A Village With No Name
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A Village With No Name
** 9 **
Scott was hesitant when he pushed open the heavy, oak door and stepped through into his pa’s well-furnished study. He held his head low as he shuffled over the large round, ornate, hand-woven carpet placed at the center of the room beneath two fine-looking green, leather wingback chairs. A walnut Queen Anne side table, stained to a rich golden brown, stood at the side of each chair.
Scott had returned late the night before, but he guessed that one of the ranch hands had beaten him home to tell his pa about the shooting in the saloon and of his botched abduction of the stranger. Scott knew the anger that awaited him would not be pleasant. With a nervous twitch, he looked up from the carpet with a drumming heart.
His pa’s right-hand man, a tall, half-breed, who still enjoyed the cruel ways of his ancestors, stood in the room beside a large redwood desk patiently waiting for his instructions.
Tom Kane sat behind that desk, with an impressive mule deer buck, neck mount, mounted on the wall behind him; its forty-two-inch antler span spread across the wall as the rock-hard branches of a thorn bush tree, the tips twisted and threatening. The white around the neck and face faded to an old chalk color from the many years it had roamed through the hills and valleys of central Arizona.
Kane studied his son through thin slanted eyes, dark as to be almost black; only in the bright sunlight did they turn deep indigo blue. A man of Spanish descent, of average height with sallow-brown skin, his satin black hair well-trimmed at the neck and ears and a pencil-line mustache stretched beneath a well-formed nose. He wore a white ruffle shirt, black jeans stuffed into knee-high, and highly polished, black leather riding boots. He replaced the quill feather, dip pen back into the inkwell, and then pushed aside the papers he was signing. “Good grief, Scott!” he broke out in a rage and rose to his feet. He marched around his desk to confront his son, the color in his face rising quickly. “Is this what you allowed them to do to you?”
The half-breed threw back his head and laughed. “Just like I told you, boss," he said. “Mister Scott got himself a damn good whipping in the village this morning. He was dancing around like a piglet with a stick up his ass.”
“Damn it, boy!” Kane rasped, “I heard what happened last night.” The mood in the study was suddenly dark, as if a cloud had crossed the sun. “And now this! Can I not trust you to do anything, right?”
“The newcomer, Pa —” Scott started in defense of himself, but his Pa stepped forward, striking him hard across the face with the back of his hand. Scott stumbled back on wobbly legs, knocking over a Queen Anne side table as he fell to the floor. “Pa —” Scott started again timidly but changed his mind. He looked over at the half-breed for support, but Sam only stood at the corner of the desk with a disrespectful grin on his face. Turning back to his pa, Scott said, “Ask him, Pa. He was there. He heard what the newcomer said.”
Tom Kane ignored his son. He returned to his desk and eased himself down into his high back, padded leather chair. He clamped his fingers tightly together and rested them on the desktop, his mouth hardening under his black mustache. “Four men are dead, Scott! What were you thinking?” he burst out in anger. “Nat broke his leg last night when his horse fell on him, and Martie was lucky he didn’t break his neck when he fell. And as for the horses,” he rasped further, “they could have got badly injured.”
Kane went quiet, dropping his clamped fingers into his lap. Then looking up at Sam, said, “Don’t worry, we won’t go shorthanded by the deaths of those four. Five boys rode in this morning looking for work.”
Scott pushed himself from the floor and shuffled forward, dabbing at the blood that oozed from his bottom lip. “Pa,” he mumbled through crunched lips, “was one of them riding a dapple gray?”
Kane withered his son with a glance that told him the way he had handled the newcomer did not impress him. “What of it?” he grunted.
Scott came to a stopped at the front of the large, redwood desk, placed his hands on the glossy surface and leaned in toward his Pa, but kept a length from his pa’s reach. “One of them shot, Mary Loo, Pa. I was in the saloon helping Mary Loo when the shooting started. Around noon, five riders rode into the village. By late afternoon, they were drunk and rowdy and started shooting for no reason. Bullets were going everywhere until one of them noticed Mary Loo and two of our customers lying on the floor. After that, they left in a hurry. We did chase them, Pa, but lost them when the sun went down. One was riding a dapple gray. But who shot Mary Loo,” he shrugged, “… I don’t know?”
“Is she still at the doctor's rooms?” Kane asked, and then went quiet again when he pointed to his son’s empty holster. “Where’s your Smith & Wesson, Scott?”
“The newcomer —” Scott started, but his pa growled him into silence.
“Damn it, Scott! Doesn’t this newcomer have a name?”
“Gideon, Pa.” Scott straightened, wiping at the few drops of his blood that had fallen to the desktop. “I never got his second name.”
“Well then, use it!” Kane leaned forward in his chair and went on in a lighter tone. “Good staff is hard to find, son. If need be, Sam will tame them.” Then as if an afterthought, he asked, “How is she, Scott?” But instead of waiting for Scott to reply, he looked back at Sam. “Tell the boy’s to saddle the horses it’s about time we paid the mayor and sheriff a visit.”
Sam dipped his head in acknowledgment, “I’ll have them ready out front in five minutes, boss.” At the door, he turned and called back. “Do you want the new five to ride with us?”
“No,” said Kane. "I asked Rosa to feed them earlier. By now, they should be in the bunkhouse. Get one of the hands to show them around the ranch while we’re gone.”
Rosa, hearing her name mentioned suddenly appeared pushing her way past Sam standing in the open doorway. A middle-aged woman in her mid-forties, tall but well filled, with her long black hair pulled tightly into a bun at the back of her head.
“Oh, my!” she gasped. Her voice low, but sharp and tinged with a Mexican accent. “What happened, Mister Scottie?” She raced to his side and immediately began to unbutton his ripped and bloodstained shirt. When Scott’s mother died, she had taken over the responsibility of raising the two children and had brought them up as her very own.
“Oh, my …” she cried out again at the sight of the lashes, and she screwed up her face as if she felt his pain. “First Mary-Loo and now you! Who did this to you?”
“You should have seen him dancing in the street this morning,” Sam teased her. “He took a real good whipping.”
“Leave him alone,” Rosa, scolded him. “If you were there, why did you not help him?” She took Scott by the arm and started for the passage that ran parallel to the study. “Come with me to the kitchen, Scottie, I’ve got some fresh cold fat to put on those wounds.”
Kane rose from his chair. “Leave your mothering until we return.” He strode across the room to where she stood. “Get him a clean shirt and hurry now. We must leave for the village. I don’t need some stranger turning my workers against me. Not now. I’ve got a deadline to meet.”
She stopped and turned to face Kane. “Un día, señor Kane.” She drew her dark eyes to a thin line and pulled Scott closer. “One day, you will push me too far!”
“Not now, Rosa,” Kane stubbed her. “Enough of your bickering. I’ve got a shipment of gold leaving for Tombstone in the next few days, and fifty good horses for the army.”
Scott took his strength from Rosa’s outburst, and asked, “How can you hire them, Pa? One of them shot Mary-Loo.”
“She’s alive, isn’t she?”
“Yes,” Scott nodded with relief. “But you don’t know them, Pa. They could have got word of the shipment.”
Tom Kane ran his hands through his hair and laughed. “If I take ten men with me that still leaves ten good men here at the ranch. There are another five guards at the mine. They are only five, Scott. Besides, Sam will be with me.”
“But what about Mary-Loo? Scott asked.
“What about her?”
“Can we bring her home, Pa?”
** 10 **