Francis and George were quite a pair, having left Africa and found themselves in Argentina and looking to go deeper to Patagonia, Francis happy to at least be in the correct hemisphere as his destination, and George simply wandering about with Francis whilst writing short stories for publication in the awful pulp adventure magazines.
Having stepped off the docks in Buenos Aires without a follow on ticket up the west cost of South America Francis had looked for work suitable to a quick turnaround while waiting for another ship heading north. Francis had done his time as a crew member, and would rather be a passenger aboard ship than not, and while he had enough money for a ticket now, living in a strange city would eat that savings away quickly.
The wanted poster for a gang of bank robbers promised a reward, in gold coin, not the unstable local pesos, so Francis figured there was decent money to be made. George thought hunting down bandits in a foreign country would be quite the thing to write home about, and so willingly signed on to the endeavor.
“Señor McGowan, Señor Smythe, welcome!” The head banker, Juan Carlos Perez spoke in mildly accented english. “Normally such a job would not be offered to outsiders, but the war with Paraguay has made this an abnormal time. Of course even in normal times it is difficult to track down bad men who threaten to kill the families of the trackers, so outsiders have been useful to Banco Solanas before.”
“We’ll take any information you’ve got on the gang, plus letters of authority to act on behalf of Banco Solanas.” Francis replied, “Don’t want to get put into some backwater jail for hunting down criminals.”
“Si, si” Juan Carlos responded, “You see my secretary on the way out, and she will ensure all the documents are ready this afternoon. I’m sorry that the bad men have such a head start, but maybe it will lull them into thinking that no one will follow?”
“Gracias.” Francis replied, and led George out of the office.
Once on the street outside the banco George turned to Francis. “My dear chum, should we go traipsing willy nilly across the countryside, I dare say we might need a bit more firepower than the arms with which we are currently endowed.”
“I think that means we need more and better guns, at least if I translated fancy King’s English correctly.” Francis responded. “I don’t disagree. Lets say we find us an outfitter.”
An outfitter was found relatively quickly, and being in a relatively major port town the selection of firearms from across the world was very good. Unfortunately being in a port town so far from the industrial manufacturing centers of North America or Europe ensured the prices were at a premium.
“Sir, this is the finest rifle on the market today, the Winchester model 1873. It holds 15 rounds of the powerful 44 Largo cartridge. The magazine can be topped off from the side feed gate at any time. No need to feed through the buttstock as with a Henry.”
“And sir, as a companion to the excellent Winchester is the Remington modelo 1875, also in the 44 Largo. No longer must a man carry two types of ammunition, one for rifle and one for pistol, the 44 Largo is sufficient for man or beast in either weapon.” The salesman spoke quickly, the well rehearsed sales pitch flowing smoothly from his bilingual mouth.
“You certainly do sell the best.” Francis agreed. “But I’m a man of modest means and am looking for something about the quarter of the price.”
The clerk managed to keep the smile on his face. “While not so modern as the Winchester, we do have some of the fine Spencer carbines. Only hold seven rounds, and the hammer must be cocked for each shot, and reloading is slower, but it is a fine round, accurate past a quarter mile.”
The clerk came back with a Spencer in each hand. Clearly war surplus Francis wondered if he’d known any of the men who might have carried those rifles. Dropping the action open and sticking a thumb nail to reflect the sunlight coming in through the window Francis checked the condition of the bore in each rifle.
“Well that ain’t pretty, but it’ll do.” Francis muttered.
“As far as pistols, the least expensive currently in stock is a pair of Russian knock off Smith and Wesson Model 3’s. A gentlemen traded them in on one of the new Winchesters, which even at the price are quite a bargain.”
“I’d like to see them.” Francis replied. The clerk dutifully retrieved the Russian copies, and while the machining was slightly cruder the lock up was tight with no wiggle in the cylinder.
“That’ll do me just fine.” Francis replied, “I’ll take a Spencer and the two pistols if you throw in a hundred rounds for each gun. And if you have any 50-70 one and three quarters I’ll take a hundred rounds of that too. Also I’ll need a saddle scabbard for the carbine and a two holsters for the pistols”
“My pleasure.” The clerk replied, fetching boxes of 44 Russian and 56-56 Spencer, and a lone box of twenty 50-70 shells. The holsters for the pistols were used, and mismatched, but cheap and serviceable. The scabbard for the Spencer still bore a faded “US” stamp on it. The clerk looked dutifully for 50-70 ammunition but returned with only one box.
“Sir, I apologize this is the last box of 50-70 one and three quarters Sharps, probably in all of Buenos Aires.” The clerk said in apologetic tones. “I include for free, may you have good hunting.”
George looked idly at the various wares displayed around the store. “Perchance do you have ammunition for a 450 Adams in stock?”
“No sir, I am not familiar with that.” The clerk replied.
“Perhaps a 450 Corto?” George asked again.
“Oh! Si!” The clerk responded.
“Splendid, I’ll take 200 rounds, the other Spencer carbine with a saddle scabbard, and 100 rounds of ammunition for the Spencer.” George Smythe said with his precise, clipped accent.
“Excellent sir.” The clerk said as he gathered ammunition boxes for the sale.
After leaving the outfitters the two walked back to the hotel near Banco Solanas. Stashing the weaponry in the hotel room the men went to the bank to pick up their letters of authorization and the information, mostly newspaper clippings in Spanish, from the bank.
“I speak a little Spanish.” Francis admitted, “Lots of cowhands spoke it and I picked up some.”
“Fine for you.” George replied, “I haven’t the foggiest what anyone is jabbering on about.”
“Still, we are gonna need a local guide.” Francis replied. “Someone who speaks the language, knows the area, and isn’t afraid of repercussion.”
George Smythe simply opened his traveling trunk and pulled out his old service revolver. The converted Beaumont-Adams revolver was unloaded, and George began thumbing the stubby .450 Adams rounds into the cylinder.
“I wondered why you left that Martini behind.” Francis muttered.
“Well, as an Officer I have certain liberties, but making off with a service rifle is not one of them, although the purchase of a pistol is.” George replied. “The Spencer will do as a replacement, although I should like to get familiarized with it before needing to rely on it for survival.”
“The Spencer is a good rifle, you’ll pick it up right quick.” Francis drawled as he poured over the newspaper clippings, doing his best to make out the information.
A knock on the door of the room caused Francis and George to pause their conversation. The knock came again, timid and tentative. Francis answer the door.
The young lady at the door was dressed in black, and had a black veil. “Hola, Señor Perez told me where to find you.” The young lady spoke slowly in deliberate and obviously unfamiliar English. She lowered her head slightly, “Would you join me for coffee downstairs to discuss the business of bringing the bandits to justice?”
“Certainly miss.” Francis replied. “Give us a minute and we’ll be right down.” And he shut the door behind the retreating figure of the young lady.
George simply raised one eyebrow quizzically.
“Bring your revolver. Might be a trap.” Francis said matter-of-factly as he loaded the two knock off S&W Model 3s and put on a long coat that would hide them on his hip. “Sure wish I knew these damn things would work.”
“If it might be a trap, why did you agree to go?” George asked with honest confusion.
“You ever turn down a lady?” Francis asked in reply.
“Well, no.” George answered truthfully.