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The Drunk Succeeds

One man's advancement

I've tried to write this as a stand alone story but might be better understood if you first read “The Town Drunk” which can be found on my page.

David Meyer and his partner, Emmett Wolf, had become wealthy men when they had partnered on a gold mine. Almost overnight, they had been changed from whiskey swilling virtual nonentities to whiskey swilling respected, even influential, citizens of the town.

The habits that they had when poor men were looked down upon then, but now were condoned as just a release of the tensions of the rich and famous. Although Dave had cut down on his consumption considerably after his marriage to the estimable Catherine, he and Emmett still got together for a quiet binge occasionally. The big difference now was the price of their booze. Now they only swigged down the good stuff.

Another unexpected change had been when the good citizens of the town had not recognized them as having always been there. They had been beneath notice back then, so now were not seen as local denizens. They thought these fine gentlemen had either just moved to town or were some strange type of virgin birth. Who knows what they thought? They welcomed them. And their money.

Of course Dave had not forgotten any of the information he had gleaned from the town's thrown-away mail and records, and relished the opportunity to make use of it. And again, he waited for the right time to accomplish that.

He had already achieved some of the small things. For example, the town marshal's office and jail had deteriorated to an appalling state. Dave, by talking to the town officials and prominent citizens had persuaded them they were committing suicide by leaving it in that state of disrepair.

Why, just think what would happen if the James gang came into town and shot it up. Where could our underpaid marshal house them after he accosted them, if he even could with no deputy to help him? It hadn't hurt to drop a few hints to some of them about their past indiscretions they thought no one knew.

The town budget for safety was doubled, the marshal's salary was increased considerably and a deputy was hired. Dave and Chet, the marshal, met on the street shortly after that happened.

Chet asked, “Dave, what's this I hear about you bullying the town council. Seems like you had not just a finger in it, but both hands to get me some help.”

“Who, me? Chet, you know I wouldn't meddle. I just made some suggestions and a small donation to get things started. By the way, I heard they're going to hire someone to clean up the horse crap from the street regular now that Shoddy disappeared. That brother-in-law of your that's been spong....uh living with you and your wife has a wagon. Seems he'd be just the right type to be shoveling shit, what do you think?”

Chet looked at Dave for a moment, then said, “Dave, you do have a knack for fixing two problems with one idea, you surely do. I hope you have a wonderful day, Mr. Meyer.”

“Chet, either you knock off that Mr. Meyer bullshit or I'll suggest to the council you're getting a little long in the tooth for such a tough job as walking around in the sun all day or sitting on your porch. Maybe they could hire a younger man or woman to do what you do.”

Chet laughed riotously, and said, “Yeah, they just might, if they could find one that didn't mind getting shot at. You still have a good day, Dave.”

While Dave went quietly about, his friend Emmet had also gone not so quietly about, investing in some other promising mines and other likely enterprises. He was doing that under the tutelage of Dave and the banker, Mr. Burns, and was prospering very well. He hadn't diminished his love of or consumption of whiskey, but he hadn't increased it either. And he always cut his friend Dave in on the successes.

It came as a complete surprise when Mr. Burns walked into the small office Dave had downtown. Mr. Burns was probably the most influential person in town except for the town officials and never went to see someone. They either went to see him or they didn't see him.

So when he approached Dave, instead of having Dave visit him, it was an occasion. Dave jumped up and exclaimed, “Mr. Burns, what a surprise, how nice to see you. Can I do something for you?

“Yes Mr. Meyer, you can. May I sit down?'

“Of course you can, I think you'll find that chair very comfortable. But please, call me Dave, we've known each other long enough to skip formalities.”

“Thank you, uh, Dave. My name is Rupert, but my friends call me Rupe. I would enjoy having another first name friend. But now, to my business. As you know, the town is spending quite a bit more than we had in the past. Much of it is on expenditures you have been instrumental in instigating, such as the pickup of garbage and night droppings instead of throwing it out the back windows. This all equates to higher taxes, which no one likes. Do you agree?”

“Yes, of course, I even have some ideas to alleviate them, but I'm in no position to do anything about it. Do you have an idea for relief?”

“Yes, Dave, I do. Would you mind if I shut your door so we may speak confidentially?”

“No Rupe, please do.” The banker rose, went and looked down the hall, and shut the door and sat. “Dave, I and some of the other large merchants would like you to run for office on the town council. I'm sure you're aware there has been tinkering with the books in the past and some graft on the part of the council. We have overlooked it because it wasn't large and could be accounted for. But with the added pressure on costs, and the fact that many on the council think it's their right to skim because they've been there so long, it's now unmanageable. They're really getting greedy.”

“Rupe, do you think one voice is going to change that if I can get elected?”

“No, I don't. But if both you and Emmett can gain seats there will be two against the other three and the mayor, and I'm sure you could influence some of them to keep it more honest.”

Dave thought a moment and asked, “Have you talked to Emmett? I don't think he'd be thrilled at your proposal.”

“Ah, that's where you come in again. If you told Emmett to shoot a bottle of whiskey while it's in his back pocket he'd do it. If you explain it to him the right way he will do anything you ask. The both of you I know to be honest men or the bank wouldn't deal with you. This town needs help. Both of you are very much respected as you've brought needed jobs to town with your businesses. Will you think on it?

“I certainly will, Rupe, this might be just what I've been looking for to use up some of my time. I'll see Emmett today and talk with him.”

Dave sat there for a couple hours, hardly moving, in deep thought. Then, with a deep sigh, stood and walked out. He thought he knew where he would find Emmett and did, at the back table in one of the towns finer saloons. This is where Emmett conducted all his business. Everyone knew that table was reserved for him, and it was secluded enough to be quiet while still giving him a full view of the room.

As he approached the table Emmett spotted him and dismissed one of his employees and stood to greet Dave, “What the hell is a married man doing in a saloon in the middle of the day, sit down and have some of this, it's pretty good for poison.”

As Emmett poured Dave a full glass of whiskey he looked questioningly at him and asked, “Why are you here, Dave, you're usually stuck in that office 'til dusk or later. Did you miss your old drinking partner?”

“Naw, Emmett, I just hadn't seen a real reprobate for a while so I thought I'd look up the biggest one I know, and it looks like I found him. Here's to your health,” and took a healthy snort.

After setting down his empty glass, Dave leaned toward Emmett and asked, “How's things going, are you making enough to live on?”

“Oh, hell yeah, Dave, but I could do a whole lot better if this town wasn't so tight assed about starting a new business. Some of it's just plain silly, but if you spread a little cash around it goes away real fast. I just bought some cropland about two miles outside town but before I can plant they want a fence around it. Around cropland! Five acres of it! What the hell is that gonna do? Bet if I kick in a hundred I won't have to. Makes me damn mad. I didn't know they had jurisdiction out there.”

“If we could do something about it would you help me? I've some ideas that might work.”

“Hell, Dave you're the best idea man I ever even heard of, of course I'm in. You're my partner, ain't you?”

“I've got your word on that, right?” At Emmett's nod he continued, “You and I are going to run for office on the town council. If we win, and I'm pretty sure we will, we'll have some say on things around here.”

“How can you be so damned sure we'll win, those bozos have things tied up like a branded calf and they'll cheat like hell if they think we're a threat to their gravy train.”

“Emmett, we'll have people watching the ballot boxes all the way to the clerk that counts them. I know a couple things about him that'll keep it an honest count or Chet will have his ass locked up in his new jail. I don't want him cheating for us, I just want an honest count.”

For their next month or so before the election Dave and Emmett, in their spare time, walked the streets, talking to the merchant or just people walking by. They told them their plans for more business and more jobs. They told them their plans on bettering the city for all. They told them their plans to keep taxes at the current level or possibly even lowering them.

A week or so before the election Dave went to see Chet, “I think we might need some deputies around to keep it on the up and up on election day. If your budget won't cover it I will, Chet.”

“We're still not rolling in cash, Dave, but I think I can do it. If it gets some of those weasels out of there I'd pay for deputies myself, if I had it. What did you have in mind.”

“I'd like a deputy on each ballot box and have them escort them to the clerk. A couple should stay there while he's counting, just to make sure there aren't any shenanigans with switching boxes or anything like that. The count should be good or you'll have another guest that night.”

“Dave, I think I ought to assign a deputy to you and Emmett, too, from now 'til the elections over. I've heard some rumors about you taking real sick or maybe falling down and breaking your neck, and I'd sorta miss you to keep things stirring.”

“I've heard them too, Chet, and I'm not as dumb as I look. You've probably noticed some nicely dressed fellas sauntering around town, especially when me or Emmett are present. I've hired some Pinkertons, and don't be fooled by their looks, those boys are shooters.”

“Huh, yeah I saw 'em, and I've been keeping an eye on 'em, I didn't know but they were the ones that were gonna make you sick. Good for you, Dave. Besides, you couldn't be as dumb as you look and still walk on just two legs.”

After giving Chet a rigid digit, Dave went home. As he approached the house he a\saw one of the nicely dressed gents sitting on his front porch. Kate met him at the front door and said, “Dave, this Mr. Simmons. He'd like to talk to you and I said he could wait here.”

“Thank you , Kate, I've met Mr. Simmons before. Would you like to step inside, sir?”

“It might be better if I do, I have some information for you, and it might not do to see us talking.”

They entered and Dave led him to the parlor and asked him to sit. Kate started to leave and Dave said, “Don't leave, Kate, as my wife this involves you too and I don't want to keep secrets from you. You know some of what's going on, but not all, so please sit down. Now, Mr. Simmons, what do you have?”

“If you're sure your wife should hear this?” At Dave's nod he continued, “ They hired some shooters from out of town, two of them, and they're coming in on tonight's train. I just received a wire about an hour ago. They're posing as investors so they'd be welcome almost anywhere. I have descriptions of them. Do you want us to detain them?”

Dave thought a few moments and said, “Kate would you ask that nice boy next door if he will deliver a message to the marshal? No, Mr. Simmons, I think we''ll let the law do it, if they even spit on the sidewalk they'll be jailed 'til after the election, if not longer. If I know Chet he'll find some reason to jail them. If you'll give me those descriptions I'll write a message to the marshal. I would like you to tell this to Emmet and what I'm doing about it.”

After Mr. Simmons had left Kate came over to Dave and sat on his lap, putting her head on his shoulder and asked, “What's it all mean, Dave, are you in big trouble? Are those men trying to kill you? Honey, I can't just sit here at home if you're in danger, I love you, and don't want you hurt!” And the tears appeared on her cheeks.

“Honey, I can't say that they were sent to kill me, maybe they were only going to try to scare me or beat me up some. But I don't think we have anything to worry about. Mr. Simmons and his men are here to protect me and Emmett, too. The marshal will arrest them and that'll be the end of it. I know it's silly of me to say it, but try not to worry. Let's eat supper.”

In the morning Dave stopped by Chet's office. Chet offered him a cup of coffee and they sat down. Chet opened the conversation, “Everything is taken care of, I've got my deputy watching them to see if they contact anyone. I don't want to pick them up until the day before the election or they might have time for another pair to show up. Let's hope we can tie them to some of the council. That would tear the lid off the whole bunch.”

“Sounds like you've control of the situation, Chet. I'll leave you to it then.” And he left for his office.

Just as he was nearing his building a tall, very portly man came out. “Ah, there you are, Meyer, what do you think you're doing, stirring up the whole town like you are. What are you trying to accomplish with this, this, going around town, lying about the council?”

“Good morning Mayor Dratz, I'm afraid I don't know what you're referring to, I haven't said one thing about the council, only what is going on in town and what I'd like to do to change things. Is that what you mean?”

“Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about, the council and I have run this town fair and square for years, until you come in and stir things up. We have no secrets and can prove that everything is on the up and up. You just have to ask.”

The mayor's shouting had drawn a fairly good crowd as Dave said quietly, “All right, I'd like to ask about where the extra money went on those contracts for the water tower. The contracts were let for a certain amount but were on the books for twice that amount. I asked the contractor and he said he was paid the contract price. Did he lie to me?”

The mayor blustered for a few moments and said, “You'll have to ask him, I don't have time for this foolishness.” turned and walked away, accompanied by loud laughter from the crowd. Dave received a couple pats on the back and a few encouraging remarks as he entered the building. He knew the report of this meeting would be all over town soon.

The day before the election Dave received word from the marshal that the two assassins had been seen in the mayor's office and when they left were smiling and counting money. They were immediately arrested for foul language and were occupying a cell. This was accomplished very quietly and was not known outside of the arresting officers.

On the morning of election day, Dave and Kate, accompanied by three well dressed men walked downtown to a voting parlor and cast their vote, then walked home to await the results, again accompanied. One of the reforms Dave had instigated had been the women's vote for the town and Kate was in high heaven when casting the first vote of her life.

Late in the day, after the polls had closed Rupert Burns was able to prove that the money found on the assassins had been withdrawn by Mayor Dratz that same day.

Mayor Dratz and the rest of the council were arrested on suspicion of paying for attempted murder. The town charter stated that anyone arrested for a capital crime had to step down until found not guilty.

As the vote was very high in favor of Dave and Emmett, with the mayor and council getting less than five percent, the only members of the council were Dave and Emmett. In circumstances like these the council voted for the mayor until an election could be held, and Emmett voted for Dave, and Dave not able to vote for himself, Dave became acting mayor.

The town cheered.

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