Leslie Blackwell Leslie Blackwell
Recommendations: 21

The second sentence :"It was still cold" seems unnecessary as the third sentence mentions Paint's breath which empathizes the cold weather. Thus you end up with three sentences in a row speaking about the fact that it was cold when one would have sufficed. (just my own opinion).

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

You're right. I will remove the sentence "It was still cold." I put it in to emphasize that it was cold when I woke up and as I rode towards Tucson it was still cold, but I agree, it isn't needed. This work has not been proof read or edited, just posted. Thanks for your comments.

Leslie Blackwell Leslie Blackwell
Recommendations: 21

don't forget the gap between paragraphs. Makes it easier to write comments

Leslie Blackwell Leslie Blackwell
Recommendations: 21

mmmm boiled cactus and coffee. I suppose you've got to take what you get in the desert. Either that or starve.

Leslie Blackwell Leslie Blackwell
Recommendations: 21

"They's baths?" should that be "They's got baths" or "there's baths." Perhaps its just one of the blacksmith's expression.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

It's a colloquialism used by people in the south USA

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Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

Chapter 3 "Train to the Sun"

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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

I'm hoping that more of you will see fit to read my first attempt at a Western/Mystery and comment.  Thanks, Don


       I was up with the sun the next morning, stiff and cold.  It was still cold.  I could see Paint’s breath as we rode towards Tucson, following the railroad tracks.   By noon it had not only warmed up a bit but got danged hot.  Sweat was running down my forehead, stinging my eyeballs.  I’d say it was near to ninety.  When we reached a water tank I dismounted and headed Paint for the shade. 2 comments

       The sun was straight overhead and it was hard to see anything in the shade of the water tank.  When I got close enough, there seemed to be a dark shape laying in the shade.  I thought at first that a wayward stranger was sleeping under the tank, waiting for the next train.  I was wrong.

       It was Will.
       I knew he was dead before I got within twenty feet of him.  I could smell the death all around him.  A coyote sprinted ten yards away, out into the bright sun, dragging something behind it.  A single buzzard was circling high overhead. 1 comment

       I drew the .44 and shot the coyote.  Then I pointed the gun up at the buzzard and fired again.  I missed it but the sound of the gun made it sail off towards a cactus a few hundred feet away where it landed.  I pulled my Winchester out of the saddle holster and shot its head off.

       I stepped the final few feet to the body.
       The coyote had gnawed through Will’s stomach wall and the stench of rotting gut enveloped me.  It was part of Will’s intestines that the coyote had been dragging.

       The sadness and depression fell on me like rain.  I hadn’t had time to grieve much when my mom and pop died, and I wouldn’t have much time to grieve now, but I stood silently sobbing for several minutes.

       Will’s dead.  Why?  

       What was the reason that Chester Peak had left Will’s body here, why didn’t he take it on in to Tucson for a proper burial?

       I knelt beside Will and picked up his hands and folded them over his chest.  That’s when I saw that he’d been shot.  There was a hole in his chest.  Why would anyone shoot him?  He might have lived if he’d reached a doctor in time.   Then I noticed Will’s boots were gone.  So was the note I’d left in his shirt pocket.  So was the twenty dollars I’d put in his right boot.

       I gathered rocks from around the water tower and piled them on Will.  It took me the rest of the day and it was almost dark when I put the final rock on the grave and stopped to say goodbye to my friend.  I was crying when I knelt beside his grave.
       “So long, Will,” I told him.  “I don’t know who did this.  I swear to you though, I’ll find out.  Whoever did this aint going to live long.”
       I filled my water jugs and rode away.
                            * * * * * * * *
       Thirteen days later I rode in to Tucson.  I was so tired I couldn’t think straight.  I’d gone without water the last two days and my mouth felt like it had chewed on a green persimmon.  My lips were cracked and I had a layer of dust on my face an inch thick.  My hair was caked with dried dirt and sweat.  The sombrero I wore was floppy and ragged around the edges but it was the only one I owned.  The denims were so stiff from dirt and sweat that I felt they might walk away on their own if I could step out of them.  My boot soles were getting so thin I figured I could read a newspaper through them.  

       Paint made his way to a livery, smelling water and food.  I stayed on him until he got under the livery roof, then I tried to get off and couldn’t get my left foot out of the stirrup so I fell off.  Paint took two steps and stopped.  A grisly looking old blacksmith helped me get my foot out of the stirrup and got me to me feet.

       “You need a drink, young feller,” he said.
       “Water,” was all I could say.

       He fetched a dipper full of brackish tasting water and I drank it down, thankful for it.  I held the dipper up for more and he shook his head.

       “No.  You drink another dipper full and you’d be sick as a dog.”
       “Thank you,” I told him.  
       “How long you been riding?”
       “Seems like a month,” I said through parched lips.  “Three days from my spread to the railroad and fourteen days from there to here.”
       “Why didn’t you take the train?”
       “Money,” I said.  “I put my sick pardner on the train.  paid $10 and my gold watch for his fare.  Next day I found him under a water tank.  He’d been shot.”

       “Yes sir.  I’m here to see if I can find a railroad conductor by the name of Chester Peak.  He might know who shot Will.”
       “Will was your pardner?  Was he shot before or after you put him on the train?”      
       “After,” I said.  “He was suffering from appendix poison.  I paid Chester Peak the money and the watch to get Will here to a doctor.  That train passed me going east yesterday.  I don’t know if Peak was on it, but I’ll wait till it comes back through here again.”
       “Won’t be back through here for another two weeks, cowboy,” the blacksmith said.  “You won’t last two weeks if you don’t get some grub in you.”
       “I’ve been eating,” I said.  “I boiled some cactus and ate it yesterday, had a cup of coffee to wash it down with.”
       “Come with me, young feller,” the smithy said.  “I’ll buy you a meal.  You can work it off mucking the livery stables for me.” 1 comment

       I followed him through the livery and out a back door onto a narrow dirt street, lined on both sides by wooden side walks.  He turned right and I fell in behind him until he stopped and waited for me to catch up.  

       “Before I take you in the hotel for a meal, I’d better get you cleaned up a bit.  You smell like you’ve already been mucking stables for two weeks.”
       “I don’t doubt that,” I said.  “Aint had a bath in two months.  It’s hard to stay clean when you work thirty head of cattle and take care of a sick man, do all the cooking and plantin’ by yourself.”
       “Well they’s baths for a nickel.  You got any clean clothes?”
       “A shirt.  These denims are the only britches I own.”
       “Lord a mercy,” the blacksmith said.  “Well, get in there and get a bath.  I’ll be back with a pair of britches that might come close to fittin, and I’ll fetch your shirt.” 2 comments

        He gave me a nickel and pointed towards the hotel door.  I walked in and asked for a bath.  The clerk looked at me like she wanted to puke, pointed to a room on the far side of the hotel and handed me a towel.
       “That’ll be five cents.  The tub’s in there and there’s water in it.  You’ll find soap on the floor next to the tub.  No smoking while you’re soaking.  If I smell smoke in there you’d best be on fire.”
       I gave her the nickel and smiled at her.

       “I promise I won’t smoke in the tub,” I said.
       The water in the tub looked like someone else had already bathed in it, but I wasn’t in any shape or mood to argue about it.  I stripped and got in it.  Surprisingly the water was hot.  I sat down in the tub and leaned back and relaxed.  I wanted a smoke so bad I could have smoked the towel, but figured that I’d best wait.

       I guess I fell asleep.  I woke up when I heard water pouring into the tub.  I looked up and saw the clerk with a kettle of steaming water, pouring it into the tub.  She glanced at my naked body while she was pouring and turned rapidly away, but not before I caught a glimpse of a half smile on her face.  I didn’t know if that meant she was pleased with what she had seen or was laughing at it.  She walked back out and closed the door behind her.

       I fished the bar of soap off of the floor and started scrubbing.  When I felt I’d scrubbed a boxcar full of dirt off of my arms and legs and torso, I let myself slide until my head went under water, then came back up and rubbed the soap bar in my hair.  Twenty minutes later I stood up and climbed out of the tub, rubbing my aching bones with the rough towel.  The blacksmith had returned with the shirt out of my saddle bags and a pair of britches that fit me better than the stinking denims I had removed.  I put the clean clothes on and dunked my dirty socks in the tub and washed them with the bar of soap.  I wrung them nearly dry and pulled them back on my aching feet.  The cool socks felt good to my toes.  I picked up my boots and carried them under my arm back into the hotel lobby.  My new friend, the blacksmith, was waiting for me.

       “You feel better now?” he asked.
       “Almost like a human being,” I said.
       “Get some grub in you.  You’ll live,” he said, grinning.

       We went through a double door into a dining room.  The long table was crowded with men, all of them poking food into their faces like there wasn’t going to be a tomorrow.  We found seats across from each other and sat down.  The same clerk that had poured water on my naked body brought a bowl of beans and a platter of fried pork and sat it in front of us.  I ladled beans onto the pewter plate in front of me and picked up a spoon and started eating.  

       “My name is Dewey Bradshaw,” my friend told me.  “What’s yours?”
       “Charles Merritt,” I said.  “Charles Martin Merritt the Third.”
       “Who was the first two?” he asked.
       “Well, my pa was one of them,” I said.  “I guess Grandpa was the other one.”
       He picked up the platter of pork and slid two large chunks onto his plate then handed the platter to me.  
       “Get some of this meat,” he said.  “You need to eat if you’re gonna work for me.”
       I ate.

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