In the Dark Soil of Deceit – Extended Epilogue

The tension over Pueblo, Colorado, crackled like lightning in a storm. The elections had captured the public’s attention, more than ever before. Charlie Briggs wasn’t sure whether to attribute that to the nature of the race or the tenor of the times. Since the end of the dreadful War Between the States almost twenty years before, the American complexion had become polarized. Some wanted nothing at all to do with such business. Others were vigorous in their belief that it was every man’s duty to vote his conscience.

But Charlie knew the men of Colorado politics better than he’d ever wanted to, and conscience was not the deciding factor in their unscrupulous business.

Leigh straightened his suit cravat, but Charlie couldn’t help but fidget. It felt tight around his collar, hemming him in. His newly tailored suit fit well enough, but he couldn’t help but feel like a dandy, something he’d never been nor wanted to be. It had been better to live by his own code, outside the laws of man but for the very basics.

“I dunno,” Charlie said as his loving new wife adjusted his waistcoat. “Maybe this was a mistake.”

“Don’t you believe it,” Leigh said, a stern smile on her pretty face. “You know better than anybody else that Pueblo needs a mayor it can rely on.”

“How do we know we can trust the governor’s office?”

“We can’t, Husband. But we can trust you. And that’s the first big step to a better town, a better country, and a better world.”

Charlie knew she was right. While it was the duty of some men to vote, it was the duty of others to run. After being a big part of the previous mayor’s undoing, albeit indirectly, and having risen from the ashes that was the catastrophe of the previous regime, Charlie was well-positioned to take up the reins of leadership. He’d captured the town’s attention, not only after his heroics in saving them from a corrupted governance, but in his romance with Leigh, and the story of their adventure settling a longstanding family feud. They seemed something straight out of Shakespeare. Their story gave new hope to the locals, that they may also find love where it was least likely, that courage would always be rewarded in the great United States of America. Charlie and Leigh were both examples to the citizens of Pueblo and beyond.

As much as Charlie had longed for a quieter life, he saw the need to fill the vacuum. And he knew that decent governance would make Pueblo a great city, Colorado a great state. And he knew his wife was right; Charlie would not bow to corruption, and he was one of the few men he could rely upon to do so. That was what was required, were the country to become the great nation it had so much promise to be.

“I’ve never been one for speeches,” Charlie said. His long, brown hair had been newly cut, lighter on his head. But he felt gentrified, like Samson rid of his great power. But, looking into his wife’s eyes, he knew differently. Taking a deep breath of her perfume, drinking in the sight of those loving blue eyes, blonde hair framing that perfect face, Charlie knew she was right. His true power lay with her. It always had. It lay with the good relations he had with his neighbors, his fellow citizens. They called him to run, they urged him to lead them. That was what had convinced him, his sense of duty to them. He’d been willing to die for them before, and he was willing to live for them now.

But Charlie would almost rather have dropped through a gallows trapdoor than go out and face that crowd with the words scribbled on that piece of paper. Charlie was a man who’d always let his actions speak for him. He’d known diplomacy, of course, and was no stranger to charm. They would be his stock in trade once he won the mayor’s office, if he did. If only other men hadn’t given such skills and strengths the bad name they carried in the political arena. Admirable qualities of character in any other context became reasons for suspicion when associated with anybody extending their hand for a friendly shake and a neighborly introduction when they had an election pin in their other hand.

“I’m gonna come off as just another one of them,” Charlie said.

“Nonsense. These people know you; they accept you.”

“They think they do. But I was laying pretty low before all that with your father. After that, all the… the rumors and the talk, our wedding. These people don’t really know me. They think they know me. Maybe you should run for mayor.”

“Me? Now you’re just being silly. I’d be happy just be able to vote for mayor.”

“Soon enough,” Charlie said. “And then, who knows?”

Leigh smiled and brushed off his jacket. “One thing at a time, eh?”

After a quick knock, the little room’s door opened and Charlie said, “Come in.”

Bruce Michaels stuck his head in. He offered his daughter a little wink, but it didn’t take him long to redirect his attention to Charlie. “They’re ready.”

Charlie nodded and looked at Leigh. There was no more stalling it. Leigh would be there with him, as would his loyal and supportive new father-in-law. Bruce tapped Charlie on the shoulder and gave him a little shake for confidence.

Charlie and Leigh walked past him to lead the elder man through the main rooms of the Cactus Flower. The place was practically empty, only a few swaying drunks too disinterested or lazy to stand out in the street.

They walked through the doorway and into the street. The thoroughfare was packed with the citizens of Pueblo. They began to murmur and chatter when Charlie and the others stepped out. Charlie offered a little nod and a tip of his new hat, earning instant applause from the crowd.

On the wooden platform in front of the saloon, Sheriff Roger Maxwell stood, raising his hands to calm the crowd. He spat a wad of chaw into the dirt and wiped his mouth with his sleeve.

“Gotta get a new sheriff,” Charlie mumbled.

His former boss, Hal Aaron, stepped up to shake his hand. “Good luck, son,” he said with a firm grip. “You can do this, you will do this.”

Charlie nodded. He knew the odds were with him, but in politics, as in anything else, the odds would only do so much. Leaving his new bride Leigh with her father and his father’s new business partner, he walked through the crowd, hands clapping him on the back as he made his way to the platform.

The sheriff said to all, “Let’s have it quiet, now. Y’all know why we’re here, an’ that’s to have one more public speech from each candidate ‘fore we have the vote tomorrow. We know you all have yer feelin’s, and that’s as is should be. That’s America!” A smattering of applause rose up from the crowd. “But so is bein’ respectful of that process,” Sheriff Maxwell went on, “and bein’ respectful of them what takes part. That means no shoutin’ down the other guy, if’n he ain’ yer man! It means not angryin’ up the crowd with any campaignin’ of yer own! It means not havin’ a riot on my streets! So thems who want to set a bad example is gonna have to deal with me!”

The crowd went quiet, respectful, all eyes on the platform.

Sheriff Maxwell went on, “And now, the first candidate, owner of Brighton’s Hardware and Sundries, right here in Pueblo…” Something distracted him and he bent down, someone blocked by the crowd informing the lawman of something. The lean sheriff straightened up and returned his attention to the crowd. His voice rang out loud and strong. “Seems he’s soon to open a new shop in Colorado Springs!” A smattering of applause rose up at the good news. “Please welcome to this platform, John Brighton.”

The audience clapped and John Brighton stepped up to the platform. The tall man wore his head shaved clean, a black mustache twirled up at the tips and waxed into place. He looked out over the crowd, nodding and casting a few cocky winks around the thoroughfare. People watched from the streets, the balconies, the sidewalks, seemingly everyone in Pueblo.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” John went on, long after the applause died away. “Friends, fellow businessmen, loyal customers. I won’t waste your time with any long speeches tonight.” A few claps rose instantly to support the notion, but they didn’t last long. John went on, “Speeches are for politicians! But politicians? They’re what got us into the messes we’re in! If politicians had been of any real value, we wouldn’t be having this emergency election right now! But you’ve all seen the corruption that goes along with politics!”

The crowd threw up a messy cheer of support and discontent.

John continued, “That’s why I’m your man for mayor of Pueblo! I’m one of you, not one of them! I understand your needs! I’m here with you, in Pueblo, soon in Colorado Springs, yes. But I will always understand what life is like here, on the streets. I know you and you know me, my friends and neighbors. I’ve been a trusted and reliable source of goods and sundries for years. When have I ever refused a fair exchange or return? I’ve stood by my goods and services, and I stand by my word. I’m not some… some virtual stranger who is asking you to trust me or believe in me. You already know you can trust me, believe in me. And you know I will keep your interests first. Because I don’t care about their business, the business of politics. I care about this business, yours and mine: the business of building businesses and creating families. Those are my concerns, that is how we will build a better nation.”

The crowd clapped and John looked out over the crowd.

“I will not take issue with my opponent in this race,” John went on, giving Charlie a little nod. “He cuts a dashing young figure, his story has fascinated us. We’re… grateful for what he’s done to uproot the corruption of the previous regime.” Applause rose up again, enough to give Charlie wordless reassurance. John went on, “But some of you have our doubts about just what happened with the late lieutenant governor. Some of you have your concerns about the future of the town under such supervision. I cast no aspersion there, either. This is a free country, a democracy, where anybody is free to doubt another and to act on those doubts. Vote your conscience, as I’ve always said. Choose the man who has proven himself, a man you know, a man who has served you these long years… or a virtual stranger, shrouded in legend that cannot possibly be real, stories as fanciful as those of Paul Bunyan! Legends have their appeal. But this is no storybook, friends. Our choice here today is a somber one, one that will decide the course of our futures for years, perhaps generations to come. I promise I will do my best to bring the kind of success to Pueblo as I have to my own business, here and anywhere I go in these great United States of America!”

John held up his hand and pointed dramatically toward the sky. The crowd burst into applause. Charlie passed John on the platform and the two men shook hands.

The crowd’s cheering died down as Charlie nodded and smiled. Once it was quiet, Charlie said, “My opponent is quite right. You should not vote for a… a storybook figure. There has been much talk of who I am, what I am capable of. But you see me here, now, as I am and have always been: just a man. I have weaknesses, I have regrets. I have done my best, and my best has vastly improved as I have grown. I’m grateful for those opportunities, and I’ll be grateful for any other opportunities you, the American voter, should choose to give me. I will always do my best in your service. I’m grateful to men like John Brighton. It is because of the success of such men that our nation prospers as it does. I hope to further his goals of spreading that success, here and elsewhere in Colorado, in the entire country.”

Applause rose up, Charlie surveying the room to find Leigh, Bruce, and Hal, watching from the crowd.

Convinced of his wife’s safety, he went on, “Why, then, should you vote for me? True, I am younger than my opponent, less experienced. But I have no other business. Serving as your mayor will be my one and only consideration. The office, and your service, will have my entire, unfocused attention.”

Many nodded, sharing uncertain grumblings.

“I’ll not be vulnerable to… certain persuasions, certain financial considerations.” John Brighton sneered at Charlie from the stage. “I hope… I’m certain… that you will take John Brighton’s advice and vote your consciences. If that means voting for me, you may sleep well and confident that you made a good choice: for yourself, for Pueblo, for the entire country. If it will be the best choice, I leave for you to decide. Thank you, and good evening.”

The crowd applauded and Charlie stepped down.

Charlie walked back through the crowd toward Leigh and the two men they shared their lives with.

“Wait, everyone,” a woman’s voice called out, “hold on!”

Charlie turned, along with everyone else in the crowd. A woman Charlie didn’t recognize had found her way onto the platform. She faced the crowd, holding out one hand.

“Johnathan Brighton is a liar!” The crowd gasped and she went on, “He kept me as a lover, even though you all know the man is married! His wife is here tonight, even now by his side!”

Charlie turned to see John standing with his wife, very fat and, at that moment, clearly very angry. The woman on the stage went on, “He’s taken me to the Cactus Flower,” she confessed to the crowd’s surprise, “we’ve occupied almost every room.”

John’s wife began to beat him about the head and neck as he squealed in objection. “You filthy, godless swine,” Mrs. Brighton shouted. “I’ll skin you alive, you mangy dog!”

“It’s not true,” John pleaded, arms up over his head. “Buttercup, whippoorwill, dove!”

“Don’t you buttercup me, you snake!”

She kept beating him with her fat little fists, driving him through the crowd. The men howled with laughter, pointing and shaking their heads.

On the platform, John’s extramarital lover went on, “I’m even pregnant with his child!” The crowd gasped, a frenzied murmur passing from person to person. “Is that the kind of amoral scoundrel you want leading you, handling your business interests? He’s not a man you can trust or rely upon… just the opposite.”

John ducked and moved faster, his massive matron holding his tail. “You… you… you monster!”

“It’s not true,” John begged his wife, grunting with every hard punch. “I… I don’t even know the girl!”

“No,” his fat wife said, “and you’ve never been to Colorado Springs on business, either!”

“We’re opening a new store!”

“I’ll open your skull! C’mere, you sniveling skunk.” She kept whacking and swatting at him, driving John into the crowd and into political obscurity.

His lover went on from the platform, “Trust him the way I did, and he’ll do to you what he did to me!”

Sheriff Maxwell took her by the arm. “All right, that’s enough.”

“Don’t you touch me, you brute!”

“I’ll put you in a cage, you keep this up!”

“Isn’t that always the way!” She turned to the crowd. “This one’s filthy, too! Ask around the Cactus Flower, you’ll see!”

The sheriff dragged her off the platform and the crowd hummed with gossip and rumor. The big Mrs. Brighton kept swatting at her husband, men laughing and pointing and shaking their heads.

What followed was a riotous party that dominated the thoroughfare, one that would live on in the lore of Pueblo, Colorado. Stories would ring up and down the Wet Mountains of how the honorable Mayor Charles Briggs first won the office. It was the beginning of an illustrious career that would become legendary in the state.

Charlie wouldn’t be the only Briggs to become famous in the region. His spitfire wife Leigh would go on to become a fixture in town events and, in later years, would lead the state campaign to give women the right to vote. She was an example to budding feminists everywhere, her legend every bit as great as her husband’s.

And it began with that night, before the greatest landslide win in the history of the region. It renewed people’s faith in their country and their leadership. Their votes counted, and they knew they could go forward to better the greatest democracy in all the human experience. There was a new spirit of unity in Pueblo, echoing the national recovery from the War Between the States. The country was growing together, getting stronger, preparing for the trials of the Twentieth century.

It would meet those challenges with aplomb and create what everybody looked forward to as the American century. If it was, it would be because of men like Charlie Briggs and women like his wife Leigh, men and women like their children and grandchildren. And it could only happen in the United States of America, entering its zenith. It would be a world power, a world leader, only a few years after its painful infancy and treacherous adolescence. Families like the Briggs would see to it, they would make it happen and keep that dream alive.

One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.


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18 thoughts on “In the Dark Soil of Deceit – Extended Epilogue”

  1. This story is intriguing, moving and interesting. Fighting corruption is hard but when the perpetrators lead two friends who each hold a great place in Pueblo are driven to become enemies for the greed of the Lt. Governor’s own personal gains. Death of the innocent is imminent until the Sheriff finds his conscience.

  2. An awesome heart wrenching story with a beautiful ending. Lots of action with GOD’S teaching included also. Keep writing awesome stories and GOD’S willing i will keep reading them.

  3. Definitely not your textbook story of how the West was won. Good people, hard work and consciences helped solve many growing pains. Interesting twists through the entire story.

  4. A very intrigued book. There is deciet, love and twists that make this book a very enjoyable read. There is also faith that the truth shall prevail
    .. loved reading this book.


  5. What can I say, this book was absolutely incredible and I loved it! I mean action packed scenes and moments of sadness and joy. This book will keep you turning those pages, excitement galore through out this book! This Author can keep you coming back for more, with ever page he writes! Each page and chapter has you wanting more and you’ll get that until the very end! Like I’ve said before, the extended epilogue was absolutely amazing and just to let you know it’s the icing on the cake! So read this book and find out I was right, the book was awesome! BMA 🌬📚🤠🐝🎶

  6. Grab on tightly when you start reading this book. You will finish it after being emotionally thrashed by this great story. Believe me or not, remember to hold on.

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