A Six Gun and the Queen of Light

Part 8

A Six Gun and the Queen of Light

By Mark Slade

Story Break Barbed

Just on the outskirts of Bedlam was Graves Ranch. It was the same as any other ranch in Bedlam, except Graves Ranch had more steers, more horses, more workers, and at times, the best beef sold in Chicago – also the longest trail run in the west. Not many men have worked for Graves longer than a year. He was tough, outspoken, and completely in control of everything tied to his ranch – which was now starting to look like a Federal outpost, for all the armed guards at his gate.

His hold on his wife – now taking the name of Genevieve Queen Graves – was absolute, and she had become something of a local poet. Of course, against Mr. Graves’ wishes, her celebrity had attracted a few scholars eager to meet this great lady of letters. Many were frightened away from the ranch by Graves’ men – never meeting her.

Logan and Nat faced these armed guards. There were five: two that stood on the ranch wall, which was connected to a strong, iron gate, and three patrolling in front of it. The guard that spoke first was a tall man with a Springfield rifle in his arms. He went by the name of Calder. He was Graves’ number two, and had been with Graves for five years – even had a hand in building the ranch while Graves and his then-new bride had stayed in town. Calder had a scar across his chin from a knife fight with a Mexican when he was in Texas years ago. Logan was tempted to ask if he wanted another.

“State your business,” Calder demanded, sucking on a cigar that hadn’t been lit in days. Remnants of loose tobacco were caught in his wild, greasy beard. He kept swooshing it from one side to the other.

“We would like to see Genevieve, Calder,” Nat said.

“You know I’m not going to do that.” Calder laughed. He urged the other men to laugh with him. They sounded like a pack of hyenas on helium. “The old man’s not around and you wanna see his wife? Fools that attempt to rush in… usually get shot. Who’s the toad with you, Nat? Looks like a hired killer.”

Logan laughed along with them. “I’m Rev. Logan.” He smiled big. “I’m here to sell Mrs. Graves a bible, is all.”

“Show me the bible, toad.” Calder held his Springfield steady on Logan as he approached slowly.

Logan held his hands up. “I’m not armed, as you can see.” He held his hands up high for the guards on the wall. “I have the bible in my saddle bag. May I show it to you?”

“You don’t look like a bible-thumper,” Calder said.

“I’m dressed this way from a day or so. Out in the badlands, some men wanted to bushwhack me. They saw how I was dressed and let me pass. I’m just a man of God, I swear to you!”

Nat was looking at Logan sideways.

Is this the same fella who knocked me on my ass earlier, saved my life the night before, and ate a horde – almost died? Now he’s pretending to be a preacher? He ain’t all there!

Calder let out a sigh. He lowered his gun. Then his fellow guards did the same. “Reverend. I’ll let Mrs. Graves know you’re here.”

The other guard on the ground opened the gate – took the reins of Logan’s horse and led them through.

“Jesus, Calder. I thought you were going to shoot us,” Nat laughed nervously. He tapped the sides of his horse to follow Logan, but Calder aimed his Springfield at Nat. Suddenly Nat’s horse stopped. “What in tarnation?”

“I said he could go through, not you, Nat,” Calder said. He spit something long and gooey out of his mouth. The saliva splattered the dusty ground by Nat’s horse.

“Calder… we’ve known each other for years,” Nat pleaded.

“You don’t have business with Mrs. Graves, just the Reverend. Sit tight. He won’t be long.”

Calder backed away inside the gate still holding his Springfield steady on Nat. The gate shut quickly once Calder disappeared from sight.

“Damn it all to hell,” Nat said, dismounting from his horse. He looked over at the guard who was leaning against the gate smiling at him. “How do you like that? You grow up with somebody and think you know them – ”

“Shut up, stable boy!” said the guard, wiping sweat from his forehead. “Yer giving me a damn headache.”

Nat snarled at him, found a shady grass spot a few feet from the gate, and sat down. He tipped his hat down over his eyes, rested a bit.

Calder took Logan to the house. Logan tied the reins of his horse to a post and watched it drink from the waterhole. He waited for Calder to enter first through a new oak door. Logan touched the door with his hand and thought to himself how expensive it must have been. Calder looked back at Logan.

Logan smiled. “Nice door,” he said.

Calder gave him a queer look. “You coming in or what?”

Logan nodded – followed closely. The house was spotless. No dust in a typically dusty area. There were trinkets everywhere and furniture made from oak. Paintings of landscapes had been hung in the drawing room – including a large canvas portrait of a dark-haired beauty. It must have been the lady of the house – wearing a white dress of lace, white gloves, and the latest fashionable hat with feathers. Her deep, dark eyes seemed to be peering into Logan’s soul.

“Good day,” a woman’s voice said.

Logan slowly turned to answer her. It was the woman in the painting, those dark eyes still glaring at him – now in real time.

“I’m Genevieve Graves.” She stepped forward, touched Logan’s hand.

Logan smiled huge. “I’m Rev. Logan, Ma’am. I’m here to deliver the bible you ordered?”

She was taken aback by his comment. Seconds later she realized what he meant. “Oh yes. Won’t you sit and visit, Rev. Logan?”

“Yes. I think I will.” Logan sat on a white sofa – as soft as a pillow in a Chicago hotel bed he once stayed in.

“That will be all, Mr. Calder.” She had confidence in her voice.

Calder thought about it, decided not to challenge her. He nodded. “Certainly, Mrs. Graves. I’ll be outside in the hall.” He left the drawing room and closed the oak double doors.

Logan was mesmerized. He had never seen double doors before. He was like a child in the tallest building, lost in his own wonderment.

When they were sure Calder was not listening at the door, they began to talk. She was uneasy, kept looking at the door. They spoke only in whispers.

“I can’t believe you’re here,” Genevieve said.

“Here in my breast pocket, I have your letter.” Logan touched his heart with his left hand. “How did you come to choose me? I’m sure there are other local men who would help you.”

“My servant, Nadia, knew of you from Missouri.”

“Oh. And have I met this Nadia?”

“No. She witnessed you in a fight with three men over a little old man in a saloon. The man was performing Shakespeare. They were teasing him and you stepped in – took care of them. She heard a few town people in St. Louis talk of you. We hired your… talents.”

“St. Louis was a few years ago. Nadia wrote the letter.” It was more of a statement than a question. Genevieve nodded yes anyway. “She never stressed what your concerns were, Mrs. Graves. Only said you needed help and five hundred dollars was mine.”

“That was her instruction,” Genevieve said, her eyes shooting over to the door. “I need you to take me away from my husband.”

Logan had a smile on his face. “Is that so? I’m not in the habit of stealing wives. You’re not happy?”

“Happiness and duty are two different things, Mr. Logan. I need to get away forever.”

“Why don’t you just leave?”

“You don’t leave this man, Mr. Logan. He’s very dangerous. Do you want the job or not?”

Logan thought of how much money he had and the amount of food he had had in the last six months. Slim pickings. “Where do I take you?”

“The badlands.”

He thought for a moment. “There’s nothing there. One town a hundred miles from here.”

“Oh, believe me, Mr. Logan, there’s more there than you know. I need a stage for my servant and me.” She breathed uneasily. The thought of carrying this plan out seemed to be a little overwhelming for her. “I will pay for the stage, horses, and supplies.”

“We start tomorrow. I will need another man… a driver.”

“I’ll pay him as well,” she said. She heard footsteps, shushed Logan. The footsteps went away.

Logan stood up and shook Genevieve’s hand. “Must be pretty important – you getting away – for you to do this.”

“You’ll be a hero of sorts, in my eyes.”

“We can do this tomorrow night. We will be right outside the gate. Is there any way you can slip away from the guards?” Logan handed Genevieve a bible.

“I think I can come up with something,” she said, walking Logan to the door. “I have to warn you, my husband is a very dangerous man. He doesn’t like to lose.”

“He’s going to have to come to an understanding, Mrs. Graves,” Logan said.

“And what’s that, Mr. Logan?”

“I live to shatter dreams. Good day to you, Mrs. Graves,” Logan spoke in a voice loud enough for everyone in a three-mile area to hear.

“Good, Rev. Logan.”

Logan rode outside the gate, Nat tailing him. They rode a ways east toward Bedlam before speaking.

Nat had to be the one to unravel his tongue first. “Well?”

Logan smiled mischievously. “Well what?”

“What did she want to hire you for, clod-head?” Nat rode up beside Logan, anxious to hear more.

“She wants me to whisk her away from darling hubby in a stagecoach,” Logan said.

Nat stopped his horse. He just stared at Logan. Logan turned his horse around to face Nat. His horse was now still, smelling the dusty road.

“You’re crazy,” Nat said. His eyelids batted a few times before he spoke again. “That man owns Bedlam. He will hunt you two down with his own men and buy a militia if he needs to. He won’t let that woman go… I’m telling you!”

Logan ignored Nat. He tapped his horse and rode away from him with a small gallop then slowed down to an easy pace.

“Who is gonna drive that stagecoach?”

Without looking back, Logan said, “You are.”

Nat’s face turned red. “What?!”