Unexpected Guests Part III: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Gold Mining Area

Gold Mining Area

You can find Part II here: http://wp.me/p6LAko-IQ

Part III

They spoke just low enough so he could hear mumbles. Nate in particular kept looking over at Zeke’s tent. Zeke didn’t like it but he didn’t know what else to do. Maybe I’m over reacting. Maybe they’re really just passin’ through.

He watched as they passed a small bottle around. Then talked more. Zeke stood up to relieve his legs from the prickles and let the blood flow again. The three went back to their bedrolls, at least he thought they did. Their camp was out of sight of his tent door. It sounded like they were going to bed. He pushed the flap open and peeked out. No fire at their site meant he couldn’t see them.

He slipped out of the tent and eased around the corner out of sight of the others. The fire had died down to embers so didn’t give out much light. He could hear Butter and Jenny stamping in the dark. As quietly as he could, he headed for the creek. Not too far along the trail he’d made, there was a pile of boulders. He climbed up them and down into the middle. Still high, he could watch the whole camp in the dark. The moon would be up soon.

Zeke’s head jerked up at a sound. The half-moon lit the camp just enough for Zeke to see two dark shapes approaching his tent. His hands began to sweat and worse, his legs had fallen asleep. He needed to get the blood flowing before he had to run or fall flat on his face. Where’s the third man? Zeke watched two men stand beside the tent flap. They pulled their guns and while one pulled the flap, the other shot inside the tent.

The loud reports echoed through the night air. The flashes from the barrels were blinding. While they rushed in, Zeke could hear Butter whinny. Murderers!

The men came out of the tent. “He’s not here, Dan’l.”

That sounded like Earl.

“Shut up, stupid! Find him,” came from over by Butter and Jenny.

Zeke watched the two men at the tent split up. One went toward the animals. The other man came in his direction. Should he shoot? His sweaty hands slid on the rifle. He dried them on his pants and waited. Yes, one of them was coming this way. Zeke took a deep breath and as the man neared, Zeke fired. The man cried out and fell, then dragged himself off of the trail.

“Ned! Ned?”

So now he knew who he’d shot he had to move. The brothers would be here any second. He jumped down from the rocks and headed to the creek turning right to circle around to where Butter and Jenny were. At least he hoped they were still there. He could hear the sound of boots running up to his last spot.

“Nate! Where are you?”

Zeke heard a groan. So Nate wasn’t dead. At least not yet. He hurried up the slope doing his best to be quiet. The animals were where he left them. Good. He hurried to the camp and sheltered behind a scrawny tree beside his tent. Zeke could hear them coming back. All three from the sound of it.

“Zeke! Come out, boy. There’s been a misunderstanding.”

That was Daniel’s voice. Lying, murderous thieves. They must think I’m stupid. He waited, rifle raised and steadied on the tree trunk. When the three reached the camp, Nate supported by the other two, Zeke fired at the one on the right. The man screamed and fell to his left, pulling Nate down with him. “Earl!”

The man on the left must be Daniel. Zeke took aim but it was too late. Daniel did a diving roll to his right and was out of sight. Earl and Nate were both shrieking, calling Daniel’s name and screaming curses and threats at Zeke. The noise set Zeke’s teeth on edge. He eased back, toward the stranger’s camp, missing most of the acacia. Zeke could hear Daniel cursing the bushes as they snagged and tore at his clothes.

“Go away,” Zeke called before he moved to a new spot.

“You shot my brother.”

Zeke could hear him crashing through the brush but it was hard to tell where he was with the caterwauling from the wounded men. “You tried to shoot me.” He moved again.

Daniel was getting frustrated. Zeke could tell by the thrashing through the brush. Zeke edged up the hillside. Maybe he could see better up higher. There, as Zeke looked downhill, the moon came out from behind a cloud and he could see Daniel, gun extended in front of him, crossing the camp near the fire. Zeke took aim and fired. Daniel fell, just missing the fire and lay still.

Hurrying down the hill, rifle trained on the man, Zeke kicked Daniel’s foot. No movement. He grabbed some rope hanging from the tree nearby and tied Daniel up. Then he took the rope and headed for the two wounded men, still shouting obscenities at him. Zeke circled around to come up behind them.

The two were struggling to their feet, leaning on each other. Zeke walked up behind them. “Drop the guns.”

The two started to turn. “I said drop the guns.”

Wobbling, they complied, leaning on each other. “Tie Nate up, Earl.”

“I’m not…”

“Yes, you are. Or I’m gonna blow your head clean off.”

Earl swore under his breath but picked up the rope Zeke had tossed. With Nate tied, Zeke came to tie up Earl.

Four days later he was at the Sherriff’s desk, the unexpected guests in the cell behind him. The Sherriff was sorting through wanted posters. “Daniel Thomas, $2000. Brother Earl, $2000 and Nate Bartholomew, $3000. That’s quite a haul, Zeke.”

Zeke nodded and took the voucher the Sherriff handed him. He wasn’t against the money, but again, he had to shoot people for it. Not the way he wanted to do things.


End of Part III.



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Unexpected Guests Part II: Flash Fiction Friday Post



Part I of this story was published last week. You can read it here. http://wp.me/p6LAko-IJ

Part II

While the three men walked their horses over to the spot Zeke had pointed out, he stirred the fire, pulling the now black potato out of the fire. Did they see it? He picked up the harness and carefully used it to pick up the potato, doing his best to look normal.

He walked to his tent, one eye on his guests, and slipped inside. He dropped the harness and potato on the ground. The wire holding the potato together hadn’t been covered and a spot on the heel of his hand was burned. He poured a little water from his canteen onto his neckerchief and wrapped it around the burn. Hand dealt with he examined the harness for damage. Some scorching but nothing serious. That was good. All he needed was for the harness to be irreparable. Zeke kicked the potato in a corner of the tent where other provisions were stored and pulled stuff around it to hide it from view then stepped out of the tent, harness in hand.

Nate was walking by on the way to the creek, canteens hung around him and in hand. Zeke nodded and went to the horses. Hanging the harness in its usual spot, Zeke decided to keep watch on the men. He needed to look busy though. This is where he’d go up to the mine but not now. Now he wanted to keep watch. Butter nuzzled him, bumping his arm. He reached an arm around her neck and gave her a scratch. “No treats today, greedy girl. How about a curry, though.

Butter nickered. Zeke picked up the brush and began to work on the horse.

Daniel and Earl were laying out bedrolls. Nate was out of sight down the creek bank. They’re gonna want to eat their supper at my fire. If I tell them no, they’ll make their move soon. If I invite them, it’ll look like I’m not suspicious. Zeke could feel Butter stretching her back with the brush. He was just grabbing the comb to do Butter’s mane and tail when Nate came back through the camp. Zeke nodded again. Nate spit.

That didn’t make Zeke feel any better. He didn’t like the way Nate was looking at him. He finished with Butter as the three strangers sat on their rolls. They were all looking his way and talking. He could hear the murmur but they were keeping it quiet. Were they making plans about him?

“How about you, Jenny. Ready for your curry?” He picked up both brushes and his rifle and walked to where the donkey was staked. The little gray donkey shook, clouds of dust rising in the air. “I guess so.”

Zeke curried the donkey, again keeping the men in view. He found a cut on the animal’s back left leg. He went to the tent for some ointment and applied it to the cut. The whole time the men watched him. Grooming finished, he led the horse and donkey to a new spot and staked them where there was some fresh grazing. Not having anything else to do after he put the ointment away he took the buckets to the creek and filled them then emptied them into the barrel he kept near the fire.

Daniel, Earl and Nate came back to the fire with arms full of wood. “We saw the pile was low, Zeke.” First Daniel, then the others, dropped the wood in Zeke’s pile.

“Appreciate it. Since you’re stayin’ the night, you’re welcome to cook your dinner here. You brought the wood, after all.”

“Kind of you, friend.” Daniel was all smiles.

Zeke didn’t like the look of the brother or Nate, though. They were studying him. Looking for weaknesses. If he had any sense he’d shoot these three right now and be done with it. “I don’t have much to share. I’m gettin’ ready to pack up. Thought I’d get supplies before I move on.”

“We have food, no worry there.” Daniel hunkered down next to the fire. “Spent a lot of time on those animals.”

Zeke shrugged. “Yeah, well, I don’t groom them often enough. Today seemed like the day.”

“Where you gonna go?” Earl pulled a dry stem of grass and began to pick his teeth with it.

“I don’t know. Thought I’d check in town for news.”

Nate pulled his gun out of the holster and began checking the works. Zeke’s heart sped up. “Maybe California. I heard the gold country there is a lot prettier than here. Greener.”

Earl pulled his gun and began to wipe it down. Zeke’s hand hovered over his rifle but left it alone. They were just cleaning their weapons, right? He stood up. “I’ve got some bacon, that’ll help stretch your beans.”

“Mighty nice of you, Zeke.”

Zeke went and got the bacon and the cast iron pan, then some flour, lard and salt and in his makeshift kitchen, a stump he’d cut tall, he mixed biscuit dough while the pan sat over the campfire cooking the bacon. None of his guests offered to help though they did go get their food and began heating it, still in the cans, in the fire.

“Not Mother’s cookin’ but it’ll do,” Zeke said as he passed around bacon and biscuits.

The men nodded as they crumbled bacon into their beans. Zeke spooned bacon grease onto a split biscuit and put bacon slices between the halves. He ate. The others ate. No one spoke though they watched each other intently.

While Zeke cleaned the pan and bowl, Daniel told tales of Chicago, where they were from. After dark, Zeke announced he was going to bed and thanked them for the company. He dropped the tent flap, something he didn’t usually do, then sat cross-legged in front of the flap and watched, rifle in his lap.


End of Part II, next week, Part III.


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Unexpected Guests Part 1: Flash Fiction Friday

The Arrastra by Jay Richmond

The Arrastra by Jay Richmond

http://www.panoramio.com/photo_explorer#view=photo&position=195&with_photo_id=27388762&order=date_desc&user=321523 by Jay

A while back I posted a story, Ambush (http://wp.me/p6LAko-GA), about Zeke and his gold mining adventure. This story takes place shortly after Ambush.

Part I

Zeke was hardly any better than the horse. Jumping at every sound, distracted by any leaf blown across his path, he hardly blamed the horse. The Apache had left, as far as he could tell. That left him with the worry about the Indians coming back, but more so about the gold he was finally getting out of the ground. For such an out in the middle of nowhere spot, there seemed to be a lot of people around.

The ore he was having the donkey and horse crush generally came out of the quartz in fair sized nuggets that could be easily handled. Once he had the arrastra cleaned out, the quartz tossed to the side, he swept the hard floor for the gold dust. Tinning, the man told him the process was called. This was new for him and he only had an old miner’s word that it would work.

On his last trip into town, he acquired two items, potatoes and mercury. Mr. Burell, the grocery owner, cautioned him on the shining silver in the three bottles he bought. “It’s dangerous stuff, mercury, son. They used to use this in making hats. It’s poisonous, and the old saw, mad as a hatter, came from the worker’s exposure to it. Don’t get it on your hands or skin, if you can help it.”

He pulled one of the vials he’d purchased out of his pocket and poured a few drops of the silver toxin into the pan, rubbing it all around the inside. Then he panned the dust, separating the dirt from the gold. The gold stuck to the mercury, leaving little nuggets and put the pan to dry while he prepared the next step.

Now, next to the campfire, Zeke cut one of his potatoes in half. He scraped the amalgam of gold and mercury into the hollowed out potato and wired it back together. He tossed the potato into the fire. “Wait until that tater is black as sin,” the old-timer told him. Zeke took a deep breath. This was going to take a while. He got up and fetched Butter’s harness. If he wasn’t digging, he could at least fix her harness while he waited.

He was just finishing his repair when he heard horses. Laying the harness to the side, he picked up his rifle. After the Apache attack, always at hand. Butter and the donkey’s head rose and the animals looked toward the noise.

Three men rode into camp, dusty and bearded. Zeke’s stomach clenched. He didn’t want any trouble. “Hello, the camp!” The center man called out. “You mind if we rest a bit, get some water from the stream?”

Zeke wanted to tell them to move along but that was just rude. “Water ain’t mine. Take what you need.”

The men tied their horses to Zeke’s picket line and walked over to the fire. Zeke could see them eyeing the little arrastra he’d built. They know what I’m doing. Will they move along?

“I’m Dan’l Thomas. Appreciate the kindness.” He pointed at the man to his left. “My brother Earl, and this here’s, Nate.” The three men squatted down around the fire. They eyed the rifle still in Zeke’s hands.

“Had much trouble?” Daniel asked.

“Some Apache not long ago.” Zeke nodded. “I ran them off.”

Earl spat to the side. “Kill any?”

“No bodies left behind, so probably not. I know I hit at least one. There was blood.”

Nate rubbed his beard. “I don’t know why the Army doesn’t kill them all.”

Zeke nodded out of politeness. He didn’t care as long as the Indians didn’t bother him. It was their home first, after all. “Travelin’ far?” He hoped they’d get the hint to move along.

Daniel chuckled. “We’re takin’ it slow. Heard there was gold around here. Looks like you found some.”

“Not much,” Zeke said. “I’m about to move on. Last haul was barely enough for supplies and a beer.” His hands were sweaty on the rifle.

“That’s too bad.” Daniel looked around Zeke’s camp. “Nice little set up.”

“Yeah. But like I said, not much return. I heard there was big gold in California.”

Daniel nodded as he pulled a wrapper of tobacco from his inner coat pocket. He offered the packet to Zeke. “Chaw?”

“No, thank you. Never picked up the habit.”

Daniel pulled some tobacco from the packet and passed it to his brother. “Probably best. Nasty habit.” He stood up. “So you won’t mind if we set up camp for the night.”

Zeke’s heart sank. “Suit yourself. There’s a flat spot over there,” he pointed a hundred feet away. “Mind the rocks. The whole country is nothin’ but sharp rock.”

The others stood. Daniel tipped his hat. “Much obliged.”

They walked to their horses and led them to the spot Zeke had pointed out. Not good. I’ll have to watch all night.

End of Part 1, next week, Part II.


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856 Words

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