Excerpt Two: The Benicia Belle

Benecia Belle


They rode up and over the hill, stopping at a spot high on the slope overlooking the Barbary Coast. Just fifty yards below squatted the rear of the New South Wales. The slope down to the hotel was too steep for other buildings, and other than a few scrub oaks, it was clear. As usual, the gambling hall and the street in front of the hotel were alive with rowdy men.

“You boys got any ideas about how to get the weasel out of his burrow?” Clint asked.

“Not without a match,” Boulders said.

“Hell.” Clint laughed quietly. “San Francisco’s burned down so many times, maybe another wouldn’t matter.”

“I should have brought some whale oil,” Boulders complained.

“I thought you were kidding,” Clint said. He would never be surprised at what Boulders might do. “We’d burn the whole damned town down. We can’t do that.”

“Start landslide,” Toy said quietly.

“Or a flood,” Boulders said. “Or an earthquake,” he added with a loud guffaw.

“No,” Toy corrected, in all seriousness. “Landslide.” He pointed across the slope to a pile of rock, most of which had been moved from building sites on up the hill.

“You know, that would shake things up a bit,” Clint said, studying the pile of rocks. “If we could just roll one of those big ones over here and get it started down, I’ll bet the folks would pour out of there like they did out of Sacramento to ride the Belle to the bottom of the river.”

“Looks like hard work to me,” Boulders groused.

“So’s everything worth doing,” Clint said, and reined over to where Toy was already testing a few of the huge rocks to see which one might roll well. He finally settled on one thirty inches across and, without awaiting help, put his huge shoulders and back into it. Boulders dismounted and helped him, cursing with each push. Clint picked up a smaller one and carried it to the spot where they figured they had the clearest shot at the hotel.

Before long, they had the thirty-incher in place and a dozen smaller stones surrounding it.

“Now,” Clint said, puffing. “Let’s see if the weasel can be flushed out.”


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