The Price of Demand (Fourth Draft, Dialogue Revised)

THE PRICE OF DEMAND - FOURTH DRAFT

by Gordon S. McLeod

 

(Workman) “Oi, Sias, here we are!”

(Waldon Sias) “I want that southern wall built up by mid-day. 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) “Good morning, Sias. Your men are making good progress.”

(Waldon Sias) “Altman Dolet, a good morning t’yeh as well. Aye. They’ll ‘ave the rest of ‘er up by sun-fall, you can be sure of that.”

(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—”

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

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

(Altman Dolet) “The medics will be here in moments, Sias. I’ll look into the accident if you could assist them when they arrive?”

(Waldon Sias) “As sure as rain I will, Mr. Dolet. 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’ …”

 

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

(Kaylene Dolet) “Another accident, husband?”

(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. The Holdswaine labor union’s already difficult enough to deal with. That insufferable Mitchell character they chose as their leader jumps all over every chance he can get to deny us workers.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “There’s people there need work, Altman, he can’t be denyin’ ‘em that.”

(Altman Dolet) “He can, if he can declare the area unsafe, and he doesn’t seem to need much provocation to do it. If he does, we’ll 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) “Why d’you think he has it in for us out here? We pay dear enough for their services. You’d think the man’d be the least bit grateful.”

(Altman Dolet) “Unless he has some personal stake in hindering us.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “The Conclave?”

(Altman Dolet) “Perhaps. They certainly haven’t been happy with me since I settled here instead of working for them.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “And if the Conclave gets wind of the electrite …”

(Altman Dolet) “They will, eventually at least. For now, we’ve done all we can on our own to protect it; the deposits we know of are all well-disguised with run down, ‘abandoned’ buildings. The work crews don’t get too close to them, except for one part of the road. 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.”

 

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(Altman Dolet) “I wish we had a proper inspector here to investigate the scene of the accident.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “There’s lots of things it’d be nice t’have, but for now we just ‘ave to make do.”

(Altman Dolet) “I suppose you’re right. There’s only so much a student of geoscience can do though. I … Interesting.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “What’s interesting?”

(Altman Dolet) “These stone bricks. They bear the characteristic marks of stone cutting, just as one would expect, as well as the signs of the fall off the tower, but … Several here bear scratching, and look here at the pitting that this one displays.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “You doubt yourself too easily, husband. When there’s trouble with a stone, a master of geoscience is exactly what you need.”

(Altman Dolet) “You’re too kind, my love. I’ll be forever a student, there’s more to learn than I’ll ever master, I fear. But as for trouble with stone, I think these were pushed; their fall was no accident.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “Could Claver have brought them down with him when he fell?”

(Altman Dolet) “No, I was here at the time and saw him fall. He didn’t bring them down upon himself. Of that I’m certain.”

(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.”

 

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(Altman Dolet) “I’m jumping to conclusions. I should know better. I’m 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, and on schedule.”

(Altman Dolet) “And a fine job, Sias. The men have 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 faster now, but not for the reasons I’m lookin’ for.”

(Altman Dolet) “If they start getting careless, they’ll only make all this ridiculous talk of so-called ‘bad luck’ worse.”

(Waldon Sias) “Aye. Let’s be off then. I’ll show you what we’ve got for the market. The ground should be cleared for the levelin’, an’ the first temporary barracks is finished.”

 

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(Workman) “Mr. Dolet! Come quick, an’ bring the medics! There’s been another accident, sir!”

(Altman Dolet) “Ms. Cranford! Bring your assistants! Quick man, what happened?”

(Workman) “He was workin’ on the roof, finishin’ it off when down he came, I saw it clear as day! He landed bad, shoulder’s broke, an’ his leg … like I said, it’s bad.”

(Medic Cranford) “He’s lucky t’weren’t his skull. No time to waste, let’s move.”

 

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(Waldon Sias) “Medic Cranford, ‘e’s over ‘ere.”

(Medic Cranford) “Let’s get ‘im looked at first, then we get ‘im back to the wing if it’s safe. Mr. Dolet, if you could stay out of the way?”

(Altman Dolet) “Of course. I need to inspect the area, and the roof he fell from.”

(Waldon Sias) “Somethin’ the matter? Aside from th’ obvious, I mean.”

(Altman Dolet) “I couldn’t say. This accident, it just strikes me as similar to the last.”

(Waldon Sias) “You do what you need to. I’ll get the rest o’ these louts back on th’ job. You men! This ain’t no time for dawdlin’! The rest ‘o you can get back to it, and do it like I told you this time! I’ll ‘ave no more 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) “Thank you, Waldon. I’d better go check on Dawson, and see if Claver’s condition has improved any.”

 

(Waldon Sias) “Dolet, I’m glad I ran inta you. The men, they’re growin’ fearful. It’s gettin’ hard t’get ‘em workin’.”

(Altman Dolet) “I wish I could blame them.”

(Waldon Sias) “I know you don’ hold with all th’ talk ‘o superstitions an’ bad luck ‘n all, but if this goes on as it is, we’ll be left with a valley full ‘o land and nobody to build it up.”

(Altman Dolet) “… Yes, I know. You’re right. Of course you’re right. I’m doing what I can to investigate the cause, but I promise, if I don’t find answers soon, I’ll hire guardsmen in from Holdswaine.”

(Waldon Sias) “Could be that’ll help a bit. Jus’ hope it’s enough.”

(Altman Dolet) “It’ll ha—”

(Waldon Sias) “Altman!”

(Altman Dolet) “I’m okay, it missed! What in the … Where did that come from!”

(Waldon Sias) “Wind-fall branch. Heavy ‘un too. From that tree behind the buildin’, less I miss my guess, fell to the roof and came down nearly on top of us.”

(Altman Dolet) “From the roof … yes, that does seem to be the commonality, doesn’t it.”

(Waldon Sias) “Wha’?”

(Altman Dolet) “I have an idea … let’s keep quiet about this incident if you don’t mind. I don’t think anyone saw this happen, so no need to spread the panic further. Would you round up two of your most trustworthy men and meet me out where the rocks run red with iron? I think I may just be able to get to the bottom of this.”

 

(Altman Dolet) “That ought to about do it.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “What are you up to? What happened t’ your hands? Is that blood?”

(Altman Dolet) “Iron oxide, love. Simple rust to catch our troublemaker, if all goes well.”’

(Kaylene Dolet) “Whatever you think it’s for, you’d best be washin’ it off before you touch any of my good linens or it’ll be me droppin’ stones on someone’s head, and you won’t like it one bit. And you’ve got some on your trousers, it’ll be murder to get out!”

(Altman Dolet) “I’m afraid so, but that’s exactly why I needed it. I can attend to the cleaning later. I have some ideas on how the iron’s magnetic properties may allow it to be removed more easily. For now, let me just go get cleaned up. I’ll be retiring early tonight to track down whoever’s behind the assaults tomorrow.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “Solves crimes and cleans his own clothes … no wonder I agreed to stay here with you.”

 

(Altman Dolet) “I knew it—I’ve got you now. The rust stains will give you away as plain as day.”

 

(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 ‘magine.”

(Altman Dolet) “How … how long?”

(Medic Cranford) “You’ve been out fer four hours. 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, lucky fer you. Yer head ain’t broke, but you’ll be feelin’ like it is for a while.”

(Altman Dolet) “I … I have to—was on the trail—”

(Medic Cranford) “Never you mind that, you’re not t’leave this bed till I give the say-so. Whatever you think you gotta do can wait.”

(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.”

(Altman Dolet) “No! There’s no time. I was on the trail of the man responsible for all this, and if I delay, all the evidence will wash away! I have to get after him, there’s no time to waste!”

(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 …? I must examine the stone that hit me, first. 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.”

 

(Altman Dolet) “I didn’t get a look at whoever it was that dropped the stone on me, but that won’t be a concern.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “But if y’didn’t see who did it, why are we rushing into it? You should be resting!”

(Altman Dolet) “I spent some time last night spreading iron dust over all the roofs in town; I’ve never been so thankful there are so few of those! Whoever did it will be wearing the evidence on his skin and clothing for the rest of the day, and with luck, we may even catch traces of it on the ground to help narrow the search. We must get to Waldon Sias immediately.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “To get his help identifying the man, of course.”

(Altman Dolet) “Yes, once we’ve confirmed it wasn’t Sias himself.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “You suspect him?”

(Altman Dolet) “In all honesty, no, but we must be thorough. And we do have to talk to him regardless, if we want him to help identify the real culprit.”

(Waldon Sias) “Good mornin’ t’ya, Mr. & Mrs. Dolet. I—by my grandfather’s hammer, what’d you do to yer head, Altman!”

(Kaylene Dolet) “Good mornin’ Mr. Sias. My husband was feeling entirely too clever today and got himself hurt.”

(Altman Dolet) “I was today’s victim. Luckily it’s not bad. Quickly, have you seen anyone on your crews this morning with reddish stains on hands, legs, clothing, anything? Red-brown, like rust.”

(Waldon Sias) “Mrs. Dolet, are y’sure yer husband’s okay?”

(Kaylene Dolet) “It’s fine, I’m keeping an eye on him. We really must know though, have you seen someone covered in rust?”

(Waldon Sias) “Can’t say’s I have, not today. This ‘ave somethin’ to do with the meetin’ we had yesterday where the rocks’re run through with iron?”

 

(Altman Dolet) “It surely does; all of the ‘accidents’ have involved heavy objects falling from roofs, complete or incomplete. I spent time dusting the roofs of those few buildings that have them with rust.”

(Waldon Sias) “An’ then ‘oped whoever’s behind it didn’t decide to go up a tree for ‘is next trick, yeah, I getcha.”

(Altman Dolet) “A risk I had to take, but if tree-climbing is in his repertoire, he’s saving it for later. I mean to ensure he doesn’t get a later.”

 

(Altman Dolet) “You don’t have to strain your—”

(Kaylene Dolet) “Shut your mouth right there, husband. You aren’t as strong as you let on, an’ you’re dizzy on your feet. You need me when you catch this man, ‘specially if it comes to fightin’. Just be ready to give me my staff if it comes to that.”

(Altman Dolet) “But—”

(Kaylene Dolet) “No buts! Whoever’s up to this is hurtin’ people, has hurt you, and is threatening the future of this place. Our lives’re tied up too tight with the future of this village. I know you won’t rest while our future’s at risk; why should I?”

(Altman Dolet) “You’d think I’d know better than to argue—wait, there, that’s him. See the rust on the boots, the trouser legs, the sleeves of the shirt?”

 

(Altman Dolet) “Stop!”

(Kaylene Dolet) “Get him!”

(Altman Dolet) “We’ve got you! What are you playing at, causing all these accidents?”

(Culprit) “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

(Kaylene Dolet) “You’re a filthy liar!”

(Culprit) “That’s ridi—”

(Altman Dolet) “You’ve got the evidence all over you. I spread red iron oxide over all the roofs in this town; there’s nowhere else you’d have gotten covered in it.”

(Culprit) “Look, I swear I didn’ come here jus’ to cause trouble, I was put up to it! E’s the one you want.”

(Altman Dolet) “And who is he?”

(Culprit) “Some Mitchell bloke back in ‘ol Holdswaine, a high-up rich type with plenty ‘o influence. ‘Ad his thugs visit me after I ‘ad some … troubles … payin’ a debt. Them’s the ones set me up with this job an gave me the … er … extra instructions.”

(Altman Dolet) “That’s a tough position you found yourself in.”

(Culprit) “You’re tellin’ me! I carried th’ bruises for days after that, an’ I didn’t even give ‘em any trouble. Them’s bad sorts.”

(Altman Dolet) “Did you leave family behind in Holdswaine? Friends?”

(Culprit) “Nah, just me mates at the waterin’ ‘ole, but thems that ain’t ‘ere won’t care. Uh, what’re you plannin’ on doin with me?”

(Kaylene Dolet) “They’ll kill ‘im, or make ‘im wish they had if we send ‘im back.”

(Altman Dolet) “I don’t doubt it.”

(Culprit) “You can’t send me back there! It’s like she said, I’m as good as dead if I show my face in Holdswaine!”

(Altman Dolet) “No, you can’t go back to Holdswaine. But we can’t keep you here, either. Mitchell has too much influence over the union men. Sias would never stand for anything happening on his watch, but that’d be cold comfort to you if you’re already dead.”

(Kaylene Dolet) “One of the northern cities?”

(Altman Dolet) “The bigger the better, I think. Big enough to have its own unions, where Mitchell has no power.”

(Culprit) “You’ll let me go? Oh thank you sir! I won’t forget this, see if I don’t!”

 

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