Feb
0

The Sky Horse Chapter Eighteen

The Sky Horse Chapter Eighteen

The Sky Horse Chapter Eighteen
A Very Clear Mud Puddle
“Sky Horse?” Joel asked “What’s that, Triplet?”
Big John stood and said “I’m leaving, kid. I don’t have time for this. Del, I want you do your job. Get rid of these fools.”
“Can’t do that yet. I’m investigating a potential crime involving a minor.” Del was leaning against the bar.
‘Then lock them up,” Ike McKinnon said.
“Can’t do that, either,” Pratt said. “No charges yet.”
“Then tell them to quit asking questions about the Schipper girls,” Crawford Perry said.
“Reckon I won’t. Reckon im work for Mr. Essex as much as I do you. I heard what he said and I can’t un-hear it. Like Junior and Vern, I bullied him. Hell, we all did. But I never knew how Scarlett felt or he felt or the admiral felt but now I do. So if you don’t mind, I aim to find out who killed that girl and where her sisters are.”
“You’re playing with fire,” Crawford Perry said. “The election’s this year.”
“Yes, it is,” Pratt agreed. “But Big Foot has two hundred fifteen voters and Lone Coyote has three hundred nineteen now and four boys and six girls who I’ll make sure register on their eighteenth birthday. All I have to do is get the Coyote vote and you’ll have toll kiss my ass for once, gentlemen. Now, if you ‘going, get. I’m sure the Longs and my friends from Lone Coyote will stay.” Ted and Juarez nodded.
“You’re betraying our heritage by courtin’ those greasers,” Triplet said as he and others got their guns. Nate moved to give the handgun in his pants back.
“Amigo,” Tomas said, “you better keep that.”
“But it isn’t mine,” Nate said.
“Call it a ‘Welcome to Big Foot’ gift. Pratt said. “Right, Big John?’
“You’re a dead man, Pratt,” Triplet said.
“I hope that’s a metaphor, John. “’Cause if I show up dead, you’ll have to deal the Rangers. I’ll see to that. I’ll tell ‘em today what you just said in front of these folks. The days of you and that son-of-a-bitch Cody running me are over. Understand?”
“You throw in with Coyote and the four families WILL get you somehow, understand?” Triplet said as he got his gun and left. Now all the ranchers and hands were gone. Kent Straight emerged from a back room holding his head and moaning.
“He’s a drunk?” Nate asked Limes.
“One of the best.”
“That explains his muddled information he gave us yesterday,” Maggie said. “Listen, I’m going to put…I’m going to freshen up. Don’t talk about this till I get back.” She went back to the restroom and presently ret6urned with her appearance less provocative. She grabbed her pen and pad and sat down by the Longs. Joel sat by Limes, who had walked from behind the bar, Tomas put his shot gun and again sat with the people from Lone Coyote. Kyle Essex moved towards the door. Pratt, still leaning against the bar with a small straw dangling from his mouth motioned him to stay. Nate began to pace and everyone waited for him to re=start the talking.
He began to mutter “four families” to himself. He then looked at Pratt. “They don’t count the Pratts since ninety-seven, right, Sheriff, when your ranch was sold, right?”
“No,” Pratt drawled. “They never really did consider us to be part of their whatever. We inter-married, of course, but together they owned more land than we did and they wanted to keep fighting the Civil War. Big Foot did not and the Pratts still think they’re nuts. Well, I do. Guess I’ll be the last one.”
“You could still marry,” Mayor Lopez said.
“I could marry Vern and end our careers and probably our lives. Straight, give me a Coors. You don’t mind, Sam?”
“You’re gay?” Jorge Sanchez asked.
“That’s not important now,” Nate snapped. “Big Foot Pratt, Del.”
“Big Foot was a lot like Admiral Schipper. He had fought alongside Grant in Mexico and was at several bloody battles in the East, Seven Days, Cold Harbor. He just wanted to start afresh. But he died in sixty-eight and his sons had not seen any action so the other four families didn’t listen to them. Isaac became the first sheriff after the county was incorporated. And it’s more or less been a hereditary office ever since.”
“Fernando Escobar was sheriff in thirty-five,” Sanchez said. “He was my great-uncle!”
“Yeah,” drawled Pratt, “and he hung hisself with his hands tied, a reverse Houdini. Anyway, that’s what the all-Anglo coroner’s jury said.”
“OK,” Nate said. “I want to ask the Longs something, a few things, actually. First, why come here?”
“I think,” Paul said surprisingly thoughtfully, I think I came here for the same reason Big Foot and the admirals did: to start a new life. The West is so romantic. I brought Ab Davis and the others followed.”
“Bullshit,” Joel said. “I mean the West is romantic in some ways but any place is if you don’t have to worry about feeding yourself and your family. Dad and Maggie love Orrin, Kansas but I don’t think guys like us can come out here and re-invent ourselves these days. The West is no longer where you can re-invent anything, let alone yourself. People won’t let you. I’m not for gay marriage I don’t think but you just heard what the sheriff said. If he were to be himself openly, he’d be dead. That’s not rugged individualism; that’s enforced conformity. And it’ll kill the plains states. The only hope are the Hispanics.”
“I’m surprised and offended, Joel,” Maggie said. “That’s tribal, if not racist,”
“No, it’s not. As long as the states from Texas to Nor6th Dakota and from Louisiana to West Virginia live in a past that never, ever existed, they’re doomed.”
“Hold it there,” Nate said. “We are not here to debate and I don’t need my lady and my at odds. The West is not an either/or place. Take Big Foot. On the surface, everyone appears alike but they’re not. Essex cannot be the only one who feels resentment. Lone Coyote is the same way I bet. So the West is not Utopia but I cannot and will not believe that everyone in Big Foot is an inbred bigot or that everyone in Lone Coyote is a put-upon, long-suffering victim. But I was talking to Paul and t=Ted.”
“You know,” Ted said, I’m trying hard not to but I think I like you.”
“The feeling,” Nate said, “is not mutual. It is hard to get warm and fuzzy about a man who tried to hire me to whack Old Man Triplet.”
“He did?” Lopez asked. “Was his price too low? Perhaps someone could double it? Not me, of purse: I uphold law and order but I have many very bad cousins, if you follow.”
“Nate held his head as if in pain. “I don’t whack people,” he said. “I do not whack people. And were I to whack Triplet, you’d still have Comstock, McKinnon, and the Perrys to worry about. I would not advise anyone to whack any of those guys. They outgun you. It is a stupid, although highly appealing, idea. Anyone who offers to pay me to whack anyone might get whacked instead.
“OK,” he continued, “Joel asked about the Sky Horse. Has anyone here besides me seen it?”
“You saw it? When? You never told me,” Maggie said.
“I saw it coming to Vernon’s, where we both got distracted, right?”
Maggie giggled and blushed. Joel Groaned. The others pretended not to hear.
“Anyway, what I saw was a giant white horse that raced across the sky for a minute or so from north to west. Joel, I saw it.”
“Was its mane blue?” Joel mockingly asked.
Paul Long said “Last night it was red. But it was blue awhile back.”
Maggie dropper her jaw and pen. “You’re telling me the Sky Horse is real?” She asked.
“I believe Abby Davis told us that yesterday,” Nate said. “Pick up your pen. Now, when did the horse first appear?”
“Two weeks after we came,” Ted said. “That time, the mane was orange.”
“Does anyone deny nit appears?”Nate asked.
“Only to outside media,” the third Cote rep said. “I’m Daniel Kinkaid. I’m one-eight Anglo. The horse is not as unnerving as the old Comanche. “
“The old Comanche. OK, who is the old Comanche?” Nate asked.
“We don’t know,” Limes said ‘”but he usually stops a truck or car soon after we see the horse near the Schipper pasture and says ‘thee; there,’ Then he vanishes.”
“Of course, he does,” Nate said, “of course, he does. OK. Let’s recap. Joel, start.”
“Cotton Wood County is mostly owned by four white families. The Longs own a good chunk of it though and the four families and they are eying a piece of prime pasture land.”
“Which was owned by a retired admiral who committed suicide after his daughter was raped and killed by a party or parties unknown,” Maggie said.
“No, a girl was raped and killed, who was unrecognizable and had Scarlett’s ID on her,” Nate said. “I think Kyle thinks Scarlett Schipper is alive.”
“Yes, I do!” Kyle said.
“ID of body in dispute,” Maggie said as she wrote. “But her sisters are missing.”
“Which means that if none of the girls are found within two weeks, the land will be declared vacant and put up for action. Triplet wants it. The Longs want it,” Nate said.
“And the mayor wants it,” Joel said.
“Si,” Lopez said, “but I cannot outbid the other two, to be honest.”
“So the reappearance of any of the Schipper daughter would not in practice affect you at all?” Nate asked.
“No,” Lopez agreed.
“We show up,” Nate said, “Ted offers me a contract on Triplet. I reject it. Joel gets arrest on a bogus charge of molestation. We find out a person or persons unknown did touch Aggie. Pratt release Joel and asks us to find the girls. He gets called here to be ordered to tell us to drop it, I presume/”
“Yes,” Pratt said.
“And that’s where we all,” Nate said.
“Two points you left out,” Maggie said, “are the alleged apparitions and Joel’s friends in Coyote.”
“Gomez and Lewis are not relevant here, Margaret,” Nate said, still pacing. “The ‘alleged’ apparitions I don’t know how to handle counselor. Perhaps you took a course on them in law school” Speaking of spirits, is it four o’clock yet?”
“It’s three-forty-five,” Joel said.
“Today, that’s close enough,” Nate said. “Limes, a single shot of Old Granddad straight, if you pleas. Thank you. A toast to this case, a very clear mud puddle.”
Pratt answered his cell. “Doctor Lucinda McKinnon just got your daughter to talk. Aggie said the man who touched her has a tree house in Orrin.”
“I don’t,” Joel said.
“I know,” Pratt said as he slapped Joel on the back. “You’re cleared She insists it wasn’t you!’
“But the monster who hurt my baby’s still free,” Maggie sazd sadly.
“Don’t worry, babe,” Nate said. “Harlan has the case now and nothing will distract him.”

At the very moment, Harlan Rundle was listening to Cole Petty on his phone. Harlan was sitting in Bridget Fine’s living room when she walked out wearing a very short, sleeveless white dress.
“Tell me that again when we get back, Harlan told his deputy. Someone just distracted me.”s

Feb
0

The Sky Horse Chapter Seventeen

The Sky Horse Chapter Seventeen

The Sky Horse Chapter Seventeen
Admiral of the Sea of Grass
The Laws were at the far left side of the bar. Neither Joel nor Maggie were eating their burgers while Nate had eaten his and was now devouring a piece of cherry pie a la mode.
“You sick, son?” Nate asked Joel. He figure Joel had to be not be eating like a pregnant sow
“He’s probably too nervous to eat,” Maggie said, “I know I am.”
“Yeah, I am,” Joel admitted. “I keep looking in the mirror abd seeing all the dirty look we’re getting.”
Nate snorted. “Looks don’t kill people; people kill people. Shoot, alluding to bumper stickers isn’t very literary is it, Limes?”
“Huh?” Limes asked.
“Mr. Limes,” Nate said in earnest, “seated before you are the co-authors of a major work of true crime, my bride and me. So, being a man of letters—“ He was interrupted by Maggie interrupted.
“You are, you vain oaf, d-u-m-b.”
“Are you people always like this?” Limes asked Joel, who laughed hard and snarfed down his burger. “Two more,” he said with his mouth full.
“You’re kidding,”Limes said.
“Joel Law never Jokes about food,” Maggie deadpanned.
When they were all finished, Nate told the other Laws to resume their previous positions. He saw Tomas Garcia cradling his shotgun as he stood against the wall. Nate stood slightly in front of him. When he saw Maggie was ready to talk more notes, Nate cleared his voice loudly.
When the locals were again looking at him, he spoke.
“Let’s talk about the Schipper land and girls,” he said, “and why nobody wants them found.”
“What makes you say that?” Maggie asked, perplexed.
“Before we kicked in the door, I didn’t. I expected a meeting about why an alleged sex offender had been sprung. I figured that’s why Lone Coyote and Big Foot came together. They wanted to figured why Pratt did what he did. As a parent, I could understand how the first response would be anger and if they were angry enough, they might form a lynch mob and come after us. Didn’t you?”
‘”Kind of,” Maggie said. “But, again, at the café I did hear the name Schipper a lot. I should have told you.”
“How about ‘pervert,’ ‘danger.’ or anything about children or liberal judges?”
“No,” Maggie said. “What’s your point?”
Joel said “it’s the dog that didn’t bark, Conan Doyle, ‘Silver Blaze.’ You’d expect outrage here over my release after it came out that Aggie was in fact molested. Instead, after we told everyone to hand in their weapons, Mayor Lopez hands me a copy the land grant.”
“The alleged land grant,” a man Nate took for John Triplet, Jr. said. “Every Texas court ruled it fraudulent.”
“Every Anglo judge did,” Jorge Sanchez retorted.
“At present,” Nate said exasperated, “the grant is moot. The Pratt family held the parcels now owned by the Longs and the pasture that the Schipper girls own or owned, depending on if they’re dead or not. Am I right?”
“Si, hermano,” Tomas said. “You knew that.”
“Yes, I did but you always want to be sure. Let’s go back to our time line. Big Foot staked his claim in 1865. Del, you said your old man lost it. When was that?”
“Nineteen ninety-seven,” Pratt said. Aubrey, my brother, could have paid the taxes on it but he is in New York and didn’t want to, damn him. He’s the older of us two boys and is a banker on Wall Street. He’s left Texas behind him.”
7“7Any sisters?”
“My wife, Myra. I’m Josh Comstock, Jim’s son.”
“Er,” said Maggie hesitantly.
“What?” Nate asked.
“Never mind, I think?”
“You think? Think what?”
“It’s delicate, Nathaniel”
“This is not an Eastern Star tea party and quilting bee, Margaret. If you have a question, ask it. I doubt if anyone here is going to faint.”

“OK, dear. If the four families have held most of the land al, this time, who do they marry? I ask this because holding the land seems important.”
“Hmm,” Nate said. “I see your point about delicacy. But it’s out there now. Anyone want you want to reply. If not—“
“We keep careful records,” Mayor McKinnon said. “I’m chair of the Eugenics Society and we make sure bloodlines don’t get too tangled.”
Nate roared with laughter. He approached the mayor and “put his hand on his shoulder. “Thank you for that lat laugh. We needed that.” McKinnon coldly removed Nate’s hand.
“Amigo,” Tomas said, “the Eugenics Society meets every Tuesday at my place. He is not joking. Do not think he is.”
“Oh,” Nate said. “Maggie?”
“Joel?” She asked.
Joel scratched his head. “You have a Eugenics Society. That’s…unusual. Why don’t you explain it to us and how it relates to the land.” Nate nodded.
“In 1912, a McKinnon got worried about our intermarrying so much and began researching the issue. He discovered eugenics, scientific and selective reproduction of the human race to improve it,” Vernon said. “The four families found it made sense. The Society helps us find suitable matches for our young to insure the ethnic vitality of the four families. That’s gist of it. It traces genealogies to make sure only fourth cousins and further tromped marry as well. It’s hard work.”
“How does it insure this ethnic vitality, though?” Joel asked. “You can’t legally keep people from…you know, loving whomever he or she wants.”
“No,” Vernon agreed. “But if someone does, say, serve in Asia and brings back a non-white wife, they’re shunned. Most end up leaving the county but some move to Lone Coyote out of spite.”
“Si.” Juarez said, “That’s one way we get new citizens. Some of us also travel to places like Dallas and El Paso and meet future spouses. My brother Manny worked in Houston four years and came back with my nephew Pedro Leroy’s mother, a lovely woman and a strong convert.”
“So who were the Schippers related to?”Maggie asked.
“Nobody,” Pratt said, “nobody here, I mean. Aubrey and I agreed our old man could not hold his booze or control the ranch so Aubrey got guardianship of Daddy. But instead of paying the taxes and letting me run the ranch, he decides to sell t. Big John knew about that before I did. As soon as I heard what was afoot, I took Aubrey to court but lost. Triplet there thought he’d get a sweetheart deal since he assumed Aubrey subscribed to the Big Four code. Aubrey, instead, put ads in several East Coast papers for the ranch, including The Washington Post. That’s where Admirals Dale and Schipper saw the ad.
“Schipper and Dale went way back to Viet Nam together and were nearing retirement as Pentagon paper pushers. Dale was a follower, I think; he lived where the Longs do but he was content to let his foreman run things. Let me back up. Aubrey split the ranch in two, just like the map I showed Nate and Joel says. Schipper and Dale wanted to be neighbors, not partners. They spent most of their time in the Alamo, drinking coffee and trying to fit in.”
Limes spoke. “Aubrey sold the ranch on behalf of Silas in ’97, a year before the school wars flared again. Ninety-eight was also when I bought the Alamo. It sounded like a good idea but I always had to hire managers and it never made me a cent. I sold it to Tomas in ’11. Sorry for interrupting.”
“Don’t be, Nate said. “That fills in a few gaps in my knowledge.” Maggie said “A few? That won’t help.” Nate caught her eye and winked.
“This fellow Dale,” Joel said, “what was he like?”
“Bookish,” Limes said. “The few nights he came in here, we discussed poetry and art. Well, he did. I just poured the Scotch. He had never married, wasn’t gay or anything but awfully shy around women. Anyway, he had a couple of minor strokes and his neice or someone moved him back east, where he died in ’09. His heirs sold his land to the Lomgs.”
“That true, Ted?” Nate asked.
“Yes, we bought our land from one Allison Grant of Washington, D.C. Her precise relationship to Dale I never knew but she said he died and left her his ranch.”
“Did you know Schipper, Long?”
“No. Whatever happened there happened before we came here,”
“Was Admiral Dale still here when the rape and murder of Scarlett happened?”
Jim Comstock stood up. “How is this any of your business? The Schippers are dead, all of ‘em. The way we see it here, them girls probably ask for whatever they got and the old man was a weakling to kill hisself ‘cause his slut daughter got herself killed.”
Maggie’s jaw dropped and her face turned bright red. She was about to speak when a young man arose from a back table and made his way close to Nate. He was nervously clutching a blue ball cap in his hand. He looked around the room and swallowed hard.
“Sir,” he said to Nate respectfully, “I’d like to say something.”
Joel said “I don’t have your weapon.”
“No, sir,” the man said, “you don’t ‘cause I ain’t got none. I come here before all the others ‘cept that trucker feller. If I knowed the ranchers was coming and the folks from Coyote, I’d stayed away. The land ain’t none of my business.”
“So why talk>” Nate asked.
“Well, sir,” the man said, “I ain’t nobody but a store clerk at the hardware in town but I knowed Scarlett real well. Fact is, I knowed all her folks and what Mr. Comstock said…wasn’t right. I can tell you what I think if you like, sirs and ma’am.”
Triplet said “”Just leave. You said it. It ain’t your affair!”
“You knew the Schippers?” Nate asked.
“Yes, sir, I did.”
“Then begin with your name and tell your story.”
“I forgot to introduce myself, sirs and ma’am,” the man said. “Beg pardon. I’m Kyle Essex, folks. My people was ranch hands did my great-grandday bought the store in the forties or sometime. Mom only had but me. I was OK till I was in school. You see, when I try to read I mix up the letters. Dyslexia they call it, you know, sir?”
“I know,” Nate said quietly. “Go on, son.”
“Well, you see, when kids found out about me, they always made fun of me. Always. They called me ‘retard’ and ‘dummy’ for years. Daddy told once all I had to do was fight back and they’d stop. So when we was ten, I hit Little John there, Mr. Triplet, and he beat the shit out of me.” The crowd laughed.
“I sure taught you,” John Triplet, Jr. guffawed
“It wasn’t funny to me,” Kyle said.
“No,” Nate said, “it wasn’t. Triplet, shut up. Kyle, go on.”
“Well.” Kyle said, “ After that, I just gave up. I just never thought nobody my age would ever be kind to me. But our senior year, Scarlett Triplet came her.
“Scarlett’s sister, Sparrow, had cerebral palsy. So when the kids in Sparrow’s class done to her what my class was doing’ to me, she got on ‘em, put the fear of God in ‘em. Then she saw how it was with me and was kind to me, offered to tutor me. So I let her. People thought she was wasting her time but she helped me quite a bit.
“Admiral Schipper had lost his wife years before so Scarlett looked after him and her sisters, ‘specially Sparrow. Sparrow walked funny and talked funny and most folks here didn’t think she knowed anything but after awhile, I could make out most of what she said and she was as smart as Scarlett. It was Starlet who was the flighty one. She was as pretty as Scarlett but all she cared about was boys. She gave the admiral fits. But she knew how far to go before he would get mad, which he hardly never did.
“Admiral Isaac Bradshaw Schipper, that was is his name. Like Mr. Limes said, he had served in Nam, right after graduating from the naval academy, just like his daddy. The admiral went further up the ranks than his old man, though. I know all this ‘cause we used to ride together when he asked me to. My cousin was his foreman and the three of used to ride together on his ranch. He’d talked then.
“He talked about western history, geology and all kinds of stuff. And I told him about the county. The girls and him visited Coyote a lot. He just liked people. Someone there started to call him the Admiral of the Sea of Grass and he had a sign saying that hung on his den wall. We laughed a lot about that.
“Scarlett took college classes online and became a teacher and she got a job In Coyote, She got prettier and prettier.
“So I begun to wonder why she never dated. I knowed her eight years and she never had a boyfriend. I sort of thought I wasn’t good enough for her. So I never asked her. When I finally talked ot her daddy about her being alone, he said it was my fault, that the whole damn family was tired of waiting on me to make my play.
“So I was the next Saturday but they found the body or a body on the road that Thursday. It had her ID on it but it was mangled up. They should have ran a DNA test on it but the prosecutor told Pratt to say it was her but a bum did it, which broke the admiral. He hung hisself. Then the other two girls vanished. I raised holy hell trying to fix things but I ain’t a rancher. So after awhile, I gave up, just like I done before I met Scarlett. Well, sir, if you’re on the case, I got your back.”
Nate put his hand on Kyle’s shoulder, looked him in the eye and nodded.
Then Limes spoke up. “I never knew all that, Kyle.”
“Till today no one did…except maybe the Sky Horse.”
To be continued.

Feb
0

The Sky Horse Chapter Sixteen

The Sky Horse Chapter Sixteen

The Sky Horse Chapter Sixteen
Local History (Histories)
Nate whispered something in Joel’s ear first and then Maggie’s and strode into the bar whistling an old Irish song. As he looked around him, he saw several groups of men, some standing, some suiting, some standing and some leaning against the wall. He spotted Vernon with a man about his, Vernon’s, age, an older man and a pimply youth. Behind them stood four or five men. He also recognized Tomas Garcia with three other Hispanic men, the Lone Coyote delegation. Tomas had a shot gun. Pratt was looking like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Behind the bar was a short, balding man who looked as nervous as Nate felt. Nate caught his eye and winked. The man nodded very slightly.
Nate said in his best Irish brogue “Good man would you be willing to let a poor traveler be singing some songs for these fine gentleman now? ‘Tis awhile I’ve had such a fine audience to hear me poor voice and I do love to sing, don’t you know?”
“Sam—“ an old man began to protest.
“Never you mind, Hayden Perry,” Sam Limes said. “New talent is scarce. I might hire this guy.”
“Aw now, ‘twould be just what I was after, me man.”
“Bullshit,” a fat man in a cowboy hat (Actually, most wore a cowboy hat, Limes and the Latinos excepted.) said. “You’re that hit man, ain’t you?’
Nate said “Aw, now, ‘twould be a poor soul indeed who knew but one trade, as me Ma used to say. Shall I begin, me lads?”
Nobody said a word. Nate looked at his son in the doorway and scratched his hair. That was a signal. Nate then sang an Irish song in Gaelic. He next did some Italian arias. Then he began the Great American Songbook, Gershwin, Berlin and other Sinatra had done. He had a rich, deep voice. Every eye was on him.
No one noticed Joel creeping up on Paul Long. Nate then looked at Maggie and coughed. That was her cue. She shot him a dirty look but found the woman’s bathroom. When she came out, her bra was off and T-shirt soaking. She swayed her hips as she walked towards Nate from the opposite side Joel was creeping up on his target, which allowed him to pick up his pace. Absolutely no one was watching him except Vernon, who was aroused like everyone else, almost everyone. Nate saw the old dance hall owner pointing to Tomas, who had absent-mindedly laid his shot gun on the floor. Nate winked at Limes.
He faced the crowd again. “Well, me lads,” Nate said, “me dear wife must have had a mishap in the loo. I hope you’ll forgive her appearance.” The cat calls that answered him made him boil him was more determined than ever to get the upper hand here.
So he kept his poker face and said “Well, me lads, we appreciate your understanding, don’t we, Maggie?
She giggled. More lewd remarks. “Would you mind if I sang you old boys some good old songs, boys?” Maggie asked. Nobody did. She began belting out “San Antonio Rose.” Nate exited slowly stage right. Nate got his to his man as Joel got right behind his. Joel happened to see Nate, who nodded to Maggie. As she began “Here You Come Again,” Joel hit Paul’s gun arm causing him to drop it. Joel kicked it away and drove for it as if it were a loose basketball and grasped it and then jumped on top of the bar before the stunned Paul. Their roles temporarily reversed, Joel commanded the crowd’s attention. This allowed Nate to easily seize the shot gun, which he fired into the ceiling. It had been one hell of a gamble but they, all three of them, had pulled it off. He felt a band on his shoulderand heard his dead brother Pete’s voice.
“Now you’re tough, kid,” it said. “Now you’re tough.”
Damn straight, I am, he thought. He said aloud “We do hope you all liked our show. Now, what the hell is going on?”
“How in the hell did you get the best of us? I can’t figure that one,” another old fat guy said. “Del told us all about you. You weren’t armed, he said.”
“Interesting. Del asks me an hour or two to investigate the Schipper case. Next thing I know you all having a sit-down with him. Interesting for sure. Tell us your name,” Nate said.
“Wait, dear,” Maggie said. “Let me get pen and paper. I wish I had my laptop. Thank you, Mr.—“
“Limes,” Limes said, “Sam Limes.”
“Sean Connery?” Joel asked Maggie
“Ian Fleming first wrote ‘Bond, James,’” she said.
“My bad,” he said.
“What are they talking about?”
“I ask the questions, Nate said. “Maggie?”
“Too generic a cliché. Get on with it!”
“Name?” Nate asked the old man again.
“Dwight McKinnon,” The man said. “This guy to my right is my boy, Ike and behind him are Paul Whittaker, Stubs Crenshaw, Lines Petersen and my other son Greg.”
“OK,” Nate said, “if any of you have guns, place them on the bar. Every do that. As you go by, the boss of each group will give me your name. Give your men’s names to Maggie. Tomas, Pratt and Vernon over here. Deputies, stay put.”
Garcia, Pratt, and Vernon faced Nate.
“What kind of bullshit is this, Pratt? We had a deal and an hour later you’re here?”
“It was my idea,” Vernon said. “I knew if Dad found out, he’ll kill Del.”
”I see,” Nate said, “you never married, did you, Pratt?”
“No.”
“Was Scarlett Schipper your cover then?”
“No. Vern and his folks went to Dallas one time. He had a fling, got drunk one night and told me. Wanted to make him jealous so I dated Scarlett briefly.”
“Which lets him off the hook,” Vernon said.
“Maybe. But it sure as hell puts you on it,” Nate said.
“But we’re both gay.”
“Rape is not but sexual preference, Vernon. Rape is about power and anger. You wanted to assert dominance over Del and the girl and you were angry and jealous.”
“That’s shit!” The couple said almost together.
“Again, maybe. So you wanted to protect your lover so you called your old man and?”
“And the three of us were supposed to meet here and thrash it out. But he called the other local ranchers and they were here.”
“OK. Tomas?”
“Yo soy hermano en espirito, Nate but whenever the four families do something big, I worry for my compadres in Coyote.”
“He did speak up for you and we didn’t,” Pratt admitted.
“Don’t worry, amigo,” Nate said to Tomas. “We’re cool still. Here’s your gun. Stand by me.”
“Let me go look at the guns on the bar. I might pick up one by mistake.”
“Good idea. Hurry; they’re back”
Tomas came back with a modern hand gun and two extra clips. He held his gun pointing the floor. Nate stuck his gun inside his jeans after checking its safety. ?he put the clips inside his shirt pocket.
“Be seated class,” he said as he and Tomas braced themselves against the wall.
“The committee being settled and the secretary being ready, the meeting will resume. Any objections?” Tomas raised his shot gun slightly. No one objected.
“Ok,” Nate said, “this morning, I agreed to find out what happened to Starlet and Sparrow Schipper after their sister was killed and their dad committed suicide. What year was hat??
“Two thousand six,” said a man Nate now knew was Jim Comstock, “eight years after the bean-eaters in Coyote started bitching about the about their school again,”
“We had to,” Mayor Juan Pedro Jorge Lopez of Lone Coyote said. “The Anglos have never lived up to the 1965 settlement.”
“Yes, we have but you won’t till all the rabbits you breed sit behind golfed desks!” Hayden Perry shot back.
“Damn right!” Crawford Perry said. “Forced sterilization would bring peace real fast here.”
The three Latinos from Lone Coyote got up with faces ablaze with fury. Nate nudged Tomas, who shot another round into the ceiling. That restored a very tense silence.
“Mr. Limes,” Nate said, “I’m good for the ceiling. I’d rather damage your property than some of these fools. But if you all can be civil and calm, maybe I won’t have to. Now, you’re talking about stuff my wife, son and me know nothing about. So, because this may be important, let’s calmly and civilly review your history without using slurs or name-calling. Now, Where to begin?”
“Maybe here, Dad said,” Joel said, waving a paper, as he sat on the bar dangling his head.
“Bring that here,” Nate said. Joel jumped down and walked to Nate he handed Nate an old photocopy. Nate looked at it and said “This looks like Spanish.”
“It is. Mayor Lopez there gave it to me when I spoke Spanish to him.”
“Are you still; carrying that?” John Triplet, Sr. asked the mayor.
“It is sacred to me and my family,” Lopez said defiantly.
Nate looked hard at the elder Triplet to keep him silent. “What is it?” Nate asked his son
“Well, it’s a land grant issued by the Mexican government to a Colonel Juan Miguel Francisco Lopez Garza in 1826 for unspecified services.”
“Where was the grant located, son?’
“We’d need an 1826 map of Mexico and a hell of a more knowledge of their geography than I have to figure that out, Dad. But I guess it must be more or less here.”
“Si,” Jorge Sanchez from Lone Coyote said. “The Lopez grant overlaps several counties in these parts. But he never came here, the colonel. His grandson, Julio Pablo Mario Lopez Mendoza had to in 1875.”
“Had to?” Nate asked.
”They chased the cur north of the Rio Bravo,” Hayden Perry said. “That was ten years after Bigfoot Part and homesteaded here after the damn yanks had chased him out f Alabama. He later invited my ancestor and the ancestors of the McKinons and Comtocks here. They helped the Texas Rangers git rid of the Commanches and founded the county. Bigfoot was incorporated in 1868. Lopez showed up with the phony document and tried to takeover.”
“Mayor,” Maggie asked, “care to rebut any of that? I did not write ‘cry,’ by the way.”
“Yes,” Lopez said. “Lopez was a political refuge and the grant should have been respected in accord the treaty ending the Mexican-American war. Lopez Garza took it to court.”
“What happened?” Maggie asked.
“Beaners lost,” Crawford smirked.
Nate walked over to where the Perry contingent sat. He slapped Crawford. “I said no slurs, you two, “he hissed.
“Your turn,” Maggie said. to Lopez.
“We never got justice,” Lopez said. “Every Judge that heard the case was a gr—Anglo. We settled in 1891. They let us keep Lone Coyote. They promised a school. It was a glorified shack and they banned us from their high school. We had none for our kids.”
“We gave your people the best education they could handle.”
“Holy shit, Nate!”Maggie exclaimed. “Did I hear that right? Who said that?”
“Michael McKinnon,” Joel said. “He’s the son of Ike McKinnon and the mayor of Big Foot. He’s the mayor! Kind of renews your faith, don’t it?”
“You’re pretty smart-ass for a pervert.”
“He hasn’t been charged,” Nate said. He slapped McKinnon.
It developed that an uneasy status quo took hold of the county from 1891, when the land claim was settled and the 1950s, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against school segregation. In ’57, Dennis Lopez, a cousin somehow of the mayor’s, sued the local school board.
“I come here two years later,” Limes said.
“You’re not from here?” Joel asked.
“No, son; I’m from northern Florida. But I knew Ike in the army, Korea, and I needed to start over, he helped but lending me the land we’re on.”

Nate looked at Limes closely. He excused himself and walked over to Maggie, whispering in her ear, “Limes has something on Ike,”
“Yeah, I heard something in his voice and made a note.” He nodded and went back.
“OK,” Nate said to the group, “if I understand this, Lone Coyote’s school case was settled in 1965. How did that go down?’
“Big Foot integrated the high school and promised Lone Coyote younger children could either attend their elementary school or they’d give us more money for ours. The county road was never kept up so we chose the latter but the funds never came.”
“They came,” Comstock said.
“Let’s cut to the chase,” Nate said. “Lone Coyote was frustrated for nearly fifty years and sued again. Is that case settled?”
“No,” several men said.
“Anybody hungry?” Nate asked.
“No, “more said.
“Well,” Nate said, “Joel has to be fed and I am hungry so we’ll take a break and then talk about the Schipper land.”
Ted Long, Triplet and Mayor all said something like “That land is mine!”
Joel whispered “nobody wants us here, I don’t think.”
“Your powers of analysis are boundless, Nate replied

To be continued

Jan
0

The Sky Horse Chapter Fifteen

The Sky Horse Chapter Fifteen

The Sky Horse Chapter Fifteen
The Dance Hall
With Nate driving, he and Joel headed back to Big Foot. He was trying to imagine Sinatra or Dean Martin driving a pickup. He couldn’t; he just couldn’t. Joel’s cell began playing Garth Brooks. Nate winced.
“Maggie,” Joel said, looking at it.
“Put it on speaker,” Nate said to Joel. After he did, Nate asked Maggie “What’s up, babe?”
“I hope you’re driving OK. Is he, Joel?”
“Margaret,” Nate began, annoyed. But before he continued, Joel spoke.
“Look, you can bicker and/or foreplay later. I hate to say this, but we are not in Kansas anymore. We are in a tight spot, me especially. So can we focus for once?’
After a few awkward seconds, Maggie spoke.
“Fifteen minutes ago, Pratt came in. The several cowboys came in. This old one and Pratt get into it. I don’t hear much until the old man yells ‘You can’t do that, Del!’ Pratt says ‘The hell I can’t, Big Johnny!’ So Tomas brings out a shotgun and says ‘Let’s take this to Sam’s.’ Then as everyone is going out and making calls, Ted Long comes in and they tell him and he makes a call. Even Tomas makes a couple of calls, one to Vernon and one to a Spanish speaker. Vernon called me and said the dance hall owned by Sam Limes is considered No Man’s Land around here and when things get too hot, the men—and it’s only men allowed, damn them—get together and hash things out.”
“Am I correct in assuming the subject being hashed out is the Laws?” Nate asked.
“Yep.”
“Then we better go,” Nate said.
“Yes, you better,” Maggie said.
“No, I said we, dear. I’ll pick you up and we’ll all go.”
“But Vernon said—“
“I’m not playing the ground rules here. We can’t play the game their way. You and I are partners. Always have been. Joel can be our backup. Putting the best lawyer in Kansas in a diner is such a waste.”
Maggie giggled.
“And we’re back to foreplay,” Joel said. “I’d like to mention a minor fact: Tomas had a gun, right?”
“Yes,” Maggie said
“And the cowboys all have guns.”
“Probably,” Nate Saud. “And we don’t and you’re worried.”
“Aren’t you?’ Joel asked.
“Ted Long thought I’d whack a guy. Aggie has been molested and you arrested and we’re looking for two girls most people don’t want found I bet. There’s a lot there to worry about there. Now we’re walking into a sit-down of very armed men and we haven’t a pocket knife among us.”
“I have a nail file,” Maggie said.
“We do need to quit joking, dear. Now, Joel, you know how when you’re playing basketball and the other side brings in this guy who is less than six feet and you think he’ll be easy to handle but somehow he gets in your head?”
“Yeah.”
“From now on, we’re that guy. We bluff. How, I don’t know so don’t ask. But a cop never knows what he’s up against at first. The perps always do. Cop work calls for improvisation at times like this. You know that. Pete was a great cop because he could think on his feet. Till the first cat whacking in Orrin, my career didn’t require that skill. But solve two cases I had to learn fast.”
“Can I hang up? We’re near the café.” Joel said.
“I’m coming out,” Maggie said and hung up.
Nate stopped the truck, Joel got out to let Maggie in and climbed back in. Nate kissed his wife and restarted the pickup.
Maggie turned to Joel. “How are you, kid?”
“Worried.”
Since that’s how that both felt, neither Maggie nor Nate replied. They drove till Nate saw an arrow pointing west on a sign that said “Lone Oak 15 miles.” Nate turned right, then he saw a bigger sign. Nate needed glasses but he kept refusing to admit that. So he told Joel to get out and read it.
When Joel returned, he said “It says ‘The John M Comstock Cottonwood County Road, Dedicated Jan 12th. 19-something. Built by the Works Progress Administration’ and lists a bunch of politicians’ names. One, the mayor’s of Lone Coyote, is in fine print.”
“Was it Juan Mendoza?” Nate asked.
“No. Jose Rafael Lopez, Jr.”
“I take it Lone Coyote is a Hispanic enclave?”
“Big Foot people probably call it ‘that damn greaser town,’ babe,”
“Nate, why must you always think the worst of everyone?”
“I don’t. However, we know Tomas is barely tolerated. This road was built eighty years ago and I bet it hasn’t been repaired once.”
“I’ll give you that. That must be the dance hall on the right.”
They saw a fairly long building with a tin roof. About twenty pickups, two cars and a semi were parked around it. The semi was parked in back on grass Nate parked beside it. He got out and leaned against the hood, folded his arms across his chest and waited.
Presently, a short, chubby man in a plaid shirt came out the back door. Nate figured the guy was not used to walking as fast as he usually did. The guy was looking down.
“Howdy, pilgrim,” Nate drawled.
The fat man jerked his head up and said “Oh shit! Another crazy local cowboy! I’m leaving here, man! I don’t need no more trouble. A guy told me this was a shortcut and I walked into this shit! So I’m leaving, pal. Don’t worry about that!”
“I’m a stranger myself. Hey, Maggie, I just made an allusion. You and Joel get out here. Friend, what’s your name?”
“Walker, James Wake.
“You like the Bond movies?” Nate asked. Never mind, Walker. The kid and I are going to let us frisk us and search the truck and my group is going inside, where you’ll tell the various factions that we’re unarmed. And I’ll pay you a grand.”
“Hell, if I can frisk the girl, I’ll do it free,” Walker leered.
“You touch my wife and bad things will happen.”
“Yes, sir. No disrespect, ma’am.”
Walker frisked the two tall men, searched the truck’s cab and bed and said “”You’re clean. But if you ask me, it’s stupidity to go in go in there.”
“Stupidity is my business,” Nate deadpanned.
“Is that from Ross McDonald?” Maggie asked.
“Chandler, I think,” Joel said. “Pete liked him. Dad too.”
They were at the front door.
“Open it,” Walker told said.
“Joel, what would Pete do here?”
“Pete? Well…well, he might do this,” Joel said as he gave the door a mighty kick. It opened.
“Mr. Walker, lead the way,” Nate said. Despite himself Walker grinned.
They all walked in. Nate scanned in the room. Pratt, Dickerson and tall, swarthy man Nate took for Miguel Leroy Juarez were at the bar. Vernon was sitting with a do man, a man in his thirties and a pimply teen, the Triplets, no doubt, were in the left corner. By themselves thirty feet from the Triplets were Tomas and two other Hispanics. The Lone Coyote delegation. He’d have to be introduced the others he’d meet directly, Nate nudged Walker.
“These men came here unarmed,” Walker said. Then he decided to bluff, “My name is John Lestrange and if they don’t call me by five, I’ll call friends in Austin. Understand?”
He walked out and Nate followed.
“Here’s another five Benjamins for that ad lib,” Nate said.
“No charge, pal. Just watch your back and your lady.” Walker left.
Nate reentered the dance hall.
“Do we need to approve the minutes of the last meeting?” He asked. “If not, let’s proceed.”
Then Big Paul and Ted Long strode in, Paul carrying a pistol.
Oh hell, Nate thought, oh bloody hell.
To be continued.

Jan
0

More changes

More changes

Reviewing Chapter Three of “The Sky Horse,” I see Maggie says she prgnant but in a later chapter, she isn’t. Chapter Three now makes no mention of a pregnancy.

The town of Lone Oak is now Lone Coyote. Cole Petty’s description of it now meshes with Pratt’s as far as ethnic makeup goes. I hope This is that last post like this I need to do.