The hotel restaurant has the best pan fried chicken I’ve ever tasted and their apple pie is the second best. Anyway, I ordered our special lunch and this time I made sure I got the name of the cute little waitress with the fiery red hair. Tamara, a fitting name for a charmer.
I gave Tamara a nice size tip and said with a smile; “Well my dear Tamara I’m so happy to meet you, your beautiful smile is going to make my day. I’ll pick the lunch up on my way out of town. Thank you sweet lady I’ll see ya soon.”
Doug was in the barn grooming the horses, he had a new mount he called Seabiscuit, a funny little quarter horse. He shouted out to me; “I want you to meet Seabiscuit, he’s a funny looking little guy but he’s loaded with spirit.” I didn’t answer instead I stood frozen in my tracks. Behind Doug was a mean looking Mexican with a sawed off shotgun pointed right at his back. Suddenly I shouted; “Hit the floor Doug.” My bullet hit the man in the middle of his forehead.
“Are you about ready to go Doug? I ordered the lunch and we can pick it up on the way out of town.”
Finally on our way to Devils Hole, it surprised me when Doug started singing. “I’m sad but I’m happy, rich but I’m broke, I’m a carefree range riding drifting cowpoke.” It further surprised me that this crippled cowboy had a beautiful voice. I liked what I heard so I said; “Sing the whole song Doug; it’s one of my favorites.” He laughed and said; “You’re a lying old fart, I’m making it up as I go.” We both had a good laugh, then he sang some more.
Doug and I had become as close as two peas in a pod. Not only was he my best friend he was my only friend. He understood me when I didn’t understand myself. I always felt comfortable when he was with me. That’s the main reason I wanted him with me on this trip. I was taking him to my favorite spot, the place where I do my best thinking.
Somehow I knew that when we reached the Devils Hole that the two of us could put our thoughts together and come up with the solutions to all the problems we were facing. Devils Hole has always been a place where I could get to know myself, by myself. Now for the first time I was going to share it with a friend.
God, it was a beautiful day, a gentle breeze blowing through the trees, the rhapsody of singing birds and an occasional dear poking his head out between the quackies. It was like riding through paradise valley without a care in the world. It was so nice to get away from the situation in Ragtown. We need moments like this to make us realize that everything is worthwhile.
“Doug, it’s just about lunchtime and we’re just about there.”
“Good, I’m as hungry as a bear.”
This whole fiasco is of my creation and in no way did I intend to get Doug or for that matter anyone else involved in any misgivings of such enormity. Touching me is like touching the fangs of a wild wolf. I’ve always wanted to help my friends not endanger their very existence. My lifestyle really doesn’t have room for friends because I’m always in the wake of danger. This is really not my want but it is the pattern of my destiny. I have to accept it and live with what I have to do to exist.
We headed down to where the river empties into the lake and is shadowed by my old oak tree. Doug was in awe at the sight of such beauty and the feeling of comfort he felt in its presence. Somehow I knew he would be.
“You know Cash, I’m not a very religious man but in this place I can feel the presence of God.”
“I was hoping you would and that the feeling wasn’t just my imagination.”
“I’m glad you brought me here Cash, now I understand why you find this place special.”
“This is the only place in the world where I feel real comfort and my visits here always regenerate my energy to deal with life’s circumstances. Doug, you know me well enough to realize that there is a reason behind everything I do and I don’t pull any punches. You have been bonded with me in a dangerous situation and I don’t intend to see you harmed if there’s anyway I can prevent it. I’d drive you out of my life right this very moment if I felt that would insure your safety. We both know damn well that wouldn’t work, so I have brought you here, away from the turmoil of Ragtown, to find solutions. I want us to put our minds together and find a plan that will work. Now I know you are hungry so let‘s have lunch.”
Spreading our lunch out underneath my old oak tree is like eating in Gods finest restaurant.
“Doug I have never done anything like this before and I’ll probably never do it again but do you mind if I give thanks for this wonderful meal.”
“I’m feeling the same, so let's do it…”
We both said a silent prayer.
“Bye the way Doug, do you know it’s Christmas Eve? Merry Christmas!”
We talked for several hours enjoying some humor but mostly our conversation was very intense. We looked at our problem from every imaginable angle and made several dedicated decisions. I don’t think we could have made these decisions in any other place but this special place.
As we rode into Ragtown we could see the circus lights at the edge of town and hear the music coming from the merry go round. Christmas Eve at the circus a real treat for the Ragatonians; it’s the most peaceful night of the whole year. We could hear the children laughing and singing carols. Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. For the second time today we could feel the Christmas spirit. Doug even started singing;
Silent night, holy night, all is calm; all is bright round yon virgin mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace. Silent night, holy night, shepherds quake at the sight; glories stream from heaven afar, heavenly hosts sing Alleluia! Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!
His voice reverberated throughout the whole valley and people gathered round to hear him singing. To be honest I was really impressed and delighted. I was seeing a side of Doug that I had never seen or could even imagine.
Doug’s room was right across the hall and I could hear him humming and singing Christmas songs all night long. No doubt about it, he was a real happy man and his joy was contagious. I went to sleep at ease and slept a long comfortable sleep. I dreamt I spent the whole night with Tamara the cute red headed waitress.
A whole day and night with out even a hint of trouble it’s really unbelievable. Well unfortunately all good things come to an end. A loud knock at my door and a cry for help, it was a young boy from the circus crowd. He was crying, moaning and screaming all at the same time.
“Calm down son, let me know what’s wrong.” Teary eyed he started all over;
“The drunken bad men stormed into our camp this morning shooting everyone in sight. They stole all our money and let all the animals loose. I need your help mister, please!”
“What do you expect me to do, you don’t need me you need the sheriff.” Crying again, he started mumbling; “There ain’t no sheriff they killed him, they killed the doctor too.” The poor boy was going into shock; he managed to mumble out one more thing. “My dad was shot, he was bleeding a lot, and he might be dead.” Then he passed out in my arms. I carried him over and put him on the bed then I rushed across the hall to wake up Doug.
“Doug, the boy is in shock, I need you to watch him while I go check out his story.”
“Okay, be careful.”
Thunder was fidgeting at the gate post; “Calm down Thunder we got work to do.” I jumped on him bareback and headed for the circus. I could see in an instance that it was bad. A fat lady was pacing back and forth at the entrance. I had to shake her to calm her down, and then I described the boy and asked where I could find his dad. She pointed to a trailer that was on fire. I got to the man just before the trailer collapsed. He was still alive but badly beaten, his shirt was torn to his waist and a knife was still stuck in his chest.
“Your son sent me to help you.”
“Oh God, Is Jimmy alright?”
“He’s all shook up but he’ll be fine. I’ve got to get you to a place where I can help you if I can get you on my horse I’ll lead you out of here.” He reached up to pull the knife from his chest. “Leave it there; it’s keeping you from losing anymore blood.” On the way off the grounds I spotted the sheriff so full of holes he looked like a gravel sifter, the maggots were already chowing down on his body.
Damn it, it's unbelievable but it's true, over the span of the last ten days the Ragtown residents have adopted Doug and I as a two man vigilante, a doctor, nurse and the protectors of the innocent. Poncho Gonzales the ruthless and most feared outlaw of all time has us on his most wanted list and all we did was appear on the scene.
We are housing two strangers associated with a national group called the Alliance for Carnival and Circus People (ACCP) and our hotel rooms have become ICU and guest rooms. It's unbelievable, unconceivable and ridiculous.
It turns out that the father and son that we rescued and mended belong to a group that protects circus and carnival entertainers, a national secret society better known as Hey Rube.
When Hey Rube telegraphs a letter over the wires it's an SOS for help and carnival people start crawling out of the woodwork.
Shit, that's all we need, mass hysteria. All of this is breathing down the necks of two lonesome cowpokes.
“Damn it Doug our situation is getting more complicated with each passing day.”
“That's life, Big Daddy Cash; we just have to play the cards as there dealt.”
“Ha, ha, Ha, I didn't know you were optimistic, you have a new surprise for me every day.”
“Cash, are we going to continue as we plan?”
“Damn it Doug, I really don’t know, the scene has dramatically changed.”
“How does that affect us?”
“Well, I been thinking we just might be able to enlist the help of this Hey Rube gang.”
“Can we trust the carnival clowns, pardon the pun.”
“They’re not all clowns Doug; I think Franco and Jim are straight shooters.”
Franco and Jimmy are the names of our two house guests. Our rooms are doubles so even though it’s inconvenient it doesn’t interfere with our comfort. Jim rooms with Doug and Franco rooms with me. The living arrangements are only temporary because the Hey Rube people are rebuilding them a trailer. I like Franco he’s tough and honest.
“Doug let’s take Franco and Jim to the hotel café and introduce them to our friend, Tamara the cute little redhead, I’m starved.”
“Ya, I know what you’re starved for, you can’t fool an old fool. Ha- ha-”
“You got it all wrong, she’s just a good friend and I’m always happy to see her.?
“Ha, ha, I don’t think so.”
“You know damn well she’s too young for me, so knock it off.”
Franco and Jim were in the lobby so I invited them to dine with us and I told them I wanted them to meet a good friend of mine.
“It’s six now can you guys be ready at seven?”
“Sure thing Cash, we’ll meet you right here in the lobby.”
Big Daddy Cash singing in the shower; “Breaking the rules every time I hug and kiss you. I’m playing reckless and taking chances with your heart, Hummm.”
Tamara greeted us as we entered the café;
“Good evening Big Daddy Cash, It pleases me to see you again so soon. I see you have friends with you this evening I wish to welcome them too. Your table is ready and you’ll find a tray of special snacks, compliments of the management, on the center of your table. Our special today is prime rib and lobster tail done to perfection. I hope you enjoy your meal.”
She made sure we were seated then left us with a beautiful smile saying;
“I’ll give you a moment to study the menu and then I’ll take your order.”
Franco was the first to comment; “She must be the friend you wanted us to meet, what a delightful young lady.” Jim added; “Wow, she’s a love Goddess, a total knock out, what beautiful flowing red hair.” Then Doug; “Yup, she’s a sweetheart.” I smiled and said nothing.
We sat in awe for a few minutes and then I broke the silence, directing my attention to Franco and Jim. “You two are in for a treat the food here is really fantastic, the meals on me so order anything you want but I would suggest the special if you want a gourmet delight.”
We all agreed on the special and then entered into some idle conversation. I wanted to avoid anything serious until after we’d eaten. At which time I intended to lay everything out on the table.
The special was a five course dinner starting with a seafood cocktail then soup, salad, the main course and topped off with hot homemade pie. We took our time and savored the flavors.
When we finished we retired to the hotel lobby for a more serious conversation. I employed my thoughts with care because I wanted them given due consideration. I was trying to explore all possible avenues. I can get dead serious when dead serious is essential.
I asked Franco if Hey Rube would help us find Poncho Gonzales and he assured me that they would. He said Hey Rube would avenge and retaliate for the harm caused the carnival people. He further exclaimed that they wouldn’t leave until their mission was accomplished. He was quite firm on this.
I explained to him that the US Government had been looking for Poncho Villa for years always meeting failure. He was adamant that Hey Rube would not fail.
Franco incurred that he would make arrangements for all of us to meet with the head honcho of Hey Rube and discuss this matter further. I thanked him and prepared to retire. Honest to God I could use a good night’s sleep.
“Doug, are you still optimistic?”
“I think you accomplished what we set out to accomplish.”
“Doug, I didn’t do it alone, I just asked the questions.”
“I assume you feel you got the right answers.”
“Maybe, however nothing ever is as it appears to be.”
I left Doug at his room door and returned to my room and went to bed.
Early the next morning Franco got his things together and moved back to his trailer.
“Good morning Doug, You wouldn't happen to have any coffee brewed, would you?”
“There’s a pot over on the radiator go ahead and help yourself. There‘s a shot of whiskey on the dresser if you want to take the bite out of it. ”
“I guess you know that Franco moved out this morning.”
“Yup, he said goodbye when he come over to get Jim.”
“We’ve got a meeting this afternoon with the leader of the Hey Rube gang.”
“I know, Franco told me, I was just about to come over and tell you, when you knocked on my door.”
“I’m anxious to find Poncho and get this nightmare over. I sure hope this guy can help.”
“I know it’s about time we got a lucky break.”
“I’m going to ride over to Postal Junction and pick up our mail, since it’s close to your ranch I figured you’d like to tag along, it will give you a chance to check your place and button things down for the rest of the winter.”
“You’re a mind reader I was planning to ride out there later on today.”
“We’ll have plenty of time to check your ranch and get back for our meeting, its set up for four o’clock this afternoon.”
“Okay, I’m ready to go whenever you are.”
Postal Junction is a twenty minute ride from Ragtown and Doug’s range is fifteen minutes from Postal Junction. Our horses need to be exercised and this trip will do it. So are plans for the day is pretty well mapped out. If all things go the way they should we can start our search for Poncho Villa tomorrow.
As we arrived in Postal we noticed a small crowd gathering in front of the church. We posted our mounts in front of the post office and meandered over to the church to see what the excitement was all about. Doug turned around with shock written all over his face and said;
“Jesus Christ Cash, I can’t believe my eyes, I’ve never seen anything so gruesome; that’s our pastor.”
A large wooden cross was placed over the church entrance and a man was stripped of all his clothes and nailed to the cross and then apparently whipped until he lost consciousness. He was barely alive, gasping for breath, and tears of pain were streaming from his bloody looking eyes. I brushed the crowd aside and ran up to the man, turned to the crowed and hollered;
“Good God, would somebody get me a God damn hammer.”
There were at least a half dozen nails in each hand and foot that had to be removed to get him off the cross. The man was in excruciating pain, blood was dripping from his chin running from his lips that he’d bitten to keep from screaming.
Doug and I finally got him down and carried him to a place where we could stretch him out and cover his naked body. The closest doctor was a drunken veterinarian back in Ragtown.