The year is 1874; Deadwood, South Dakota. The Black Hills Gold Rush was in full expansion. The Sioux nations were the first to discover the gold, but it didn’t take the government very long to take control. It also attracted many ruthless outlaws, gamblers, and gunslingers. Famous characters such as Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jean, and many others were also competing for their piece of the pie. Word went around fast, therefor the town’s folks made sure to avoid these individuals. Yet, that didn’t stop the many settlers from establishing themselves, but that was because of the new piece treaty the government had made with the Sioux. Every week, new settlers arrived by stagecoach from around the USA and even Europe. On rainy days, the dirt streets turned into muddy puddles, so people would use the wooden sidewalks and planks to get around town. Although it was a challenging era, it was also prosperous.
New towns and farms where emerging from Spearfish to Deadwood and all the way to Rapid City. One of these new farms belonged to the Evans family. Mr. George Evans had obtained a bank loan to build his modest farm a few miles out of Deadwood. At the time, farming wasn’t an easy task. To begin with, tree stumps had to be unearthed before cultivation.
Josh Evans was born in August of 1865. From the day he turned 10 he had to help with many of the farm chores. Unlike his siblings, he was stubborn and as he grew older did not do much to assist with the chores. His father was a strict person that gave them directives. Josh hated being obedient, so he was punished for not doing what he was told. It was at such a time that Josh came to know about Wild Bill Hickok. He fancied the thought of becoming a gunslinger just like him. He couldn’t wait to get old enough so that he could run away from the horrendous farm labor.
At the age of 16, he stole the earnings that his father had kept aside to buy a few cows and chickens for their farm. He got up during the middle of the night, saddled one of the horses and rode off to Deadwood. At last, Josh felt free. Once in town, he spent most of the stolen money on Tobacco, gambling with the town’s teen-agers and buying plain junk. When there was no more, he’d spend his time stealing or getting into trouble. His father rode into town to try to talk sense into him to come back to the farm, but it was useless. Josh ignored his father’s advice and as usual, would ride off. After several attempts, his father had finally given up on him knowing his son would surely land up in jail one day.
* * *
The years had passed and Josh’s reputation had degraded. He was now 20 years of age. Although, he hadn’t killed anyone one yet, that was about to change. Josh wasn’t a big fellow measuring five foot six and weighing 135 lbs. He had only lost one fight, and that was against a big fellow by the name of Butch MacDougall. Ever since then, he was waiting for the day to get his revenge. Deadwood locals knew Josh as a low-down thief. All the clothes he wore he stole off the neighbor’s cloth lines. He wasn’t the only thug in Deadwood; the town had its own outlaws. They called themselves the Collins gang. The gang was renown for robbing stagecoaches, and stealing and selling cattle. Most of them were in and out of jail half the time. Joel Collins, their leader, was a despicable man willing to shoot anyone that got in his way. One day Josh even tried to impress some of the Collins gang members so they would accept him, but it didn’t work out. One of the members had told him to walk away and mind his own business. Now that frustrated Josh deeply. To prove himself, he had a plan. There was a woman in town by the name of Miss Agnes Perkins. Most of the town’s folks called her Aggie; the town’s fortune-teller. Rumors had it that she came from Europe and was a descendant of witches from the 15th century. Josh didn’t believe in any of that crap, so he decided to pay old lady Perkins a visit. Town folks were saying that she had a little fortune hidden somewhere in her house. Now, this was Josh’s chance to prove himself by robbing her. One night he mounted his horse and rode out of town in direction of Miss Perkins house. He didn’t want to get too close because she would hear him coming and would find it suspicious. Agnes would surely use her shotgun at any intruder. It already happened once when some town’s youngsters stopped by her house. They threw rocks and shouting insults at her. Mrs. Perkins came out with a shotgun and fired two rounds in the air. The kids fled as fast as they could and never went back there again.
Josh tied his horse to a tree and slowly approached. He could see her from the window putting wood in the fireplace. Once on the porch, he grabbed his gun and pushed open the door. Mrs. Perkins jumped as she seen him.
“How dear you enter here without permission,” she said outraged.
There was a rifle by the fireplace. As she looking at him she slowly moved backwards toward it. Josh noticed and knew what her intention where.
“Ah,ah,ah, don’t try anything stupid lady,” he said pointing his gun at her.
“All I want is your money, now be a nice lady and give it to me”
She stopped and looked at him straight in the eye. Josh wasn’t certain but he thought he noticed a slight smile on her face. As she looked at him, she began whispering strange words. He was wondering what she was up to.
“Stop it you hear!” he said.
But Perkins kept on.
There was something strange about her words. I wasn’t in English. He then felt a strange sensation come over him, as if he was feeling a little drunk.
“What’s happening? He thought.
He shook his head and blinked his eyes.
“Wait a minute; so you do have powers after all? He thought.
“Don’t you try that shit on me you witch,” He said wavering his gun at her.
She noticed that her powers did work on him so she knew he must be easy to manipulate. If he was going to shoot her, she had a surprise for him.
“I have no money for you boy, but I do have something much better,” she said.
He was wondering what she meant by “much better”
Was she coming on to him? The thought of it disgusted him, but on second hand, maybe it wasn’t sex but valuables she had to offer.
“And what would that be lady?” Josh asked.
She approached the fireplace. Her hand was going for the shelf above it. Josh pointed his gun towards her and said: “Ah ah ah, don’t you try anything stupid.”
She grabbed a book from the shelf. It was a red leather book with a strange design on the cover. There was a tinny key latch attached to the book with its key. Josh wasn’t much of a reader, but that was because of his low education. However, he’d already seen a lot of books, but this one stood out.
“I don’t want your stupid book lady.” He replied.
“Give me your fucking money or I’ll blow your brains out.”
As she held the book in her hands, she looked at him furiously. Her eyes were like that of a wild cat. She kept staring at him, and then she pointed towards a trap door on the floor leading beneath the house. She knew that if she kept eye contact with him her powers could take control of him. There was a mirror above the fireplace. She put one hand on the top of book then looked at his reflection in the mirror whispered strange words. Josh felt that strange sensation again.
Why was she looking in that mirror he thought? He looked in the mirror and noticed that the reflection was showing something else, another place, but not this one. It was impossible, it was one of her tricks again so he shook his head and lowered his eyes.
“Stop it witch, stop it!” he shouted.
He pointed his gun towards the hatch and said, “Ok, you go first lady.”
She was slow to respond. She slightly smiled as she looked at him.
Get that smile off your face. He said.
“Come on, come on.” He said waving his gun.
She bent over and pulled on the hatch handle.
They both descended the steep stairway. The cold cellar was not more than four feet high. On one side there were shelves filled with jars of pickled preserves. On the dirt flood where pottery crocks used to conserve salt meats. She got down on her knees and hands and went in a direction toward a wood-box that was at the corner of the cellar. Josh followed from behind. She pointed her finger towards the box and looked at him.
“It is all in there,” she said.
“Okay, move aside.” He said.
He opened the wood box and looked inside. At that moment, he felt something knock him on the head. He collapsed to the ground. Old lady Perkins was about to hit him again with a shovel, but he was fast enough to roll over and shot her before she could. She fell to the ground.
“You stupid bitch.” He said outraged.
He searched for the money in the wood-box, but there wasn’t any. He looked at her bleeding on the dirt floor.
“WHERE IS IT, WHERE’S THE MONEY!” he shouted.
She had both hands on her bleeding abdomen.
“I told you, I… have…. no money you fool.” The woman said in agony.
“Take the…the book of Ammon. It can make you rich and… you will live forever… but for this to happen, you…you have to take your life and someone’s life with you.”
“She’s completely insane, what is she talking about,” He thought.
“Believe me Mr. I’m telling you the truth.” She said.
“Maledictus Eris In Aeternum!” she shouted in Latin. (May you be cursed on the other side for eternity)
He took the book that was still in her hands, and hurried towards the stairs then stopped and looked at her.
“What the fuck is she talking about,” He thought.
“Could her story be true about the book.” he wondered?
Once upstairs he searched everywhere for the money, but there wasn’t any.
“She was telling the truth,” he thought. “There is no money.
He thought about what she said about the book. Maybe he could sell it for a good price. He looked at the book wondering what he should do next. He looked at the strange mirror above the fireplace again. As he did, he saw his reflection, but he was in another place. He wondered what was happening. He then looked at the strange red book and remembered her words. He ran outside and toward his horse. Once he reached his horse, he put the book in the side pouch and galloped as far away as he could get.
Twenty minutes later, he stopped to rest. He was sure he would be safe to rest for the night. His head was bleeding and blood was running down his face from the blow. Josh gathered some dry twigs and branches and lights a fire. As he sat beside the fire, he thinks about the book. He gets up and walks toward his horse, takes the book from the side pouch and looks at it. The cover of the book was a red blood color. There was a large star on the cover and in its center is a large-horned sheep’s head.
“She said if I read this book, I would be rich and live-forever,” He thought.
If she thinks I will kill myself and someone else to live forever, she’s crazier than an cane toad. Josh never passed the fourth grade so it will take him an eternity to read the book. He noticed a little key attached to the book and unlocked the key latch. He opens it and looks inside. The moment he opened the book, it felt good; a strange power overwhelmed him. Although Josh had almost no education and couldn’t read that well, the book seemed to read its content for him. Although the book was written in Latin, in no time at all, he had read almost half the book.
* * *