A Border Redemption (Chapter I)

A Western Novelette

(Part 2 of The Border Trilogy)

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I. 

Northern Mexico,  10 miles from Presidio Texas, 1903

Grissom, Tick and The Boy sat under a huge red rock spiral at the mouth of a two hundred year old drainage basin. The sun had just gone down and darkness was slowly spreading over the desert. They had made a small fire where a pot of coffee brewed and as the night grew darker the crackling sparks rose into the night sky like hundreds of flaming arrows. “Well, regardless if a dream told you to go there or not kid, one thing is for damn certain, we sure as hell can’t go riding in there with the whole blooming outfit! Sixteen men, three wagons, one hundred and fifty head of cattle and  fifty head of fuckin’ stolen horses tends to draw people’s attention!” Grissom exclaimed, his face animated in the dim light. “Plus, how we gonna explain all the silver we got?” Tick interjected in his thick creole accent. The boy stared into the fire for a while, thinking, as if trying to divine an answer. “First, let me ask both of you something: Have my dreams and visions ever steered us wrong in the past?” The boy looked at both men earnestly. Tick and Grissom thought about that for a minute and looking at one another, both shook their heads no. “OK then,  From all I have heard, Presidio is sparsely a going concern. We won’t have any trouble getting the herd across there. The land office and bank is in Shafter, a few miles up the road. It was started when John Randolph found Silver near there over twenty some odd years ago. So us having large amounts of Silver in our saddlebags will not be seen as out of the ordinary. Me and Grissom will head to the land office tomorrow. Tick, you head back to the herd and get Rojo and the boys ready to travel. Once we have secured us some land and materials to start mining, Grissom will ride down to bring all you up here. We’ll bring the cattle and horses over in small groups after that, sound good?” The boy looked up at both men to see they understood. Tick nodded and said “Oui, Oui” in his broken Creole-French. “I only see one problem.” Grissom replied as he laid down on a blanket. “What’s that?” The boy asked, cocking an eyebrow. “When we get to that land office and the bank, they are gonna need a Christian name to put on the deed. ‘Boy’ will not suffice!” All the men laughed at the remark. “Got any ideals on what to call yourself?” asked Grissom smiling. The boy’s face went serious and he laid back on his blanket and looked up at the night sky. Memories of his murdered family flashed before him, and just like the vision of the great river he had seen a year before at the mining camp, the night sky turned into a panorama picture. The boy watched with wonder as the face of his mother holding his baby sister appeared in the stars. Then, suddenly, the outline of his father, armed with a bow, began to take shape beside them. Each star connected with the next in a beautiful symphony of light to form a constellation outline of his ancestors. The earth began to spin, the heavens above him getting further and further away, the sound of rushing waters surrounded him. The boy began to mumble in Apache.  “Remember your Creed, Remember your Creed…” The boy rolled from side to side, his eyes wide as if he were looking into a secret, invisible place. Grissom and Tick looked at each other with concern. Was the boy having a fit? Should they get him to a Doctor? “C’est une vision” Tick hoarsely whispered. “What the hell did you say Tick?” Grissom asked as he jumped to his feet, A look of fear coming across his face as his right hand hovered over his Colt. “The boy is having a vision, don’t touch him.” Tick calmly replied, stretching out his arms to make a protective barrier “This is sum’ spooky shit…I don’t like all this indian hocus pocus.” Grissom replied, taking a few more steps back from the boy. Tick ignored the cowboy and softly chanted the twenty-third Psalm “Si je marche dans la vallée de l’ombre de la mort, je ne craindrai aucun évitement.”  And as suddenly as the boy’s vision had begun, it stopped.

The boy lay motionless on the blanket. The silence of the night broken only by his ragged breathing and the crackling of the fire. He raised up from his blanket, a look of wonder and excitement on his face. “You alright there kid?” Grissom asked wearily, still keeping his distance. Tick handed the boy his canteen and he took a long drink and then looked up at both of them. “My name will be Creed.” the boy said flatly. A quizzical looks came across Grissom’s face. “Creed What? You gonna need a last name fer’ them bank papers and such…” Creed smiled at Tick, and Tick, in his strange French manner, smiled right back and laughed out loud. “You two sumabitches bout’ as crazy as a pinned up shit house rat, you know that!” Grissom exclaimed as he walked over to his saddle bag and retrieved a bottle of rye. “I have an ideal.” said Tick, still smiling. “Your last name can be ‘Le Voyant’, it means ‘The Seer’ or somebody who can see what the future holds. What do you think of that Creed? Fitting, no?” Creed looked up at Tick and both men had huge smiles on their faces. “That’s it! Creed Le Voyant is my new name!” Creed exclaimed. Creed jumped up like he had been snake bit and him and Tick hugged one another like long-lost brothers. “My new friend! Creed Le Voyant has been born!” Tick exclaimed, his voice echoing in the still night against the red rock walls. Creed and Tick began to both giggle hysterically as they danced a jig around the fire. Grissom meanwhile shook his head in confusion and sat down on a flat rock, away from the fire, and took a long pull from the bottle. “Well, I reckon if I die tomorrow I can say I have seen and heard it all. Five years ago I met a whore down in Durango with three nipples on her tits and now, I am about to go to Texas with a Creole who is half fuckin’ crazy and a sixteen year old apache brave with a french last name! I’ll be damned!!” Grissom exclaimed as he let out a hearty laugh and took another long drink from the bottle. Creed came over and grabbed Grissom up from his seat, and as the three men joined together and danced around the fire like savages from a by-gone era, their laughter and singing could be heard echoing off the canyon walls like a primal orchestra.

The next morning the group split up as planned. Tick rode south to the herd and Creed and Grissom crossed the Rio Grande into Texas. The town of Presidio was sparse and languid in its demeanor. Like so many of its residents, the town itself seemed to stand still in the dusty vacuum of time. Having been founded by bandits and scalp hunters after the Mexican War, it consisted of only a few dozen or so hearty souls trying to scratch a living out of the red caliche soil and a small contingent of soldiers to protect them. But travel twenty miles north to the silver boom town of Shafter, and it was a different story altogether. As Grissom and Creed slowly let their mounts amble down main street, the sure signs of prosperity were all around. Grissom counted three saloons, two hotels, a general store, a Gunsmith, a bank, a land office, a barber shop, and a woman’s clothing store where the latest fashions from Paris and Milan were displayed in the window.”My God this is a sight to see!” Grissom exclaimed. They stopped in front of a saloon with the appropriate name of “The Silver Palace” and hitched their mounts. As they prepared to walk into the saloon, two men, both wearing badges and both armed, one with a double-barreled scattergun, approached. The tallest of the two, with a greased black handlebar mustache and a Colt Peacemaker on his hip spoke up.”Howdy Gentleman. Names’ Marshall J.T. Prescott and this here is Deputy Knowles.”  Both Creed and Grissom stood silent and still as an awkward moment passed between the group. The lawman laughed. “Well, that was a helluva introduction wasn’t it Deputy!” The Deputy smiled and took two steps back, leveling the shotgun in Creed’s direction. The expression on the Marshall’s face changed. “I’m askin’ your names.” The Marshall’s voice was tense. “Bill Potterfield” Grissom said with a witty smile. The Marshall nodded at Grissom. “Mr. Potterfield, it’s a pleasure. And you kid, what’s your name?” The Marshall asked. “Creed Le Voyant” Creed replied, his face blank and self-assured. “Le Voyant? What kind of faggot name is that for a red nigger shitheel?” The Marshall smiled at his own remark, his nostrils flaring, and his eyes narrowing toward Creed. Creed returned the stare in spades, taking note not of the man’s face, but the muscles in his arms and hands, which he watched closely to see any hint of them flexing to grip the revolver on his hip. “French.” Creed replied. “French! Well My God boy, you are a faggot ain’t ya! So tell me, which way was it? Was it a Frenchman giving it to an Apache whore, or an Apache given’ it to a French whore?” The Marshall laughed heartily, looking to his deputy for reassurance. Grissom grabbed Creed’s arm from behind to keep it from drawing the pistol tucked in his waistband. “We have business in this town Marshall, so if you will excuse us.” Grissom pulled Creed away from the entrance of the saloon and toward the land office across the street. “Business, huh? Well I hope you can conclude it in a hurry Mr. Potterfield. Injun’s ain’t welcome in Shafter.” Creed never took his eyes off the Marshall as Grissom pulled him away. “Let it go kid.” Grissom said in a low-tone through gritted teeth. The Marshall watched as the two men crossed the street and went into the land office.”Deputy, go back to the office and start looking through the wanted posters and notices, see if any of them match our new visitors Mr. Potterfield and his french injun friend. Make sure to look for descriptions of injuns with scars on their faces to narrow it down.” Prescott said as he spit tobacco juice out into the dusty street, the red caliche dirt sucking up the moisture almost instantly.

——————————-

Two Says Later, Six Miles Northwest of Shafter

In the foothills of the Chinati mountains, with the sun filtering through a sparse patch of cedars, Creed and Grissom stood admiring their newly bought piece of land. “Well, kid how does it feel to own 100 acres?” Grissom asked smiling, slapping Creed on the back. “To be honest, it does not feel any different, except now I have less money.” Creed replied, looking at Grissom concerned. “Oh, don’t you worry kid, once we get a house built and some corrals, I promise you, it will look much different!” Creed smiled at the remark. Ever since Grissom had brought up the ideal of coming to Texas, Creed had dreamed of living a normal life. “We gotta put those outlaw ways behind us kid. And building this ranch is a big first step.” Grissom mounted his horse and turned a circle around Creed, pointing his horse South. “So I am gonna go down and get the boys like we talked about. And since we got the money, maybe try to find some carpenters and extra laborers to help us build this house quicker, sound good to you?” Grissom asked, squinting down at Creed.  “Also, Seein’ how that Sheriff is just lookin’ for a reason to lock you up or hang you, I think you should camp here and stay out-of-town until I get back. I shouldn’t be more than a couple of days” Grissom gave Creed that older brother look of sternness to emphasize the point. “Fine.” Creed answered flatly, still staring out at the land. “See ya’ when you get back.”

The dust from Grissom’s departure had not yet begun to settle when Creed mounted his horse and turned toward town. Call it adolescent stupidity or just stubborn pride, but he could not abide bullies, and he certainly could not abide any man wearing a bought tin star thinking he was better than him because the color of his skin. He rode around the back of the town, crossing by the white steeple Church of Christ on the hill and passing through the large stockyard and barn behind the Silver Palace saloon. He hitched his horse beside the set of jakes in the alley between the saloon and a chinese laundry. He then put on an old worn brown duster he kept in his saddlebag and pulled his hat down low over his ears. Maybe he could pass for just another dusty cowboy in this get-up. He ambled down the street, passing a barber shop, post office, undertaker and a big fine building with the words “Presidio Mining Company” on top. Walking past the General Store, Creed decided he better make use of this trip and buy some supplies to make camp with for the boys coming up from Mexcio. As he made his way into the store, he overheard a woman at the front counter arguing with the clerk. “Sir, the price you had marked in the front window for this dress was four dollars last Tuesday, now a week later, the price has doubled? I just don’t understand!” The woman was nice looking, around forty Creed guessed, but the situation had her all out of sorts. “Ma’am, my prices reflect supply and demand, that dress comes from Paris, France and is not cheap.” The clerk was a smug ass and knew he had the upper-hand in the argument.

As Creed moved around the back of the store to get a better vantage point on the situation, he saw another woman, this one much younger, tucked away in the corner, out of view. She looked to be around 17 and was beautiful a woman as Creed had ever laid eyes on. She was tall for her age, almost as tall as Creed. Her long hair was the color of sun-kissed hay in late summer, her face like delicate china porcelain. Her eyes were a pale green and sharp as a hawk. She held herself like a lady of proper high society, although her homemade dress and shoes suggested otherwise. Creed could not help but stare. He watched as she nestled up to the woman at the counter. “Mother, it’s OK, I don’t need the dress…” The young girl whispered. As the impatient clerk let out an exasperated gasp, taking the dress off the counter, Creed without hesitation, stepped up. “We will take the dress and also some shoes to go with it.” Creed laid two crisp twenty-dollar bills on the counter. The older woman spoke up. “Thank You kind sir, but we surely cannot accept charity from a stranger.” she smiled politely and taking her daughter’s hand, turned to leave the store. Creed took off his hat and stepped around in front of them. “No, please ma’am, this is not charity. It is a gift.” He quickly extended his hand. “And I am not a stranger, my name is Creed Le Voyant, what might yours be?” The older woman eyed Creed suspiciously, she had never seen an indian up close before. Her manners overrode her fear and she smiled back at Creed.”Nice to meet you Mr. Le Voyant. I am Sarah Patterson and this is my Daughter, Eve.” Mrs. Patterson smiled as she lightly shook Creed’s hand. Creed nervously smiled back. He had never felt so anxious in all his life. “Here is your dress and shoes, and your change.” The clerk said from behind the counter. Creed picked up his change and the wrapped package and placed it under his arm. “Please, allow me to carry this to your carriage Mrs. Patterson.” “Thank you Mr. Le Voyant.” Creed followed the ladies outside where a one horse carriage was parked. Creed placed the package in the seat and then helped the ladies step up. Creed saw the younger girl lean over and whisper something to her mother, smiling all the time and glancing back at Creed. Mrs. Patterson nodded her head smiling. She then turned to speak to Creed. “Mr. La Voyant, would you care to join us for dinner tonight around seven at our home? It is the least we could do to show you our gratitude.” Without even thinking about a response, Creed accepted. “I would be honored ma’am, whereabouts do you live?” Mrs. Patterson smiled and pointed east. “Follow the town road east for four miles, our place is on the left, you will see a sign marked Pattersons.”  Creed nodded. “Sounds good ma’am, see you at seven.” Mrs. Patterson put on a pair of leather gloves, took hold of the reigns and spoke to the horse. “Let’s go Annie-Mae” As the carriage rolled away Creed noticed Eve look over her shoulder at him and smile. My God, Creed thought to himself, have you ever seen something so damn beautiful in all your life!

——————————————

Randolph Estate, 10 miles west of Shafter

James Lewis patiently sat in the parlor waiting to see ‘Sir” John Randolph. He had been summoned at home an hour earlier by one of Randolph’s men stating his presence was “urgently required.” Despite having just come home after a hectic day of work and not yet having his dinner, James had accepted the fact many years ago, that everybody in this town, in one way or the other, was at John Randolph’s disposal. He gazed at the pictures that lined the red cedar walls of the parlor. One of them was of his father’s building in downtown Shafter taken over 20 years ago. James smiled at the memory the picture brought back. He had inherited his father’s dying real estate business upon his death. At that time, John Randolph was just another up and coming broke miner. Like so many miners during that time, he had come to Shafter with a mule, a pick axe, the clothes on their back and a dream. He still remembers the day Randolph came into his father’s office with a deed to a small tract of land  he had won in a lucky hand of poker the previous night. Six months later Randolph struck it big on that land, finding one of the largest silver deposits in the state of Texas. Now, twenty years later, Randolph owned the town of Shafter, and every thing and everyone in it, including Lewis Real Estate.

James’ stroll down memory lane was interrupted when the butler opened the parlor doors. “Mr. Randolph will see you now in his study, please follow me sir.” James followed the butler down the elaborately decorated hallway to the study. Opening the thick double-doors, a hazy, grey-blue cloud of cigar smoke escaped. “Mr. Lewis sir.” The butler announced. “Fine, send him in.” Randolph’s gruff voice responded from deep within the room. Once inside, James’ eyes had to adjust to the dim and smoky room. The place smelled of rich Cuban tobacco, french brandy and freshly polished oak. The study was enormous. Ten foot ceilings with solid oak bookcases lining three walls. Beautiful stuffed mounts of Dall Rams, Whitetail Deer, Red Stag and even a full body mount of a large Mountain Lion were placed throughout the room. A Huge picture window overlooked a large pond with elegant white swans floating on the water. Randolph sat in a massive leather lounger resembling a King’s throne, his slippered feet propped up on a foot-stool. “Fix yourself a drink Lewis and have a seat over here.” Randolph said pointing to a chair opposite his. As James poured himself a whiskey neat and made his way over to the chair, he noticed Randolph had a large revolver in his lap. Lewis’ heart skipped two beats and he felt the blood leave his face immediately. Lewis instinctively grabbed his stomach as his bowels attempted to evacuate. “You know anything about firearms Lewis?” Randolph asked. “No Sir, not a lot.” Lewis responded as he sat down slowly, praying he had not shit himself.”This is a Mark Four British Webley Revolver. It was used in Africa fighting the Boers last year. The cartridges are enormous, .455 caliber” Lewis watched with discomfort as Randolph picked up a cartridge from the red velvet display case and placed one in the chamber. “You know what a round like that could do to a man Mr. Lewis?” Randolph asked as he closed the gun and then placed it on the coffee table between the two men. Lewis shook his head no, still feeling like he was going to throw-up or shit himself at any second. Randolph smiled as he watched Lewis grow more uncomfortable. He then stubbed out his cigar, retrieved a fresh one from the humidor on the table beside him, and lit it. Once the room was once again filled with the thick blue-grey smoke, Randolph sat back in his chair, like a contented gargoyle in his lair, relishing the palpable fear he had put into James Lewis.

John Randolph came from Scots-Irish stock, his parents coming over during the famine of 1850. Not long after landing on Ellis island, Randolph’s father. hearing there would be cheap land and opportunity in Texas, booked passage to Galveston. John was born two years later, but his mother, weak from the long trip and the birth, did not survive. Life was hard for the two immigrants. John’s father found work doing odd jobs, but never anything steady. He made excuses to the boy for their low station in life, but John knew early on his father was nothing but a worthless drunk. When John was ten, his father was killed while cheating at a small stakes poker game. Penniless and Homeless, John was taken in by the local Catholic orphanage where he stayed until he was seventeen. He soon found work at a local meat-packing plant. The pay was meager but steady. At night, after work in the saloons, John started hearing about the opportunities for finding gold and silver out West. John worked for a solid year, saving up his money and in the summer of 1871 set out for West Texas to make his fortune. Going through the school of hard knocks as a miner, John soon learned mining was a combination of backbreaking work and luck. After nine years of meager finds, John was just about to give up on his mining dream when during a random game of poker one night, he won the deed to a small tract of land near Shafter, Texas and the rest, as they say, is history. “I hear you sold two hundred acres in the Chinati foothills to a couple of drifters the other day.” Randolph’s gaze centered in on Lewis. Lewis straightened up in his chair and cleared his throat before speaking. “Yes sir, Mr. Randolph. A young injun boy with a scar on his face and a white man. They paid in cash.” Randolph got up from his chair and walked over to the large window overlooking the pond.

For a man in his fifties, John Randolph was extremely fit. At just over six feet, he was powerfully built, weighing in at close to two hundred twenty pounds. His reddish blond hair was thinning on top, but he kept a finely manicured beard which gave him a very stately, wise appearance. “They tell you what they plan to do with the land? They gonna mine it?” Randolph asked roughly, still staring out at the pond. “No sir, they did not say anything.” Lewis replied. “Marshall Prescott tells me these two fit the description of being part of that comanchero gang that massacred Colonel Parker and his outfit in Mexico couple years back.” Randolph kept his gaze at the pond outside, but all the while watching Lewis through the reflection in the glass. “Colonel Parker was a business associate of yours if I recall correctly.” Lewis kept his eyes to the floor and calmly took a drink of whiskey. “Yes. Parker was extremely effective in dealing with the indian and bandit problem.” Randolph turned around to face Lewis. “If the boy and this man were in fact involved in that mess down there, after they are convicted and hung, that property will go back up for sale, correct?” Lewis swallowed hard. He could see where this was going. “Well sir, I would suppose so. That’s really a question for a judge to decide.” Suddenly Randolph’s anger that had been simmering just below the surface since the conversation began, spilled over into the room. “Dammit Lewis! Why in the hell did you go and sell THAT piece of land? You knew I had plans to purchase that entire fucking mountain! Hell, one of my biggest mines is only 5 miles away!” spittle flew from Randolph and landed on Lewis’ face. Lewis did not dare move to wipe it off. “Well sir, Yes, I knew you had plans, but I had been waiting for over a year for you to buy, and frankly, I needed the money.” Lewis shifted in his seat to try to gain some distance from the fuming Irishman. “Money! Hell, you need money, come to me! Don’t fucking sell the most valuable real estate in the area to two no-account shitheel outlaws!” Randolph took a drink of whiskey and spun back around to look out the window. Lewis searched for something else to say but the words escaped him. “No more land sales in the Chinati Foothils John, PERIOD. That area belongs to me, regardless if I have the deed or not, understood?” Randolph was still trying to calm down as he stared out the window. Taking his cue, Lewis stood up to leave. “Yes sir, I understand.”  Randolph waved his hand as if he was shooing away a fly and the butler opened the door to show Lewis out. On his way home, Lewis wondered to himself why Randolph was so damn interested in that certain piece of land? Could it be this indian boy, this “no-account outlaw” as Randolph called him, was smarter than he appeared? John Lewis intended to find out.

 

To Be Continued…

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