A Western Novelette
Part 2 of the Border Trilogy
La Voyant Ranch
It was a few hours before dawn and the cabin was dark and quiet. Everybody was fast asleep except the three men on watch at the windows. Creed had been on guard for an hour when Eve came over and brought him a cup of coffee and some fried cornbread. “My mom’s recipe.” she whispered, brushing her hair back from her eyes. Creed admired her beauty in the dim shadow of the candles. “Thanks. How’s Tick?” Creed whispered in reply. “He’s resting. The bleeding has stopped but he still has a fever.” Creed noticed the look of concern on Eve’s face. “Will he be OK you think?” Creed asked. “The fever worries me. It means there is an infection. He really needs a Doctor.” Creed just shook his head in frustration. “You think we can get out of here soon?” Eve asked. “I hope…” Creed did not finish his sentence as a sound outside caught his attention. “Pssssst” Creed got Knowles attention at the next window and Grissom’s at the back. Instead of talking Creed pointed to his ears and then outside. “Eve go take cover by the bunks and keep that revolver handy.” Creed whispered. Eve nodded her head and quickly moved over to the bunk with her waiting mother who already had a shotgun loaded and ready. Knowles, Grissom and Creed all shouldered their carbines and went on high alert at their windows scanning the area. It was a moonless night, and with the combination of the pre-dawn hour, the darkness outside was a sheet of complete blackness. Creed cleared his mind and listened. There! The sound he heard earlier, a rustling. Creed slowly cocked the hammer on his carbine and aligned the sights, scanning with the barrel of the gun. The sound, as best he could tell was coming from in front of the corrals next to the barn. Movement in the shadows! Creed aligned the sights and right before he squeezed the trigger Grissom whispered. “Hold your Fire! Coyotes! They are eating on the dead horses!” Creed let out a sigh of relief and relaxed the hammer on the carbine and withdrew the barrel back inside.
Creed shot a glance over to Grissom, who was smiling. “I guess we forgot there was half-a-dozen rotting horses out there!” Creed smiled at the remark. He glanced over at Eve and Sarah who were also smiling in relief. “Well since we are all up now, I think this calls for some coffee.” Rojo said, climbing out of his bunk. Creed was just about to say “I would love some” when the cabin exploded in gunfire. Knowles and Grissom were already calling out targets before Creed could get back behind his carbine. “Looks like they got reinforcements! I count six guns back here!” Knowles yelled as he returned fire. “I count eight, No! Make it Ten! Jesus! Where did they all come from?” Grissom exclaimed as he returned fire as quickly as he could. By the time Creed had drawn a bead with this rifle, there were upwards of twenty mounted gunman surrounding the bunk house. Splinters of wood flew as bullets pierced the cabin. The women yelled in sheer terror as bullets impacted all around them. Rojo quickly herded the women into a corner away from the windows. He then took one of the mattresses off the bunks and laid it over them. He repeated this with Tick. “They are setting up some kind of barricade back here!” Knowles yelled as light first appeared outside and things could be seen more clearly. “Same thing in the front!” Creed replied. Creed watched in horror as three wagons were rolled into place not twenty yards from the bunk house. “Ammo!” Grissom yelled. Rojo crawled over and retrieved the saddlebag Knowles had brought and flung it over. “This all we got?!” Grissom looked up in distress. “Si!” Rojo replied. Grissom shook his head in disgust and continued firing. After the wagons were rolled into place, Newton and his posse stopped firing. Creed likewise ordered everybody to cease-fire. After a few moments, Creed watched two men ride up and dismount behind the wagons. Directly, a voice pierced the silence. “This is John Randolph speaking. I need to speak to the man in charge in there.” Grissom and Creed looked at each other in amazement. “This is Creed La Voyant Speaking Randolph.” Creed yelled out through the window. “Listen son, this thing has gotten way out of hand. I don’t want to see anybody else killed. So here is what I propose: You hand over the nigger and the mexican and we let Sarah and Eve go back home safe and sound.” Randolph replied. Creed shook his head in disbelief at the gall of Randolph. “That dirty sum-bitch!” Grissom exclaimed, shaking his head. “Tell me something Randolph, how many people out there know why you want this land so bad?” Creed asked. There was a long pause. “Well, I guess now, just me and you.” Randolph replied amused. ” Go ahead and laugh, you’re finished Randolph regardless what you do to Rojo and Tick, you are still going down for all the evil you have done in this town! Right now John Lewis is in Austin at the State Attorneys office with a certain black ledger, sound familiar?” Creed replied. Five minutes passed in silence. The next voice was that of the hired killer, R.T. Newton. “OK Indian, you have heard the offer, either you send out the nigger and mexican and we let the women go or we just blow you all to hell, your choice. You got two minutes to decide.” Newton held up several sticks of dynamite wrapped together with a long fuse for all to see to give a visual aid to the seriousness of the threat.
Feeling like he needed to stall for time, Creed quickly answered. “One of the men you want is badly wounded and cannot be moved…” Newton could be heard laughing. “Oh Yeah, the gut shot nigger, forgot about that. That’s OK, you can just lay him out here and we will finish him off…” Creed’s anger boiled over immediately. “I’ll be damned if I will! And you all can go to hell!” Newton continued to laugh. “OK, have it your way. It is everybody’s funeral in that cabin in exactly one minute.” Rojo immediately stood up. “Tell him I am coming out, but only after the women are allowed to ride off safely.” Creed and Grissom traded glances, frustrated. “We don’t have a choice kid. The bastard has us by the balls.” Grissom whispered. Suddenly Sarah stood up. “Tell Randolph I want to talk to him face to face.” Creed looked at Sarah for a long moment. “It’s risky.” Grissom replied, looking at Creed then at Sarah. Creed paused and then yelled out. “Sarah Patterson wants to talk to John Randolph, face to face. I am sending her out, unarmed. Everybody hold your fire!” “You are trying my patience kid!” Newton replied from behind one of the wagons. Without warning and with the boldness of a lioness, Sarah burst out the door before Creed or Grissom could stop her. “John Randolph stop hiding behind your attack dogs and come out here and face me!” Sarah yelled out, her face red with anger. “Knowles, you and Rojo keep a sharp eye out back there, they may try something!” Grissom whispered. Meanwhile, Eve was glued to the window, watching her mother intently.
After a few minutes, Randolph came slowly walking out from behind the wagons, two armed goons following him. He stopped ten feet from where Sarah stood. “OK Sarah, here I am, what’s on your mind?” Sarah took a deep breath and stared at Randolph for a long minute, the anger seething out of her. “John Randolph for the last six years I refused to believe the truth about what happened to my husband. But then yesterday as me and my daughter were comforting Marshall Prescott’s widow and she told me the rumors that were going around town about you, I realized how big a fool I have been. I refused to acknowledge the truth about what you really are Randolph.” Sarah had a look of utter disgust on her face. “And what am I Sarah?” Randolph asked, an impatient smirk on his face. “A Murderer.” she spat., glaring at him. Randolph chuckled. “You know every man who has ever accomplished something great in life have had accusations thrown at them. The Carnegie’s, The Rockefeller’s…” Sarah interrupted him. “Oh For God’s sakes Randolph! Stop your illusions of grandeur! You are nowhere close to an Andrew Carnegie or John Rockefeller! You are a lucky tin pan who turned into a crook, pure and simple. You have lied, cheated, extorted, bribed and murdered to get where you are and I hope to see you swinging by the end of a rope before all of this is over! And if you think me and my daughter are simply going to crawl away like whooped dogs while you and your goon squad murder those brave men in there you are sadly mistaken!” When Sarah finished her speech, you could have heard a mouse fart. Everybody, including his own men, were now looking at Randolph to reply while Sarah stood there with her arms crossed, a look of stern defiance on her face. Visibly agitated and embarrassed, Randolph took two-steps toward Sarah. As he raised his hand as if he were going to strike her an arrow burst out of his chest from behind, spraying Sarah with blood. Randolph’s eyes went wide as he looked down to see the black flint head protruding from his chest. “Indians!” Randolph’s men yelled as they dove under wagons and Gunfire erupted from every direction. Grissom quickly went out and grabbed Randolph and Sarah and pulled them back into the bunk house. Creed took one look at Randolph and knew he would not live long, the arrow was too close to the heart. Knowles and Rojo had already took up positions at the windows and were firing at any of Randolph’s men that were still out in the open. Creed yelled at Rojo who was manning the back window. “How many riders back there?”. “I count ten, no twelve!” Rojo replied. Creed smiled. His uncle had been true to his word. He had returned, and in the nick of time.
It did not take long for the two dozen mounted braves to over run the disorganized posse. A large majority of the men were farmers and merchants that had no stomach for killing. Most dropped their guns and ran for town while others cowered under wagons and whimpered like children. Knowles put on his hat and holstered his pistol. “I am gonna go out there and make sure all the men who surrendered get treated fairly. Gotta have some semblance of Law and Order round here.” As Knowles walked out the door, Creed, Grissom and Rojo walked over to Ticks bunk. All three men removed their hats as they approached. They all knew from the way Eve was crying that he was gone. “When did he pass?” Creed asked quietly. “About the time the fight started.” Eve replied as she hugged him. Creed’s heart swelled with grief. Tick was the one who had found him wandering in the desert after his parent’s were slaughtered over three years ago. He had been the kindest to him out of all the men in Diaz’s gang, often sharing his breakfast and supper with him. Creed reached over and gently closed Tick’s eyes and then covered his head with the bed sheet. “Do you know what his real name was?” Eve asked, looking at all three men, all of their eyes wet with tears. “Tick was all we ever knew.” Suddenly Sarah’s voice broke the stillness. “Confess you son-of-a-bitch! Confess your sins before you go to meet your maker!” Creed jumped up and was surprised to see Randolph on the floor, still alive, with Sarah towering over him, shaking a cocked revolver at his head. “Confess you had a hand in murdering my husband and Marshall Prescott in cold blood! Confess right now!” Randolph’s face was ashen gray from the blood loss, his eyes going white as they rolled back in his head. His tongue, hanging loose from his mouth like a sick dog. “Sarah.” Creed said in a clam and quiet voice. Sarah, surprised, spun around to face Creed, the revolver still in her hand. “Stay out of this Creed! That Bastard, That Monster, is going to confess!” Sarah’s face was contorted with hate, her eyes red and swollen from crying, her hands shaking from anger. “Sarah, how about we put down that gun before somebody else get’s hurt. He’s gonna be dead in a few minutes anyway Sarah, there’s no need for it…” Creed hoped he was making sense. After a few moments he took a deep breath as Sarah lowered the gun and handed it to Creed. Sarah then dropped to her knees in front of Randolph, who by now had died from massive blood loss. Between the great sobs and wails Sarah would try to speak but her pain was so great Creed could not make it out. Soon Eve came over and kneeled down with her mother and held her. Looking over at Randolph and then at Creed, Eve comforted her mother. “He’s dead mama. He’s dead. He will never be able to do this to anybody’s husband or Father ever again.” Both women cried for several minutes as Creed took a blanket and covered Randolph’s body.
Creed walked outside to find his uncle, Spotted Rabbit and Marshall Knowles conversing over the body of four dead men. Creed recognized one of them as R.T. Newton, Randolph’s hired gun. He guessed the other three were part of his outfit. “These four refused to lay down their weapons, fought it out and died like the dogs they were.” Spotted Rabbit spat. “Bury them with the rest.” Creed said as he surveyed the carnage. “How many dead?” Creed asked Knowles. Knowles shrugged. “I would guess around thirty, but I haven’t counted. What about Inside?” The look on Creed’s face told Knowles and Spotted Rabbit all they need to know and both bowed their heads in respect. “What about Randolph?” Knowles asked. “About ten minutes ago.” Creed said softly. “Good riddance.” Knowles replied coldly. “Tick was one tough sumbitch to have survived that long gut shot, most men would have died within an hour or two.” Knowles said as he put a plug of tobacco in his cheek. Creed nodded his head in agreement. “Well, on the bright side we won’t have to go to the trouble of a trial or building another damn gallows.” Knowles said smiling. “But, we still have a problem with Spotted Rabbit and his outfit being wanted renegade indians who have escaped an Indian Reservation. By law, I should arrest them and have them transported back to Mescalero. But hell, the way I see it, what you done here today makes up for all that Spotted Rabbit, so here is what I am going to do. I am gonna get on my horse and ride into town for a few hours. When I return, I want you and your boys Gone, and by Gone I mean out of Texas, comprende?” Spotted Rabbit nodded and turned to go talk to his braves. Knowles and Creed walked over the Barn where his horse was stabled. “I expect to hear back from John Lewis and the State’s Attorney’s office any day now.” Creed said, tightening up Knowles saddle straps. “Yeah, it’s a shame that bastard Randolph won’t be able to stand trial for the murders.” Knowles replied. “Yeah, but the main thing is the people who were taken advantage of in this town will get justice. That ledger proves he cheated this town out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hopefully a judge will give that money back to the people who were cheated.” Creed replied as Knowles mounted his horse. “I hope so Creed. Now don’t forget. Your Uncle and his outfit need to be gone. Preferably Mexico.” Creed nodded and Knowles lit out for town. Creed walked over to find his Uncle readying several horses. “I knew I would see you again Uncle.” Creed said smiling. Spotted Rabbit smiled back as he holstered a rifle in a saddle scabbard. “What are your plans?” Creed asked excitedly. “We will ride South.” Spotted Rabbit replied. “And you? What are your plans Nephew? To become the next Texas Oil Tycoon of Shafter?” Spotted Rabbit eyed Creed and smiled. “Honestly Uncle I have not thought about it. I just want to get things made right for the people who live here.” Creed replied. “Well with John Randolph out-of-the-way I am sure things will start to improve.” Spotted Rabbit replied. “And do I have you and your bow to thank for that?” Creed eyed his Uncle smiling. Spotted Rabbit just smiled and mounted his horse. “Until next time Nephew!” Spotted rabbit yelled raising his hand as a red cloud of dust billowed into the air and thirteen riders and two loaded mules headed south to Old Mexico.
6 Months Later
Mayor John Lewis, Creed, Grissom, and Marshall Knowles sat outside at a picnic table under a large Elm tree in front of the main house. “So with the ledger, The State’s Attorney General was able to take it before a judge and seize all of Randolph’s cash and assets?” Creed asked. “Well, of course Randolph’s family is fighting all of this in court, but the bottom line is yes, that is exactly what he did. Plus the judge awarded all the business owners that Randolph had extorted all these years large cash settlements.” Lewis replied. “What about Sarah and Eve?” Creed asked.”The judge awarded them the silver mine that Randolph stole from her husband three years ago and a very large unspecified cash settlement.” Lewis replied. As Creed listened, his gaze shifted to the small hill behind his house where he had built a memorial for his dear friend, Tick. It consisted of a polished wrought iron fence and gate with a beautiful marble bench and a Tombstone, six feet high. The inscription on the tombstone simply read “Tick 1860-1903. A True and Noble Friend.” As Creed looked at the Memorial, his gaze shifted farther into the distance, where several oil derricks could be seen dotting the landscape. “Creed, excuse me, are you OK?” Lewis asked. Creed suddenly snapped out of his daydream. “Ah, yes. Sorry, I drifted off there.” Creed said smiling. “I was asking about the ranch, how are things going?” Lewis asked. Creed looked at Grissom to take over for him, still lost in his daydream. “Well, we have five wells producing right now and have plans to drill three more by years end.” Grissom said smiling. “Outstanding!” Lewis responded. Obviously happy at the revenue that was going to eventually produce for the town.”And Marshall Knowles, do you have any information on the band of renegade indians that attacked three months ago?” Knowles shot a glance over at Creed who was still lost in thought. “No, last I heard they were seen in Old Mexico.” Knowles replied with a smirk. “Well, let’s hope they stay on that side of the river.” Lewis replied standing up, signifying the meeting was over. All men shook hands and the Mayor and Marshall Knowles were driven back to town by their personal driver in one of the first Model T Fords in Shafter.
Creed and Grissom stood watching the automobile for quite a while, both of them amazed at the contraption. After a few minutes, Eve came from the house and coming up behind Creed, put her arms around his waist. Creed turned around to face her and smiled. “And what did our Good Mayor have to say?” Eve asked. “Oh, just that Randolph’s assets have been seized by the State and all the people in town that got swindled, including you and your mom, are going to be made whole.” Eve’s face lit up. “Oh Creed! Mom is going to be so happy!” She started to hug Creed and Creed suddenly recoiled, afraid he might hurt the growing baby inside her womb. Both of them looked at each other and grinned. “It’s OK, you’re not gonna hurt the baby!” she whispered in his ear. He smiled back and hugged her, lifting her off her feet and spinning her around as she giggled in delight. Suddenly in the distance, a loud explosion could be heard. As they all three turned around, they saw a fountain of oil spraying into the air out of one of the derricks. “There she is Creed! What did I tell ya! Number three hit!” Grissom yelled laughing, “Come on Boy!” Creed gave Eve one last kiss and set off toward the derrick, he and Grissom running at full sprint toward the derrick. Eve stood and watched them for a long while, the black oil raining down on her in a mist. She had never been so happy in all her life. She put her hand on her belly and felt the baby give a small kick. Eve smiled as she walked back to the house, content for the present and the future.