The Cave

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(Two days later)

“You were right, we should have burned him. Will he come after us?” Amado asked.

Knight chewed on a piece of grass, and kicked at splintered planks surrounding the grave, which was now a gaping hole dug from the coffin up. It reeked of sour mash whisky.

“Maybe not today or tomorrow, but he’ll come,” Knight answered.

“I fear Nesbitt Carl, whatever spawn of hell he may be, is too big, too strong for us to fight,” Amado said.

“I’ll find out what he is and I’ll find a way to kill him,” Knight replied, Nesbitt’s final words clouding in his mind like hot gunsmoke.

For several minutes they contemplated the empty grave in silence.

“I wish I could have met your wife, Amado.”

Surprised, Amado looked up at Knight. A faint smile touched the corner of his mouth. “Why do you say this?”

Knight looked upon the distant mountains ringing the Valles Caldera, the season’s first snow lightly brushing its rim. Even against a slate gray sky, they were vivid and beautiful.

“A beautiful woman once told me there was magic in this land. I didn’t know what she meant at the time, but now I do. She said it was old magic, bigger than us, bigger than Nesbitt.”

Amado shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

Knight looked him in the eye. “She said fire and steel won’t serve us against this enemy.” He spit the piece of grass into the disemboweled grave. “But in the end fire and steel is all I got.”

Knight removed the turquoise crucifix and silver chain from his pocket.

“Townsend brought this back from the cave. He thought you’d want it.”

Amado extended a trembling hand, and then pulled back.

“Her precious memory will live with me forever, in our home, in our tavern...and in the village she was so loved. In this respect, I will always be a wealthy man. I’m not sure why, my friend, but I think she would want you to have it. Perhaps it will give you more than fire and steel.”

Knight nodded in thanks and shook Amado’s hand. Silas Knight, railroad agent, soldier, and man of consequence and purpose, rode south and never looked back.

He spent the rest of his days trying to forget the smell of the cave.

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