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.

 

 

Thank You!

999 Words

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

 

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Unexpected Guests Part II: Flash Fiction Friday Post

campfire_by_kiaraz

campfire_by_kiaraz

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.

 

Thank You!

975 Words

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

 

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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.

 

Thank You!

856 Words

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

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Flash Fiction Friday: The Farmer and the Superhero

So Let the Flames Begin by tearsintotime via www.deviantart.com

So Let the Flames Begin by tearsintotime via www.deviantart.com

Art looked around the barn. There wasn’t much here to fight with. The outlaws were closing in and they had revolvers and shotguns. Thank the heavens, Wanda and the kids were at her parent’s ranch, twenty miles away. That’s something, he thought as the back and front barn doors were kicked open at the same time.
“We know you have a cash box hidden in here, Sodbuster.” The leader of the gang called out from his horse in the barn door. The rest of the gang were on foot, nearing the center of the barn floor. Art was in the hay loft, pitchfork in hand.
They’d come riding in hard, dust blowing across the valley in the hot spring afternoon. Sure he had cash. He was saving it to buy seed and plant once the monsoons began.
The outlaws gathered at the base of the ladder leading to the loft. “Come on down. Don’t make us come up there,” a big brute with a scar across his left cheek yelled out.
Art considered throwing the pitchfork like a spear. He’d get at least one that way.
“Jimmy,” Scarface said to one of the men next to him. “Go up there and throw that sodbuster down.”
“You snoozer, I ain’t goin’ up there. He’ll kill me.” Jimmy backed up a step.
Scarface reached out a long arm, grabbed the young man by the scruff of his neck and shoved him to the ladder. He pointed his revolver at the boy. “Get up there or I’ll shoot you myself.”
Jimmy was none too happy but he began to climb the ladder. Scarface called up to the loft. “You come down nice and quiet. We won’t hurt ya.”
“You already burned down my house. You’ll kill me all right.”
Scarface waved his gun at Jimmy to get a move on. The boss, leaning on the pommel of his saddle snorted. “Sodbuster, we just want the money. Toss it down.”

Art could hear Jimmy nearing the top of the ladder. “I think not.”

The boss said, “We’ll burn the barn with you in it.”
“Then you won’t get the money, will ya?”
Jimmy stepped up to the loft. He had his revolver in hand, scanning the heaps of hay in the loft. “Come out, Mister. Give me the cash box and we’ll be on our way.”
Art flung the pitchfork at the boy. Jimmy dodged the fork but stumbled and fell off the loft. He screamed after he hit the dirt barn floor. “My leg! My leg is broke!” Art’s stomach rolled. He’d never hurt anyone in his life.
Over Jimmy’s screams, the boss yelled, “Shut the kid up. Get him on his horse. Mister, you made a mistake. Scarface, burn the barn.”
Art could hear the sound of the boss leaving. Through the open loft door he could see the gang forcing Jimmy onto his horse. The men rode away from the barn, Scarface’s horse with them. Below, he could hear Scarface lighting match after match, the sulfur smell rising in the air to his hiding place. He could see the boss send two of his men to the other side of the barn. There would be no getting out that way.
The smell of smoke filled the air and he could hear crackling. The chickens began to squawk and run from the building. He pulled the cash box out of the rafters and tucked it under his arm. Was there anywhere to put it so Wanda could recover it? A peek over the edge of the loft showed the flames licking the wooden support posts. At least the cow and her calf were in the field. Wanda would have that much.
The heat began to rise, sweat formed on his face. He grabbed a sack of corn, stuffed the box inside and put the sack in between two others. Maybe the corn wouldn’t burn. He peeked out of the loft door. The outlaws were having a smoke, waiting. Art wiped his forehead with his sleeve. If he jumped he’d be defenseless, the pitchfork was on the barn floor.
The flames crept up the support poles. Art paced back and forth between loft doors, desperate to think of some way out. He coughed from the smoke. When the flames licked at the front edge of the loft, he thought it was the end. Tears of anger, frustration and the smoke streaked down his face. He whispered a good-bye to his wife and children.

Kneeling in the center of the floor, he prepared to die when something crashed through the roof of the barn. Art’s arms went up to shield himself from falling shingles and splintered wood.
A man, dressed in sky blue with a red cape settled to the loft floor. He held out his hand. “I’m The Guardian, let’s get you out of here,” he said. Art took the man’s hand. He scooped Art up under his arms and flew through the hole he just made. The outlaws pointed and shouted. The man put Art down in the pasture next to the cow and flew back to the outlaws. They fired their guns at the man who swooped low over them, spooking their horses. The horses ran in every direction but the man followed, one by one, bringing each outlaw back and tying them up in the middle of the barn yard.
After the last outlaw was caught, The Guardian came back to the pasture. “I’m sorry about the barn,” he said. The barn was in full flame behind him. “But the bounty on those outlaws should be enough to pay for a new house and barn.”
With that, the man rose into the air until Art lost sight of him in the sun. Art walked the outlaws into town keeping them in line with their own dropped revolvers. The Sheriff looked confused at the outlaw’s tales. When he asked Art how he captured them all, he said, “I just surprised them.”
The End
1000 Words
Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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