Authors: R.J McCabe
‘That is Red Bear, Chief Eskadi’s eldest son, brother of Pohakna.’ Zata said.
Joel put his hand up in front of his mouth in a gesture of fake embarrassment. ‘Well,I feel a bit stupid, but hey, if that kind of thing goes on here then thats up to you.’ His eyes went to Red Bear who’s face looked so intense it seemed as if it could explode at any minute. ‘So you are the chiefs son huh big boy? I bet that makes you some kind of hot horse shit around here. You the best they got now?’
Red Bear did not answer, but his quickened breathing told Joel the Apache was close to snapping. ‘You sure look the part, but can you do it when it needs to be done? I mean its like my dad always told me. Some guys spend their time actin’ tough and looking tough and some guys spend their time bein' tough. Which one are you?’
‘You will leave here now, otherwise I am going to snap you in two and feed you to my dogs!’ said the big Apache.
Joel's head went back in surprise. ‘Well,I'll be damned. You ain’t as dumb as you look are you teddy bear but what, my friend, makes you think you could do that? Maybe I should kill you and your daddy in front of all those dumb savages out there and then fuck that little sister of yours. What do you say bout th…’
Before Joel could finish Red Bear was getting to his feet but in the blink of an eye Joel reached down to his boot taking out a Bowie knife and then threw it at the big mans chest, the blade landed deep. Joel smiled, he knew he had got the Apaches heart. Red Bear’s mouth dropped open and a look of pure shock was displayed on his face. He staggered and then sank to his knees before falling face first onto the floor, driving the blade a little deeper in the process. The chief watched his son fall to the ground and then made a move for his rifle, but Joel was too quick, grabbing the young Apache girl around the neck in a choke hold.
‘Bart, pass me your knife!’ Joel called and his man did as he asked, handing Joel a large blade from his boot. Joel held it to the girls throat. ‘Shh now girl,’ said Joel and covered her mouth with his spare hand. The girl was looking down at her dead brother with tears in her wide eyes.
‘Now!’ said Joel staring at Zata. ‘You tell the old fucker what I'm sayin' otherwise you'll be next after the girl. You tell him he bought this on himself. Tell him nobody fucks with the Blackwater’s, certainly not some jumped up Indian fuck like him. You tell him I'm leavin' now, and I'll be takin' his daughter with me to the edge of this shit-hole village and a little further and if any of you sons of bitches try anythin', then I'll cut her throat and leave her bleedin' in the dirt. You tell him that and then you tell him that if any of your men are seen anywhere near the railway camp again then I'll bring two hundred men down here and burn you all alive, but not before we rape every woman and child in this place. You tell him that fuck face.’
Joel was breathing heavy now, watching as Zata recited his words to the old chief, who was now kneeling by the body of his son. The chief raised his head and looked Joel straight in the eyes and Joel saw something in that old mans glare that he didn't like one bit, but then the old man simply nodded.
‘Good, you finally get it. That didn't need to happen but you forced my hand you stubborn old bastard.' Joel said breaking out into a laugh. ‘Zata, tell the girl she is to walk with me to the edge of camp. Tell her to be calm and she will be just fine. I'll ride with her for half a mile and then so long as no-one is followin' us, I'll let her go and send her back, you got that?’
Zata spoke to the girl. The girl nodded, but she was shaking, her eyes still on Red Bear.
‘Okay, nice and easy everyone, nice and easy.’ The three men backed out of the tent and then began to make their way down towards their horses. There was shouting and protests from the Apaches as Joel lifted the young girl onto his horse, some of the younger warriors, who were trying to contain their anger, approached but they were halted by the sound of Eskadi’s voice. In his own tongue he told them to back off and that is exactly what they did.
The three men rode out of camp and the chief watched them go. He believed they would let his daughter go, he had seen that in the white man’s eyes but they had taken his son from him, and he, in turn would bring down on them a vengeance the likes of which they had never before known. He would bury his son when dark came but not in the place where all others were buried. No, he would travel to a place that only the Apache people knew of, yet none had used. The devils land.
Chief Eskadi would give his son one last gift. The chance to take his own revenge.
The stage coach reached the busy town of Sundown around 10.00 am that morning. Once stationary, the coach driver jumped down and opened the doors. Bill James stepped out onto the dusty street and instantly liked what he saw. A good busy town with people trading. That meant the place would not be as dirt poor as Red Hills, the town in which he had been sheriff for the last four years. That place had been nothing but dirt and misery.
The stagecoach driver unloaded Bill’s cases and placed them by the new sheriffs feet. Bill nodded in appreciation before handing the man a tip. The driver had already been paid for his service, not by Bill but by the big wigs in Austin that wanted Bill to take over the role of sheriff in Sundown. Still, an extra buck wasn't much considering the smooth ride the driver had given him, which wasn't easy given the landscape.
The coach left, and Bill had another look around stretching his arms as he did so. He saw a barbers, a saloon and a food store among other buildings. A little further down the road he spotted the building he was looking for, the sheriffs office.
Bill had taken one step towards the office when a blob of bird shit landed on his grey waistcoat, just above the chest pocket. He looked at if for a moment and then sighed before taking a handkerchief and wiping the white, grey blob trying to get it off but he only seemed to succeed in smearing it. He wondered if the blob of crap was a sign of good luck. He knew some thought of it that way but in truth, there was nothing lucky about something dropping out of a creatures ass and just happening to land on you given the amount of people that were walking around, that was just plain old bad luck. Bill got some of it off but then gave up and continued to walk towards the sheriffs office, his new place of work.
Bill dragged his cases up the stairs that lead to the office door and then pushed it open. Once inside, he could see a woman with her back to him talking to someone who was seated in the sheriffs chair. He nudged the door closed quietly and began to listen to what was being said. It was the woman who was doing most of the talking.
‘You know its not the first time’ she said, ‘That man is just a big cowardly son of a bitch who likes to push women around, well I want somethin' done about it, otherwise ill do somethin' about it myself.’
The person at the desk who's face Bill could not yet see, raised both hands before speaking. ‘No, no theres no need for that. I don't want you messin' around with that guy. Leave it to me and I'll speak to him.’
Shaking her head, she replied, ‘Speakin' wont do any good. Sheriff Watts spoke to him on more than one occasion but it didn't stop him. Action is what’s needed.’
‘Look, I said leave it to me. We got the new sheriff comin' in today, so when he gets settled I'll speak to him about it. He's meant to be good, so if that’s the case then I'm sure we can sort out Big John.’
The woman relaxed a little. ‘Okay, well make sure you do talk to the new Sheriff about it, and don't forget to tell him if he needs any company I've got some lovely ladies that will be just right for him, and don’t go giving me that look. Those girls need to make money too.’
‘That wont be necessary,
said Bill, causing the woman to spin around to face him and the man at the desk to peek out from behind her flowing dress. The woman was prettier than Bill had expected with big red curls in her long hair and her face porcelain white.
The man sat at the desk had a mop of thick white frizzy hair on his head and a face that told Bill he liked a tipple or two, his nose glowed red and his cheeks were flushed behind the big white beard. He looked friendly though and Bill thought of himself as a good judge of character.
‘Im sorry, I never saw you there,’ said the woman, a small blemish of red appearing on those pale cheeks.
‘Thats okay.’ Bill replied. ‘I appreciate the offer all the same.’ He smiled at the woman and she, in turn, smiled back.
The man got up from behind the desk and made his way over to Bill, his hand outstretched. ‘So you must be Bill James the new sheriff.’ Bill took the man’s hand and was surprised at his firm grip.
‘Thats correct, and you are?’
‘Deputy Ken Murphy and this young lady here is Gina.’
‘Pleased to meet you Ken, Mrs Gina,’ Bill said dipping his hat towards the woman. The woman did a slight curtsey.
‘Likewise and it’s Miss,’ she replied before looking back at Ken. ‘Please make sure you sort this out for me, he needs teaching a lesson.’
‘Okay, leave it with me.’ Ken replied.
The woman went and pecked Ken on the cheek and then made her way towards the door. She stopped just before leaving the office. ‘Oh Sheriff,’ she said looking at Bill who returned her gaze. ‘I believe you have bird-shit on your shirt.’
Bill looked down at the stain before looking back at the woman. ‘I believe I do.’ He replied smiling. The woman smiled and left. Bill looked over at his desk, it was a little untidy but it was nicer than what he had been used to.
‘So Sheriff,’ said Ken
‘Please, call me Bill.’
‘Okay, Bill it is. Why don't you take a seat at your new desk, which I was keeping warm for you and I can fix us a drink, that’s if you don't have any objections to a quick whiskey to celebrate your arrival?’
‘You won’t hear any objections from me Ken,’ Bill said and the white haired man smiled, nodded and then took two glasses and a bottle of whiskey from the glass cupboard, pouring out two equal measures. He took the glasses over to the desk where Bill was just getting comfy and he took the seat opposite.
‘You look the part if I may say so, well minus the bird-shit of course.'
‘Well,’ Bill replied ‘I'm not sure what a sheriff is meant to look like but I'll take that
as a compliment.'
‘I mean you look smart and all and you got that steady look in your eye that tells me you are handy with the steel. Rumour has it that you cleaned up that last place you were in pretty good.’ Ken scratched his beard as he spoke.
Bill took a sip of his drink before replying. ‘I’d say it was certainly a nicer place to live by the time I left compared to when I arrived, but I didn't do it alone, I had the help of two good men up there and we got into some pretty dark situations but it was what was needed to be done. Sometimes you just got to suck it up. This place certainly seems a lot nicer on first impressions it has to be said. You lived here many years?’
Ken’s face lit up. ‘Hell yeah, Sundown born and bred. My family has been part of this place for many years. My Pa was the sheriff here when I was growin' up.’ Ken said smiling proudly.
‘Oh I see, thought you'd follow in his footsteps huh? Make him proud?’
‘Well, not quite, my dad was a crooked son of a bitch who had some kind of rustlin' ring goin' with some other dirty, sons of bitches. He was shot out their in the street when he tried to rip off some out of town, unsavoury types. Shot him down like a dog so they did.’ Ken’s eyes looked distant as he retold the story.
‘I see. So I guess you decided to serve to law to wrong his rights and all that then?’
‘No, not really, growin' up round here, there isn't a fat lot of work goin'. So what you gonna do? Plus I ain’t never been the law breakin' type and if you ain’t gonna break the law then might as well try and uphold it.’