brother, I do so want you to meet my friend, Mister Marsden, Mister James Marsden. And Jim, Mister Marsden allow me to introduce my brother to you. This is my brother…”

“…Joshua Smith,” Marsden finished for her in a flat tone.

The two men stared at each other in a not particularly pleasant manner, one might almost say the looks exchanged were a might hostile.

“Josh—why whatever are you talking about. This is my brother, Ambrose, Ambrose Hale.”

“I met your ‘brother’ at a card game, Clementine,” Marsden said drily. “He wasn’t wearing the cheaters at the time, although maybe he could have used ‘em. I won a pretty fair amount of money from him.”

“That’s impossible, my brother would not gamble…”

“Drop it, Clem,” Heyes said. “Marsden’s right. We’ve met. Mind if I pull up a chair? I’m hungry.” Heyes brought a chair over from a near by table as he spoke, and sat down without waiting for a response. He removed the spectacles and put them in his jacket pocket.

Clementine shrugged, and sat back down. She pushed her unfinished plate of food towards Heyes.

“I almost fell for it. One of the oldest grifts in the world and I almost fell for it. I would have bought that necklace for five-thousand dollars and you would have — what? Exchanged it for a phony when I gave you the money?”

“Mmm, un huh,” said Heyes through his mouthful of food. He swallowed. “I have the duplicate in my luggage. Had a distraction all set up so’s we could make the change.” He sat back and smiled. “She’s good, isn’t she?”

“Yep, she’s good alright. I wouldn’t have fallen for it if it weren’t for Miss Hale’s,” he dropped his eyes to look at her, “that is, Clementine’s abundant charms.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you. It wasn’t all lies though. I do like you, Jim.” She looked at him, straightforwardly, honestly.

“I’ll keep that in mind, Clementine. Five-thousand dollars. That’s three thousand more than what you lost in our game. You tracked me down to get even, and then some.”

“Nope. That’s a coincidence. We need the money for our, let’s say, an ‘investment’ in a greater scheme. Clem wired she had a mark; turned out to be you.”

“Too bad. Looks like you and your partner, where is your partner?” Marsden looked outside the window, “are still out five-thousand dollars.” He stood.

“Joshua,” Clem hissed to Heyes, “if he’s the man who cheated,” she stopped, smiled at Marsden, and continued, “you at cards, why not…”

“No.”

“But he’s good, you said so yourself. His friends are good…”

“No!” Heyes responded a little more sharply this time.

Marsden began to walk away.

“But we’ve got a sure thing.”

Heyes gave her a warning look that obviously meant ‘keep silent.’

Marsden looked back at the quietly bickering siblings as he walked away.

“But we’ve got five marks lined up,” she mouthed pleadingly. “We’ll make thousands!”

Marsden stopped  in his tracks.

“I said no!”

“But, how are we going to get the money in time? We need the stake.” Clementine was almost whining, as Marsden returned and stood over their table.

“We can’t trust him.” Heyes looked up at Marsden. “Sorry, but we can’t trust you. I know you cheated me at cards. I don’t know how, but I know you did.” Back to Clem. “Sorry, but we can’t trust him.”

“But…”

“No.” Heyes frowned “Anyway, it would be too many people if he brought his gang in. We don’t need that many and we don’t need to split the take with all of ‘em.”

Marsden sat down. “My ‘gang’ has gone their own ways for a few weeks. We’re taking a little break. But I don’t see why you need the money. You have the necklace. You could sell that. The jeweler I consulted said it was worth twenty thousand.”

Clem made a face at him. “It’s not ours. It belongs to a friend. He let us borrow it to get a stake. You were a nice rich gambler; I knew you’d be interested. No one else around here has got five-thousand in ready cash. Well, perhaps the hotel owner, but he’s a happily married man.” She sighed. “And, I don’t think he’ll fall for my sad story, especially now that I’ve been in town and been seen with you for so long.”

Heyes smiled. “We’ve run out of time with the necklace anyway. Our friend is sending a courier to pick it up tonight.”

“I see.” Marsden was thinking. “You need my investment then, don’t you? Can’t make money without money. And it sounds like you’re out of time.”

“We’ll manage.” Heyes stood, turned, and left the diner.

Clementine and Marsden watched him leave.

“Clementine, I really do like you, you know that.”

“I care for you as well, Jim. But I can’t…”

“Tell me. What are you planning?”

“Jim, I can’t. Not yet. But, we are short, not only on money and time, but on men for the job. And it’s something I know you’d be real good at. I will try to bring Joshua around. He’s just sore that you beat him at cards.”

“Understandable.” He leaned, elbow on table, chin on hand, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Clem, Is he really your brother?”

“Yes. He is. Joshua Hale. He got into a few scrapes when he was young, and changed his name to Smith; of all the ridiculous names he could have chosen, he chose that.” She wrinkled her nose as if she smelled bad eggs.

“His partner?”

“Really is Thaddeus Jones.” She smiled wryly at Marsden.

“Truly? You’d think one of ‘em would be smart enough to change his name.” Marsden shook his head in mock dismay.

“You’d think so. It doesn’t seem too bright. But, Jim, they are good at what they do. Give me a little time.” She breathed in deeply. “I’ve got to work fast. Our first marks
arrive tomorrow.You’ll hear from me this afternoon.”

She left the diner oozing determination.

Marsden nearly smiled.



OOOOOOOO



That afternoon Jim Marsden lay on his bed happily contemplating the easy money he’d be earning, and how he’d spend it with Clementine. He was also contemplating how long he’d work with her brother and his partner, and how, no make that when, those two could be replaced with Crimps and Bowyer. Oh yes, he’d learn all he could from Smith and Jones, and then take everything from them, their money and Clementine. He had no doubts about his ability to convince Clementine to join him. She was just mercenary enough to dump her brother and Jones, he was sure of that. He could probably also convince her to write to that friend of hers with the necklace. With the money from selling that they could even afford to travel to Europe. That obviously hadn’t occurred to her. Perhaps, yes, perhaps, she simply hadn’t met the right man to travel abroad with. Well, now she had.

The door rattled when knocked. A broad smile crossed his face. Boy, that Clementine Hale really was one determined lady.

He opened the door grinning, but the grin faded as he found himself facing Thaddeus Jones.

“Where’s Clementine?”

“She’s still arguin’, I mean discussin’, with Joshua. I figure it’s two to one though, and that means you’re in.”

Marsden waved Curry into the room. “I still don’t know what I’m in on.”

Curry looked at Marsden as if he was sizing him up. “I dunno,” he muttered as if he were having second thoughts.

“Well, I don’t either, not until you tell me.”

Curry stared at Marsden.

“Well? You going to tell me what it’s about, or do we stand facing each other like this all afternoon?”

“Green goods*,” Curry said flatly.

“Really? How are you set up for that here?”

Curry, about to respond, was interrupted by a knock on the door. He opened it and Clementine bounced happily into the room followed by a less than happy Heyes who, folding his arms, eyed Marsden suspiciously.

Clem stood in front of Marsden and fingered the front of his shirt, brushing it lightly with her fingertips to smooth it, and straightening his shoestring tie. “Everything’s fine now. We’ll have enough money between us with your five thousand added in to have a lovely pile to sell, and we’ve sent out lots of circulars about the goods. We’ve got so many customers. Oh, I forgot, you don’t know what it is we were planning.”

“Jones told me.”

“You could’ve at least waited until we were in agreement before telling Marsden, partner,” Heyes complained to Curry.

“You knew we had to bring him in. We need to have enough green goods to sell, and he’s the only other fella around with enough money to make up the difference. And anyway, if he’s crooked enough to cheat at cards he’s crooked enough to join us.”

Marsden gave Curry a sharp glance.

“It’s true, ain’t it?”

“Let’s just say I have no moral feelings about lifting cash from men foolish enough to fall for something like this.”

Heyes pulled the chair away from the desk and sat down. “Alright then. You’re familiar with how it works, Marsden?”

Marsden nodded. “I’ve never played this game, but I know the basics.”

“You’ll have to do better than know the basics. You have to be believable. Also, we make only a few hundred to about a thousand each mark. You’ve gotta be patient.” He stopped and grinned,  “But, the rewards are worth it. We can make a lot of money in a week with the marks we’ve lined up. Then we’ll move on before anyone in town gets any wrong ideas about us. We can set up again in the next town that’s got a train stop. If we all get along and things work out between us, that is.”

“I think I’ve proved to you I can play a part,” Marsden pointed out.

Curry rolled his eyes anticipating Heyes response.

“Yeah, I know can pretend you’re an honest man. You sure took me in. But that gives me a problem in trusting you. I don’t see as I can trust you with the mark first time out. I think you should be our ringer, make the switch.”

“You can’t do that,” Curry protested. “If he’s ringer, Clem will have to play a riskier part. She’d have to be with you sellin’ the goods, and she’d have to steer one of the marks. What if the mark gets suspicious on the way to the train? She’d be in real danger.”

Clementine bristled at the insult to her abilities. “I think I’ve shown I can handle men.”

“That’s true, honey. But what if one of those men gets to liking you a little too much and doesn’t want to board the train?” Marsden said protectively.

Clem opened her mouth to protest.

Heyes frowned. “That’s something to consider. It’s important that the mark is hurried onto the train and on his way out of town before he finds out he’s been taken. It’s too risky not only for you, Clem, but for all of us.”

“In that case, I’ll work with Jim on his part,” Clem volunteered, looking up at the man next to her with adoration. He smiled down at her.

“We’ll all work with him, Clem. He’s gotta learn how to play the graft at the office and how to steer the mark from the station to us and back again to the train after the deal is done, if we’re gonna pull two of these off in a day.”

“What happens if one of the marks returns to town after he finds out he’s been taken?”

“They don’t Marsden. Once they’re on the train and well out of town we don’t see them again. So, we want them on that train right after they get the bag. The steerer can’t let them stop to check it before the train leaves. On the train they’ll have plenty of time to get angry, and plenty of time to realize they can’t do anything about it. They get too embarrassed or scared to go to the law. After all, what they’re trying to do isn’t legal, buying counterfeit money,” said Heyes. He paused to let the others absorb his wisdom. “We’ve sometimes had a mark get cold feet and back down on completing the sale, but never had a problem with one figuring out they’re being taken, during or after the sale. We’re good at this.”

“I’ve heard of ‘em causin’ problems, but that’s only if they figure out what’s goin’ on while it’s goin’ on,” Curry added. “Don’t mean you don’t have to be careful. Most of ‘em are suspicious and they all carry a gun; never seen one without one, but they want that money so bad they usually take the chance. I’ve heard from other grifters if things go wrong they go real wrong, so you gotta be real good at this if you don’t wanna get shot.”

“It’s a risk, Marsden. Are you willing to take it?” asked Heyes.

Marsden pondered the risks and the rewards. He and Clem exchanged looks. “I’m not afraid, Smith,” he said, “and I know I can do this.”

“Alright, then, lets get to the office and rehearse.” Heyes went to the door. “The first marks arrive tomorrow. I’ve got it planned for them each to meet with us and to be on a train and out of town the day after. Timing is everything. We’ve got to see each one and complete the deal right before his train leaves, and rush him back to that train before he can stop to think. Also, you and Jones have to switch parts for the second one because if the second mark sees Jones meeting the first mark at the hotel he’s more likely to be suspicious if Jones shows up a second time to steer him. So you’ll have to be steerer for the second mark.”

The four conspirators walked down the stairs and through the hotel’s reception room together.


OOOOOOOOO


Two days later Heyes, Marsden and Clementine were in the small building they were using as an office. The building had a history. It had served as the town jail before a proper jail had been built, had been a feed store, once a diner, and, until Heyes had rented it, had been used by a local as a chicken coop. Unfortunately, it retained some of the odor associated with the birds and, even more unfortunately, it looked to be a warm day which would only manage to strengthen the aroma. Marsden, watching for Jones to return with the mark, was standing with his head almost hanging out the window.

Clem stood in front of the curtain she was to hide behind during the transaction that partitioned the room. Behind that curtain was a black bag.

Heyes had his feet propped up on a battered desk and was reading; he had a copy of the circular he had written and a list of names. Heyes had checked off two of the names, telling Clementine and Marsden that they were the names of the men they were expecting and that they had registered the previous day at the hotel. However, whenever Marsden tried to examine the list of names Heyes covered it, indicating that he still didn’t trust Marsden entirely. He said he would only tell Marsden the name of the second mark when it was his turn to steer him to the office. This bothered Marsden, not the lack of trust, but that he couldn’t get close enough to the list to learn the names and make a copy for himself. After all, if he and Clementine decided to go on their own, they’d need that list.

Other papers, that were decorated with columns and accounts representing business and efficiency of some sort or another, were on the desk as well to set the scene, and to impress the mark Heyes had said.A black bag, identical to the bag behind the curtain, was on the floor by his feet.

Clementine and Heyes exchanged an almost imperceptible wink and smile. She walked over to Marsden and wrapped her arms around him from behind. He was almost distracted—almost—but nothing would draw him from the task he had set himself, to double or triple his money in as short a time as possible. He put one hand down on Clem’s two hands, and waited.

“They’re coming,” he said, spying Curry and another man, walking  beside him, somewhat unsteadily as if inebriated. The man was dressed darkly with a broad-brimmed hat, and adorned with a low-lying gun belt from which a revolver protruded in a most noticeable manner. The Kid was unarmed, or at least visibly unarmed. It would not have done, as Heyes pointed out to his little gang the previous day, to have an armed man meet the mark. Too threatening, and it wasn’t likely to inspire trust. “Anyway,” he had said, “a mark wasn’t gonna shoot the steerer on the way over to make money, and me and Marsden will be armed.”

Clem disappeared behind the curtain, and Heyes dropped his legs from the desk in order to sit upright and engross himself in the papers in front of him in a businesslike manner.

“Brother,” Preacher said as he and Curry crossed the threshold, “it was a blessing and a wonder, yes a wonder, to hear the words of Brother Herkenhoff yesterday evening. It was an inspiration. In the transgression of the evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice. Proverbs 29:6.”  The man’s words were loud but slightly slurred. He looked around. “Place smells like chicken sh…” he muttered to himself.

“Um, yeah.” Curry said in response to the bible quote, not to the chicken remark which he couldn’t hear. He stayed by the door, holding it ajar, acting as lookout, while Preacher walked to the desk.

Marsden left his post by the window to walk alongside the armed, possibly suspicious, and, because suspicious, presumably dangerous, man.

Heyes stood and held out his hand. “Welcome Preacher…”

Preacher held up one hand. “There’s no need for further introductions. You may call me Preacher or Brother in front of these men, Brother.”

Heyes dropped his hand. “That’s fine. That’s better, in fact. For our business we don’t need to know much about each other.”

“Indeed so, Brother. This brother who met me,” he waved back at Curry, “has presented you and your business in a most positive manner. I am impressed with the number of men who have benefitted from your generosity. ‘Give, and it shall be given unto you. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.’  You I don’t doubt, have reaped what you have sown.”

“I, in my turn,” he continued, “have summarized the sermonizing of Brother Herkenhoff for your man. I understand that you missed the great speaker yesterday evening due to business concerns. What a blessing for me that, being brought here for business, I heard his words. Brother Herkenhoff’s presence in this town was a revelation and a sign. It was no coincidence; instead it indicates to me that our business is blessed from above, and we will reap the rewards. Amen.” He raised his eyes.

Marsden, standing beside him, raised his eyebrows as if mocking him, and glanced at Heyes. Heyes returned his look darkly, and Marsden lost the affectation and returned to the window.        

“Amen, indeed, Brother,” said Heyes. “Shall we get down to business?”

Marsden drew a chair in front of the desk closer for Preacher. Preacher looked at him suspiciously. “Brother,” he said addressing Heyes, “to transact our business we need to trust each other, have faith in each other. Is it necessary for this man to be to stand so near?”

Marsden glanced significantly from Preacher’s gun to Heyes.

Why don’t you go back to the window?” he suggested to Marsden.

“But…” Marsden began.

“It’s alright. I have complete faith in our new friend.” Heyes said in a friendly manner without a hint of suspicion.

Marsden unhappily withdrew to the window from which he kept half an eye on the street and half an eye on Preacher.

“And Brother, I have complete faith in you. But he,” pointing to Marsden at the window, “has a gun.”

“So do you,” Heyes countered.

“That is the truth, Brother. But my gun is holstered. Your friend is standing behind me where I can’t see him, armed. My faith in our dealings would increase threefold if he took off his gun.”

Heyes swallowed, appearing slightly unnerved by the suggestion, and fidgeted with the papers in front of him, but  then appeared to recover himself. “Give me your gun,” he ordered Marsden.

Marsden balked.

“It’s alright; give it to me. I’ll put it right here in front of me on the desk. Is that OK?” he asked Preacher.

“Yes. I just don’t like having a fellow behind me like that with a weapon.” Preacher was sounding sharper now. Perhaps the inebriated preacher was not so drunk as he appeared.

Marsden walked to the desk and placed his gun on it in front of Heyes, and again returned to his post at the window. He crossed his arms unable to disguise his distrust and ire.

“Now, I think we are ready. I believe you would like to make a transaction that would be beneficial to both of us,” said Heyes. “

“Indeed I would.” Preacher drew a wallet from his coat as he sat down in the chair in front of the desk. “I have seven hundred genuine here, but I’d like to see the goods in the bag before completing the deal.”

Heyes smiled. “A man of faith, but…”

“Psalm 118 verse 8 says It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. I trust in the Lord, but confess I don’t have all that much confidence in you. Not yet, at any rate.”

“Then allow me to earn your trust.” Heyes picked up the bag and placed it on the desk.

Behind the curtain Clem stood silently beside the bag’s twin.

Heyes opened the bag and removed the contents. He placed several thousand dollars on the desk. “You’re welcome to examine all of them, but I assure you, you won’t be able to see the difference between them and the originals.”

Preacher picked up several of the notes on the desk and studied them carefully. He frowned. He examined more of them.

“They look genuine.”

“Well, that’s the idea, isn’t it?” asked Marsden tartly.

Heyes and Preacher, interrupted turned to look at Marsden.

Curry hemmed, and when Marsden looked at him mouthed ‘shut up.’

Heyes now seemed discomposed as if he had dropped his thread and had to regain it. He picked up some of the ‘counterfeit’ money, and began to straighten it into neat piles.

Preacher watched Heyes, a dubious look starting to cloud his countenance.

Heyes saw the look developing and acted quickly to reassure the mark “It looks genuine because in a way it is. We’re using real plates.”

“Real plates? How in the name of all that is blessed, did you get real plates?”

“I have a friend back east. He worked for the Treasury.” Heyes was regaining his stride.

“Why isn’t he selling the goods?”

“He didn’t want the transactions traced to him. I meet him and bring the goods here periodically after he’s produced them. The more distance between him and us the better.”

“I see.”

It was becoming noticeable that Preacher was no longer adding the friendly Brother to his words.

Heyes pretended he was oblivious to the change. To get back on track he returned to the script he had practiced the day before in front of the others.

“Five-hundred will get you this,” he indicated what was on the desk. “That’s ten times what you’re paying. But for an additional five-hundred, you purchase the exclusive rights to your territory. We won’t sell to anyone else there. And, I don’t mean to press you on this, but,” Heyes took out his pocket watch, “your train leaves momentarily.”

“As the good book says If I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much; this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge.  I’ll take what’s on the table.

“Are you certain?” asked Heyes. “I can only offer this once. The next man who comes from your territory will get the same offer if you don’t take us up on it now.”

“I’m not greedy. I’ll take what’s on the table.”

“It’s a deal, then,” said Heyes.

“Deal.” Preacher counted out five hundred dollars. Heyes took the five hundred and pocketed it.

Heyes put the money on the desk into the bag, but instead of handing Preacher the bag walked around the desk and put the bag down alongside the curtain. He held out his hand to shake Preacher’s and continued to patter. “It’s been a pleasure to make this transaction with you, my friends and I are pleased to have made your acquaintance, and …”

Curry yelped from the door. “Sheriff’s headed this way!” The men all turned to him. “We’d better get a move on.”

Clem crouched down and began to switch the bags.

“I’ll get you to your train Preacher. Let’s go!” Curry continued his job of hurrying and distracting the mark.

The mark, however, was not entirely distracted and saw the movement of the curtain.

“Thieves! The bands of the wicked have robbed me!” Preacher shouted. “Going to switch the bag on me are you?!” He drew his gun and shot wildly at the Kid. He missed. “The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them!”

He turned and aimed at Heyes and fired. Heyes, much closer than the Kid, and therefore a target even the worst of shots was unlikely to miss, fell forward onto the desk.

Clem came out from behind the curtain at the shot and screamed at the site of her brother. She ran to him, and screamed some more. “He’s dead! Oh my god; my brother’s dead!” She collapsed over him, sobbing more, and sobbing loudly.

Curry ran forward from the door.

Preacher was waving his revolver wildly. “He was a thief and a sinner as are the rest of you. ‘Surely thou wilt slay the wicked.’ ” The gun waved wildly. Marsden and Curry backed away from the crazy preacher. “I won’t shoot a woman.” He grabbed the bag with the money, waving the revolver to hold Marsden and Curry at bay, and ran out the door.

Clem was still sobbing over the body of Heyes. “My brother! My dear brother!”

Marsden approached her.

“We gotta go,” said Curry urgently. “Sheriff may not have been on his way before but he musta heard that. He’s gotta be on his way over now.”

“I can’t leave my brother! I won’t leave him!”

Marsden, almost touching Clem stopped and turned to Curry.

“Come on. Marsden. Clem. Come on. We gotta go.” Curry ran out the door.

“I’m not leaving,” the distraught woman sobbed.

Marsden looked once more at Clem and, apparently deciding it was a lost cause, took off after the Kid.

Clem turned her head just enough for one eye to peer out at the door. She sniffed and seeing the coast was clear raised her head. The ‘dead’ Heyes raised his head as well.

“Clem, that was beautiful. If I hadn’t known  better I would have believed I was dead.” He handed her his handkerchief.

Wiping her eyes, she smiled. “It’s a good thing Preacher was almost sober today otherwise he might have hit you. Then I suppose we would have had to use your share to pay for your funeral.”

“Clem, I can always count on you,” Heyes grinned as Clem looked up at him, “to spend other people’s money.”

He held out his arm to her and she placed her arm on it as they walked out the building.


OOOOOOOOO


Clementine, Heyes and the Kid, one ex-outlaw on either side of her, each holding one of her arms, and Preacher walked in victory to the train station.

“What happened to Marsden?” asked Preacher to Curry who was beside him.

“Well, he ran after me as fast as a bullet. We got our horses at the livery, and rode out. By then he was in such a hurry he got his horse saddled before I got mine. Let me tell you, Marsden was pretty sore, losin’ his money and his girl so fast like that. He said we were the worst bunch of crooks he had ever taken up with. Real incompetents, and said it’d be our fault if he got caught by the law. Didn’t take long for us to decide to split up and go our separate ways.”

“That’s gratitude for you,” said Heyes. “He just about begged to be a part of the graft, and anyway, I’m the one who got shot. You think he’d feel lucky compared to me.”

“What about me? I lost my only brother.”

“But you have your reward, and you didn’t have to join your brother in heaven to get it,” Preacher pointed out.

“I’m not so certain my brother would have made it to heaven. But, I am happy with this.” She held out the envelope that was in her hand.

“Not too bad for a few days work,” said Curry. “One-thousand-two-hundred-fifty each.”

“Not bad at all,” said Heyes, putting down Clem’s luggage and patting his jacket pocket.

The porter walked past announcing that the train was ready to leave.

Clementine shook Preacher’s hand, quickly hugged Curry and Heyes, and with Curry’s help jumped onto the train. She blew kisses at the men as the train drove off down the tracks.


“You two boys sure like that little gal, don’t you?”

“Yep.”

Preacher shook his head. “You trust her too. It’s a mystery.”

“What d’ya mean?” asked Curry.

“I mean that Heyes should check his pocket.”

Heyes pulled the envelope out of his pocket.

“So?”

“You better check inside. I saw her make the switch.”

“What!” Heyes opened the pocket and pulled out pieces of newspaper cut to the size of bills. He looked at his partner.

“Heyes, you didn’t catch her? And you,” turning to Preacher, “why didn’t you say somethin’?”

“I suppose I thought it would be a lesson for you two.”

“Thanks, Preacher, but I think that is one lesson we could have done without,” Heyes said ruefully looking down the tracks as the train disappeared.

“And since there wasn’t any harm done,” Preacher began.

“Wasn’t any harm done! Preacher we had three thousand dollars in that envelope.”

“I know, boys. That’s why I prepared another envelope last night and switched it with yours this morning.” He held out an envelope.

Curry snatched it and pulled out the contents. It was the money. Heyes tried to take it from him. “Oh, no partner. I think I better keep this on me.” He returned the money to the envelope and put it in his pocket.

“You see boys, last night I wanted to go over a few things for today with Clementine. She took a little time to answer the door but she couldn’t have been covering herself; she was already fully dressed. I played that I’d been drinking, and sort of blundered into her room.”

Both Heyes and the Kid looked at Preacher. “Played that you’d been drinkin’?”

“Well, drinking more than usual, Kid. Anyway, I saw she had newspapers with dollar-sized pieces cut out of them all over her bed. That got me thinking. From what you two boys have told me about her I figured she might try for your share of the profit. So I prepared an envelope and switched it with yours earlier.

“When?” asked Curry.

“How? asked Heyes.

“In your room when we met this morning.”

“But we trust you…” Curry began.

“I know. That’s why I was able to do it. I guess if I couldn’t make the switch, I would have told you then, but I liked the idea of the surprise of it.”

Curry frowned, puzzled. “How do we know Clem did make the switch?”

Heyes nodded. “Kid’s right preacher. This envelope with the newspaper in it could still be the envelope you switched with ours.”

“Oh, she was quick, but I was looking for it. I saw her make the switch. At any rate, the envelope I prepared didn’t have newspaper in it.”

“It didn’t? What did you put in instead?” asked Heyes beginning to grin.

“Pieces of Brother Herkenhoff’s tracts. When Clementine opens her envelope she’ll get a real treat. Brother Herkenhoff has spoken and written extensively and in great depth on the wickedness of sin, especially theft, and the rewards of honesty.”

“Amen, Brother,” said Heyes, removing his hat, and holding it to his chest.

“Amen,” said the Kid.



*The Green Goods game was the most successful and the most prevalent con game in America in the 19th Century. It was fairly simple but required skill and an ability to be convincing playing a set role.

Lists of men around the country were made, from the census reports and other governmental reports. Circulars were written, printed and sent out to the names on the lists. After contact was made by mail the victim was lured in by vague promises of gain; the promises had to be vague as the circulars could not say outright what they offered: counterfeit money for sale.

There were specific jobs in the green goods game. Writers wrote the circulars, the steerer met the victim at the train station or at his hotel and steered him back there immediately after the deal had been made.

The deal was usually made in the room of another hotel or an office. ‘The Old Gentleman,’ and another man would be present along with the steerer, all playing their respective parts. Counterfeit money was never involved. Genuine money was shown to the mark who was told it was counterfeit. After buying the money, it would be placed into a bag and the bag switched by the ringer who hid, usually behind a curtain. The curtain would not have appeared suspicious to the victim as curtains were often used to partition rooms in the 1800s. The bags switched had paper or even straw in them, or if plates instead of currency were sold(yes they did that as well) bricks were in the switched bag.

The men swindled were generally suspicious, and did carry weapons for the most part, but most men did in those days in the west and the south. It was a dangerous game and if something went wrong during the deal the likely result would be a shoot out and injury or death. But, after a successful deal was made the victims were extremely unlikely to confess to the law their foolishness in participating in an illegal transaction.




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Grift Graft :: Comments

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Re: Grift Graft
Post on Mon 29 Feb 2016, 6:40 am by Cal
Fabulous. Absolutely loved it. Such a clever plot and a wonderful twist. Glad my little tale inspired you to such heights. Calx
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Re: Grift Graft
Post on Tue 01 Mar 2016, 10:33 pm by Penski
What an awesome con, CD Roberts! You sure haven't lost your ability to weave a tale to entertain us!
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