Thursday, March 14, 2024

Bearclaw Summons (A Serialized Story) blog post #645

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Although this story started out as a short story, it looks to be turning into a mini novella. Hope you stay with me on this.




Bart was pleasantly surprised by Mark’s method. The lawyer took a long time making Willy feel easier before getting around to asking what he wanted to know. He seemed to understand that it would take the young Apache awhile to grow comfortable with a stranger from the outside. He spoke slowly, almost in a southwestern drawl. Dropping hints about his own personal experiences to give his client some insight into his new lawyer, Mark eventually led Willy Spurs through the story, exhibiting unsuspected patience while he waited for the other man to sort out answers to his questions. Bart smiled on the inside of his mouth. Old Mark had learned something from their long friendship after all.

At length, the lawyer ran out of questions. “Willy, there are a couple of points of law I want to check on, and then I think we should go to the base for a talk with the commandant. I’ll do your talking for you. I’ll tell him exactly what I want him to know. If there’s something I don’t tell him, then it’s something I don’t want him to know, and I don’t want you to volunteer it. Do you understand?”

“Yessir. “

“But if you hear me tell him something that’s wrong, I want you to stop me right there and put it right. I don’t care how small a thing it is, if it’s wrong, if I’ve misunderstood, you stop me and correct me. Do you understand that?” Willy nodded. “Do you trust me, Willy?”

“Y... yessir. “

“Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.”

“Bart Shortlance trusts you, so I guess I do too.”

“Fair enough. If I tell you to go home tonight and come back in the morning, will you do it?”

They all waited in silence while Willy chewed that one over. Finally, the young man nodded.

“All right, then I trust you too. Be here at nine o’clock in the morning. And if something should happen in the meantime, simply ask them to call me. Here’s a card with my office and home phone numbers on it.”

Willy swallowed manfully and put the card in his shirt pocket.

All the way back to the reservation, Bart fought a sour feeling in the pit of his stomach. He wished he understood why it rode there.


A smartly‑uniformed, blue‑scarved airman smartly processed the car through the main gate of the airbase. An attractive WAF non‑com smilingly saw to their needs as they waited until the commandant was available, but as soon as he saw the colonel’s face, Mark knew they had problems. He was willing to bet that if he opened the door that had just closed behind them, there would be an Air Policeman within easy hailing distance.

“Mr. Charles, Mr. Spurs.” The colonel indicated a man dressed in civilian clothing. “This is Special Agent Hill of the FBI. I’ve taken the liberty of asking him to join us. I hope you don’t object.”

“Not at all,” Mark said quickly, aware of Willy’s growing alarm. “I thought of this as a purely military matter, or I would have invited Mr. Hill’s office or ATF myself.”

“Well, it’s true that this is a military base, but Mr. Spurs is a civilian employee as well as a member of an Indian tribe, I believe.”

“We’ll figure out the jurisdictional considerations later, Colonel Marsh,” the agent drawled easily.

“Right. Shall we be seated? Around the table, I think,” the officer indicated chairs clustered around a walnut coffee table in one corner of the room.

Mark picked up the reins when they were all seated. “As I indicated on the telephone, Mr. Spurs is my client. He has brought a matter to my attention which I felt should be discussed with you. Mr. Spurs believes that the theft of government property has taken place and that he has been manipulated so that he unwittingly assisted in the crime.”

Mark told them the facts as related by Willy. “At the end of the shift on the day the threat was made when he refused to take out the third case of rifles, Mr. Spurs left the military reservation and has not returned until I brought him here today.”

“Mr. Spurs,” the colonel addressed Willy directly. “You should have immediately advised your supervisor of the situation and‑‑”

Mark interrupted. “Colonel, Mr. Spurs had been on the job for a total of three months. As I understand it, Mr. Burke is one of his supervisors. Nothing like this has ever happened to him before. He had no experience upon which to draw. Given the circumstances, I consider that he acted in a prudent manner. We are now advising the proper authorities that we have reason to believe that a number of military rifles have been stolen.”

The colonel rolled his eyes over to the FBI agent who picked up the conversation.

 “That may be, but it would certainly have made life simpler for Mr. Spurs if he had acted as Colonel Marsh suggested. You see, someone has already reported the theft. A total of one‑hundred‑thirty‑six rifles have, in fact, been removed from Warehouse B‑15 where Mr. Spurs worked, and he has been named as the individual who took them.”

“By whom?”

The agent consulted a folder he held in his hand. “A Mr. Harlen B. Burke, the Day Supervisor at Warehouse B‑15—”

“When was this allegation made?”

“Yesterday afternoon at the end of the shift.”

“Has a warrant been issued for my client?”

“Not at this time, but that is merely a formality.”

“Perhaps so, but it’s a rather important formality. I want to advise you right now, Mr. Hill, that if one is issued, I want to be told so that Mr. Spurs can surrender himself rather than be subjected to the indignity of an arrest.”

“He can avoid that easily enough. He can surrender himself right now. “

“At this time you don’t know that you are going to arrest him. As soon as you know, let me know.”

“Well now, Counselor, I don’t know if I can do that.”

“Of course you can. But if the allegation was only made yesterday afternoon, you haven’t even had time to conduct a decent investigation of the facts.”

“Well, we’ve determined that the weapons are missing,” the colonel snorted.

“And that’s about all. An obvious question comes to mind. Mr. Spurs was employed for only around three months. Unless security simply doesn’t exist in this place, I should think that it would be very difficult to remove a hundred and... how many?... thirty‑six? A hundred and thirty‑six rifles in that amount of time.”

“Difficult, but not impossible. He admits to removing two cases,” the agent reminded him.

“Two cases hauled out as a favor to Mr. Burke, his direct supervisor who did not have room in his own vehicle. Two cases are one thing, Mr. Hill, that’s what ... a dozen rifles? That’s a far cry from a hundred and thirty‑six.”

“There’s a witness, Mr. Charles.”

“Let me guess... his name’s Avila.”

“That’s right. Mr. James V. Avila.”

“And why didn’t Mr. Avila, sterling citizen that he is, immediately report this crime to his supervisor so that the culprit could be apprehended at the gate?”

“Claims that he thought the case he saw in Mr. Spurs’ pickup was empty. He thought Mr. Spurs was taking it home to make a table or something out of it.”

“Are these cases free for the asking?”

“No, but Mr. Avila didn’t feel it was necessary to blow the whistle on a new man for carting an empty wooden box out. But when the missing rifles came to light, well, that was another matter. He stepped forward immediately.”

“I’ll bet he did. Well, we can all take comfort in one thing. With the United States Air Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation looking after things, we can be confident that there will be no attempt to take the easy way out and pin this thing on a fellow who doesn’t have the money or the moxey to take care of himself. We can rest assured that nobody’s going to simply try to wipe the slate clean with Willy Spurs as the eraser. I take great comfort in that. I think it’s time to go now, Willy. These gentlemen are going to want to get your statement in writing so that they can use it in their investigation, and we’re anxious for them to have it; but you will not answer any questions for them or anyone else about this matter unless I am present. Do you understand?” Willy nodded. Mark doubted that the man could have uttered a word if called upon to do so. Willy’s eyes would have made respectable dials for a pocket watch. “I think that’s all, then.”

Willy did not need to be told twice. He was on his feet and headed for the door before the rest of them moved. No one tried to stop them, although the AP Mark had predicted was standing in the anteroom. Nonetheless, Mark did not breathe easy until they had passed safely through the front gate of the base.

This was, he told himself, going to be a very interesting case.


Interesting case for Mark Charles, a lawyer, but probably not so pleasant for Willy Spurs. But maybe between Bart and Mark, they can spare the young man real unpleasantness. We’ll see.

 See you next week.

Stay safe and stay strong until we meet again.

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See you next Thursday.


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