Quartz, Part 1: Flash Fiction Friday Post

All, this is a continuation of my Zeke Stanford western story. The first part, Gold Dreams was posted in 2015, part 2, Ambush, was posted in April 2016, and the last part, Unexpected Guests, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, posted in July 2016. I plan on putting the whole thing together with some editing, and publish it as a book. It’ll be a short book, less than 40,000 words as I see it. But that’s okay. It’ll be like the old dime thrillers of yesteryear. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Quartz

 

Zeke left Sheriff Colton’s office and after dropping the draft he’d been given off at the bank, went to Mrs. Estrada’s house. Cesar stood, wide-eyed at the string of horses Zeke had with him. Poor little Jenny at the tail end, covered in dust.

“Mr. Zeke! What’s this?”

Zeke gave Cesar a wave, brought the parade to a halt and got off of Butters. “Hey, Cesar. It’s a tale, I’ll give you that. I’ve got three horses for sale. Should I take them to the livery or does Mrs. Estrada want to sell them? I’d have to pay a commission to the livery. I thought I’d give Mrs. Estrada a chance first.”

Cesar nodded. “I ask her, Mr. Zeke.” He went around to the horses and untied the string from Zeke’s saddle. He patted first one, then the others. Running his hand along their flanks and backs as he looked them over. “They look good. Little skinny though.”

Zeke untied Jenny from the last horse. “Yeah. They were owned by outlaws. Probably not cared for as well as you would have.”

Cesar nodded. “I put them in the corral. You put Jenny and Butters in the back stall. Same as always.”

Zeke did that, putting their tack away then bringing them out to the currying pole. He’d already started on Butters when Cesar joined him and began to curry Jenny. Cesar’s wife, Pia, came out to the yard, a mug of something in her hand. “Mister Zeke! I didn’t know you was here!” She hurried over and gave him the mug. “Coffee. I get you some too, Cesar,” she said to her husband. “Why didn’t you say Mr. Zeke was here?” She hurried off to the house.

“Sorry, Cesar,” Zeke said, grinning. “I think this was yours.” He held up the mug.

“That’s fine, Mr. Zeke. You drink it. She bring me one soon.”

It was soon after that Pia came back, another mug in hand. “You have same room, Mr. Zeke. You’re back early.”

Zeke handed her the now empty mug. “A little earlier than I had planned, Pia. I had some trouble.”

Both husband and wife looked at each other, then Zeke. Concern filled their faces. “It’s a long story. I’ll come out tomorrow and tell you all about it. How’s that?”

Pia nodded. “That’s fine. Mrs. Estrada will want to hear too. You’re fine? No hurts?”

“No.” Zeke laughed. “No hurts. Not counting the scratches from cat’s claw.” He gave Butters a few last strokes, then patted her on the rump. “Good girl.”

Pia grinned. “That’s good. Dinner at six. I’ll start your bath water.” She hustled back to the house.

Cesar grinned at Zeke. “Now you’ll have to tell. She’ll have Mrs. Estrada all worked up.”

Zeke didn’t want that. But he didn’t want to share the story with a house full of boarders. “How many here right now?”

Cesar looked at him, confused.

“Sorry. How many boarders?”

Cesar shook his head. “Just one. A gambler.”

Zeke’s eyebrows rose. “Really? Mrs. Estrada is fine with that?”

Cesar shrugged. “He pays good. Mostly he’s at the Oxbow. Comes home in the morning and sleeps all day. Makes it hard on Pia. She has to clean his room after supper.”

“That’s a shame. But makes it easy. I’ll see if Mrs. Estrada wouldn’t mind having dinner in the kitchen, since it’s just us, and I can tell you all about it then.”

A grin stretched across Cesar’s face. “That would be good. Like the old days with Mr. Estrada.”

It was after five when Zeke came out of his room. Bathed and in his town clothes, he was headed to the kitchen to see if there was some cold buttermilk and to sit on the porch in the shade. He ran into the gambler, coming out of his room. Zeke nodded and started to pass him by.

“Hey there. Good to see someone else staying here.”

“Hey.” Zeke eyed the man’s clothing. A fancy black suit with a snowy white shirt, ruffles down the front and lace at the sleeve cuffs with a gold chain leading to the man’s vest watch pocket.

The man stuck out his hand. “Red Talbot.”

“Zeke Stanford.” Zeke shook his hand.

“Dinner’s not till six,” Red said.

“I know. I’m headed to the porch.”

The two men walked together along the hall and to the stairs. “Passing through?” Red asked.

Zeke hated these kinds of questions. What was it to this man? “I’ve got some business in town.”

Red laughed. “Me too. I’m headed for the Oxbow. You play cards Mr. Stanford?”

“Not really.”

“Probably a good thing. Too many cowboys with their pay in their pocket come to a sad end by the end of the night.” They reached the bottom of the stairs.

Mrs. Estrada was in the parlor, knitting by the window. “Zeke! Good to see you.” She got up and gave Zeke a hug. “Welcome back.”

Red eyed him. “Mrs. Estrada.”

Her looked told Zeke that she wasn’t all that impressed with her boarder. “Mr. Talbot. Off to the Oxbow?”

He gave her a bow. “I am indeed, good lady. I’m afraid I’ll have to miss your wonderful dinner again this evening.” Red turned to Zeke. “I take my supper at the Oxbow most nights. Not as good as here, but, alas,” he shrugged, “it gives me time to assess my competition.” He headed to the back door. “I’ll get my horse and bid you all, good-night.”

After he was gone, Mrs. Estrada snorted. “Good riddance.” Then she smiled. “I have mail for you.”

 

Words: 936

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: Gold Dreams

Australian, Gold, Nugget, NeroDesign

Australian Gold Nugget by NeroDesign via www.DeviantArt.com

Zeke Stanford pushed open the doors to the Oxbow Saloon and stopped to let his eyes adjust to the dimness. His fully packed donkey was tied to the hitching post in the mid-day Arizona sun but Zeke wanted a beer. Right now.

He left the door and walked to the bar. “Beer.”

“Just get in, Zeke?”

“Yeah, Earl. Just want to cut the dust before I go to the assay office.”

Earl put the mug of beer, foam dripping down the side, in front of the man, his eyebrow raised. Zeke picked it up and drained half of it in one swallow.

“Oh.” His eyes closed as he savored the brew. “That hits the spot.”

“You find something?”

Zeke opened his eyes to look hard at Earl. “Maybe.” He drained the rest of the beer. “See ya later.” He dropped a coin on the bar and left.

Back out in the sun he untied the donkey and pulled the lead rein. The donkey snorted and balked. “Come on, Jenny. We go to the assay office, then the livery, all right?”

The animal shook itself, dust rising from it in great clouds. Jenny snorted again then allowed itself to be lead. Zeke looked around the dirt street. There were a few men out on the porches of the Oxbow and the bar next door and the one across the street. It didn’t seem as though they were watching him any more than anything else moving in the street. Earl’s question had raised his hackles though. It didn’t happen often but claim jumpers could be anywhere and Zeke had worked too hard for him to trust anyone right now.

The assay office was just down the street. He tied Jenny to the hitching post there and went inside. There sat a man at a table, a ledger open in front of him, making an entry with a fountain pen, the gold tip glinting in the sunlight coming through the dusty window. “Howdy.” The man capped the pen and looked up expectantly.

“I have a sample for you to test.” Zeke glance out of the window, then the door behind him before he pulled a small bag from inside his leather vest.

“Well, young man.” The assay man stood up. “I’m John Markum. Let’s see what you have.”

“Zeke Stanford.” Zeke handed the man the small bag and watched as John took it to a work bench where there was a scale and glass stoppered bottles of liquids.

John hefted the bag then poured the contents onto the bowl of the scale. He added and took away weights until the scale balanced. He turned to look at Zeke. “Could be gold. The weight seems right.” He picked up the bowl of the scale and took a pinch of the contents and placed it in a glass bowl. John handed the scale bowl to Zeke. “You can pour the rest of that back into your poke.”

While Zeke did that, John selected a glass bottle from the bench and with great care, poured a little of the liquid into the glass bowl. It began to fizz, the gold specks dancing around in the few drops of liquid, a little smoke coming from the bowl.

“Is it supposed to do that?”

John grinned. “It is if you want your sample to be gold.”

Zeke finished pouring the gold from the scale into his bag. His heart was racing but he wanted to keep a clear head here. He’d seen men whoopin’ and hollerin’ about their strike. Next thing they were dead a few miles from town, their pack animals and equipment gone. Zeke eyed the assay man. “Good. You have the papers here to file a claim?”

“I do, young man. I do.” He walked to his table. Underneath was a filing cabinet. He opened the top drawer and pulled out a sheet of paper, placing it on the table top. John pushed his ledger to the side. “Have a seat son.”

Zeke pulled his bag closed and put it back into his vest pocket. At the table he sat down.

“You read, son?”

“A little.”

“Well this says that you’re filing a mining claim. You have to put down the location son, or it won’t be official.”

Zeke nodded, it made sense but he was reluctant to reveal the mine location. He picked up the fountain pen. Someday it might be my gold that makes these nibs. In the place John pointed out, Zeke wrote out the location of his mine. He signed at the bottom and sighed.

“I’ll make a copy, Zeke, and send it to the territorial capital for filing. I’ll make a copy for you, too. The original will stay here.” He held out his hand. “Congratulations, son.”

Zeke shook hands, a little light-headed. It seemed too easy after all of the digging and shoring up and cold nights.

“That’ll be twenty dollars, Zeke. And you can stay at Mrs. Entrada’s boarding house. It’s clean and not expensive. She gives you dinner along with the room.”

Zeke pulled out the coins and handed them to John. “Appreciate the recommendation, John. And I take it this business between us is private?”

“Aye. I wouldn’t be in business long if I told everything I know.”

They shook hands again. “Thanks, John.”

Zeke left the office and pulled Jenny along the street. He wanted a bath and a good dinner. Zeke thought about all the things he could do with the gold. A nice house for his Ma. Ranch hands for his Pa. Who knew, maybe he’d ask Mary Younger for her hand. He’d love to see her in a fancy house and pretty dresses. Yep, that was something to look forward to in his gold dream.

 

The End

963 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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