Red Valley – Chapter X

This is probably my favorite scene in the whole screenplay, and I hope it translates well to prose.

 

X

The sky was red and gray and too still for anyone’s liking. There was a feeling of uneasiness in the air and the Sanchero gang was getting restless. It had been too long since they’d maimed anyone and Roberto needed a release of violence. But he couldn’t harm Ellie. He wanted to save her for the end. Someone else would have to do.

The gang rode slowly across the plains in single file order with Roberto leading the pack, followed closely by Juan, then Chico, then Cullen, then Megedagik, then Francis. Ellie, her face covered in dirt and her dress torn in several places, marched behnd Francis’ horse. Her hands were tied by a thick rope that led back to Francis’ horse, and they’d been riding without pause since daybreak.

Ellie was exhausted and hadn’t slept in days. She was afraid of what would happen to her if she closed her eyes. Her little body was already cut and bruised and scraped in several places and she wanted nothing more than the comfort of her mother. A comfort that she knew, but tried hard not think about, she would never have again. As for her father, she didn’t know what to beleive. She clung to her memory of him as she always knew him – a rancher, a father, a good man. She decided that these men simply picked the wrong family, that this whole ordeal was just one long horrible mistake. Somehow that made it easier.

Roberto looked off into the distance and saw a glint of metal. He smiled that vicious smile and turned to Juan.

“You see that?”

Juan squinted.

“Looks to me like a wagon.”

“A bank wagon.”

“Could be, I suppose.”

Roberto gazed out into the distance a long moment.

“Feel like gettin’ your hands dirty?”

Juan grinned.

“Could be fun. ‘Bout time we showed this little girl a good time.”

Francis yanked on the rope and Ellie stumbled forward. He grabbed her and pulled her up onto the back of his horse.

“You’re gonna wanna keep your eyes open for this, sweetheart,” croaked Francis. He smiled, showing off his rotting yellow teeth, and then he let out a laugh that quickly turned into a cough. Then he spit and Ellie turned away.

The gang rode off towards the glinting spec, and as they approached they did in fact come upon a wagon. The wagon in question was sporting a fresh coat of blue paint and was being driven by two elderly men.

Leroy Parker was a mustached old man in his sixities and he wore a dapper vest and a worn bowler hat. His companion, Harold Alonzo, was in his mid-fifties and had a long, graying beard. He wore a dusty coat, an even dustier hat, and he chewed on his pipe in a nervous manner. The gang stopped in front of the wagon, causing them to come to a screeching halt. Leroy spoke first.

“Do we have a problem here, gentlemen?”

“Yes, I’m afraid we do. Clint County Bank is trying to throw off robbers now by paintin’ their wagons a different color and havin’ them driven by feeble old men? Is that the case?”

The gang drew their weapons and Leroy and Harold looked at each other with alarm.

“No,” said Harold. “The bank was gettin’ new wagons, we bought this one from ’em used and did our own paint job.”

“Juan?” asked Roberto.

“I don’t buy it,” said Juan.

Harold put his hand on Leroy’s and Leroy gripped it tight.

“We’re on our way to Ford to sell livestock,” said Leroy. “We raise chickens.”

“Of course you do,” sneared Roberto.

“You don’t believe us?” said Harold. “Look, you can take our money.” He produced a few bills from his pockets and threw the money at the gang. Roberto looked at the money in disgust.

“We’re gonna take your money. But that’s not the only reason we’re stopping you.”

Francis slowly rode up to the wagon. Ellie was now sitting in front of him.

“We promised this little girl a show,” said Francis. “You wouldn’t want us to disappoint her now, would ya?”

“Child…” whispered Harold upon laying eyes on Ellie. Chico responded by shooting him in the head. Ellie was filled with shock and terror and guilt, a guilt a child her age should not have known. Leroy still held Harold’s hand and sobbed openly, crying his name and cradling his corpse.

“You bastards..!”

“Get up off that wagon, old man,” demanded Roberto.

“We don’t work for the bank!”

“You’ve told me and that’s okay. Now get down off that wagon and come stand here.”

Leroy glared at Roberto, refusing to budge. So Cullen shot a round in the air.

“The man said get off the wagon! Now move!”

Leroy gave Harold’s hand a tight squeeze and stepped down off the wagon. He stood in front of the gang, his hands held high in the air. Francis dismounted his horse and then scooped Ellie up off as well. He stood her on the ground and placed a pistol in her tiny little hands. The gun felt heavy and the metal felt cold and Ellie felt powerful.

“Now before you go and try anything funny,” Francis warned and he nodded to Cullen.

Cullen placed the barrel of his gun up against Ellie’s temple. Roberto squatted down next to Ellie and put his hand on her shoulder. She recoiled but he tightened his grip.

“Ellie darlin’, I want you to shoot this man.”

“Now wait just a second,” hollered Leroy, but Juan quickly drew a bead on him.

“You shut the fuck up.”

Leroy minded Juan and took a step back in reproach. Megedagik looked at Roberto and Roberto cleared his throat.

“Now Ellie, I want you to shoot this man. Is that understood?” Ellie just glared up at him. “If you don’t shoot this man, we are going to kill you. Right here. Right now.”

“…I… I can’t,” Ellie sobbed.

Cullen cocked his gun. Megedagik watched solemnly as the action unfolded. Roberto squeezed Ellie’s shoulder tight.

“Yes you can, darlin’. Just aim that gun, take a deep breath, and fire. I know your daddy taught you how to shoot.”

Ellie looked at Roberto with sadness. She knew now he was a man of his word and she didn’t know if she’d rather kill or be killed. It all felt the same at this point. She began to cry as she raised the gun and aimed it at Leroy’s chest.

“That’s a good girl,” encouraged Roberto.

Ellie cried as she held the gun, her little hands shaking. Roberto watched her and smiled. He couldn’t think of a more perfect afternoon. Leroy made eye contact with Ellie and she burst out in tears.

“Please…” she cried. This made Roberto angry, but before he could scold her Leroy spoke up.

“It’s okay,” he said. Ellie looked up at him and took in his warm, leathery features. “It’s alright, sweetheart.”

Leroy closed his eyes and held his breath and waited for it all to end. The tears streaming down Ellie’s cheeks made it hard for her to see but she was too shaken to wipe them away. Chico watched with a sick, sadistic grin and Roberto grew increasingly impatient.

“Pull the trigger, Ellie.”

Ellie gulped hard and closed one eye and looked down the barrel. Juan took his eye off Leroy and turned and watched Ellie with anticipation. Megedagik looked at Roberto with a contempt that had been growing for a while. He didn’t like seeing a big gun shake violently in a little girl’s hands. Roberto liked it at first but had grown tired of waiting and he was visibly angry now.

“Shoot him!”

The shot rung out and silenced the land and the stillness of the afternoon returned. Leroy’s body fell back on the ground and Ellie looked at the gun in her hands with confusion. She didn’t think she’d pulled the trigger and she wondered if this was how it felt everytime you shot a man dead.

“Fuck! What in the hell’d you do that for?”

She heard Roberto chastising someone and she looked behind her to see Megedagik lower his pistol with smoke rising from the barrel. Megedagik looked down at Roberto, unafraid of this man who was at least a foot shorter than he was. He shrugged.

“Savage. Took over.”

Roberto stomped off back to his horse.

“Fucking injun!”

With tears still streaming down her face, Ellie looked up at Megedagik and for the first time since her capture she felt safe. He met her gaze and then turned away.

Juan and Cullen ripped the tarp top off the wagon. There was a large metal cage filled with six chickens sitting in the back.

“Well what do ya know,” said Juan, “those old timers were tellin’ the truth. What do you think?”

“I think we got dinner,” said Cullen.

Francis looked at the cage and then down at Ellie and smiled.

“Good news, young lady, looks like you don’t have to do any more walkin’.” And then he laughed a vicious laugh and Ellie knew the good news was anything but.

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