Macarastor Book Three: The Renegade Brand by Bob Giel by Bob Giel - Read Online

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Summary

Danger reigns as a megalomaniac unleashes a plan that not only jeopardizes the drive for Wyoming statehood but puts at risk the lives of every inhabitant of the territory.  U.S. Marshal Tom Cord leads a desperate struggle to overcome the madman while Cason Macara fights for his life and the very existence of Macarastor.  It's a whirlwind ride wrought with peril at every turn as the battle of wits culminates in the town's greatest test of survival.

Published: Bob Giel on
ISBN: 9781501414640
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Macarastor Book Three - Bob Giel

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Chapter One

"Bugler! Sound assembly!"

The order came sharply from Colonel Job Albury as he quickly exited his office and proceeded smartly toward the parade grounds in the center of Fort Laramie.  Colonel Albury had been the commandant of the fort’s resident garrison for the past five years and, in that time, had never found a situation pressing enough to personally give the order to the bugler to sound any call.  The news he carried today, however, gave him the impetus to circumvent standard operating procedures and initiate an assembly in the middle of the day.  As he hurried his aging frame into position, the expression on his face conveyed the importance of his impending message.

The bugler sounded the assembly call and the entire garrison dropped their present duties to respond.  As troopers and officers descended upon the parade grounds from all sides, Colonel Albury reached his spot and stopped to wait for the troops to fall in and come to attention.

Well into his fifties, he was about as fit as one could be after having served in many campaigns over the course of a lifelong military career.  His hair, what there was left of it, was completely white, as was his full and well manicured beard.  He stood straight and tall and his frame was fairly trim for his age, save for the slight paunch around his midsection which had already required alterations to his uniforms.

The platoons formed quickly and were given the order by the platoon leaders to dress right.  When the squads were straight and even, the leaders reported readiness up the line.  Second in command, Lieutenant Colonel Abel Tarr, saluted his superior officer and reported that all were present and accounted for.  Albury returned the salute and put the troops at ease.

Men, he began, I have important news that affects us all.  Fort Laramie is to be closed as a military installation and we’ve been ordered to transfer this command to Fort Logan, Colorado.  We’ve got about a month to make ready.  This fort is to be stripped of all its equipment.  The same will be packed and made ready to transport by fifteen August this year.  Preparations to leave will begin immediately.  This order will be followed strictly to completion.  On sixteen August, we begin the march toward Fort Logan.  As of this date, all furloughs are cancelled until the command resides at Fort Logan.  Senior officers, please join me in my quarters for a private briefing immediately following this assembly.  Dismiss the troops.

Lieutenant Colonel Tarr did an about face and executed the order.  The soldiers dispersed to return to their duties while the staff officers grouped and followed the colonel toward his office.

As he walked, Colonel Albury thought back over the period in which this development had been brought about.  In his years as commandant, he had seen the importance of this fort wane.  With changing situations in the areas of Native American affairs and the rule of law brought to the venue by the likes of Cason Macara, Mayor of Macarastor, and U.S. Marshal Tom Cord, the duties of the garrison at Fort Laramie were relegated to mostly ceremonial activities and tactical practice.  When the decision was made to create a stop for the Elkhorn Valley Railroad at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, the military importance of Fort Laramie rapidly declined because it had been bypassed by the railroad.  He now saw the culmination of these events coming together in the order he had just imparted to the troops.

Among the officers following the colonel, Major Julian Prescott Brand stepped smartly.  His tall muscular frame and long legs gave him an almost regal appearance.  He filled out the uniform perfectly without alterations.  Though slightly pock marked, his face was ruggedly handsome with a pronounced nose and a jutting cleft chin. His thick black hair curled tightly.  The thin mustache was neatly trimmed.  Everything about this man was military and by the book.

Brand’s career had spanned seven of his thirty-two years and in those years he had distinguished himself in battle to the point of achieving the rank of major far sooner than many of his peers.  He had also gained the status of trusted right hand to Colonel Albury and was next in line for second in command when the time came for the incumbent, Lieutenant Colonel Tarr, to retire.

As the group entered the quarters, Colonel Albury crossed to his desk and took his seat.

At your ease, gentlemen. he said absently as he leafed through papers to find the document he sought.

The officers responded with the requested posture.

Right, here it is. he continued, having found the item, On one August, the payroll will arrive as usual.  However, this time not only our payroll but Fort Logan’s as well will be included, making it total about fifty thousand dollars.  We will distribute this command’s wages as usual but then we will transport the Fort Logan payroll when we leave here on sixteen August.  Even though this is top secret, I am not comfortable with leaving responsibility for Fort Logan’s portion in the hands of the paymaster.  I must confess I fail to see the logic here.  It’s bad enough that the Fort Logan personnel will have to wait for their wages until we arrive but it will be worse still if the funds do not arrive when we do.  Therefore, I need a volunteer to head up a detail to guard the money not only here but in transport until it is turned over to the paymaster at Fort Logan.

I can do that, sir. Major Brand piped up immediately, coming to attention.

Excellent, Major, I can always count on you.  I’ll leave the arrangements to your discretion.  Use whatever manpower and facilities you need to get the job done.

Yes, sir.

Now, the rest of you, divide the dismantling chores into details and stay on top of your men.  Everything, not only military equipment but personal and family items must be packed and transportable.  We’re on a strict timetable here.  I’ll have no slacking off.  We leave on the sixteenth at first light and everything will be packed and ready or there will be consequences.  Am I understood?

The group gave a yes, sir en masse.

All right, dismissed. the colonel replied.

The officers, including Major Brand, left the office.  They dispersed to return to their previous duties and to figure out and assign the dismantling and packing duties to their subordinates.  Brand, on the other hand, made straight for his quarters.

As he closed the door, his entire demeanor changed abruptly.  Having appeared to his superior and his peers as a dutiful officer, he now sported a leering anticipatory grin.  This was what he had been waiting for these seven years; this opportunity to begin his private campaign to establish an empire in this primitive frontier territory.  And to have it virtually fall into his lap as it had, this just added to his elation.  His mind immediately had begun to formulate a plan to acquire the huge payroll the moment he volunteered for the detail.  Of course, the money would have to be secured so that, for all intents and purposes, it would appear to be safe.  However, the very fact that it was under lock would make it all the more accessible to him at the right time.

Preparations would need to be made quickly for only a couple of weeks remained until the arrival of the payroll.  The acquisition would have to be made between the time of its arrival and the time that the paymaster took possession of the Fort Laramie portion for distribution to the troops that same day.  Ordinarily, the paymaster would receive the money from the delivering detail and would immediately separate the individual wages and begin paying the men.  This time, Brand calculated, he himself would take immediate charge of the funds.  Possession is nine-tenths of the law, he quoted to himself.  His mind continued to work on the strategy that would secure the money for him.

Within fifteen minutes, he had it all worked out almost to the minute.  Upon its arrival, the payroll would be signed for and accepted by Brand instead of the paymaster.  Under the protection of hand picked guards, he would transport the money to the guardhouse to be counted and locked in one of the cells.  He would retain the keys to the guardhouse and the cell, ostensibly until he was ready to turn Fort Laramie’s portion over to the paymaster.  In that time he would surreptitiously replace the money with scrap paper cut to the size of currency and would make off with the real money before anyone was the wiser.

The paper replacements would have to be prepared in advance.  This he would begin tonight.  The last element would be a secret portal in the fort gate to facilitate his escape and then the placement of a horse outside the fort for a swift getaway.  He knew of an area of the fort that was relatively untraveled.  There he would cut his exit doorway and camouflage it from sight.  One day before the arrival of the payroll, he would go for a ride and walk back later to report that his horse threw him and ran off before he could stop it.

Satisfied with his plot, he opened the bottom drawer of his bureau and produced a sketch pad and pencil.  Opening the pad, he put the finishing touches on the drawing of a uniform.  It was not the uniform of the United States Army, but an outfit of his own design that featured a tan waist length tunic, tan bib-front shirt and black trousers tucked into knee length black boots.  A wide leather bandolier style wrap attached to the waist belt in the left back, ran across the right shoulder and attached to the belt in the left front.  Topped off with a black wide brimmed hat, this was the precursor of the Army of Brand that would eventually establish his empire in the territory of Wyoming.

First the money, he thought then the army, then the uniforms, then the training, then the raids, then the occupation of regions and finally the establishment of the Brand dominion.  He would become so powerful that no one would be able to stop him. Anyone who made the attempt would fall before and be repelled by his superior force.

Chapter Two

In the days following, Brand was quite busy.  He picked the soldiers for the guard detail and instructed them to be ready when the payroll arrived and also spent much of his off duty hours preparing the exit doorway.  The section of the fort that he had selected for this was quite a distance from the guardhouse but he was certain that he would not be detected and would have ample time to reach the area safely.  When each phase of the project was complete, he made certain that the area was concealed behind an abandoned buckboard.  The finished product was a perfectly fitted door that was held in place with hasps secured by bent nails.  It could be pulled away in an instant and, by the time it was discovered, he would be long gone.

On July 31, 1889, an off duty Major Brand mounted his horse and left the fort for a relaxing ride which was his description of the exercise as explained to the sergeant of the guard at the front gate.  About a half mile from the fort, in the thick of some woods, he halted at a gurgling stream and dismounted.  After positioning the horse within reach of water, he produced a set of hobbles and proceeded to secure the animal’s front hooves.  Next, he pulled a feed bag from his bedroll and filled it with just enough oats from his saddlebag to satisfy the horse overnight.  There was the possibility that some scavenging animal may threaten the horse during darkness, but it was a chance he had to take to secure his escape.  If that were to happen, he would have to make other arrangements.  Walking instead of riding would be a small price to pay for his freedom and the launch of his campaign.  And with that in mind, he began his trek back on foot.  Along the way, he rolled himself in the dirt to simulate having been thrown from his mount to add credibility to the tale he would tell upon his return to the fort.

The scenario went quite well, eliciting from his fellow soldiers wishes for his good health and comments that he was lucky he did not break his neck.  He refused medical attention, saying it was only his pride that was hurt and headed off to his quarters.  Once inside, he needed to hold a hand over his mouth to stifle the laugh that he could no longer control so it would not be heard.  Phase two of his plan had been accomplished.

Early the next morning, Brand assembled the guard detail.  He positioned them at the paymaster’s office, the spot at which the Fort Robinson squad delivering the payroll would arrive, and they waited while Brand informed the paymaster that his responsibilities were temporarily superseded.

Within ten minutes, their wait was over.  The Conestoga wagon carrying the strongbox arrived at the front gate with its compliment of guards.  After admission, the party moved smartly to the appointed location and the lieutenant in charge dismounted and approached Brand, saluting tentatively.

Returning the salute, Brand told the man: Lieutenant, there’s been a change in procedure.  My detail will assume responsibility for the payroll instead of the paymaster.

The young man hesitated, uncertain of this new development.

Lieutenant, Brand continued, That’s an order.

At those words, the officer snapped to and replied: Yes, sir!  Then, to his troops, he called: Bring out the box.

Two of the Fort Robinson troopers dismounted and climbed into the wagon.  Seconds later, they reappeared with the