Authors: Harvey Goodman
Copyright © 2009 by Harvey Goodman.
Mill City Press, Inc.
Avenue North, Suite 290
Minneapolis, MN 55401
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
ISBN - 978-1-936107-42-1
ISBN - 1-936107-42-2
Cover Design by Alan Pranke
Printed in the United States of America
Digital book(s) (epub and mobi) produced by: Kimberly A. Hitchens,
For Gaby, Matthew, Brian, and Sean.
Thank you, Lord.
Special thanks to Mary Ellen Gavin
for her invaluable help and support.
e caught the movement of the bug out of his right eye just as a drop of sweat rolled off his chin and splattered next to it. The bug stopped, as if it suddenly realized that a human predator in a prone position was only inches away. Lonny the Kid looked for a small, thin rock, one that had an edge capable of dissecting the bug rather than just crushing it. He picked up a suitable one and began his operation with a sense of pleasure.
The bug began moving with urgency, but it quickly stopped as the weight of the rock bore down on its right hind leg. At first he applied just enough pressure to halt the bug's progress, but as the bug's other appendages began to flail in panic, the Kid slowly pushed until the leg severed. The bug began moving again, and the Kid waited for a moment, just to let the bug think it might have a chance. To equal things up, the Kid severed the left front leg next, thinking the bug should have an equal handicap on each side.
The bug's movements were quite erratic now. No particular direction or speed could be maintained, and Lonny the Kid, amused by it all, watched for several more seconds before he took off the two remaining legs, allowing adequate time between each to note the effects of his handiwork.
As the Kid fully expected, the bug could no longer move. This assured him of his wisdom, as though his hypothesis had been proven right by his keen intellect. But this result turned the Kid's amusement to boredom, so he slowly applied pressure to the bug's midsection and smiled as the bug's armor-like shell cracked and the mucousy innards found their way out.
“What the hell are you doin’, Lonny,” Derrick asked, his attention now caught by the sound of rock grating on rock. The Kid was smearing the bug's existence over a six square inch area. It was so emulsified that Derrick had no idea what had created the mess. “Are you playin’ with your snot? This is a hell of a time to be playin’ with your snot,” Derrick quipped.
“I ain't playin’ with my snot,” Lonny shot back.
“She's comin’! She's comin’!” The yell came from below.
Lonny's heart began to hammer, a slight panic immediately displacing any more thoughts of bugs or snot. He quickly moved to the edge of the overhang and spotted Bones Doublebass twenty feet below with his ear still to the rail.
“Well?” Lonny asked in an almost pleading manner.
Bones pulled his head up. “She'll be here in about five minutes.”
“Damn Bones! Get movin’, quick!” Lonny yelled down.
Bones wasted no time. He jumped effortlessly to his feet, bounded over the tracks, and ascended the steep bluff in a manner of seconds.
“They don't call that boy Bones for nothin’. He's all arms and legs,” Derrick said as he began checking the action of both of his pistols for the third time in the last hour. Bones hustled over to his gun belt and strapped it on.
They could clearly hear the train coming now. The chugging began to slow as the grade became steeper and the turns tighter. Lonny and Derrick each picked up a shotgun, and along with Bones, carefully moved into position at the edge of the overhang. “You know the plan. When we hit that coal car, you boys get a move on,” Lonny said. “That vault car should be the first one behind the coal car. If it's not, you got to get to it quick. For sure it won't be more ‘n number two back. We oughta get a look at it from here before we jump anyway, so's you'll know where to go,” Lonny hammered on.
Derrick looked down and suddenly felt as if he was going to throw up. He thought talking might help and let loose a quick stream of confused and anxious sentences. “Why do we have to kill these boys? Ain't there another way to do it? We'll swing if we get caught.” Bones shot a quizzical look at both of them as if he'd just now really considered the plan and the possible consequences.
The talking hadn't helped. Vomit shot straight out of Derrick's mouth with a force that instantly made Bones think of a geyser he'd once seen. Lonny swung the barrel of the shotgun around until it pointed right at Derrick's head. His face was contorted with rage. Derrick stopped vomiting and Bones stopped thinking of geysers. Lonny's voice shook as he spoke. “You were in from the get go. You're doin’ this right now the way I planned it or I'll kill you. You think you wanna face down six to eight men? We'll do this my way, get the money, get away, and not get caught. You understand? ‘Cause if you don't, you're gonna die right now.” Derrick slowly nodded up and down with a pale look of resignation. Lonny turned his attention to Bones. “What about you? You got any problems?”
Bones puffed up a little and almost shouted, “I'm right and ready!” His reply brought to mind the moment's purpose, and so he continued. “Let's get us a pile of money and set on easy livin’ … nothin’ to it.”
t twenty-six years old, Lonny was Derrick and Bones's elder by half a decade and had been the leader right from the start. They'd met two and a half years earlier at a territorial prison in the Oklahoma panhandle where Lonny was serving eighteen months for destruction of property.
Lonny had drifted into Dodge, Kansas, thinking he might try his hand at cow punching for a bit. The notion of hard work didn't really agree with Lonny, but he figured one cattle drive might be adventuresome and he could put a stake together and head farther west, where a man could get rich in all sorts of ways that didn't involve too much physical labor.
He'd heard that big cattle drives came up from Oklahoma and Texas and shipped east from Dodge, Wichita, Abilene, and other rail spurs. A number of the trail hands would collect their wages at the end of the drive and move on. Trail bosses looked for replacements to return south with, so Lonny planned on becoming a replacement. No hard work riding back south and all meals were included. He figured one drive would stake him onto real prosperity, or at least to the next job or scheme, whichever came first.
A week of waiting for one of the drives to show up had left Lonny impatient and bored. After an afternoon of cards and whiskey had reduced his thirteen dollars to three, and turned his mood surly and foul, he burst out of the saloon and strode up the boardwalk, muttering a string of obscenities and not paying attention to where he was going.
Missus Lucy Sinton, the banker's wife, was exiting the general mercantile when she had the displeasure of meeting Lonny. He walked right into her and almost knocked her over. Missus Sinton was a highbred sort who had lived a life of privilege. Raised in the east, she considered herself a woman of status and viewed the west and its inhabitants as mostly uncivilized. She loathed the day her husband, Randolph, had brought her to this godforsaken place, but had come at her father's insistence that it would only be for a year or two. Lucy's father was rich, powerful, and diversified. With his fingers in banking, beef, and oil, he had set his son-in-law up as a bank president in the expanding west. Lucy would live with this circumstance for the present.
When Lonny plowed into Lucy Sinton, his drunkenness and dark mood convinced him that it was her fault, and so his profanity merely shifted from his anger of the recent card game to the inept navigation of the woman now glaring at him. “Get the hell out of the way, you blind heffer!” Lonny yelled.
Lucy absorbed this and gathered herself. “You rude, drunken, filthy, rotten excuse of a man! How dare you assault and insult me!” She continued on in her most cutting tone. She speculated about Lonny's gene pool, his intellectual capacity, the extent of his integrity and bravery, and his future prospects. Initially half-amused by Lucy's verbal onslaught, Lonny's ears began to turn red as he sensed that passers-by on both sides of the street were slowing and looking to see what all the commotion was about. Some people had simply stopped, and everybody around heard Lucy's final declaration, “You're an animal! You should be in jail!”
Lonny, now flustered and very much aware of the number of eyes on him, searched for something to say. The pause was long and self-incriminating. “Go to hell, lady!” he finally blurted out. With tense movement, he abruptly pushed past her, turned the corner, and walked quickly up the alley.
The humiliation of the incident was something Lonny didn't care to stand for. He decided to watch her. When he learned that she was the bank president's wife and lived in the biggest house in town, the idea of some sort of revenge became appealing.
The Sintons had no children, but they did have a big, beautiful Cheshire cat. Lonny spied Lucy Sinton on her front porch several times loving the cat and talking to it in such endearing terms.
The Sinton house sat on the west edge of town. It was a massive two-story Victorian with a porch that wrapped around three sides. To the rear was a small cottage where a maid and young boy lived. Lonny bunked at the livery stable in exchange for some morning work. The stable's position allowed Lonny to note all the comings and goings on the west end of town. He quickly noted the Sinton's routine. The banker rode by each morning at 7 a.m. Lucy, sometimes with the maid and her boy along, and other times alone, came driving into town in her surrey by 9:30. Lonny kept out of sight when he saw her coming.
It was a hot, dusty morning when Lonny spotted the surrey coming up the street with Lucy driving and the maid and the boy with her. Lonny's head was pounding and his shirt was already soaked in sweat, the heat exacting its toll from the previous night's bout with a bottle of cheap whiskey. He decided right then that he was leaving Dodge.
After a month, no drive had showed up, and he was making only enough to eat, stay drunk, and bunk on a cot. He figured he'd drop by the Sinton house and then hit the trail.
Lonny stepped out the livery stable door, pitchfork in hand, and delivered a menacing grin to Lucy. It took her a moment to sense that someone was staring at her. She turned her head and looked at Lonny, who stood confidently and glared at her. Upon recognition, Lucy turned her head back straight, lifted her chin high, and gave the reins a slight whip, causing the big roan to break into a trot. For a moment, Lonny stood and watched them continue up the street. Then he went inside, gathered his things, and minutes later was saddling his horse.
The cat sat on the top of the settee back, its body pressed against the picture window, as Lonny approached the house and tethered his horse out of sight in a stand of nearby trees. Lonny entered through a back door and quickly moved through the house without regard for the possibility of an unintended meeting. He knew no one was home.
The cat looked at Lonny with very wide, but seemingly unconcerned, eyes as he stood at the parlor entry. Its tail moved slowly back and forth. Lonny pulled a tin of sardines from his pocket and knelt down. He broke the opening-key off and cursed his luck, then pulled an eight inch hunting knife out of his belt scabbard, stabbed the tin, and peeled back the thin metal covering. The cat's tail movements picked up a little speed. Lonny put his knife down on the floor and dug out several fish. He held them out on his hand in the most inviting manner and said in a soft, high-pitched voice, “Here kitty. Come and taste what I got for you.” The cat kept up its tail swaying and hunched its back slightly, but didn't move. Lonny tenderly implored the cat some more, but with the same result. The cat lied there, watching.
“OK cat, here comes some fish,” Lonny said a little more deliberately as he tossed the fish into the air. The cat sprang to a half crouch when the fish plopped on the cushion just below it. “There ya go, cat, try that out,” Lonny said sweetly. The cat swung its head low, twitched its nose several times, then extended its body down to the cushion below in one long, fluid motion. It made short work of the fish and licked the cushion where the oil had soaked in. The cat looked up at Lonny, who held his hand out with a new batch of the delectable morsels. Lonny lobbed the fish about half way to the couch, splattering it on the hardwood floor. “There's some more fish for you, kitty,” Lonny soothingly announced. The cat leapt gently to the floor, moved to the fish, and sat with its feet together as it devoured the pile. Lonny turned the tin over and bumped it on the floor, emptying the remaining fish into one neat pile. Then he slowly backed up one step, hoping to further gain the cat's confidence. “Come on, kitty. Get the rest now,” Lonny almost whispered. The cat cautiously moved to the remaining pile and began to eat. He talked in a soft, loving tone as the cat ate, “That's right, kitty. Eat the fish.”
His left hand suddenly swung from his side. The cat attempted to spring away, but it had been drawn in too close. Lonny's big hand closed on the back of its neck as it was in mid air. Lonny scooped the knife off the floor with his right hand. With one quick, brutal slash, he nearly decapitated the cat. Blood sprayed around the room before the spasms subsided.
Lonny held the cat away from his body as he walked with it to the dining room. He threw it on the table and began the quick motions with his knife. When he had peeled away enough hide to be sufficiently pleased with the cat's new appearance, Lonny tied it by its tail to the sterling silver chandelier hanging over the table. Then he found the Sinton's bedroom, sniffed the pillows to determine which ones were Lucy's, and urinated on them. He briefly looked around for any cash in plain view, but came up empty. He proceeded to the kitchen, where he washed up and found some leftover pork chops in the icebox. He had two of them eaten before he was ten minutes down the trail.