Greetings and salutations most intelligent readers of the blog,
Welcome back to a collaboration of epic magnitude. Jami Grey, Camille Douglass, and myself have embarked on a journey into the wild west of yesteryear. What follows is chapter 7 of said journey. If you’ve been following along I apologize for my delay in getting this up. It should have been posted last week. Sometimes life’s plans, whose goals don’t necessarily coincide with your own, take precedent. Such has been the case for yours truly of late.
So without belaboring the subject, let’s get on with Conjuring Misery.
Two Crows had disappeared faster than a dipper of water poured on the desert sand at high noon. It seems no one saw him. The charming ladies at Mademoiselle Angelique’s Boarding House giggled and flirted, but they hadn’t seen anyone matching Two Crows description. Experience told me, women in the profession are the most reliable observers. Their livelihood depends on their knowing which way the wind blows.
“Did you miss me ladies?”
“Yes, Mr. Sam.” A pretty girl whose name I couldn’t remember, her exotic beauty hailing from the Far East, winked. “Why you not come back last night?”
“Stuck in a card game all night.”
A sultry brunette named Ida pushed her attributes up against me. “Oh Sam. How could you spend the night with a bunch of stinky card playing men instead of with Ida?”
A good question. “So no one saw this Indian.” They shook their heads in such a solemn manner it had me laughing.
I promised to come back soon then strolled back to the Wild Hog. Morning arrived in spite of my lack of sleep.
“If you’re looking for salt I’m all out.” Otis, the proprietor yelled as I walked into the door.
I held up my hands. “Not salt. Shotgun.”
“I didn’t think you were partial to firearms.” Otis turned and lifted a shotgun out of a rack behind him.
“I’m not, under normal circumstances.” I accepted the gun.
He wiped his own spectacles on an apron. “Nothing normal about the happenings in these parts of late.”
I inspected the gun. “Truer words Otis my friend, truer words have not been spoken.” Not really sure what I should be looking for. Otis seemed to read my mind.
“If you’re looking for something to handle the unexpected take a gander at this beauty.” Otis selected another gun from the rack. “This here’s a double barrel. Twice the stopping power. Easy to load.” He flipped a lever and the gun broke in half. He inserted two shells and snapped it closed. When he broke it a second time the shells popped out. “The Wells Fargo People are putting these on every stage. No fumbling around removing spent shells.”
We exchanged guns. “This is nice.”
“Just received her in on the last shipment from San Francisco.”
“How many you want?” Otis ducked under the counter and set a box of shells out.
“How many you got?”
He stood up and looked me in the eye. “What kinda trouble you expecting?”
“Last night I watched a little lady put twelve slugs in a dead man, and still had to carve his brain out through the eye socket with a pig sticker to get him settled enough to bury.” I hefted the box of shells. “So I ask you again, how many you got?”
He placed another box of shells next to the first. “Two boxes.”
“You holding out on me Otis?”
“I recon I got to keep some for myself now don’t I?”
“Fair’s, fair.” I loaded two shells. “What do I owe you?”
He raised his hands real slow. “Now Mr. Connor, you don’t—”
“Relax Otis.” I set the loaded gun down. “How much?”
“It’s a real nice piece an all…”
This time I pointed it at him with purpose. “Otis, don’t get greedy. I’ll pay what’s fair, and no more.”
He looked away and mumbled, “Two hundred.”
This was getting expensive. Two hundred for Gunther and now this. I counted out one hundred fifty dollars. “If I’m still alive when the next stage rolls through, I’ll give you the extra fifty you’re gouging me. If I’m not alive you probably won’t be either.”
I started out of the store but stopped short at the doorway. “I almost forgot to ask. You seen a strange Indian lately.”
He lit up. “Sure did. Pretty little thing too. Came in here last night. She was looking for a Mexican fella.”
I walked back to Otis. “What did she look like?”
“Black shiny hair, lite skinned, but she had the blackest eyes I ever seen. Voice sounded like she ain’t talked in a century, all raspy and whispery like it was.”
“What did she say, exactly?”
“Asked if I seen any Mexicans around. She spat right on my floor when she said it to.” Otis wiped a sweaty sheen from his face with the end of his apron. “I sent her to Tillie’s. I warned her they might not let her in being an Injun an all. She spat again. That was the last I seen of her.”
I handed him another ten. “That’s forty I owe you.” I grabbed some jerky out of the barrel by the door.
“That’s forty-one countin’ the jerky.”
I should have shot him. My guts were twisted up as bad as my thoughts. I picked up Daisy Bell at the livery and headed out to Diamond Jim’s place. I had a bad feeling about this. This town isn’t near Indian country. So how come two show up on the same day. The pieces of the puzzle that I had possession of were starting to make a picture. Was Night Bird who was looking for the Mexican? I looked at my watch when Daisy Bell plodded by the last structure of Misery. If she’s here, and I’m beginning to think she is, she’ll be wanting her trinket back. According to Gunther and dead Jim, she can change her look and raise the dead. What if Two Crows and Night Bird are one and the same? “Don’t be a fool, Sam. Your daddy didn’t raise no fools.” Daisy Bell snorted as if in agreement.
But let’s say what if, and she, he, it, came looking for a Mexican. Now Mexicans are cheaper by dozen in these parts, but if that Mexican was Villalobos, that means she thinks Villalobos has the Yaqui Blood Star. Or had it anyway. Was he looking to double cross his boss and sell the Star to the highest bidder? Damn that’s a pocket full of maybes and coincidences. I wonder what Mendes is willing to pay. Maybe more than the one thousand dollars Jinx offered. And where does that leave the scary sisters. A wisp of smoke in the direction of Jim’s cabin caught my eye as I hit the top of the next rise.
By the time I dismounted Daisy Bell to circle around to the blind side of the cabin I had exhausted my extensive vocabulary of curse words. I was still holding a private debate on the wisdom of being here by my lonesome, when I moved around to crouch as quietly as possible next to a pile of wood just in reach of the cabin. Suddenly the air around me rang with an unearthly scream. It was soon followed by a string of barely intelligible Spanish.
“You should never talk about someone’s mother in that way, Villalobos,” a husky voice hummed.
The answering whimpers sounded like Villalobos was begging for his life, but then they all sound alike when they get excited. I crawled the last twenty feet to the cabin. There were gaps in the boards from years of sun and zero maintenance. Taking care not to lean against the weathered boards, I peered through one. Villalobos was staked to the dirt floor. The smell of burning flesh assailed my nose. I prepared to move to the window and try out my toy when a twig snapped behind me.
“You want to join us Sam Connor?”
Todays quote comes from Mark Twain
“The fear of death follows, the fear of life.
One who lives fully, is prepared to die at any time.”