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

Friday, August 23, 2013


Been some time since the last post. Chaos at home in the form of one visiting daughter and two visiting hellions in the form of grandson and granddaughter. At least the final few days leading up to their departure for Los Angeles were chaos. They are fun and loud and colorful and dynamic (plus any other good words you writers can think up).

Hellion in form of angel
Then, as my deadline for a short story on gambling approached, I  started madly typing, seeking a story to put down before Bob Randisi sent the Gunsmith after me.

Do you remember this line?

Russ Taklin dug in his pocket and came up with a gold eagle. He tossed it to me. “Rent on your horse,” he said.

I tossed it right back. “Keep it. Or, if you want to double it, put it down on me and my filly. We’re set on winning the Fourth of July race in Holbrook this year.”

Russ smiled and raised an eyebrow. “You’re going to win that big race with your little filly?”

“She’s plenty big enough,” I said, “and so am I.” and we tore off down the valley at a dead run.

That's how the story of Big Enough ended. 

Now. The male pro/antagonist in Big Enough is a man named Russell Taklin. And as Kimberly challenged him to gamble on her filly at the big race in Holbrook, he was natural as the protagonist in the upcoming gambling story that will go into the upcoming anthology edited by Robert Randisi.

Just to give you a teaser about what may happen, here's where Russell Tacklin gets set up to take his first big gamble.

Me and big Sam Kilridge liked to sit under the overhang at the edge of the Big Muddy, only it wasn’t so big or muddy way up there in Montana. As we sat, we liked to trade swigs on some good corn whiskey that Sam got from relatives in Kentucky. He put it on the Benjamin Franklin with the cottonwood chunks we fed the furnaces. That corn whiskey sure made for a friendly gathering, even if it was only a gathering of two.

“I heared me a rumor,” Sam said. He lifted the jug up with his elbow and settled in for a good slug. He smacked his lips after a couple of swallows. “Damn fine corn likker,” he said.

“What kind of rumor, Big Sam?”

“I heared from the stoking crew over to the North Alabama that they Cap’n Hoover done threw down the glove at our own Old Jack.”

“Threw down the glove?”

“Thas right. Done challenged Poor Richard here to race down stream, all the way to St. Louie.”

“But that boat’s bigger’n us. How we gonna out run her?”

“Yo’right. She be bigger and she be deeper. She haul lots, but she have to creep around them Big Muddy bends else the snags is gonna rip the bottom right outta her. We kin beat her.”

Big Sam named the fire-stoking crew of the Poor Richard. “They’s you and they’s me and they’s Kin an’ Dave an’ Austin an’ Thumb. We’s the best on the Big Muddy, bar none, as Old Jack say, and I says we can beat the North Alabama. Yes, we can.”

Word got around Fort Benton quick as chained lightning. North Alabama, a steamboat 160 feet long and 32 feet wide, challenged the Benjamin Franklin, which was 154 feet long and 28 feet wide. Close, as riverboats ran, but the North Alabama drew three feet more water than Poor Richard, and her stern wheel was nearly two feet bigger in diameter. Some saw the size of the North Alabama an advantage, but Big Sam Kilridge figured it was a drawback. “You want to make some money, chile, you put ever half dime you got on the Benjamin Franklin to beat the North Alabama to St. Louis by no less than twelve hours. You do that.”

If you want to find out what gambling does to a good boy from Missouri, you'll have to pick up the anthology.

In a moment, back to the 30-day Western.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Writing a Western in 30 Working Days -- thirteen and fourteen

Please pardon the tardiness of this report. First, the problem with Endeavor's outboard was hardly a problem. I thought it was condensation in the fuel tank. But no. If I had been more cool headed and not just sitting there jerking on a starter pull rod, I would have noticed that the stop switch lanyard was lying on the bottom of the cockpit. Of course the outboard would not start. The stop switch was engaged. All I had to do was slip the stop switch gap thingy into place and the trusty outboard started up like it had never caused me all those new wrinkles. When emergency calls, remember to be calm, and remember to tick off all the reasons why such an emergency should or could happen. Lesson for life.

Now. Back to the Western--Stryker's Bounty.

When Matt Stryker goes after a man (professional that he is), he's prepared. Look at this.

Matt Stryker rode after a man much like drovers on the Goodnight-Loving rode after beeves. No ground cloth other than his saddle blanket, no cover other than his black oilskin slicker. An octagonal barreled long ’76 Winchester in the saddle boot, chambered for .45-70 center-fire cartridges. At his side, a Remington Army ’76 in .45 caliber. His onside saddlebag held hardtack and jerked beef as trail rations, a pound bag of Arbuckle’s coffee, a little four-cup coffee pot, and a pair of handmade moccasins. In the offside saddlebag, ammunition—five boxes of twenty heavy ones for the Winchester, three boxes of smaller ones for the Remington, and fifty 12-guage shotgun shells, loaded with buckshot. Where a Texas drover would have a rawhide lariat coiled and tied to the saddle horn, Stryker carried a double-barreled Parker 12-gauge with its barrel shortened by six inches, hanging by a strap in the same place. He’d changed his wear, too. Instead of the usual gray Stetson, he wore a sand-colored kepi with a neck protector flap that hung to his shoulders. His shirt fit loosely with bloused long sleeves. It, too, was the color of desert sand. Instead of Saif, his big black Arabian stud, Stryker rode a palomino paint pony no more than fifteen hands high. Its white and tan coat gave the pony a near-perfect desert camouflage. Stryker wore round-toed rough-out Wellington boots with no spurs. Once his canvas trousers had been brown, but now showed faded spots and irregular patterns that would be nearly invisible among desert brush and cacti.

And he's not afraid to call for help.

Two hours outside Tucson, Stryker stopped on a hogback and built a fire. When it was going well, he added greasewood to make smoke. The fire was small and the smoke rose almost vertically in the hot still air. Stryker used his big bandana, stretching it out with both hands, to create a series of five breaks in the column of smoke. He let the little fire burn for another five minutes or so, then snuffed it out, scattering the greasewood and stomping the embers until no spark showed. Just to make sure, he covered everything with a layer of dry sandy soil.

“Who you bringing in?” Carpenter asked.

“We’ll see.”

“Heard about that sashay down into Mexico.”


Carpenter said no more. Stryker remounted the palomino paint and rode east. Carpenter followed.

Norrosso showed up just before sundown. One minute Stryker and Carpenter rode across the flanks of the Rincons toward Sierra Colorado, the next minute an Apache with a thick dirty white headband and a faded blue cavalry shirt with sergeant’s stripes stood in their path. There was no sign of a horse.

“His name’s Norrosso,” Stryker said. “No better scout around, unless it’s Wolf Wilder, and he’s retired to that ranch in Lone Pine Canyon.”

“What?” Norrosso said when Stryker and Carpenter reined their horses to a halt some dozen feet away.

However, things are not all right with the Dents. Remember that Finn went to Alamo and he had a good full glass of rotgut, which often contains significant amounts of kerosene. That can kill a man over time.

During prohibition, rotgut and
other kinds of whiskey got
poured down the drain.
Finn’s guts cramped and he made for a bush to get behind. He hardly had time to lower his pants and squat before the contents of his large intestine splattered on the ground. Even after he’d voided everything, Finn’s body kept trying to get something out of his system.

At last he was able to close his sphincter, and bumbling around with one hand, found a rock that would do to wipe with. When he stood to pull his pants up, he staggered a step and nearly put a foot in what he left behind. He didn’t look at his stool, but if he had’ve examined it, the amount of blood, fresh blood, would have shocked him.

Old man Dent, though, had his own problems. See if you can feel his frustration. 

Lester Dent watched. The boys’d never been to war. They didn’t really understand the need to watch. Oh, they stayed awake during their shifts, believe the Good Lord, they stayed awake. But they didn’t watch. Lester Dent watched.

These could be the Dent boys.
Probably not, but could be.
He heard Finn get up and go off behind that tree. He heard the boy voiding his guts on the dry ground. He heard the little groans Finn made as he tried and tried but nothing came. He heard the night sounds of crickets and katydids resume after Finn lay back down.

The woman never moved. It was hard for Lester to tell if she was sleeping or awake, but it didn’t matter. She never moved. She did the cooking and she cleaned up. She never said a thing, and when one of the boys wanted to hump, she bent over like a bitch in heat. Lester didn’t watch the boys hump but it ded seem that they got the urge a little too often. Finn got the supplies. Tomorrow they’d pony up and move out through Hell’s Gate and east on Hell’s Trail. Wouldn’t no one follow them on Hell’s Trail. Not many, anyway. A line of gray showed atop the Chiricauas to the east, and cactus wrens began to twitter. Lester Dent kept watching.

Word Count 22,888

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Western in 30 Working Days -- Twelve

Curiouser and curiouser, as someone once wrote. Matt Stryker started off looking for a wanted man. Then he ran into a burnt out stage way station full of dead bodies--men, a woman, and horses. But one man, the station master, was shot and left for dead. He hid in the outhouse. The killers raped his wife and took her with them.

That gave Matt Stryker a new objective. Get Dodge Miller's wife Molly back from the killers, a family of father and three sons called the Dents.

Sounds simple.

But Matt has to take the wounded Dodge Miller in to Tucson to get treatment for his wounds. He's shot up enough that he'll not be really back on his feet for a month or so. But Molly's getting farther away.

Stage arrivals can be a big event
Matt reports to the county sheriff, Bob Paul (a real historical character) and to McCabe at the stage line's Tucson office. There he finds out that a man who's part owner in the Old Dominion Mine at Globe City's been in asking about the missing stagecoach.

But that man gets killed (made to look like a suicide by hanging).

And, where that looks like a lead gone dead, Stryker and his new partner, Elijah Carpenter, find out a lot more about what's going on. Listen to this:

Stryker took the conversation to the subject at hand. “Tell me, Lige. You know anyone called Rick Cavanaugh?”

“Heard the name, why?”

The Youngers were part of the
Kansas outlaw bunch
“When I was at Rimrock, a gent called Rick Cavanaugh was trying to become king of the mountain at Diablo. Someone that knows said Rick Cavanaugh was just a moniker that a bushwhacker from Kansas took out here in the west.”

“You taking about Nate Cousins?”

Stryker’s ice blue eyes held Carpenter’s brown ones for more than a long moment. “Know him? He was on the Kansas border to the Nations, I hear.”

“He’s here now,” Carpenter said.

“I know. He stayed on the second floor of the Royal the night Elrowe Hershey got killed. Signed in as Richard Cavanaugh.”

Carpenter nodded. “He’s riding with four gunsharps,” he said. “Ben Kilgallen, Marty Henshaw, Art Rennick, and . . . you’re not gonna like this . . . Garth Upton.”

“Why the army? And Upton ain’t no gunsharp.”

“That stage was carrying more than two hunnert fifty pounds of gold. The Dents got it, but Nate Cousins and all them gunsharps . . . and Upton . . . are gonna take that gold away from the Dents.”

“Why’d they kill Hershey?”

“Maybe to keep word of the gold from getting out? Secret shipment.”

“Could be. Could be.” Stryker wiped his cheek with one hand and lifted the porcelain cup with the other. “Anyway, that’s Bob Paul’s worry.” He poured more oolong tea and sipped. “How they planning on catching up to the Dents, do you know?”

Carpenter shook his head. “Nate Cousins is no dummy. But I don’t know how.”

“Guess we’ll just have to find the Dents and Molly Miller first, then.”

“How we gonna do that?”

Stryker grimaced a smile. “Who knows this country best?”

“Apaches?” Carpenter said.

“Yeah. Apaches.”

Word Count: 20,445

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Western Novel in 30 Working Days--Eleven

On a cruise boat in Tokyo Bay
You start off with a cut and dried concept. In the case of Stryker's Bounty, the current project, the concept was for Stryker to rescue a battered woman, wife of an acquaintance, from her captors. Well, as we get deeper and deeper into the story, things happen to add depth. The objective goes from trying to find four misfits who burned a stage station, killed four people, killed four horses, nearly killed the man who ran the station, raped the man's wife in front of him (not knowing he was still alive), so something more. Gold.

We get a whiff of that gold when Finn is drinking in Alamo. Talking to the bartender Todd, he says:

Supplies. Pa said the Dent column’d be going through Hell’s Gate and east over Hell’s Trail to a place where they could hunker down until people’d kinda forgot about Miller’s Well. Not that Miller’s Well was connected to the Dents and the Dents to Miller’s Well, but there was the missus. Finn liked poking the missus. And she looked good. But she knew the Dents and what they’d done at Miller’s Well. Finn shook his head and grabbed another mouthful of coffee. Prolly be best to just conk her on the head and toss her down a canyon. Plenty of those around. Finn was surprised when something wet splatted on the back of his hand. Then he realized tears ran down his cheeks. What for? If she had to hit bottom in a canyon, so what? He swiped at the tears with the back of his hand. Supplies.

Todd came back. “Nother whiskey, Finn?”

Finn shook his head. “More coffee.”

Todd didn’t look happy, but he got the pot and filled Finn’s cup. “You could have another whiskey with what’s left a that cartwheel,” he said. “Prime whiskey.”

Finn stared down into the coffee cup. Another whiskey sounded downright good. Awful good. And that prime whiskey carried a powerful punch. He shook his head. “Cain’t,” he said. “The whole Dent column’s depending on me to being supplies. Gotta get through Hell’s Gate. Gotta get through Hell’s Trail. The column’s waiting.”

Todd’s ears pricked up. “Column?”

Finn nodded, his face as solemn as the prime whiskey he’d imbibed would allow.

“Lots a soldiers?”

Finn straightened. This man was asking questions about the column. Better be careful. “Nough,” he said. “Nough to handle just about any situation,” he said. “Don’t matter who’s looking for our gold, they ain’t gonna find it.”

If Todd’s ears pricked up before, they fairly wagged in the air around his head now. “Gold? Your column’s guarding gold?”

The Rim country, where the town
of Rimrock is, looks like this
Whenever you read a Stryker book, you gotta know that things ain't all as they seem. Remember Road to Rimrock, the Stryker novel published by Black Horse Westerns? Well, listen to this little turnabout, then. 

“No way we could just ride up on you, Marshal. Not with Wildman tagging along. Had to sneak up, get the drop on you, make you promise to listen.”
“I’m listening.”
Squirly stirred the coals of the little fire they’d used to brew the coffee. “Not looking for money, Marshal,” he said in a small voice.
Stryker heaved a sigh. “Then what in hell are you doing here?”
“You go, and there ain’t no reason for me to stay in Rimrock no longer,” Squirly said. “And Injun Jake bet me a dollar I couldn’t get the drop on you.” The boy-man smiled, a tentative look in his eyes. “I won,” he said.
“What’s that got to do with someone paying to have me killed?”
“Good reason to catch up with you. Good reason for you to listen. We’uns got something to say after all.”
“I wonder what it is.” Stryker’s tone was flat and hard.
“Well, it’s something, we’uns figure. It surely is.” Squirly looked up at Stryker, his little eyes wide and his broad smile showing small, pointed teeth.
Stryker’s face could have been made of stone. He said nothing.
“Tell you what, Marshal. Me and Injun Jake was up in the loft at the livery, you know. It’s a good place to catch a wink or two without we’re in someone’s way.”
Stryker nodded, showing Squirly he was listening.
“Ruben went over to Goldfinch’s store or somewhere so it was real quiet. I could even hear horses chewing their oats, it was so quiet.”
Stryker folded his arms, his face still stern.
“Then two peoples come back.”
“Come back?”
“Yeah. Come back. It was the big one’s horse what was chewing the oats. They was talking. Well, one of them was talking. He handed a pile of clothes to the big one and told him to put ‘em on. I could see ‘em over the edge of the hayloft. The one that were talking were just a little fellow, not much bigger’n me. And he were saying to the big one that new stuff would keep people in town from telling him apart. Yeah, that’s what he said.”
“Get to the point, Squirly.”
“Well, the little one gives the big one a piece of paper and some gold. I seen it shine. It were gold. And he said it were half what the big one would get for doing Matt Stryker in. Said you was worth five hundred dollars dead.”
“I know that, Squirly.”
“Here’s what’s funny, Marshal. After the big one left, the little one went back under the loft wheres we couldn’t see. And he never come out.”
“Where’d he go?”
“God only knows,” Squirly said in his deepest voice.
“You don’t have to imitate the parson.”
“Anyway, we’uns, me and Injun Jake, we climbed down from the loft after a while, but the little one was gone. And the carriage that were parked out back were gone, too. Then Ruben come back and we asked him who the young feller driving the carriage were and he said, what young feller. He said Miss Melanie Powers were the only one driving that carriage. That’s what he said, and we’uns figured you’d want to know about a little man who turns into a woman, and here we is.”

See? Women who dress like men. Now we have four men, man and sons, pretending to be a column, a column with enough men to guard a lot of gold. But wait. Four dead people in the way station. Driver and shotgun. Man. Woman. Dead horses. Burnt buildings. Burnt stagecoach. Why go to all that trouble?

This photo is of Old Tucson studios,
but the hotel could well be the
Royal, where Stryker and Paul
are talking over Hershey's body
In Tucson, Stryker finds there's a man named Elrowe Hershey, part owner of a big copper mine that also produced gold and silver. But before Stryker can talk to Hershey, he turns up dead. 
Cochise County Sheriff Bob Paul (a historical person) and Matt Stryker talk about the body.

Bob Paul scrubbed at the carpet with a shiny boot toe. “You don’t figure Hershey done himself in, then.”
 “Don’t reckon so.”
“Why’d he get killed?” 
Stryker shrugged. “No can tell. You know as well as me, Bob. Reasons to kill a person can range from adultery to jealousy to punishment.” 
“Yeah. But how’d you know it wasn’t himself?”
“Take a good look, Bob. You’ve been around more than one dead man. You’ve been to more than one hanging, too, I reckon. Even notice how the rope marks are after a hanging?” Stryker didn’t wait for an answer. “Rope usually comes across the hanged man’s throat above his Adam’s Apple and up behind the ear on one side or the other.”
He stepped over and put a finger on the rope burn that ran horizontally around Hershey’s neck. “Somebody got Hershey from behind,” he said. “Choked him to death. And the burn goes below his Adam’s Apple, see?” Then Stryker pointed at a torn nail on Hershey’s middle finger. “Looks like he hurt his own finger trying to get it under whatever they was choking him with.”
“Hmm. Makes a man think,” said Paul.

I reckon there's a lot of gold concerned here. And I reckon that's going to bring a really bad bunch of men looking for it. Which means Stryker might find himself in a pincher between two sets of baddies who want to be sole owner of all that gold. How much gold to you think that burned up stagecoach was carrying?

Word Count: 19, 305

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Western in 30 Working Days -- Ten (late report)

Weekends for a working writer in Japan are not days off. Typically, a client will call for a meeting late on Friday and ask for the work to be done by Monday morning, first thing. It's expected and commonly demanded. That's how I spent my weekend.

Stryker's Bounty, in the meantime, passed it's tenth working day--a day spent with Molly Miller and the Dents, Finn Dent in particular.

White men figured there were only two ways to get through or around the Chiricahuas—go south through Apache Pass, or go north through the foothills of Dos Cabezas. Anyone who wanted to go up into the Chiricahuas from the west had to go through Hell’s Gate and up Hell’s Trail.

A bit of Hell Hole Trail as it is today
As usual, Lester Dent headed the Dent column. That’s what he called it, the Dent column. He grinned inside, but outside, he was a stern patriarch, the guiding light to a coming generation of Dent sons. Finn and Lee Roy showed promise, although they needed upbraiding of a time. And Wee Willy. T’would never do to send him off by himself. He was good at hefting and carrying around camp or on a ranch or somewhere, but not quick enough in the head to be sent off by himself.

And the woman, Molly. Might have to change her name. Molly. She had her good points. Not many women able to cook good grub on an open fire. Molly could and Molly did. Molly did a lot of things. True, the boys used her a lot, but young men were bound to want to hump. Couldn’t let them pound on her too much. She needed to be able to do for the Dents and she couldn’t do that all bruised and broken. Yeah. Humping and hitting had to be separated. For sure.

It's not unusual in my books to have chapters or scenes in third-person POV of perps or other people who have roles to play in the story. For example. In Return to Silver Creek, protagonist Garet Havelock's wife Laura comes up missing. She's been brutally raped. (OK, so I'm hard on women) A friend gives her shelter. So for many chapters of the book, the beginning is in Laura's 3rd person POV, and the remainder is in Garet's 3rd person POV. Here's a sample. 

Mexican Hacienda, but maybe like the Pilar's
Laura Havelock opened her eyes to dim surroundings. A fragrance of old leather and juniper smoke filled the air. She felt it was morning, though the room was dark.
She had not left the room since Rita Pilar and Ramon Javez, the Pilar ranch segundo, brought her to the hacienda. Her bruised ribs didn’t hurt as much, and scabs had formed on the two vertical slits beneath her eyes. They looked like dark purple tears. Her young body was recovering quickly from the brutal attack. Her body was healing, but her heart remained deeply scarred.
Laura knew no man before her husband and now she had been violated in every way imaginable – brutalized, heart, body, and soul.
That man didn’t want a woman. He wanted to hurt. To wound me, to humiliate me, to make me feel like dirt fit only to be trod upon.
A light tap sounded on the oak door.
“Yes.” Laura forced herself to get up and remove the bar.
Rita Pilar entered with a platter of bacon, eggs, fresh salsa, and flour tortillas. “We have no sourdough biscuits, mi amiga,” she said. “Tortillas will have to do.” Rita smiled. “I did bring the crock of sourdough starter from your rancho, however. Later, perhaps, you can show me how it works.”
“Thank you, Rita. You and yours have been so kind. You saved my life, you know. Now you want me to show you how to make sourdough bread. And you already have such delicious tortillas.”
Rita smiled again. “My people came from Spain many generations ago, and from Mexico to Arizona, though we called it Nuevo Mexico then. We are also Americanos, you see. And I think we should learn everything we can about you Anglos.”
For the first time in days, Laura Havelock laughed. “Good thing my father is not here to hear you call me an Anglo,” she said. She switched to an Irish brogue, imitating her father. “Sure and it’s Irish Celts we are and we hail from Erin, the emerald isle, that we do.” 
Rita laughed with delight.
“Come, sit at the table, Laura. Let’s eat. Here.” The Mexican woman handed Laura a blouse and skirt. “You’re bigger than I am,” she said, “but Paloma is a wizard with her needle. Try these on. I wager they fit.”
“Thank you. You are a friend.” Laura used the tips of her little fingers to brush the tears away from the corners of her eyes. But it was no use. They overflowed anyway, and silently streamed down her face. She turned away from Rita, but she caught Laura’s arm and turned her back.
“Let the tears come, my friend. Let them come. When you try to hold them back, the hole in your heart just gets bigger. Let them come. So the inner wounds can heal,” she said.
“Oh, Rita.” Laura sobbed. “You bring me to your home. You clean me up and give me clothes to wear. But inside I’m so dirty. So dirty. So awfully dirty.”
Rita put her arms around Laura, pulled her close, and held her as she wept.

Not Alamo, as that town no longer exists,
but Cascabel, a town not far away from Alamo

Part way through the chapter, I make a scene change to look in on the oldest Dent son, Finn. He's been sent to Alamo for supplies to take them through Hell's Gate and Hell's Trail.

“Howdy, stranger.” The man behind the bar wore a big smile, a walrus moustache, and mutton chop sideburns that extended up the sides of his face until they disappeared into his bald pate, just above his ears. “What’ll ya have? I’m Todd. First one’s on Charley Wainwright, I might add.”

“Whiskey’d be good,” Finn said. “Really good shot of whiskey.”

“Coming up.” Todd reached for a long-necked bottle with no label and poured a generous three fingers of amber liquid into a slightly foggy glass. “Like I said, the first one’s on ol’ Charley Wainwright.” Todd put the glass on the plank bar right in front of Finn.

Saliva filled Finn’s mouth at the thought of drinking the hefty shot of whiskey sitting right there before him. Free for the drinking, too. He took the glass in his strong untrembling grasp and knocked it back.

Good. Lord. Good.

The whiskey went down in three swallows, but the sledgehammer of fire hit all at once.

Then the burning gradually settled down to stoked furnace level. Finn wiled his watering eyes. “Whew. Prime. By the almighty, prime. How much you getting for a shot of that fine whiskey?”

Word count: 17,810