Walter had told him it was real important that he keep a keen eye, because they would most likely be coming up through from south, so “keep your damn eye lids open, boy.” Walt had said. “I come back up’er and you catchin’ a wink im’a clean yer plow.” So Luke watched the moon-lit valley as he was told.
Movement caught his eye and adrenaline flushed through him. He looked hard. There was something moving, but Luke thought it seemed too small to be a man. Lots of night critters run around these hills. He stuck a blade of grass in his mouth and settled back into the rock and continued his vigil.
Luke was fourteen years old, and hard as any man, he reckoned. He had been with Walter for as long as he could remember. Luke’s parents had been killed when he was just a small boy and Walt had taken him to raise him best he could. He remembered little from his childhood.
They had once ridden with a hand named Francis, who had been one of Lem’s men till an unsettled dispute had sent Francis looking for work. Francis loved his Whiskey and had got full as a tic on stump one night and told Luke that Walt had killed his parents over a debt and grabbed him as cover from the sheriff’s deputies bullets on his way out the door.
Luke didn’t believe the story and had told Walt what Francis said. Walt assured Luke that it was just a tall tale, said “You should never believe words that smell somuch like whiskey, boy” and walked off with a limp. Francis never made it back to camp. Luke just assumed Walt had run him off. Luke thought he might have seen Francis’ saddle for sale in the store the following week, but he couldn’t be sure.
Luke heard a rustle over this left shoulder and turned his head. Walt’s dark outline slowly moved around the rock, cresting the hill in his direction. The shadowy figure quietly made its way to his side.
“No sir, but this’s a dandy spot, yes sir, we’ll get the bulge on ‘em, alright.”
Walt nodded in the dark and turned away.
“Is it true that Lem got the rope? I heard they came and drug ‘em right outta jail.”
Walt stopped and turned his head slightly, pulling his Stetson down against the cold. “Yeah, they lynched him.”
Luke swallowed hard and stared at his boots.
Walt turned full around, facing him.
“Don’t you worry ‘bout it, boy. In a few days we’ll shove the queer and be bendin’ our elbows someplace nice. Maybe get a couple ladies keep us company.”
Luke nodded in the dark. Walt turned back and picked his footing around the hilltop and disappeared.
Luke pulled his gloves tight. He thought about the money. He thought about ladies with skin fine as cream gravy. He thought about Lem Redfield swinging from a rope and shivered.
Luke stared out into the dark over the pass.
One hundred-and-something years later...
|Aaron as usual.|
|Be afraid of this.|
-Alex who hopes Luke make it to the ladies with skin fine as cream gravy.