Chapter 12: A Traitor among the Stallions
Stately and lonely, Jackson Springwater puts on his regular dull, bold face rocking on his chair. In the upstairs master bedroom of his house, he looks at a blank wooden wall in dismay and disgust, as everything in the world turns against him.
Next to him in the room, his bed and a table top with drawers; most are missing. He sooths his punctured arm from the duel with Bill Burton. With hatred he pictures his crisis that previous afternoon. Burton’s decision to claim the stolen land for good, his marriage in the balance, and Armstrong’s betrayal leads Springwater to a silent but furious reflection.
He searches through his wardrobe to find a pack of cigars, a torch lamp and a strange rag which was given to him during his early years as a custodian. Seeing only things but tragic pictures and tattered lives, he simple takes the things, puts them in a hamper and rests for bed.
The warm air of the morning had risen, and Jackson even considered leaving everything behind. Looking out of the window, he saw a stagecoach exiting his house. ‘How did that get there?’ he thought to himself, and by seeing the passengers, he can see why.
There were 3 people inside of the stagecoach, his wife, his son and Samuel Armstrong. As they kissed during their ride to god-knows-where, Jackson’s inner temper boiled. He then thought to himself, and decided to stay. ‘No one can tell me what to do! I can live perfectly by myself. Less mouths to feed…’
His trail of thought ended with a large bang on his door. With his only family gone and his friends far out in the east, he approached with caution.
It was a tall image of a tall man with his back facing Jackson, wearing a black Stetson and a black coat then turned to him. He shook his hand delightfully and said, “Good day, mister ‘Springwater’ I presume? My horse needs a bit of a ‘giddy-up’ and all that…”
“Who are you? Your clothes… you don’t look like a social icon…”
“Peterson. Lou Peterson. It is pleasure meeting you. I heard about your touch of magic with horses.”
“Those horses are my family.” As Springwater said this, he stepped outside his house to see Lou’s horse. He added,
“That is a fine steed. You must be proud to tame one. Now, what can I get for you?”
“I only need some new horseshoes and a saddle; anything that will stop me hassling you.” He looks at Springwater’s satchel and also says,
“You look like you are about to go on an expedition? What have you got in there?”
“Nothing of interest. Look, see.” Lou looked inside the satchel and utters,
“Umm, some cigars a lantern, da de da… hang on? What’s this?” Lou has an examination of the rag Jackson had.
“I’ll laugh my guts out if you can find a use out of THAT!”
“To the untrained eye… but…”
Lou un-scrunches the rags to find an old piece of a treasure map. Shocked, Jackson cries out,
“I don’t remember THAT being there. You see, when I used to work near a fort, one of the soldiers was using it as a rag swiping off all his greasy sweat. He handed it to me for me to use. In those conditions, I had no choice but to have it…”
“You, sir, are a very remarkable man full of secrets. I hunt treasures because I can’t find an organized life. I could work for you, or…”
“Find the treasure and retire early…” Jackson interrupted. They both considered this but Jackson continued his speech.
“You can always work here Mr Peterson. My old partner left me thinking he was a slave. What he did was truly atrocious. Took my wife, abandoned me at my most vulnerable moments and I fear worse. He wasn’t as capable as you are, do you think you could…”
“Help out? I’ll tell you what; give me the pieces of the treasure map, or at least enough to find it. And when you’re done, I’ll find it for you AND sort out this ‘adversary’ of yours. What is his name, dare I ask?”
“His name is Samuel Armstrong. He worked proudly on the breeding grounds for years, but fell into the arms of my wife and this loner’s pity.”
“A man by the name of Bill Burton, he lives alone in the desert in his little shack or what-not. All he does is hunt and wait around for dodgy traders to arrive. He beat me in a duel and nearly pierced my arm down. Armstrong must have felt sorry for him…
“No matter; I worked as a hired assassin for a couple years now, so once you give me those maps, I’ll make sure both lick the floor upon the hour.”
“And my wife. She doesn’t deserve to live on this Earth anymore. But nevermore, it is a pleasure meeting you Mister Peterson.”
“Then it’s a deal.”