The Starshine Kid: Arroyo Grande
The trio of lawless men entered the tiny town of Iron Creek as though they headed up a national parade. Dismounting in front of the Imperial Saloon, they tethered their horses and proceeded up the wooden entry steps in unison, spurs clanging like noisy symbols.
The man in the center was obviously the leader of this band of human trouble seekers. His brown leather chaps bore some type of decorative Indian symbols. One thing was for certain, the Scorpion had amassed two additional associates by his side to help protect his illicit interests.
The local men, hovering the bar like flies on a buffalo chip, quickly moved aside at the site of the three strangers as they entered and approached… their drinks and cigars abruptly abandoned. As one of the strangers passed by a table hosting a quartet of fearful card players, he spit into a lone shot glass that sat half empty, begging to be filled.
After surveying the immediate area as thoroughly as an Indian Scout on patrol, a bottle of the establishment’s finest whisky was demanded. A fist full of shiny coins slapped down onto the bar assured payment was in order for any and all services rendered.
The bartender feebly attempted to make conversation with the strangers, “You fine fellas lookin’ for some ladies? We got--”
Interrupting the little man with a stare that would kill any mountain rattler, the Scorpion instructed the bartender to, “Get lost!”
“Yes, sir,” he answered hastily as he scampered off to clean a few tables across the room and as far away from the trio as he could get without leaving his enterprise.
One of the three questioned the small crowd of patrons, “Antonio from Antonio?”
Three men scurried out the door like rats escaping a stable fire. After a long tense pause someone in the back blurted out, “The Buckhorn Hotel, down the way.”
Without so much as a ‘thank you’, the strangers downed their drinks and slowly exited. No one dared touch the trio’s half bottle of whiskey remaining on the bar, not even the bartender.
The wind blew the dust kicked up by the three strangers’ boots in swirls as they progressed down the straight stretch of roadway leading to the Buckhorn. A kid, maybe twelve years of age or so, ran out of the hotel’s double entrance doors and directly toward the desperados.
“Hey, mister,” the lad addressed the man in the colorfully decorated chaps, “The hotel owner were a might bit ‘fraid to come out and tell ya, but I ain’t!”
Admiring the little lad’s tenacity and courage, the Scorpion replied, “Yeah, kid.”
As smoothly as Sarsaparilla goes down a thirsty parched trail hand’s throat, the boy replied, “Antonio from Antonio said to meet him at the Old Iron Creek Cemetery on the edge of the canyon over there,” pointing, he continued, “He said you can bring all the friends ya wanna bring, ain’t no mind to him.”
Gazing off into the distant horizon toward the cemetery, Scorpion’s eyes squinted in the sun’s hovering glare.
“I got a mind to show ya where it is if ya like, mister,” the boy boldly stated.
For what may well have been the first time in this man’s life, Scorpion answered the lad politely, “No thanks, son. You just run along now, ya hear.”
“Ok,” the boy said, as he turned and ran back into the hotel.
The smoky aroma of fully stoked potbelly stoves lingered gently in the air along the pathway the trio walked to reach the distant cemetery. Curious eyes peered through curtains while rabbits grazed on fresh grass in nearby fields.
A natural spring fed the cemetery and surrounding area with the thirst quenching sustenance necessary to maintain its flourishing greenery. Some years back the townsfolk had constructed four large water storage tanks in the event of the spring’s demise or any other unforeseen emergency situation. But the tanks’ usefulness remained trapped somewhere within the distant future except, of course, for those hot summer day swims local youths enjoyed in the cool waters encased inside of them.
The Scorpion and his two faithful consorts followed a winding stone wall leading into the cemetery grounds. Breathing was short and beads of sweat accumulated on the trio’s foreheads like dear droppings around solitary sagebrush out on the open desert. It was not the sweat of fear, however, the humidity created by the scorching temperature and ever-flowing spring waters was unbearable at times, even for the toughest of outlaws.
Anton stood alone in the center of a cluster of tombstones to the west of the trio.
“I’ve been sent--” shouted the Scorpion, only to be rudely interrupted by his prey.
“I know. Go about your business. I got things to do.”
None the happier and feeling less pleasant than when they arrived the trio cautiously approached the man with two pistols strapped around his waist.
The peeping eyes of a young boy watched through a small opening on the southern side of the rock wall.
Like lightning striking lightning it was over in no more than a second or two. The soon to be six-foot-under gunslingers lay stretched out across the occupied graves, guns in hand.
Antonio from Antonio tipped his hat to the boy behind the rock wall before slowly walking away. No reward was ever claimed for any of the three wanted men, including the one for the Scorpion – Dead or Alive.
* Stay Tuned *
Part 6: A Young Lad's Tale
The Starshine Kid: Arroyo Grande
By Royce A Ratterman © 2012
All Rights Reserved
Cover Art & Illustrations by Erlend Evensen
The characters, locales, enterprises, entities, and events herein are entirely fictional and intended for educational and entertainment purposes. Content portrayals do not reflect any actual events, locales, entities, or any individuals living or deceased.
Dedicated to all of those who lost their lives establishing peace, safety, and harmony in the days of the Old West