“Andy, I don’t know. Mrs. Colt was very nice and worked with me on the accounting for marketing the Serenity wines, but I’m afraid to leave the Emporium.” She walked by his side as they approached the Emporium.
“For God’s sakes Samantha. Why?” Mashpit was flustered. They had talked about her getting out of the stressful environment and away from that maggot manager, Farfel Fester.
“Well, for one thing, Mrs. Colt said Serenity was a gamble and she had faith the current good sales would increase but there are no guarantees any new business will be successful. At least I’ll still have a job.” Wigglesworth looked away from Mashpit.
He touched her chin to move her face back. “Come on Samantha. You have to remember to look at me or I can’t hear you. We’re going to be married soon. I’ve put my faith with Jacob Cotter and the others. The whole organization is like a family.”
“If you really must know, I’m afraid. That man Strom gave all of you those guns and every Wednesday you go off shooting like you’re expecting to go to war.”
“I’ve told you before, Van Haven is known for hostility and we armed ourselves as a deterrent. If they try anything and see us a force going to return fire, they’ll just back down.”
“Or you’ll get killed.” Her eyes became glassy.
“I survived the war didn’t I?”
“This is different. Two men are already dead and you told me it was because of Van Haven.”
“We need you. You’re good at marketing and managing the invoices and receipts. The pay is better. We’ll be working together.”
“Let me have one more week to think about it? Please?”
“Okay. One week.” They went into the store.
Fester was pacing outside his tiny office and looking at his watch. He stood by the curtained-off room where employees hung their coats and ate their meals. His right lip was twitching in anticipation of a confrontation with Wigglesworth.
“You’re late Miss Wigglesworth. Your tardiness will cost you one hour’s pay.”
“What kind of rule is that? It’s very unfair Fester. Do you dock all of your workers like this or just Miss Wigglesworth?” Mashpit stared at him.
“I am certainly not singling her out. It is my rule and it applies to everyone. Not only that but since you are late you will have to work through your lunch half-hour.” He folded his arms on his chest and pushed his chin up in triumph.
Mashpit looked at the anguish on Wigglesworth’s face. “Fester, that’s unreasonable.” Mashpit looked at his own watch and then looked at the pendulum clock on the wall behind Fester. “Wait a minute. My watch and your clock says she’s seven-minutes early. I’m afraid you misjudged the time by your slow timepiece Fester and you owe her an apology.”
Fester looked at the clock. His face began to twitch more violently. “The clock and your watch are wrong, Mr. Mashpit. I am the boss and I make the rules.”
Mashpit put his hands on his hips pushing his long coat back. The sunlight shining through the front window glinted from his nickel-plated Colt. Fester became tremulous.
“You’re not supposed to wear guns in public buildings. I can summon the police. If you pull a gun on me, I’ll consider it an act of attempted robbery.”
“Samantha are you sure you want to wait a week? I’m finding it very difficult to breathe the same air as Fester.”
Mashpit could see that Samantha Wigglesworth had been mortified at Fester’s attitude and intimidation.
“Mr. Fester, you owe me last weeks salary. I want it now. You can consider it my last paycheck.”
Mashpit smiled ear-to-ear. “Outstanding. Did you hear the lady, Fester? Pay her now and we’ll both leave your sight.”
Fester went into his office and came out with a small envelope. “Mr. Mashpit, I want you to take note that I did not fire her. She’s quitting on her own.” Sweat poured from his brow in the cool store.
“It wasn’t so bad was it?” Mashpit hugged her sideways as they walked on the wooden sidewalk.
“No. When do I start at Serenity?” She smiled up at him.
Mashpit looked into her face. “Oops. Excuse me, sir.” He walked right into a burly bearded man who stared at both of them.
“You deliberately walked into me.” The man pushed Mashpit’s right shoulder with his left hand. His open waistcoat showed a holster at his left waist with the pistol butt facing for a right hand draw.
“I didn’t walk into you, Mister and I do apologize.”
“You too interested in your pretty lady to look where you’re going?” He smiled showing his brown, crusty, decayed upper teeth.
“Sometimes that happens to me, yes. We’re engaged you see.” Mashpit watched the man’s eyes and right hand.
“I think you need a lesson in manners.”
Mashpit saw the man’s eyes jerk to his left holster and the right hand fingers extend. Mashpit had both of his Colts in the man’s face within a fraction of a second. “I want you to be thinking about just walking away after you throw your gun down. Take it out with your left hand and drop it.”
The man’s eyes bulged at the suddenness of the role reversal. His mouth remained open as he dropped the gun.
“Samantha dear, take the gun, break it open and take the cylinder out.”
She opened the action of the man’s Navy revolver.
“Throw the cylinder far into the street and drop the gun over there.”
Wigglesworth threw the cylinder on the moist street and dropped the gun into a mound of fresh horse dung.
“Now get going.” Mashpit turned back to her as the man got on his Van Haven wagon. “See, Samantha, the guy’s from Van Haven and his aggressive act was neutralized.”
“I’m still afraid Andy.”
“Any regrets about quitting the Emporium?”
“No, not at all. When I think of the years I cowered before that measly man. But please be careful.”
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