Take a load off and join us as we make our way to the end of our magical old west adventures in CONJURING MISERY. We rejoin our gambling man Sam as he regale the witchy sisters, Snake and Smoke, with harrowing tales of yore. Your trio of storytellers Jami Gray, Camille Douglass, and Dave Benneman hope you enjoy our ongoing saga of magic and mayhem.
Traveling with these two is as much fun as a gunny sack full of rattlers. The less than jolly stage coach driver reined in the team and dropped us in Los Lunas. His farewell included a reprehensible oath regarding my mother. When the dust settled I looked around at the three-building-splender that was Los Lunas. “Shall I find us a conveyance, or do we hoof it from here?”
My companions smirked at me.
“I say we find us a drink.” Snake tugged at her hat as if it fought to get away.
Smoke tilted her head at the least shabby structure. “This way Gambling Man.”
The establishment in question barely passed for a saloon. The one eyed bartender set a bottle on our table with dusty jars and backed away warily never speaking a word.
“Friend of yours?” I pulled the cork from the suspect bottle of brown liquid.
“Friend is a strong word, don’t you think so Snake.” Smoke blew the dust out of her jar.
“Very strong. He’s more of a common casualty, I”d say.”
“You mean casual acquaintance?” I poured generously.
Snake took a long drink. Her eyes glistened and she cleared her throat before answering. “I said what meant.”
It came out gravelly, but the rebuke was clear. “I see.” A small sip of the whiskey stole my breath away. “This is true fire water. You be careful lighting up your cigarillo.”
Snake nodded. “While we’re waiting, I believe you owe us a story.”
Smoke leaned back and clunked her heels on the table. “That’s right, and it’s way overdue.”
I untied my scarf and pushed the collar of my shirt down. The scar encircling my neck looked as if a blacksmith had wrapped a piece of hot iron around it. “At the end of the war I found myself traveling south. With the hostilities over I thought all would be forgiven. I didn’t advertise that I fought for the Union, but those Confederates aren’t as dumb as they sound and someone worked it out.”
I took another sip. The drink was getting more tolerable. “Now, that alone won’t get you strung up necessarily, but they weren’t rolling out the red carpet either. Being young and more than a little arrogant weighed in on that side of the scale as well. This particular night the cards were falling just right. I didn’t know it then, but soon learned that several of the losers at the table were related.
“The writing on the wall couldn’t have been plainer. I managed to ignore it anyway. Finally out of money and whiskey they accused me of cheating. As you know, this is a common ruse often employed to scare the winner into giving some or all of the money back.”
“Let me guess, you decided you had beat them fair and square, and were having none of that,” Smoke interjected.
“There was no law in Summerville, South Carolina at the time, so I was on my own. I pulled my shooting iron and rested my hand on the table. The barrel of a confederate issue sidearm screwed into my ear. ‘Let’s all remain calm,’ a low voice behind me. They took my gun, my money and called for the Colonel to adjudicate their complaint. At this juncture I thought I still had a chance of coming out of this with my skin intact. Colonel Sullivan, who not coincidentally turned out to be their uncle. As you might guess, I was found guilty.
“They took me outside of town where an old gnarled tree stood. I sat astride my horse, hands tied behind my back and a noose around my neck, while the Colonel went on about how he was bound by honor in service of Jefferson Davis to uphold the laws of this great nation. He droned on and on. The crowd got bored and slowly drifted away. I actually considered spurring my horse to end my suffering at the hands of this verbose blowhard.
“Finally, no one was left to witness my demise beside the long winded Colonel and his nephews left. When the old bastard finished his speech making, he nodded and my horse lurched out from under me. I swung there for some time while the four of them toasted me with the last of a bottle of whiskey. ‘You can’t have a dry lynching,’ one of them said and they headed back to town to gather more refreshments. That’s the last thing I remember.
“I woke up rattling around in an old ox cart. A Chinaman glanced over his shoulder in wonder. He couldn’t speak English and my China is limited. When I came to a second time he pantomimed cutting me down. I don’t remember how long he took care of me, but when I was feeling well enough to travel he waved me a goodbye, but not before presenting me with the what he used to save my life.” I pulled Dragon Breath from the sheath and laid her on the table. “That’s how we met.” I fixed my collar and returned the scarf to it’s proper place.
Smoke looked at me all squinty eyed. “When we mentioned the Sullivan clan, didn’t you think…”
I waved away her question. “It’s a common enough name. In Boston every other person you meet is a Sullivan or an O’Grady. They aren’t all related.”
“Can you describe this Southern Colonel?” Snake ground out a cigarillo on the table top.
“Not really. Tall fellow, red hair, thinning in the front. I was preoccupied with providing the entertainment for the night.”
“Would you know him if you saw him again?” Smoke leaned forward with a look as intense as a man in a gun fight.
“Can’t say for sure, but I’d know that voice anywhere.”
“Hmmf.” Was all Smoke managed before a clatter of noise accompanied by a cloud of dust poured in the door from the street. “That would be our ride.” Smoke tossed a silver dollar on the table.
Snake finished her drink and recorked the bottle.
I returned Dragon Breath and followed them out under the watchful eye of the bartender.
Don’t forget to head back on over in a couple of weeks when Snake and Smoke take the stage…