The town of Madrigallo was a small traveler’s town. The biggest thing in it was the hotel, followed by the saloon, Mary Mary’s. After that was the general store, then the Marshall’s office and Jail, and lastly, the bank. Stuck around the main square, where the largest business establishments stood, were the shanty houses of the folks who lived there. Madrigallo was in the middle of the desert, so anyone who tried to farm quickly gave up in search of the land around Two Pines up north. There was a large river nearby so a family or two had made their living selling the fish they caught, but they often packed up and left shortly after trying to make a living. It was honestly a wonder how Madrigal remained populated, but it was midway between the north and south of the state, and always seemed to have an endless supply of water. Perfect for those sorry souls making the journey across the desert.
Callum Bane rode his horse in to Madrigallo coming up from the south. He slowly inhaled the dry desert air and closed his eyes. He’d been to Madrigallo many times and it always felt like a slice of home. He stepped into the hotel.
“Mr. Bane, good to see you again. How long will you be staying?”
“Horace, old pal,” Bane said with a grin. “Just two nights this time. I’m heading up to Two Pines.”
“Is that so?” Horace said.
“Well as a matter of fact,” Horace continued, opening his account book and writing in Bane’s details, “Word is that Two Pines ain’t what it used to be.”
“Is that a fact?” Bane said, thinking about the last time he’d been up that way. It had been several months. A year or two, maybe.
“Word is someone’s torn the whole town apart. The CMC up that way is defunct, and the Marshalls aren’t at all what they used to be. Got a new guy in charge by the name of de la Croix.”
“And how’s this de la Croix then?”
“He’s only been in charge not even a month,” Horace said.
Bane grunted softly as he looked around the lobby of the hotel, lost in thought.
“Will your room be upstairs, or out back?” Horace asked, breaking Bane’s train of thought.
“Is my usual room upstairs free?”
“I’m afraid it’s booked, sir.”
“Hmm. Anything else upstairs?”
“We do have another room, same size, just four doors down from your usual.”
“That’ll do then, Horace. I’ll be back later on,” Bane said. He laid a handful of coins down on the counter and nodded. It was more than enough, but overpaying Horace always had its benefits.
“Thank you kindly, sir,” Horace said. Bane tipped his hat and walked out the door. He stepped off the porch and took in a deep breath. The clear blue sky stretched on for miles and miles. It was beautiful, not a single cloud. The dry air left him with a scratchy throat. By the horses was a pump and trough, and Bane walked over and pumped some water. It splashed into the dry wooden trough, filling it about half way. His horse began to drink, and Bane cupped his hands and scooped some of the water up for himself. His horse whinnied as he drank and Bane laughed.
“It’s okay, we can share,” he said. He patted his horse’s flank, and his hand moved over to his saddle bags, which he lifted off the horse and put over his shoulders. Bane went into the hotel to unload in the room he had rented. Afterward, he went to Mary Mary’s to see if Cherie, the current matron, was still there.
* * * * *
“Nah, Cherie went off and got herself a lil’ plot of land up north in ‘Braska I think,” the bartender, Edd said.
“That’s a long trip,” Bane said. He pointed to his glass and Edd refilled it with whiskey. “Who runs the place now?”
“Reen,” Edd said, as he returned to polishing a glass. He was talking about Tangerine, the feisty redheaded girl who’d worked there half as long as some of the other girls.
“Knows how to read, good with numbers, shit, Bane, I don’t know. I just pour the drinks,” Edd said not looking up from his work. “It’s the smart ones that don’t last as long though.”
“True.” Bane drank his whiskey and nodded to Edd who refilled it.
A dark-skinned man sitting at the other end of the bar came and sat down next to Bane. He was wearing all black- boots, pants, shirt, vest, jacket, wide brimmed hat- with a wooden rosary around his neck. He put his hat beside his empty glass and pushed it towards Edd who refilled it.
“Afternoon. You a traveler as well?” the man said.
“Yes indeed, uh” Bane said as he looked over the man, “Father.”
“Father John Rathier. And who might you be?”
“Callum Bane. Forgive me, Padre, I’m not here looking for a sermon. Just looking to rest for a day or two before I head out.”
“Where are you headed, Mr. Bane?” the priest said.
“Just Bane is okay. I’m headed north,” he paused and looked over the priest one more time. “To Two Pines.”
“Is that a fact, I’ve just come from Two Pines. I’m heading down south to Mexico.”
Bane chuckled, “Trying to spread the Good Word to the Spanish Papists?” He finished his drink. Two men entered the bar and sat at a table along the back.
“No sir. In a matter or words, I’ve got a debt to settle.”
“A priest with a grudge.”
John sighed, “I guess you could say that.” They both nodded at Edd who refilled both their drinks.
“Shall we drink to something?” John said.
Bane thought for a second, “To tying loose ends.”
“To tying loose ends.” They drank. As they put their glasses down, the two men who had came in joined them at the bar. One beside John, and one beside Bane.
“Gentlemen, are you aware that there’s a strict policy against coloured folk in this fine establishment?” the one to Bane’s right said.
“And by association,” said the man to John’s left, “you’s both is gonna have to leave.”
John kept his eyes on his glass. Bane could see his lips pressing against each other. “Nobody fussed about it before,” Bane said, looking over to his right.
The man beside John grabbed the back of John’s shirt and yanked him off his stool. Callum stood up and drew his gun, but heard a click behind him. He loosened his grip on his gun and lifted his hands above his head, letting his revolver dangle around his index finger. He turned around to face the man pointing his gun at him. John was on the ground, and the other man was standing above him with his gun out.
“Deke, get him up, take his gun,” the main pointing his gun at Bane said. He stepped forward, grabbed Bane’s revolver, and stuck it in his belt. Deke grabbed John and stood him up and patted around his belt for a gun.
“He’s empty this’n, Darrell,” Deke said. Darrell nodded and pointed towards the door.
“Get out of here,” Darrell said.
“Real peaceful like,” Deke added.
“And if we don’t?” Bane said.
“Well,” Darrell said with an evil grin, “We wouldn’t want to cause any trouble in this fine establishment. And seeing as we’ve got the guns, we make the rules. Now get to stepping.” He pointed towards the door again. Bane looked over at John, his face saying “What can we do?”. He tilted his head in the direction of the door, and the two walked out.
Bane pushed the door open and heard it hit something. He heard a glass fall and break. A man with a deep voice cursed. Bane and John made it through the doorway to see a man with a large beard covered in beer.
“What the fuck are you thinking you goddamn idiot?” he yelled at Bane and John.
“Why don’t you be more careful?” Bane said as he continued walking into the street.
The man shot his gun over Bane’s shoulder. Bane felt the bull whiz by his ear. He stopped moving and turned around, reaching for his gun. It wasn’t there. Shit, he thought.
“You’re gonna pay for this. Gimmie your money, asshole. You too,” the man said, pointing his gun at John. John was standing beside Bane with his hands bent up showing he wasn’t armed.
“Don’t have any, friend,” Bane said in a calm voice.
“Sorry boss, only got a few dollars back in my cabin,” John said, motioning over to the row of cabins behind the hotel.
“Is that a fact then. Well, looks like you’re about to pay for this,” he spat, “Father.”
Deke and Darrell came out of the bar behind the bearded man, grinning at Bane and John. Deke was rubbing his hands together.
* * * * *
Callum didn’t like being tied up. Not even for fun. He didn’t like small spaces. He didn’t like being without his gun. All of those things occurred at the same time as Deke, Darrell, and their bearded boss tied Bane and John together in John’s small cabin. They searched through John’s things, and after deciding not to kill John purely for not having a lot of money, they left.
“What a treat this is,” Bane said, turning to one side. He and John were tied to chairs that were back to back.
John started laughing.
“What’re you laughing about? What’s so funny?” Bane asked, anger growing in his voice.
“Those idiots barely tried,” John said.
“What’re you talking about?” Bane asked.
“I met another traveler going north as I was heading here. He’d told me to watch out for those guys. He was was robbed by them. He said they cornered him at a bar, told him to leave at gunpoint. When he did, he bumped into the bearded fellow who, obviously, threatened to kill him if he didn’t pay him. Guy said he had money back in his cabin, so the great bearded dick called his buddies and they all went to the guy’s cabin. They tied him up, took all his stuff, and left,” John said.
“Yeah? And how’s that story help us?” Bane asked.
“The guy I met said he was discovered the next day by the Hotel owner. Came to collect his money, and found him all tied up.”
“So I figured when I got in here that I’d hide the important stuff behind the cabin in one of the crates. In case I got robbed by those three, I wouldn’t lose much. I left maybe thirty dollars lying around so they’d let me at least live,” John said. Bane nodded his head.
“So how are we getting out then?” Bane asked.
“That’s the question now.”
Bane looked around the small cabin. It wasn’t much. A small desk with a bucket of water on it, a bed, a trunk, a few nails in the wall to hang things on, and a little window with a handkerchief of a curtain over it. Bane eyed the desk. He tried to stand, but with his ankles tied to the leg of the chair, all he could do was lean forward and wobble around.
“What’re you doing?” John asked, struggling to see Bane behind him.
“Got an idea.” Bane wobbled slowly towards the desk, turning to allow his hand- which was also tied to the chair- to grab at the small drawer. Inside was a roll of string, an old brush, a small candle, a letter opener, and a box of matches. He grabbed at the letter opener first and tried to saw at the rope around his wrist. His arm started to ache and he dropped the knife. Bane cursed.
“Well shit, there goes our escape plan,” John said.
“Well, there is another option,” Bane said.
Bane looked at the box of matches, “But it might hurt.”
He struggled to get the matchbox open, the chair forcing him to contort and stretch with every motion. He swore he wouldn’t take freedom for granted after this. He pulled out a match with his index and middle finger and started rubbing it against the chair. It finally lit, and he held it close to the rope around one wrist. The flame caught on the rope and he pulled his arm away so that the fire didn’t catch on his shirt.
“You’re gonna set yourself on fire,” John said, now turned around to face Bane.
Bane wasn’t paying attention, he was trying to pull his arm away from the chair as the flame weakened the rope. Bane struggled through the pain of the fire as it licked at his arm. A rogue lick of flame brushed against his shirt, setting that on fire. Bane shook his arm left and right trying to break the rope when it finally snapped and his arm shot up. The burning rope flew across the room, hit the door and fell to the floor. Bane reached down and picked up the letter opener. He sawed at the rope tying his other arm, then his legs.
“Bane, you’d better hurry,” John said, looking wide-eyed at the door. The flaming rope had started to catch on the floor and wall.
When he was finally free, Bane stomped out the fire on the ground and threw the bucket of water at the fire that was starting to climb up the wall. He opened the door to let the smoke out.
“You want to help me out here?” John asked. Bane turned back to John, nodded and began to cut him free.
“Thanks,” John said, standing up and dusting himself off.
“You should probably move on from town,” Bane said.
“Not so fast. We’re gonna set those assholes straight,” John said walking out of the cabin. He went around the corner and Band followed.
“Well come on now, Padre, what’re you going to do, baptize them in the name of the Lord?” Bane let out a short chuckle as he watched John grab two guns and a knife out from the crate behind the cabin. John tossed a revolver to Bane, who caught it effortlessly.
John put the revolver on his belt, and the knife on the other side. He straightened himself up and looked at Bane with a smoldering anger, “I’m not that good at being a man of God. Only He can judge,” John said nodding upwards, “But it’s my job to send him those that need judgment.”
Bane shifted uncomfortably.
“So are you going to help me or not?”
Bane sighed, “Lead the way.”
* * * * *
The sun was beginning to set over the horizon giving the sky a orange hue in the west that faded into a dark blue in the east. John and Bane crept between the hotel and the saloon, crouching and trying to keep quiet. John poked his head out around the corner. The bearded man was still sitting on a chair next to the door. A mug of beer was sitting on his lap, and his eyes were closed. Bane peered out into the square. It was quiet. Not much activity tonight. Most of the people would either be home, or at the saloon. John turned back to Bane.
“Okay, so the bearded man is out there. We should get him first and wait for his friends to come back out,” he said to Bane.
“You just wanna shoot this guy? That’ll bring a lot of attention.”
John pulled the knife out from his belt, and pressed a finger to his lips. “Stay here for a moment and then come to the other side of the door.” John got up onto the porch and crept up to the bearded man.
“Not much of a priest at all,” Bane muttered to himself.
John, over at the bearded man now, covered the man’s mouth and plunged his knife several times into his large chest. He kept stabbing and stabbing like a madman. Bane thought the man’s organs would spill out into the street. Blood began to stain the man’s shirt and beard, and it dripped into his beer causing it to turn from a pale yellow to orange, to red. John crouched beside the dead man and motioned for Bane to get on the other side of the door. Once they were in place, they waited.
The murmur of people inside the saloon quickly died, and that’s when Bane and John’s ears perked up. They heard footsteps coming towards the door and a man in a sand coloured coat stepped out with his hands raised. He walked down the steps and turned around to see Deke and Darrell coming out of the bar too, guns raised. Darrell stopped sharply when he didn’t hear his bearded accomplice’s voice, and turned to look at him. Bane wasn’t sure which came first: Darrell’s jaw hitting the floor, or his revolver. He sprang into action, grabbing Deke, the closest man to him, throwing him to the ground and kicking his gun away. John whipped out his gun with lightning speed and shot Darrell in the chest three times. He was dead before he hit the floor. The man in the sand jacket stood, arms up, mouth agape.
“P-pl-please don’t hurt me, I I I’m just p-passing b-by,” he whimpered. Bane could see his jaw quivering in the dim light.
John looked down at Deke, who was as shocked as the Sand Jacket Man. He looked back over to the Sand Jacket Man and shrugged. “You can go back inside if you like, we’re almost done here.”
The Sand Jacket Man took a few tentative steps towards the entrance, and John stepped aside and gestured towards the door. The man gulped and nervously re-entered the saloon.
“What do you want to do about him?” Bane asked.
John didn’t pause to think. He pointed his gun at Deke and shot him.
“No speech, no ‘Robbing people is bad, but I’m gonna let you go’ talk?” Bane said, mildly amused.
“No speech. I’m saving it for someone else.”
Bane nodded. “Well, okay then.” He looked back over to the saloon. “Thirsty?”
John smacked his lips, “Very.”
They went inside.
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