Red Valley – Chapter III

So far I’m keeping to my chapter-a-day self-challenge. It feels good. I’ve always fiddled with prose before – I think everyone that enjoys writing most likely starts out with prose – but never taken it this seriously. And let me tell you, it is a cold bitch mother (Blades of Glory). Anyway, hope you enjoy. Cheers!

 

III

Molloy’s Tavern was barely visible in the rain. The old bar was a lot like its customers: dark, cheap, and out of the way, as if it were hiding from the rest of the world. The bar was sparsely crowded and young Bill Douglas was already on his fourth whiskey and debating a fifth. He was talking loudly with the bartender, a well-dressed, elfish middle-aged man named Danny-Boy.

“I swear on my mother’s grave, it was him.”

“You’re full of shit, Billy. You keep talkin’ this madness and I’ll cut your silly ass off.”

“But it was him! I know it! I seen him as clear as I see you.”

“Yeah, well your vision must be gettin’ pretty blurry ’bout now.”

In the back of the bar sat the Sanchero gang, eavesdropping on the conversation without subtlety. The gang was comprised of six members lead by Roberto Sanchero, a tall and trim Mexican in his mid-twenties with delicate features but a certain hardness about him. His eyes were unblinking and his rage could be seen just under the pupils. Then there was Francis, Roberto’s younger brother, a pudgy, bearded bastard who seemed to never be able to wash the dirt from his face. He was built like a savage but did not possess the cold or calculating demeanor of his older brother. Chico De La Vega was fat and surly and capable of terrible things that matched his terrible temper that only got worse as he drank. He thought himself quite funny which made him quite dangerous. Juan Rodriguez was by far the most calm and sensible of the gang. His arrogance and sarcasm, however, brought about much violence, and he was prone to murder when a woman was involved. Cullen Baker, the only white member of the group, was in his early twenties. He had a terrible gambling problem and an even worse addiction to opiates. His eyes were often glazed over from the drug, making him particularly unpredictable. And then of course there was Megedagik, an Algonquian Native American standing six foot four. He was the quietest of the group, having become an orphan after his tribe was murdered by white settlers. He traded his tomahawk for a buck knife and his bow for a sniper rifle. His skill with these weapons was unparalleled. The gang was becoming restless as Billy rambled.

“Everybody knows that West Steel died ‘bout ten years ago. Shot in the back.”

“I never bought that story for a second,” said Billy. “How could the most dangerous outlaw that ever lived get shot in the back? Unarmed! Just doesn’t make any damn sense.”

“Not a whole lot makes sense when you got that much drink in you, Billy-Boy.” Billy mugged Danny-Boy and then shot back the rest of his whiskey. “‘Nother?”

Before Billy could answer the Sanchero gang was upon him like flies to the carcass.

“We heard you talkin’, boy. You say you seen West Steel?” Billy looked up at Roberto Sanchero, not knowing the man nor the danger he was in.

“Nobody calls me ‘boy.’”

Without warning, Francis and Chico grabbed Billy from behind and held him still. Juan, Cullen, and Megedagik descended upon Billy. Cullen grabbed Billy’s arm and placed his hand flat on the bar. Juan grinned. Violence excited him. It excited most of them to be honest, except for maybe Megedagik.

“Well maybe you prefer to be called ‘nigger’ instead? Huh, nigger?” Billy spat in Roberto’s face. Roberto wiped the spit off his face with his right knuckle and then proceeded to feed that knuckle to Billy. When Danny-Boy asked them to take it outside Juan put a gun to his head. Megedagik was now on the other side of the bar standing directly across from Billy. With his lips solemnly pursed, Dagik produced his large buck knife and began slwoly stabbing the  bar between Billy’s fingers. Watching the knife dance Billy forgot how to blink. Then Dagik started to pick up the pace.

“You see this large Injun playin’ with this large knife here? His name is Megedagik, which in Algonquian means, ‘kills many.’ And make no mistake about it, he has.” The sadistic pleasure dripped off of every one of Roberto’s words. “We don’t want to add you to the list of this savage’s victims now, do we?” Billy stared Roberto down, never speaking a word, even when Dagik’s blade picked up more speed. “When did you come across this ghost?”

“Fuck you.” Roberto answered the indignation with a punch to the face, something Billy was getting quite accustomed to this evening. He spit out some blood as the knife’s pace quickened.

“He’s getting awfully fast with that thing. You know, the faster one goes, the harder it is to control. Even for an Injun as skilled as Dagik.” Billy looked down at the blur moving between his fingers. It was fast, but he could handle it. He kept silent and made sure not to break eye contact with Roberto. The gang leader wasn’t used to not getting his way and he was growing impatient. Finally he unloaded a fury of punches to Billy’s face, one after the other with no signs of relent. “Tell me what you know, you fucking nigger!” Roberto struck several more blows until his arm gave out, but he got one more punishing lick in before he stopped. That last one was too much for Billy, and with a mouth full of blood, he finally broke.

“The plains. About a day’s ride from here. … There’s a ranch.” Satisfied, Roberto nodded to Dagik, who swiftly cut off Billy’s right index finger. Billy fell to the floor and screamed. Robert knelt down and patted him on the head.

“That’s a good boy. Yes it is.”

With a laugh, Roberto and the Sanchero gang were out the door.  As he lay there, Billy wished he’d ordered that fifth drink.

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