Extermination (Chapter 4)
These short stories will be chapters in the sequel to my novel The Lady Who Loved Bones. Any suggestions for improvement or for future stories are welcome.
“What the hell are you doing here, Shorty?” Hex demanded. “I told you to stay with the others.” Hex rested with his back up against a tree about a half mile from the campsite where the outlaw gang held Charlotte and Mabel captive. He sipped a cup of coffee and puffed on a cigarillo as he contemplated a plan of action to attack. His mindset was the same as when the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers had slaughtered Hannah Monroe’s companions and had restrained her naked to a tree, with intentions that were not honorable.
Suddenly some motion in the bushes startled Hex, and he noticed Shorty on his stomach crawling towards him. The intruder stood when he realized he had been seen.
Shorty said apologetically, “I thought you might need some help. You found them? Charlotte and Mabel?”
“Yup,” Hex said. “It took me a day to pick up the tracks. The outlaw gang that took them mingled their tracks with a small buffalo herd. Now that was some trick. The next day I found the carcass of the horse Mabel rode. The ladies doubled up and slowed down. Then I found them, due mostly to their drinking and raising hell. That’s the good news.”
“And the bad news?” Shorty played along.
“There were too many of them for me to ride right in shooting. That Captain Taz was the leader. Charlotte had been tortured and mutilated, but was still alive, barely. Mabel was already dead, but they weren’t done with her yet.”
“Yup,” Shorty muttered sorrowfully, “that Captain Taz is an animal. He threatened to bite off Hannah’s nipple and et it for a snack, and he looked very serious. It was him who sold Hannah and me to Yellow Bear and the Cheyenne. We was rescued, by all people, by them crazy Mormons. Then you traded them Mormons those golden plates with writing on them for us, and Charlotte and Mabel. They became willing to negotiate after you threatened to blow them to smithereens with dynamite. So what are you gonna do? Make that what are we gonna do.”
Hex replied, “Wait another hour until dusk when they are good and drunk. Then ride in and try to surprise them. I just snuck up on their camp again to observe. Captain Taz and a few of the others rode off somewhere. The odds are better now, although I’m disappointed he’s gone. He needs killing bad.”
“Yup,” Shorty nodded, “The odds are better now. You got me on your side now.”
“Check your weapons then,” Hex ordered. Shorty checked his favorite weapon. It was a Colt 1848 Third Dragoon .44 caliber revolver with a seven-and-a-half-inch barrel. What made this one unique was that it had a special shoulder stock that in essence converted it into a carbine, which let one spray bullets like with a handgun, sweeping it from side to side. Sweet Water had given Shorty the gun. She took it from Johnny Blackfoot after she cut off his head and put it in a bag.
# # #
An hour later the two horses raced right into the outlaw’s camp. Hex and Shorty omitted blood-curdling yells as they fired. Four of the men were hovered over Mabel’s body now lying on the ground. They cut into her body and pulled out pieces of what were delicacies to them.
“I got the liver!” one of them exclaimed.
Hex yanked his horse Gideon almost right down into the middle of the outlaws and shot the man holding the liver in the chest. Another outlaw had cut out and held up Mabel’s uterus. Hex shot him right between the eyes. Then he shot the other two who had been digging into Mabel’s body with their knives. Three more outlaws came running into the firelight, and Hex quickly finished them off with bursts from his pistol. Two others sat with their backs to the river, with jugs between their legs. Hex caught them cold with their rifles propped up against their saddles too far away for an easy reach. Hex shot one in the face, and the other started to cry and Hex shot him twice.
“I didn’t shoot a one,” Shorty lamented. “You shot the whole bunch.”
“Lucky I guess,” Hex said. “One rode off, a Mexican with a dark goatee.”
“How did you know he was a Mexican?” Shorty inquired.
Hex snapped, “His saddle.”
“Let’s go git him!” Shorty urged.
# # #
It didn’t take long to catch up with the one who fled. Hex left Shorty in the dust and trailed the outlaw alone. When Shorty did finally catch up, Hex had the man called Slick so he said hogtied and screaming while he did some dental work with proper dentist’s instruments he had acquired for extracting information. The procedure he did with red-hot dental forceps was particularly effective.”
Shorty blurted, “Hey, that’s how you got Bent Feather, the Arapaho horse thief, to talk.”
“Yup,” Hex acknowledged. “Bent Feather told me what I wanted to know. So did this guy. Very quickly. I’m done with him. Go find the right tree to hang him from.”
Shorty did and they took the prisoner over to a gaunt dead Ponderosa pine. They tied Slick’s hands behind him and got him on a horse. “Would you like to say anything?” Hex asked.
“I didn’t do nothing,” the man replied, beginning to shake.
“Too bad Reverend Nelson isn’t here to take his confession,” Shorty said.
“Yup,” Hex agreed. “I bet that would take a few hours.” Then he said to the condemned, “You are being hanged for being a horse thief. You stole those two horse the ladies rode. That’s a hanging offense in the Montana Territory.”
Slick dug his chin onto his chest. Hex had to grab his hair and pull his head back to get the rope around his neck. Hex looped the other end of the rope over a tree branch. He gave Slick’s horse a whack with a coiled rope and the horse jumped out from under the man and in an instant the man was swinging dead from the limb.
“That was quick and tidy,” Shorty complimented. “You shoulda been a hangman.”
“That wasn’t my first rodeo,” Hex said. “Now you go back to our camp, and stay there like I told you to do before. I’m worried that this Taz might have doubled back and be up to no good with our people. Take the bodies of Charlotte and Mabel back with you and see to it they get a decent burial with words said over them by our favorite preacher. I’m going to leave this guy hanging with a sign on him.”
“Are you gonna bury the other fellas?” Shorty asked.
“Nope,” Hex answered. “Buzzards got to eat too.”
“What are you gonna do?” Shorty asked.
“I’m going to ride fast for Helena where I should be receiving a telegram from Hannah Monroe. She promised to send one when the steamboat made a stop at Fort Laramie. I’ll meet you and the others in Virginia City in about a week.”
# # #
Another one bites the dust
Captain Taz found Margaret swimming nude in the Musselshell River out of sight and sound of the rest of the group, for privacy reasons. He walked to the river’s edge, and she saw him.
“What the hell!” Margaret protested. “Who are you? Get out of here and let me be. I don’t have any clothes on!”
“Why would you care about that?” Taz challenged. “You’re a whore.”
“I am not a whore!” she insisted indignantly. “I used to be a whore, but not no more. I saw the light.”
“Well, lady, “Hex said, “you just come out of the water and let me get a better look at you. I want to see what I’m having for dinner.”
“What?” Margaret blurted. “You are crazy, mister! Why are your clothes and hat and boots made of snakeskin?”
“I like snakes,” he replied. “I have a few as pets. Big snakes, big enough to squeeze a person to death. Or swallow a child or small person whole.”
Margaret got out of the water and began to run.