Soiled Doves Go Missing (Chapter 3)
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.
The next morning it was soon noticed that two of the women, Charlotte and Mabel, were missing.
“Nobody heard anything during the night?” Hex questioned as the group gathered for breakfast.
“Must have been Injuns,” Shorty suggested as he passed out the biscuits. “Injuns ain’t real smart but don’t make much noise.”
Hex snapped, “If it was, we’d be missing some horses and not just two whores. Shorty, you’re lucky Sweet Water is not here, what with your derogatory talk about our brown brothers. She might chop off your head and put it in a bag like she did to Johnny Blackfoot, but she’s on a steamboat on her way to St. Louis, along with Hannah Monroe and Timothy O’Leary. Did those Crow come back?” he asked, glaring at White Snake.
“No, I think not,” White Snake said. “They did not seem much interested in women. They interested only in women like Mary Two Stones and Pine Leaf.”
Shorty laughed. “Those two squaws have a pecker bigger’n yours,” he said out of a lopsided grin.
White Snake shot back, “They mostly call me Big White Snake, but name too long. We know why they call you Shorty. I go look for tracks.” White Snake returned a few minutes later and said, “Tracks say white men. Shod horses. Six horses, four for men and two they bring for women they take.”
Shorty asked, “Why do they call you White Snake? Why not Red Snake or Black Snake? Yer squaw tamer is pretty dark.”
“It’s Big White Snake to you, like I said. My mother was white captive. My father Crow chief.”
“Whatever you say, White Worm,” Shorty mumbled. Everybody laughed but White Snake.
“Maybe it was those Mormons that took Mabel and Charlotte,” Hex said. “I warned them, but they were desperate for women. I gave them back those gold plates with words, and they promised no more trouble from them.”
“I don’t trust them Mormons,” Shorty said. “But then, I don’t trust Injuns neither.”
Hex said, “I’m going to follow those tracks and find Charlotte and Mabel.”
Bob Wells, former Texas Ranger asked, “You want some company? I could tag along like I did when we tracked those Cheyenne who kidnapped the Smock family girl. They looked good hanging from a tree.”
Hex replied, “Yes, they did. But you scalped them and wanted to cut off their privates and stuff them into their mouths.”
“That’s what they do to white men!” Wells said defiantly.
“I’ll go with you,” Shorty offered.
“No, I can travel faster alone,” Hex responded. “You stay here and protect the rest of them.”
“Oh, I feel save now,” Margaret said sarcastically.
“Bob Wells will be in charge while I’m gone,” Hex ordered.
“But he shot Buck, remember?” Shorty noted.
“I remember,” Buck said. “It was my fault.”
“Actually, it was Delilah’s fault,” Shorty corrected. “Yer argument was over whether or not she peed standing up, or somethin’ like that.”
Delilah stood up and relieved herself in front of everyone.
“That settles that,” Hex said. “Now, I don’t want any trouble while I’m gone.”
# # #
Rescue or revenge
Charlotte’s once beautiful face was now grotesque. It and her head and arms were full of bruises and sores, and her nose was burnt off to the bone. Her nostrils were wide open and the flesh was gone. But Mabel had suffered an even worse fate. Her naked body hung from a tree and it had been cut upon like a side of beef being butchered.
Hex had camouflaged himself and snuck up on the gang of men close enough to hear the conversation. He had noticed they were drinking and thus less likely to notice him.
The apparent leader of the gang strutted around the campfire in a hat, boots, and vest made of snakeskin. A live reticulated python draped his shoulders. Although Hex had never seen the man before, he recognized his identity as a brutal killer named Captain Taz from descriptions he had heard. The leader barked at the others sitting around the fire drinking and laughing.
“We’ll be eating good tonight,” the leader said.
“Nothin’ like roasted whore,” the man named Slick, a Mexican with a dark goatee, sneered.
Hex decided there were too many of them to make a move now. He drew back to wait until the odds were more in his favor. Besides, he couldn’t do much for the women. Mabel was dead and Charlotte had already been tortured and mutilated and wasn’t likely long for this world. All he could really do was to exact revenge and see to it that they received a decent burial.
# # #
Shorty and the others sat around the fire that evening feasting on the mussels picked up from the banks of the river, crawdads, bass, and trout. Woodrow and his son Josiah had hit the jackpot, fishing-wise.
“Lewis and Clark camped at this very spot,” Reverend Isaac Nelson noted. “That was more than sixty years ago. I read about it in their journal. They found a dinosaur fossil in the Hell Creek area. I read about that in their journal too. Hannah Monroe also found dinosaur fossils in the Hell Creek area. I read about that in her journal. And I was there when she found them.”
“Yup, me too,” Shorty said. “We will be known as famous dinosaur fossil hunters when they hear the story back East.”
“Exactly,” Reverend Nelson concurred. “People will be looking to hire you as a guide to take them into the Hell Creek formation and find dinosaur fossils.”
“Yup,” Shorty said. “I’ll be rich. I wonder how Hex is makin’ out. With gettin’ Charlotte and Mabel back.”
“I got a bad feeling about that,” Delilah said.
“Me too,” Margaret agreed.
“I prayed for them,” Reverend Nelson advised. “They will be fine.”
“Right, Rev,” Shorty snapped. “Jist don’t pray for me. Yer a jinx. My bet is that the only good you will ever do for those two missin’ ladies will be to say words over their graves.”
“Amen,” Delilah and Margaret muttered simultaneously.