Red Valley – Chapter XI

In the script, this was the “montage” where time passed quickly. I omitted a couple scenes and extended a couple others. On my next draft I’ll probably open up these paragraphs to let them be their own chapters. But for now, this is just a short chapter where we check in on all our characters at this point. Cheers.

 

XI

Time passed both quick and slow and West felt like the journey would never end. He didn’t talk much to Charlie and he barely spoke a word to Billy, but he allowed him to keep company with them. West was always the first one up, even before the sun, and neither Charlie nor Billy dared call it a night until West said they’d ridden their day’s worth. West had hoped to reach Red Valley before the winter, but he knew, with the air getting colder and crisper by the day, that that would be an impossibility. Still he rode and still they rode behind him.

 

Marshal Long enjoyed intimidation. He enjoyed throwing his weight around. And he enjoyed being feared. If it hadn’t been for a fortuitous encounter many years passed, he may very well have ended up a criminal. None of the other marshals or deputies or sheriffs dared step foot in Richmond. But here he was, a lawmen in a lawless town. And he’d never felt more at home. He didn’t need to ruffle Walter the bartender to get information. He didn’t need to shoot anyone or cut anyone or make idle threats, even. And this disappointed him. Even before he’d completely unfolded the wanted poster Walter pointed in the direction that West and Charlie and Billy had ridden off in, and Long grumpily thanked him and went on his way.

 

Despite the recent bloodshed the Crowley family ranch was a beautiful place with a beautiful view. Little Bobby and his mother had worked hard to give Mary and Chief proper burials, and their freshly-laid plots basked in the shade of the large oak tree West had planted there years ago. Bobby and his mother came to the ranch every day and returned it to its previous beauty. If Mr. Crowley were ever to return, Bobby’s mother told him, it would be much easier for him to deal with the harsh reality that awaited him if the ranch were back to the way it was. And so Bobby worked three times as hard to make it so. Not necessarily for Mr. Crowley, although he did wish him a smooth transition back, but for Ellie, who he missed more than his young mind had ever thought possible.

 

Elizabeth had always been a religious woman. She attended weekly services and her and Charlie would host Pastor Reeves for dinner. She prayed early in the morning and at every meal and always before bed. When she met Charlie, he was but a wandering soul. He believed but did not belong, and his guilt prevented him from practicing. Elizabeth had gotten him to confession and helped him convert and she was content with her Christian husband and their Christian life. Where, then, had her faith gotten her, she wondered. She prayed still, for Charlie’s return and that their life could go back to normal and maybe for a child, even though she knew that was a lost dream at this point. She prayed to believe and wondered if she ever did, or if all of her prayer and holiness had been an act in an attempt to fool God into thinking her a good person. She prayed and she cried and she cursed her husband and she cursed that bastard who’d stolen him away from her.

 

The Sanchero gang had arrived at their safehouse just before the first snow fell and they were grateful for it. They knew the weather would slow down West and they could rest comfortably for a time. They passed the time with whiskey and cards and Chico’s terrible guitar playing. And Cullen was more than happy to share his opium. They built fires and cooked the last of the chickens and they came so very close to being happy.

Ellie had been locked up in the chicken cage atop the wagon since they’d stolen it. She was grateful when the gang began eating the chickens and now she missed the company. She was left outside in the snow to freeze in that cage and she wasn’t sure if she’d die first from the cold or the hunger. Roberto checked on her every other day. He’d come out sucking the skin off of a chicken bone, and when he saw that she was still alive, he’d toss the bone inside the cage. It turned her stomach to do so but she had no other choice, she had to eat. Roberto would watch her scramble for the bone and he’d laugh at how pathetic she was and then he’d go back inside to the fire.

One evening, Ellie was woken up not by the howling sick laughter of Roberto or one of the others, but by a gentle tapping on the cage. She stirred awake and rubbed her eyes and when she saw that it was Megedagik she shuffled backwards. The horror in the little girl’s eyes hurt Megedagik but he understood that he cut a terrifying figure and even if he didn’t, an Indian to a little white girl must be a very scary sight indeed. Megedagik placed his fingers to his lips, Shhhh, and produced a plate of four chicken legs with the meat still intact. Ellie looked up at him with grateful tears in her eyes and she thought for a second that she saw the big man smile. Or something resembling a smile. He bowed his head and walked away and Ellie devoured the chicken.

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