Saturday, August 24, 2013

Western in 30 Working Days -- Day 15

Actually, I must admit, I’m adding work from two and a half actual days to make one day on the Nik Morton calendar. That said, we’re moving steadily along toward some gritty action, with slightly more than 10,000 words to go.

Stryker and Carpenter made no effort to hide. Still, they rode by night, as the powerful daytime sun sapped the strength of man and beast all too quickly. And while the palomino paint was mustang bred and mountain born, he was still an unknown as far as Stryker was concerned. So he and Carpenter shaded up during the heat of the day and rode carefully toward Hell’s Gate and the trail that was hell to the unwary and those who knew not the desert, but was ki datbaa to Apaches since time immemorial.

While the Dents crashed into the labyrinth of Hell’s Trail, taking wrong turns and retracing their steps as often as they made progress, Stryker and Carpenter closed in from the west, as did Nate Cousins and his gun hands. The rabble from Alamo, following John Walker, moved quietly for rabble, but the eyes of Norrosso’s Apache Scouts noted their progress.

As Stryker and Carpenter saddled up at dusk, an Apache in knee-high moccasins, breechclout, and cavalry blouse that was already beginning to fade. Stryker rubbed the tears from his cheek with his upper arm. “Dagot'ee,” he said. “Norrosso sent me.”

Stryker nodded. “Coffee?”

The Apache shrugged. “No time,” he said. “We go to the woman.”

General Crook and two Apache scouts
So Norrosso’s colleagues, the White Mountain Apache scouts attached to Camp Thomas on the San Carlos reservation, knew where the Dents were, and other groups of men and gunmen, too. He sent Takishim to guide Stryker and his friend, and they aimed to rescue Molly Miller. They also aimed, though it was not said aloud, to rescue 250 pounds of gold.

Not exactly the same place,
but an idea of the deep canyons
the Dents were trying to get through
The land lay as if broken by some giant’s sledgehammer. Maybe John Henry’s. As the sky began to turn gray in the ease, Takishim stopped. After a few moments, he led them off to the side to where a fractured slice of rock leaned away from its mother cliff. A pathway led into the space between the outward-leaning slice of redrock, though the tracks in the loose sand were mad by soft padded feet of predators, not the hard hoofs of prey.

Takishim slipped into a crevice and turned to beckon Stryker and Carpenter in. The two men dismounted, hooked their stirrups on their saddle horns, and carefully led their mounts into the crevice. A few feet in, the crevice widened so man and horse could walk easily. In a few more yards, the mother cliff became an overhang that offered shade from the boiling sun of Hell’s Trail.

“You rest here,” Takishim said. “Tomorrow we get the woman from Miller’s Well.”

The Dents were in the labyrinth of Hell’s Trail, and were not making good time. Lester was taking the trail for the first time, and his sons were worthless as pathfinders. What’s more, Finn got one glass too much kerosene in the form of rotgut whiskey.

A typical union suit
“Gotta go,” Finn said. He piled off his horse and left the reins hanging. He didn’t make it out of sight. There, no more than a dozen paces off the trail, he fought at the buttons on his trousers, let them drop down around his ankles, then let down the flap of his union suit to bare his backside.

Hardly had he pushed his butt through the flap when his gut erupted, sending a red-brown stream of feces and blood out onto the ground. “Ungh, ungh, ungh.” Even after the gush slowed to a drip, Finn groaned and squeezed and tried to rid his system of whatever the rotgut from Alamo put in it.

Lester Dent sidled his horse over to where he could see the splotch Finn had spread on the sand. Finn still squatted and grunted and little spurts of blood made their way out his anus to drip onto the sandy ground. “Geez, boy. You gotta be bleeding a bunch inside your guts to push stuff out the back like that. What in Hell’s got into you anyway?”

Getting through Hell’s Trail is going to cost the Dents more than perhaps they are willing to pay. We’ll just have to wait a day or two to see. Tomorrow’s Sunday here, a day of rest. See you all next week.

Word count: 24,760