Saturday, September 11, 2021

Moon Feather: Part 4: A Pretty Penny


Everett strode quickly down the street, trying not to jostle his bleeding burden overmuch. Fortunately, the Doc’s house was on the main thoroughfare, but a few minutes walk from the unfortunate scuffle.
Dr. Calhoun was standing on the front porch, a worried look on his face as he stared down towards the small crowd gathering around the bodies. He was older, perhaps fifteen years older than Everett, graying at the temples with reading spectacles perched on the end of his long nose. Tall and thin, he often had a nervous look about him, but always had a sympathetic squint to his gentle gray eyes as he looked upon his patients. He started rolling up his sleeves as Everett approached.

“How many should I prep for, Everett?”

“Just the one as far as I can tell. The other three are beyond your help at this point. Boy here beefed ‘em all by his lonesome. Caught a bit of lead in the arm for his trouble.”

“Welp, bring him in and put him on the table.”

Everett climbed the steps and through the open door and laid the boy out on the surgery table. Between the two of them, he and the doc got the boy’s buckskin shirt off. Underneath was a loose cotton shirt, a bit dingy from sweat, but it was sleeveless, so they let it be. Calhoun went to work digging out the bullet, flushing the wound, and sewing it up. The boy stayed unconscious the whole time, plumb tuckered from the ordeal. 

“How old do you think he is?” Doc said, peering at his sleeping patient.

Everett crossed his arms and studied the boy. Standing, his head had barely come to Everett’s chest, although, admittedly, Everett was certainly not a small man by any measure. The boy’s face was soft and lineless, with a slight cherubic roundness that accentuated his youth. With the red hair, he would have expected to see a bunch of freckles, but he was more of an even bronze color without a hint of blemish. He began to wonder if the boy was indeed a mixed breed after all. 

“I’d say he’s fourteen if he’s a day, and that feels a bit too kindly,” Everett said, leaning against the wall. 

“Where did he come from?”

“If I was judgin’ by looks alone, I reckon I’d say one of the tribes east of here a ways, but he speaks damn good English, so I’m not so sure. Never seen anyone handle a bow like that before. Shot ‘em dead in the throat turned in the saddle. Not sure I could even shoot near as well with a gun ridin’ forwards, let alone turned clear around on a movin’ horse. Right damn majestic.” 

“Marshal?” Wilson’s voice echoed through the door, his tone uncertain. “You’re gonna wanna see this.”

Everett righted himself with a sigh, wondering what other surprises today had in store. His first two years at this post were pretty peaceful. He supposed he was due for some trouble. At least he had managed to get his house built before the excitement began. He stepped out into the street and walked the short distance to the jailhouse, where four bodies had been laid out next to the wagon that would carry them to the undertaker. 

“Wait. Where’d the fourth one come from?” he said, frowning at the extra corpse. A rough-looking feller with straw-colored hair and a nasty scar on his face, and a distinctive arrow still protruding from his throat.

“A couple men went after the runners and found this one laid out a little ways outside of town. Guessin’ that’s why they must’ve come in after the kid. That there bein’ Frank Durham himself and all,” Wilson said, thumbing through the bills for the bounties on the dead men. 

“What? That’s Frank Durham?” Everett said, whipping his hat from his head and squatting down to peer at the corpse. 

“Yessiree,” Wilson said, plucking a bill from the pile. “Ran into him down in El Dorado, Arkansas before the war. He was a mean ugly cuss back then too. Here it is.” He smacked the paper triumphantly with the back of his hand. “See?”   

Everett took the bill and looked at the small rendering of Frank Durham’s face. Unless the man had a twin, he had the eldest Durham brother and leader of the Durham gang laying in front of him. He frowned, then looked back at the doc’s with concern. The remaining Durham brothers wouldn’t take kindly to his death. They certainly wouldn’t take kindly to said death being caused by a lone half-breed indian boy.

“And the others?” he said, still peering at the doc’s house. 

“The one that caught the bad end of the toothpick is James Humphries. The other two are John Mattheson and Amos T. Higgs. All known members of the Durham outfit. Worth a pretty penny, too. Them three’s worth fifty dollars a head and Frank’s worth five hundred.” Wilson followed Everett’s gaze. “The boy didn’t look like he had much outside of that pony and the funny lookin’ bow. I wager this’ll keep him nice and tidy for a bit. Supposin’ you’re willing to pay it out.”  

“It’s the least I could do, seein’ as how he did my job for me. We should find out if he’s got any kinfolk here abouts though. Six hundred and fifty dollars is a lot of temptation for a youngun like that.” 

Right at that moment, Calhoun leaned out the door and beckoned him over with a jerk of his arm. Everett put his hat back on and went to have a chat with the remarkable little savage. 


If you would like a glossary of western slang used in this story, here is the reference I'm using: Western Slang, Lingo, and Phrases – A Writer’s Guide to the Old West     

Wicked Wednesday

1 comment:

  1. I know I was already excited when I read the part for last week, but this excite me even more. I love that they still think it's a boy. Keep writing, and I will keep reading :)
    ~ Marie xox