The Price of Demand (Third Draft, Dialogue Only)


by Gordon S. McLeod


 (Workman) “Oi, Sias, here we are!” (workman)

(Waldon Sias) “I want that southern wall built up by mid-day, mind! You’ll double-time it today, and if I catch you sluggards lazing around you’ll wish you were in the army, I’ll come down on you so hard!”

(Altman Dolet) “Your men are making good progress!”

(Waldon Sias) “Altman Dolet. Aye. They’ll ‘ave the rest of ‘er up by sun-fall, you can be sure of that.” (Waldon Sias)

(Altman Dolet) “I’m glad to hear of it. I’ll need you to begin working on the foundry in three days’ time, and we still have the market—” (Altman Dolet)

(Waldon Sias) “Medic! Man down, north-east tower! MEDIC!”

(Waldon Sias) “Of all the rotten, stinkin’ luck …”

(Altman Dolet) “Accidents happen, Sias. I … have to get back to other details. I’ll leave you to your work.”

(Waldon Sias) “A’right men, back to it! And don’t let me catch any ‘o you bein’ as careless as Claver there! If he thinks a rest in the medics’ tent’s gonna save his sorry hide for long, he’s got a long, hard lesson ahead! You, get tha’ …”




(Altman Dolet) “Ridiculous! Nonsense superstition. Luck, indeed.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “Another accident.” Gentle hands fell on his shoulders, the left adorned with a shining wedding band.

(Altman Dolet) “Yes. Even Waldon’s starting to lose his nerve. We’re going to have to move forward faster than I’d like, I’m afraid.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “If we get a crew in to build the road now the travel and trade it brings in will help to lift the men’s spirits, but what if someone learns of the electrite deposits? Once word gets out …”

(Altman Dolet) “I know, my love. But we can’t afford to let this place gain a bad reputation. We’d never be able to attract anyone trustworthy to mine the deposits, and I don’t intend to do it myself forever, I can tell you! We need the road in a hurry, we need forest cleared by the river, and we need the river-way cleared to allow water-borne shipping up to the coastal cities in the north.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “If the Conclave gets wind of it …”

(Altman Dolet) “They will, yes. We’ve done all we can on our own to protect it; the sites we know of are all well-disguised with run down, ‘abandoned’ buildings. Nobody should so much as spare the area a glance.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “With the luck we’ve had here lately, it’s just a matter of time before someone finds it.”

(Altman Dolet) “Not you too!” The tired smile playing at his lips kept the words from seeming harsh.

(Kaylene Dolet) “You may not believe in luck, my husband,” she said with an answering smile, “but can bet they do, an’ I wish you’d learn to understand that. If luck is a part of it, it’s bound to run out at some point. Even if it’s not involved, they’ll go an’ get spooked if things like this keep happening.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “How is he doing?” Kaylene’s voice was concerned, but betrayed no anxiousness.

(Medic Cranford) “He’s in rough shape, but he’ll live. That arm, though … I’ve got the bones set, but that was a right nasty piece of work. Muscles are all torn up. If I can keep infection at bay, he’ll keep the arm. Whether it’ll work right again, well it’s just too early to say.”

(Altman Dolet) “Can we see him?” Altman’s voice was a bit gruff; he couldn’t help feeling a guilty pang. It’d been many hours since the accident and his only thoughts of it so far had been of how it impacted him and his plans. When had he become so cold?

(Medic Cranford) “No point. I ‘ave him on the poppiate. He’ll be out till afternoon tomorrow if not later. I’ll let ‘im know you came by though; I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.”

(Altman Dolet) “I hope our luck turns soon.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “Apparently, anything can happen.”




(Altman Dolet) Tell that to Claver.

(Kaylene Dolet) “Whoever did this is obviously keepin’ it quiet, or they’d have confronted us in public. Or worse, gone off to sell what they know in the cities, maybe to the Conclave. What we need to do is find out what they’re up to, what they want from us. They must want SOMETHING.”

(Altman Dolet) “I’m just jumping to conclusions, and I should know better. I’m just a little unsettled, that’s all.”

(Waldon Sias) “Yer not the first I’ve heard muttering to himself today, y’aren’t. Nobody’s feelin’ right after yesterday. But the tower’s up, right on schedule.”

(Altman Dolet) “And a fine job the men have done, Sias. They’ve been quick on their feet; the scaffolding’s all down already? Everything packed up and moved to the new market project site?”

(Waldon Sias) “It is, aye. They didn’t want to linger by the tower more’n they had to. Can’t say as I blame ‘em. Work’s likely to progress fast now, but not for the reasons I’m lookin’ for.”

(Altman Dolet) “No, that’d only make things worse. If they start getting careless they’ll only make all this ridiculous talk of so-called ‘bad luck’ worse.”

(Waldon Sias) “Don’t you worry about it. I’ll see that it gets done fast and safe.”

(Waldon Sias) “Let’s be off then. I’ll show you what we’ve got for a road.” Waldon’s voice was less cold, but there was a tightness of the expression there that said Altman didn’t like.

(Waldon Sias) “What’s this about? Why’re you all standin’ around? All the trees are marked, are they?”

(Workman) “It’s Baines, Sias. Cut his arm deep while cuttin’ the tree. Says his hatchet slipped.”

(Waldon Sias) “Get ‘im to the medics’ wing, Mitchell. The rest ‘o you can get to it, and do it like I told you this time! I’ll ‘ave no careless accidents on my watch or there’ll be hell to pay.”

(Waldon Sias) “Mr. Dolet, we’ll cut the review short today under th’ circumstances ‘n all. I’ll work on this myself and make sure nothin’ more serious happens.”

(Altman Dolet) “Of course. Thank you, Waldon. I’ll check on Claver’s condition.”

(Medic Cranford) “… his head. He’ll be fine now, though it was a nasty hit and he’ll be feelin’ it for some weeks I imagine.”

(Altman Dolet) “How long?”

(Altman Dolet) “How long?”

(Medic Cranford) “You’ve been out the better part of a day, and scared me with it y’did too. That was a nasty crack on the head. Found you myself, lyin’ sprawled out on the steps right by the door, bleedin’ something fierce an’ a big stone fallen right from the roof beside you. Turns out the cut was worse than it looked, but y’got a good crack on the skull. It ain’t broke, mind you, but you’ll be feelin’ like it did for a while.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “It’s a good thing you’re so hard-headed, Altman. Never thought I’d have to admit to it bein’ a good thing! We’ll have you out of here in no time.”

(Medic Cranford) “She’s right, Mr. Dolet. You’re in better shape than poor Claver. Oh don’t be so worried. He’s recoverin’ fine so far, and we’ve kept his arm free of infection. But he’ll be long in the healing, as we discussed the other day.”

(Altman Dolet) “And Mitchell?”

(Medic Cranford) “He was fine. Just a li’l cut on ‘is arm is all. Painful for sure, and he won’t be cuttin’ any trees any time soon I’m afraid, but no permanent harm.”

(Altman Dolet) “Claver, is he awake? Can I talk to him?”

(Medic Cranford) “’Fraid not, Mr. Dolet. He’s in a lot of pain so I’m keepin’ him on the poppiate.”

(Altman Dolet) “And Waldon? When can I go? I must speak with him.”

(Medic Cranford) “You can go now if you must, though I’d rather you stayed. You ain’t gonna do that though, are you.”

(Altman Dolet) “No, I’m afraid not. Dearest, with your help…?”

(Kaylene Dolet) “I’ll help you up and get you moving, but only to take you back to your own bed. If you need to talk to Mr. Sias, I’ll bring ‘im to you!”

(Altman Dolet) “That … that would be a relief. But first I’d like to examine the stone that hit me. Is it still where it landed?”

(Kaylene Dolet) The stone? Yes, it was there last I saw it. What of it? I told you when we moved in that roof was in need of repair.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “The sun is high; they may have stopped to wait out the heat and take lunch?” It was hot, even in the shade of the trees.

(Altman Dolet) “Likely.”

(Mitchell) “Indeed they are. Mr. Dolet, I’m delighted to see you up and about.”

(Altman Dolet) “Ahh. Mr. Mitchell. I should have guessed. I got the message you left. Both of them, in fact.”

(Mitchell) “Ahhh. Yes, I am sorry for the inconvenience.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “You monster! You set that up? You could have killed him!”

(Mitchell) “Come now, it was little more than a demonstration of … misfortune. It could have happened to anyone.”

(Altman Dolet) “Why? What do you stand to gain? What do you hope to accomplish?”

(Mitchell) “Why, I thought you’d be easier to deal with in the absence of your work crew of course. I have a business proposition for you, Mr. Dolet, and it is not for the ears of others. Your lady-wife is free to stay, of course.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “You have some nerve Mitchell,” she growled.

(Altman Dolet) “Indeed you do. I’ve very little interest in doing any sort of business with unknown men who start their bids with crude traps and attempted murder.”

(Mitchell) “Unknown? I’m hurt! You’ve forgotten our recent transaction already?”

(Altman Dolet) “Of course. You’ve changed; you were so much better dressed the last time we met. I like the beard, it’s a nice touch. May I assume you’re not happy with the quality of the electrite? Feeling overburdened by the safe handling and storage of it? You’ve come for a refund?”

(Mitchell) “Mr. Dolet, please. You’re brighter than that. You know as well as I do that I was very impressed indeed with the quality of the electrite. So much so that now I want more. A lot more, in fact.”

(Altman Dolet) “And you expect me to give it to you, just like that.”

(Mitchell) “Yes, I do. And as to your next question, no, I won’t be satisfied with more samples, Mr. Dolet. I want it all. I want to know where you get it from.”

(Altman Dolet) “That’s a very big request, Mr. Mitchell.”

(Mitchell) “You misunderstand. It’s not a request. It’s a demand, and I’ll have it met.”

(Altman Dolet) “You seem confident, yet here you stand, unarmed, and you’ve given no reason why I should—”

(Mitchell) “This should do for the moment, Altman. You don’t mind if I call you Altman, do you? As for the longer term, it would be unfortunate, don’t you think, if the Conclave were to learn of your little enterprise?”

(Altman Dolet) “The Conclave’s attention would be unfortunate, yes, but that’s as true for you as it is for me. You could tell them, but you’d never see another scrap of electrite from my source if you did.”

(Mitchell) “You needn’t concern yourself about my dealings with the Conclave; let me worr—”

(Mitchell) “Get them!”

(Mitchell) “You couldn’t be so stupid as to think I was here alone? Now release me!”

(Mitchell) “Mr. Dolet. I will have that location, or people will start dying, not just having accidents.”

(Altman Dolet) “Accidents?”

(Mitchell) “Keep your eyes on them. So what is it? You’re in an awful hurry to build the road and get the docks and market up. Is it a merchant, then? I’ll have the name, or—”

(Altman Dolet) “Wh … Where’d he go? Can’t let him …”

(Waldon Sias) “Don’t you worry none about him, Mr. Dolet. We gotta get you back to the medics again. Mitchell ain’t gonna be a problem, believe me. My boys don’t take too kindly to people playin’ with their work like that, let alone their lives. They’ll see to it he don’t try anythin’ else.”

(Altman Dolet) “Good.”

(Waldon Sias) “Altman. I heard some of what Mitchell was goin’ on about. You got somethin’ to hide here.”

(Altman Dolet) “Yes. There’s not much point in denying it, is there?”

(Waldon Sias) “Nope. Just wanted to say you don’t have to worry ‘bout my boys ‘n me. We don’t know much, and what we do know, we’ll help you protect. Most men … They’d expect a man in his pay to take a bullet, not risk ‘imself like you did. You tell us what needs doin’, we’ll see it done.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “So, my dear, you learn to relate to the men in your employ at last. There’s hope for you yet!”

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