Iron Bars, Iron Will

April 23, 1896
Sarah Waters

I had not planned on spending the weekend in jail. I really had not planned on spending any time in jail. Fortunately I know better than to rely on plans proceeding perfectly and had therefore had the good sense to have a backup.

Father exhausted himself the first night by yelling and ordering the sheriff in every imaginable manner to release me. I tried to calm him but his helplessness to protect me was driving him mad. After that first night he did learn to accept our situation and while he remained angry he kept himself much better controlled from then onward.

“What did you think you were doing?” Father asked.

“Whatever I could.”

“Obviously less than you thought.” He replied but there was a weary smile on his face.

“Obviously.” I replied and returned the smile.

“What about your mother?”

“I sent her home.”

“Did you? Did she listen?”

“Good question. I suppose we’ll find out.”

He nodded.

“At least I know your safe in here with me for now.”

“Yes, and probably safer here than at home.”

“Has something happened?”

“I had a run in with William Howe.”

“If the bastard hurt you…”

“No, I think I injured him though or more pointedly, his ego.”

“Sarah, you shouldn’t take risks like that.”

“It wasn’t a risk. It was in the middle of town and he and his gang are too yellow to have done anything in the open.”

“Maybe right now they are but they’re drumming up support in town. If things go as they have, it won’t be long before we’re being run out of town or worse.”

“People in this town won’t all turn on you, Daddy. Most of them look to you for leadership. That’s why they’re keeping you locked up in here. They’re afraid of you.”
He chuckled.

“I’m not so important as you think, little one.”

“You’re more than you think you are. I saw that at the mine the day…” I trailed off unwilling to finish my sentence.

“The day Uncle Mike died.” He finished for me.

I nodded. We sat in silence then for a short time. I think neither of us was sure what more to say if there was anything that even needed to be said. When I could bare the silence no more I stood up and began to pace my small cell.

“Better to save your energy.” Father said.

“You’re right, but I’m restless.”

“Focus your mind on figuring out how we’re gonna get out of here. That’ll help.”

I stopped pacing and stood staring down on him from the bars closest to his cell.

“Escape?” I mouthed afraid of being overheard.

Father nodded his head in the affirmative. My eyes grew wide.

“How?” I whispered.

“That’s the question, isn’t it?”

And so it was that I began thinking of escape. I studied the iron bars and how they were hinged. I examined the way they were set in concrete and brick. I ran my fingers carefully along the mortar between bricks pushing here and there to check for looseness.

Father watched the door and warned me whenever the sheriff or his deputy approached. When they did I would sit relaxed on the bed. I stared at the ground and only spoke when spoken too.
After a day of examination I concluded the only way we were getting out was through the doors. The only way we were getting through the doors was if someone opened them. The only way we could open them was with a key. The only way we could gain a key was to take it from the sheriff or the deputy.

On the second day I spent my time wondering how I might get the key from either without them knowing. I considered the deputy and whether he was completely on board with his bosses illegal activity. I finally concluded the best way would be to lure one of them into my cell under the guise of needing assistance. Rather than attempting to escape I would focus on getting my hands on the key. With a small amount of luck they would never notice.

We would then wait until nightfall when the sheriff and deputy were gone home. The cells would be easy to open with the key and we could then quickly make our way home and then head for Denver where we could get help. Of course the hitch in that is we had no physical evidence to support us. We might find ourselves permanent fugitives from the law.

I decided this would be the best course of action if Samuel did not arrive soon. I had not mentioned that part of my plan to father. Father and Samuel have had a number of disagreements in recent years and while no doubt there is still love between them, it is strained by distrust and disappointment on both sides. I was certain Samuel would come through for us but I knew father would not share my faith.

I awoke this morning convinced Samuel was not coming. I began preparing myself to execute our escape plan and father agreed it was nearing time that we did something. Our situation was clearly not improving and we had thus far sat in jail for five going on six days without seeing a judge or anyone other than the sheriff and his deputy.

I was just about to feign injury when we heard the front door of the office slam open. Father motioned for me to wait, but I had already decided to do so myself. We listened carefully.

“You in a hurry mister?” The sheriff asked sounding annoyed.

“Are you holding one Daniel Waters in custody?” A stranger’s voice asked.

“You want to tell me who you are?”

“I am his lawyer. Answer the question sheriff.”

“I might be. What is your business here?”

“I have a letter from the Governor of Colorado, ordering his immediate release into my custody.”

“Let me see it.”

There was a pause and a moment of silence.

“I’ll have to have this verified.” The sheriff finally spoke.

“Then do so with haste. I have not all day, sheriff. In the meantime I would like to see my client.”

“You can have a seat over there and wait. No one is seeing anyone until this is confirmed.”

“You are only making things harder but as you wish sheriff.”

It was quiet for a long time after. I would guess an hour but without a clock it was hard to tell. We heard the deputy come back and moment later we knew the letter must have been verified.

“GOD DAMN IT TO HELL!” The sheriff roared.

Father and I smiled.

“Now I expect you will release, Mr. Waters?”

“Yes, yes, I’ll release him.”

The door opened and the sheriff walked to father’s cell and opened the door.

“Go on get out of here. You’re free to go by order of the Governor himself, but take my advice and end this strike before people get hurt.”

“If you weren’t wearing that star I’d shove your advice right down your throat. Now get my daughter out of there.” Father stood nose to nose with the sheriff as he spoke.

“The release is only for you. She assaulted me and she stays.”

“Is there a problem?” The lawyer asked stepping into the room.

“There is.” Father replied. “My daughter is still locked up by this maggot.”

“She assaulted me.” The sheriff sounded desperate to my ears.

“A girl of 17, 18 assaulted a big man like you? Tell me you don’t really expect a judge to believe that?”

The sheriff stared at the lawyer and glanced at me and then moved to open the door. He threw it open quickly causing the lawyer to jump back to avoid being hit by the iron bars.

“Get out before I change my mind. All of you.” The sheriff ordered.

His face was nearly purple with barely contained rage. I could see his jaw quivering like a man on the edge. I almost felt sorry for him but then I remembered where I was. If father had not been standing there I would have slapped the bastard a second time.

As father and I stepped out into the daylight, the lawyer turned to the sheriff once more. He pulled a sealed envelope out of his coat and offered it to the sheriff.

“What’s this?” The sheriff asked.

“Orders from the Governor for you to report to Denver for a review. Confirm them if you like but if you are not in Denver by sundown tomorrow you will not be a sheriff anymore.”

The lawyer walked out behind me then and closed the door.

In the street we stood blinking. It had been days since either of us had been in the sunlight. In the glare a man in a suit approached us.

“Father, Sarah, you’re safe.”

“Sam!” I cried and threw myself into his arms.

Father turned to the lawyer.

“I owe you a debt Mister.” He said.

“Nonsense, your son has already paid and too much considering the pleasure I take in bringing down sheriff’s who think they are above the law.”

They shook hands and then it was time to head to the house. I noticed rather particularly the lack of words between my father and brother. No doubt, father would find some fault in Samuel’s handling of matters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An entertaining chapter. Probably I have missed something or another chapter, but am puzzled by how the Governor's intervention securing the release was achieved...

Mr R Fane