Friday, October 3, 2014

What Doesn't Kill You

by Zeke Drummond, from Sketcher in the Rye, A Portrait of Crime Mystery, by Sharon Pape

On my last visit here, I was tellin’ you a story from my days as federal marshal for the Arizona Territory. My young partner, Matt, and I were chasin’ down a couple of bank robbers known as the Grandy brothers. Along the way, we’d come upon a fella lyin’ dead there in the desert. Well, when we got down from our horses to see what had done him in, all we could find were a couple of tiny holes in his temples. Mind you these holes weren’t made by any weapon I’d ever seen. Far as we could tell there wasn’t another mark on his body. Matt looked at me like he was hopin’ I had an explanation that would make sense and ease his mind, but I was every bit as perplexed as he was. And probably just as worried. I knew how to fight a man with a gun, a knife or a bow and arrow, but there was surely somethin’ different lurkin’ out there now.  We got back in the saddle with a lot less enthusiasm about the job we still had to do.

We didn’t say much as we rode, but we were real mindful of the western sky. You don’t want to  be ridin’ in the desert after sundown, especially when there’s only a scrap of new moon. The darkness is so thick you can’t judge the terrain or see the rattlers and scorpions that come out as the temperature drops. Even the cacti are a problem, especially the Cholla. We call it jumpin’ cactus, ‘cause its needles are so long and fine it’s hard enough to avoid them in broad daylight. And they’re barbed like porcupine quills, so it’s a painful proposition to get them out of your hide. Left to fester, they can do a body more harm than you’d imagine. Given all that, not to mention a strange killer on the loose, our only sane choice was to hold up for the night. We found us a spot with no critter holes or Cholla nearby and waited for dawn. We took turns keepin’ watch, but I don’t think either of us slept for more than a few minutes. When mornin’ finally curled up over the horizon, we gave the horses their oats and headed out. We ate a breakfast of hard tack in the saddle to save time.

The next few days passed without incident, which was fine with us. I could tell we were gainin’ on the Grandys. Their horses’ droppings were fresher, and we found their last campfire still smolderin’.  They must have been feelin’ bullet proof, because they were gettin’ sloppy. We found one of the money wrappers right there on the ground. I figured we’d come upon them sometime the next day. As it happened I was wrong. Barely five hours later we found Walter Grandy dead, his brother nowhere in sight.

That’s it for today, folks. Hope to see you next month when I’ll be wrappin’ up this tale. You take care now.
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