A Village With No Name / Chapter 10 / 11
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A Village With No Name
** 10 **
Gideon stood in the main street beneath the scorching, Arizona sun watching the three men positioned on the roof opposite Watkins' office, each with a rifle in his hand, nervous, but holding their posts. After their talk in the office earlier, Watkins had been hard at work organizing the men he had mustered into positions to defend off Scott and his pa. Gideon wasn’t expecting a stampede into the village with guns blazing. However, if the situation should turn nasty, Gideon had instructed Watkins to place most of the men in Kane’s general store and saloon so that whatever got shot up in the exchange of bullets would belong to Kane.
Eventually, Watkins appeared between the two swinging doors of the Lazy Horse Saloon and looked up and down the now deserted street. He tugged on his floppy, beige hat as he stepped down from the footway and then walked with a quick step over to where Gideon stood.
“I’ve done what you asked,” Watkins said when he stopped at Gideon’s side. “Not many are willing to help us, but I don’t blame them. Just the mention of Kane's name terrifies them.”
Gideon took a hurried glance around the village; shadowed heads popped in and out from between the buildings on either side of the street, while others stood at the doorways to Kane’s establishments ready to shrink away into the shadows of the interior the moment Kane arrived. “How many?” he asked.
“Twelve,” Watkins replied. “I can't say how many will stay at their posts when Kane arrives.”
“I’m sure they’ll do just fine,” Gideon said. “I’m not expecting much from Kane from his first visit.”
“If we had more men,” Watkins mumbled thoughtfully, “I’d set up a blockade at the entrance to the village. That would hold him back a while.”
“And start a war —?” Gideon started with a glower on his face like that of an law officer. “He’ll only ride around to the other side of the village. I don’t think he’ll want any trouble. Not at first anyway. He’ll be hoping to talk you and the mayor back onto his side. By now, I guess Scott has told his Pa about the tin star you gave me, and he’ll be wanting it back.”
Watkins wiped his sticky palms on the legs of his faded jeans and said, “We’ve gone too far for that, Gideon. Kane’s not a forgiving man.”
Just then, one man shouted from the rooftop that Jackson was returning.
At the sound of the voice, beads of sweat appeared on Watkins’ brow, but he held a good posture. “That means Kane can’t be far behind,” he said. “What now?”
“Stay calm,” Gideon told him. Suddenly realizing that just the two of them stood in the street, Gideon asked, “Where is the mayor, Sheriff?”
Watkins turned back to the empty street. He shrugged. “He was in the saloon with me earlier," he said. “I thought he had followed me out.”
Gideon folded the palm of his hand around his chin and rubbed his cheek with his index finger. "Maybe he went directly up to your office, Sheriff,” he guessed. “If he’s there, keep him there. I’ll be in shortly.”
** 11 **
Evans sat atop his horse hidden among the willow trees close to the wash in the river, anxiously waiting for Jackson and Carlos to return to the village. While Watkins was giving his instructions to the men in the saloon, Evans had slipped away unnoticed. Now, from his position among the trees, he was hidden from the village by the slope of the riverbank, and from the willow tree branches that formed a thick canopy above his head. He was now a desperate man, and his shirt stuck to his chest and back from a heavy sweat that oozed from every pour in his body.
Only a short time passed before Jackson and Carlos appeared, crossing the wash without seen him hidden among the trees.
Five minutes later, Tom Kane appeared on the ridge. Evans sat quietly, his fingers fretfully fidgeting the leather leads to his mount, watching as Kane gave orders to his crew of seven men. Then Kane was on the move again, leading his men down the mesa, at a slow trot, with Scott and Sam riding at his sides.
“Mister Kane,” Evans called, waving his hands above his head. “It’s me, Mr. Kane, Theo Evans.”
When Tom Kane reached dry ground, he reined in his horse, not stopping but made a full circle around Evans. “I’m pleased to see you’re not carrying a gun, Theo.”
“Oh no, Mister Kane, I left it back at the village,” he said, tapping the chest of his vest. “As you can see, I’m unarmed.” Evans’ face carried the look of a frightened child; his lips pulled white against his teeth as he spoke. “I’m here, Mister Kane, to tell you I'm ... I'm sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. You’ve got to believe me, please.”
“What am I going to do with you, Theo?” Kane asked with a sadistic grin. “Sam tells me you and Ben gave away one of my tin stars?”
“Did he tell you about the three-thousand dollars we gave away?” The words had hardly left his mouth when he wished he had kept it shut.
Instantly Kane’s expression changed to one of anger. “You did what?” he burst out, and Evans drew back in his saddle. “Why?” Kane demanded.
“Please, Mister Kane, I can explain!” Evans squawked through a panting breath. “The three-thousand dollars was for the reward on Archie. But don’t worry,” he added swiftly, “I can get it back from the sheriff in Tombstone once I’ve sorted out the paperwork.”
Tom Kane looked up from Evans in the direction of the village. “What surprises are waiting for me up there?” he posed. “Anything I should be worried about?”
There was a squeaking sound of leather as Evans shifted tensely in the saddle. “They’ve placed men on the rooftops and others between the buildings,” he replied. "But I think there's something you should know, Mister Kane. Ben has placed some men in your general store and saloon. I heard the newcomer tell Ben that if you start any trouble, it’s your property that’s going to get damaged.”
Kane let out a muffled chuckle. “He sounds like a man I can use,” he said, nudging his fine broad-brimmed, high-crowned sombrero made of tan-colored felt. “But tell me, Theo, why did you turn your back on me? “Don’t I pay you a good wage? And didn’t I give you the Taylor ranch for only the outstanding amount when he and his wife left? You should have thought of your own family before you turned against me.”
Tom Kane leaned back in the saddle and wrapped one arm across his chest. “How old is your boy, Theo,” he asked. He was smiling now, enjoying Evans' discomfort.
“Ten this year,” Evans replied.
“Wouldn't it be a shame if something should happen to him?"
"No, Mister Kane ... please!" Evans cried out. "Not the boy!"
Kane quietened Evans with a raised arm. “You’ve left me no choice, Theo. I need leaders in the village I can trust; men to keep my workers under control, men to carry out orders without questions.” He lowered his arm as he called over his shoulder to Sam. “Take Wes with you and ride out to the Evans ranch. I want you to burn down all the barns. Don’t leave one standing.”
“What about his family, boss?” asked Sam. “Today is Sunday. I’m guessing with the shooting in the village yesterday and the whipping earlier, there’ll be no church in the village this morning?”
“I don’t care what you do to the boy, Sam. Rough him up, but don’t touch the girls. Understand?”
“Please,” Evans gasped again, “… not the boy!” With a racing mind, he rammed his heels into the gut of his horse, steering it to the left of Sam, who had moved up alongside Kane. As he passed, Sam lashed out with a closed fist catching Evans high in his chest. Instantly his body snapped back. Losing control of the reins, he tumbled head over ass off the rear of his mount.
Instantly Sam drew his pistol.
“Don’t shoot, Sam,” Tom Kane ordered. “I want him alive. I want him to have the memories of his son beaten, and of his barns burned to a char. He will have to live with that for the rest of his life.”
** 12 **