Bobby Fix-It Finds Religion: The Billy the Kid Chronicles Continue
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Let's see what kind of trouble Billy the Kid gets into this week
A Quick Review
Bobby’s been asked to find the twenty-year old sister of his ranch foreman, Matt Stairs. When she was last heard from she joined some religious movement/commune near the town of Dubois, Wyoming, but she hasn’t been heard from in quite some time and Matt is worried.
Let’s see what Bobby finds out as he travels east to Dubois.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Before I left for Dubois I did a little research on the Angels of Heaven religious group. Google pretty much has the skinny on anyone in this world. Seems they were formed in 2010 by some guy named Brother Gabriel. According to their website, the church consisted of a self-sustaining ranch/farm of two-hundred acres tucked into a valley north of Dubois. All were welcomed to the farm, and membership consisted of forfeiting your worldly goods and working with others for unification, whatever the hell that was. Sounded like a scam to me. There are millions of them, schemes and variations of schemes, all designed to fleece the insecure, the lost, the confused and even those running from the law. The leader rakes in the money and possessions under the non-profit cover, the worker-bees provide free labor, and it’s all hidden under the mantel of eternal salvation and joyous rapture.
Dubois ain’t far from Jackson, no more than ninety miles, but it’s on the eastern side of the Wind River Range and I was on the western side, so that meant I had to drive north to Moran then back south on twenty-six to Dubois. It was a damned fine morning when I kissed Dawn goodbye, promised one more time not to kill anyone unless in self-defense, climbed in my pickup and began the ninety minute drive through God’s country, as the locals like to call it. It was for sure prettier than Washington Heights in New York where I was born and raised, but the scenic beauty only partially masked the fact that human weaknesses will always fall prey to the predators among us.
It was ten a.m. when I drove into downtown Dubois. I had no idea where the Angels of Heaven spread was located, but I was sure the locals at the diner would know, and if they didn’t the tavern was always a treasure chest of local information.
The Hungry Moose Café was resting up after the breakfast crowd when I got there. I walked in the door to the ring of a bell, and a bee-hived waitress on the north side of fifty told me to grab any seat (except hers wink-wink) and she’d be with me in a second. I did as I was told, taking a seat along the far wall, my back against the wall, a good view of the entrance. Old habits die hard, but I’d rather err on the side of caution in situations where all intel was missing.
There was an old couple four tables over picking at the scraps on their plate and reading the newspaper. Other than them it was just me and Alice, she of the bee-hive hairdo who was true to her word and arrived with a genuine smile and a pot of coffee. She didn’t ask, just poured. I liked that.
“What can I getcha?” she asked, and she made it sound like she genuinely cared about my needs. Go to any town in the country and you’ll find an Alice. At one time she was probably a decent-looking woman, but too many hard years had chiseled her down and taken the softness from her features. I’d bet her for living in Dubois all her life, and she probably knew more about the town than any elected official.
I took a sip of the coffee. Strong, as in eat-rust-off-a-bumper strong.
“Bacon, eggs over easy, wheat toast and maybe toss in some biscuits and gravy if it’s not too much trouble.”
“No trouble at all, hon! You sit tight and let Alice take good care of you. Whatever you want, Alice will gladly provide.” She laughed at her bawdiness and winked to let me know she was at least partially joking about the degrees of customer service she provided.
I drank coffee for fifteen minutes and tried to decide on an approach to this problem. I figured Alice for a comrade when it came to the Angels of Heaven, so direct questions wouldn’t be met with hostility. Turns out I was right. When Alice came back with the food she asked me if there was anything else she could get for me.
“Just some information, Alice. I’m looking for the kid sister of a friend. She went to some place called the Angels of Heaven Church and hasn’t been heard from since. I’m here to find her. Do you know anything about these Angels of Heaven?”
The smile disappeared.
“I know enough not to like them, Mister, and I know for damn sure they ain’t no church.” She grabbed the chair opposite me and sat down.
Here’s the Thing
“Here’s the thing, Mister. Those people are bad news. I don’t have no proof of it, but I’ve seen their kind before and there’s no good coming from them. The leader, so called Brother Gabriel, he’s phonier than a three-dollar bill you ask me, and he’s got a couple helpers, big guys, weight-lifter types, who don’t look like they believe in the loving way, if you get my drift. If your friend’s sister is with them then she’s got problems.”
“How do I find their place, Alice?”
“It’s easy enough to find. Go down to the next stoplight, turn left, follow that road five miles or so. You’ll see their sign on the right and a dirt road leads off into the woods. Follow that road about half a mile and you’ll come to their gate. There will be someone waiting for you. There’s always a guard at the gate. If you go there you walk softly but carry a big damned stick, you hear?”
I finished up my meal, left Alice the best tip she’s probably gotten in months and climbed back into my truck. I pulled the Glock out from under the seat. Checked to make sure it was loaded. My big stick was locked and loaded and so was I.
Angels in the Wilderness
Alice’s instructions were as good as any onboard GPS unit. Twenty minutes later I rounded a curve and the trees parted like the Red Sea, leaving me with a view of a beautiful valley and a steel gate guarding the entrance. The gate was attached to a ten foot fence with barbed wire on top, and inside that gate, watching me approach, was six-and-a-half feet of barely-restrained aggression with a shotgun.
I shut the engine down, tucked the Glock into my belt on my back and got out of the truck. The ticking of the engine blended with a chorus of birds chirping. I smiled at the guard, got nothing in return. I smiled some more and took two steps in his direction. That earned me the shotgun being pumped.
“Private property, buddy! There’s nothing here for you?”
“How can you be so sure? I haven’t told you what I want.”
“Makes no difference. Just climb back in your truck, turn it around and head back to where you came from.”
Here’s the thing. I don’t like taking orders, and I sure as shit don’t like taking orders from a Neanderthal with the IQ of a birch tree. However, I promised Dawn, so I dialed down the testosterone and tried the smile again.
“I’m looking for a girl. Her name is Marie Stairs. I heard she was a part of your church here, and I’ve got a message from her brother.”
Now the shotgun was pointed at me.
“You’ve got exactly one minute to do as you were told and then I pull the trigger.”
There’s just no reasoning with some people.
“Okay, my friend, we’ll play it your way. My wife Dawn is going to be disappointed, but I figure she’ll eventually forgive me.”
I got back in the truck, turned it around and headed down the road.
A friend of my dad’s, Max Caulder, kind of took me under his wing after my old man got knifed and killed. He told me once that no weapon on earth is as good as good intelligence. He had tromped through the festering squalor of Vietnam and managed to survive it, so I figured if he spoke I should listen. He told me if time’s on my side, then spend it gathering as much information as possible before diving in head-first. In this case he was right. I had nothing to go on and that was a dangerous place to be. I figured to come back to this fortress at night and check out the particulars.
I got myself a room at a Dubois motel, one of those horseshoe-shaped relics from the Fifties, and took a nap. When night fell I’d return to the Angels, check out their defenses and see what was waiting for me.
And That’s Where We’ll Leave Bobby for Now
I’ll see you next week with another installment of the Billy the Kid Chronicles. Thanks for stopping by and reading about my anti-hero. Billy’s first novella will be coming out in early March. I’ll let you know when it happens. In the meantime, as long as you’re enjoying this series, I’ll keep writing it.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)