Chapter Six

This entry is part 6 of 36 in the series Bend

Chapter Six

Al took a sip of hot black coffee. “Boy this stuff will sure take the hair off your tongue,” he muttered. “I have never tasted anything like it!” He took another sip. “What does she do to it to make it taste like carbolic acid? Maybe adding more water would help!”

A big white brood sow was under the table nursing her litter. Pio scratched her back with the toe of his boot. She grunted with contentment. A couple of chickens with bright plumage were scratching the earthen floor looking for something to eat.

Next to their table was an opening in the wall. There was no glass. A wooden shutter that could close the opening swung on leather hinges. Through this opening they got a good view of the river crossing. Another big cart pulled by oxen was coming across.

Just before they left the city, Walter Young had given him a picture of John Kirkland. He had almost forgotten it. It was a small snapshot and he had put it in his billfold, he took it out and laid it on the table. He would show this to The Nigger Woman. It was very possible that Kirkland was going by a different name. Also, he must ask her about the beautiful girl that came across the river.

“Señor Mackey, look!” Pio was pointing at the river crossing. Al could hardly believe his eyes. Coming across the river was a strange procession. In the lead was a man on horseback. There was a rope fastened to the saddle. About twenty feet back, the other end was tied around the neck of a man, which was tied to the saddle of another horse about twenty feet back. The rider of this horse also had a big whip in one hand.

As the procession waded across the river, the ropes would be drawn tight, then go slack. Several times the fellow fell and disappeared under water, only to be pulled to his feet again by the horses.

Al laid a handful of change on the table and picked up the picture. “Lets go see what’s going on, Pio!”

They hurried down the street toward the landing. The lead horse was now on dry ground. The man came staggering up the steep bank. The man with the whip on the back horse was close behind.

“They are headed for the hotel,” whispered Pio. “Maybe we should go there?”

“I think you’re right. We can beat them there if we hurry.” The two men took off on a run.

When they reached the hotel, the procession was still down the street about half a block. It had grown in size. About a dozen men and women on foot had joined in. There were a lot of dogs barking. One, a little braver than the next, was nipping at the heels of the man on foot.

Al and Pio sat down on chairs on the porch. “Who are they Pio? The men on horseback are wearing uniforms, they look like soldiers.”

Pio nodded, “They are. Also, they are police here. The man on foot is evidently their prisoner. Probably some bandit they have captured.”

The men on horseback pulled up in front of the hitch rack and dismounted. They tied their horses then turned their attention to the man on foot. The long ropes were replaced with one short one. One of the soldiers drew a pistol and put the muzzle in the man’s back.

“Inside.” He ordered.

Al looked up as the trio filed past him. The captive was a big man, about his own size. Also, they were about the same age. The fellow stopped for a moment and stared down at him. He had big brown eyes and black hair that hung to his shoulders. He had a square chin, a broad mouth, and a straight nose; quite a handsome fellow except for one thing. On his forehead, running from his right eye to the hairline above his left eye, was a vivid scar. It was deep red, outlined in blue. He was a marked man. There was blood running down the front of his shirt. The ropes had cut deep into his neck. The shoes on his feet were cut to pieces by the sharp stones. Blood was seeping from them.

The man opened his mouth as though trying to speak. No words came out, only gurgling sounds. He tried once more. The man in front of him swore in Spanish and gave the rope a yank. The man behind gave the pistol a shove. They marched into the hotel.

A big crowd began to gather. To Al, they looked like an angry mob. One man in particular was doing a lot of talking. “ The man is a killer!” He shouted, “Three times he has killed. Not only has he killed, but also each time he has robbed his victim. All of them were gold miners that had just struck it rich. Now the gold is gone, and they are dead! He shall pay with his life!”

‘The man has a big mouth,’ Al thought. There was one in every crowd. Oh well, it was none of his business. If the man was guilty, he should pay for his misdeeds. However, he felt like telling the guy to keep his big mouth shut.

Then suddenly all was quiet. A new face appeared. It was the Judge, the Judge of Quilali. He was a man about fifty years of age and of medium size. Like most everyone else here he had black hair and brown eyes. One upper front tooth was yellow gold which gleamed when he smiled. On his upper lip was a thin dark mustache.

An empty wooden bucket was on the porch. The judge grabbed it and turned it upside down. He jumped on top of it and shouted. “Quiet everybody!” The crowd became silent.

“Now, listen, all of you! The prisoner is in custody. Tomorrow he will be tried for the crimes of which he has been accused. Now go home all of you!”

The man with the loud mouth couldn’t keep it shut; “He is a killer!” He shouted.

For a few seconds the judge stood there not moving a muscle of his body. However, his eyes were busy. Suddenly, one of them quit roving around and came to a stop, staring straight at the man with the loud mouth. The other one, however, was looking the crowd over. It moved back and forth and up and down. Suddenly it came into focus with the other one. For a moment he stood there staring at the man, then he spoke, “Mr. Reyes, one more word out of you and I will have you drawn and quartered. I am the Judge here, not you. Now get the hell out of here!”

Reyes and the rest of the crowd got the message. They began moving away. The judge disappeared into the hotel.

Al looked at Pio and grinned. “Salty old cuss, isn’t he?”

Pio nodded, “For a moment I thought he was going to say something to me. He was looking straight at me, at least with one eye.”

“With one eye,” Al chuckled. “He looked us all over. He sure is one cockeyed judge!”

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