One-Horse Town: Heated Escape (Chapter 10)

“You gotta plan to get us outta this?” John asked.

“Yeah,” Brady answered. “I think we ought to go under to get around them.”

John wrinkled his brow because he didn’t understand what Brady was suggesting. Brady kneeled and using his finger tips pulled a floor board up revealing the ground beneath.

Within minutes he had enough of the boards removed to allow either man to climb through. Brady disappeared into the cavernous hole only to return a minute or so later.

“We can get into the vacant building next door,” he reported.

“Then what?”

“Then we set this place on fire and escape as they do their best to save their men. Only we’ll have them with us and when we beat feet outta here we take junior with us.”

John nodded knowing he didn’t have a plan that he could claim was any better.

After having to thump one of the men in the head with the butt of his revolver, because he continued to struggle as Brady moved him, all three were finally laying on the floor of the vacant building. Both John and Brady rummaged through what was left of the stores stock and collected what they would need and could safely carry.

Next Brady began firing across the street in rapid succession, hoping that the men would begin firing back. No sooner did he squeeze the trigger than they answered with a couple of volleys of bullets.

As Brady readied to pick a gun fight, John poured several jars of kerosene on the floor and splashed several more on the walls. As the gunfire commenced, he struck a match, lighting the building ablaze.

Then both men scrambled through the hole in the floor and quickly crawled their way to the vacant next door building. They were in position to make a break out the back door by the time the general alarm sounded and smoke and flame bellowed from the store front.

“Fire!” came several cries.

“My kid’s in there,” Frost screamed as he dashed across the street and into the collapsing building.

Knowing that there might be men waiting behind the mercantile, Brady cautiously opened the back door and peered out into the darkness. He knew where his horse was and could see it from time to time as the flames from the build licked the sky.

He also needed to find John a mount and help him load the bags of gold coin he’d taken from George Keene a few days before. Taking a deep breath he calmly walked out and across the open yard into the scrub.

Evidently, every man that’d been out back, if there were any out back all, were now engaged in fighting the fire which had begun to engulf the vacant building John and the three men were in. Brady walked around to the front of the building and across the street to the shed that acted as a livery stable.

There he found John’s two mules and a couple of extra horses, still saddled. He opened the stalls that held the remaining horses and shooed them out into the street using them as cover to cross the street again.

Once at the back of the building, Brady found John having hauled the three men outside and busy stacking the bags together in preparation to load them up. As John tied down the gold and the meager supplies they salvaged, Brady laid Billy Frost across one of the horses.

Once finished, the pair turned their horses south and rode as fast as the night and the land would allow. Both knew that they were going to be chased and they needed to put as much distance between them and the posse, if it could be call such. as possible.

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One-Horse Town: Stand-off in the Night (Chapter 9)

The sun was hanging above the cholla when Brady decided to stop and set up camp. By then he’d been on trail about three hours and had put Bixby some 10 to 12 miles behind him.

As he began to clear away an area, he heard the sound of hoof-beats traveling fast towards him. As they approached he undid the thumb loop on his revolver and placed his hand on the butt of the gun.

It was the card player. He reined his horse to a sliding halt and excitedly shouted, “Your friend’s in trouble. He’s holed-up in the mercantile.”

No more needed saying. John had save Brady’s life and now was the time to repay the man for the good deed.

Back in the saddle, Brady wheeled about and raced after the card player, who turned out to be quite the horseman. It would be nightfall before the pair made it to the rise overlooking what remained of the town.

“So, why you doing this?” Brady asked.

“Not all of us are Rebs,” the man answered, “Some of us are Yankees and damned proud of it.”

Looking over the situation, Brady decided to send the card player down to the main street, while he’d work his way between the abandoned building and the mercantile. A gun shot echoed up the hill and Brady took it as a sign to act right then.

Calmly, the card player rode into the town. He didn’t want to alarm those laying siege to the store that he’d been off getting help.

Meanwhile, rifle in hand, Brady slipped between the two buildings and remaining in the cover of a shadow, watched to see if he could spot anyone shooting into the building. While he didn’t see anyone with a gun, he did see one man jump from behind a water trough and race towards the mercantile with an already lit stick of dynamite.

As Brady raised his rifle, a shot came for somewhere east of the siege and the man fell, bleeding between the shoulder blades. The stick of dynamite landed a foot or two from him and when it went off, the blast left a crater in the center of the street and the man blown to pieces.

It took a minute for Brady’s eye’s readjust to the dark. That’s when he saw the card player laying on the sidewalk, dead.

He’d been shot in the head as the blast occurred. There was nothing Brady could do for him, so he stayed in place and studied the streets and the dilapidated buildings that lined it.

“We know about that gold,” a voice shouted tauntingly.

A muzzle blast erupted from a shattered window of the store as John fired towards the voice. Someone cussed loudly after the bullet struck nearby.

Brady backed out from between the buildings and sticking to the shadows, worked his way west and across the street. Still using the shadows of the buildings, he moved to the back door of the saloon, and stepped inside.

He’d played a hunch and it was right. There he could see three men pressed against a make-shift barricade.

Brady stood quietly in the doorway’s shadow and watched as the three fired round after round into the building just up the street.

“Where’s Edgar?” one man asked.

“He’s trying to get into the building from the roof,” answered another man.

Brady stepped into the room and quickly approached the trio at the barricade. He levered a shell in to his rifle causing all three to turn towards him in surprise.

“Toss your guns at my feet,” Brady stated in a very measured tone. He could sense their indecision as they looked at each other and hesitated.

Without warning, Brady fired a shot next to the center man’s head, so close it peeled off the top of his ear. The blast instantly caused their immediate surrender.

He made them remove their boots, and using the three as a shield, Brady walked them outside onto the wooden walkway. There was an immediate shift in the tension as he forced them cross the street and continue towards the mercantile.

“You’re dead,” the one on the left stated, “My pa won’t let you get away with this.”

As they proceeded to walk, Brady asked, “So was all of this his plan?”

Realizing that he had said too much, the man grew quiet. His sudden silence told Brady all he needed to know.

“What’s your name?” Brady asked as he poked with the rifle to remind him that he was no longer in charge.

“Billy…Billy Frost,” came his reply.

Now standing in front of the mercantile, Brady hollered, “John, open up. Let me in.”

He heard the latch of the door lock click and then saw the door open slightly. Brady toed the door open and forced the three men inside.

“You doing okay, John?”

“I’m alive.”

“Damn, good to hear. Got us some guests – including one that’s pretty important. Seems his daddy is one of the authors of this attack. We can parley our freedom for his safety.”

“You know you didn’t have to come back, Brady.”

“Yeah, I did. You saved my life and I’m returning the favor. Where’s Betsy?

“Took off in the first minutes of the gun fight. Wouldn’t listen, ran outside yelling at them. I don’t think she was all there.”

“I don’t think any of us are.”

John laughed.

As they talked back and forth the pair hog-tied the three men up and gagged them. It was obvious to the men that they weren’t going any place any time soon.

As the two sat, assessing their situation, a noise came from above. Without hesitation John fired two rounds into the ceiling towards where the sound had come.

There was an audible gasp before a man’s body slipped from the roof, striking the ground with a sickening thud. Brady knew that it was Edgar, the man sent to find a way in through the roof.

“Names Frost!” shouted a man from somewhere across the street. “Billy, you okay?”

“He’s tied up at the moment, Mr. Frost,” John answered, obviously pleased with his response.

“Joke all you want,” Frost shouted back, “But I’m gonna kill the both of you and I’m gonna take that Nigger’s gold.”

Neither John or Brady felt the need to reply to his threat.

Crow Steals a Cookie

Wanting to lick my wounded pride from another employment rejection letter, I grabbed two chocolate chip cookies, my water-filled mason jar and headed out back. Sitting in a chair, next to a low table, under our tree, I looked up and asked, “So, now what God?”

Above and behind me, I heard the flitting of bird’s wings. From the corner of my eye I saw Crow, perch on my table. We cautiously eye-balled each other for a few seconds before he screamed, “Caw! Caw! Caw!”

Finished delivering God’s message to me, Crow leaned down, snatched a cookie and flew away.

One-Horse Town: Betsy Green, Proprietor (Chapter 8)

John and Brady looked at one another as the voice stated, “Him. Not him.”

Brady stepped forward, “Not you – him.”

Surprised, Brady stepped back and John entered the store. Soon he came to the door way, “Come on in. Everything’s okay.”

Still on edge, Brady came to the door way and stood. There he saw an elderly Black woman holding the double-barrel shotgun that had caused him to nearly piss his pants.

“Close the door! You born in a barn or something?” she shouted.

Brady obeyed.

“Sorry ‘bout earlier,” she said, “But I don’t trust White men around these parts.”

“Understood,” Brady replied.

John turned, smiling and said, “Cat done got your tongue, now don’t it?”

Brady, smiled back and nodded.

“Betsy’s my name, Betsy Green, proprietor. Now what can I help you gents with?”

“Looking to buy some flour and coffee beans,” John answered.

“That I can do,” she said. “Got another one of them there coins?”

“Yes, ma’am,” John answered.

“Good. That’s what it’ll cost ya.”

John laid another coin on the counter and Betsy picked it up, slipping it into a pocket folded into her skirt. She quickly got to work gathering up the requested supplies.

“How you come to be owner of this place?” John asked.

“Left to me in a will. Never really wanted it but I got it and decided to make the best of it.”

After a lengthy pause, “Now I can burn it down – and maybe this whole forsaken town with it – and head for Los Angeles – that’s in California.”

“I know,” John said. “Been headed that way myself for a long piece of time.”

Sensing his travel arrangements were about to take a wild turn, Brady quietly loaded the supplies in John’s war-bag and then checked the cinch on his own horse’s saddle. John watched as Brady climbed on the back of the horse.

“Naw,” he said, “You take that bag with you. You’re gonna need them.”

Brady looked over a the bag, then lifted it off the mule and hung it over his saddle bag. He pushed his horse forward and offered his hand to John, “Take care and be careful of that shotgun.”

The two laughed as they gripped and shook. Brady was more than ready to shut Bixby behind him as he exited the single street town to the east.

An hour later and on a high hillside, Brady looked back, “Still no smoke,” he said to his horse, “That’s a good sign.”

One-Horse Town: In the Valley (Chapter 7)

The desert slowly gave way to undulating hills and washes that slowed the pairs trek to Bixby. It appeared that there wasn’t an easy trail to the town or that they’d somehow missed it altogether.

By noon of their third day traveling together, they came to a rise in the land and found themselves over looking the valley and Bixby, or rather what was left of the town. John was the first to say what the two were both thinking, “Looks nearly abandoned, don’t it?”

Brady didn’t say a thing. Instead he sat there and observed the situation below. A few minutes later he guided his horse down the hillside and into the west end of the town’s main street – it’s only street.

He could feel the unseen eyes staring at him and John as they rode towards the only building that looked to be alive – an unnamed saloon. Both men could sense that something was wrong and that after a quick resupply, if that were even possible, knew it would be best to high-tail it away a soon as possible.

Pushing the swinging doors in, Brady walked towards the bar. There he could see the tender leaning against the back wall, in the mirror were two men playing cards at a table in the far corned.

All eyes focused on the stranger as he asked, “Anywhere around here a man can get some flour and coffee beans?”

“Yeah,” came a voice from the table with the tow card players, “But I doubt she’s gonna sell anything to you – you bein’ a stranger and all that.” The man with his back firmly against the wall nodded his head towards the door.

He looked at the player and said, “Point the direction. I’ll take care of the rest.”

Having learned where he might or might not get supplies, Brady nodded his head to the man and walked outside to his horse. It was only a hundred foot distance between the saloon and what remained of the general mercantile. It’s dirt-laden windows offered a less than inviting atmosphere as Brady stepped on the wooden sidewalk and reached for the door.

He heard it before he actually saw it, the action of a double-barrel being cocked, followed by the sight of the barrel’s nearly pressed against the window pane. Brady halted, put both hands up and stepped back until he was off the sidewalk.

“Don’t think they’re interested in doing business, today,” Brady quipped, trying to sound as if he wasn’t frightened. Then he noticed John was digging under the duck-clothe covering the pack-trees on one of the mules.

Turning, he held up a gold coin, purposely flashing it in the sun and towards the door’s window. Certain he’d gotten whoever was behind that door’s attention, he tossed it against the door allowing it to rest on a slat of the walk-way.

Seconds later, the door opened and a hand reached out and snatched the coin up. The door slammed then less than ten-seconds later popped open and a voice commanded, “Come in!”

One-Horse Town: Unanswered Questions (Chapter 6)

To catch up with our story so far, begin here.

It felt like a life time since he’d last looked up into the night-time and viewed the dazzle of stars above him. Brady lay on his bed roll, saddle for a pillow, in the cradle of some boulders and rocks as the fire burned down to embers.

For days it had been hard to clear his mind of Rosa, of Keene and the town that bore his name. He was happy to be done with it – save for Rosa. Brady slowly drifted into a restless sleep.

“Hallo, the camp,” called a voice.

The call jarred Brady from the first peaceful sleep he’d had in ages. He slipped his revolver from it’s holster and waited for the voice to call again.

“Hallo, the camp,” the voice sang out.

Sitting up Brady returned, “Come into the light and be recognized!”

Not far off came the sound of hooves trudging through the hardened sand and clicking against errant pebbles. Soon Brady could see a figure, behind it two mules and nothing else.

He tossed a couple of sticks on the embers and the camp’s fire jumped to life. The figure moved closer until Brady could see his face.

“John!” Brady nearly shouted as he scrambled to his feet.

The two men shook hands, “Good to see you, too,” John replied.

Adding even more wood to the fire, Brady set the coffee to heating and then dug around for a couple of biscuits to offer his foot-weary guest. “I was wondering how you made out,” he said as he poured some coffee into John’s tin.

“I knew there was gonna be hell to pay,” John explained, “if I stuck around after you escaped.”

He continued to tell how earlier in the same evening when Brady slipped out of the dungeon, he had already made his get away. “I lit a-shuck south, then west and finally north to avoid anyone who might be lookin’ for me.”

John also explained how Rosa came to be captive of George Keene, and it came as a surprise, “She was married to him. By the time she figgered out who and what Keene was all about it was too late, she’d been cut off from her family and had no way to let’em know she was unhappy.”

Brady sat their absorbing the information. He realized he’d made he out to be more than human, nearly angelic in his mind, and that she had escaped a bad marriage and he had butted in where he shouldn’t have been.

“Saw what happened to the town,” John added. “Alcala and his men pretty much razed it. Kinda reminded me of Charleston back in the war betwixt the states. I was only a youth then, but it’s something I never forgot. Been workin’ my way west ever-since.”

Before the pair knew it, the sun was pushing it’s way up over the eastern-edge of the distant mountains. With no sleep the two ate a quick breakfast of fried potatoes and more coffee, before striking camp and starting north.

“Still can’t figure how come she picked me to help her,” Brady stated.

John smiled and laughed slightly, “She asked every stranger that rode into Keene. She was desperate.”

“But, why not simply ride off on her own?” Brady asked, not expecting an answer and none was coming.

One Bad Apple

In a land that grows the best apples in the world, one has to be more than simply impressive to better the best. Grimhilde de Queen was exactly that person, proving it when she brought home the coveted Pomological Society Award to her hillside burg.

The treasure to her prize: the Red Delicious Apple. “So fair an apple, it should be in pictures,” proclaimed the Daily Mirror.

And indeed it was ‘rotoscoped,’ as she gave one to Walt. Sadly, her fame ended there, as the apple poisoned a fairy-taled princess, beginning Grimhilde’s fall into the burning pit of rock-and-roll fame.