"Oh, aren't you taking the piss." Bender fumed. The pale-eyed lawman said nothing, watching him. "You don't actually expect me to believe that you don't remember that he's one of our riders? As many times as you've had him locked up in here? Open the bloody door so I can bloody see to him!"
Holt sat looking at Bender with a bored look on his face. Bender's eyes narrowed. "Do you really want to have to explain to the United States Army why their documents are late? That a bloody sheepshagging jackass out in some pissant wateringhole held up something they paid ten dollars an ounce to send? Open the damn door, Holt!"
At that point, Holt hesitated, then got reluctantly to his feet, reaching for his keys. "Watch your mouth, or you'll find yourself locked up in there with him. Look, Hungerford...you should be thankful the men in this town have an eye out." He shuffled over, taking his time, and fitted the key in the lock to the cell holding Storm and rattled them in the lock. "They saw an Indian on a mail horse. Nobody wants to think you people are paying a damn Crow a hundred dollars a month, so they naturally assumed your regular rider had been attacked and robbed." The door swung open with a loud groan and Bender shoved past him as he prattled on. "You got two white boys on your whole crew...and one of them is a Mormon, even. What do you think people around here think about that?"
"Oh, let go of it." 'Bender snapped as he carefully pulled the injured rider forward and parted the crusted hair over the angry, fevered wound in Storm's scalp. Not dangerously deep, but I'm hoping that's where all this blood came from...probably need to stitch it. "Who did this, Peltier?"
"You remember Rob...and Levi Yarl?" Storm rasped, his breathing shallow and labored, making speaking difficult. "Ambushed outside of town."
Bender thought a moment. Those two idiots Lynch refused to hire. Dammit. "Yeah." He swept Storm's matted hair away from his face and tilted his head back to check his pupils. "I remember 'em. Look'it the state of you, mate. They worked you over pretty bloody hard, looks like. How'd you get here?
'Bender eased the injured rider back against the wall and ran brusque fingers hastily over his torso, defly checking for injuries. Storm groaned in pain, his breath catching hard in his throat. "Ribs." he gasped.
"That's what I buggering thought." 'Bender hissed, livid. Storm, as was typical of express riders, was not a big man. Couple of big brainless apes like the Yarls could really have done some serious damage. And they may well have. Damn and double damn! "Holt, you lock a man up in this kinda state, you can't be arsed to call the Doc? How long were you gonna wait before telling Lynch?"
"Doc ain't coming all the way down here for a damn Indian. And I sure as hell ain't paying him for one." Holt sat back down at his desk, tossing his keys in front of him in with a disgusted jangle. "And Blackie's already headed out to the station to tell Lynch to come get his horse and his mailbags. Take your 'breed and go. You might consider how people are going to react when you pass them over to hire injuns and such. You can tell that to Erastus Lynch. He asked for this."
"Those jackasses attacked a mail carrier. They bloody robbed and beat a man outside of town, and you're telling me Lynch asked for this?" 'Bender snapped, incredulous. "So, tell me, you planning on arresting them now?"
Holt laughed. "For capturing a Crow they thought was a horse thief? You're lucky they didn't kill him!"
'Bender stiffened with anger, but checked himself. I gotta get him home, if I get locked up with him we're both cocked. "Look, Storm. I got some supplies out on Swagman. I'm gonna bind your ribs so you can move and then we're leaving."
"We're leaving now." Storm muttered, throwing an arm over 'Bender's shoulders and forcing himself to his feet with an agonized hiss. "You can put me back together later."
© 2008 Regina Shelley