One-Horse Town: Come Morning (Chapter 5)

Two days after Rosa was laid to rest in her family’s plot, nearly 200 men rode into the Alcala’s hacienda. Each carried not only the tools of the vaquero trade, but also enough guns and ammo to supply a small war.

“We ride in the morning,” Juan Alcala commanded.

Brady found it hard to sleep that night as he kept thinking about how to kill Keene. It had been the only thing on his mind since he brought the news to the family.

Not only had he imprisoned Brady and tortured him, he had allowed Rosa to die by doing so. “Cruel men like George Keene need not walk the earth.”

As Senor Alcala wanted, every available man rode out before sunrise, towards the mountain across the desert. There they would hole-up through the night before striking the town at daybreak.

Hours before the sun shown itself, all 200 riders were in their saddles moving in a large swathe across the desert through the cholla and chaparral. They rode with intent, to be at the edge of the town as the sun came up.

Brady could hear the small talk as it passed between men. Also within his hearing came the chambering and re-chambering of brass cartridges, the cocking of a hammer and the clicking of a squeezed trigger.

Soon all those sounds evaporated into silence as the mass drew nearer the town. One last check of the plan and twenty groups of ten men trotted out of the desert from different directions and onto the town’s single street.

A general alarm sounded throughout Keene that brought all able-bodied men from their bed’s to their windows. And without a word, gun fire erupted from the buildings and returned by the riders.

It was chaos and pandemonium for the town’s people. The horse-backed men went through the town, looting and burning each building, killing each man who interfered and driving the remaining towns-folk out into the desert.

Their work was without mercy as they hunted down associates of Keene and ended their violent lives with final violence. Finally, Keene was found, cornered in the same gold-laden dungeon in which he held Brady for those many weeks.

There was no way Brady was going to get a chance to exact his revenge as he watched a number of men hoist a still-belligerent Keene, spitting and kicking, into a nearby lifeless tree, by his neck. Knowing this, Brady went over to Senor Alcala, thanked him for his hospitality, shook the old man’s hand, turned and rode north.

Brady felt a general state of sadness, knowing that all of this came after the death of Rosa. He come to realize that it may take a life time to get her out of his head and out of his heart.

He also knew that if he should ever ride back this way, he’d find the town of Keene abandoned and as dead as the man it’d been named after. “Maybe the town of Bixby will have something better than chicken and dumplings to offer.”