Category: Agents of the Vault

An original work of fiction. Think: A Western National Treasure with a dash of Harry Potter.

Agents of the Vault – Part 13

Part 13 of The Agents of the Vault is here!  Grisom, Charlie and a reluctant Leland head out to find Doris!

If you want to subscribe to the Grantcast, you can do so with iTunes, or by using this feed in your favorite podcatcher.  Enjoy!  And let me know what you think of the story in the comments here, as we go along.

Also, if you prefer a PDF version of this part to read, CLICK HERE for that.

Finally, if you’d like to support my projects, visit

Agents of the Vault
Part 13
By Grant Baciocco

There was no real sleep for anyone in those remaining hours before the sun started to crawl across the prairie floor in the east.  Leland had not been untied and being hogtied made it difficult to get any rest.  His arms and legs ached.  Charlie and Grisom were unsympathetic.  Grisom kept watch as there was still the threat of the Pinkertons finding them.  Charlie’s wound kept him awake, but even if he hadn’t been hit by that arrow, he would have been awake with worry about Doris.  He’s wanted to set out immediately, but Grisom had been right.  There would be no way to track the indians in the dark.

When it was finally light enough to leave, they had the cart packed.  Leland was happy to be stretched out in the back of the wagon as they’d finally untied his hands from his feet, though he was now tied to the wagon.  They rode out to where Doris had been taken.  The indian’s buffalo hide disguises were scattered where they had lain in wait.  Grisom hopped off the wagon and looked them over closely.  Finally he stood.

“Pawnee.” Grisom said solemnly.

“Well that’s fantastic.” Leland piped up from the back.  “Nothing more I like to do than start my day tracking down some Pawnee injuns.”

Grisom let the buffalo skin drop to the ground.  He walked around where the skins were looking for tracks.  After a few minutes of following tracks for a few yards from the circle, he pointed south east.  “They went that way.  Probably camped near the Platte river.”

Grisom turned back towards the wagon and climbed back in.  “River’s about half a day’s ride from here, I’d figure.”

“We’re headed away from Yankton.” Charlie said quietly.

“We are.” Grisom replied.

“And since we’re headed back partially the way we came, we may run into the Pinkertons.” Charlie said, the realization dawning on him.

“We may.” Grissom said, matter of factly.

Charlie was silent for a minute as the cart rambled on.  “We don’t have to go after her, if it’ risks the trunk.”

Grisom smiled, “Kid, there are some things more important than that trunk.  You’re prairie fire is one of them.”

Charlie smiled at Grisom.  Still he couldn’t help but feel slightly guilty for sidetracking their mission of getting the trunk to Yankton.  He was pretty sure that a true Agent of the Vault would sacrifice anything to keep the historical artifacts safe and sound.

They rode most of the morning in silence.  Leland had fallen asleep with the rocking of the wagon and Charlie found himself dozing as well.  It wasn’t until the sun was high overhead and Charlie heard a loud whoop, that he roused awake.  He looked around nervously.

“Easy.” Grisom said quietly.  He pointed straight ahead where, about 20 yards ahead, two indians on horseback were approaching the wagon.  “Scouts.”

Charlie shifted uneasily.

“Take it easy kid, they aren’t posturing hostile.  They are just checking us out.”  Grisom said as he slowed the wagon.  He then reached behind them and slapped Leland on the shoulder.

Leland sputtered awake, “What?  What’s happening?”

“Shut up Leland.  We’ve got company.”

Leland craned his neck around and saw the riders approaching.  He sighed, “This is where it all ends.  Fantastic.”

Grisom back handed him.  “Shut up, or we’ll leave you with them.”

When the scouts were close, Grisom brought the cart to a halt.  He whispered out of the side of his mouth, “Hands up.  Do NOT reach for you gun.”

Charlie nodded and raised his hands along with Grisom.

The scouts approached stone faced.  One stopped in front of the cart, the other made a long slow circle, inspecting everything about the cart.  Glaring extra long at Leland, who refused to meet the indian’s gaze.  The investigating scout then met back up with the other scout at the front of the wagon.

“Where are you going?”⁠1 one scout asked.

Grisom cleared his throat and spoke back in the best Pawnee he could remember. “We come to see your chief.  We believe your braves may have taken something from us in a raid last night.”

The two scouts looked at each other.  “We do not know of this.”

Grisom nodded, “Perhaps not.  But we would like to speak to your chief.”

The two scouts conferred with each other for a minute.  “Why is the man in back there bound?”

Grisom turned and indicated to Leland. “He is a thief.  We are taking him for trial in city.”

“You travel with a thief.  Perhaps he is the one who took what you are missing.”

Grisom shook his head.  “No.  What was taken was a prairie fire.”

At those words were spoken, the scouts got nervous.  This, to Grisom, was a clear indication they had the right group of Pawnee.

Grisom continued, “We only want to speak to your chief.  We come bearing no harm.”

The scouts again spoke softly with each other for a moment.  One of the scouts looked at Grisom.

“You will ride with us to camp.  But first, all guns must be given to us.”

Leland spoke up from the back, “Don’t give them your guns!  Don’t be fools.”

Grisom pulled out his pistol and reached back and clocked Leland in the head.

“Fine.  We will turn over our weapons.  We will want them back when we leave.”

The scout nodded as the other one rode up and began collecting the firearms.  Two pistols and a shotgun from Grisom and Charlie’s pistols.  The scout carefully looked over the contents of the back of the wagon and then returned to the other, dividing up the guns between them.

“Follow us.” Said the first scout and Grisom started the horses following them as they rode towards the river.  After about 10 minutes Grisom and Charlie could see the village ahead.  One of the scouts let out a whoop and a minute later, two braves rode up to meet them.  They stopped for a moment as the scouts and the braves talked softly.  The scouts handed the guns to the braves and then rode back past the cart.

“Where are they going?” Charlie asked.

“Back out to their post.  We’re in their hand’s now.” Grisom replied, indicating the two braves.  One of the braves motioned for them to continue and they did.  After a few more minutes of riding, they were at the camp.

“Rest your horses here.” The brave said, a squaw came towards them with two water buckets.  She placed them down for the horses to drink.

One brave dismounted.  The other took his horse, and the guns and rode off.  Grisom and Charlie climbed down off the wagon.  Charlie gingerly favoring his leg.

One of the braves looked at him, “What’s wrong with his leg?”

“One of your arrows from last night.”

The brave nodded.  He motioned to the squaw and barked out an order.

Charlie looked at Grisom, “What did he say?”

“You are to go with her to their medicine man.  He will look you over.”

“I don’t think I want—“

Grisom cut him off, “Go.  This backtracking will make it longer until we see a real doc.  Their medicine man is better than nothing.  I think they want to help us.”

“But what about what Leland said?” Charlie whispered tersely to Grisom.  “Keeping us healthy just so they can torture us?”

“Don’t believe anything Leland tells you.  Ever.” Grissom replied, putting a hand on Charlie’s shoulder.  “Now go with her.”

Charlie nodded and started hopping in the direction of the squaw who walked to him and let him put his arm around her shoulder to help him walk.

The brave indicated that Grisom should follow him.  At this moment, Leland came to and looked around.

“Grisom. Hey!  Where are you going?” he whispered.

“To see the chief.”

“And you’re going to leave me here?” Leland replied, indignantly.

“Someone has to watch the gold and the trunk.”

“Untie me then.”

“Not going to happen.  If they start messing with our gear, you holler and I’ll come running.  Otherwise you stay here and shut up.” Grisom replied.  Then with a smile added, “You cause any trouble, I’ll leave you here.  You know what they do to white men don’t you?”

Leland slunk down in the back of the wagon as Grisom walked away after the brave.  They came to a large tent in the center of the village.  All around the Pawnee people were curious as to the three white men in the camp, but other than lingering stares they went about their business.  The brave motioned for Grisom to stand outside and he ducked into the tent.  A moment later he reappeared, holding the tent flap open for Grisom to enter.

Inside the tent it was dark and smoky from several small bowls of smoldering sage.  At the far side of the tent sat the chief.  A large imposing man, older than most of the men he’d seen so far wearing elaborate, ceremonial robes.  The brave indicated a spot for Grisom to sit and he did, removing his hat and bowing reverently.  The Chief returned the bow, but eyed Grisom wearily.

“Why are you here?” the Chief said after a moment.

“Some of your men have taken something that belongs to my friend.” Grisom answered.

“The one with the hurt leg?”


“Your friend, the boy, was in possession of a sacred thing.  A thing belonging to the land.  A prairie fire.”

“Yes.  That is correct.”

“My scouts saw the prairie fire running along side your wagon as you crossed the land.  I sent them to retrieve it.”  The Chief said.  He stared at Grisom.  “How did he come into possession of such a thing?”

“His father’s father was given the egg of the prairie fire, by the mother who was dying during the great drought many years ago.”

The Chief nodded solemnly.

“It is not right for man to keep what belongs to the earth, especially one so sacred as a prairie fire.”

Grisom nodded.  “Yes.  I agree with you, Chief.  But this prairie fire was not born in the wild.  She was born with man, so man is all she knows.”

The Chief’s eyes narrowed, “What is the boy’s purpose with it?”

“Purpose?  To protect it.  Keep it from men who’d take it away.  Men who would use her for bad purposes.  Harness it’s fire for war.  Attempt to make more and use them in battle.”

The Chief shook his head and looked to the dirt floor of the tent.  “These things must not happen.”

Grisom nodded in agreement.  “Yes.  You are correct.  That is why the boy is protecting him.”

The Chief nodded.  “You have two large trunks in the back of your cart.”

Grisom nodded.  “Yes.  One is filled with gold.  Gold stolen by the man who is bound in the back of the cart.  The other trunk must get to Yankton.  The big city north of here.  Inside of that trunk is an item of great importance.”

The Chief looked at Grisom, “You seem not like the other white men we have encountered.  You seem not bent on greed.  Taking the land, making it yours.”

Grisom smiled, “That is true.  My life is preserving history.”

The Chief nodded.  He called out to the brave who had been standing outside the tent.  The brave entered and crossed to the Chief.  The Chief spoke quietly to the brave.  He nodded and then crossed and exited the tent.

“You must know, the reason I sent braves to capture the prairie fire is because I believed it was traveling with men because it had been captured.  My braves thought the boy had been sleeping and the prairie fire was escaping.  We meant only to capture to release onto the prairie later tonight when you had ridden on.”  The Chief was quiet.  “The prairie fire has been missing from the plains for many years.  My braves were surprised to see another one.”

“Another one?” Grisom asked, raising his eyebrows.  “You mean you have seen another one?”

Grisom’s question was answered when the brave returned to the tent and held open the flap and in came Doris and another prairie fire behind her.  Doris saw Grisom and leapt into his arms, kissing his face repeatedly.

Grisom held her away from his face, “Okay, okay.  I’m glad to see you.”  He began petting Doris who whistled happily and snuggled down into his lap, but he was staring at the other prairie fire.

The other prairie fire stared back.  Sniffing wildly in the direction of the newcomer that his fellow prairie fire was whistling over.  Grisom held out a hand but the prairie fire took a step back.  Doris looked quizzically at him and whistled three low whistles.  The other prairie fire took a tentative step toward Grisom.  Grisom, again, held out a hand.  The prairie fire sniffed at it.

“Pahaat has lived near our tribe for decades.  He is free to come and go, we do not hold him, yet he prefers to stay amongst our people.  He has been our great secret.” The Chief said.

Grisom nodded, scratching behind Doris’ ears, “Much like Doris here has been the boy’s great secret.”

The Chief continued, “We believed him the last one.  When we saw yours we wanted to get them together.  Perhaps they are the last two prairie fires alive.”  The Chief was quiet for a moment then added, “We would like to release them into the prairie where hopefully they can bring the population back.”

Grisom nodded, “That is not up to me.  Or up to you.  I think this will be a question for Charlie, the boy.  And for Doris.”

At the sound of her name, Doris perked up and looked at Grisom, stopping her pawing game with Pahaat.

The Chief stood, Grisom rose as well, Doris tumbling to the ground and tackling Pahatt.  The Chief looked at Grisom, “We shall ask the boy.”

“Yes.” Grisom nodded.  “But remember, he is a boy.”

The Chief laughed.  “As we all were until life opened our eyes to it’s grand design.”

Grisom nodded and stepped aside so that the Chief could exit the tent first.  The brave motioned for Grisom to follow.  Doris and Pahaat scampered around Grisom’s feet.

The Chief, Grisom and the brave walked across the village.  Doris and Pahaat tumbling and roughhousing as they walked behind them.  The Chief led them to where the medicine man was.  The brave stepped inside the medicine man’s tent and a moment later reappeared.

“He will be out soon.” The brave said.

Suddenly from across the camp there cam a whoop.  A brave came riding through the village of tents towards the chief.  Others in the Pawnee tribe scattered as the brave thundered up to the Chief.  The brave hopped down from his horse and crossed to the Chief.  He whispered in his ear.

The Chief looked at Grisom, “You have those that follow you.  Brave say that they found your camp.  Found buffalo hides my braves left.  Headed this way just now.”

Grisom scoweled.  “Pinkertons.  The greedy, evil men I spoke of.”

“Brave say woman rides with them.”

Grisom smiled, “This women is their Chief but she is greedier and more evil than the other white men you have met.”

The Chief smiled for the first time.

“We must go quickly.  They are after the trunk.  We must get away from you, your people before she finds this village.  She will bring nothing but trouble to you.  Blood.”

The medicine man’s tent opened and Charlie came out.  He was limping, but not as much as before.

“Good as new.” Charlie said to Grisom.  “Almost.”

At the sound of Charlie’s voice, Doris let our a screech that had all covering their ears.  She barreled over to him, crawled up his leg and clung to his neck.

“Hey there girl!” Charlie said, hugging her tight. “I was worried about you.”

Doris replied with repeated licks on the face.

Grisom turned to Charlie, “Glad to see you’re okay kid, but we have to get a move on.”

“Why?” Charlie replied in between being slobbered on by Doris.

“Jane is on her way.”

Charlie nodded, “Well, I got Doris, so I am ready go.”

“Kid, I want you to meet Pahaat.”  Grisom stepped aside and revealed Pahaat who’d been sitting on the ground next to Grisom’s feet.

Charlie’s eyes grew as wide as saucers.  Doris stopped her outpouring of affection and turned to see what Charlie was looking at.  When she saw Pahaat, she shimmied down Charlie and tackled the other prairie fire.

“There’s another one?” Charlie asked.

Grisom nodded, “Yes.  And the indians think maybe they should stay together.”

“Stay together?  How am I going to handle two of them?”  Charlie replied with a laugh.  He looked from the tumbling prairie fires up to Grisom’s face.  The moment he locked eyes with the older man, he realized what was being suggested.  Charlie’s heart sank.

“You didn’t promise that did you?” Charlie demanded.

“No,” Grisom replied, “Of course not.  I told them that it’d be your decision and you’d decide what’s best for Doris.”

Charlie looked down at his friend, playing roughly with Pahaat.  They batted at each other’s tails and tumbled wildly around in a ball.

He looked back up at Grisom.

Grisom smiled, “It’s up to you kid, but we gotta hurry.  Jane and her men are en route now.  We need need to get going or there’ll be no way we can escape without her seeing us.”

Charlie looked again at Doris.  He clicked his tongue and she immediately stopped roughhousing and trotted over to him.

“Hey girl,” he said, patting her between the ears.  “Listen,  Do you want to stay here with Pahaat or do you want to come with us?”

The Chief chuckled.  He looked at Grisom, “He talks to it?”

Grisom nodded.  “Yes.  And she understands him.  Does Pahaat understand Pawnee?”

The Chief shook his head, “No one has ever thought to talk to it.  Just an animal.”

Grisom shook his head and pointed to his temple, “Very smart.”

They both looked back down at Doris.  First she took a few steps towards Pahaat, who got into a defensive position, assuming a tackle was incoming.  But then Doris turned and looked back at Charlie.  She looked him in the eye.

She then slowly walked towards Pahaat and embraced him.  Their tails entwined for a moment.  Then Doris whistled to him.  He nodded and whistled back.  Then in a heartbeat, Doris ran back to Charlie and scampered up his leg and arm to take her spot on his shoulder.

Charlie looked at Grisom, “She’s made up her mind.”

Grisom shook his head with a smile, “It would appear so.”

“Grisom,” Charlie said, “Tell the Chief I will bring her back.  But she is not ready to stay just yet.”

Grisom nodded and relayed Charlie’s message to the Chief.  The Chief nodded and said to Grisom, “I understand.  He seems to have a good heart.  We look forward to the return of the other prairie fire.”

Grisom nodded to the Chief and then turned and helped Charlie limp back to the cart.

The Chief sent a brave after them. “Chief say we take you west around big rock.  Best to avoid those who chase you.”

Grisom nodded, “We’ll be happy for the escort.”

Moments later Charlie, Doris and Grisom were on the cart.  Leland, was thankful they were on their way, and they headed out of the Pawnee village.


1 Translated from Pawnee.

©2015 Grant Baciocco/Saturday Morning Media –

Tags : , , , , , , ,

Agents of the Vault – Part 12

Part 12 of Agents of the Vault.  Charlie and Doris take the late night watch as Grisom and Leland sleep.

If you want to subscribe to the Grantcast, you can do so with iTunes, or by using this feed in your favorite podcatcher.  Enjoy!  And let me know what you think of the story in the comments here, as we go along.

Also, if you prefer a PDF version of this part to read, CLICK HERE for that.

Finally, if you’d like to support my projects, visit

Agents of the Vault
Part 12
By Grant Baciocco

Doris got up with Charlie at 2AM when Grisom rousted him to keep watch.  Charlie took his bedroll with him to sit on atop the small bluff. The prairie spread out before them as they settled in.  The full moon illuminated everything, eschewing the need for any form of lantern.  In the distance, Charlie could clearly see a small herd of buffalo bedded down for the night.  This was an ideal place to sit and look out for Jane and her men should they be closing in.  The thought of them doing so at night seemed unlikely, but from what Grisom had told Charlie about Jane, nothing was impossible.

As Charlie looked over the peaceful landscape, Doris serpentined between his legs and he scuffled her behind the ears when her head passed his hands.  She whistled contently.  She yawned and began to walk and stretch out her back and legs as he scratched her.  Suddenly she gave a big shake, like a dog, and looked up at Charlie with a smile.

“You’re so good.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to let those guys in Yankton do anything with you.  They can meet you, but I’ll protect you with everything I got.” Charlie said to her.  Doris smiled wider and then sneezed loudly.  Charlie chuckled.  “Hey, you wanna go run around a bit?”

Doris nodded enthusiastically and let out a whistle.

“Okay.  Go ahead, but don’t wake those buffalo.  We don’t need you sending them stampeding this way.” Charlie ordered.

Doris nodded and then sped off onto the prairie.  Charlie watched her as she went.  He loved it when she could be this free.  Something she really hadn’t been able to do since they had left the family farm.  He hated keeping her cooped up in the saddle bag, but she couldn’t get too far out in the public’s view.  They wouldn’t know how to handle her.  He was sure he would lose her forever if that happened.

When Doris reached the bottom of the bluff, she dug into the earth.  Though blocked from his view, he could still see her path as she shifted the dirt above where she dug, much like a gopher would.  She’d surface now and then, blowing a small ball of fire above her as she did.  Charlie smiled again, dreaming of a day when he’d have enough land where he could let Doris run free all she wanted.  For now though, he’d just relish these moments where she could be free.  Be herself.

Charlie scanned the horizon in all directions.  Nothing but clear flat land with a rolling hill now and then.  No other lights outside of the moon and an occasional flame from Doris.  No signs of civilization at all.  Just that small herd of buffalo, Charlie and his prairie fire.  All was peaceful.  All was quiet.

Charlie turned back to look at Doris and he followed the trail of kicked up dirt from where he last saw her.  For a second he thought he’d lost her but then he caught sight of her again.  She was above ground now, creeping slowly towards the buffalo.  Charlie, let out a quiet growl of frustration.

“Damn it.” He said to himself. “I told her not to go near those bufallo.”

Charlie got up and started running towards her.  Whistling as he went.  Doris was inching slowly towards the sleeping herd.  Charlie let out another whistle, but was unsure it could be heard at this distance.  Doris was now just about 10 yards from the closest animal.  Charlie tried to whistle again.  Doris either didn’t hear or ignored him.

“She is going to get it.” Charlie muttered to himself as he continued his pace towards her.  Doris was now only two yards from the sleeping animal.  Suddenly she froze.  Charlie saw her freeze and he did so as well.  He saw her eyes turn red.  Charlie then began to run towards her.  Something was wrong.

Suddenly the buffalo nearest Doris got to its feet.  The ones near it did as well.  Suddenly they were all standing.  Charlie feared a stampede but then froze in his tracks when he saw the lead buffalo suddenly stand fully upright on two legs and completely shed it’s skin.  The others in the heard did the same.  The realization his Charlie like a blacksmith’s hammer.


Charlie whipped out his pistol and fired a shot in the air.  The Indians  froze and looked his way.  Charlie began yelling.

“Grisom!  Indians!” he bellowed as he raced as fast as he could.

Charlie saw the indian closest to Doris take another step towards her.  He fired another shot in the air.  “Doris!  Come!”

Doris turned to sprint back towards Charlie and the lead indian threw out a net and Doris was instantly tangled in it.  It was at that moment the arrows started raining down on Charlie.

War whoops went up from the indians as they fired volley after volley in Charlie’s direction.  Charlie stopped and dropped flat to the prairie floor.  Arrows hit the ground all around him.  One of the last of the volley hitting him straight in the left calf.  Charlie bit his lip not to scream out.

Somewhere behind Charlie he heard a shotgun blast ring out.  Grisom was awake now.  In pain, Charlie pulled himself up to his knees, still trying to keep low as low as he possibly could.  In front of him he say the indians spiriting away in the night.  He could hear Doris crying out loudly in the indian’s keep.  Each cry accompanied by a blue ball of fire.

Footsteps thundered up behind him.  It was Grisom, breathing hard.  The older man watch the indians disappear across the plain and then looked at the arrow sticking out of Charlie’s leg.

“Kid, lie back down, I need to get that arrow out of your leg.” He ordered, pushing Charlie to the ground.

Charlie spun and grabbed Grisom’s shoulders, “They got her.  The indians, they got Doris.”

Grisom looked up after the indians.  They were no longer visible on the horizon.  He sighed.  “Okay kid.  We can’t go after them now it’s too dark.”

“But they took her.”

“I know kid, I know but if we go after them now we’ll just walk right into an ambush.  Let’s get you patched up and we’ll track them in the morning.”


“Charlie, we’ll get her back.  Their camp can’t be too far from here, they were on foot, not horses.  I promise you we’ll track them down in the morning.”

“What will they do to her?”

“My guess is nothing.  The Indians saw them as sacred creatures.  I don’t think they’ll harm her any.  Now let’s get you back.  I got a medic kit in my bag back at the cart.”

Charlie, reluctantly got to his feet with Grisom’s help and they limped back to where their camp was.  Leland was sitting up, his hands bound to his feet.

“What was all the commotion?  And can you untie me now?” Leland asked.

Grisom helped Charlie lie down on a bedroll.  “Indians.  They took Doris.”

“Good riddance.” Leland scoffed.

Charlie shot him a look through his pain.

Grisom, began splitting Charlie’s pants at the leg with his knife.  “You should be thankful to her Leland.  Her kidnapping has extended your arrival to the Yanktown prison by a day or so.”

“How’s that?” Leland asked, fearing the answer.

“Because we’re going after her.”

“No.  No.  No!” Leland fired back.  “You want to turn me in for stealing gold, that’s fine, but you can’t make me accompany you while you go take on a horde of injuns.  That’s suicide.”

Grisom ignored Leland and busied himself with cutting off the wooden stick of the arrow.  He cut the wood close to where it met the arrowhead.  Then carefully he began to slice the twine holding the arrow head to the remaining part of the shaft.  Charlie winced as this caused the tip to move around in his leg a little.

“Sorry kid, but keep holding as still as possible.” Grisom said, wiping away blood with his handkerchief.  “Good news is it looks like a smaller arrowhead.  Still gonna hurt to get it out though.” Grisom said.  “I have to open the wound a little bit more in order to get the head out.  It’s gonna hurt.”

“Do it,” Charlie ordered through grit teeth.

“I’ll make it quick.” Grisom replied.  He leaned down to the leg, wiping more blood away.  He then straddled, Charlie’s leg to prevent him from kicking.  “Hold still.”

“Just do it.” Charlie said again.  Louder.

With a quick motion, Grisom sliced the wound wider on the left side.  Charlie yelled out in pain.

“Hang on kid.” Grisom said.  Using his knife blade and his finger, he let the tip of each enter the wound and clasp onto either side of the arrow head.  The head was free in seconds.  Grisom threw it on the ground and slammed his handkerchief down on the wound.

“It’s out.”

Charlie was out of breath, but if seemed the worst of the pain was over.  Grisom moved back to the side of Charlie.  He grabbed his hand and pulled.  “Get to your knees.  Hold this handkerchief tight on your leg.”

Charlie winced, but followed his orders.  Grisom stood and went to the retrieve the medical kit from the cart.  He was back in a flash and had Charlie lie back down.  He doused the wound with whiskey to clean it out.  Charlie howled in pain again.  Grisom moved the bottle towards Charlie’s shoulder and tapped him with it.  “You want some to numb the pain a bit?  I’m going to have to sew you up.”

Charlie waived the bottle away.  He was going to take the pain.  The pain was his punishment for not watching over Doris more carefully.

Leland piped up again, “You a doctor Grisom?”

“No.” Grisom replied curtly, “But I travelled with a medical regiment in the war.”  He was threading the needle as he spoke.

“What side you on in the war?” Leland asked.  “Let me guess, the North.”

“No.” Grisom replied.

“Oh a southern boy.” Leland replied with a smile from his hogtied position.  “I guess we have more in common that I originally thought.”

“Didn’t fight for the south.” Grisom replied as he leaned in close to begin stitching Charlie up.

Leland was confused, “Well, unless I was mistake, there was only two sides.”

“There were.  Well two sides that the public knew about.  There was a third side.  A side dedicated to making sure historical artifacts were not harmed in the war.  That our history was preserved.  We don’t work for any side except for the preservation of history.  My fellow soldiers and I fought on both sides with the mission of making sure historical artifacts were safe.”

Charlie was listening to Grisom as he spoke.  Realizing that he would soon officially be one of these fellow soldiers that Grisom was talking about.  One of the Agents of the Vault.

Charlie began to become numb to the pain in his leg.  He felt the pulling of the thread through his skin as Grisom patched him up, but it was in the corner of his mind.    He felt a sense of pride that he was now part of something bigger than himself.  A movement.  He had a cause, not just to have adventures or be a gunslinger, but to protect a vital historical artifacts that made this country what it is today.  He wouldn’t be a hero to anyone.  No one would know about his work, there wouldn’t be dime novels written about him or plays written to glorify his legacy.  His legacy would be in the number of sacred historical artifacts he returned to the Vault.  Kept safe, out of the hands of those who’d use them to fuel their own greed and corrupt the very principals this country was founded on.

Charlie thought about all this and before he realized it, Grisom was snipping off the extra thread with his knife.  “Okay kid, you’re good.  The wound turned out to be pretty small, but you’d better keep off that leg for a little bit.  And we’ll need to flush it with whisky now and then until we can get a doc to take a closer look.  Don’t want it getting infected.”

Charlie looked back at Grisom.  “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.” Grisom replied putting the needle and thread back into the medical kit.

Leland stirred from over on his bedroll.  “Now that you’re done playing nurse maid to the kid here, you mind untying me?”

Grisom got up and crossed back to the wagon, ignoring Leland.  Charlie looked over at him.

“Leland, you just have no manners at all do you.  You just have to say the absolute worst thing you can say to get the absolute opposite of what you want.”  Charlie said and he rested his head back down on his hands.  The stinging in his leg, throbbing slightly.  Turning from Leland, Charlie looked over at Grisom.  “When are we going after those indians?”

Grisom crossed back towards where the bedrolls were.  “First light.  We’ll ride out to where they took Doris and track them from there.”

“What are we gonna do when we find them?” Leland asked.  “Ride into camp and start shooting?  I figure that’s the quickest way to get ourselves killed, since that seems to be your goal.”

“Well ride into camp and talk to them.” Grisom replied calmly.

“Talk to them?” Leland sputtered.  “To injuns?!  Have you lost your mind?  You can talk to those savages!”

“That’s what you think but that’s because you’re narrow minded Leland.  The indians are actually decent folks if you get the time to make friends.”

Leland laughed loudly.  “Friends.  Grisom, you have been riding too long.  The indinas are nothing but brutal, bloodthirsty, savages.  They just took your buddy’s little pet here.  I bet they have it skinned and roasted over a fire by now.  Enjoying the tender meat of her tiny little body.”

Charlie sat up quickly, pulling at his fresh stitches, he grabbed his leg as the pain shot through it.  “You shut up Leland, shut up or I’m going to put a bullet into you right now and solve all your problems.”

Leland smiled, knowing he’d gotten to Charlie.  “I wish you would kid.  Be a quicker way out than what those indians would do to us.”  Leland paused.  “You know what they do to whites there in those indian camps?  You ever hear the tales of what they do, kid?

“Shut up Leland.” Grisom barked.

“No.  I think the kid has a right to know what he’s riding in to tomorrow.” Leland continued.  Charlie could see Leland’s eyes shining under the moon.  “Indians don’t just kill captives.  No.  They like to torture them.  They tie you to a stake in the sun, right in the center of their village.  All of them gather around to watch, and most of them get a chance to join in the fun.  During the day you’re just left out in the sun.  No food, no water, just the blazing sun on your bare skin.  Then, just as night comes and you’re grateful for the relief of night, the torture begins. They start with the coals.  They burn ya with coals.  They don’t throw you into a pit of coals, no, they take one coal out and touch it to a part of your skin.  Burning your flesh, while you’re still awake to enjoy it.  That’s only sometimes though.  Sometimes, instead of burning you slowly, one coal at a time, they’ll cut you with knives.  Again, real slow, just thousands of tiny cuts all over your body.  And they let everyone have a go, the women, the children, they all get a chance to cut you up.  Your fingernails ripped out, one by one.  Your fingers are broken, one by one.  And then you know what they do kid?  They feed you.  Water and bread, give you just enough to keep you alive for another day.  You see, kid, that’s what they want.  They want this to last for days.  Day, upon day of torture until you are pleading for death because you’re so mad with pain.  But then they stop, let you rest up a bit and when you’re just on the mend, they start it all again.  You willing to see your pal Grisom here go through that, kid?  You know he’s older than you, they’ll make you watch what they do to him.  You will watch him die.  You willing to go through all this just for your fuzzy little friend kid?”

Charlie looked Leland right in the eye.  Without hesitation he said, simply, “Yes.”

©2015 Grant Baciocco/Saturday Morning Media

Tags : , , , , , , , , , ,

Agents of the Vault – Part 11

Part 11 of Agents of the Vault.  The story of how Grisom and Charlie met.

If you want to subscribe to the Grantcast, you can do so with iTunes, or by using this feed in your favorite podcatcher.  Enjoy!  And let me know what you think of the story in the comments here, as we go along.

Also, if you prefer a PDF version of this part to read, CLICK HERE for that.

Finally, if you’d like to support my projects, visit

Agents of the Vault
Part 11
By Grant Baciocco

As a kid, reading dime novels of the adventures of the cowboys, being on a ride was all Charlie wanted.  Now, it seemed, he was living it.  Out on a ride, facing off against outlaws.  Meting out frontier justice.  Though he had no official capacity in law enforcement, capturing Leland with Grisom, and Doris, had made his year.  He had a smile on his face that couldn’t be erased.

Six months ago, Charlie had left his the family farm determined to ‘make his way’ in the world.  He was determined to find adventure and not become a farmer like his father or grandfather had been.  Not that he begrudged either of them for being farmers and not that they were pressuring him into the vocation, in fact, they were happy to see him spread his wings.  As long as he kept in touch.

On the day he left the farm, Doris made it clear she was coming with him.  No matter how loudly Charlie protested, Doris would not leave the saddle bag.  Finally, it was Charlie’s grandfather who said, “Son, I reckon she’s going with you.  Sure seems like a good idea since she’ll listen to you better than anyone else.  I figure it’s the right thing to do seeing as she’s smart enough to keep ya from doin’ something stupid.”

So it was decided.  Doris would come with Charlie.  After a week or so of traveling he found work as a ranch hand on a cattle ranch outside of Peoria, Illinois.  He was a good worker and, being the low man on the ladder, didn’t mind the work he was given.  The hardest part of the job was keeping Doris a secret from the rest of the ranch workers.  Not an easy task when they all shared one large room of the bunkhouse as living quarters.

One afternoon, Mr. Templin, the ranch owner, sent Charlie into Peroria to meet the train.  Some new supplies were arriving from back east and Charlie was to secure them and bring them back to the ranch.

Charlie sat in the cart near the depot, feeding Doris slices of apple through the flap of the saddlebag, when he suddenly heard loud gunfire from Main Street, behind him.

Turning, he saw a man running down the street with two men chasing after, getting off shot after shot on him.  The man locked eyes with Charlie and yelled, “Start moving that cart kid.”

Charlie, was confused, but obeyed, clicking the horses into action with his tongue and a flip of the reigns the cart lurched forward along the train tracks.  The man running down the street slid into the back of cart as it pulled out.  For the first time Charlie noticed that the man was carrying a small bundle wrapped in brown burlap.  Once the man was on the cart he pulled out a gun and began opening fire on his pursuers.  The two followers scattered in the street, then doubled back for their horses.

Charlie kept the horses running, but turned to look at the man in the back of his cart, “Mister, I don’t need any trouble.  Are you a bank robber or something?”

The man kept an eye behind them, but yelled forward, “No I ain’t.  I just have something they want.”

“That the Sherriff and deputies shooting at you?”

“No.  Pinkertons.”

Charlie swallowed hard.  “Pinkertons!  Look Mister, I don’t need any trouble.  I don’t want to mess with the Pinketons.”

“Son you know what Pinkertons are?”

“The Law.”

“No.  They ain’t.  They’re glorified bounty hunters.  Working for whomever will pay them.  Don’t matter if the job is right or wrong, as long as the money is good, the Pinkertons will do it.”  Charlie could barely hear the man over the roar of the cart as it rumbled down the road.

“Where you want me to take you?  I ain’t taking you back to the ranch I’m working at.”

“You know the road that leads north into the foothills?”


“That’s what we want.  Head there.”

Charlie steered the cart towards the road in question.  He was nervous but his heart was pounding with excitement.  He had no clue if the man in the back of his cart was someone he could trust, but it felt as if he was.  He was a tall man,  with rugged look to him.  His brown hat pulled down near over his eyes.  He had two day stubble and his eyes were such a dark brown that when, combined with the shade the brim of his hat made, almost made them look completely black.  His vest, shirt and pants had a layer of trail dust miles thick.  Two silver pistols hung in holsters at his waist.  He looked like a man you would cross the street to avoid.  There was something about him, however, that put Charlie at ease and made him trustworthy.

As the cart sped towards the foothills at a breakneck pace, the man in the back kept a careful watch on the road behind them.  Charlie divided his attention between the road in front, the man in the back and the saddle bag on the bench next to him.  In the excitement, he’d almost forgot about keeping Doris’ presence unknown.  As they drove he reached a hand down to slide the bag closer to him.

The man in the back saw this movement out of the corner of his eye.  He instinctively reached for one of his pistols.

“No need to go for your gun kid.  I don’t mean to harm you.”

It took a second for Charlie to realize what he’d meant.  He chuckled nervously, “Uh, no sir.  I wasn’t reaching for a gun.  I was just making sure my bag didn’t bounce out of the seat.”

“Well, I ain’t aiming to take whatever’s in your bag either.”

“Wasn’t afraid of that, sir.  If I was really nervous I would have bailed miles back.  Just making sure my bag was close.”

The man nodded and turned his attention back down the road.  Charlie looked back at him.

“Think we lost them?” Charlie asked.

“They know the direction we headed and it won’t be long before they piece together where we went.” The man replied.  “I think we bought us some time, but that’s about it.”

Charlie was taken back a second.  “Us?”

“Yeah.” The man replied.  “You’re part of this now.  At least for the time being.  I’m going to need someone to help me get out of the area safely.  You’ve just been volunteered.”

Charlie shook his head as he spurred the horses on faster.  It dawned on him that instead of finding adventure, adventure had found him!  Charlie took the turn to the road that led to the foothills.  About two miles down it, the man in the back of the cart hollered, “There’s a smaller side road coming up on your left, hard to see, take it.”

Charlie nodded, “Didn’t think there was much out this way.  No people or places at any rate.”

“There ain’t.” The man replied.  “That’s exactly why we want to head this way.  There’s an abandoned farm about a mile into the woods.”

Charlie nodded and kept the horses moving.  He made the left onto the smaller road.  A few minutes later, an abandoned farmhouse came into view between the trees.  The man climbed up over the back of the seat on the buckboard and sat next to Charlie.  Charlie grabbed his saddle bag and moved it onto his lap as the man sat next to him.

The man looked at the saddlebag.  “You sure are nervous about that bag, son.  What do you have in there?”

Charlie gripped the bag tighter.  He looked over at the small bundle wrapped in burlap in the man’s lap,.  “What do you have in there?”

The man looked down then back up at Charlie.  He smiled, “Good point.”

Charlie circled the buckboard around back of the farmhouse so it couldn’t be seen from the road.  As soon as they were parked, the man hopped off the front clutching his parcel to his chest.  Charlie gathered his saddle bag and slung it over his shoulder.

“If you want to get out of town, shouldn’t we keep going?” Charlie asked, watching the man climb the back steps to the farmhouse.

“I have to do something first.” The man said peeking in through the windows of the run down farmhouse.  “Hope the kitchen table is still in here.  We’re going to need it.”

Charlie watched as the man tried to force open the back door with his shoulder.  “I’m Charlie by the way.”

The man lurched against the door, popping it open.  He steadied himself and turned back to Charlie.  He nodded toward Charlie, “Grisom.  Pleased to make your acquaintance.  Follow me.”  The man stepped over the threshold and into the kitchen.

Charlie began to follow him.  There was a whistle from the saddlebag.  Charlie whispered back to it, “Shhhhh, Doris.  I’ll be careful.  Let’s see what he’s up to.”

Charlie climbed the stairs of the back porch and into the kitchen.

When Charlie entered the kitchen, he found Grisom lifting the edge of the kitchen table to spill the remnants of a long forgotten meal onto the floor.  Dishes fell with a clatter.  When it was clear he let the table slam back to the ground.  He gingerly placed the burlap wrapped package he was carrying onto the center of it.  He looked over at Charlie.  “Think that water pump out back still works?”

“I don’t know.  I reckon so, unless the well’s run dry.” Charlie replied looking out the back door towards the pump.

Grisom crossed the kitchen and grabbed an old wooden bucket from near where the stove sat in the corner of the room.  He stepped back and held it out to Charlie.  “Go fill this with some water.”

Charlie looked confused.  “Why?”

“You want to see what’s in here?” Grisom said, slowly undoing the burlap that was wrapped around the parcel..

Charlie looked at the package and nodded.

“Then fetch me some water, boy.” Grisom barked.

Charlie didn’t waste a moment.  He grabbed the bucket and raced out the door, down the back steps and towards the pump.  He placed the bucket below the spout and began pumping.  After several seconds of pumping, just when he thought that the pump needed to be primed, water started pouring out and into the bucket.  The saddlebag over his shoulder began to move slightly.

“Easy girl.” Charlie whispered.

A whistle emanated form the bag.

“I get it, you’re thirsty, I’ll get you some water, I just gotta do this first.” Charlie replied.

A disappointed whistle echoed back to him.

Once the bucket was three quarters full, Charlie stopped pumping and picked it up.  He moved fast back towards the farmhouse, but not so fast water sloshed from the bucket.  He leapt up the steps and into the kitchen.  When he entered he saw that Grisom had unwrapped the burlap from the bundle and there, sitting in the middle of the wrapping, was a simple water pitcher.  It looked as if was made of pewter.  Perhaps iron.  It was tarnished, grimy, dented.  It had no decoration or writing on it.  It just looked as if it was a simple water pitcher that had seen many better days.

Charlie smirked as he set the bucket down on the table.  “The Pinkerton’s are after you because of a water pitcher? Did it belong to someone’s Grandmother or something.”

“No.” Said Grisom.  He took out his handkerchief and dipped it in the bucket of water.  He wrung out the excess and then, gently, began clearing the dirt from the the sides of the pitcher.  His strokes were very delicate, as if he thought the thing would crumble under his touch.

“I’m not quite sure that I want to have the Pinkerton’s after me because of some old water pitcher.” Charlie said.

“This ain’t just some old water pitcher.” Grisom replied shortly.

Charlie took the cue and stopped with his questions.  He watched Grisom clean the sides of the pitcher.  The dirt came away, but the water did very little to brighten the dingy metal it was made of.  Grisom worked for a minute more, making sure dirt and grime was cleared from the sides and bottom.  Charlie noticed he never scrubbed the insides.

“You know your revolutionary war history kid?” Grisom asked, finally breaking the silence.

“Some.” Charlie replied.

“You ever hear of Molly Pitcher?” Grisom asked.

“No, sir.”

“She was at Valley Forge with her husband who was in the artillery.  She was what’s called a ‘water girl.’  She ran pitchers of water back and forth to the infantry and artillerymen.  The water was used to cool down the barrels of cannons after they were fired so they didn’t split.”

Charlie nodded, listening intently.

“Later she was involved in the Battle of Monmouth.  This time she was running water back and forth to the men under British fire.  Her husband was killed in that battle and Molly took up his position at the cannon and kept up the barrage.  We won that battle and after, George Washington gave her a commendation and the nickname ‘Sergeant Molly.’  What most people don’t know though is that Molly made sure they won the battle by bringing water to all those cannons in her pitcher.”

Charlie raised an eyebrow.  “How’d she manage that?”

“Witchery.” Grisom replied.

“Witchery?  This Molly Pitcher was a witch?” Charlie scoffed.

“No. She wasn’t a witch.” Grisom replied.  “Well not as you’re thinking.  You see there are certain items in this world that have inherent powers woven into them when they are made.  These powers come from the earth, not from any evil spirits or devils, just from the earth.  The Indians have been using them for years.  We have only begun to harness them.  The secret of how to infuse an object with witchery is a shrouded secret and rarely used, but these objects do exist and they have been fundamental in protecting this country of ours.”

Charlie scratched his head for a minute then looked at the pitcher.  “And this, is Molly Pitcher’s pitcher?”

Grisom nodded.

“And it’s got some witchery in it?”

“That it does.” Grisom replied.  “Remember how I told you the water Molly brought to the attilerymen was used to cool down the cannons?”

Charlie nodded.

“The witchery in this pitcher enchanted the iron of the cannons.  It made it so that the cannonballs always hit their mark, thus helping us win that battle and several others as well.”

“Well, I’ll be…” Charlie said in astonishment.  He crossed to the table and placed his saddle bag down on it, staring transfixed at the pitcher.  “How’s it work.”

“Simple.” Grisom replied.  “You just fill it with water then pour the water from the pitcher over the barrel of the cannon.”  To illustrate, Grisom picked up the bucket and poured water into the pitcher.  Charlie watched in rapt attention.  As the water filled the pitcher, Charlie saw a bright flash of green ripple through the water.  “Give me your gun.”

“What?” Charlie questioned.

“Give me your gun.” Grisom said, his hand outstretched.

Charlie unholstered his gun and handed it to Grisom.  Grisom lifted the pitcher and poured a little water over the barrel of Charlie’s gun.  The same green ripple Charlie had seen in the water appeared to ripple across this gun barrel.  Grisom set the pitcher back down and handed Charlie back his gun.  Charlie stared at the barrel.

Grisom looked out the kitchen door towards the backyard.  “See that cow skull hung over the door of the barn?

Charlie looked over his shoulder and scanned the backyard.  His eyes wandered towards the barn and then to the weathered skull that hung above the door about 200 yards from where they sat in the kitchen.  Charlie nodded.

“Shoot it.”

Charlie looked back at Grisom.  “Shoot it?”

Grisom nodded.

Charlie stood and began crossing towards the door.

Grisom grabbed his shoulder. “No.  Shoot it, from here.”

Charlie turned and looked at Grisom as if he was nutty.  “I can’t hit that thing from here.  It’s far too far away for me to hit.”

“Try it.  Shoot from where you stand.” Grisom ordered.

Charlie snickered and raised the gun In front of him.  “If you say so.”

Charlie looked down the barrel and aimed at the skull.  He snickered to himself, hating to have to prove this guy wrong, but he aimed best he could at a target so far away and then squeezed the trigger.

Charlie couldn’t be certain, but he thought he saw that same flash of green ripple along the gun barrel as the gun fired.  A millisecond later, the skull above the barn shattered.  Charlie stared in disbelief.  He looked at the gun in his hands then back at Grisom.

“How…?” Charlie asked.


Charlie smiled and looked back down at his gun.

“Don’t get too excited kid.” Grisom said.  “It’s temporary.  Only lasts for one shot.  That’s why Molly Pitcher had to keep running back and forth.  Helped us with the war though.”

“So the Pinkertons want it because…”

“Because imagine if you could find out how it works and then raised up an militia that always hit their target?  The world would be yours.” Grisom replied.  “I’m taking this to Yankton to a place called The Vault.  A secret place where witchery items are kept away from those who’d use them wrong.”

“Like the Pinkertons.”

“Yep.” Grisom replied.  “You should come with me.”

“Come with you?”

“Yeah.  What else are you doing here?  Working on a ranch?  The way you drove that wagon, I could use some help.” Gisom replied.  “Besides, you have some experience with mystical things yourself.”

“I do?” Charlie asked quizzically. “What do you mean?”

“I mean her.” Grisom replied, pointing to the table.  Charlie looked and there stood Doris.  She’d creeped out of the shoulder bag and was frozen, like a child who had just been caught red handed.  She stood stock still, her tongue out.  She’d been, lapping up water from the water bucket as Charlie and Grisom had talked.  “A prairie fire.  Read about them.  Never seen one.  How long have you had her?”

Charlie was furious at Doris and Doris knew it.  She sheepishly pulled her tongue back into her mouth and crept backwards, slinking back into the saddle bag.  Once inside she turned around so both Grisom and Charlie could see her eyes.  Then her tail snuck out and reached for the flap of the bag and pulled it closed.

Charlie sighed heavily and told Grisom the story of how his Grandfather had come across her mother on the prairie and how Doris had become the family pet.  Grisom listened quietly, nodding occasionally.

When Charlie was done relating the tale, he crossed to the table and lifted the flap.  “C’mon out here.” He said, smiling.  Doris barreled out of the saddle bag and sprinted across the table to look up at Grisom.  A huge smile appeared on her face.  For the first time since Charlie had met him, Grisom smiled.  He crouched down so he was eye to eye with Doris as she sat on the edge of the table.  He reached out a hand and like a cat, Doris immediately began rubbing her head against it.  She whistled contently as she did.

“Does she breathe fire yet?” Grisom asked.

Charlie smiled, “Oh yeah.  One of her favorite past time was belching fire down in the gopher holes in Grandma’s corn field to root out the varmints.  Most of the time though, she’d wind up setting the field on fire.”

Doris left Grisom’s hand as he stood back up.  She crossed over to the bucket and resumed drinking from it.

“You’ve done well to keep her outta sight.  There’s many who’d love to get their hands on a prairie fire.  Same folks who want to get their hands on this pitcher.” Grisom replied.

“Why?” Charlie asked.

“Because men are greedy,” Grisom replied.  “All they can see is power.  Figure out how to breed more of them to use to their own devices.  Or figure out how to harness her fire belches for no good reasons.”

Charlie nodded.  “Well, my Grandpa trained her pretty well to keep hidden.  She knows to stay still in the bag when we’re out in public.  But I reckon she sensed we could trust you.”

Grisom nodded then looked back towards Doris who’d again frozen drinking water.  She was staring outside the kitchen window.

Grisom followed her gaze, “What is it girl?”

Suddenly a shot crashed what was left of the glass in the window pane.  Charlie and Grisom leapt to the floor, Doris skittered back into the saddle bag which began to roll due to her momentum and it tumbled off the table.  Charlie saw it happen and caught it before it hit the ground.

From outside the house, a deep voice yelled, “Grisom!  We know you’re in there.  We just want the pitcher.  Give it to us and we’ll let you go.”

Grisom had a gun out and cocked it.  He scooted across to the table and slid the pitcher off it.  Looking into it, he saw there was still some water left.  He looked over at Charlie, “This is going to end in a shootout kid.  You up for it?”

Charlie, nervous but game, nodded.  “Yeah.”

“Good.” Grisom replied.  Hold out your gun.

Charlie held out his gun next to where Grisom had his held out.  Then, using his other hand, Grisom poured the remaining water in the pitcher out over the barrels of both guns.

“Now,” Grisom instructed, “You’ll hit your target, but you still have to aim.  These ain’t magic bullets, the witchery just uses where your mental focus is aiming and helps the bullet along.”

Charlie nodded.

“The good news is there’s only two of them and there’s two of us.  But they cannot, get their hands on this pitcher.  And we can’t let them know about Doris.” Grisom said.

Charlie nodded, holding the shoulder bag close.  Grisom held out the, now empty pitcher.

“Put this in the bag with her and put the bag on that shelf there.” Grisom ordered.  Charlie did as he was told, placing the bag, with Doris and the pitcher on the back of a shelf near where they were crouched.  Grisom made his way, on hands and knees, towards the door.

“Jarrett.  It’s Grisom.” He shouted.

The deep voice bellowed form outside, “I know who it is you damn fool.  Throw out the pitcher and we ride away.”

“Well, you see, that’s the problem.  I ain’t got the pitcher.”

Several more shots fired in through the window of the kitchen.  They were followed by several through the kitchen door.

“You’re a horrible liar Grisom.” Jarrett replied.  “Now look, you give us the pitcher and we leave you.  Or we burn down this heap of kindle you’re hiding out in, kill you, your new friend in there and then sift through the ashes and get the pitcher.  Either way, we’re leaving here with that pitcher.  Just there’s only one way you live.”

Grisom looked over at Charlie.  “I think Jarrett’s out that way.” He pointed towards where the window had shattered and where Jarrett’s voice had come from.  “Not sure where the other one is but I would imagine he is got his gun trained on the door.”

Charlie nodded.

“Now look,” Grisom continued, handing Charlie his gun. “I’ll go out the door and keep them distracted.  I’ll walk over by the window and try and get Jarrett to come out of cover.  When I do you take him out from the window there.”

“What about the other guy?” Charlie asked, rubbing his hand along his pants.  He was sweating a bit now.  This was his first shootout.

“I’ll try and draw him out.  After you shoot Jarrett, toss me my pistol through the window and pick him off.  No matter what, you stay in here.  If they get the better of me, just give them the pitcher.  They’ll leave you alone.  Once they have it, they’ll leave.  But you can not let them know about your friend.  You understand?”

Charlie nodded again.  He began crawling in the direction of the kitchen window.  Grisom edged his way towards the kitchen door.

“Jarrett.  I’m coming out.” Grisom yelled out the doorway.  “I’m coming out unarmed.”

Charlie watched nervously, gripping the end of his pistol tight, as Grisom stood and dusted himself off.  He took a step out the door.  Hands raised, looking in the direction of where Jarrett’s voice was coming from.

“Where’s the kid you were with?” Jarrett yelled.

“He’s not part of this.” Grisom yelled back.  “This is between us.”

“He became part of it when he helped you escape.” Jarrett yelled.

Charlie had his back against the wall, under the window.  He could see Grisom standing outside the door.  Charlie slowly began raising himself up the wall, to get into position to take a shot a Jarrett, when he saw something move out in the yard past Grisom.  The other Pinkerton agent stood from behind the cart and took aim at Grisom.

Charlie acted in a flash.  He fired a shot at the agent.  The bullet whizzed behind Grisom who took a step forward in surprise.  The bullet hit the agent square in heart, knocking him back to the ground.  Charlie spun and cocked his gun again pointing it out the window, in the side yard where Jarrett stood.  Jarrett aimed his gun at where Grisom was and before he could cock it, Charlie fired again.  Jarrett spun wildly and dropped to his knees.  Seconds later he was face down in the dust.

Charlie’s heart was pounding.  He could barely catch is breath.  He looked out the window as Grisom came around the side of the house.  Grisom took a look and saw Jarrett on the ground.  He then looked back up at Charlie in the window.

“Kid, you have nerves of steel.”  Grsom laughed.  “Nerves of steel.  That second agent had the drop on me.  If I would have been alone, I would be dead.  Say, you want a job?”

Charlie was just barely able to string a few words together.  “A job?  What kind of job?”

“The people I work for, The Coalition, are always looking for men and women brave enough to seek out artifacts like the pitcher and bring them to The Vault.  They’re called Agents.  See, we get a badge and everything.”  Grissom folded open a leather flap he’d taken out of his pocket.  A dull, golden badge shone in the sunlight.  “I reckon you and your friend there in the bag, would fit in with The Coalition just fine.” Grisom replied.

Charlie turned and looked over to the shelf where his saddle bag was.  He could see Doris’ eye peeking out from under the flap.  He thought about the dime novels he read as a kid.  He thought about what had just happened moments ago.  He’d just taken out two Pinketton Agents.  Going back to work as a ranch hand, just didn’t seem like a possibility anymore.

“Mr. Grisom.” Charlie said with a smile.  “I’m in.”

In the months that followed, Charlie had been on several missions with Grisom, locating historical artifacts and returning them to the various Vault locations across the country.  This current mission, returning the writing desk was going to take them to the Vault in Yankton, the biggest in the network, where Charlie would be able to official apply as an Agent of the Vault.

©2015 Grant Baciocco/Saturday Morning Media

Tags : , , , , , , ,

Agents of the Vault – Part 10

Part 10 of Agents of the Vault.  Grisom and Charlie cut out across the prairie towards Yankton.

If you want to subscribe to the Grantcast, you can do so with iTunes, or by using this feed in your favorite podcatcher.  Enjoy!  And let me know what you think of the story in the comments here, as we go along.

Also, if you prefer a PDF version of this part to read, CLICK HERE for that.

Finally, if you’d like to support my projects, visit

Agents of the Vault
Part 10
By Grant Baciocco

The sun began setting behind them as the day wore on.  Charlie had woken and had been steering the cart for awhile, giving Grisom time to rest.  Most of the afternoon had been spent listening to Leland try to get Grisom and Charlie to let him go by offering them the entire haul of gold.

“You can get away clean.  They’ll think I have it all.  Think of what you could do with all that gold.” He’d coaxed, unsuccessfully.  After about an hour of this constant pleading, Charlie had Doris shut him up with a fireball that dissipated inches from his face.  Leland had been close to silent since, muttering quietly now and then, but for the most part, silent.  Doris was now curled up between Grisom and Charlie, fast asleep.

Grisom roused when it began to get cold.  He scanned the horizon then took a deep breath.  “We’d better start to thinking where we’ll bed down for the night.  Better to sleep now and get an early start before dawn.”

Charlie nodded.  “There’s a flat spot up ahead near that bluff.” Charlie pointed out.

“Head for it.” Grisom replied.  “I think we’re going to have to keep a watch out tonight.” Grisom said, looking behind them.

“You think she’s behind us?”

“I know she’s behind us.” Grisom answered.  “Just a matter of how far behind.  And she doesn’t have a cart loaded down with gold slowing her any.  We just can’t risk pressing on thorough the night and driving the cart into ditch that could put a wheel out.  No, we’ll take turns watching.  I’ll take the first shift since I’m fresh.”

“I’ll make us some supper with what we took from the cabin.”

Grisom nodded.  “Good, but it’s gonna get cold.  We can’t build a fire.  We can’t tip our hand to where we are and have her ride up on us.”

Charlie nodded again and pulled back on the reigns, bringing the cart to a slow halt near the flat spot he’d seen.  The horses, glad to stop, whinnied.  This woke Leland up.

“You guys gotta let me take a leak!”  Leland whined, twisting his prone body around so he could look up at Grisom and Charlie.

Grisom looked over at Charlie.  “You wanna chaperone or me?”

Charlie took off his hat and wiped his brow with his sleeve.  “I got an idea.  Why don’t we let Doris chaperone him?”

At the sound of her name, Doris raised her head groggily and gave Charlie a quizzical look.  Charlie looked down at her, “What do you say girl?  Can you chaperone Leland here to heed nature’s call?”

Doris, understanding completely, made a dour face, her long tongue sticking out in disgust.

Charlie chuckled.  “I’ll make you a deal, if Leland here tries to run off, fashion himself a weapon out of a stick or something or even just looks at you funny, you have our permission to burn him to a crisp.”

This perked Doris right up.  She loved using the full extent of her fire powers at any chance she could, so though the thought of accompanying Leland disgusted her, the possibility of being able to use her full fire ball was too good to pass up.  She agreed and Charlie and Grisom, who’d slid off the cart, dragged Leland down from the bed of the cart to the ground and undid his hands.

Charlie looked Leland in the eye, “She’ll do it to.  Go and come right back.  One whistle from me and you’ll be burning up.”

Leland nodded and then looked down at Doris with a twinge of fear.  Doris stared back up at him and motioned with her tail that he should get going.  Leland sighed and trudged off away from where they’d stopped.  Doris trotted behind him, almost like a guard escorting a prisoner to the gallows.

Charlie kept an eye on Leland and Doris as they walked away from the cart so Leland could do his business.  Grisom began taking down three bedrolls he’d taken from the cabin and began lying them out.

“What are we going to do with him?” Charlie asked.

“Leland?” Grisom replied.


“We’re going to take him to the authorities in Yankton along with the gold.”

“No, I mean what are we going to do with him on the way there.  I can tell Doris has had her fill of him and it would seem that you are on the short end of your tether with his gum flapping as well.”

Grisom stopped spreading out a bedroll and looked after them.  “Well,” he said, “He continues his whining, I’ll just knock him out again.  I have no qualms with him being comatose the rest of the way.”

Charlie nodded, then turned to get the food they’d taken from the cabin down out of the cart.

“That protection on the trunk was something else.” Charlie said.

“Mmmmm hmmmm.” Grisom replied.  “It’s a Keep Out.  An ancient protection that prevents people from getting into what the person who casted it don’t want them to get into.  They put it on it in New York.”

“Sure sent Leland flying across the ground.”

“Mmmmmm hmmmm.  That Keep Out should hold us until Yankton and the Vault.”

“Is it going to prevent her from getting inside of it?

“Possibly.  Unless she has a breaker with her.”

Charlie looked over at Grisom.  “A breaker?”

Grisom nodded.  “Yeah.  Those who can break witchery cast on an object.”

Charlie was silent for a second, taking this in.  “Think she’s has one?”

“She might.” Grisom replied.  “But that’s why I brought you along.”

“Me?  I don’t know anything about breakers or witchery.”

“No but your a good shot.  Breakers are just like the rest of us, bullets are their weakness.”

Just then they heard a low whistle and they both turned to see Doris leading Leland back towards camp.  Doris shepherded him over towards Charlie who picked up the leather strap they’d used to bind his hands and made to rebind them.

“Is that really necessary?” Leland asked.  “I mean, we’re in the middle of nowhere and you have this..”  Leland stopped himself before insulting Doris again.  He cleared his throat and smiled a smile that was far from genuine  “You have Doris watching over me.  Where am I going to go?”

“Nowhere.” Grisom answered.  “And the reason you are going to go nowhere, is because you’re going to have your feet and hands bound.  Can’t risk you slipping off on one of the horses in the night.  And if you feel like complaining about it, we’ll gladly gag you as well.”

Leland didn’t retort.  He just sighed heavily and allowed his hands to be tied, looser than they were when he’d been in the back of the cart, but still tight enough to prevent escape.  After he was bound, Charlie led him over to his bedroll and sat him down on it.  He then returned to the food.

“We’ve got us three cans of beans here.  But with no fire to warm them up, I guess it’s just these biscuits.”  Charlie said.

“Well, maybe Doris could warm them up for us.” Grisom replied.  “It’s not totally dark yet and a few blasts from her and those cans will be nice and warm.”

Charlie looked at Doris who was sitting at full attention.  “Whattya say girl?  You in for helping us cook dinner?

Doris nodded excitedly and turned a small circle.

Charlie found a flat rock and brought it over near the bed rolls.  He opened each of the cans with his pocket knife and set them on the rock and took a step back.  Doris was standing nearby eagerly panting, excited to use her fire breath.

Charlie looked down at her, “Okay, listen, you have to take it easy.  Not too much fire or you’ll burn them okay?”

Doris nodded, somewhat frustrated and stared transfixed at the cans.  The hair along her spine stood stiff and her ears were twitching.

Charlie smiled then said, “Okay, go for it.”

A low whistle escaped from Doris’ mouth as she opened it.  A small ball of blue flame appeared between her long incisors and quickly grew in size.

“Easy.” Charlie coached.  “Easy.  We want to be able to eat this stuff.”

Doris’ eyes began glowing red and she made a sound much like a cough.  In that moment, the blue ball of fire expanded to twice it’s size and hit the three cans of beans squarely and then dissipated.

From his bedroll, Leland laughed.  “That’s it?  All that for…that tiny blue ball of flame? What in tarnation have I been worried about?  The worst she could do is give me a mild burn.  Lukewarm beans for dinner.  It’ll be just like being on a cattle drive.”  He cackled again.  Doris spun and growled loudly at him.

“Doris.” Charlie barked.  “No.  Down.”  Doris settled uneasily on her haunches.  Charlie put on a riding glove and reached down and picked up one can.  He brought it over to Leland.  “Here’s your beans.”

Leland smirked and took the can from Charlie.  Instantly he knew he’d made a mistake.  The can immediately blistered both his hands.  Screaming, he threw the can forward and the beans inside spilled out onto the prairie floor, bubbling and steaming as they hit the cold night air.  “What the hell you trying to do to me?”

Charlie laughed, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought they were lukewarm.  My mistake.  That’s all you get tonight though, Leland.  Better eat them before the prairie critters do.”

Doris whistled in merriment at Leland’s discomfort.  He had sore hands and the realization that his dinner was now cooling on the dirt floor of the prairie.

Grisom and Charlie tucked into their respective cans while Doris was allowed time to go hunting for her food, coming back with two prairie dogs she sloppily ate near Leland, just because she knew it would thoroughly disgust him and it did.  Between not eating much, the blisters throbbing on his hands and the sight of Doris slurping down prairie dog intestines, Leland was feeling uneasy and lied down to try and sleep.

Grisom took the first watch while Charlie laid back on his bedroll with Doris curled up next to his left hip.  She snored peacefully next to him as he gazed up at the stars and smiled.

©2015 Grant Baciocco/Saturday Morning Media

Tags : , , , , , ,