Double-Blind (Chapter II)

A Modern Crime Novelette

 

II.

 

45 Miles South-East of Nuevo Laredo – Off Highway 2

They kept following the road for a few more miles as the little bird made wide circles around them.”That helo pilot is a real hot dog isn’t he?” Luis asked. “Oh yeah, that’s Jolt, he’s a certified retard.” Logan replied nonchalantly. Eventually the road ended into a large embankment of orange and white construction barriers. Luis had to laugh at the home-made sign hanging down. It was a line from Dante’s Inferno:

“CAMP INFERNO: ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE”

As Luis got out of the vehicle he took stock of this “camp”which consisted of a few run down portable buildings, some honda generators, two huge above ground gas tanks and a water well. A make shift helipad had been constructed in the rear of the camp along with a shooting range and two-story shoot house. “Not much of a going concern.” Luis muttered under his breath. About that time Logan and the bearded lumberjack appeared, “Luis I would like you to meet Chris Bell, aka Tarzan.” Luis extended his hand and the lumberjack grabbed it and shook it as if he planned to rip it off and beat him with it. “Welcome to Camp Inferno! Logan tells me you are a Marine. Damn nice to finally have a devil dog on the team…” Luis smiled and thanked him. He was intrigued by both the name of the camp, which made sense because of the quote on the sign and the man’s accent. It wasn’t British or New Zealand, maybe Australian?  “Say where are you from?” Luis asked. Logan and Tarzan looked at each other and started laughing hysterically. “You owe my $20 bucks Logan.” Tarzan said smiling. Logan reached into his wallet and produced a twenty. “We made a bet on how long it would take you to ask where I’m from. Logan said 10 minutes, I said Immediately…” Tarzan smiled as he folded the money and placed it in his pocket. “We are gambling degenerates just so ya’ know.” Tarzan said as he smiled and looked at Logan. “Got some stuff to do in the office, introduce him around will you? And don’t fill his head full of too much bullshit, OK?” Tarzan nodded and as Logan began walking away he casually flipped him the middle finger. “I feel your disrespect.” Logan said walking away. Both men laughed. Tarzan gave Logan a serious look. “We get really bored around here sometimes…”

“Come on Marine, let’s go over to the lounge area and get out of this heat.” Luis nodded and followed Tarzan behind one of the portable buildings. There he had a huge beach canopy set up with very nice high-end patio furniture. “Have a seat. Something to drink? Tarzan opened a Yeti cooler beside him and got two ice-cold bottles of water. “Yes, thank you” Luis replied taking the water. “We don’t start drinking alcohol around here until 1830 just so ya know. Bosses orders.” Luis noticed two gunshot wounds on Tarzan’s right arm as he shut the cooler. “So yeah, I am from South Africa. Jo-Berg. Bred and spread. Retired from the Recces when I was thirty-seven after twenty years of crawling around in the fucking dirt. I was not retired a year when I decided I had not had my fill of people shooting at me in anger, so I got into the Contract Security game.” Tarzan laughed and shook his head. He was in his mid forties, but his face looked much older. He stood around six feet tall and one hundred ninety pounds. He had dark skin like a Greek with a huge black wiry beard that stretched at least six inches below his chin. He wore a filthy, sweat stained New York Yankees cap turned backwards and was dressed in a pair of British DPM BDU’s and a Brown army t-shirt with a chest rig in which he carried a Glock 17 in one of the AR Mag pouches. “The beard right? Everybody wants to know about it.” Tarzan said looking at Luis through his Ray-Ban’s. “Call it extreme fucking vanity” Tarzan replied with a smirk. Luis could tell this was a touchy subject, so he quickly apologized. “Sorry bro, did not mean to pry.” Tarzan smiled. “Hey no worries man. It was an accident while in the Recce’s. Me, my platoon leader and our EOD guy were ambushed near Mogadishu; our jeep took a RPG rocket up the ass and I was trapped underneath with it on fire. I got third degree burns on my face and back before they eventually cut me out of there. I was the only one to survive.” “Jesus brother, I am sorry!” Luis replied with empathy. “Yeah it sucked. Spent six months in a burn unit in Jo-berg. The only upside was the ice cream and the nurses. They would give you banana splits and sympathy blow jobs…really nice perk.” Tarzan smiled broadly and laughed. “So what’s up with the chopper pilot, Jolt is it?” Luis asked.. “Oh yeah, where is that fuck-tard?” Tarzan replied, looking around in the sky. About that time the little bird made a fast low pass over the camp, imitating a strafing run. Tarzan un-clipped a Motorola push to talk from his chest rig as he got up and walked out from underneath the canopy. “Hey Jolt, when you gonna stop wasting gas and come and say hello to our newest team member?” About that time the helo made a wide circle and flared up in front of them, the rotor wash sending anything not nailed down flying into the air. Tarzan yelled into the radio. “Dammit Jolt! Land that fucker!” Luis could see the pilot smiling through the cockpit glass. After a few more minutes of hot-dogging, the pilot finally relented and landed.

After a few minutes Jolt came wandering over. He was short and squat, around five foot six and a hundred and sixty pounds. He had dirty blond hair cut high and tight and was wearing a pair of classic aviators. His OD green flight suit was “sterilized” with no name tags or unit ID patches of any sort. “So how goes it ladies?” Jolt said as he walked over to the cooler and grabbed a water. “Luis this is Steven Percy, aka Jolt, our resident helo pilot and town retard.” Jolt smiled at the jive as he walked over and shook hands with Luis. “Nice to meet you Luis.” Jolt then collapsed in one of the chairs. “Man this heat is something else!” He took a long drink of water. “What the hell was all that hot dogging for Jolt?” Tarzan asked. “Logan wanted me to practice some maneuvers and strafing runs. I think he has a job coming up.” Jolt replied as he leaned his head back in the chair, exhausted.”So Steven, why do they call you Jolt?” Luis asked, leaning forward in his chair. Both men burst out laughing. “You owe me $20 you cheeky bastard!” Tarzan exclaimed looking at Jolt with tears in his eyes from laughing. “I told you Luis, we bet on everything around here!” Tarzan replied. Luis began shaking his head, remembering the exchange they had an hour or so earlier. Steven got up from his chair and slapped Luis on the back. “It’s the cola bro, Jolt Cola. I’m addicted to it and have it flown in sometimes special if I cannot find it at the local shops.”About that time Logan’s voice came over a bullhorn. “Attention! All Personnel report to the Conference hut ASAP.” Tarzan gave Luis and Jolt a strange look. “Conference Hut? Since when are the fucking trailers referred to as Huts? What are we back in 1942 at Bletchley Park?”All three men gave a chuckle and started making their way over to the “hut”. Walking inside, the three men were met with a blast of cold arctic air. “Come on in guys, we got a lot to go over.” Logan said excitedly, closing the door behind them. The inside of the trailer was decorated like an upscale executives office. A half-moon shaped polished oak table with padded chairs took up most of the space while a Sony seventy-inch 4K TV on the wall took up the rest. As the three men sat down, Logan began passing around red binders with he word SETBACK printed on front. “This is Operation Setback Gentleman.” Once the binders were passed out Logan took a seat at the end of the table and using a wireless keyboard began punching in commands. “As you will see on the screen here is the expected route of the convoy…”

For the next two hours Logan laid out the plan to rob the CJNG ‘s (Jalisco New Generation Cartel) four ton cocaine shipment. After an extensive Q and A session, Logan directed his attention to Luis. “So I know this is your first gig like this and you got questions about what it is we exactly DO here Luis, so this is your chance to ask them now versus finding out as you go along…” Logan paused and waited to see Luis’ reaction. Surprisingly, Luis did not hesitate. “OK,  so who are we working for? the CIA?” There was a long pause and immediately Luis felt stupid for asking such a blunt question. He glanced at the other men nervously. “No, it’s the usual deal of contract deniability. Officially, on paper, we are Private Security for Optimo Trading Inc.” Logan replied. “So what up with the Op? Why are we messing around with drug shipments, isn’t that stuff for DEA or Border Patrol?” There was a murmur in the room and again Luis felt like an ass. Logan paused for the ruckus to die down before answering. “Think of it like this: We are in the drug recycling business.” A funny look came across Luis’ face. “Recycling? Are you telling me we are ripping off drug shipments so the CIA can sell or trade it?” Logan laughed at the look on Luis’ face. The rest of the room was silent. “Don’t act so surprised man, Uncle Sam has been doing this kind of shit forever. Remember Iran-Contra?” Logan exclaimed “Are you telling me the CIA is having us rip-off four tons of coke so they can sell it on the black market?” Luis asked, his mouth agape. “Yeah.” Logan replied flatly, still looking at him seriously. “For what reason?” Luis asked, his eyes wide. “So the United States can prevent ISIS from spreading across the globe of course.” Logan replied, leaning back in his chair smiling.

Luis’ heart rate was elevated and sweat had begun to form on his forehead despite the air conditioner blowing full blast. He could not believe what he was hearing. “I did not think this kind of illegal shit still went on!” Luis exclaimed, looking around the room. The room, in turn, erupted in laughter. Logan was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. After a few minutes Logan raised his hand for quiet. “OK, guys, let’s cut him a break, we all had our cherries popped at one point too…” Slowly the laughter died down and Logan looked at Luis. “You gotta look at it this way man. We are killing two birds with one stone. On one hand we are helping stop the flow of illegal narcotics across the border and on the other we are helping to kill terrorist.” Luis shook his head as if he was trying to keep some kind of bad thought from taking root in his brain. “But where do the drugs go once we steal them? Who does the CIA sell them too and what do they get in return? Money, Guns, Both?” Logan smiled at the question and knew there was no easy way to put it. “I’m a contractor just like you bro, but what I am told is the Agency has contacts all over the World. The drugs are often traded for weapons and sometimes converted into other forms of currency.” Logan looked around the room. The rest of the guys looked bored. “So what you are saying is the drugs end up being circulated in other parts of the world, just no the U.S.?” Luis asked, still amazed. “Yeah I guess so.” Logan replied. Luis had to take a breath. All of this was just too much. After a few moments Tarzan spoke up. “Look, Luis, I can tell this is a big shock to you man, but you gotta realize this is the way the world works. Governments do illegal, crazy shit all the time. Most of the time it for a good cause, sometimes, it is for personal gain. Either way, we are just cogs in a machine man; small parts of a massive endeavor. Now you can sit here having a personal moral crisis or you can get your shit together and act like a soldier. Besides man, you are getting paid a Shit Ton of money for this job, so what’s it gonna be bro?”  Luis felt the eyes of the rest of the team on him. His heart was still racing like a rabbit and he could feel sweat popping out of the pores on his back. “Yeah. I hear you Tarzan. Let’s go to work!” Luis replied and the room erupted into cheers. “That’s the spirit Devil Dog!” Jolt yelled, getting up and slapping Luis on the back. Luis looked up to see Logan smiling across the table. giving him a thumbs up.  After a few minutes, Logan stood up and addressed the room.  “OK guys, so let’s develop a training schedule for today starting with a mock-up dry run of the ambush…”

**************************

D.E.A. Safehouse, Nuevo-Laredo

Captain Reyes awoke with his hands and feet zip-tied to a hardback chair. It was pitch black but he could tell he was naked. A slight breeze from above him made him keenly aware he had no pants on. “Shit! I thought I was dead” he thought to himself quietly. Unlike most people in a situation like this, he wished for death instead of having to endure the torture he knew was coming from these cartel barbarians. But how did they get to him? His last memories were being with Jasmine in her house. It was like remembering a foggy dream but he had seen her standing there by the bed with a, what was that? a syringe? Why a syringe? Had that bitch betrayed him to the cartel! He had her vetted and followed for a month after they met, how was this possible? He shook his head slowly. “Done in by a traitorous, double-crossing woman, that is so fucking cliché Reyes!” He began to laugh and then sob. It was all so fucking pitiful. He was ready to ask these bastards just to shoot him now and end it. “What a fucking idiot I am!” He said to himself in Spanish. His grandiose session of self-pity was suddenly broken up by the sound of a heavy metal door opening and light spilling into the darkness of the dungeon like room. Reyes squinted at the bright light shining out of the next room. He could make out the profile of two people standing in the light but he could not see their faces. Wait! Maybe he was already dead and these people or beings had come to take him to the other side? Yes! That was definitely a possibility. Suddenly he worried what the other side would be: heaven or hell? He hadn’t exactly led a virtuous life. Suddenly all of his senses were shocked as ice-cold water was thrown on him. He tried to catch his breath in several gasps, but failed. “Captain Reyes! Captain Reyes! Can you hear me?” It felt as if he was surrounded by a group of people. Why? Wait! The man’s voice was in English, not Spanish! Were these people not the cartel? He kept hearing a strange mumbling, like a drunk man speaking in riddles, until finally he realized it was his own voice. “Captain Reyes! Can you hear me? Get a Doctor in here! I think he’s going into shock!” the voice said. He tried to open his eyes to see these people’s faces but he couldn’t, a warm black blanket, like the one he felt after he got stung in the neck ,was wrapping around him again. He tried to fight it, but it was so warm and cozy. Suddenly he felt a pinch in his arm and just like that his eyes opened and the bright room he was in came into view. It looked like a hospital room? He was surrounded by several people he did not know. White people, all with looks of concern on their faces. “Captain Reyes! Thank God! We thought we had lost you!” The voice that had been talking to him this entire time finally came into view. It was a white man in his thirties. He had sandy brown hair and blue eyes. “Captain Reyes, I am Special Agent Kessler of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Welcome Back! We have a lot to talk about!”

 

To Be Continued….

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Double-Blind (Chapter I)

A Modern Crime Novelette

 

 

I.

15 miles south of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico – Present Day

Logan Chandler sat in the back seat of a glossy black Cadillac Escalade parked on the shoulder of Highway 1. He was watching the wind whip up miniature dust devils in the dry flats on both sides of the highway. The scene took him back to his childhood growing up in rural West Texas. Him and his younger brother would sit on the back porch waiting for one to appear so they could go chase it.”The wind is a real bitch today.” Luis the new driver commented, snapping Logan out of his daydream. Logan looked up but did not say anything to the kid. He found people who felt the need to fill quiet, serene moments with useless chatter annoying as hell. Luis was the newest member of the crew, coming on-board after their old driver, Mike T, had taken a gig in London guarding some rich asshole who had made his fortune in plastics. Luis had done a dime in the Army Rangers with two tours in A-stan, so he wasn’t completely green behind the ears. As Logan began to find interest again in the dust devils, two white trucks pierced the heat waves up on the horizon. As they passed Logan could see The Policia Federal Star emblazoned on the truck door and an officer in full ballistic gear manning a M-240 belt-fed Machine Gun standing up in the bed. The trucks made a wide u-Turn, both of them turning on their overhead lights with one parking in front and another behind the Escalade. Luis shifted nervously in his seat and began to fidget.”Take it easy kid, this is all for show.” Logan said flatly, a hint of aggravation in his voice. After a few minutes, an older, fat hispanic man got out of the passenger side of the truck parked in the rear and slowly walked up. After peering inside the window, he opened the door and poked his head inside, letting the over-heated air and stirred up dust flood the cab. “Gentleman, how are we today?” The Mexican policeman asked in perfect English, smiling broadly. Logan invited him inside to sir down. It took a moment for the man to maneuver his wide ass into the seat. While this was happening, Logan had to smile at his appearance. He resembled the stereo-typical fat mexican cop in a bad 80’s action movie. He was wearing a pair of Gold Oakley shades too small for his bloated face, with a crew cut of thinning salt and pepper hair. His shirt was unbuttoned to mid-chest exposing two large gold chains tangled in a mass of curly black and grey chest hair. Noticing the twin silver bars on his lapel, had to stifle a giggle as he responded “Fine Captain, and you?”  “Me? I am always good Mr. Chandler, always good!” The cop continued to smile revealing, not surprisingly, two gold teeth. After a few moments of silence, Logan sensed the cop was waiting on Logan to do something, so he casually reached under the seat and grabbed an overstuffed envelope of cash and handed it to him. The cops eyes lit up like a child in a candy store and he quickly started counting. After ensuring all of the Fifty-thousand dollars was there, the cop took the money out of the envelope, rolled it up with a rubber band and stuck it in his pocket. He then reached into his shirt and unfolded a small piece of paper. “The convoy from Culiacan will be here tomorrow night. We do not have a concrete time, but typically these things happen around midnight, sometimes a couple of hours later. Their Destination is a warehouse on the north side of town where they offload and prep for transport across the border. The semi-truck will be escorted by three to four smaller trucks. Expect between 12 and 16 armed men with automatic weapons and grenades. The estimated Load is four tons.” Reyes handed Logan the Map. Logan removed his sunglasses and quickly studied it, nodding his head with approval. “Are we clear on how you are to report this terrible crime?” Logan asked smiling. Reyes smiled back. “Of course. Two rival cartel’s fighting for control of the lucrative smuggling routes, nothing more…” Reyes replied waving his hand as if he was a magician willing the story into being. “We still on for next month?” Logan asked. Reyes smiled.”God Willing Mr. Chandler, God Willing.” As Reyes opened the door another blast of hot wind breached the cab. Logan and Luis watched Reyes walk back to his truck. “I will wager five thousand dollars right now that this time next month we will be meeting a different Police Captain.” Logan said as he placed the map in a small black portfolio on the seat. After the two trucks rolled by, Luis made a U-turn in the road and headed into town. “Why is that? Because you have to pay off more than one cop?” Luis asked innocently, looking at Logan in the rear-view mirror. Logan shook his head at the rookie’s inexperience. “No, because despite all of our precautions, the Cartel will eventually discover the leak and plug it.” Logan replied flatly. Logan caught a glimpse of two more dust devils dancing out in the flats like carefree children and again drifted away into his memories.

Fifteen minutes later they pulled into the driveway of  2713 Rose Vine, a modest two-story affair on the north-eastern side of town. The entire neighborhood had been built-in the nineties in response to the housing crisis for middle and upper management executives of the big three auto-makers. Of course the Big three had all but gone away in Mexico, but the houses still stood. The Company that owned this particular house (and the three across the street as well) was listed as “OPTIMO TRADING INC.” On paper, they were a consortium of construction firms in Mexico and Central America. Of course if one looked deeper they would find that Optimo was what folks in the agency called a “Paper Tiger” ie, a “Ghost Firm”, a “Shell Company.” One of hundreds the CIA had put into place beginning in the fifties to battle the rising surge of Communism in the Southern hemisphere. Logan and Luis walked to the front door and looked up into the small black bubble that was a CCTV camera. An electronic buzzing could be heard and Logan turned the door knob and walked inside. For all the landscaping and formal appearance of the house on the outside, inside, it was vacant and sparsely furnished. The only real furniture was in the dining room where a conference table, several chairs, a  large 60 inch flat screen TV and a whiteboard sat. As Luis was walking to the kitchen he noticed activity in one of the downstairs bedrooms that served as the Security room. Two geeky IT guys were arguing while sitting in front of a bank of CCTV monitors. When one of them saw Luis, he quickly slammed the door. As Luis and Logan walked into the kitchen to get a beer, they were met by the agency honcho, James L. McRay, known affectionately by those that worked under him as “Mr. Skeeter”. McRay was 53 years old and a dyed in the wool Company man. He had begun his career in 1981 and made a name for himself during the Iran-Contra affair, being one of the few agents that escaped with his name and job intact. Built solid and low to the ground like a tank, the last five years of desk jockeying had betrayed his athletic build, creating a slight paunch. Combined with his thinning grey hair and glasses, on the street one might assume he was nothing but an old, out of shape accountant. But Logan was not fooled. McRay was nothing short of a stone cold killer. It was said that during his “Counter-Interrogation”  training on the farm, which taught agents how to withstand and if possible, escape interrogation, McRay had killed one if his mock interrogators by stabbing him in the neck with a pencil. He claimed he did not know it was a mock training scenario. “So how was the good Captain Reyes?” Skeeter asked, sitting down at the kitchen table and opening a bottle of Budweiser. “Good. No surprises. He offered a map this time, which I thought was a nice trade for $50 Thousand Dollars.” Logan replied smiling, taking a sip of beer and sliding the map across the table. Skeeter laughed as he unfolded it. “And you were clear on how he was to report the hijacking?” Skeeter asked, looking at Logan over his glasses. “Yes. Two rival cartel factions vying for control of the lucrative smuggling routes…blah, blah, blah.” Skeeter nodded his head and sat down the map. “So are we all set for tomorrow night then?” Skeeter looked at Logan then Luis. “Oh Yeah we are ready.” Logan replied, leaning back in his chair drinking his beer. Skeeter nodded and shifted his gaze to Louis. “What about you? Logan tells me you have combat experience but have never did any kind of work like this?”  “No Sir, but I am a fast learner.” Luis replied with a nervous smile. Skeeter got up from the table, tossing the empty bottle of beer in the garbage and then looking at Logan.”You better run him through some live fire drills tomorrow with the rest of the team.” Skeeter walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs to his office. “Damn kid, you need to work on your confidence.” Logan replied, finishing off the beer. Luis nodded his head, embarrassed. “I am sorry man…” Logan interrupted him. “Don’t worry about it. Get your driver hat back on and let’s go meet the rest of the Hole-in-the-wall Gang.”

They drove east out-of-town for around thirty minutes before coming to a small dirt road with no markers. “Stop here for a minute.” Logan said.  It was a cloudless day, with the temperature hovering around a hundred degrees. Heat waves danced on the highway and a blistering wind out of the south rocked the vehicle. “Before we go any further, I am gonna need your phone.” Luis nodded and handed it over. Logan promptly removed the battery and slipped it into a silver mylar bag with his. “You would be surprised at how high-tech the Cartels have become.” Logan said as he placed the bag in the center console. As they continued to drice in silence, Luis studied Logan out of the corner of his eye. He was a big guy, around six-four and two hundred and thirty pounds. He had light brown hair that was cropped close on the sides. He always wore a pair of Oakley Turbines and a sweat stained and ragged Multi-Cam ball cap with a subdued Texas Flag Patch. “You are going to come to a metal gate up at the top of this hill. Stop and I will call them to come meet us.” Luis nodded at the instruction. As they approached the fence and gate, Luis could tell right away it was of Military construction. Five minutes after Logan got off the phone with somebody called ‘Tarzan’, the unmistakable hum and chop of a helicopter could be heard on the horizon. When the helo finally landed on the other side of the gate, Luis had to do a serious double-take. It was a fully armed MH-6  little bird, aka “The Killer Egg.” The helo bristled with twin GAU-19 .50 Cal Gatling Guns and 2.75 inch Hydra rocket pods. The crew had also went the extra mile and painted a red and white shark mouth over the entire nose. As if that was not enough, a burly lumberjack looking guy with a full black beard down to his chest got out of the passenger side of the helo and unlocked the gate. Logan jumped out of the SUV and they both shook hands and embraced. After a few minutes of conversation, Logan came back to the vehicle. “Just follow them up to the camp house.” Logan said placing a pinch of Copenhagen in his lip. “What’s up with the helo?” Luis asked. “Oh, just a little added security. You gotta remember, we are playing in the cartel’s backyard here.” Logan replied smiling. “One of the many perks when you do contract work for the agency, right?” Luis asked. “Agency? What agency are you referring to Luis, the Employment agency?” Logan replied, taking off his sunglasses and giving him a wink. Luis smiled. “Yeah, that’s the one I mean.”

**************

Captain Jorge Reyes was looking forward to a wild night with his twenty-three year old mistress,”Jasmine”. Of course that was not her real name, it was a “stage” name, but he like to call her that. Thursdays were always reserved for the mistresses, while the weekends were for the wives, in Reyes’ case, his third wife, Gabriella. Both women were half his age, but he stopped worrying about appearances long ago. The security team escorted him to the townhouse and took up positions around the block as he walked up to the front door and rang the bell. Jasmine answered the door in a Japanese kimono that was untied. “I was wondering when you were going to show up papi…” she purred. Reyes smiled and kissed her, smelling the cigarette smoke and tequilla on her breath. He then motioned for the security team to go in and clear the house. After a few minutes, the team leader gave the all clear to Reyes. He nodded, closed and locked the door and then followed Jasmine into the house and up the stairs to her bedroom, both of them shedding clothes as they went. Once they reached the bedroom, Jasmine led him over to the bed, laying him down flat on his back. At first she teased him by running her long nails over his hairy chest and stomach, scratching as she went. After a few moments, Reyes’ lust boiled over and he impatiently tried to take control, but she smiled and shook  her head, placing him back down on the bed. “Close your eyes and relax…” Reyes relented and closed his eyes, letting Jasmine play her little games. “You really are driving me crazy my love…” he said. After a few minutes, he felt her hands stop exploring and then suddenly, something stung him in the side of his neck. “Son of a bitch” were the only words he got out and then everything slowed down to half-speed. As he put his hand up to his neck to see what stung him, he suddenly felt dizzy. He tried to get up off the bed, but his legs would not respond. The last thing he saw before a warm blanket of black washed over him was Jasmine standing there naked by the bed with a syringe in one hand and a cell phone in the other. “Yeah, it’s done, come get this fat piece of shit out of my house.”

To Be Continued…

A Border Redemption (Chapter IV)

A Western Novelette

Part 2 of the Border Trilogy

Chapter IV

 

La Voyant Ranch

Creed was dreaming he was soaring above the earth like the great eagle. The world entire lay below him like a painting that was alive and breathing. Colors were vibrant and the world was pulsating with the very rhythm of existence. Time moved around him in a blur and when he looked below he recognized his own ranch. Creed could see horses, cattle, he even saw Grissom mending a fence. “Look deeper” the voice said. Suddenly Creeds vision became different. He could see underneath the ground, into the dark nether places, deep within the earth. Below the ranch flowed a black river. It was as wide as the Rio Grande and swift as the Colorado. “What is this?” Creed asked. There was no response. The last thing Creed saw before waking up was the great black river flowing under the ground for thousands of miles, circling the earth many times over. As Creed awoke from the dream, he raised up out of bed and walked to the door of the bunk house. He walked out into the cool, pre-dawn morning. The sky was still dark but on the horizon that beautiful assortment of purple and red ribbons of color was beginning to bleed through the curtain of night. He went over and sat down. “What did I just see?” He asked himself. An hour passed and soon Grissom was up making coffee. “How long you been sittin’ out here by yourself?” Grissom asked, slightly perturbed. “For a while.” Creed answered. “Not smart Creed. You know we got people wanting us dead, right?” Grissom shook his head at Creed as he went inside to fetch the coffee pot. As Grissom poured two thick black cups of coffee, the image of the underground black river went through Creed’s mind again. “Say you ever seen a black river that runs underground?” Creed asked. Grissom smiled at the question. “You serious? A black river?” Creed shot Grissom a serious glance. “There is a black river running underneath our feet right now.” Grissom smirked at the remark. “What in the hell are you talking about Creed? You been sipping on Tick’s laudanum or something?” Grissom smirked. “No, I dreamed it about two hours ago.” Creed replied, still looking at Grissom seriously.  The smirk immediately disappeared from Grissom’s face. Grissom had known Creed long enough to know that his dreams were nothing to take lightly. Grissom pondered the question for a moment. Suddenly, as if snake bit, he jumped up from the table. “If this is what I think it is, we should be able to find some evidence around here somewhere. C’mon!” Creed smiled as he recognized the fire in Grissom’s belly. He jumped up and followed Grissom out the door. As they threw their saddles on their horses, Creed hollered “Where are we going?” Grissom smiled widely. “When we find what I think we are going to find all your questions will be answered kid, I promise!”

Marshall Knowles Office

Marshall Knowles was deep in reflective thought when Sarah and Eve Patterson stormed into his office. “Marshall, we need to talk!” Knowles had known Sarah Patterson long enough to know by her tone she was not in a good mood. “What’s going on Sarah?” was all Knowles could get out before Sarah verbally unloaded on him. “We just came from the widow Prescott’s house and you will not believe the rumors she has been hearing about how her husband died!” Knowles blood ran cold and his bowels suddenly felt loose. “What rumors?” Knowles replied sheepishly. “Rumors that John Randolph either killed J.T. or had him killed and then blamed it on those renegade apaches, you know anything about that?” Sarah stared at Knowles, waiting on an answer. Knowles’ mind raced and his heart pounded. Marshall Prescott may have been cut out for this corrupt business, but he sure wasn’t. He had known most of the families in Shafter all his life. How could he look them in the eye and lie to them? As Knowles searched for the right words, tears formed in his eyes. “Oh God, you do know something.” Sarah gasped, holding her had up to her mouth in disbelief. Eve stood up. “Marshall Knowles did John Randolph have Marshall Prescott killed? We demand to know!” Knowles looked up at Eve, his eyes red and swollen. “Please sit down Eve and keep your voice down.” Knowles whispered in a hushed tone. “What we are discussing could get us all killed.” Knowles got up and pulled the shade down on the large window facing the street and locked the door. “What I am about to tell you has to stay strictly between us for now, is that understood?” Both Sarah and Eve shook their heads that they understood. “Yes, Randolph did Kill Marshall Prescott and blame it on the renegade indians. But that is only half the story. The reason he killed him is because he failed to kill all of Creed’s outfit in the ambush at Preacher’s Gulch. Now there are two witnesses who can testify to attempted murder.” Sarah and Eve’s mouth dropped open and their eyes became big as saucers.

“But why? Why would Randolph want Creed and his outfit dead?” Eve asked. “It has something to do with that land Creed bought, from what I understand John Lewis was supposed to hold that Land for Mr. Randolph to buy but instead sold it to Creed.” Knowles replied, blowing his nose on a handkerchief. “Have you talked to John Lewis about this to find out about the land?” Sarah asked. “Can’t find him. He most likely left town when all this kicked off, and I cannot blame him. Randolph does not tolerate people who make mistakes.” Knowles gave Sarah and Eve a look of disgust. “You said Randolph failed to kill all of Creed’s outfit, who are the two witnesses?” Eve asked. “His mexican foreman, Rojo and a creole negro called Tick.” Knowles replied. “There’s more bad news.” Knowles continued. “Randolph has hired a group of killers led by a man named R.T. Newton to kill Creed and the other men. They arrived in town the other day.” Sarah took a deep breath and shook her head in disbelief as Eve reached over and squeezed her hand.”So I guess the question is what do you intend to do about all this Marshall?” Eve asked. Knowles stood up, adjusted his gun belt and hat. “I intend to stop John Randolph.” Eve looked at her mother for a long moment, nodded and then looked up at Knowles. “Well since I am guessing there is nobody crazy enough to join you in standing up to his ‘highness’ John Randolph, you can count us both in to help you.” Knowles smiled at the gesture. “Thanks Eve, but I don’t want anymore innocent people getting hurt.” “What? You think because we are both women we cannot shoot a gun? We both got trigger fingers Marshall!” Eve’s eyes flashed with anger. “Whoa! I am not gonna step into that argument! OK Eve, you and your mom can help. But First things first. We get out to Creed’s ranch and warn him about what’s going on.” Eve and Sarah both jumped up and prepared to leave as Knowles went over to the gun rack and got three carbines and a shotgun. Handing two of the carbines to Eve and Sarah he then reached under his desk and grabbed a large saddle bag full of ammunition and revolvers. “I see you have been preparing for this.” Eve asked Knowles as they walked out the door. “Been thinking about nothing else all day.” Knowles replied.

Randolph Estate

“I have had a man watching that ranch since yesterday. He says this indian boy, the mexican, the nigger and another white man are all holed up in the bunk house. You give the order and we can take care of all of them.” R.T. Newton spat tobacco juice into one of Randolph’s manicured flowerbeds. Randolph grimaced at Newton’s coarse manners. “Any sign of the land man, John Lewis?” Randolph asked. “No sir. No sign at all. His office and house are empty and nobody in town knows where he is at.” “Son-of-a-bitch!” Randolph spat in frustration. After pacing a few more times around the patio Randolph spun around to face Newton. “To make this look legal and not to draw too much attention from town, you are gonna need Marshall Knowles to accompany you out there, that way when the shooting starts you have the law on your side.” Newton laughed loudly at the remark. “Funny how the law works isn’t it Randolph? Law and Order always going to the highest bidder.” Randolph dismissed the remark with a smirk. “Stop by his office on the way out there, he will be expecting you.” Randolph walked over to the patio table and opened a satchel. Reaching inside he took out a large stack of banded hundred-dollar bills. “Here is the five thousand I promised. When this is all over, ride straight out-of-town. Do not come back out here, understood?” Newton shook his head. “Pleasure doing business with you Mr. Randolph.” As Newton tipped his hat, Randolph smirked and waved is hand, as if he were a king dismissing a lowly subject.

La Voyant Ranch

After riding only a few hundred yards from the bunk house, Grissom and Creed found what they were looking for. Creed watched in amazement as Grissom wrapped a handkerchief around a stick, dipped it into the black puddle of thick goo on the ground and then lit the torch with two matches. As the flame began to burn brightly, Grissom smiled. “That my apache friend is Oil! Liquid Gold!” Creed’s eyes got wide. He had heard about oil being found in Texas. Just two years prior at a place called Spindletop near Beaumont, a huge gusher had been discovered. “A Black River underground! I’ll be damned!” Creed exclaimed smiling. Grissom threw down the small torch and stomped it out. “You do realize this explains why Randolph was trying to have us all killed, right?” Grissom squinted up at Creed on horseback. “Yeah, there is damn fortune right underneath our feet.” Creed replied. Suddenly Grissom’s ear perked up. “Riders…Coming this way.” Grissom jumped back on his horse and him and Creed raced back to the bunk house. By the time they had dismounted and took up positions with their rifles, Knowles, Sarah and Eve could be seen riding up. “I don’t like this kid. Could be a trick.” Grissom remarked, aiming down the rifle. “Steady Grissom, let’ see what is on their minds…” Creed replied. Knowles stopped twenty yards from the bunk house and waved a white handkerchief. “We come in peace. We all just want to talk.” Knowles yelled out. “That fine Marshall, but just to be safe, how about you surrender all your guns.” Grissom responded. Knowles nodded and offered the small arsenal he and Sarah were carrying. Grissom’s eyes widened at the amount of firepower. “My God Knowles, what were you expecting? The Battle of the Alamo?” Grissom remarked as he picked up some of the guns and started carrying them inside. “Let’s all go inside out of the heat.” Creed said, helping Sarah and Eve down from their buggy. As Creed opened the door, Eve gave him a smile. Creed smiled back and felt himself blush. After everybody was seated, Rojo sat up in bed across the room to hear the conversation also. Grissom retrieved a bottle of rye from the cabinet and six glasses. and poured everybody a drink. Knowles talked for over twenty minutes explaining everything he had told Sarah and Eve about Randolph, Marshall Prescott and R.T. Newton. As he talked, Grissom and Creed just looked at one another shaking their heads. “What is it?” Knowles asked excitedly. Creed proceeded to fill in the blanks concerning the oil they had discovered and how John Lewis was on his way to Austin with a ledger containing evidence that, when combined with the testimony of Tick and Rojo, could put Randolph in prison for a very long time.

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Five hundred yards away from the bunk house on a small ridge, Taylor, Newton’s sharpshooter, was camped out watching the ranch through a pair of binoculars. He watched a negro water, feed and then curry comb the horses that had just rode in. Taylor heard riders approaching from behind and as he drew his pistol he saw Newton’s familiar black stud, followed by the others. “Please tell me a wagon with two women in it and Marshall Knowles arrived a short while ago.” Newton said as he dismounted. “You got it boss, how did you know?”  Taylor asked, arching an eyebrow. “The tracks are as plain as day coming from town. What else is going on down there?” Newton replied, spitting tobacco juice. “Not much. The negro is up and around. He is down there taking care of the horses right now, the rest are in the bunk house.” Taylor replied, handing the binoculars to Newton. As Newton watched Tick, a smile formed over his yellow teeth. “You think you can take him from this distance?” Newton asked. “Not a problem boss. What about the others?” Taylor replied. “Me and the boys will stage up in that stand of trees yonder.” Newton pointed below. “As soon as we hear you shoot, we attack. Your job will then be to cover us. Anybody steps out of that bunk house, put a hole through them, understood?”Newton replied, mounting his horse. “What about the lawman and the two women?” Taylor asked concerned. Newton paused looking down at the bunk house for a long second. “Casualties of War.” Newton replied coldly. Taylor stood looking dumbfounded as Newton and the other two men rode down into the trees, the dust from the horses swirling up around him.

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Tick had just finished forking some hay for the horses and was about to go up to the bunk house for a drink when something hit him in the stomach, almost like a hornet sting. Reaching down to investigate, his hand immediately filled with dark oozing blood. As his brain was registering that he had just been shot and not stung, Tick looked up to see three riders, several hundred yards out, firing carbines and pistols. “Son-of-a-bitch!” Tick yelled as he drew his revolver. He managed to get off two aimed shots before someone grabbed him from behind. “Come on you crazy bastard!” Grissom exclaimed. Tick continued firing his pistol as Grissom dragged him up the steps and into the house, slamming the solid wooden door behind them. Creed and Knowles were already returning fire with rifles through the two front windows, with Rojo manning the single back window. The windows had instead of glass, double reinforced wood shutters with cross-shaped shooting slits, which allowed the shooter to fire left to right and up and down. It was an age-old design found in forts all over the southwest. As Grissom dragged Tick to the kitchen table, Sarah and Eve jumped into action and quickly cleared the cups and dishes away. “Eve get me a pail of water and as many clean bandages as you can find!” Sarah yelled above the gunfire. After Grissom had helped Tick onto the table, he quickly ran to the window where Creed was at and began returning fire with his carbine. “I count three, you see anyone back there Rojo?” Creed asked. “Nada.” Rojo yelled back. “They are taking cover in the barn.” Knowles yelled. “Shoot their horses.” Creed commanded. The sound of the horses bodies dropping to the ground could be heard as each men put a bullet into heads, painlessly dispatching them. Sarah and Eve rolled Tick over to see if there was exit wound. Finding a hole about the size of an acorn dangerously close to his spine, they gently laid him back down. “The bullet went clean through.” Sarah yelled out. “Can you stop the bleeding?” Grissom yelled back, reloading his rifle. “I am gonna try.” Sarah responded as she began packing the wound. Tick’s face had grown gaunt and very pale. “I’m really thirsty.” Tick said, hoarsely. Eve gently gave Tick a drink of water. After he finished the cup, Tick smiled and tried to put on his standard charm. “I gotta tell you, if getting shot get’s me cared for by pretty women like you, I gotta think about getting shot more often.” Tick winked at Eve and Sarah and then grimaced as a wave of pain hit him. “Let’s move him over to one of the beds.” Sarah suggested. Rojo came over and helped Sarah and Eve move Tick to his bunk. He then went over and retrieved a bottle of laudanum from the cabinet. “Give him some of this, maybe it will shut him up.” Rojo gave Tick his rough smile, patted his hand and then resumed his post at the back window. As Sarah gave Tick a spoonful of the opiate she noticed a tear roll down Rojo’s cheek and heard him whisper a prayer in Spanish and cross himself as he kept watch outside.

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During the night, Newton and his two men made their way out of the back of the barn and back to the ridge on foot where Taylor was set up. “Those crazy bastards shot our horses.” Pike said as they walked into camp exhausted. “Nothin’ crazy about that. Indian tactics. Take away your enemies mobility and you have a better chance of killing him.” Taylor replied as he cleared a place for the men to sit down and poured them each cups of coffee, “Looks like you gut-shot that nigger Taylor. Getting rusty or what?” Newton asked Taylor with a smirk as he sat down.”The drop on that aught-six load was more than I expected at this range, won’t happen again.” Taylor re-assured Newton with eye contact. “So what’s the plan Boss?” Jackson asked, lighting a cigarette with a brand from the fire. Newton smiled and opened up a saddle bag he had left at the camp. Pulling out two bundles of brown wax paper, he tore them open to reveal two cords of dynamite. “I brought this in the event we could get all the rats hemmed up and it looks like we have. Before dawn we will attack again and use the dynamite and this job will be over.” Newton carefully placed the dynamite back in the paper and the saddle bag. Taylor shook his head in disbelief. This whole job was spinning out of control fast.

To Be Continued…

A Border Reckoning

A Western Novelette

Part 1 of the Border Trilogy

canyon

I.

Northern Mexico, 1901

This land is Desperation and Hardship.

Everywhere the cracked dry red earth springs forth thorny reflections of violent resilience, as if creation itself is nodding its weary head to the inevitable conclusion of the despair that surrounds it. In a canyon named resortes rojo, a large black seep in a red rock wall drained slowly down into a watery pool creating an oasis in multiple stands of juniper, cottonwood and pinyon trees. Shaded from the tortuous sun, this place is a momentary reprieve for both the sparse resident and weary traveler alike, including four Texas cowboys and forty-three head of stolen mexican mustangs. As the horses watered behind a well-made picket line and the men set up a small overnight camp, a pair of young dark eyes hidden in a small cave far above them watched their movements intently. The eyes belonged to a 14-year-old lipan apache boy, wiry and tall for his age, his muscles stretched over his long frame like taut steel cables while his clay colored skin was already rough-hewn, his pores blasted by relentless sand and wind, the moisture of  youth crucified long ago. His coal-black hair was shoulder length and unkept, his bangs long enough to partially cover the raised crimson-purplish scar on the left side of his face that began dangerously close to his eye and ended at his chin. As the boy traced the long scar with his finger, in his mind flashed the image of the man who had put the scar there two years ago. The man had whispered into the boy’s ear like some deranged drunk lover that this was going to be a“forget me not” scar, a warning never to steal from him again. The boy remembered the bastards holding him down as the red-hot blade seared deep into his face, the smell of his own burnt flesh still fresh in his nostrils and nauseating him to this day.

 The boy waited until well after sundown until the men were fast asleep and snoring like a pack of hogs, save a sentry armed with a repeater perched on a high shale ledge overlooking the camp who, unlike his compatriots, was not fast asleep yet, but well on his way. With a three-quarter moon overhead, a broad carpet of soft white light enveloped the red canyon walls and created luminous shadows that danced in the firelight like mischievous children. The boy moved quiet and deliberate until he was out of the canyon and atop his bay mare, Cricket. He then raced back to the band of lunatics he had taken up with who were camped several miles away on the western side of Montana del lobo. Upon entering camp the boy reported what he had witnessed at the canyon to the leader of the group, a mexican army deserter named Diaz. It was Diaz who had found the boy wandering the western tablelands weeks after the Texans had murdered his family. Often at night the boy considered how the smallest choices can make the biggest difference in ones life. If his father would not have insisted he go hunting that morning, the boy would have joined his ancestors that day as well. When he returned from the hunt late that evening with a doe and sow pig hung over the back of his horse, he found the entire camp had been rode through and burned.  His father and uncle had both been shot through the head and strung up upside down on a tall cottonwood, their arms hacked off and their eyes gouged out. Their manhood and balls had been cut off and stuffed in their mouths. His poor grandmother had been stretched over a wagon wheel and then set on fire with coal oil, her blackened shriveled body a grotesque statue of inhumane suffering. It took the boy a while to find his mother, the bastards had drug her a ways  from camp with a rope around her neck. They had gutted her like a pig, the four-month old  fetus that had been the boy’s sister growing inside of her had been ripped from her womb and impaled on a sharpened paloverde pole made into a roasting spit. The charred remains of the fetus and the bloody black umbilicus hanging from it were a grim reminder that human life was cheap here, and regardless of age or innocence, held no sentimental place of reservation.

Diaz quickly called a haphazard council and an ambush was planned for just before dawn, only a few hours away. The groups number currently stood at ten fighting men, with one man injured. The boy was not counted and considered a half-ass scout at best. Their real scout, a Comanche named Parsons, had taken the boy under his wing and occasionally when out on the trail, showed him how to cut and read sign. Tick, a black french creole from the swamps of Louisiana had been wounded in the leg during a mail-coach robbery a few days prior and was laid up and useless for fighting. The rest of the men were banditos, save two white men. Grissom, a former US Army cavalry Sergeant and Spoon, a cow puncher from New Mexico. After the meeting had broken up, the boy walked over to Diaz’ shanty where he found him sitting outside cleaning a mauser by the light of a lantern. You reckon these cowboys are the ones that killed my folks like they killed Parsons family? Diaz disassembled the rifles bolt while pondering the boy’s question. Hard to know Diaz replied. They have been killing small groups of indians all around these parts lately. The boy studied Diaz by the light of the lantern. He had a large flat face with a squashed nose and large black eyes. His hair was long and greasy like his. He was missing three teeth in the front from where a mule had kicked him several years back. If you want to shoot one of the bastards, I will let you mijo, makes no difference to me. I am letting Parsons get his revenge and I get 30 horses out of the deal! Diaz smiled widely, proud of the good fortune that had seemingly fell into his lap. The boy tried smiling back, but just looked down at his feet awkwardly, unsure of how to feel, but feeling anger and loneliness all the same.

After a small supper of beans and tortillas, the boy laid down by the fire, curled up with a blanket and drifted off. He dreamed he was at a river, him on one side and his family on the other. His father was motioning for him to cross but he was scared. The current was swift. His father kept calling out to him but he could not hear his words for the roar of the water. A hawk called above him and when he looked up the sun blinded him. He tried to see his father once more and then suddenly, he was awakened with a swift kick to his side. The boy rose suddenly from his blanket, his fist raised in contempt. Easy there youngster. It was Spoon. He was a tall thin white man with a shaved bald head and a black handlebar mustache flecked with grey. He said he had hired on to work for a rancher near Roswell  but got in a fight in a saloon and in the scuffle, shot and killed a whore and a local banker named Peterson. I Did not mean to kill that whore he said in a mournful tone, but the banker?  well hell, who gives two shits about a banker anyways? He often bragged there was a $500 bounty on his head in New Mexico and Texas, but nobody much believed him. Diaz says you can come along to help us drive them horses back, we leave in an hour, so be ready. Spoon handed the boy a New Service Colt revolver and gun belt. The boy took the rig gingerly as if he was handling a basket of eggs. Took that off one of those teamsters on that mail run. Damn fine Weapon. Spoon smiled at the boy and spat in the dirt and clamored off toward Diaz’ tent with a gourd of tizwin in his hand.

The group rode out well before dawn. It had gotten much colder, so the boy imitated Grissom, who had tied a handkerchief around his face to block the cutting wind. As they neared the mouth of the canyon they found a shallow wash with waist high banks where some sparse cholla and whitethorn were growing to park the horses out of the wind. As Diaz quietly hobbled the stock, Grissom unholstered a Winchester carbine from his saddle rig and handed it to the boy. It’s loaded up but here are some spare shells anyways. The boy tucked the shells away and slung the carbine across his back. Grissom held a finger up to his lips for the boy to be quiet from here on out and then nodded his head toward the top of the cliff for the boy to lead the way. The pair crawled on all fours almost the entire way until they found the entrance to the small cave, both of them praying aloud that no rattlesnakes or mountain lions had moved in during the night. The boy carefully peered down into the dark abyss of the canyon. The warm orange light from the campfire had died down some, but still reflected off the red rock walls and revealed the three sleeping cowboys. The sentry, now fast asleep like his friends, sat on top of a large rock promontory that overlooked the horse corral, his hat tipped down over his eyes and  a carbine laid across his lap. Grissom pointed where he wanted the boy to take up a rifle rest to cover the cowboys while he moved to a place where he could cover the sentry. The boy copied Grissom as he removed one of his boots to use as a rifle rest. As the boy sighted down the carbine he noticed movement down below. It was Parsons. He wore no shoes or hat and had his face and body completely smeared black with axle grease. His bow was slung low across his back with a quiver full of arrows, and a large bowie-knife strapped to his leg. Both men watched Parsons slip through the mouth of the canyon, using the shadows of the tall rocks along the flanks.  Parsons closed the distance between him and the lookout and stopped, kneeling behind a set of large rocks with pinon scrub. He took the bow from his back and notched an arrow. As the boy’s eyes were trying to focus in the low light, the small cane arrow had already flown, its flight short and straight with the only sound being a sickly wet slap as the arrow found its mark right above the sentry’s adam’s apple. The man suddenly dropped the carbine and put both his hands to his throat as if he were choking at supper, his eyes were wide and scared, frantically searching for a reprieve from the pain. Blood sprayed from the wound like a fountain, covering the brown earth and rock like some ancient mayan sacrifice.

The indian quickly closed with from behind on the man’s position, taking control of his convulsing body and bringing him down to the ground behind the large rock. A few moments later, the black-faced indian appeared like a ghoulish specter, slowly lurking toward the campsite like some strange night creature of mexican fairy tales. His knife, covered in blood, looked black against the backdrop of the eggshell moonlight. Cock your rifle boy. Grissom whispered as the pair both drew a bead on the three men below. Parsons stopped behind a boulder and whistled, stirring one of the cowboys awake. Before the poor soul could get the sleep out of his eyes an arrow pierced his right eyeball with a swoosh. The boy jumped as Grissom shot the second cowboy through the chest as he was bringing his pistol from underneath the blanket. With that Parsons let out a war yelp and charged the remaining cowboy with knife in hand. The young cowboy panicked as he tried to get the gun out of the holster laying beside him, but it was too late. Parsons was already on top of him, the cowboy managed to let out one blood curdling scream, before Parsons delivered the death-blow, sinking the knife deep into the boy’s heart. Parsons then stood and raised his bloody knife to the night sky, his profile illuminated by the campfire, he let out a guttural yelp that originated from a place deep within his soul, a place of pain and loneliness. This was revenge. A deep seeded hate that boiled out like a wildfire consuming the countryside. It was a familiar sound the boy had heard many times from war parties of neighboring clans when they visited upon the white eye the same pain they had caused. The boy had to restrain himself from joining in, but this was not his hunt. this was not his kill. That day still awaited him.

Parsons went around and collected scalps from each of his victims, the four bloody pieces of matted hair and skin the only reminder of these cowboys short and meager existence in this brutal place. Grissom and the boy made their way back down to the arroyo where Spoon sat asleep in his saddle, half drunk, and Diaz sat smoking a cigar, watching the Dawn begin to break and the purplish light spread over the canyon like a familiar blanket. We heard Parsons hoop and holler so I guess he got his scalps? Diaz asked the boy. The boy nodded and Diaz grinned. Alright then, let’s go get them horses! Diaz remarked with his toothless grin. When they arrived Parsons had already looted all the bodies, and took one of the dead cowboys mounts, a fine, tall black stud for his own. Spoon noticed the new carbine Parsons was now cradling like a newborn babe in his arms. Whats that you got there Parsons? A New repeater? Whats that writin’ on the side of it there? Parsons held up the gun with bloody hands, not really sure what Spoon was talking about. Looks like an inscription of some sort. ‘J.T.’, huh, must have been the poor bastards initials. Parsons nodded indifferently and slid the carbine back in the saddle scabbard. By the time they drove the herd to the far side of montana del lobo the boy and his mount were exhausted. Tick had made some much-needed repairs to the horse corral and was waiting for them when they arrived, waving his hat and yelling them though the gate. That night everybody got drunk and celebrated. Parsons had riden over to Valle Azul and traded a horse for food and a case of mescal. Diaz hooped and hollered, firing off his revolver wildly. Grissom broke out a fiddle and started sawing a lively tune. Tick, with a half bottle or better of mescal in him, hopped on one leg like some carnival act, flailing around to the music in a wild display of grievous tomfoolery, finally falling down face first in a drunken heap. Spoon and the boy sat by the fire, watching Parsons clean and examine the new carbine he had taken off the murdered cowboy. Well Parsons you feel better now you killed them boys that killed your family? Spoon asked, Parsons stopped polishing the rifle and looked at Spoon through the crackling floating embers of the fire. There was complete silence between them. After a while Parsons went back to polishing the rifle. Damn indians, you can never figure em’ Spoon commented as he spit into the fire. After a moment he got up and stumbled to his tent where almost immediately the lantern went dark and snoring could be heard.

II.

The next morning the boy awoke to a gunmetal grey dawn and the smell of frying bacon and coffee. Grissom’s coarse voice soon broke the morning peace. Come on and get yourself some of this boy, we got a long day ahead of us. As the boy slowly made his way to the fire Spoon appeared out of his tent, looking as if he had been bushwhacked by road bandits and squinting at the new day as if the morning light were a pack of unwelcome solicitors banging on the front door of his brain. He stumbled out to the jakes and disappeared there for a considerable amount of time. Soon Diaz appeared, looking disheveled but somewhat jolly. Change of plans. Me, Spoon and Tick will take 30 head to the trader. I want the boy, Parsons and Grissom to take the remaining head up to that bastard Colonel Parker to trade for guns and ammunition. Grissom cussed under his breath and headed for the corral saying something about being a wet-nurse to savages. By the time the boy was saddled up and ready to ride, Parsons and Grissom were already leading the string of ponies out of camp. The boy trailed two mules to haul their return load of guns, both of them stubborn and ill-tempered animals. The triplet of riders and beast rode east with the sketch of pale blue mountains floating ahead of them with a set of small scribbled valleys in between twisting like a constrictor with no pattern or design. They camped in a small stand of cottonwoods near a trickling creek at sundown and early the next morning started off on the final leg of the trip where narrow winding valleys and red stone cliffs gave way to a never-ending stretches of white soda flats where the boy thought they might never see water again but Parsons managed to find a small spring where they all drank like fishes and the horses drank so much they laid down in a small stand of pinon and cottonwoods and slept for a while. They rode the rest of the day across the flats until sunset when they finally pulled into a silver mining camp that set at the base of some low pockmarked foothills covered with cholla and palovede called El lugar de las aguilas (The Place of the Eagles).

Grissom led the horses down a crowded street of miners and drovers to a corral that sat at the back of a two-story clapboard building marked ‘oficina and cantina’ Parsons dismounted and nodded for the boy to do the same. The boy felt eyes from all directions studying them. They tied their horses and waited for Grissom to join them. As they entered through the saloon doors, the sweet stench of whiskey and sweat was overwhelming and the din of drunken men’s voices drowned out all reason. Grissom made his way to the bar, navigating around crowded tables of miners playing poker with consumptive whores loitering like buzzards. Above the bar a stuffed mountain lion sat watching the pitiful proceedings, indifferent to the carnival scene below him. Whatta you have? The bartender asked. He was a large white man, at least six feet tall with an ox blood-colored boulder hat and arms like pine knots. Three rye, Grissom responded. The bartender wiped his brow with a rag and poured out one drink. You can stay but the two savages have to go, Colonels orders. Grissom paused, taking stock of what he had just heard. Grissom looked at the bartender with slight contempt and then drained his drink in one go. He turned to Parsons and nodded for the door. Parsons grabbed the boy by the arm and led him to the door. Grissom then nodded for another drink. Need to see the Boss, got horses to trade. The bartender again wiped his face and brow as he poured the drink. Upstairs, last door on right. Grissom downed his drink and laid a crisp five dollar bill on the bar and set the glass on top of it. As Grissom topped the stairs, a thin sickly mexican whore, scantily clad was leaning on the railing. Ola cowboy. Grissom ignored the woman and kept walking. The small corridor reeked of cigar smoke, kerosene and sex. At the end of the hall sat a bald squat man with a long black handlebar mustache cradling a double barrel 10 gauge. Grissom nodded to the man. See the Colonel? the man asked plainly. Yeah, got horses to trade, Grissom replied. Surrender your weapons the man said bluntly, holding out his hand. Grissom walked over and handed him his Colt. The man stuck the revolver in his waistband and rapped on the door. Enter! a deep voice called out from the other side.

The guard opened the door and nodded to Grissom to enter. Colonel William Frances Parker, United States Army retired, sat behind a large custom rosewood desk with his left leg feet propped up smoking a large mexican torpedo cigar. Parker was in his late-forties, with reddish blonde hair cut short and combed over and a neatly trimmed mustache. His steel blue-grey eyes seemed to look beyond the measure of men, seeking their unspoken agendas. It was said he had fought with Crook in the Apache Wars and actually shook Geronimo’s hand at his surrender. The room was freshly painted and smelled of cedar and sandalwood. A large bookcase containing several thick volumes on the History of the Roman Empire and Roman Military Tactics sat in a corner with several framed military commendations and awards populating the wall around it. Grissom’s eyes were drawn to a custom-made cedar gun cabinet with an etched glass door that took up one wall entire. It contained a Krag ’92, a ’95 Winchester and a ’97 Winchester Pump 12-Gauge.  A large painting of a four masted Man of War engaged in close quarter cannon battle with a brass plate stating “The Great Nile Victory, 1798” hung behind his desk.  Grissom also noticed the Colt 1900 Pistol which lay underneath a 3 week old newspaper from St. Louis. Sgt. Grissom! Well I’ll be damned! Parker’s feet quickly came down on the floor with a thud as he stood, limping on his left leg as he came around the desk. I heard you were killed in a skirmish near Juarez last year! Parker extended his hand and Grissom shook it with a soldier’s firmness. Grissom laughed. Yes sir, I heard that one too, but here I am, alive and well. The Colonel let out a hearty laugh and slapped Grissom on the back. So you are Sergeant! So you are! Remind me again, when did you get out of the Army? The Colonel asked, limping his way back around to his chair behind the desk. Around two years ago sir. Was at Fort Duncan the majority of my tour. Parker struck two matches and re-stoked his cigar while studying Grissom closely through the blue smoke. Fort Duncan, nothing short of the devils asshole! Parker shook his head and closed his eyes, as if trying to dissuade the memories from lodging in his brain.

Have a seat Grissom. Parker motioned his hand toward a chair. He then opened a desk  drawer and removed two glasses and a bottle of single malt scotch whiskey. He poured a finger in each glass. To your health sir! Parker said as he downed the drink. Grissom did the same and smiled. That’s fine whiskey Colonel. The Colonel poured each man another. So Colonel is it true what I heard about you? That you killed ten Comanche in a skirmish in ’96 up at Fort Stockton before being wounded in the leg? The Colonels face grew dim. Yes Grissom it’s true. But the part of the tale they leave out is how we lost 8 good soldiers that day. Those damn Comanches were like flies. The Colonels voice drifted off, his grey eyes staring off into a place beyond the horizon. The room went silent for an entire minute. Yeah and after getting a Comanche lance in the leg, the Army medically discharged me and here I am!  So Grissom, what brings you to my fine camp? Horses, Colonel. I have ten good ponies I would like to trade for rifles and ammunition. The Colonel paused. Horses? How many head? The colonels eyes studied Grissom now as he took a long drink. Ten Head, all good stock and in return I would like rifles and ammunition. I see. Well I won’t ask where the stock came from because as you know I run a fairly loose operation here. The Colonel gave a sly smile and Grissom nodded to the implied notion.

He knew the Colonel had set up shop here three years ago, at first trying to buy out some very lucrative mining claims and then when that failed, burning out the miners and their families and hijacking their claims with his hired army of ex-saddle tramps and mercenaries. He had also used his shady connections in the Army Ordnance Supply chain to find out railway delivery schedules so he could conveniently rob Federal weapon supply and payroll trains and blame it on Mexican bandits or Apache war parties.. Who you running with now Grissom? You still with Diaz and his band of cut-throats? Why you have not took my offer to hire on with me is beyond everything! I will be running all the rackets in this province soon Grissom, and before long, all of Northern Mexico if I am lucky, all the small-timers will have to kick-up 50% or get planted, it’s that simple. Why don’t you join me while you still can? The Colonel looked at Grissom solemnly, waiting for a response. Grissom just smiled. I kinda like my freedom Colonel, after a decade of Army life, not having to answer to somebody is nice for a change. The Colonel laughed heartily. Answer!? Hell boy, we all gotta answer one way or another! Now Let’s go take a look at that stock and see what we can work out. The Colonel finished his drink, stuck the Colt in the army issue flap holster and made his way to the door. The guard stood when the Colonel walked out and went before him downstairs clearing out the drunks and dregs.The saloon quieted as he made his way downstairs, each man eyeing him with a sense of both fear and reverence.

Parsons and the Boy were sitting outside the saloon on a bench sharing a piece of venison jerky when the group came out. As they passed, the boy’s eyes met the Colonels and his blood ran cold. Those same eyes belonged to the man who had cut his face two years ago! The boy felt heat from the top of his head down into his feet. It was like liquid fire, burning, torturing, cauterizing his insides. The boy feared he would burst from the hate growing inside of him! So many thoughts race through his mind. He could kill the sumbitch right here. He had his revolver. No, there were to many guards around. Too many witnesses. But hell, maybe he wanted a lot of witnesses, so these folks would know what he did. Best to stay calm. The boy steadied himself and took a breath. As the Colonel passed the two indians, he eyed Parsons warningly. These two indians are with me Colonel, Grissom motioned for Parsons and the boy to stand up. The Colonel stopped and inspected the two indians with a face of disdain and scorn. How old is this kid? The Colonel asked Grissom. Somewhere’s around 12 I think Colonel. We found him wandering in the desert a year or so back. Said his family got killed by Texas bandits. The Colonel turned his head to the street and spat and then turned and stared at the boys face. Murdered huh? How awful! Lot’s of bandits and cut-throats here about’s doing all kinds of evil. As he was about to walk off, the gleam of the Winchester Parsons cradled in the crook of his arm caught the Colonels eye. Nice Winchester you got there indian, may I? Parsons looked at Grissom who quickly nodded his head for him to comply with the Colonels request. As the Colonel turned the rifle over in his hands, the inscription shown in the bright sunlight “J.T.”, is that your initials indian? the Colonel asked, those grey eyes staring a hole through Parsons now. Parsons looked away and shook his head no. None the less, it’s a very nice rifle, can I buy it from you? Say fifty dollars American? Grissom’s mouth dropped open about the same time as Parsons. Before he could think about it, Parsons accepted the offer. Excellent! the Colonel replied, grinning from ear to ear, his eyes quickly shooting Timmons a weary. secretive glance. Timmons, Pay the man! Timmons promptly reached into his pocket and counted out five ten-dollar bills to Parsons and took the rifle. OK Gentleman, show me these horses! the Colonel’s voice boomed as he started toward the corral.

Parsons and Grissom started toward the corral with Parsons examining his new fistful of greenbacks and the Colonel following close behind. Timmons then without missing a beat, promptly rapped the boy upside the head with the butt of the Winchester, sending him to the ground with a thud. In the same moment as Grissom was turning to see about the commotion, the Colonel presented his Colt Automatic from his holster, and calmly shot Parsons in the back of the head, the explosion of the gunshot piercing the evening stillness and at the same time deafening all around with a stinging whine. The bullet exited right above Parson’s right eye, sending a mottled combination of white and grey matter mingled with blood spewing out into a wide luminous cone, most of it ending up in Grissom’s face and eyes. Parsons went limp and dropped like his backbone had been snatched out by some mysterious apparition. Grissom blindly grabbed for his revolver like a man groping in the dark for a life line but remembered in a hurried flash that he had been disarmed earlier by the guard. God-dammit Colonel! What have you done! Grissom yelled. As Grissom wiped the last of the splintered bone fragments and brain muck from his eyes, he realized at least five rifles were drawn down on him. The boy lay knocked out cold on the ground, the back of his head bleeding with Timmons standing over him gloating. Colonel! What the hell is this about! Grissoms face was red now, spittle flying with every word. What this is about Sergeant. Grissom is a cold-blooded bushwhack. This here carbine belonged to one of my best men, James Tobin or “J.T.” as it is inscribed right here on his gun. The Colonel grabbed the rifle from Timmons and held it up like evidence in a court room. With that the Colonel walked over to Parsons body as it lay crumpled on the ground, reached down and removed the fifty dollars from his pocket. That black stud right there that the indian rode in on was also J.T.’s. Now I don’t have anything against stealing horses, hell I steal horses everyday, but this was more than stealing horses Grissom. You and your band of cut throats murdered and scalped four of my men for 43 head of worthless stolen mexican mustangs! I should just shoot you like I did this damn indian, but you served your country Grissom and deserve to be hung like a white man I suppose. Go fetch that lazy drunk-ass sheriff and tell him to come put these two in the jail for the night. The Colonel spit in the road and stuck the Colt back into his waistband. What about the boy? Grissom asked. He did not take part in it, let him go! The Colonel looked down at the boy on the ground and spat on him. No I can’t do that Grissom. This boy belongs to a clan we tried to kill off a while back. You see that scar on that little bastards face! The Colonel pointed to the boy’s face, spittle flying in the air as he did.. I gave that little sumabitch that scar and warned him and his family not to stick around this country! But did they listen? Hell no! The Bastards were sitting on some of the best prime mining dirt in this territory and would not move! We tried everything but the savages refused. The next morning we went back and killed everybody there but I guess this little bastard got lucky that day. No, the boy hangs with you tomorrow at Noon. I will send a priest over in the morning if you want to get square with the Almighty, although with the scum you been runnin’ with, I doubt it will help. The Colonel shook his head in disgust and then walked off toward the saloon.

Directly a drunk mexican wearing a floppy brimmed hat and a thin hammered piece of tin fashioned to resemble a sheriffs badge came and collected Grissom and the boy. The boy was still groggy from being knocked over the head and had a deep gash in his scalp which was still bleeding. Grissom took his handkerchief and applied pressure to the wound. He then helped him to his feet.The mexican prodded the pair with a double barrel 10 gauge across the street to a makeshift jail in an old run down clapboard  building that had once been a freight warehouse. The “cell”  was nothing more than an oversized freight cage that smelled of stale piss. Grissom laid the boy down on the small bed and covered him with a threadbare blanket. That bastard Colonel killed my family. The boy’s words were groggy but still filled with anger. Yeah kid I know, he has killed a lot of families around here. Grissom took off the boy’s boots, then removed his own and jumped up to the top bunk and laid down. We gonna hang tomorrow? The boys question hung like heavy grey smoke in the room. Yeah kid, we are. Grissom answered, trying to choose better words that might comfort the kid but giving up. I will try to talk to the Colonel again tomorrow, see if he will see reason and let you walk away. Grissom closed his eyes and the last thing he heard before drifting off was the boy quietly chanting an apache death song.

III.

The next morning the sunlight spilled through the small narrow window in the cell and Grissom was awoke by the clanging of  keys as the hungover sheriff struggled to open the cell door. The boy swung his feet down to the floor and started putting on his boots. Colonel wants to talk to the boy. The mexican swung the 10 gauge around on Grissom as he waited on the boy to get to his feet. You stay put pendejo. The sheriff led the boy out of the cell and then locked the door behind him. He placed a pair of handcuffs  on him and led him outside, prodding him all the while with the 10 gauge. The street was already crowded with miners and drovers, dogs and livestock. The boy noticed a wagon load of lumber and several men building a gallows in an empty lot across from the jail. The sound of hammers and hand saws contributed to the usual morning din of a mining camp waking up. As The boy shuffled across the street toward the saloon, several miners loitered outside, waiting on the mine wagon. Some were still drunk from the night before, having never gone to bed, their eyes looking like bloodshot piss holes. The group quieted as the boy approached, some of them quickly looking down while others stared intently as the mexican prodded the boy forward through the doors and up the stairs to the Colonel. Timmons stood as the boy came to the top of the stairs. I got him from here Jose. The sheriff grunted and handed Timmons the handcuff keys and retreated back downstairs to the bar and his waiting bottle. Timmons grabbed the boy by the shirt, knocked on the Colonels door and opened it. The Colonel was busy shaving in a gleaming white porcelain basin. As Timmons seated the boy, the Colonel watched in the mirror. Leave the key with me Timmons. Timmons walked over and placed the key on the desk. The boy watched the Colonel intently. As Timmons left the room, the boy’s gaze shifted to the gun cabinet. Rifles with ammunition. No lock with a glass front door. How Silly the boy thought. The boy then noticed the Colt pistol laying on the desk, The same pistol that had killed Parsons and most likely the same pistol that had been used to kill his father and uncle too. You are thinking If I could only get to those guns, I could kill that son of a bitch, aren’t you boy? I don’t blame you. Hell, I would be thinking the same thing. The Colonel paused talking as he carefully trimmed below his lip with the straight razor, the sound of the metal scraping against the coarse whiskers the only sound in the room while outside the large window on the street several teamsters could be heard loading a freight wagon.

The boys gaze stayed on the Colonel, the hatred pouring out of him in fluid waves of heat. He imagined breaking free of the chains and taking the straight razor from him and in a flash opening up his throat. The painting of the Nile receiving a fresh splash of crimson as the Colonel frantically died on the floor like the diseased pig that he was. The sound of splashing water brought the boy back to reality and present company. The Colonel washed his face and as he dried off with a towel walked over to the window to gaze at the already bustling town below. This place was a wide spot in the road when I got here. Nothing but a couple of run-down shacks and some whores. Now look at it! Because of me hundreds of men have jobs. Their families have food, clothing, housing; a future. The Colonel shifted his hard  gaze to the boy. I warned you and your family to stop stealing from me and move on, but they didn’t listen. So I cleared them out and made room for progress! The boys face grew red. His heartbeat racing like a rabbit. You gave us no choice! For years my family hunted these lands and then you come along and in a day say it is all yours! You murdered my pregnant mother and put my unborn sister on a roasting spit you sorry sumbitch! The Colonels face changed expression as the boy’s comment seemed to truly shock him. Anger was replaced with melancholy. I had no ideal they did such a barbarous, heartless thing! Those bastards! The boy sensed the Colonel was sincere in his sentiment, the boy’s anger started to simmer down, his muscles relaxed, his heartbeat slowed. The Colonel came closer as if to shake hands with the boy and offer an apology, and then suddenly in a blur, the Colonel delivered a powerful right hook into the boys jaw, knocking him backwards out of his chair and sending two of his teeth flying out of his mouth in a bloody mixture of spittle. You goddamn savage! I am gonna put you all on roasting spits before it is all over with! The boy lay dazed on the floor, the taste of blood and copper in his mouth, the Colonel’s words a distant echo as if he was underwater. Damn your soul to hell you worthless son of a whore!! The Colonel kicked the boy in the ribs, knocking the air out of him in a whoosh. The boy groaned and tried to roll away like a wounded animal, searching for a reprieve from the pain. Before the Colonel could kick him again suddenly Timmons bust through the door,  an expression of fear and excitement all across his face at once. Colonel we got visitors! Timmons was so excited he stumbled over his words like a retarded child. A half-dozen armed men led by a Mexican bandit! The Colonel regained his composure and walked over to the window to inspect the street. Well, the Lord is certainly being gracious to me today! Instead of hanging two pieces of thieving shit, I get to hang the whole damn gang! That’s Diaz and six of his cut-throats from Wolf Mountain. Looks like they came looking for this boy and Grissom. Probably thought you two assholes stole the weapons and ammunition he thinks I gave you. The Colonel laughed heartily, his face turning red as he slapped his desk in exclamation. No honor among thieves aye their boy? Timmons round-up the boys, I will try to get all these bastards in the saloon so we can take them all in one go! Timmons nodded his head and spun around and headed out the door. You just lay there and bleed you little bastard, I will be back to finish you off right and proper directly. The Colonel eyed the boy on the ground as he stuck the Colt in his waistband and retrieved a Winchester shotgun from the gun cabinet, loading up the tube and sticking extra double aught shells in his pockets.

 The saloon and the streets were already cleared by the time the Colonel walked outside with Timmons and four other men. Diaz and Spoon were waiting patiently still on their horses. Well, isn’t this a pleasant surprise! The Colonels grinned as he came out of the saloon doors, the Colt stuck down the front of his trousers and the Winchester Scattergun in his right hand.. Timmons stayed at the Colonels side as the four other men fanned out evenly to the left and right, each of them armed with a rifle. Diaz seemed to ignore the Colonel and the men. His gaze focused on an upright pine coffin sitting on the saloon’s porch. In it Parsons decomposing body stared back, half of his head missing, one eye staring lazily upwards at the sky as his black matted hair lay plastered against his pallid skin caked with blood. Around his neck they had hung a wooden sign with the words “Murderer and Horse Thief” in big white letters. Seeing Diaz state of fury, Spoon spoke up. We hear you got two of our people Colonel, we came to get em’ back. The Colonel laughed as he brought the Scattergun around to bare on the two riders before him. Reacting, Spoon drew the Schofield revolver that lay in his saddle holster and before he could cock the hammer the Colonel fired, the big shotgun roaring to life like a sleeping dragon, the buckshot tearing horse and rider apart like paper being ripped asunder by a strong breeze. Spoon was knocked clean out of his saddle, landing three feet behind where his horse had formerly stood, his chest opened like a bloody cavern, pieces of rib bone and marrow littered the dusty street. Spoon’s poor horse lay terribly wounded after the affair. It was crying in pain and trying to get his front feet under him to no effect when the Colonel pulled his pistol and mercifully shot the gelding through the head. Diaz’s horse had of course bucked wildly when this occurred, throwing him clean off and landing the mexican in the street on his ass. As Diaz got his feet, at least a dozen guns pulled down on him, including the Colonel, who had ejected his spent shell in the Pump Winchester and racked a fresh one. Don’t twitch a fuckin’ finger you worthless piece of shit or you will end up exactly like your friend over there. The Colonel’s voice was angry, but dead calm and focused. Timmons, go on over there and get his gun belt and make sure the sumabitch ain’t got no hideout guns or knives, you know how fuckin’ mexicans are. Timmons casually walked over, holstering his gun and patting Diaz down. After finding a small knife in his boot, Timmons unbuckled his gun belt and threw it all on the saloon porch. Diaz stood there smiling. You want my boots too Colonel? They are nice ones, belonged to one of your cowboys I believe. The Colonel’s brow furrowed at that jibe. I am gonna hang you Diaz. You and your buddy Grissom down there in my jail are gonna hang together and twist in the wind momentarily. Diaz laughed heartily. Go ahead and laugh you toothless sumabitch. In about 10 minutes you are gonna be laughing with the devil in hell. The Colonel motioned for the surrounding men to take him and tie his hands and feet. As the men were taking the rope to tie him suddenly one of the men’s head exploded like a ripe cantaloupe hitting rock, the rifle shot ringing out from above them. The boy had managed to free himself from his handcuffs and had now took up a firing position in the Colonel office with a Krag Rifle. At this Diaz ran and dove into a small alleyway beside the saloon. Suddenly it sounded as if the whole town exploded in gunfire at once. Some men fired wildly at Diaz while others fired at the office windows above. About this time, more shots rang out from down the street at the jail. The Colonel and his men had not accounted for all of Diaz’s men before the shooting started. Half a dozen of them had taken up positions near the jail and had bushwhacked the drunk sheriff and freed Grissom, now Grissom along with six mexican bandits including the black creole Tick, all armed with Repeaters and bolt-action rifles, were moving on the saloon. The Colonel seeing this yelled for Timmons and retreated back into the saloon. You go kill Diaz, he’s out back there somewhere unarmed! The Colonel yelled at Timmons. I’ll go kill this damn Apache kid and then we can take care of Grissom and the rest of those damn cut throats! Timmons nodded and headed for the back door of the saloon, as he was about to the back door, suddenly it busted open and Diaz came through blasting with a revolver. The first shot caught Timmons in the neck, and the second caught him above the right eye, sending his brain pan all over the brand new pianola the Colonel had just had delivered from St. Louis. Fucking Bastard! The Colonel screamed in fear as much as anger. He let loose with the shotgun on Diaz from about 10 feet away, the top half of Diaz virtually disappeared in a spray of pink mist and gore, with the bottom half of his body intact and neatly folded up on the floor.

Winded, the Colonel took a deep breath, reloaded and began to climb the stairs to finish the kid. Suddenly two of his men busted through the saloon doors, one of them gut shot and the other shot in the arm. Where the hell are the rest of the men! The Colonel yelled. Dead! One of the men blurted out as he made his way to the window with his revolver and began firing. God damn all you! The Colonel yelled as he charged upstairs. As he was about to kick down the door suddenly several shots rang out through the cedar door, splinters flying wildly into his face. The first shot hit the Colonel low in the gut and the second hit him in the right arm, spinning him to the floor. Sumabitch! The Colonel cried out. He had dropped the shotgun so he tried to pull his Colt in his waistband, but his arm would not work. Downstairs shots rang out as the Mexicans closed in on the two defenders in the saloon. The Colonel watched as Grissom and a black man busted through the saloon doors and cut his men down at close range with revolvers. About that time the Colonel’s office door swung open and the Indian boy walked out, holding a Krag Rifle. The boys eyes burned like two pieces of hot ember. The Colonel lay there, blood pooling on the floor from his wounds. Grissom, Tick and three of the Mexicans had found the good whiskey and poured themselves a drink as they watched the show unfold upstairs. Go Ahead Boy, Here I am! Get your Revenge! The Colonel yelled wildly, spit and blood flying from his mouth. The Boy calmly walked up to the Colonel, dropped the rifle and reached down and picked up the Colonel’s Colt. A look of disgust filled the Colonel’s face as he watched him. You worthless Savage! The Colonel yelled. I Fuckin’ Despi— before he could finish his sentence the boy fired three shots into the Colonel’s head, the shots in rapid succession, sending brain and gore flying all over, The boy looked at the body a while before finally spitting on him. The boy then calmly stuck the Colt in his waistband and made his way downstairs and out the saloon doors. Directly Grissom came out. The boys cleaned out the freight office Grissom said looking at the boy. The boy never blinked, just kept looking ahead like into a dream only he could see, We got around $1,000 far as I can tell in cash money plus rifles, ammunition and fresh horses and mules. Grissom continued looking at the boy, hoping for a response. Directly, the boy reached into his shirt and pulled out a two small sacks. You can add this to the booty too, found it under the floorboards in his office. Grissom took the sack from the boy and looked inside. Grissom’s eyes widened as he poured out Chunks of pure silver, some of the rocks as large as a baby’s fist. We are heading to Texas if you want to come along, Grissom asked, his eyes still wide from the silver. The boy  walked out into the street and looked up into the blue sky, squinting at the bright sun. There in the sky, the boy saw a huge river, a river as large and swift as the Colorado. Immediately the boy felt a familiarity about this place and then he realized it was the same river from his dream the other night. As he watched the water roar past he quickly realized he was not alone, his entire family was there, including a small girl he had never met before. Who is this? the boy asked his father, pointing to the small girl by his mother’s side. His father smiled and placed his hand on the child’s head. This is your sister, Princesa Margarete. The boy’s heart swelled and a happiness he had not felt in such a long time washed over him like a summer rainstorm. Before the boy could say anymore, his family turned and walked away into a sweet, glowing light that climbed upwards into the sky. As the boy dried the tears from his face, he realized something that made his heart glow even more; This time him and his family were not separated by the river, they were all together! The boy laughed to himself and shook his head, he had never felt so happy, alive and content as he did this day.

The Mexicans soon came out of the saloon, carrying with them whatever was not nailed down: crates of whiskey bottles, blankets, pictures, lamps and rifles. By now, some of the miners and teamsters were making their way back into town from their hiding places in the mines and hills, all of them treading carefully, surveying the dead in the street. You coming along kid? Grissom asked as he began walking toward the horses with the Mexicans. The boy gave Grissom a long look, tears still filling his eyes from the vision. Wiping the tears away, the boy smiled and said aloud Let’s Go to Texas.

The End