My darling Sadie,
It was my plan to be gone from Leadville today, on the trail to Wyoming Territory–in the continuing company of Stanley Crenshaw, who became restless to put this pulsing mass of boomtown humanity behind him almost as quickly as I did. As it stands, however, I’ll be here a little while yet.
The change in itinerary came about like this….
“Nice to be able to see the new moon,” I commented, tipping my hat back to git a better look. “Sure can’t make out many stars around these godforsaken city lights.”
Stanley grinned at me, the white stripes on his skunkskin cap about the only things visible above his teeth. Them latter were more yellow than white, admittedly, but still stood out well enough in the darkness.
And darkness it was, this far from the more popular saloons on the route toward our hotel. We’d celebrated a bit, both for my partner having concluded a sucessful set of horse trades and for both of us having finally received the bounty money we were due after having survived our last shootout.
Our business in Leadville was completed, though; that was what mattered.
It was late, most likely after midnight. Which meant we’d be rising on short sleep to saddle up and head out–after loading up on breakfast at Cindy’s Cafe, of course. But that made no nevermind; tomorrow night, we’d be camping out in the high lonesome, working our way up and out of the great state of Colorado. Which, except for missing my fiancee, I wasn’t going to mind putting behind me for a while.
The attack came outa nowhere.
All right, all right, I know. There ain’t no such thing as an attack coming outa nowhere, okay? Picky, picky, picky. Let me rephrase that.
The attack came outa the alley.
Guess you might need to know the setting a little better to get the picture. The alleys in that part of town are mighty narrow, no wider than a man’s shoulders. Barely room enough for a carpenter to swing a hammer when they were being built. A good place for ambushes, Hell yes, and it weren’t like Stanley or me either one were ignorant of that fact.
But the middle of the street is worse. A man in the street picks up enough light–even starlight–to make himself a target for a rounder with a shooter skulking in one a them alleys. So you walk by ’em on the sidewalk, jist stay alert and go.
I happened to be on the alley side, Crenshaw on the street side. The fellow had been laying in wait, jist held off till we’d gone past, then catfooted out and come at us–well, okay, at me specifically–from behind. Not with a gun, or I’d be deader’n a doornail and writing you from the other side right now, but with a damn blade.
That’s right; a wild west boomtown and this idiot tries us on for size with nothing but a pigsticker. Which, I hate to tell ya , honey, is jist as deadly as any bullet if you git stuck with it.
He was quiet; I can’t say I heard him coming–not even his breathing–and neither did my crosseyed partner. But I did sense something, spun back to my right…. and felt the knife hit, coming in my right side, jist below the ribs.
No time to draw. No time to hesitate in shock, either. Dark as it was, it weren’t hard to find the wrist that held the knife stuck in my side. Clamped down on that with my right hand, fork-struck with the first two fingers on my left hand at where his eyes should be.
Missed to the right, index finger sliding along his skull–but the middle finger flat buried itself in his left eyeball socket.
Sadie, the next time you hear about somebody giving somebody else the finger, think about that. There ain’t no adrenaline on God’s green Earth like the adrenaline you got going for you right after you’ve had a blade slice into your own body, I’m telling you.
I’d like to sound like your stalwart hero, honey, but that’s about it; being more or less gutted was taking it right out of me. Yep. I was done fer the night.
But Stinky Stanley wasn’t. Honey, that old man don’t only look dangerous; he’s fast. Got the guy from behind in a bear hug, broke most of his ribs while he was still screaming about his poked eyeball, and dropped what was left of the fellow on the boardwalk.
Left him there while he picked me up–me trying not to scream, jist grunting from the pain and trying not to pass out–and carried me more’n a mile to the nearest sawbones we knew about. Rousted the doc by dang near pounding the door off his house, bellowing like a bull about the need fer his services.
Oh. Stanley’s reading this over my shoulder. Says I better tell you I’m gonna live.
Okay. Yes, sweetheart, I’ll be fine. Turned out the gold in the money belt under my shirt had slowed that knife strike down considerably–two of my double eagles now have knife slices to show for it. Plus, of course, there was the leather itself.
When all was said and done, the doc–his name is Huggins–said I got lucky. Didn’t hit any vital organs, though I’m now short an appendix. Which he assures me I don’t need.
The attacker? When the deputies got there, lo and behold, he hadn’t gotten far. Not even to his feet. Jist dragged his busted butt back into the alley and laid there till he drew the law right down on him with his moaning and carrying on.
Doc Huggins still hasn’t finished finding out what all’s been busted up on the man, but he’s for sure going to be missing that eye permanently. Plus, Stanley busted at least seven ribs on him and put one through a lung to boot.
Ready for the next informational tidbit? You can smell it coming, I bet: Sure enough, the idjit in the alley turned out to be none other than the long sought Chauncey Devers, he of the droopy right eye (now his only eye) and scarred cheek. Turned out it didn’t matter if I found him after all, ’cause he found me. Knew I was a Tamson when the word spread about our south-of-Bucktown shootout, kept outa sight, and made his plans. His idea was to stab me through the right kidney, throw me into shock long enough to grab my .45 outa the holster and shoot the both of us.
Too bad fer him, there are a few men who fight first, go into shock later. Plus, he had to try to reach across my body to git to that crossdraw pistol butt, which didn’t work out so well for our Mr. Chauncey Devers,
Amazing how freely a two-bit outlaw will talk after he’s been busted up proper like that.
There’s something on his head, too, but that ain’t why we’re hanging out here right now. The marshal offered to forward the bounty money directly down to you at Walsenburg the minute it comes in, so I’m freed up on that score. Don’t even have to split it with Stanley–he says I git to keep the full amount on account of it being me who was stabbed, and I didn’t feel much like arguing the point.
But it’s going to take a a little bit to heal well enough to ride safely–or so they tell me–and the Court would appreciate it if we hung around fer the trial. Which won’t take long; Leadville don’t much seem to care if Chauncey’s still screaming in pain when they haul him off to prison or not.
What have I learned from all this? Oh, quite a number of things, honey. I learned that if I hear about some rounder eyeballing you the wrong way, I will sooner or later poke at least one of his eyes out. I learned there are some people it’s jist plain impossible to underestimate–taking on two known gunhawks in the middle of the night with nothing but cold steel? How dumb can you get?
Old Believer, yeah, I could see him doing that and living to tell about it, maybe even Tam or Dawson, but this guy? I’ll never understand some people. Hate, I guess. I learned hate can fester so much it makes you stupid.
Oh, yeah. Turned out he used the knife for one good reason, or so he told the deputies that arrested him. He’d lost his only pistol in a poker game earlier that night.
Guess there’s two other things I learned. I learned never to discount luck, and I learned all over again that I never, ever, ever want to have to wrestle Stanley Crenshaw.
My darling Henry,
Next time you’re going to write telling me somebody tried to kill you, please start your letter by saying you’re going to be all right first, okay? Honey, you might be missing an appendix, but you like to gave me a heart attack!
Heh. Just read what I wrote. Looks like I”m assuming there’ll be a next time…and I guess that’s true. Dad says that’s normal, that the Tamsons are trouble magnets.
Not that he was excluding the Trasks, mind you.
The Leadville marshal wired the bounty money on Devers to the bank on the same day your letter reached the Post Office. Coincidence…or fate? (Dad says fate; he doesn’t believe in coincidence.)
Hey, that’s pretty wild, isn’t it? That I shoot out one eye on an already one-eyed man and make him blind altogether, then the very next week you rip out a dude’s eyeball with your bare finger? But isn’t it the man who’s supposed to shoot the other guy’s eyes out, and the woman who’s supposed (as they say) “scratch his eyes out”?
Kidding, honey; I’m kidding. You go with what you got.
Phyllis lost the baby.
Oh damn, I didn’t want to just blurt it out on paper like that. But I’m not going to rewrite this entire page, either, and there isn’t any easy way to say it.
Turned out Wick and Ned had done more damage before I got there than we thought. No, not rape; she hadn’t been violated. But the struggle, and the fear–plus I think maybe they hit her a few times, though she won’t say.
Anyway. She’s handling it better than you’d expect. In fact, it seems like she’s maybe sorta growing up a bit from the experience. Don’t believe she’s been encouraging any more young Utes to do her or anything like that.
Oh, before I forget: The bounty on Devers. Turned out a lot of the older rewards on his head had expired, but then again he kept on adding up new damages. We ended up getting a cool thousand. If this keeps up, we’re going to have quite a stake sitting in the bank by the time you pop on back here to claim your bride in ’92. Goodness, you’ve been gone just under four months now, and already we’re sitting on a fair chunk of change, $7,800 plus interest!
I had a crazy dream last night. Don’t need to go into the details, but it inspired what I’m about to say next: Beloved, I know our clan is expecting you to settle in at Flywheel Ranch when you come back after your four year “seasoning” journey. But that’s their dream; it might not be yours.
And if it’s not, know this: Where you go, I go. If you don’t want to be a rancher later on, it matters not to me.
Love and lust,