Chapter 38 continues
The story so far: The sheriff deputizes the criminals.
Sam Scarlett stepped forward and addressed the sheriff loudly. “None of us here would be stupid enough to violate the decree made by a lawman like yourself, Sheriff Turner,” he said sarcastically. “But what about the townsfolk who are not currently present? Been my experience that the law needs to be made known before a man can knowingly break it, ain’t that right? Just how do you plan to make that law known, sheriff?”
The sheriff held the document high in the air. “Law’s written out plain as my face. Before high noon, fliers with the new law printed will be everywhere across the Range. There’ll be no excuses. Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it.”
“When does this law restricting the right to assemble take effect?” Scarlett asked. He spoke deliberately, loud enough for even the women at the mercantile to hear.
“The minute a man hears my voice describing the decree or reads the flier, I reckon.”
“When do you suspect the miners in Virginia will see this flier?”
“As soon as this ceremony is over, we’ll be dispatching some of the deputies west and some to the east. Our own Moose Jackson will be leading a team on horseback to Virginia.” Katka looked over at Moose Jackson. Of course they had recruited him. She wondered who had taken over as bouncer at Vince Torelli’s. The sheriff continued, “They should be there within a few hours. The law will take effect when they distribute the fliers.”
Paul took his watch out of his pocket and glanced at it. “They should be safe,” he whispered to Katka.
The sheriff continued speaking to his new deputies. “There are other crimes committed by the miners here. The strikers have officially declared war on the Oliver Mining Company, a subsidiary of U.S. Steel. As you all know, there’s a war going on overseas. Even if we ain’t officially in it, there’s a lot of weapons to be made and sold. Miners and steel workers are considered ‘essential workers.’ Gov. Burnquist has authorized us to do everything in our power to get these men to return to work and help get American steel overseas. Men who refuse to help America in these turbulent times will be considered traitors and can receive sentences of up to twenty years in prison.”
Everyone began talking at once. Seeing what a stir the declaration caused, the sheriff read it again. Katka wrote furiously in her notebook. English speakers translated as best they could to the non-English speakers.
“We can arrest men who don’t go back to work?” one of the new deputies asked.
“You can, but we’d rather you convince them than arrest them,” Stone said. “Your job is to help them make the right decision. We wish to give all the workers a chance to return to their jobs. We do not wish for any of our workers to go to jail. We want no person harmed. We will give them three days. Although America is not currently at war, we are supporting the British in any way we can. Steel has never been more valuable or necessary. Helping the war effort is patriotic.”
Tomorrow: Chapter 38 continues.