A Village with No Name
A Village With No Name
** 6 **
Gideon left the two men in the office and made his way back up the ridge where Grandma’s home stood among the trees. When he reached the tent-saloon, her customers had already left, and Gideon guessed it was because of the disturbance he had caused earlier. Now, only the dim light from a kerosene lamp flickered through one window of her small, crude shack. Gideon hesitated, his fingers petting the platted handle of the leather satchel, not knowing whether he should knock on the door or return in the morning before he left the village.
“Don’t you think you’ve caused enough trouble for one night?” Jackson’s large frame stepped from the shadows. His voice held low but incensed. Only when the pale light from the kerosene lantern fell across his face, did Gideon notice that someone had cleaned and plastered the wound in his cheek. “What do you want from us, Mister Gideon?”
“I wanted to speak with Grandma before I left in the morning,” Gideon replied. “I wanted to apologize. To make things right with her.”
“You shouldn’t be here. If Mister Scott finds you –” He stopped to touch the wound in his cheek. “We know you weren’t to blame. Grandma should have sent you away when you first arrived. Now please leave before, Mister Scott returns.”
Not wanting to get on the wrong side of this giant, Gideon held out the leather satchel. “This is for Grandma,” he said. “Something for the trouble I caused her this evening.”
“What’s in it?” Jackson questioned him peevishly.
“Something I thought might help her and her family. I have no desperate need for it.”
Jackson took it from him, opened it, and took out a fist full of paper money. “How much is in here?” he asked, crumpling the cash in his enormous, black hand.
“Two-thousand-dollars, I’m told.”
“My Grandma’s a proud woman, Mister Gideon. She won’t take this.” He stuffed the money back into the satchel and offered it back to Gideon.
“Shouldn’t she be the one to make that decision?”
Jackson dabbed at his wound again, and then said, “Where did you get all this money?”
“You might say someone owed me.”
Gideon turned, ignoring the briefcase that hung from Jackson’s outstretched arm and started back down the slope to the village. Despite the trouble, he had found himself in since he had arrived, Gideon felt drawn to the wide-open space surrounding the small settlement. The possibilities of good fertile land were endless, and the abundance of water from the steadily flowing river was without end. The village folks seemed pleasant enough, but Gideon had enough problems of his own to take on the troubles of the village. Another dead end, he thought, Tomorrow will be another day and another town. He clenched his teeth. Will my search ever end?
The full moon shone like a polished gem in the dark, night sky causing long slithers of light to filter through the tree's leaves. At the corner of his eye, the wavering, light between two large trees that grew at the edge of the ruts suddenly disappeared then reappeared again, followed closely by the sound of breaking twigs. He stopped in mid-stride, his ears straining through the darkness for another sound. A long moment passed before he took in a quick breath. A short-eared rabbit, or brown fox — or more of Scott’s vermin, he mused. To quieten his thoughts, he slowly eased a Colt from its holster.
“If ya wanna’ keep breathing, mister you better drop that gun,” came a voice from the shadows.
“And the belt holdin’ the other,” said a second voice. “We’ve gotcha’ lined, so drop ‘em now and the rifle across your back.”
A quick sprint to the edge of the rutted track would have him in the cover of the trees and darkness, and out of sight of his two aggressors, but his thoughts of not knowing the abilities of the two men with their guns made him think again. He let the Colt slip from his fingers, took hold of the Winchester strap, and slid the rifle from his shoulder, letting it fall to the ground beside his Colt. Slowly he unbuckled his gun belt. “Who are you?” he commanded forcefully. “What do you want?”
Two shadows stepped from among the trees. Both men stood around five-foot-seven-inches tall, and Gideon judged them in the dim light to be slender and boney.
“We have a message for ya’, mister,” said the man who spoke first. “Ride off and don’t come back.”
Gideon raised his hands to the height of his head. “I’m not looking for any trouble,” he said. “I’m leaving in the morning.”
“Scott wants ya’ out tonight,” said the second man. He moved cautiously forward. “We’re to escort ya’ clear of the village border and to make sure ya’ don’t come back.”
The first man stopped at his friend's shoulder. “I’ve heard he’s quick with his hands, Martie,” he muttered tensely. “Tell him to step back from those guns.”
“You heard him, mister,” said Martie. “Step away, and drop that knife hangin’ from your trouser belt.”
It didn’t take long for Gideon to realize that his escorted trip out of the village was to be his last trip to anywhere. “We must stop by the livery first to fetch my horse,” he said.
“There’s no need for that,” said Martie. “We know your horse needs shoein’, so we bought one alon' for you.”
“And if I won’t go with you?”
“Then me and Nat will have to make ya’.”
“You can’t shoot me,” said Gideon with a nervous twitch. “The noise will have the whole village up here in no time.”
Nat holstered his pistol, and the moonlight caught the long, steel blade of his hunting knife as he pulled it from its sheath. “I can do it nice and quiet if ya’ like,” he said.
After throwing Gideon’s weapons in among the trees, the two men marched Gideon in silence down the slope for a hundred yards and then stopped. There they turned off the track and led him to where three horses stood tied down to a dried fallen tree. Martie forced Gideon back against one horse while Nat bound his hands at the wrists. Together they shoved him roughly up into the saddle.
“Hold tight, mister you’re in for a rough ride,” said Nat, and both men laughed out loud with scornful triumph as they mounted their horses.
Nat led them down to the willow tree line, then south along the riverbank until they reached the shallow wash, where he nudged his mount to a full gallop up the mesa with Martie towing Gideon close behind.
They kept a steady pace for almost two miles before the two men spoke to each other from their saddles, their arms gesturing as they spoke, their torsos turning to look back at Gideon. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he guessed by their fidget-movements, his ride was close to an end.
With the skill that only a true horseman has, Gideon, raised himself in the stirrups, then leaning forward in the saddle he took a firm hold of the mare’s mane, that rose and fell before him like a billowing flag, and lunged himself forward landing astride her neck. With both his hands still bound at the wrists, he locked his knees to her powerful trunk, and then reaching down, he took hold of the reins at the bit and wrenched them free from Martie's hand.
Gideon knew his way around a good horse and took only a moment to steady himself and to fling the reins over the mare's head. Swiftly he placed the leads between his teeth. Adjusting to the rhythm of the horse, Gideon twisted his body a full ninety degrees, his fingers searching for the saddle horn. With the weight of his body resting in his palms, he flipped his body around, landing back in the saddle. It wasn’t something he enjoyed, but instantly he dug his heels deep into the mare’s flank, forcing her to surge forward.
He charged between the two mounts with such force that the two horses lost their stride momentarily, stumbling in the dark. Gideon took the advantage as he wedged between the two men and elbowed Nat hard in the rib cage. Then taking a firm hold of the saddle horn Gideon spun his body in the saddle, folded his left knee tightly up into his chest, and with the power of a swinging sledgehammer, he uncoiled his leg and thrust his boot deep into Martie’s side. Martie rocked in his saddle like a child trying to find its rhythm for the first time and then toppled to the ground.
Nat had gathered control of his horse and was now coming back alongside Gideon at a full charge. Gideon pulled hard on the reins forcing his mare to collide into the side of Nat’s horse so that the animal reared up, blowing heavily, and away from Gideon on two legs. It stumbled at the edge of the trail and went down.
Gideon braced himself and pulled hard on the reins bringing the mare to a jarring halt. With a flick of his wrist, he turned the mare and started back along the trail at an open gallop toward the village. Gideon knew he was riding the mare too hard, but he needed the distance between himself and the two men, and only stopped when he reached the spot where they had forced him to drop his Colts and Winchester rifle. Gideon didn’t hesitate but sprang from the saddle. He had seen where they had fallen and raced to where they lay. Snatching up his hunting knife, he swiftly cut through the rawhide that bound his wrists.
He wasted little time in loosening the girth, and when he removed the bridle, he set the aminal free. The gear he hid among the brush and trees.
** 7 **