For the hundredth post, Saint is going to do this week for us. He's crabby and jonesing for a smoke, so bear with him.
It's a synopsis of the previous 99 chapters, so if you have not read up to that point, I am warning you now that it does contain spoilers up to chapter 99. If you have read from the beginning and are up to 99, there are no spoilers for chapters past 100.
I'm looking forward to writing the next round of this thing, and I hope you all are looking forward to coming along for the ride. For you folks that read, I want to tell you that if it weren't for you, I probably would have found reasons to slack off on this thing a long time ago. It's not that I don't enjoy it, I do. In fact, I'm having a blast. But you know how hard it is to motivate yourself to do thing on a schedule when it's a self imposed schedule. This was sort of an experiment I challenged myself to, and I would have never succeeded in it if not for you folks reading.
Thank you. A lot.
Fragmented sunlight shafted through the shutters on the bunkhouse windows, illuminating the acrid haze of tobacco, sweat, leather, and woodsmoke within. The embers of a low fire glowed warmly in the soot darkened stone fireplace that dominated the bunkhouse.
The swarthy young man at the table leaned his chair backwards so that it tottered precariously, crossing his long legs on the table in front of him. The wobbling chair groaned, threatening to dump him ass over teakettle onto the dirty flagstones of the floor. He drained the dregs of his coffee and stuck a peppermint stick between his lips, glaring warningly as he did so.
"Yeah, don't ask." He glanced warily around at the door, roaching back the dark hair brushing his broad shoulders with his fingers. "Look, it upsets the Little Miss...Lily...when I smoke, alright?" He muttered sheepishly in his thick New Jersey accent. And I don't wanna hear about it, so...not a word. Va bene. For those of you just joining us, I'm Pete Bari, but everyone calls me Saint. I'm a stagecoach driver. And here's what's been going on at Green River Station. Pull up a chair."
"The new hire, Lily, came out here because her brother Jesse's working here as a Pony Express Rider. They had a position open as a cook and housekeeper to help England out...actually, England's name is really Fiona, but where's the fun in that? Anyways, she hated me. Not England, I'm talking about Lily. She's heard all kindsa stuff about me...none of it good and most of it true...and it didn't help that the first thing I did on her first day on the job was get her good and mad at me. Let's just say I ain't her favorite person and leave it at that.
"Her uncle Chet's left her some kind of deed to...well, we don't know to what. Whatever it is is important enough or valuable enough for someone to send this lawyer over here to try and buy it out from under her. Guy was a stronza and a horse's rear end. Needed a real ass kicking...unfortunately, I was away when the time came to deliver one. Fortunately, our stocktender Hungerford was here and as much as I hate to have to compliment the guy, he did a fine job of it.
"And while we're on the subject of ass kickings, these two...well, I ain't gonna say what I'm thinking...let's say two jackasses, Rob and Levi Yarl, attacked one of our express riders. We've had trouble with them before...in fact, one of them pulled a knife on me in the Silver Star Saloon before all this happened. If you're wondering which is the one that pulled a knife, he's the one with the bandage halfway up his arm.
"I'm just sayin'.
"Anyways, they ambushed Storm Peltier on a run out to Three Crossings and damn near killed him. Good thing Hungerford got transferred to our station when he did. He's a farrier, but he's also a fair medic."
Saint grimaced, as if the words tasted nasty. He bit off the end of his peppermint stick, crunching it noisily. "I can't believe I'm sitting here taking nice about that guy. Damn Aussie snake...
"Anyways, we got Storm patched up and me and my coach gunner Wash left for a supply delivery out to Salt Lake House to the west of here. Grain, ammo, hardtack and bacon, you know, stuff for the stations. Got as far as Fort Bridger before the army relieved us of our cargo. Picked us clean as vultures and then sent us back home with one little box of carbine cartridges. Nice, eh? There's big trouble going on at the stations near Pyramid Lake and Carson Sink. Big enough the army's involved. Get this: some stupid stronzas out there messed with the wrong Pah Ute girls and next thing you know, a hundred people are dead. So that's why we weren't home when Sheriff Holt had Storm arrested.
"Yeah, you heard me right. Arrested.
"Turns out that while me and Wash were on our run, our youngest rider, a kid named Luis, wasn't too happy about Storm getting beaten up. So he'd gone over to the Yarl place and filled up their outhouse with rattlesnakes. And then he...uh...fixed the seat so it would break. Look, no, I don't know how he did it without getting himself bitten, either. You'll have to ask him. But Levi Yarl fell ass first into the shitter sump and almost died. And since Storm had motive, and since right now everyone's in a panic over the Indian attacks, and since the Yarls were lying to everyone who would listen, Storm got hauled in for attempted murder. It was bad, they were building a scaffold to hang him before the thing even went to trial.
"Meanwhile, me and Wash are just tryin' to get home without being shot or scalped. We get back to the Church Buttes relay station and Devereux the stocktender there, who happens to be part Shoshone, was there trying to fend off a pack of jackasses who had decided the answer to the 'Injun Problem' was to go out and murder anyone they could find that might be even slightly Indian. And us down to a single box of ammo I can fit into my pocket. That was a fight we ended up winning, but at the end of it all, Dev had to take a bullet out of Wash.
"So in the midst of all this horseshit, I'm gonna havta tell you what happened when we got back. I'm driving the coach through this blinding spring downpour at night, Wash sleeping in the coach and it raining so hard I can barely see the road. I look up and see that Little Miss has lit a candle in the window to guide us home.
"I ain't gonna lie to ya, you have no idea how much that meant to me. That was just about the sweetest thing I ever seen.
"So when I walked into the kitchen, I was so glad to be back, and so happy to be alive, and she looked so sweet and warm...well....I just kissed her. Right on the mouth.
"Yeah. She was pretty mad about that. Tore into me pretty bad. But it was so worth it. Turned me to mush, if we're being honest here. Who woulda thought a little plain, bashful girl like that...." he raised his eyebrows and shook his head. "She looked pretty surprised when I did it, but I ain't foolin' when I tell you she wasn't any more surprised than I was.
"And, of course, her brother Jesse tried to take my head off later when he found out.
"Remember how I toldja somebody tried to buy the Little Miss's land out from under her? Well, she had declined. So somebody came after her and tried to burn the kitchen down with her in it. It was me hauled her out of there. We were both damn lucky we didn't get killed that night. The smoke was... real bad. Got her out, but if it hadn't been for her hauling me out a window, I'd be dead. And that's how everyone found out I have a touch of miner's asthma. Or more specifically, that's how Lily found out. Which is why I'm chewing on one of Jesse's peppermints right now instead of smoking a quirly. She made him quit, too, you know. If anything good came of that, it's that she doesn't hate me anymore. In fact, she hugged me, if you can believe it.
"The girl's going to be the end of me. I'm just sayin'.
"So, anyhow, va bene. The trial. Merda, what a mess that was. Storm's Métis... like Dev...only he looks way more Crow than Dev looks Shoshone. So with the current level of anti Indian sentiment running rampant, things looked real bad for us. I mean, there's no way we were gonna let Storm hang, so had things looked like they were going that way, there was gonna be shooting and probably our faces on posters.
"Our only other option was to come clean and tell the truth. And that would have put Luis in the exact same mess. Nobody here is gonna sit still while they hang a kid that young. And they'd have done it.
"In the end, it was England who came through for us. I guess there ain't no point pretending we don't know she's got feeling for Storm, so there it is. She's got feelings for Storm and has for a long time. They've both been busily pretending not to realize it while they rest of us have been rolling our eyes.
"She set Rob Yarl up so he was in jail for assault...and no lie, he really did hit her, although I still don't know how she made that happen. The girl is intelligent and sneaky. She's so damn pretty people forget that, but it ain't smart to let a girl like her get the upper hand on you, and Rob Yarl ain't smart. So Yarl dropped the charges on Storm, England dropped the charges on Yarl...and Jesse, Yarl, and me ended up two days in the lockup for fightin'.
"I should probably point out that while I was in jail, Hungerford, that Australian son of a bitch that shovels our stables, started making moves on the Little Miss. And I guess it shouldn't bother me. I'm not going to make any moves on her...she pretty much made it clear she wasn't interested. But it irks me. It would never work out even if I did...but I can't stop thinking about her. Of all the men here she could have gone for, why Hungerford, for crying out loud? Jesse asked me to go with them when they go out to see what sort of land Lily's inherited. And wouldn't you know it, Lily's asked Hungerford to go, too.
"That ought to be fun.
"Just when we thought we'd hit the end of trouble, we find out the mail service has been halted. Just...stopped. Hit a wall. We're looking at maybe not having jobs. England's talking about going back to England. Storm's considerin' going back to his old job as an Army scout. Luis is panicking because he doesn't know what he's going to do.
"All because some stupid stronza out near Pyramid Lake couldn't keep it in his pants."
Saint tugged on the empty coffee cup that had quietly settled into the grunge on the tabletop. It was momentarily stuck. He pulled it free and peered into it, scowling at the lack of coffee therein. "Merda." he breathed, clearing his throat. "Sick of the sound of my own voice. I need a smoke."
© 2010 Regina Shelley