Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Six.
Tonight’s story: Known Unknowns: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1
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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
This evening we open upon one of the many passing incidents in the history of Thomas Blackhall’s westward journey across the wild lands of North America.
Flash Pulp 026 – Known Unknowns: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1
The trio faced each other, the creek puddling at their knees.
The eldest, Michael Vos, stood near the west most bank, a hatchet in his fist. The youngest, Renee Girard, stood ahead of the grassy overhang of the east bank, his right hand white-knuckled around a hunting knife.
Further up the flow stood Thomas Blackhall, his Baker rifle maintaining the space between the two.
“Renee, I cannot believe you’d cheat me – four months, with our backs aching while we built the dam and chute, it was always fifty-fifty. Our first strike and you’re holding out on me – I was to introduce you to my sister!”
“You’re a fine one to talk, you spent more than half that time sleeping off your drunk while I was moving rocks and sawing timbers.” Renee, red faced, kept his knife low, as if preparing for his partner to leap the distance between them.
“How is it you already know the value of your gold?” Thomas asked Michael. “I rode hard from town when I saw Renee at the saloon, and you were still napping off your celebratory spirits when I arrived. I’ve met the little assayer, with his neat collars and sharp cuffs, and he doesn’t strike me as the kind of fellow to maintain a brace of pigeons to exchange notes with whiskey-eyed prospectors. Unless you conferred with Beebe Plain’s silver and gold man in a dream, you should not yet know the value of the nugget I saw Renee flashing about.”
“Master Blackhall, why exactly are you here? I believe you startled us both when you suddenly appeared upstream.” The iron head of Michael’s hatchet dipped as he talked.
“I’m here for the same reason I’ve been here twice before, that monstrous junk pile you call a dam. Now, answer the question.”
The older man’s eyes swiveled between his red faced partner and the lowered Baker rifle.
His hatchet fell fully to his side.
“I planted the nugget.”
Renee took a step back, his face filling with confusion.
“Why would you do such a thing?”
“All those nights you told me about that rich old gal you’ve got eating out of your hand back home…”
“I also told you that my cousin was bitten by the loup-garou , a, uh, werewolf, and that my Mother is regularly visited by the spirit of St. George – yet, I do not see you riding into town on Sundays, nor loading silver shot. Idiote, I could not have bought the mine out from you if you’d lent me the money. What you do not know is, if I ever show my face back in Gros Apanee, they’ll cut me up and sell the meat to the farmers on Jean Baptiste Day, just to get some of their coin back.”
“Fine, well, now you have the truth of the matter, so give me back my money.”
“Give you back your money? You just tried to fool me into buying this barren trickle!” Renee sucked in his lower lip, letting it go with a pop.
“Well, what you don’t know is, I don’t have a sister,” Vos muttered.
Renee exhaled and continued.
“Besides, I already gave you your share.”
Blackhall once again interjected, this time speaking quickly:
“As I’ve said, I met Beebe Plain’s assayer in passing while I was in the mayor’s office, he struck me as a knowledgeable man of his field, with a fair hand.” His eyes were still leveled at Michael, an eyebrow raised.
“It wasn’t cheap to buy a nugget that size. I, uh, told Jans the German that I’d pay him the second half when I got my share back.” Michael tapped his hatchet against his leg as he explained his predicament.
“I know what you think, Michael, but, I – I gave you all that was left. Jans took the rest over cards at Melbeau’s tavern.”
Both men were now eying the waters of the creek, rather than face each other.
Thomas did not let the pause last more than a few seconds.
“There’s nothing left here for either of you, and what neither of you know is, I’m on my way back from having lit a ten minute fuse at your dam. As I have told you both repeatedly, the inhabitants of Beebe Plain on la Petite Riviere are not particularly pleased with finding themselves suddenly at Beebe Plain on la Petite Crique. Now the Mayor has insisted. My suggestion is that you both stand aside, or prepare to swim.”
With that Blackhall strode from the stream, disappearing into the trees.
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