Chapter Ten

Peach died the next day, choking.

Some of the Nigger Cavalry returned to the fort, with the Colonel, that was insane, bruised and bloodied from head to toe, as was many of the troops, wearing a blanket, as was many of the troops too. They was under command of tough Sergeant Jones and had a wild and terrible story about a grand attack of the Apaches. Thing of it was, the Lieutenant, named Hurtz, that they had reported dead, had crawled out from under the table right after the bare hands fight and got away in the night, on foot, and he was a little insane but come into the fort two days after Jones and the men did and he had a different story. Most of the troops deserted, he said, because the Water Hole Ranch drew them into a state of debauchery. Women and drink and bloodshed and debauchery of every kind, he said. That's all they do out there! When they ain't selling guns to the Apaches! They are led by a man called Wild Bill Olive and he is the same as has been suspected of killing Lieutenants Ackerman and Shaw, robbing banks, trespassing, blasphemy, rape, selling guns to the Apaches and anything else you can think of. This information, so I understand, was gathered day to day, during which the insane Colonel cleared up a wee bit and, not meaning to conflict with Lieutenant Hurtz's story too much, put Jones up for decoration and promotion for saving his life under fire, which did occur at the Water Hole, as most of the men did resist all the sirens and drink out there, and fought their way free. One of the three ranchers survived, not the one Manuel hit, as that man was found drowned in the Water Hole, and the one Jones shot was seen next morning laying out in the yard dead, but the one took off running in the night, he spotted a loose Cavalry mount and got it and rode for his ranch, and wrote the Governor for a new deed because his and his partners' was all lost in a battle with Mexican gunrunners. We must get the outlaws out of that area, he wrote to the Governor. So a Marshal and a posse off these three ranches that was divvying up the Water Hole, and a new troop of Cavalry, but white men, come out to the Water Hole, and the Cavalry and the cowboys stood wary of the sirens while the Marshal stated my arrest, and in the meantime give everybody one week to move on. He ain't here, said Hatch scratching his navel in the doorway. But I am his lawyer, and I will get him, and we will come to trial.

The morning I quit messing around and come into the Baca Ranch a cool wind was blowing, little hailstones melting slow in my hair. I had thought maybe a serape or something would cross my path before I got there but it did not happen and I kind of felt foolish riding in wearing my horse blanket, and many times in my life I have cussed myself for my lazy ways, but the one thing I can say about it is that by not taking care of your hide before you have to you stay quick. I come around to the kitchen door and said, hey, Elizabeth. My heart was working hard and I thought, damn, am I scared of her? Her mother stuck her head out first, said what do you want? Hello, Senora Baca. What do you want? Elizabeth. Elizabeth doesn't belong to you. This brung on some kind of vision or the like, because my heart rose to a din and lightening cracked in my head and my chill was thawed and I seen myself riding across the universe with the woman's daughter under my arm. I looked at the woman, shook my head, was saying, now, now, now, and folding up my horse blanket. I looked at the blanket, seen what I had done, looked up at the weather, looked at the barn, and the woman, and I told her, hell, I need to buy a second hand serape. I'll chop you some wood, too. Who is chopping wood for you now? There, she pointed. Here come a couple lazy hands to chop wood. Maybe I can do their work for them and get a shirt, I said. They was not my size but it was something to say but Elizabeth's mother banged the door, and got Elizabeth. I heard a lot of noise or argument, then Elizabeth come, said, what do you want? You. She spit a low curse and banged the door. I looked around, wondering what should I do, and Elizabeth brung out a cup of coffee. She give it with passion snapping off her fingers and a sneer on her face. She brung the sneer down to a even growl and said over again what did I want. Then she said I had not changed in any way. You don't even have a shirt and it's winter, she said. Wait here. She went in and I drunk the coffee, then she was back with a old shirt of her brother's. Now she was keeping calm and said with no feeling to come in and get a little breakfast if I wanted.

She beat out some tortillas and I drunk coffee and talked some about all the experiences with God I had been through since I last saw her but she did not show interest in any of it and she picked out arguments. She said, in a way as if she had not heard that I was trying to talk about God, I have become very religious. I go to Mass very often and I am becoming happier and am closer with God and am learning to be a better person. Goddamnit, that's what I'm trying to talk about, I told her. Bill, perhaps you are trying, but you always want to talk about blood, and how Jesus gave his blood. You just talk about this blood thing and you're too violent to believe in God. Goddamn, you just don't understand me, Elizabeth! You want to know how serious I am about Jesus Christ? I'm goddamn serious! Why, I want to heal wounds and live forever right now, now! Bill, see how violent you are? Look, you don't even have a shirt of your own and it's winter already! All you do is run around the country like a crazy Apache! You never do any work on your ranch, and I would never marry a crazy, violent man like you. There was never anything between us but the physical, Bill. You sure don't understand me, I said. Well, and you don't understand me! If we don't understand each other we are not meant for each other. Where is your fiance? I said. I have a new fiance, she said. And we have a very spiritual and pure relationship and I am happier than I have ever been in my life. He is the finest man I have ever known. I bet he is rich, too. No, but he has a good hotel in Santa Fe and some other businesses and he is forty one years old and very mature. Hum, I said. How does he make love? He makes wonderful love and I am so happy. After all, Bill, happiness is what counts, isn't it?

It all got to be a little too much for me. Elizabeth did not seem to be the same person. She did not seem to have the same great energy of body and spirit I had loved. Her mother passed through the kitchen one time and stayed in some room near by listening to us and Elizabeth had her back to me doing her little job and I took off Hijo's shirt, hung it over my chair, and slapped Elizabeth hard in the ass, missing it a little because it was so far down. It brung her out of everything. Well, I'll see you next time around, I said. Her mother come in as I went out. Take care of your daughter, Senora.

After all, it was still a horseman's country, plenty of meat, plenty of wild weather to keep me from getting bored.

But, Elizabeth followed me out, and her mother followed her. Shy about the mother there, Elizabeth called, you don't have to go. Well, I said. I'm just tired of all this bullshit. Do you want to get married? Come back in the house, Elizabeth! was squealing the mother, grinding her teeth. It struck me that if me and that woman ever got along it would take us another hundred years. I think she was going to run on Elizabeth with her fists. Elizabeth waved, and I did, and left.

Small wonder Elizabeth is crazy, I thought. I was cutting across the range and seen Hijo and the father off a ways looking at a fence, and they turned and looked at me riding half naked through the hail and they give a casual wave and went back to looking at the fence.

Toward sundown there was some snow and I was moving along under my horse blanket and thinking to go see the ranch I had and maybe quit feeling so poor, and I heard a rifle far up one side of me and knowing it was for me jerked the horse to his hind legs and the round buzzed under where it might had got the horse. I pulled my rifle and we run the opposite direction and the boom of the rifle come in again and I pulled one way but the man shooting was no good and I got the horse hit, a big slow slug that splashed me with brains and blood, and I followed him down, separated when he rolled, then scrambled and pounced behind him. My water bag was tore but I wasn't doing too bad, cause though the line of the horse wasn't purely direct with the attack, we was more downhill than flat and I had easy reach to the ass end where my other bag was hitched with my cartridges, and dark was coming. Man makes more enemies around these parts than he remembers, I said, in a better humor to have something taking me off my problems. But it was quiet, and I cooled, and slit the belly and moved against the warmth. Very quiet, and I got out weed and makings, rolled a cigarette, and it all got quieter, and it got dark, and the horse cooled Damn, I said. Sonofabitch didn't have any guts. I was all set for'im, too. Looks like I'm a foot. I rolled another smoke, got hungry, eat the horse liver, then went and found my blanket, and went on my way. After ten miles I stopped under a tree and lay on my bag and smoked till I slept. Little after dawn I woke, thirsty and thinking somebody was on my trail, which they was, and among other things they was disturbing the coyotes in the neighborhood that wanted my dead horse. I needed their horses and water and got up to look for a place to ambush. I figured they was these army paid Apaches, traitors and scouts and now sent after me, but Indians and it wouldn't be simple getting a jump on them but I was powerful thirsty, and soon agreeing to settle for a position just a little better than that tree for keeping them off my flank. Before I remembered how close it was I come into the road going to town, seen it a mile down with a troop of Cavalry coming and escorting a coach, and I trotted on down to meet them, get a drink of water. Nigger Cavalry, and I said, water, I need water, and a woman in the coach stuck her head out and said, why, you must be thirsty! I sure am, mam. Apaches caught me sleeping last night and got my horse and shirt and I been running ever since. Why, you poor man, she said. Come with us! I got in with her and her drunk husband and commenced to drink from a water jug while she told me what she was about. Their seventeen year old daughter had been kidnapped and being them people of means they had been out to leave the ransom money, as was so directed in the first kidnap note. Now, as went the second note, their daughter was supposed to be let off where she could pick up the train, and I sit and heard the woman out while her husband snored drunk. She was a red haired healthy looking woman and the road very bad and her husband kept falling on her so she sit with me, grabbing my knee and talking even as I too was falling asleep between drinks of water. By the time she was asking me questions about my life, and we was only ten or twelve miles from town but having to pass through this little canyon, getting the Cavalry strung out, there was a attack of the Apaches, must of been about a hundred Apaches leading their mounts up and down and knocking hell out of the Cavalry. They generally don't like to mess with the Niggers much, cause the Niggers was always mean and reckless, but this bunch of Apaches was supposed to be off a hundred miles somewhere in the other direction and they enjoy playing tricks and now the coach was crashing up and down about to get wrecked in the idea of getting free of the ambush, and I was wanting to look out the window and see the activities but it was not possible and me and Mrs. Trudeau, that was her name, and her husband was all piled on the floor in the whole of that little ride, and first I was on top of everybody and next the coach rolled along on two wheels till I was on the bottom of'em, and her husband, with out fully waking up, pissed all over us, but I will say Mrs. Trudeau was about as calm as you could expect a worried mother to be in the circumstances, and when we was back in a decent part of the road, and the Apaches pulling out after ripping up a bunch of them troops in the flank, and the coach stopped for inspection, she was under a attack of hay fever and hollered at the drivers to let her sot of a husband lay in his own urine like a dog. Dogs do not do that, but he was pretty drunk and me and her sit cross from one another with our feet on him, her sneezing and crying and trying to apologize for the indignity. Ah, couldn't he helped, mam, I said, feeling sorry for her. Where's the water, anyway? Oh you poor man! Here you have been nearly killed by the Apaches twice in twenty four hours, and suffered great thirst, and urinated on by a drunk! Aw, mam, hell. You must come home with me and have dinner! What were your plans? Ah, hell. Get a horse Buy a shirt. Well, you must stop over with us tonight! I have hardly slept for two nights but I doubt that I shall tonight, and I am so nervous, and you can see what poor company my husband makes, the dog! We have a big house and servants and plenty of room and I am sure you can be comfortable. My good cook will have a grand meal warm and waiting for my daughter whom we had expected to be with us and half-starved. Well, I'm hungry. Oh, wonderful, and we have some good brandy, too. And, soon as we get in I'll have one of the maids run down to her cousin's shop and get you clean clothes! They make the nicest things, and you would look good in some striped pants! I decided to go along, rolled more weed and relaxed for the rest of the ride while she asked me questions about my life.

Mrs. Trudeau had the biggest house in town, a two story place of plastered adobe and servants, one maid to wash, one to cook, one to clean, and a couple of male servants that attended to Mr. Trudeau. Mr. Trudeau was in bad shape, and his liver killed'im in a year. He come to when he was give a bath, and he talked a little at dinner, asked his wife who I was, ate half his plate, drinking hard while he was at it, passed out, and the servants took him up to his room. He is an ill man and twice my age, she said then, though she was maybe forty and him twenty years older at the most. We sit clean and dressed up, and the meal was a feast, various meats and things, as the daughter is a big eater. I gathered the daughter was a bit of a different breed, fond of horses and riding out all the time by herself, a little wild maybe, named Cynthia. My, but how you eat, remarked Mrs. Trudeau. More than Cynthia! More'n any man I know cept two, I said, guzzling good brandy with it. Oh, do carry on, she said. I love to see a man eat! You're such a strapping fellow, too! Well. I got to see to my health. Yes, I should think you would, such a life of adventure as you have! But what is that strange tobacco? she asked me when I finished and found a not used pipe in Mr. Trudeau's pipe rack. Injun weed, mam. It ain't tobacco exactly. My, but it has a very pleasant aroma, and I always hated to smell Mr. Trudeau's tobacco. Shall we go to the fireside, Mr. Olive? Naturally, I said.

On the ends of a couch overlooking the fire, we sit talking, all in our privacy now, and for a time I was content to hear her conversations, observing her big nervous nature and so on, and I could see I was a little horny but I was getting a little bored with it and sleepy from the food and drink and requested coffee. Yes, yes, she said, how could I have forgotten! It is warm on the stove! She bounced up and went after it, brung back the pot and everything on a tray. You must be so tired, poor man, you have been through so much! Me, why I am just all a dither and will be so until I have my dear daughter home and safe! She set the tray on a stool, demonstrating a rich fanny even as she was not outstanding above the waist. Ah, fine ankles you have, Mrs. Trudeau, I said with a yawn. Oh! Well, thank you, Mr. Olive! She sit and poured the coffee, that is the nicest compliment I have had in years! Is that a fact? Oh, how you drink coffee, so hot! I take it you don't care for the cream and sugar? Naa, I said, pouring more, and then realizing that what she said there had some kind of romantic meaning, I moved next to her and took loose her hair, and she had pretty good hair. You got real pretty hair. She was more in a dither than ever and put her coffee down. I take it you are a hand with the women, Mr. Olive? No, mam, that sure ain't true. I don't understand women and never will. Really? Am I so hard to know, she said in a lot of heaving. Naw, I wouldn't say that. It's just the female nature I can't figure, but maybe it's more in the young ones. Bill! May I call you Bill? Sure, what have you been calling me? Bill, please call me Beth. Bill, am I old? No, Beth, you are just mature and ripe. Say, Mrs. Trudeau, I mean, Beth, why don't you try a little this Injun weed, see if it makes you feel better. It's good for the nerves. Well, Bill, you don't think it rude for a lady to smoke? Aw, hell no, see, this Injun weed is more a medicine than a vice anyway. Really? You have a great need of it, then, in your challenging way of life? Well, I just like it. Here, I'll fix us a pipe. Like I say, I had been getting just a little bored with the affair, so thought I would observe her under the effects of the weed, and she was not a smoker and took to coughing, and I had to sit there and drink a lot of coffee before we had her going. Oh, I'm drunk, she said, Simply drunk! Do you feel any better? Oh-oh-oh! She was slowed down all right, said, Bill? Bill? Yep. Who are you? I already told you. Then she dug her hands in my back and we embraced. Take me to bed, Bill, please. I don't know where it is. Oh-oh-oh! I took off her clothes and she wilted in my hands and we made love there for a time. Ravish me, ravish me, she said. Later on we gathered our things and she took me up to her room but she was a little crazy by then. She lit the lamp and wandered around while I had another pipe and she wanted me to beat her. Oh, beat me, you terrible Indian fighter! I ain't no Indian fighter. Who are you? Beat me, you brute! Hell, I'm a mountain man and a horseman and a Jesus Christ man some of the time and I am too tired to beat you so why don't we just go to sleep. She was picking up a little speed, running around in the room with her hands in her hair, so finally I said, all right, damnit, come on over here and I'll give you a whipping but then we're going to sleep. Even then, she went back and forth a couple times saying how if I was half a man I would give here a good beating. Before she caught on I would if she would just come on over I got her across my knee and slapped her ass and she hollered, more, more, harder! You're sure waking the maids, I said, and spanked her ass till my arm was tired and her ass blood red and then I turned her the other way and used the other arm till her ass went blue, and she was still saying, more, oh, you brute, more! I got tired of that and let her roll on the floor, because she was the hardest woman to please I had ever met. But she come back up into my arms crying in a big frenzy and I thought maybe that was it for the night, but it wasn't, and directly she took to biting and scratching for more of the same, and I turned her over and being rough I was able to penetrate her rectum, which was what she needed, all right, and she went good and wild for a time. But that one settled her, and she said some more crazy things and went to sleep. I couldn't sleep then, because I could see I had got involved with the woman. After another pipe and the heart working like a fight I took my things and a bit of money I found laying around and went.

Soon as I was out in the air I was tired. I went to the cheap hotel in town and got a room and went to sleep. Next day I had breakfast in a cafe. TWo men watched me eating, then come over to my table and sit down. Wild Bill. Hello. You don't remember me? I looked at this feller, and he had been through a bit since I saw him, a little beat up now and had a crooked shoulder, but it was Curly, the gent I met the time me and Kelly and Jaime was riding down to the coast. Curly. We shook hands, and he said the feller with him was Scab. Still robbing trains, Curly? I am. We robbed the one yesterday, when we put that Trudeau gal on. Oh, you're the ones. The train will be in a little late, Wild Bill, because we felled some logs across the track and the men on the train didn't look too stout. Well, that's the business. Yep. We feel sorry for Mrs. Trudeau, because the daughter will be late. So it goes. Yep. Well, we had to rob the train cause one of them Niggers with Mrs. Trudeau stole the ransom money. That a fact? Yep, we seen'im. Made like he was taking a crap, damn sneaky sonofabitch, and quick. We ransomed that little bitch for five thousand! Goddamn, then that is a rich Nigger! Sure is. Turns my stomach, Wild Bill. Niggers didn't know it was that much, did they? No, they did not, so I guess that Nigger believes in God now! Guess so. What we wanted to talk to you about, Wild Bill. What's that. Now don't get mad. See, was us shot your horse. That a fact. It has been a bad year for horses. We're glad to see you ain't too mad about it, Wild Bill, but see, we thought you was a Indian. Why did you think that, Curly? Well, Wild Bill, you was just under that blanket, and you ride without no saddle, so how was we to know? We tried to catch you and apologize. Me and Scab. Yessir, said Scab. We didn't want to run on you too sudden like, so we tried to come up slow in the day, said Curly. Then you jumped in that coach with Mrs. Trudeau. Now, see, Wild Bill, we thought maybe you'd care to join the gang. Anyway, I kind of thought it would be nice to have a drink of whiskey with you and see what you was doing. Well, Curly, I got my own gang. Oh, you do then, well, I'm glad for you, Wild Bill.

Well, Curly, it's nice seeing you, but how come you guys fired on me? Wanted your horse, Wild Bill. Yeah? Yeah, Scab is a pretty bad shot. I'm better with a six gun, Scab said. Now I need a horse, Curly. Well, we will buy you a horse, Wild Bill. Thanks, Curly. We needed that horse for that little Trudeau bitch. She sure is a hellion, skinny as a rail and mean as hell. She rides like a Comanche and we had to shoot her horse when we snatched her, and she sure was mad about that, and then when we see all that damn Cavalry with Mrs. Trudeau we didn't want to turn her loose and have all them crazy Niggers coming after us so we put up this other note about how we was going to leave the little bitch on the train, and that is what we did, kept our words, and it sure was good seeing the last of her, too.

Because I am a curious man I snuck around the station to see the train come in. I seen the Trudeau girl get off, ever bit as skinny and mean as Curly said, had a cheroot in her teeth. I had seen Mrs. Trudeau and she didn't see me, and she run on up and I could see she was concerned and relieved. They hugged, and pulled back and Cynthia tossed her cheroot and said, where is my goddamn stinking sonofabitch and bastard father! Drunk? Oh, Cynthia, please, please, be glad you are alive, said Beth. I'll buy you another horse. Alive, shit! Those stinking and sonofabitching bastards wouldn't have the guts to kill me! Then she went to talking about getting a gun and a horse and I was slipping away and turned a corner and run into the Texas Gang, Hatch, Mary Ann, Packy, Tom, Sieb on crutches, Dan, Dave, Shetry, Jim, John, Tiddle. Hatch was all cleaned up and shaved, his moustache trimmed, wearing a suit. We have come for your trial, Bill, he said. I am here to represent you. Trial? Yeah, it has come down to a public stand, Bill. Public stand? Me? Not me, man!

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