The Filthy Five
Matt was awakened from his sleep by
water dripping in his face. He rolled over to look at the clock on the wall,
and then he remembered. There was no clock. There wasn't even a wall. Matt sat
up, and rubbed his eyes. He wished he knew if it was day or night. His stomach
was telling him it had been quite some time since his last meal.
Matt was lost, and he knew it. People would be looking for him he was sure of that. The problem was that the people looking for him would want him to stand trial for murder.
If only I had more control of those five fingers, he mused. If those filthy five hadn't learned how to become a weapon I wouldn't be here.
Matt began to go over the happenings or the past few days in his mind. Was it just a few days, or had he been in this cave for longer than he knew? His thoughts raced, and he fought down the panic that began to rise in his chest.
However long ago it happened, he thought, I wish it never had. Creede Colorado in 1958 was a pretty rough town, full of miners, and no nonsense men. Matt had been working in the mines for the past year, and a half. Trying to save up enough money to go to Alaska, and find his own fortune.
Things had gone pretty well until just a few nights ago when Matt had been sitting quietly at the Long Branch saloon. The place was deserted except for Matt, and the bartender. Just as he was preparing to leave the door burst open, and three men swaggered in. "Tom Davidson, and his two cronies", Matt thought to himself.
Tom was a local bully, and the only son of mine owner Thad Davidson. Tom was quite a troublemaker, but when your daddy is a millionaire then you are above the law. Matt had managed to have very little contact with Tom, and wanted to keep it that way.
It was obvious that the three men had been drinking although they weren't drunk. Matt decided that it was definitely time to be going, and layed two bits on the bar as he rose to go.
"Good night Charlie" he said to the bartender. As he turned toward the door Tom was already right there in the way, and Matt accidentally bumped into him. Cursing himself mentally Matt quietly said, "Excuse me".
"No problem" Tom sneered. "Every man deserves a bush with greatness." Before he even knew what he was doing Matt responded, "I'm glad I could be your first".
When he realized what he was saying he wanted to kick himself. Not waiting for a response Matt started moving for the door. He had taken four steps, and was almost gone when Tom realized he had been insulted.
"What did you say to me boy?" Tom roared. "I think you're trying to be smart with me." Matt didn't like bullies, and was not intimidated by them. For some reason he couldn't make himself back down from this load of hot air. "I said you wouldn't know a great man if he hit you right in the mouth." Matt was surprised at himself. He usually tried to avoid trouble especially with people like Tom Davidson.
Tom was obviously furious. His face turned bright red, and he took a step towards Matt. "I guess I'm going to have to teach you some manners." he snarled. "You can't teach what you don't know." was Matt's response.
Tom was done talking and started forward with his fists clenched. Matt was no stranger to fist fighting. He had been heavy weight boxing champion when he was in the army. He easily slipped inside the wild haymaker Tom threw at his head, and slammed the top of his forehead into the bridge of Tom's arrogant nose. There was a crunching sound, and Tom rocked back onto his heals, stunned.
Matt didn't wait for him to regain balance. With incredible speed, and power he unloaded a right-handed uppercut right into Tom's jaw. Tom's head snapped back, and his feet came off of the floor. Matt could see everything as if it happened in slow motion. Tom fell straight back, and hit the base of his scull on the bar. There was a sickening crack heard all around the room at the moment of impact.
Everything was still for a moment. Tom's two friends who had barely gotten turned in time to see the short fight now began to stir. One of them stooped, and felt Tom's neck. He looked up in shock. "He's dead." he half whispered.
Something went cold inside of Matt. He felt like he was in a bad dream. "You killed him." The words snapped him back to reality. "Mr. Davidson will see you hang for this." the man said as he rose from the motionless form on the floor.
Those were the few quick mistakes that had led him here. He hadn't stayed for the necktie party that was surely going to be held in his honor. He had fled out the back door, and headed northwest into the mountains. About daybreak of that first morning he had found this cave, and thought he would hide out in it for a while. Unfortunately he was now hopelessly lost inside this cave, and even if someone found him they would just take him back to town to hang. That might be better than starving in this godless pit, Matt thought to himself.
Matt awoke again with a start. Had he heard a voice, or was it just a dream? Was this whole thing just a dream for that matter? Matt sorely wished he could just wake up in his small apartment at the boarding house, and this would all just be a nightmare.
There it was again! This time he was sure he had heard a faint voice. His first instinct was to call out, but Matt checked himself. Chances are this is a posse, he thought.
Putting out his hand he found the cool rock wall, and began to carefully edge towards the sounds. He heard them again. He couldn't make out words, but could tell it was people talking.
He kept edging along towards the noise. Soon he could see a very faint light. It was still a long ways off, but he was sure it was a fire by the flickering. As he crept closer the sleeve of his shirt caught on a rock the protruded from the wall. The rock fell to the floor with a clatter. The sound seemed to cut through the darkness like a razor.
What happened next happened so fast that Matt didn't even know what was happening. The guard by the fire was dosing, and the sound of the rock hitting the floor snapped him awake. Without thinking he simple jerked up his rifle, and fired at the sound. Matt felt the bullet whip past his head, and felt the muzzle blast from the rifle. He was blinded by the flash from the barrel or the gun.
Before his mind could process what had just happened the roof of the cave crashed down on him. Matt was sent to the ground with the force of a freight train. He had an amazing moment of clarity at that moment, and thought, "This is how it's all going to end. I'm going to die right here under thousands of pounds of rock." The distinct smell of dust filled his nostrils, and then everything went black.
Matt could hear voices. They seemed to be a long ways off, but then they grew closer. He opened his eyes. The voices were right beside him. "Looks like he's awake" one of the voices said.
A gray haired man with a bushy mustache leaned over him. "Looks like you're gonna make it son. You had a close brush with death. I was barely able to save your right hand. You may never regain full use of it, but you might if you work at it."
"Where am I?" Matt asked. "You're in Lake City." The other voice replied. Matt looked at the other man. He was a tall lean man with a weathered face, and steely blue eyes that seemed to look right into Matt's soul.
"My Name is Bob Thomas. I'm the local sheriff." The steely-eyed man said. "This is Doc Turner." The man with the bushy mustache shook his head, and said, "I can't believe you even lived long enough to make it here. After the posse dug you out they brought you here because it was closer than Creede. You had lost a lot of blood, from the gash in your head, and your hand was crushed, but you are tough." That'll tech you Matt thought as he looked at his bandaged hand.
"How long have I been here?" Matt asked. "Four days", the sheriff said. "Don't worry about that posse. I sent them back to Creede." Matt's brow furrowed, "What about Tom Davidson?" "He is going to be just fine, as soon as his broken jaw heals." the sheriff said with a wry smile playing at his lips. "But I heard his neck break." Matt responded. "That just his hard head breaking a piece of the bar off." the Doc said with a chuckle. "You pack a whale of a punch son, but I wouldn't use that right hand as a fist again. It will always be weak."
"Don't worry." Matt replied. "So, what happens to me now?" "As soon as you're strong enough we're going to buy you a bus ticket to wherever you want to go." the sheriff said. "Where will that be?" "I've got a cousin in Anchorage. I guess I'll go there." Matt said.
Later after the sheriff and the doctor had left Matt lay alone thinking to himself. Somehow this had all worked out. He would always carry the scars from this incident, but he was going to be all right. Matt shook his head, and looked at his hands. "From now on I'm only going to use you for good." he said as he drifted off to sleep.