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Friday, July 21, 2017

The Treasure of Eerie, Arizona, Chapter 1, Part 1

 Posted July 21, 2017

By Christopher Leeson and Ellie Dauber

In our prologue last month, Myron Thornton Caldwell, seventeen year old runaway and would-be stage robber, had been accidentally shot during his attempt to steal a gold shipment from Eerie, Arizona.  He had led the gang to his own neighborhood to commit the crime, which is lucky for him, because the only person in the world who cares if he lives or dies is his aunt Irene, who lives just a couple miles away.  With his life at stake, that is the place to go.  But things have changed in Eerie since the last time he has been there. . . .


Chapter 1, Part 1

December 13, 1871

Irene Fanning made the whip snap over the horse's back, wincing at the thought of what the joggling must be doing to Myron's injuries.  She was forcing the buggy down Riley Canyon Road as hastily as she dared.    Though only twenty-six, it had taken all of her strength to hoist him into the carrier behind the driver's seat.  Since then, under a woolen blanket, he hadn't made a sound.  This had alarmed the widow so much that she had stopped once to check on him, to gratefully find that he was still breathing slowly.  Then she was on her way again.  If she couldn't reach Hiram Upshaw's office in time, her nephew didn't have a hope.  The doctor had been an army surgeon during the War, she knew; if anyone in Eerie could save a badly wounded boy, Upshaw could.

At that moment, the buckboard was rattling past the familiar wooden sign that was painted with the words “Eerie Arizona – Welcome, Friend.”  The first of the town's lamp-lit houses were showing up ahead.  She dreaded to think what might happen over the next few hours.  Myron was an outlaw that the law would be ready to arrest the moment that they learned he was back.

Irene Fanning slowed her buckboard when it entered the town proper.  Eerie wasn't large, and in just a minute they were halfway through it.  She pulled up behind the doctor's office.  It was supper-time, after regular hours, but Doc Upshaw lived in the rear section.   She was whispering prayers that he would be at home.

Irene drew up and braked.  She wrenched her ankle springing to earth, but didn't stop before she was pounding on the back door.  Though she was striking the panels as hard as she could, the widow didn't shout.  She didn't dare attract attention. 

“Hold on, hold on, I'm coming,” sounded a resonant but muffled voice. 

A few seconds later, the door swung open.  The man looked questioningly into the face of the young woman whom he'd met several times before.  “Mrs. Fanning?  You look a sight,” Doctor Upshaw remarked.  “What's the trouble?”

“M-My nephew.  He's been shot!”  Breathless, the farm woman had to put her shoulder against the door post for support.  Hiram helped her inside, to a chair beside the door. 

“Thorn?” he muttered.  “Shot?  Where is he?”

“In – in the buckboard.”

The doctor spied the one-horse vehicle through the window.  In the back was what looked like a body covered by a blanket.

“Don't tell anyone he's here!” Irene said.  “He broke the law.”

The words were hardly spoken before the Hiram Upshaw was outside, closing in on the buckboard.  Almost covered by a quilt was a boy's face.  He'd seen that sort of face many times before, on many young soldiers who had been brought to the infirmaries of General Joe Johnston's Confederate army.  Drawing the blanket lower, he saw the blood, so much of it that it looked like a spill of warm tar in the fading twilight.  It seemed to be a gut-shot wound, and that was always bad.  Upshaw called for the widow's assistance and together they moved the boy inside. The doctor had lost hundreds of patients in the late war, but had fought for the life of every last one of them.  He didn't know any other way to do his job.

Moving a belly-shot man, the surgeon knew, could kill him right quickly, but every second counted.  He was already guessing that the case was hopeless, but with a family member looking on in horror, he couldn't let himself think like that.

The doctor and the widow took Thorn Caldwell down a central hall that connected his living and work areas, and into a room with three infirmary beds.  As they eased him down on the sheets, the sufferer cried out, which at least informed Upshaw that the boy was not so far gone that he couldn't feel pain.  Fortunately, his blood loss inside the buckboard hadn't given evidence of a full-blown hemorrhage.  But if his bowels were leaking into his bloodstream it would poison him in a day or less. 

Hiram banished the boy's aunt to the waiting room and then lighted the whale oil lamp on the night stand by Thorn's bed.  Examination told him that the bullet was still lodged inside the youth's body, making a bad situation worse.  He wiped his hands on a towel and joined Mrs. Fanning.  “Whether I take out the shell or not, I don't think the poor boy will make it... ” he trailed off.

The surgeon felt rather than saw the widow blanching in the gloom.  “He's too young,” she said. 

Upshaw shook his head.  “In a better world than this one, he would be too young to die.  But during the war, I saw hundreds of boys like him pass from less serious wounds.”

“Lordy, lordy,” the woman moaned.

“We'll have to keep him warm and reduce the pain with laudanum, until...

Irene groaned and covered her face.

The doctor surprised himself when he blurted, “There may be one way to save his life... ”

The widow looked up hopefully.  “If you can save him, do it!”

He was immediately sorry that he had spoken.  Death was an everyday thing.  But was the cure that he was about to suggest… ethical?  He’d read through the few books he had on medical ethics: “the patient can refuse treatment” versus “the physician should do what is best for the patient” and “do no harm.”  He still wasn’t _completely_ sure what was right.  “I'm not sure you would like saving your boy’s life the way we'd have to.”

Mrs. Fanning looked excitedly into his face.  “I don't care about the cost!  You can have the cattle.  Even the farm.”

Upshaw shook his head.  “It's not the cost.  The medicine...does things that might horrify you.  I'm not sure that Thorn himself wouldn't want to die instead.” 

‘Just as Elmer O’Hanlan had refused the potion,’ the physician thought.  ‘His father had to trick the boy into taking it, but the trick backfired; the father had been transformed as well.  But… Elmer – Emma now -- _was_ still alive.  And wasn’t having one's patient survive the goal of every doctor?’

“What kind of medicine is it?”

“Indian medicine man medicine.  Magic.  Maybe magic.  Probably.”

Irene drew back.  “Magic?”  Then her eyes opened wide.  “You're thinking of doing what Shamus O'Toole did to save that O'Hanlan boy?”

Upshaw turned away.  “I should have said that better.”

Irene wheeled away, her mind reeling.  “I've heard the stories...  I've seen Patrick O'Hanlan and his... son.  People are saying all sorts of things about the potion, and how it messed up their lives.”

The doctor shrugged.  “That it surely did.  My work is science, not sorcery.  If you wish to get advice from somebody else, you ought to talk with Sheriff Talbot.  He has more experience with potion girls than I have.”

“I don't know what I should do,” Irene answered back.

“I suggest you pray.”

Hiram Upshaw returned to his patient.  From a shelf, he took a brown-glass bottle of laudanum, unstopped it, and put the open neck to the stricken boy's lips.  The cinnamon, added to subdue the drug's bitterness, wafted pungently.  After setting the vial aside, the physician used his scissors to cut away the dirty and bloody shirt that was pasted to his patient.  That done, he cleaned the wound with alcohol and stuffed the bullet hole with gauze. 

'Inoperable,' he was thinking.  Whatever Mrs. Fanning decided, under no circumstances would it be his hand that administered the bewitching draft; not while he still had so many ethical questions.  But should he do more?   Did he have the right to say no if -- _when_ -- she asked for it?  The War had driven God out of the hearts of many of his fellow doctors, but that hadn't happened to Hiram Upshaw.  He had seen miracles – many of them -- during those four awful years, and even later.  Maybe Shamus’ potion was one of those miracles.

The office had grown as silent as the tomb.  He looked into the drawing room and realized that he was alone. 


The coal-oil lamp he was reading hung by a black chain from the beam above Sheriff Dan Talbot.  He was deep into _Castle_ _Dangerous_ by Sir Walter Scott.  There wasn't much else for a man to do at such a quiet hour.  His deputy, Paul Grant, was due in at ten.  Paul liked the night shift; nothing ever happened during the small hours, and the younger man's only address was the jail storeroom.  Dan smiled.  Right now Paul would be over at the Eerie Saloon, where his lady love worked.

He shook his head.  That match-up was one that he had never seen coming.  He wondered how long the two of them could stay a couple.  An outlaw and a peace officer?  Miracles happened.  They really did.

Talbot glanced up when pounding hooves stopped in front of the jailhouse.  A moment later, the door flew open.  Dan swung his heels off the desk and turned in his swivel chair.  The lawman knew his excited visitor.  It was Hank Durst, a cowpuncher from Abner Slocum's ranch.

“Sheriff!” he exclaimed.

Talbot set aside the book and stood up.  “A problem, Hank?”

The cowboy's head bobbed up and down.  “Big problem.  Stage robbery!”

The sheriff gritted his teeth.  The stage often took on nuggets and dust from the assay office.  But it had been a long while since a robbery had occurred near Eerie.


“Riley Canyon Road, up in the gap,” replied the young man.

“Anyone hurt?” Dan asked.

“One bandit got shot.  Old lady Deeters thought it was Thorn Caldwell.”

Talbot scowled.  “Who shot him?”

“A ricochet off the strongbox, the guard said.  “The bandits let the stage go free, with Thorn just lying there on the road.  They kept the chest.  The stage men flagged me down when I ran into them.  They was going on to Phoenix to alert the authorities.”

The sheriff scowled.  He knew Thorn Caldwell – a quick-tempered kid with a chip on his shoulder, some seventeen or eighteen years of age by now.  The boy had done a lot of fist-fighting and could always be found practicing target-shooting and the quick-draw.  He was suspected in some thieving, too.  Once Dan had had to go out to the farm to reprimand the lad for reckless gun-play.  Not too long after that, Caldwell had disappeared, run away.  A neighbor had accused him of stealing one of his horses.  That had been back in January, and the boy hadn't shown his face in Eerie since.

“What are you going to do, Sheriff?” Durst asked.  “I'll join the posse if you're starting one.”

Dan took a deep breath.  “First, I'm going to send out alerts.  All the towns on the telegraph line have to be put on the lookout.  Tell, me, Hank, how many long riders were there?”

“The stage people saw four, including Thorn.  They thought they were all young pups.”

“If Caldwell was wounded, that might slow them down,” Talbot mused out loud.  Dan decided to leave organizing the posse to Paul, who could get things ready for him to lead out after a night's sleep.

“Lad, hang around until the emergency bell rings if you want to hunt bandits.  We'll start at first light.  Get yourself a little rest before then, if you can.”

“Sure enough, Sheriff,” Durst said.  The young man then hurried out into the street. 

Dan Talbot had just started putting on his guns when there was a tapping at the door.  He yelled over his shoulder, “It's not locked.”

A woman stepped in and he recognized the widow Irene Fanning, Thorn Caldwell's aunt.  This couldn't be a coincidence.

“Mrs. Fanning.  Did you hear about your nephew?”

She blinked, amazed at how swiftly terrible news could travel.  “That he's hurt?”

“That he's robbed a stage!”

“He robbed?”

Talbot frowned.  “You didn't know?”

“I know he's been shot!”

The peace officer nodded.  “A rider came in.  He said the stage was relieved of a strongbox up in Stagecoach Gap.”

She looked pained.  “He came to the farm badly wounded, about an hour ago.”

“How is he?”

“He's with the doctor.  Doc Upshaw says that he's... he's probably... lost.”

Talbot sighed.  “I'm sorry, ma'am.”

“He says that the... the potion might save him, like the O'Hanlan boy.”

Dan sent her a hard look.  “I see.”

“Dr. Upshaw told me to tell you.  What should we do?”

“Ma'am,” he said, “do you know what that potion does?  A lot of men would rather die than take it.”

Irene's anguish was writ large.  “Maybe it isn't as bad as him dying.”

The tall man shrugged.  “Are you sure?  Is he able to speak for himself?”

“He's lying like dead.  He can't talk,” Irene explained.

Dan nodded.  “I can't make that decision for another person.  I think you should talk to Judge Humphreys.  He's the one who orders up the potion for outlaws, sometimes.”

She looked despairing.  “Will he let Myron have it?”

The sheriff shook his head.  “I can't say.”

“I just --” Mrs. Fanning began, but couldn't find the words she needed.

“We've got get a move on, ma'am.  While you and the Judge talk, I need to get on the telegraph, so the robbers won't get away.”  As courteously as he could, he led the farm woman outside.


Judge Humphrey's lamps were lit.  Sheriff Talbot banged on the door and, when it opened, the jurist stood regarding him, looking like he was ready for news concerning some new trouble.

“Dan?” Humphreys asked.  “What's the emergency?”

Talbot let Mrs. Fanning lead the way out of the night's chill.  “The Prescott to Phoenix Stage has been robbed,” he told the Judge.

Humphreys frowned.  “My word!” he said.  “Do we know who did it?”

Dan nodded.  “It was Thorn Caldwell, along with three other kids.  Caldwell is with the doctor now.  Wounded.”

“Thornton Caldwell?” the Judge muttered.  Only now did it dawn on him why Dan had brought along the woman, one whom he knew from church.  “Your nephew?”

“Yes, sir,” she said.  “He's dying.”

Humphreys rubbed his thin hair.  “I regret to hear that.”

“Your Honor,” said the lawman, “she's got something to consult with you about.  I'll abide with your decision, whatever it is.  But, right now, I have to send out the warning that there are thieves on the road.  If you're going over to the saloon, let Paul know that he has to form up a posse.”

“The saloon?” the Judge repeated. 

“Mrs. Fanning will explain.”  Talbot tipped his hat and withdrew.

Parnassus C. Humphreys shifted his attention to Irene Fanning.  “How can I be of assistance, my dear?”

She hurriedly explained.

The Judge pursed his lips thoughtfully.  “If that's what you want, it might be the judgment of fate.  If a boy with Thorn's record for trouble-making was ever found guilty for stage robbery in my court, I'd be sorely tempted to give him the potion, even if it were only a first offense.  It may be that justice is about to be served, with no trial required.”

“Thank you, Your Honor, I think,” Thorn's aunt replied bemusedly.  “But one thing... ”  She hesitated.


“I'm not sure giving him the potion is the Christian thing to do.”

Humphreys' brow wrinkled.  “I'm not sure either.  Mostly, I've let it happen because I don't like hanging an outlaw.”

Irene shook her head.  “Myron tried to grow up too quickly, I'm afraid, and grew up angry.  But if he takes the potion and changes, it's important that no one knows about it.”

The Judge nodded.   “I dare say that being humiliated would make him even angrier.  I assure you, Madame, no one will find out such a thing from me.  But if you really want to do this, we have to hurry over and see Shamus.  He's the only one who can prepare the potion.”


There were few lights along the benighted street.  Many buildings were full dark; the shops had mostly closed, thought the several drinking establishments were lit.  Long before they reached the batwing doors of the Eerie Saloon, the pair heard music and a girl singing:

`      When the blackbird in the Spring,
`      On the willow tree,
`      Sat and rocked, I heard him sing,
`      Singing Aura Lee.

`      Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
`      Maid with golden hair;
`      Sunshine comes along with thee,
`      And swallows fill the air.

Judge Humphrey led the widow inside and guided her between the tables.  From his companion's darting eyes and curious glances, he guessed that she had never set foot inside a saloon before.  Shamus had a good-sized crowd tonight.  There were card games and layers of conversation going on.  A slim blond in blue was holding people's attention, delivering a version of the soulful Aura Lee.  These war tunes usually hushed a house, bringing back memories of  hardship and lonely nights in camp. 

`      In thy blush the rose was born,
`      Music, when thou spake;
`      Through thine azure eyes the morn
`      Sparkling seems to break.

`      Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
`      Maid with golden hair;
`      Sunshine comes along with thee,
`      And swallows fill the air.

`      Aura Lee! birds may flee
`      From the willow bare,
`      Flying 'gainst the winter's breath,
`      Through the stormy air.

`      Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
`      Maid with golden hair;
`      Sunshine comes along with thee,
`      And swallows fill the air.

`      When the mistletoe was green,
`      Midst the season’s snows,
`      Sunshine in thy face was seen,
`      Kissing lips of rose.

`      Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
`      Maid with golden hair;
`      Sunshine comes along with thee,
`      And swallows fill the air.

`      Says thy beau, sweet Aura Lee,
`      Thy smiles warm his heart,

`      So let the sadness that I see
`      From thine eyes depart.

`      Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
`      Maid with golden hair;
`      Sunshine comes along with thee,
`      And swallows fill the air.

`      Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
`      Take thy wooer`s ring;
`      Love and lightness welcome thee,
`      As robins hail the spring.

`      Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
`      Maid with golden hair;
`      Sunshine comes along with thee,
`      And swallows fill the air.

“That's Jessie Hanks,” remarked Humphreys to Irene Fanning.

She had heard the name before.  “One of the outlaws?”

Humphreys nodded. 

She stared, amazed, at the gaily-dressed, petite girl.  Embarrassed, she changed the subject.  “Please, we must hurry!”

Humphreys scanned the crowd.  “I don't see Shamus.  We'll ask the bartender where he's at.” 

A dark-haired man in a deep blue silk vest and white shirt stood behind the counter serving customers from brown bottles.  He glanced up as the pair neared.  “What's your flavor tonight, Judge?”

“No time for that, R. J.  This lady and I have urgent business with Shamus.”

R.J. Rossi looked across to the stairs.  “He's in his rooms; go on up.”


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