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Authors: Ann Parker

Silver Lies

BOOK: Silver Lies
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Silver Lies
Ann Parker
Poisoned Pen Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2003 by Ann Parker
First Electronic Edition 2008
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
ISBN: 978-1-59058-546-7 (e-book)
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.
Poisoned Pen Press 6962 E.
First Ave.
, Ste. 103 Scottsdale, AZ 85251 www.poisonedpenpress.com [email protected]
Printed in the
United States of America

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgments
If I were to thank properly all who offered encouragement and shared their expertise, suggestions, and ideas, this acknowledgment would begin to approach the length of the book. Instead, I’ll try to be brief. For any who don’t appear here, please know I’m grateful.
First of all, my family. Bill for his love, support, and critical reader’s eye. Ian and Devyn for understanding (or at least tolerating) my mind-fades into the 19th century at the dinner table. My father, Don, and mother, Corinne, and sibs and their partners for abiding interest. Special thanks to my Colorado relatives including Walt, Bette, Dorothy (bless you for stockpiling the family history!), and Dave for his reference books, network of experts, and great homebrew.
I owe much to those who shared their time and expertise including Roger Neuscheler for historical assaying techniques; Ed Raines for mining history, maps, and assays; Roy Marcot for arming Inez appropriately; and Larry Hamby for information on guns and knife-fighting techniques. Any inaccuracies, slipups, or wild flights of fancy are mine alone.
This book would never have been if not for Leadville and its people, past and present. I’m grateful to Bob Elder for answering my many questions and for sharing his grand-father’s letters, to Hillery McCalister and the Apple Blossom innkeepers for tours of their historical abodes, and to the Honorable Neil Reynolds for sharing his expertise on historic Leadville. Thanks also to the staff at the Lake County Public Library, the National Mining Hall of Fame & Museum, and Leadville’s Historical Society, who keep the spirit of the past alive for those who seek it.
Along the Front Range, the Colorado Historical Society and Denver Public Library deserve special mention. Their historical collections provided invaluable fodder for my fiction, and their staff were always helpful and patient.
On the writerly end of things, I am indebted to Camille Minichino and Penny Warner—friends, authors, teachers— and to the every-other-Thursday-night critique group including Claire Johnson, Kay Barnhart, Carole Price, Janet Finsliver, Mike Cooper, Rena Leith, Gordon Yano, Mignon Richards, and Colleen Casey. Thanks to Jane Staehle for her quick and eagle eye, as well as to the folks down on the cubicle farm for music, musings on Milton, and moral support. Members of the Northern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America and Women Writing the West provided advice and encouragement. I also wish to acknowledge the e-communities of DorothyL, CrimeThruTime, HistRes, and Prock-research (now carmelsloop), where I’ve mostly lurked and learned.
I’m indebted to all the folks at Poisoned Pen Press who have helped bring
Silver Lies
to light.
And finally, to the original Inez Stannert, thank you for lending me your name.

 

 

 

 

 

For Walter Underwood Parker, who set me on the road to Leadville. And for Bill, Ian, and Devyn, who walked every step beside me.

 

 

 

Prologue
If there was an arctic version of hell, Joe Rose was living it in
Leadville
,
Colorado
.
Hugging the ten-thousand-foot mark in the
Rocky Mountains
, Leadville in December 1879 had winter air cold enough to freeze a man’s lungs, if he wasn’t used to it.
A light, white snow, soft as angel wings, descended to the black mud of Tiger Alley in Leadville’s red-light district. The icy paste—mixed with a season’s worth of animal excrement and human garbage—had been churned up by beasts of burden, carts, and lost souls. In some spots, it lay knee deep.
At
in the morning, Tiger Alley was no place to fall down. Joe knew that as he flailed about, trying to regain his footing and his dignity. Raucous voices and honky-tonk music blasted through the saloon’s half-open back door, the door through which he’d been unceremoniously ejected moments before.
On his feet at last, Joe reached for his pocket handkerchief to wipe the filth from his face. His fingers touched the slime coating his favorite waistcoat. "Damn!" He tried to scrub the mud off the silver and gold threads. "Ruined!" The word reverberated in his head, and Joe pictured it all again. The dealer raking in his last gold eagle across the waxed cloth of the faro table, the bouncer closing in on him to haul him away.
"I’m ruined," Joe whispered. Money, gone. Reputation gone as well, thanks to Harry. He owes me, Joe thought. We had a deal, we shook on it. I risked my neck meeting my side of the bargain, and he backs out.
As if through a haze, Joe remembered the curses he’d screamed at Harry just hours before, the cold, dismissive look on Harry’s face, and, most frightening of all, Harry’s silence. Panic welled up, bitter and black, in Joe’s throat.
There was no future for him in Leadville. For him, his wife Emma, or their son. Joe closed his eyes in anguish. An image of Emma, her face pale and serious, rose before him. He spoke as if to a ghost: "I did it for you." Even as he said the words, he realized they weren’t entirely true. He’d tried to protect her, true, but his troubles had really started when he tried to be someone he wasn’t. Someone who’d gamble a fortune on a hunch at the poker table or a promising claim. Now, with the last of his five thousand dollars gone, any hope of making that elusive fortune in silver had disappeared. Worse, he could see no way of extracting himself from the mess he’d created.
The only money he had left was a fifty-dollar bill he dared not gamble. It all whirled around in his brain: his debts, the fifty, Emma, the deal gone bad between him and Harry, Denver.…The bleakness of his situation penetrated his whiskey-induced fog. "How will I ever explain to Emma?" he said to the night. His hand automatically strayed to the waistcoat pocket where he kept the pocketwatch she’d given him six years ago on their wedding day.
It was gone.
Heart sinking, he searched his trouser pockets frantically and tried to strike a deal with God: Just let me find the watch. I’ll go straight home, tell Emma everything. I’ll use that damn banknote to buy three stagecoach tickets and we’ll start over with a clean slate. I swear I’ll never touch cards or another glass of whiskey.
The lack of moonlight made it difficult to see in the alley. Crouching, Joe scrabbled through the frigid muck. His fingers felt, then closed on a familiar metallic disk. He clutched the watch to his chest in relief and thought, now I can go home. Everything will work out.
A slight vibration in the ground. A soft "whuff," barely heard.
Something was behind him.
Joe sprang to his feet and turned to see a monstrous dark shape. Too tall for a man. Joe heard a jangle of bit and bridle, an equine snort. The shape moved, became a horse and rider. The rider urged the mount forward. Straight toward Joe.
"Hey!" Joe shouted, trying to get out of the way. The horse jerked its head up with a snort and pranced backward. It unexpectedly lunged forward as the rider applied the whip. Joe stumbled to one side. Mud sucked at his boots, slowing his escape. The horse’s bulk slammed into him, knocking the breath out of his body and nearly toppling him backward. The rider pulled up short with a vicious rein. Breathing hard and cursing, Joe grabbed a stirrup leather, staying well to the side to avoid being stepped on. He peered up, trying to discern the rider.
The voice that floated down to him was filled with menace.
"Well, well, if it isn’t Joe Rose."
Fear crawled over Joe, freezing the sweat on his back, choking the curses in his throat. Oh Jesus, he thought. Not here. Not now. He couldn’t force his thoughts any further, couldn’t frame a reply.
Words poured over him with increased fury. "Looks like Lady Luck’s deserted you for good this time. Are you short on silver again? Greenbacks? Or are you cheating at cards now?"
The rider leaned over, seized the dangling fob, and yanked. The pocketwatch flew from Joe’s grip, a comet streaking beyond his reach.
Joe let go of the stirrup leather and made a futile grab, desperate to recapture the watch. The rider shifted athwart the saddle, away from Joe. The next instant, a booted foot smashed into Joe’s face, sending bright daggers of pain streaking through his vision.
Joe cried out and fell backward, breaking through a thin icy crust into the scum below. Blood, warm and wet, poured from his battered nose and bathed his lips and chin. The pain loosened his tongue at last. He struggled to raise himself, searching purchase in the slime. "Wait! I was coming to see you." He tried to sound assured, sincere. But all he heard in his trembling voice was desperation and fear. "I…I’ve got what you want. All of it. The shipment arrived today. About the other business, the chemistry was wrong, but it’s straight now."
BOOK: Silver Lies
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