“Hey Roku!” he shouted into the cool darkness at the back of the bar, “Miz Dio’s back!”
Dio stopped in front of the No. 10, dismounted and stretched, and looped the horses’ reins around the trailing at the edge of the boardwalk.
“Howdy boys, “ she said quietly to the a curious bystanders. “How y’all been?”
They mumbled something about being fine, thank you Ma’am, and and the one who seemed to be possessed of the most fetchums in the group tipped his hat and offered, “Tis a fine thing to see ye back Miz Dio.”
The woman nodded and smiled in a tired sort of way, and went into her saloon. It was empty except for Auggie, the young German man who bar-tended for Dio when she was absent, and Roku, her one-woman security staff. Roku had been sitting in her usual seat--the one in the farthest corner, facing the door--and had been reading the paper. When she looked up and saw it was actually Dio, Roku stood and came out from behind the table, smiling more than was generally her custom.
“Hello Dio. Damn, it’s good to have yah back. Did yah get that sumbtich who killed Al?”
Auggie also said his hellos and offered to take care of Dio’s horses and gear. She suggested that after doing so, he could stop by China Row to get the saloon ledger from Miss Hepzibeth, the dour scottish woman who now managed the laundry and kept the books for both of Dio’s businesses, Auggie readily agreed, as he was quite anxious to show his employer how well he had managed things while she was gone.
After they watched the young man tear out the door of the No. 10, Dio replied, “Yes, Roku, I found him.”
“You kill him?”
“No. But I did get the drop on him an’ shot him in the leg.” And I turned him over to a federal deppity marshal--if he survives transport, he’ll be taken to Yankton for trial...get hung I imagine.”
Roku was now actually grinning a malevolent fashion. “So ye took him alive?! Goddamn that’s perfect! He give evidence that Hearst and Tanner hired him to the do the job?”
Dio smiled an odd little smile and shook her head. “Nope.”
“NO?! Why the hell not? Did yah try shootin’ him in the other leg as well to make him talk? Ah’d a done it for yah if ah’d been there.”
“No Hon. He gave no evidence to that effect bein’ as apparently they hadn’t put him up to it.”
Dio went through the whole story about the young woman in Lead and how she had induced Zed to kill Al. Roku, though slightly crestfallen with the disappointing news that Al’s murder would not be pinned on someone she truly hated, she quickly became philosophical about it.
“Well, at least yah got him, made him suffer some an’ yah have turned him over to the hand o’ justice. Hopefully they won’t fuck it up. So what’s all this ah hear about Al remeberin’ yah in his will?”
Dio laughed, “Word got around about that already?!”
Roku shrugged. “Ain’t that big of a goddamn town. Whereas Pel does have a purty big mouth on him.”
Dio explained about the unexpected connection between Al’s family and her own history, and that when she was at Ft. Pierre during her pursuit of Zed and had telegraphed various people, including Mashal Rau and Mayor Silverspar, to give them an update on the search. While she was still there, the mayor--who also was one of the better lawyers in town--notified her in a return telegram that Al had left the majority of his goods and chattels to Dio out of gratitude for what she and Jack had done for his family.
“So what all did yah end up with?” asked Roku.
“Well, I ain’t sure about exact amounts, but they’s some money, a property in Denver, some shares in Gold Star mines o’ course...an’ some shares in Hearst’s company, of all things. Seems him an Al had been friends or at least worked together at some point. Oh, an’ a part ownership of some piss-ant silver mine in Montana, called the Anaconda.”
Roku looked impressed. “Goddamn Dio. Yer all set, ain’t yah?”
“Well Hon, not so much as it would seem at first blush,” Dio answered. “Ye see, Al left most o’ what he had to me cuz he thought he had no livin’ relatives to speak of. But I know fer a fact he has a half-nephew who along with Sepp, did some things on my behalf right after the war...an now he’s a corporal in 10th U.S. Cavalry. So me an’ Sepp think tis only right to give him the shares in Gold Star, along with the Denver property, an’ split the cash with him.”
Roku stared at Dio for a moment as if she were trying to decide if her friend had perhaps been out in the sun too long without a hat. Then she suddenly laughed. “Hah! That is a good one! Ah am sure those fellahs at Gold Star mining are jus’ gonna be tickled shitless to have a colored fer one o’ their stockholders. They din’t realize that Al was jus passin’ fer white did they?”
Dio shruged. “Not that I know of. But main thing is, what’s right is right. An’ besides we’re still keepin’ some o the money--put it away to save fer buyin’ some land when Sepp gets outta the army next year. Also I am keepin’ that piece o the silver mine, jus’ fer shits an’ giggles. An’ I am definitely holdin’ on to the shares in Hearst’s company.” Dio grinned. “I figger he’ll be much more polite to me from now on, bein’ as I’m a investor in his interests.”
“Either that,” Roku scowled, “or he’ll try to have yah killed.”
Dio smiled. “That’s why I got you around, Hon.”
Roku still did not look happy. “Shit. Guess ah better tell Sal ah can’t keep workin’ the side job at the Bella fer a while. Keepin’ you alive is probably gone require mah full-time attention.”
At this point, Auggie came in with Hepzibeth and the ledgers. The scottish laundry manager greeted Dio in her usual matter-of-fact business-like fashion, as if Dio had only been gone for an extended visit to the outhouse, rather than an absence of weeks and weeks to chase down a killer. They were just sitting down to look over the books when US Deputy Marshal Rau came in.
“I heard you were back!” he said with substantial enthusiasm.
“Hello Sand,” replied Dio. “News gets around town fast, don’t it? Well, I expect you want this back.” She reached into her jacket, unpinned the badge from her shirt, and held it out to the deputy marshal.
Sand looked at it for a moment. “You know, I could just let you hang on to that and keep you on the books as D.A. Kuhr, and maybe no one will notice.”
“Special deppity don’t pay anythin’ does it?” Dio asked.
Dio smiled and put the badge in Sand’s big paw of a hand. “Then I may as well pass. But I am greatly obliged to ye for allowin’ me the use o’ the tin star in this circumstance.”
“All right woman,” grunted Sand. “As you wish. But I gotta say you did a fine job of investigatin’ this...findin’ out who the killer was and what direction he was going. I am just real sorry that we didn’t get to talk to him before he got killed.”
Both Dio and Roku looked up with some surprise.
“Um...Sand, just exactly what in the name o’ Satan’s huge red testicles are you talkin’ about?” enquired Dio.
“Oh...well you see I had gotten notice that he was picked up by another Federal deputy marshal in Minnesota, but was shot in the head ‘n killed while tryin’ to escape,” Sand replied, somewhat hurt and puzzled by the tone in Dio’s voice.
Dio and Roku looked at one another for a moment. Then Dio turned back to Sand and said in voice that was now unusually calm and pleasant, “I see. Well Sand, I am gratified to know that justice has been served to some extent, and that I may have contributed in some small way to the process. I thankye fer lettin me know.”
Sand Rau excused himself, saying that he had to get on with his duties for the day, and once again thanked Dio for her service. After he had left, Roku looked questioningly at her friend and employer.
“Ah thought yah said ya’d given Quinnell a bad wound in the leg...woulda kept him from tryin’ to run for it,” she said with only a hint of curiosity in her voice.
Dio was staring out the door after the Deputy Marshal, stroking her chin in a thoughtful manner. “That lawman I turned him over to...“ she said quietly, “seems he decided to become judge, jury, and executioner once he had taken charge o’ the prisoner. The rewards was fer dead or alive, so I reckon he thought twas easier to take him in as a corpse.”
Roku shrugged. “Well, yah did say the boy was dyin’ from the wound yah gave him...maybe that deputy marshal wanted to end his sufferin’? ....Wait a minute...did you say somethin’ about rewards?”
“Yeah,” replied Dio with an ironic little smile, “I found out later there were some substantial bounties on the boy.”
Roku looked like she was about to say something vitriolic, then she paused and nodded. “Figures. Oh well. Yor still comin’ out ahead on this deal, with what Al left yah...the part yah ain’t givin’ away, anyhow.”
Hepzibeth had been very quiet during all this, mostly because she was trying to sort things out and comprehend what was going on. Finally she spoke.
“Mrs. Kuhr? Might I be askin’ if I got this straight? You say you shot and caught this lad who tried to kill ye--and then some regular federal lawman comes along and takes him away, claimin’ the credit and the rewards, an’ kills the boy in cold blood as well?”
“Yes Hon, that’s purty much the deal,” Dio replied almost cheerfully.
Hepzibeth arched an eyebrow. “Aren’t you going to do something about this?” she asked in a flat tone.
Dio shook her head. “Nope. I’m done with this. I see no reason to waste any further energy or effort.”
Hepzibeth still looked unconvinced. “Money is money...”
Dio’s face flushed slightly and there was a slight edge in her voice. “Well hon, no...it ain’t . There’s money an’ then there’s blood money...an’ I got no real interest in the latter. Furthermore, the boy’s blood ain’t on my hands now, like it woulda been had he died from the wound I gave him. I think I owe the deppity marshal a heap o’ gratitude fer havin’ lifted that particular burden from m’ soul.”
Roku had sat down with her paper again, and a voice came from behind its pages. “Well, blood on yor hands shouldn’t be any big concern. Never bothered me. But...there is one advantage to this...now most likely, the unknown gal who actually put Zed up to the killin’ doesn’t know that he talked to anyone an’ told ‘em that he shot Al to win her affections. Maybe that means she might get careless and someone can discover her identity...”
“Exactly,” agreed Dio with a wicked little grin. “Now, come on y’all...let’s have a look at them books an’ see percisely how much better things run around here with me gone...”