Cotter’s only anxiety came from Pamela Skyler. She kept leaving notes for him at Yale asking for another Tuesday evening meeting. He left friendly replies indicating he didn’t have time and would let her know when they could meet. Skyler wanted a solid date which she didn’t receive. To Skyler, this sounded like deliberate avoidance. Cotter hadn’t planned it that way. He really wouldn’t mind continuing their relationship. He would gain more knowledge about Van Haven and what his brother and sister were scheming in the background. He was very suspicious about Nancy and Matthew’s Christmas present of 100 grape seedlings from their best vines as a token of good faith. If it was such good faith then why did they have Kelvin Danzer deliver them?
February was cold for the first three-weeks of the month and it had snowed each Monday. The total accumulation was between 8-and-12-inhes per snowfall. The snow didn’t impede the task on the agenda for the new winery. The work was all indoors. Bradley Hamer received the delivered heating pots for the wine’s first pressings. Setting up the winery became his primary job. Only secondarily would he help LaRoque with hiring and managing the new hands. The rest of the equipment inside was left over from the Clark’s operation and did not have to be replaced. They did have to wait for the Frenchman to come from Europe to help them complete the set-up. Fabian Rosicot was due to arrive in the next few weeks according to Mrs. Colt. Today was Wednesday and LaRoque, Mashpit and Cotter finished breakfast and adjourned to the living room in front of the fireplace. Bradley Hamer left to drive his children to school–a 15-minute journey.
“When should we bring Bradley to the range?” Mashpit checked the cylinders for his pistol he had loaded yesterday. He and LaRoque had two extra loads per gun and per Cotter’s tutelage they wore two-gun rigs like his.
“I think we should get him settled down a little more.” Cotter strapped on his double holster and adjusted the fit of his buckskin outfit. He put on his heavy winter coat.
“About spring, I would say.” Mashpit was now dressed and ready to go out the door. “It’s too cold for him to start learning how to hold and shoot a gun accurately.”
“And from what you told us, he needs a high level of confidence that violence not only can be prevented but can be warded off.” LaRoque motioned for them to leave.
LaRoque hitched the team to the buckboard and they began their short trip to what now had become the “range”. Cotter spoke as they entered the wooded road.
“These fir trees keep the road from having much snow accumulation.” Cotter brought out a bag from the back of the buckboard.
“Yeah, I don’t think we’d get any shooting practice otherwise.” Mashpit looked at their faces as he spoke.
Cotter opened the bag. “These gloves arrived at my mail drop at school yesterday. They’re tight fitting and lined with rabbit fur. My friend Dr. Garrison in Endura Texas sent them for us.”
“Why. We have these?” LaRoque brought up his hands showing the heavy buffalo gloves.
“It gets cold in Texas just as bad as here. Guns are made of iron and cold iron sticks to your hands. It’ll ruin your aim and recovery for second shots. They use these gloves down there. We’re going to use them today. Put them on now and get them all heated up. We’re almost there.”
Target practice took the usual two-hours. Reloading the cylinders accounted for most of the time. They loaded their two guns a final time before they headed home.
“Andy you’re getting pretty good with both guns. John you’re getting your aim point back too.”
“My aim crapped out when I started to stand up straight from the surgery. I’ll be better than before.” LaRoque smiled and then frowned as they approached the house.
“Whoa, what have we got here?” Mashpit was the buckboard driver for the return trip. He stopped the team and the three men looked at the five wagons in front of the wine-pressing building.
“Leave our wagon here. John you move wide to my right and Andy go wide to my left but make sure you can see my face. Only draw your gun on my command unless someone draws down on you.”
Eight able-looking men emerged from the barn to remove more boxes from their respective buckboards. A ninth person came out reading from a stack of papers. Jake looked toward the main house and saw a covered carriage at the front door.
Cotter considered the worst case. Danzer and a bunch of hired thugs were sabotaging their farm.
“I’ll cover the middle three wagons and you two watch the ones on the ends.” Cotter looked again at the main house. Danzer was nowhere in sight. He would have to turn toward the house right after he cut down the men on the middle wagons.
They unbuttoned their coats pushing the hems back so they hung at the pistol grip level of each of their two guns. The man with the papers looked up at them. He was just under six-feet. He looked a little startled as he saw Cotter and his two friends.
The man moved toward the third wagon and placed his stack of attached papers on the buckboard seat. He unbuttoned his two topcoat buttons and reached inside with his right hand.
Cotter reacted immediately. “Now.” He yelled. “Cover them. If they reach for any gun, shoot their arms.”
With lightening speed Mashpit had his two guns out and pointing. LaRoque and Cotter drew in unison.
The men froze in their tracks. The ninth man still had his right hand reaching into his coat.
Cotter gave a quick glance toward the main house. Nothing happening there. “You. Raise your hands in the air. All of you.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish