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Nick and Monty "The Danger Boys" in "The Dead Man's Hand"
By Frank J. Jackson
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Frank J. Jackson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA Beautiful Place to Live
Nicholas Michael Barrington was born in Grandview, California, the town he always thought of as "The Center of the Boring Universe". As far as he was concerned, Grandview was the dullest town in America. Grandview was a sleepy little town but full of friendly people, pleasant palm-lined streets and beautiful mountain views.
Everyone in the little desert town called him "Nick". Even his father did, except when he was really angry with him. Then he became "Nicholas" again.
Nick's best friend was Julius Robert Montgomery who was born in the same room at Grandview General Hospital that Nick was, except about 4 months later. He was known by everyone in town as "Monty" because he hated the name Julius. "It's a family name," his father told him and since he was an only child like Nick, he was stuck with it whether he liked it or not.
Nick and Monty had been best friends as long as they could remember. Their mothers had both died early in their lives so they had no one but their fathers to raise them. They each thought of the other as the brother they never had. Monty's parents were originally from South Africa but that made no difference to Nick. Monty had his father's rich, dark skin but not his accent. Sometimes, on days when Nick was feeling sad he'd think of his best friend and he'd feel better again. Even after a fight or an argument it didn't take more than ten minutes and they'd have forgotten what it was they were fighting about.
The two were together constantly. Nick's father, Professor Erik Barrington, was a research scientist at Grandview University. Monty's father, Paul Montgomery, was the founder and owner of his own computer software company. Mr. Montgomery and his wife were passing through Grandview looking for a place to establish his business when Monty was born. They loved the town so much they decided to raise their family there.
When Professor Barrington was working late at the university, Nick would spend the night at Monty's house. When Mr. Montgomery was out of town managing one of his computer companies, Monty would stay at Nick's house. There certainly was plenty of room for the four of them: Nick, Monty, Professor Barrington and their housekeeper, Mrs. Dearborn. Their house was one of the few Victorian survivors of the Great Fire of 1938.
It was a very ornate, gingerbread style house popular at the time. Mrs. Dearborn had her own suite on the fourth floor, and a long driveway led up to the grand entrance. On the front lawn was a huge ornamental rock with a flower garden planted around it. Nick's mother had planted it years ago when Nick was just a baby. Professor Barrington maintained it faithfully with his own hands.
Settlers on their way to Alaska originally founded the town of Grandview in 1849 during the famous "Gold Rush". Hundreds of people passed through the speck of a town on their way to the Yukon in hopes of finding gold. In those days, Grandview was known as "Silver Hills" because a huge vein of silver was found there. To this day, the town was still honeycombed underneath with abandoned tunnels left by the silver miners. When the silver ran out, the town nearly became a ghost town. In 1872, a man moved to Silver Hills that would change the history of the town and change the path of the lives of Monty and Nick. That man was Sirus Grandview.
Sirus Grandview was the leading clock manufacturer in America at the time. He had made his fortune in Boston, Massachusetts making some of the best and most famous timepieces in the world. There wasn't a city hall or capital building on the east coast that didn't have a clock in its tower made by Sirus Grandview. By the end of the Civil War, he was famous for his complex timepieces and they made him very rich. But clockworks and timepieces were not Mr. Grandview's first love, no, not at all! He had fallen in love with the legends of the Old West. The stories of Jesse James, Billy the Kid and the Gunfight at the OK Corral became his passion. He read every tale of gunfights, train-robberies and cattle rustlers and soon grew tired of the cobble stoned streets of Boston. With his fortune secured, he moved to Silver Hills and built the largest factory for the manufacturing of clocks and clockworks in the United States. He employed nearly everyone in town at his factory. In gratitude the mayor renamed the town "Grandview" in honor of its savior. The town never knew a more prosperous time.
But toward the end of his life, Sirus Grandview became a recluse; leaving the beautiful Grandview Mansion he built only to visit his factory. He had given up wearing the standard high-buttoned cellaniod-collared suits of the day for traditional cowboy garb. His ten-gallon cowboy hat and long duster were legendary around town, and he never left the mansion without his silver six-shooter. He didn't trust banks and rumor had it his fortune was hidden somewhere in the huge expanse of Grandview Mansion. By the time he died in 1902, the era of the old west died with him. He built himself an enormous mausoleum in Grandview Cemetery complete with a marble bust of himself, clutching the famous six-shooter. He overlooked the vault where his coffin was placed. It was as if he were standing guard over his own grave! But between the vault and his stone likeness stood a curious object known around town as the Cradle of a Dead Man's Hand!
Chapter TwoThe Seeds of a Plan are Planted
"Hey Nick," said Monty to his friend as they met in the corridor of Grandview Elementary School. "Where were you this morning? I waited outside of your house to go to the bus stop with you."
"I left early to walk by the library," said Nick excitedly to his friend. "I wanted to see how late it was open tonight. I have the most incredible thing to show you there!" Monty and Nick were both in the sixth grade. As bright as Monty was, the thought of spending any more time in the library than he had to made him a little sick.
Rolling his eyes, Monty said, "What are you talking about? And what's wrong with your computer?"
"Nothing" started Monty ...
"Does this have anything to do with Founder's Day?" Monty interrupted.
Founder's Day was the one day of the year that Nick actually liked living in Grandview. The holiday started many years earlier and was dedicated to remembering the founding fathers of the town, especially Sirus Grandview. Nick and Monty both liked the parade, the picnics and the fireworks at the end of the night. But their favorite part was spending the entire day with their dads. Monty and his father joined Nick and his father last year and so, a tradition was born.
"If you'll let me get a word in edge-wise, I'll tell you," said Nick. "There's nothing wrong with my computer but what I found you won't find in any old data base!"
"What are you talking about?" said Monty.
"I found an original copy of the Legend of Sirus Grandview, and I think it's in his own handwriting!" blurted out Nick
"Oh Nick," groaned Monty, "no one has found his gold in over a hundred years. What makes you think you figured it out? Besides, there's nothing in that creepy old house but a bunch of paintings and that thing in front of old sourpuss's picture," said Monty.
"What thing are you talking about? Come on, Monty this is important!" said Nick.
"That thing that looks like a bowling ball on a stand with a hand-print in the middle," said Monty as he started walking toward the classroom door.
"Are you kidding me?" said Monty, practically yelling. "That's the cradle of a Dead Man's Hand!! You've actually seen it?"
"Sure have," said Monty with a slight air of superiority. "Is that what it's called? I went in the house on a dare one day and saw the thing next to the painting. It's about the only thing left in the whole house".
"I have to see it!" said Nick. "What are you doing tomorrow night?"
"Nothing" said Monty to his friend. "My dad is home for a few days so he can take me to the Founder's Day parade. What do you want me to do?"
"Tell your dad that we're camping out in the tent in my backyard," said Nick. "We'll sneak into Grandview mansion really late so I can get a look at the cradle," said Nick, lowering his voice. "Do you think we'll be able to get in?"
"That's no problem," said Monty. "There's a trick to the front door lock that every kid in town knows. I'll teach it to you tomorrow night."
"Ok, but will you meet me at the library tonight around seven so I can show you the legend?" pleaded Nick.
"All right, but I already know it. Everyone in town knows it by heart" reminded Monty.
"Yes, but maybe there's something we missed," said Nick. "Just be there at seven and you'll see what I mean."
"I'll meet you on the library steps, but this better be good!" warned Monty.
Just then the bell rang and all the children who were outside formed lines and marched into their classrooms. Nick and Monty slipped into line and went to their seats.
Nick couldn't give his schoolwork a second thought. All he could think about was the legend of Sirus Grandview.
Chapter ThreeThe Longest School Day of All
Nick and Monty were both in the same class but sat in different parts of the classroom. The class was an even mix of boys and girls, arranged alphabetically by their teacher, Miss Clay. She was an attractive young lady just out of college. Like most of her students she was born and raised in Grandview.
"Miss Clay," said Nick raising his hand. "Can we talk a little bit about "Founder's Day???? I have a few questions that would help me appreciate the holiday we're celebrating this weekend".
"I was going to do a unit on "Founder's Day" after lunch," said Miss Clay "but now is as good a time as any. What's your question?"
"What can you tell us about the man our town was named after, Sirus Grandview?" asked Nick.
"Re-named is a more correct word, Nick," said Miss Clay. "Remember, when the town was originally founded, it was called "Silver Hills".
"We all know that," said Monty from across the room. "What can you tell us about old Sirus Grandview?" Monty gave Nick a quick look and he nodded back.
"I can't tell you much about the man," said Miss Clay. "There isn't much about him personally in the town records, just lots of pictures of him dedicating clocks all around the state. From what I've heard, he lived alone his entire time in Grandview. He had a legendary love of the American Old West as everyone knows. He read and re-read the tales of Jesse James, Billy the Kid and the rest. It consumed his life until the end. He even dressed like his beloved cowboy heroes," said the young teacher.
"Has anyone ever found his gold?" asked Nick as Monty took a sudden breath.
"I think the Gold of Sirus Grandview falls under the category of Urban Legend," smiled Miss Clay. "Does anyone know what an Urban Legend is?"
Nancy Lister, the class know-it-all raised her hand. "I do, Miss Clay. It's a story that gets started that usually isn't true, but becomes a legend around a small city or town."
"That's absolutely correct Nancy," said Miss Clay.
"Like the story about the woman who comes home and finds her dog choking," added Nancy. "She rushes the dog to the vet and when they do an x-ray, they find three fingers in the dog's throat!"
"Thank you Nancy, we get the point ..." said Miss Clay, but by this time Nancy couldn't be stopped.
"So then, the lady goes home and finds a burglar in the closet, bleeding to death holding his nearly fingerless hand," blurted out Nancy, looking pleased.
"Thank you again, Nancy," interrupted Miss Clay, with a furrowed brow, "but I would have appreciated a less graphic example".
"Sorry," said Nancy, looking into her lap. "It was the only example I could think of".
"But the Gold of Sirus Grandview isn't a fairy-tale or a legend, its real!" shouted Nick. "Look at Grandview Mansion and the old clock factory ... it must have cost a fortune to build!"
"I'm not saying every urban legend doesn't have a grain of truth in it," said Miss Clay, "but Nick, I don't believe Sirus Grandview buried his millions under the barn!"
The classroom erupted with laughter and Nick turned red with embarrassment. For the moment, Monty pretended he didn't know Nick Barrington.
"People smarter than us have been looking for his money for a long time," said Miss Clay. "No one has found as much as a buffalo nickel."
"They've been looking in the wrong place," said Nick, trying to regain some dignity.
"Do you think you know where Sirus Grandview hid all his money?" asked Miss Clay quizzically.
Monty thought his heart was going to stop as he gave Nick a "Shut-Up And Don't Make Things Worse" look from across the room.
"I'm not saying that at all," said Nick, fumbling for what to say.
"Then unless you have a real question about "Founder's Day"," interrupted Miss Clay, "I think we've spent enough time on fairy tales and local legends. Everyone take out your math books and we'll go over our fractions for the test on Monday."
The classroom groaned. Fractions were the last thing on Nick's mind as he dug out his math book from the desk. His thoughts were already a million miles away and he barely noticed Miss Clay step into the hall with her cell phone in hand.
Chapter FourThe Legend of Sirus Grandview
Monty was true to his word and met Nick on the steps of Grandview Public Library at seven o'clock sharp. Monty had a look on his face that Nick knew all too well: Monty was angry.
"You nearly blew our whole plan," said Monty. "How are we going to search for the gold if half the town thinks we're looking for it?"
"Relax Monty," said Nick. "I didn't give any clue that we were on the hunt for the gold of Sirus Grandview."
"Are you kidding?" blurted out Monty. "You practically invited the whole class along! Did you see the look Miss Clay gave you when she went outside to use her phone?"
"No, I didn't ... who do you suppose she was calling?" asked Nick.
"Probably Grandview Sanitarium to come and get you" said Monty angrily.
"I wasn't that bad, was I?" asked Nick to his friend.
"Well, you did sound a little crazy ..." said Monty to Nick. "Now what did you find in this library that's going to make me think you're not completely nuts?"
"Just you wait!" said Nick and grabbed Monty by the backpack and dragged him through the library doors.
The two boys went into the grand old library's marble lobby and marched up to Mrs. Gleason, the lady at the reference desk.
"Good evening Mrs. Gleason," said Nick in a familiar tone.
"Well, if it isn't Nick and Monty," said Mrs. Gleason in a friendly tone. "Good evening boys, what can I do for you?"
"I'd like to take a look at that old book again," said Nick. "the one about the history of Grandview."
"Now Nick," said Mrs. Gleason, "You know that book can only be let out with the special permission of Mr. Simmons. You've already looked at it three times this week."
"I know that Mrs. Gleason," pleaded Nick. "But Monty and I are camping out Saturday night after the Founder's Day fireworks and I want to write some ghost stories based on town history."
Like a ghost himself, Mr. Simmons, the head librarian appeared from behind a bookcase causing both boys to jump.
"Camping out after the fireworks, eh?" said Mr. Simmons. "Not planning to go for the gold of Sirus Grandview, are you?"
"Oh no," said Nick, "nothing like that, sir. I need the book to write some ghost stories."
"You can look at it here," said Mr. Simmons with a stern look, "but this book doesn't leave the library under any circumstance. It's far too valuable!"
"I understand," said Nick, trying to sound as sincere as possible. "I'll treat it like it was my own."
"Hmmm ... all right, I'll get it for you," said Mr. Simmons, grumbling as he turned and walked into his office. "But if there's so much as a fingerprint on it, I'll have to call your father."
Mr. Simmons retrieved the heavy book. Nick thanked him and the two boys went to a large empty table in the reference section.
"I found it in the back, an old parchment page," said Nick, barely able to control his excitement. "I'll bet even old man Simmons doesn't know it was in there."
"Shut up and let me see what you're talking about," said Monty impatiently. Nick thumbed to the back page of the dusty old book and there under the paper backing of the book cover was a thin, razor-sharp tear the length of the binding. Nick carefully slipped his finger in and pulled out an ancient yellowed piece of paper. He looked around to make sure no one was watching him, and he unfolded the document for Monty to see.
The paper was folded in half and was written in a flowing old hand that Nick was sure belonged to Sirus Grandview! Nick's hands trembled as he smoothed out the fragile, crumbling old document. The two boys strained to read the ornate script. It was like nothing they'd ever seen before. Monty said it looked like the Declaration of Independence and Nick agreed. Nick had made some notes in his notebook so he took it from his knapsack and began to lay out his research on the big oak table. They waited until the last person in the reference section had left or moved to another table and Nick began to read the legend to Monty aloud.
Excerpted from Nick and Monty "The Danger Boys" in "The Dead Man's Hand" by Frank J. Jackson Copyright © 2010 by Frank J. Jackson. Excerpted by permission.
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