BIRTH OF AMERICA BOOKS (tm)

BOLD WOMEN, COLD GOLD, HARD MEN & HOT LEAD

[1869-1879]

REAL PEOPLE, TRUE STORIES

HISTORICALLY ACCURATE AND FUN TO READ

(They're written like novels with dialogue based on journals, diaries and newspapers)

HISTORY AS IT HAPPENS(tm) IN HIGH ACTION AMERICAN HISTORY BOOKS

Can Can Annie Kicking Miner's Hat Off To Win a Bet

  

CHAPTER 50

  

DAKOTA SPY .........................................SUMMER 1876

o ahead, hit me again!" Bob, the one-legged miner bet.

Lovely Lurline Monte Verde put a Jack of Spades onto his pair of threes, deuce, and a five. "Yur busted Bob!" hooted the unkempt cluster of miners who huddled near the Goddess of Chance.

"I'm done--'ats all I got. Yur sure somethin'," Bob praised, "Never won a blackjack hand off ya in Denver when ya called yurself, Madame Vestal er in New Orleans when I knew ya as Belle Siddons. Whatta I gotta do ta win jes' one game?"

Lurline winked and pulled the pile of chips to her side of the table. "Who's next?" she called. The blackjack line seems short tonight, she mused.

She'd set up her gambling tent in Deadwood's Bad Lands district on Main near Wall Street shortly after her June arrival. Two months later, merchants, miners, businessmen and thieves crammed into the tent nightly. Some came to gamble; others wanted to stand near the skillful and glamorous dealer.

Lurline never hired women nor allowed women bettors in her casino, so when she heard a high-pitched "Wheeeee!" she searched the room seeking a female, but saw none. "Wheeeee!" When she heard it again, she rushed outside. Near the tent flap, she discovered Can Can Annie.

"Missed it!" Gimme another dollar, I kin kick yur hat off in jes' one more try!" the high-kicking hussy bargained.

"Don't give it to her!," a bystander begged. Five minutes ago, she done broke a miner's nose doin' that. He run outta here with blood spurtin' everwhar."

"What's going on!" Lurline demanded.

"Nuthin' ya cain't see yurself!" Can Can Annie sassed.

"This is my property and I want you to leave!"

"Tain't neither. Yur's inside. I gotta right ta work outside! Git back in thar, fancy lady. Lemme alone er I'll kick that purty face in!" She lifted her skirts threatening a high kick.

"Stop it right there, or I'll fix it so you never kick again!" a husky voice commanded. "Get out now!"

The hussy scurried away calling, "And you're ugly too!"

Lurline laughed at the retreating waddle of petticoats and her ludicrous remark.

Turning, she gazed into the tall man's dark, stormy eyes. "Thanks. Come in. Free champagne's waiting for you inside."

"Name's Archie Cummings, Ma'am. I've come to play blackjack. Heard you know a little bit about the game."

Lurline smiled. "Sit down and see," she motioned to the chair opposite her wooden table.

Dawn's dim light revealed a broke Archie Cummings. "You sure can shuffle those cards," he admitted.

"Please let me buy your breakfast," Lurline offered. Although she never socialized with customers, she wanted to see more of this one. His husky voice thrilled her and there seemed something familiar about his eyes.

"Can't Ma'am. I've never let a woman buy me anything. Not goin' to start now. Be back when my luck turns." Archie tipped his hat and strode out.

Every night, Lurline watched for Archie. Finally, when she'd given up, he breezed through the tent's flap. He pushed past the men in line. "Step aside boys. Let a man show you how to win." He plopped a big bag of clinking coins onto her table.

"Luck's changed. Let's play."

Lurline deftly dealt the cards.

"Can Can Annie come around anymore?" he chatted.

"No, you looking for her?" Lurline joked.

Archie chuckled, "Nope."

His musical voice and the crinkly lines around his eyes enchanted her. She hoped his bag of money lasted all night.

Around midnight, Archie dug into the bag, discovering that only a few coins remained. "Just enough here to take you to breakfast."

Lurline waved at the faro dealer. "Take over for me. I'll return real soon."

As they walked toward the exit, Bob cackled. "Ya cain't win a game of'n her neither, you punkin roller."

"Shut up! Are you dumb er somethin'?" His friend elbowed him in the stomach. "That's Archie McLaughlin. Hear he robs stages. Where do you think he got that there gold?"

As soon as Lurline returned, Bob related all he'd learned about Archie.

Lurline thanked him, but felt weak at the news. Somehow she'd fallen in love with the rugged robber. She'd thought no one'd ever replace her husband, Newt Hallet, who'd died in 1869, but she found Archie irresistible and ached to see him again.

A few weeks later, Archie bounded through the tent flap. He set his bag down and grinned.

"No blackjack tonight. Let's go to my hotel room." She signaled her faro dealer. "Fill in for me until morning."

Lurline closed the hotel door and locked it. "I know all about you!" she accused.

"What?" he feigned innocence.

"Word's out you and your gang rob stagecoaches--and your name's McLaughlin, not Cummings. Is this true?"

Archie sat on the bed. He confessed to some of the robberies and that McLaughlin was his true name. Then, he told her that the Deadwood mines regularly shipped treasure chests by stagecoach. "But I can't seem to find out when." He paused. "Rumor is that you spied for the South during the Civil War."

"And I suppose you think you're the South?"

Archie laughed. "Well, now. It'd make my life easier if you'd listen to the sheriff when he comes into your place. Considering the gold you've won from me playing blackjack, it just seems fair."

Lurline smiled. She couldn't resist his charm and feared she'd lose him if she refused. "I'll think about it," she cooed.

Their passionate night excited her almost as much as the thought of spying. But when she spied before, she tried to save her country. Should she do it this time to help her lover?

The next morning when she awoke, she discovered he'd already gone. Glancing toward his pillow, she gasped. Her diamond bracelet lay in the center. She read the note next to it: "Thought you might like to have this back."

She slipped the bracelet onto her delicate wrist, sealing her decision to help him.

Each night thereafter she listened to lawmen. When she heard that the Deadwood mines were shipping gold, she pried times and dates to slip to Archie. He and his outlaw band terrorized the Black Hills. They regularly robbed stagecoaches, particularly the ones hauling Deadwood's gold mine shipments. Lawmen had no idea who the outlaws were or, where they got their information.

"The Union almost hung me for spying during the war," she agonized. "If I'm caught, will the law finish what the North could not?"

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