The next day, two bulldozers crossed over the ford. A grader was making its way up the trail from their home site. Truck after truck followed with construction materials. Another couple of trucks carried the hammers and forge for a full sized mill. Behind the mill equipment was prefab housing being carried on flatbed trailers.
Late that afternoon, a black four wheel drive Tahoe pulled up at the mine site. A big man in a medium price navy colored suit got out and looked around. Big men don’t attract much attention where the norm is big working men. What attracted attention were the federal license plates on the Tahoe.
Cassie had spotted the Tahoe when it crossed over the ford. She exited Big Bertha just as the man exited his Tahoe. His eyes focused on her as she climbed down out of the driving compartment. Then she recognized him. He had been the US Marshal in charge of her escort to Grand Rapids. He tugged his cowboy hat as he greeted her.
“Ms. Howard, how nice meeting you again.”
She laughed, “I seriously doubt that. I’m really sorry I don’t believe it but I never got your name.”
“Cliff Martin, Assistant Supervisor, Deputy US Marshal, for the Northern District of Texas, Federal Court. “
“Now that’s a mouthful Marshal Cliff.”
“What can I do to help you out?”
“Well Ms. Howard, I need to see the following people, Tiny Blocker, Sam Wesley, Clint Wilson, Harry Truck, Miguel Rodriguez, and Cassandra Howly Howard.”
“Well I think that’s Tiny coming up behind you in the Super cab. I think Sam is in the home site which you must have come right past to get here. Harry and Miguel I probably know by their nicknames. Clint is around. He’s always around. And here I am.”
“Durn! I was hoping to take care of all of this with one stop.”
Tiny’s truck pulled up alongside the Marshal’s Tahoe. As he got out, Cassie spotted Wesley getting out on the other side. He, of course, would be next to impossible to miss.
Cassie pulled her CB out and pressed the send button, “Clint, need you at Bertha.”
“On my way Cassie.” came right back on her CB.
“Anybody know Harry Truck or Miguel Rodriguez, they are needed at Bertha in five minutes if they can’t make it let me know where they are.”
It turned out that all of them were at the mine site and soon were gathered in front of Bertha.
Cassie said “OK everyone, this is Deputy US Marshal Cliff Martin. He has some business to attend to. Cliff?”
“Okay, all of you raise you right hand and repeat after me so I can swear you in as Special Deputy US Marshals.”
The Marshal started and stopped every few words for the others to say their parts.
“I, your name, do solemnly swear or affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United State against all enemies foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will, well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.”
“That I, your name, will faithfully serve as a Special Deputy United State Marshal enforcing the laws of the United States of America and the orders of my superiors in the United States Marshal Service.”
They all stood there for a minute with differing expressions on their face.
Marshal Cliff went to his Tahoe and took a briefcase out and then used the hood of the vehicle as a desk. Opening the case, he called each of their names out loud. As they approached him he handed them a leather case. Cassie opened hers and there was a badge with an identification card. The card simply had two seals; the Justice Department and the US Marshal Service. The USMS had a photo and a signature line with her name under it.
“Please sign your identification now. Cassie’s Dad made sure you have the badges, leather cases and made sure we got identification cards made up for each of you. Normally Special Deputies get a letter welcoming them to the US Marshal Service and that’s all. The letter with these explains why you are a Special Deputy and the limits of your service.”
“Your cards are signed by the Director of the USMS and the Marshal of the District appointing you. Either one can rescind your appointment at their whim. The Director and US Marshals serve for only four years or longer if no replacement has been appointed to take their place. These appointments elapse when theirs do. In this case the Marshal of the Northern District of Texas has been there for twelve years.”
“So now listen: these are you orders, you are on Federal Land. That makes you the primary law enforcement here. Rangers are responsible for most law enforcement in wilderness areas, but in general you out rank them. That means that poachers and pollution of the land and water is theirs. If any other crime occurs, then you may find you are the primary law officers. If there are any murders, robberies, assaults, drugs or any other normal criminal action you are constrained by your oath to enforce the law especially as I am telling you to.”
“If the Rangers need help they can call on you. I will inform the local Chief Ranger about you. If any other Marshals ask why you are appointed from Texas, it’s because that is your home state.”
They were all milling around showing the credentials to each other. “One more thing, none of you are trained to be police, so if you do get involved with a real crime, call the US Marshal’s Office in Boise and ask for help.”
“These appointments are primarily to enable you to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the United State no matter what the state law says.”
“If you enter any Federal property, show your ID; any crime scene, show your ID; any questionable place or event, show your ID.”
“One of the most important thing you must remember: any questions, show your ID!”
“Cassie, come here.”
Cassie pulled herself free from Tiny and approached Marshal Cliff. “Yes?”
He reached into his briefcase and took a thick manila envelope out and handed it to her. “These are why I was late getting here this afternoon. These are Conceal Handgun Licenses from Texas. I went by the Attorney General’s office in Boise and had them endorsed. Idaho CHL is recognized in Texas so they recognize Texas’ here, but having the AG endorse them makes them just as good as Idaho’s. You can issue them to the ones you want. There were three of your crew that Texas could not give permits to legally. And Cassie you can’t even give them any guns, rifles or shotguns as that would be violation of Federal law. They are ex-felons and you are a Special Deputy US Marshal.”
“Now, can you show me what is so special up here in Idaho?”
“Sure come with me.” She walked over to Bertha and pointed at one of three wooden boxes under her.
“Pull any of those boxes out.”
“Let me do that for you Marshal.” Wesley stepped past Cliff and reached down pulling out one of the wooden boxes. It was obvious from his action that the boxes were heavy.
Cliff looked into the box and saw raggedy pieces of brassy looking metal. He looked back at Cassie and raised a brow.
“That metal is worth about three million dollars at a refinery. We’ve got four boxes the same size. That around twelve million dollars. You see why I wanted some gun permits.”
He stood there a minute his eyes going back and forth from Cassie to the gold. “You need some professional security Cassie.”
Cassie smiled and looked past him over his shoulder. Cliff turned to see one of the new Deputy Marshals.
“This is Clint, he’s our professional and he’s in charge of getting our security upgraded.
“Marshal, is Cassie waving her gold around again?”
“I was just telling her she needed some professional help.”
“We are getting there. I liked to freak out when I first met her; she dumped a million dollars worth of gold right in front of me.”
After talking some more and catching supper with the crew, Cliff finally pulled out. He had to make two stops, first to visit the Chief Ranger for the area and then at the US Marshal’s office for the District of Idaho.
That night there were fully furnished dormitories set up with restrooms and baths. They now had a community kitchen with a real cook. The mill was going up on the mill claim, and would be in action in two days. Tiny showed up with a fully certified mill operator two days later. When Cassie gave him the gold she had been holding he almost fainted.
A week later Cassie forced herself to take a break. She, Bertha, and Teddy went to town in Bonners Ferry.
Her excuse was she wanted some ice cream. The reality was that if her sat-phone rang one more time or someone asked where to put the new extracted gold as all the boxes under Bertha were full, she would take the phone and begin milling ore with it.
The first thing she did, though, was go by the medical center to say goodbye to John Boy. He was catching a bus to Spokane to catch an airplane at the international airport there. His injuries were going to keep him incapacitated for the rest of the summer so he might as well go home to recuperate and visit with his family. He had learned a lot this summer and knew that Tiny would sign off on his internship with a good grade. He even came out with a lot more money than anybody could have expected. He was a charter member of the Employee Association. He was smart enough to stay a member also. By the time he graduated from college he would have a great nest egg to start life with and no more need for student loans.
The town of Bonners Ferry was on the route to the Alaska Highway which made it a target of summer tourists. It also had a local Casino which drew more traditional tourists. Bertha attracted a lot of attention as Ted drove carefully, looking for a place downtown to park.
“Ted over there near those building is a large parking lot. Find a place where you cannot be blocked in. I’d hate for you to have to drive over a car or two.”
With those instructions, he pulled into the lot, maneuvering Bertha so he had her parked nose out.
Cassie had come prepared. She opened her brand new briefcase and removed three signs: one went on each of the door windows and one in front of the driver seat front window.
Official Vehicle of
Do Not Touch
She had Ted help her place them on the windows.
“That should remove any questions of ‘What the hell’ don’t you think?”
“Egh, maybe, if they don’t see you and find out you are that Marshal.”
“Yeah, Cassie you just don’t look like a US Marshal.”
“Oh, let me see.”
Cassie reached into her pants pocket and pulled her credential case out and folded it open and hung it on the left front of her belt. She then took a clip holster from the briefcase and connected it to her right side belt.
“Think this will make me look more like a Marshal?”
“Only if you don’t pull your cane out.”
“Done, let see if we can find some ice cream in this Podunk of a town. I never thought I would say it. But Sonora is a big city compared to this place.”
They began their walk around the downtown area. The breeze of the river kept the temperature mild, though every so often a mosquito tried to introduce itself. They found a drive-in restaurant with indoor seating and entered.
“Ted, what is on the menu?” Cassie asked low voice.
“Sorry Cassie it’s very similar to a Dairy Queen menu, hamburgers and fries and the dairy products you would expect.”
A waitress walked over to them. “What will it be?”
“I will take a cheeseburger basket, ketchup instead of mustard, a Root Beer in a mug and then afterward I’ll finish it with a strawberry sundae.” Ted was staring at her.
“Eh, I’ll have the same.”
After the waitress had left Ted said, “I thought you were only getting some ice cream?”
“I was until I sat down. Smell that? That is the smell of a great hamburger cooking.”
The conversation became routine after that.
When Cassie was about half-way through her sundae she overheard a conversation from the booth in the corner.
“Jack, there’s nothing here for a person who don’t want to farm, or work for a government department. Have you seen the extension courses from U of I? ‘How to can at home?’ It’s asinine. I don’t want to can at home; I want to earn enough money to go to a decent store and buy my canned goods.”
“Julie it’s not that bad.”
“Oh, Jack you’re right, it ten times worse than that.”
“I’m going to see if I can move to Boise and stay with my aunt and get a job and go to the University there. I hear that Hewlett-Packard will train you for entry level positions.”
“What about us Julie?”
There was a significant pause. “I don’t know Jack; you seem satisfied with life here. You do hunting guide work in hunting season, river tours during tourist season, and then in winter you have the job at your family lodge. You seem happy with your life, but I cannot be happy as your extension. This might just be the time to find out if we really belong together or not.”
Cassie’s Sundae had melted a bit as she had slowed down her intake of it as she listened to the conversation. That conversation gave her an idea. She stood and walked over to the booth.
“Excuse me. I overheard your conversation and would like to talk to you about it.”
“Miss, you’re not excused. This is a private conversation and I recommend you butt out.” The guy blurted out.
With that Ted got to his feet and walked over. Cassie looked over her shoulder at him as he approached and shook her head.
“You must be Jack; Julie, if he’s like this most of the time I thoroughly recommend you getting yourself to Boise.”
Jack put both hands on the table and started to push himself to his feet.
Cassie threw her jacket back, opening it wide. Her badge and credentials were shown as well as her holster pistol.
“Stay seated, Jack.”
“Now Julie, you interest me. How about a job for at least two months, and longer if you desire and do competent work? It has nothing to do with the Marshal Service. You will be working for a private company, basically as an assistant. Your pay will be negotiable.”
“Now I know this is sudden and out of the blue. I will be staying at the Best Western at the casino. She pulled a business card out of her left shirt pocket and a second one from her right shirt pocket. One identified her as Special US Deputy Marshal Cassandra Howard with a phone number, the other card as ‘Cassandra Howard, Vice President, ‘We Find It’, Mineral Location and Development’. The address was in Sonora, Texas with her Sat-phone number.
She turned and went to the cashier where she paid for their meals and tipped the waitress. “Let’s go Ted. We need to check in at the Best Western.”
They parked at the far end of the parking lot, away from any other vehicles. The signs were all in place once more.
Cassie was really coming to like her credentials. When they had walked up to the check in counter and the clerk looked them over sneeringly and asked “Reservation?”
“Sorry, did not have time to call ahead.” She laid her badge and credentials face up on the counter. The clerk’s whole attitude changed. “Yes ma’am, any particular type of room?”
“No, just need a place to clean up and rest over night.”
Within minutes they were in two rooms, she in one and Ted in the other.
Three hours later the room phone rang. “Hello.”
“Ms. Howard, this is Julie, I am in the lobby. If this is not too inconvenient I would appreciate talking to you.”
“Julie, wait right there I will be down in a minute.”
“Yes, I’ll wait.”
Cassie had just dropped her jacket off and washed her face. Having eaten she was not hungry and did not know how to explain to Tiny why she was spending the night in Bonners Ferry, so had done nothing else.
Now she was on her feet and knocking on the door across the hall from her room. Ted opened it after a minute.
“I need you with me now. Just follow and look protective.”
She turned and walked to the elevator. Ted grabbed his jacket and followed her.
In the lobby, Cassie spotted Julie nervously waiting in a chair. “Julie, good to see you are interested; please come with me.”
Cassie headed out of the lobby toward the outside. Ted waited until Julie got up and quickly followed Cassie. He followed on her heels.
They walked across the parking lot until they arrived at Big Bertha. Julie stared at the signs in the window and then at Big Bertha. Her eyes were wide as she gazed at the huge truck.
Cassie unlocked Bertha and climbed up in to the driving compartment. She turned and entered the motor home portion of Bertha. Ted helped Julie climb up into Bertha and then followed her. Cassie went to her office area and motioned Julie to sit in front of her desk. Ted went to a chair slightly behind Julie and sat down.
Cassie took her badge holder off her belt and put it in one of her pants pockets.
“I just took my Marshal’s hat off and put it away. Now I am talking to you as Cassandra Howly Howard, Vice-President of ‘We Find It’. As such, I need an Administrative Assistant, a fancy name for a secretary and a ‘gitme’. I really need one. I got to the point today if my phone had rung one more time I would have launched it into orbit.”
“Oh, are you that strange outfit working north of here on federal land?”
“Well that’s one way of describing us. What we are is a mineral resource exploration and discovery company, which has just become a mining company.”
“But everybody is saying that it’s some kind of cover-up, that no mining company would be doing things the way you are.”
“Well they are right about the way we do things. Just to give you an idea, we setup an Employee Association of which all employees are members, which included us bosses and the company as well. There were 35 employees and two bosses plus the company for 38 members. All share equally in all placer mines we found. We found a lot; the area we went into had never been touched. Within a week of casual mining they brought out gold worth at least eight hundred thousand dollars.”
“At the same time we cleared a two lane dirt road over ten miles through the wilderness. We also cleared a lode mining claim site, and set up a primary home site at the beginning of the road. We have now opened up our main lode claim and have taken out gold worth over ten million dollars.”
Cassie turned and opened her cabinet and pulled out the same box that she had shown Clint and his men. Over her desk she spread a million dollars worth of gold. Julie glanced at it and then stared at Cassie.
“Julie, that is worth over one million dollars.” She spoke softly.
Julie glanced at it once more and then back at Cassie. “It’s got a nice shine to it.”
“I will hire you for a two month trial period. You will be on probation for that time. Your salary and it is a salaried position, will be one thousand dollar a week. You will live on site; living quarters and food supplied. You will need one business suit, one set of casual clothing and at least four sets of work clothing like I am wearing now. I will pay for your first set of these. Work clothing is best found at an Army-Navy store. Get good sturdy work boots with steel toes if you can find them.”
Cassie opened one of her desk drawers and took out a prepaid debit card from a package and handed it to Julie.
“This has one thousand dollars on it. Get receipts for all purchases. Do you know how to get to our home site on County Road 111?”
“Yes, I have fished the stream that’s right off it.”
“Good, report there tomorrow afternoon after getting all your clothing. Come to stay, which mean bring your toiletries and other clothing. I suggest a sleeping bag for comfort. The cots are not hotel quality. Day after tomorrow, you go to work. When you decide to quit that evening, take a deep breath and think of the money you will have saved in two months.”
“Finally, think of this: you are added to the association membership as of now. We have more than 70 members now. Each new member added to the membership requires a complete new calculation of shares owned by all members. You will not be entitled to the same amount as the members who started the association but from now on every dollar value going in is shared equally. At the rate it’s growing, in two months you should have a couple of hundred thousand due you. That will make it easy for you to go to school if that is what you want.”
“Cassie, Ms. Howard,…”
“It is just Cassie except in meetings with strangers.”
“Okay Cassie what degree did you take to get where you are right now?”
“None; I’m not going to explain right now. Just watch, listen, and then ask questions. Anything I told you right now, you would not believe.”
“Okay, I will be there tomorrow afternoon.”
After Cassie had given Julie an envelope full of forms to fill out they both got up and went to Julie’s car. It had been a very productive day for Cassie and she went to bed feeling great relief.
The next afternoon Julie showed up with all her forms filled out. Looking them over, Cassie, for the first time, found out Julie’s last name. Julie Summer was her full name. Cassie spent the next two hours showing Julie where all the paperwork was stored. One of the jobs she had to do was to use the computer to maintain and update the company database. Then backup the computer to Sonora, Texas every night.
Five days after the mill started running Clint had to organize transportation to a refiner. The ore was carried in one dump truck. He took four pickups, with three men in each, as security, but the big stick was Bertha. Clint had five fully armed and armored retired marines. Nobody was stopping this delivery.
The rumors mentioned by Julie were further enhanced by the more than a dozen men from Bonners Ferry that had been hired to work the ‘We Find IT’ mine. The word from them was not believed. The very idea of a mine allowing the miners to work their own placer claims right near their mine was just unheard of.
The pay they got was way above union scale. The onsite living quarters and food were also far above what was expected.
One day when Julie had to handle some legal papers she approached Cassie with a question. “Cassie, is Arthur G. Washburn your lawyer?”
“Yes he is. Why?”
“Ehg, … I don’t know how to say this…”
“Julie, if you know something then that is part of the job. I hired you and you being a resident and knowing the people was one of your qualifications so if that is what this is about then you are duty bound to tell me secrets that I don’t know.”
“Well then, just about everybody in Bonners Ferry knows that you don’t turn your back to Lawyer Washburn, he will stab it. Nobody locally trusts him. He has some big shot backers in Boise but not locally.”
“Thank you Julie, I did not trust him the one time I met him, but it was a gut feeling. Is there a sharp trustworthy lawyer in Bonners Ferry? We really need a local lawyer.”
“I know one but he’s family, so remember that I’m not impartial. My Uncle Joe Buckley, on my mother’s side, is really sharp. He has one big fault, he is accident prone. We have all wondered how he has made it to forty five years old. He breaks at least one bone a year. He rarely leaves the office to cut down on possible accidents. He does have two really sharp assistants.”
“Thanks Julie; I will see what we can do?”
On site, everything was not all roses and wine. Forest Rangers showed up to inspect the mine for compliance. Their mill site was under developed. They wanted to know where to find the wash ponds and the toxic holding sinks. When it was explained that they did no chemical processing on site they looked skeptical.
Cassie finally took the two inspectors into the mine that was growing from the prospector hole. Then she showed them the vein, six inches high and one foot wide. While she stood there one of the miners hit the rock quartz above and to each side around the vein with a jackhammer. A chunk just over a foot deep fell onto the floor. Two more miners advanced and pulled the piece onto a wheel sled that they pulled to a lift where it was taken up to the surface.
Cassie then escorted the inspectors to a scale where the chunk of about 1/2 cubic feet was weighed. The chuck weighed in right at 598 pounds 5 pounds less than ½ cubic feet of gold should weigh. That meant that it was purer then 90%, but how much would not be known until after the refinery was through. Calculating it as 100% would give a maximum total weight of 7,236 troy ounces. They had been accepting 1,100 dollars an ounce at the refinery so that chunk was worth about eight million dollars. At 95% it would be worth seven and a half millions.
The inspectors stood with mouths gaping. “Now do you understand? We don’t have to destroy the land in order to make money here. In fact we are paying the refinery part of the time to just process the ore and return bullions to us which we then ship out to be stored elsewhere. That is to prevent us from depreciating the price of gold.”
The inspectors were shocked speechless. The words “impossible”, “fantasy” and other similar words continued to be heard coming from them.
They finally left, admitting that the mine was cleanest site they had ever inspected.
My thanks to Grumpybear for his editing and proofing help. But the final results are mine and all criticism should be loaded onto my shoulders.
© Virgil Lee Fuqua III and ‘vlfouquet.wordpress’, 2008-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vlfouquet and Virgil Lee Fuqua III with appropriate and specific direction to the original contents.