Western Short Story
Wilmonton Gilbert Sloan IV, president of the new bank in Curry Hills, Texas, could not abide Texas, Texans, cowboys, trail riders, gunmen, sneaks, snakes and under-class snobs. In short, he promised himself he’d be a short-time Texan at best, but he was not about to leave penniless for a new start in Detroit, Chicago, or even all the way back to Boston or New York. One of those places? yes. Penniless? no.
He put his alert and highly able mind to work on the problem, confidently knowing riches are for those who can handle them, those abundant riches born of whatever wherever. The source, of course, would be the bank deposits currently under his hand and foot, free and easy, needing but a proper cover, a disguise, and an amiable, tenable, highly merciful errand; even make-believe would do in this case.
He’d have to start easy, slow, but as soon as possible. To make it good would require courage above and beyond what he employed so far in life, and top-notch coverage, and that appeared to be one of false mercy on some victim out here in the wilds, and it would require the right bank on the right road, in the right direction, about to sign up a huge over-counter activity.
And all it needed was to be plotted with sly acumen in the keenest mind he had yet known.
When it all came to him, somebody else had to get it going; it’d take patience on his part, and he had a deal of that, he believed, but did not know that his patience couldn’t be handled by someone else.
His chief accountant and second in command in the Curry Hills Bank, Garth Canady,said one day, when he saw him doodling with all the bank’s top figures for the third time in that one day, “Mr. Sloan, you certainly take care of the people’s money in our able hands. Congratulations on your zeal at the job.” It was a bit of ass-kissing at the upper level.
“Oh, tish, tush!” he replied, discarding it as nothing. “What needs be done, must get done.” They smiled at each other in perfect harmony.
Beginning then, he kept a deplorable, ragged-looking old wagon in an old barn behind the bank, the barn looking like it was about to fall any minute or get knocked topsy-turvy by a single gust of wind, and the wagon looking like it couldn’t make it down the town road without collapsing in a few rotations of its wheels. But that vehicle had qualities hidden to the common eye; the normal eye, the large wheels were made of painted steel able to stand a thousand road impacts. It also had a secret partition under the driver’s seat, two horses nearby that he fed and cared for secretly, devotedly, with the temperate hands of an animal trainer on the most important job of his life. He dared think he was born for this venture, but only a temporary issue of learning new steps in old trades, no matter how many trades were required; he’d be master of them all, one at a time, or collectively if need be.
Cut and dried, he’d be a master of them all. Whenever he said “All,” he’d feel the syrup of the word in his throat, taste it in his mouth, see it with closed eyes.
The bank figures he steadily worked at, assumed the vision he carried in his mind, bundles of paper money, nothing below $10 bills, neatly, tightly-packed, and no loose air spaces at all in the final containers, how many there’d be at departure he only dreamed about over and over so that it captured his mind no end.
And there were nights of deep darkness when he brought certain chunks of his mission to their side of the deal, letting them know the midnight feel of things, how they had to operate in secure silence and secrecy, within the dark stable, and once loose at the beginning of their departure ride. Wilmonton kept at the task, making repetition the master of the actions he foresaw in their full environment. “Teach them,” he kept saying, “and they’ll be the best of students in their dumb world.”
The two special horses, fed by his hand, nudged by his hand and elbow, patted ceaselessly in his ministrations, responded in like manner, trained to do his bidding before it came time to do the real thing, escort him to his deserved place along with notable kingpins already on site, most likely waiting for the newest heir of good fortune to join their gay ranks.
Life would soon come to a fond new member spoiling with the deed of riches, good fortune, classic integrity, unbounded of prize and privilege, a man finally at home in the right part of the world, at the right time in his existence, opportunity never re-appearing on a likely deal.
It was only the widow Alma Wexler, with her own sweetest of all luxuries, her own unique and unspent pile of greenbacks by the thousands, locked up at home with her other glossary of perfections, where the exceptional dwelled in their high order, that played with his otherwise devoted plans. that hindered his thoughts at odd moments of his dreamy days. Perhaps there might be a chance to scoop up her and her money, at least her money, on the way out of Curry Hills, not a likely place to spend a life of ease and comfort, not in the cordon of like personalities, not among the well-heeled, the high rich, the possessed few, out there beyond where he belonged; New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, the alpha cities of the world: oh, London itself, or Paris.
Dreams he fostered were endless, limitless, the high arc of class and competence, beauty’s bastions, fashion’s ultimate gratification, fairy tales of reality.
And came the great day on the morrow: the biggest cattle drive in ten years was due to arrive at the pens of Wormstead, and the bank there would need support in the huge pay-off to be made. He told Garth Canady, his second in command, that the Wormstead Bank would need support, that on the morrow they should deliver sufficient funds to cover the difference, “We’ll have a great day tomorrow, Garth. A great day. One of the greatest money days in our times.”
That night, candles unlit everywhere in the total darkness, Wilmonton Sloan, emptied the bank vault of its paper currency, loaded it in his special wagon, patted his pair of horses in the barn as he had a hundred times and hitched them to the special wagon, already loaded for bear.
Not a soul saw him leave town, headed, presumably, to New York for starters,
By early dawn he was well out of Curry Hills, Texas, on the open road, him sitting atop his millions, when the wind began to blow. It blew in heightening fashion by the minute, by the hour, frightening the horses as wind and dust and sand in turn were blown about them. The soon-to-be- ex-president of the Curry Hills Bank, was seeking relief by heading to the vales or valleys in some local mountains, when several riders stopped him and ordered him to give over his rig to help a couple of families with children to escape their plight.
“That’s their problem,” was the worst thing he could have said. It did him in. They roughened him off his seat, left him sitting, broken but screaming, at the side of the trail.
He was never seen again, not in Curry Hills, Chicago, Boston, or New York. Folks in Texas still wonder what happened to the money he left with; the vault door ajar.