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Living Among Ghosts Right, Wrong & The Law ~

Chapter 3, Part 2

"Callum! Remember your father!", Froelick was shouting in the background as Callum raced down the hill towards a raucous crowd on the main street of Elizabethtown. A posse with five prisoners had just arrived in front of the drug store amid skyward gunfire and shouting. Another, smaller, group of riders also approached from the south carrying their own torches and firing their own shots, but they were still minutes away.

Callum's path took him through an alley up the hill from the scene. It was dark enough to conceal Callum's presence as Clay Allison shouted out to the whole town, "Callum Ennis! Since you wouldn't ride, we brought 'em to you! Come on out here and identify these grifters!"

Callum's excitement gave way to caution when he saw the guns drawn and the wild abandon with which Clay Allison was swinging his rifle as he removed sacks from the heads of his prisoners. They were, in fact, the swindlers that had taken Callum on the fraudulent claim, Keefe, Stanley, Kendrick, and the two Maxwell enforcers. But rather than running out to identify these men, Callum decided to duck behind a stack of lumber that was blocking the dark space between a saloon and its brothel in hopes of waiting for calm.

The other posse was only three men, but they were now close enough that their shouts were intelligible. They were in pursuit of Clay Allison and felt that he and his men had taken these prisoners unfairly. As these angry men arrived, Clay was still calling for Callum. The lead man of the second posse dismounted his horse and began pointing his pistol at Allison and marching toward him in with purposeful madness. As he reached Allison, Clay had already swung the butt of his rifle stock up to the man's forehead and struck him to the ground. The man's pistol fell a few feet from his body, and Clay kicked it within inches of Callum's hiding place unbeknownst that Callum was lurking in the shadows behind the lumber.

"C'mon! Git up and join these other fellers," Clay motioned for the man he struck to stand with his prisoners. "Now git out here Ennis! I ain't got all night!"

As Callum judged what his best option was, he saw another man emerge from the shadows of the saloon's darkened boardwalk. This man wore the same badge as the Maxwell enforcers. The man stared at Clay Allison as he slowly and secretly began to draw a rifle from under his long duster. When Callum saw this, he looked back down at the gun that had been kicked over towards his hiding place, and he knew what he had to do.

Callum dashed over the stack of lumber that had concealed him, grabbed the pistol, and trained it on the man just before he was able to fully take aim on Clay Allison with his rifle. "Alright, Mr. Allison. Here I am.", Callum announced his presence to the whole crowd in dramatic fashion while still pointing the pistol at the Maxwell enforcer and motioning for him to drop his rifle.

Clay took the rifle from his would-be assailant and said calmly, "Well, much obliged, Mr. Ennis. So are these the men?"

"That depends, Mr. Allison. Are you planning on locking them up or stringing them up?" Callum wanted a peaceful end.

Before Clay could respond, another man in Clay's posse dismounted and said to Callum. "We will lock them up in my yard if that's what you want, and I'll see to it they stand trial tomorrow."

"That sounds fair enough, mister?" Callum asked to know who he was dealing with.

"Mr. Obadiah Niles." He responded. "Do we have a deal? Are these the men?"

Clay Allison reasoned, "if'n you saved my skin just now, I reckon we should lock 'em up. Just for one night though. I'm riding out in two days with Goodnight."

Callum succumbed to the posse, lowered his weapon, and finally said it, "That's all of them. Let's get them to your yard, Mr. Niles."

Callum spent about an hour helping Niles, Allison, and two other men to secure the five prisoners in a barn. It was full of wagons and parts for wagons, and Callum needed to clear out any tools or potential weapons before they left the prisoners in there. The remaining posse arranged to take shifts watching them overnight, and Callum finally was able to head back to his new bed above Froelick's store. As he left, everyone agreed to meet at The Popular Resort, or as they called it, "The Senate", for a trial in the morning. Ironically, it was where the whole mess had begun with Mr. Kendrick and his friends that were all now captive in this makeshift jail.

Callum made his way back to Froelick's store in the dark. The hillside terrain was difficult to judge in the dim moonlight, and the careful walk back gave Callum time to think. He was bewildered at himself for taking such a bold stand to save Allison and to ensure that these grifters saw justice. He worried that his father would be disappointed in his use of a firearm to threaten another man, but his actions undoubtedly prevented bloodshed. The fact was that Elizabethtown was not Houston, and it seemed quick thinking and bold action would be necessary in his new home.

"Well, you didn't get yourself killed." Froelick's voice emanated from the shadow of his store's front porch. "I couldn't get to the street fast enough. When I got there you already had a man at gunpoint. How’d you get into that mess?"

"I was saving Clay Allison, I guess.", Callum replied. “Come inside. I'll tell you all about it."

Callum told Froelick about the kicked gun, the rifleman hiding in the shadows, and the arrangement to have a trial rather than a lynching. Froelick was impressed that Callum was able to navigate such contention, but added, "I'd rather have my partner than for you to be playing high stakes like that."

Callum just nodded, turned to go upstairs, and said, "me too."

The next morning, there was a new buzz in the atmosphere around Elizabethtown. Much of the town's business was put on hold to see the spectacle resolved at "The Senate". Froelick met Callum just as Callum had made his way up the hill where they both noticed a number whispers directed towards Callum as they walked. The saloon had been transformed into a courtroom by removing all the tables except for one. There were chairs arranged for witnesses and a jury as well, but the rest of the room was standing room only. Callum and Froelick found Obadiah Niles who instructed Callum to sit with the witnesses. Froelick stood directly behind that.

"Who's the judge?", Callum asked Froelick over his shoulder.

"We haven't got a judge. Just months ago, we were scarcely a town..." Froelick's response was interrupted by an authoritative yell from the bar.

It was J.W. Williams, the bar owner, who spoke, "Last night's events have required that we deal with five individuals accused of operating a swindle in our town. Obadiah Niles has agreed to preside as our judge this morning. So, Mr. Niles, the room is yours."

Mr. Niles stood at the lone table with a mallet that he pounded loudly three times. He announced some official sounding terms that justified that he could act as judge, he introduced the twelve men who would comprise a jury (most of whom had been in Clay Allison's posse), read the names of the accused, read the accusations of at least three attempts to establish fraudulent claims, and then introduced none other than Clay Allison as the prosecutor and one last posse member, J. Edward Douglass, as the defense counsel.

The trial was not going to take long. Mr. Douglass declined to present any argument. Just as the verdict was to be announced, however, Maxwell himself strode into the bar flanked by several men with rifles. He was well dressed in a suit and tie, his hair was parted and combed as he removed his hat, and his moustache was perfectly groomed. However he had the rough visage of a mountain man, and he commanded a certain respect as he spoke.

"I am not here to upset the people or their legal proceedings, but those who stand accused are my men. They answer to me as much as they answer to the law." Maxwell spoke as though he sought justice, but his ruse was known to most of the spectators - especially since it was accompanied by several armed men. He continued, "I believe a verdict was being read. I assume it was guilty. That is fine, but seeing as you have nothing but a wagon barn for a jail, I propose I take them back to Cimarron to deal with them."

Of course, the entire room knew that dealing with them really meant some kind of final paycheck and a free pass, but the armed men also meant that there wasn't much choice. Obadiah Niles allowed the verdict to continue and handed the men over to Maxwell. Clay Allison protested, but his strength was in drunken brawls and street justice. He knew he was outmanned and outgunned. It seemed the whole affair of a trial was almost for nothing, but it did make it clear to several in the room that a legitimate element of law and order should be organized.

Callum and Froelick decided to duck out of the scene in hopes that this whole thing could blow over and be behind them for good, but Mr. Niles stopped them on their way out.

"Mr. Ennis", Mr. Niles was standing with J.W. Williams and Clay Allison as he addressed Callum, "I think you would agree that this whole debacle has displayed the need for real law in this town. I've agreed to serve as Justice of the Peace.. Would you consider being Constable, perhaps Sheriff?"

"No sir, I'm a shopkeeper and a miner. Besides Mr. Allison seems to have more of a taste for that sort of work." Callum was decisive.

"Mr. Allison is not a resident, he merely passes through with his outfit. I'm only a wagon maker, but if this town is going to be successful, it needs order. If I'm the only option, then…" Obadiah Niles was pleading, and Callum felt he needed to help in some way if he was to make his way in this new home.

"Okay. I'll help you build a jail. We need that. I'll serve as Constable as well, but only until we can have a county election, and my name will not be on that ballot."