Story Sunday: The Trial of Justice Nuttall

Inside Fort Yale’s only barbershop, Justice of the Peace Jacob Nuttall sat in a chair facing a rough-hewn wall while Walter Marvin applied a greasy mixture to his face.

“Those men I told you about, one of them came around yesterday demanding a shave. He said if I drew even a drop of blood with my razor then he’d shoot me!” Marvin held up his razor as if to emphasize the point.

“Did you remind him that British law applies here?”

“I didn’t say a word but I charged him double!”

“Have you heard anything more about Justice Defries of Hill’s Bar?”

“Nothing so far. Judge Defries is under the thumb of Scranton. Whenever Scranton wants something he just yanks on Defries’ nose ring and he comes,” Marvin shook his head.

Nuttall frowned. “How can this Andrew Scranton have so much influence? I fail to understand.”

Marvin smiled, “he’s been a politician for a long time. Some say he used to be a lawyer or a judge with high hopes until he got on the wrong side of the Vigilante Committee in San Francisco. His friends got him out of there and up here to Fort Yale.”

Barber Pole -people went to barbers not just for a haircut

Barber Pole -people went to barbers not just for a haircut

Nuttall turned his head and Marvin shaved the other side.

“It’s challenging enough to have these lawless miners around and now Scranton has to drag his party politics up here to our colony. Do you think he’s intent on this American manifest destiny?”

Marvin straightened up, “Scranton could round up some miners for a militia—back home I’m sure half of them already belong to one. The only lucky thing is Scranton has enemies here and that’s why he’s had to stick to his camp down the river. Yet he’s been trying to make friends with Mr. Drake; I saw them having a friendly meeting in Foster’s Saloon.”

Nuttall gave this some thought. He had assumed Drake to be a loyal British servant, but perhaps he should be wary of him. Drake was a fur trade company man and had close ties with the other forts along the Fraser River. It was possible that Scranton was gathering intelligence.

“Hmm. Very interesting. Dr. Kilburn has also cast some doubt on Scranton’s character.”

“That’s no surprise considering Kilburn is a Vigilante. If the Vigilante Committee had their way, Scranton would have hanged in California. It must irk Kilburn to see Scranton walk around Fort Yale as a free man. It bothers me too, come to think of it. Folks like me have only just seen their freedom and the politicians down there want to take it away again. That’s why I’m up here, happy to be freezing in the name of Queen Victoria!” Marvin laughed.

Nuttall handed a few coins to Marvin.

“If there is any trouble, keep me advised,” Nuttall said as he put on a military hat from an army he once belonged to and opened the door.

“There’ll be trouble alright, you can be sure of that. You have a good day, sir.”

Marvin pulled the door shut against a blast of frigid air. It was going to be a long cold winter he thought to himself as he stoked the fire in the corner.

Two weeks later, there was trouble just as Marvin had figured.

This is the second story featured in my book, Mayhem at Rock Creek & more Gold Rush Stories