Here’s part four of chapter six of Trouble in Taos. This is a longer post because this is the action part of chapter. I once heard someone refer to the action part of the chapter as the nugget. Well, with Slimy, the action part is where people begin to lose their nuggets. If you want to see more nuggets fly, you can get this story on Amazon.
Slimy was good at diggin’ and good at killin’, but I never heard anyone say that he was good at anything else. So I didn’t hold out much hope that he was good at hiding. I didn’t hear gunshots right away, but I figured I would soon. Slimy could hardly miss with those shotguns, but unless his targets stayed in a tight group, I didn’t figure slimy had a chance of killin’ all four.
There was nothing I could do, and the piece of lumber in my hand was pathetic, but still I didn’t drop it as I followed the bad guys into Saint Frank’s.
Saint Frank’s was the biggest building in town unless you count the Pueblo. Unlike the Pueblo, which was a warren of Indian coves, Saint Frank’s was pretty much one large room. I didn’t see anywhere where Slimy might hide, but I also didn’t see Slimy, just Father Julio and the four men standing in front of Rutherford James’s casket.
“I am sorry, my sons,” said Father Julio, “but the viewing will not be until tonight.”
The casket was closed, though it had been open before. I could think of only one reason Father Julio was trying to keep those four fellers from opening the casket.
Now, Slimy would never have thought to hide in a casket, but Father Julio was a different type. Priests lived uncommon long for unarmed men wanderin’ in a land where bullets flew like horseflies. Might be the Lord protected them, but I was betting a clever thought or two had something to do with it.
“We’re here now, Padre,” said the ugly one, “so the viewing is now.”
Father Julio might be a clever enough fella, but his cunning, wit, or divine inspiration failed him under the pressure. He just stood in front of four armed men twice his size and said in a cracked voice, “I forbid it.”
I can’t blame Father Julio for losing his nerve. After all, he wasn’t much bigger than me, and that’s not big at all. I think he was trying to use the “they believe you when you’re angry” trick I thought I had invented a few minutes before. It didn’t seem to be working for him. Forbid’s not a great word to use with the “they believe you when you’re angry” trick.
When you tell four men, particularly four large men with guns, that you forbid something, unless you have five bigger men with bigger guns backing you up, the only likely effect is that they will want to do the very thing you forbid. They’ll probably want to do that thing even more than before, ’cause nobody wants a scrawny priest telling them what to do.
I know that’s true, ’cause Estevo told me so, and he was a good Catholic. He said it’s even truer of Catholics and nine-year-old boys than other folk, but the Catholics put up with it.
Religion, according to Estevo, is all about earning credit for doing things you don’t want do, and not doing things you do want to do. Obeying a scrawny priest you could knock over with one inebriated breath is a good way to get credits, even more if he shouts, “I forbid.” Estevo wasn’t too sure what the credits were for, except maybe heaven, which sounds like a place where nobody does anything they want to do.
Unless they like to play the harp.
I don’t much get religion, but I get what Estevo said about Catholics not wanting to obey scrawny priests. I’m not so sure what the bit about nine-year-old boys was about. It’s been a long time since I was nine, and I never raised any boys of my own.
So Father Julio tried to set his feet, but as I mentioned before, he wasn’t a very big man, and the fellers he was trying to block were pretty good sized. The padre kept his body stiff, but the four men moved him aside like you might a sticky door.
The casket was standing about a foot off the floor on a stand. I’m not sure where that stand came from – I didn’t make it; maybe all the churches have ’em – they’re just high enough so that the edge of the coffin stood at belt height. That is, belt height for me or maybe Father Julio, but considerably shorter than belt-high for these four monsters.
All four men reached down to lift the lid off the casket, and so when they saw Slimy lying there on top of Rutherford James, their hands were full of casket lid instead of something more useful for the situation, like a 45.
I still don’t know what I was doin’, but that’s the moment I decided to charge those bruisers, yellin’ and wavin’ my stick. I might have hit one too. I’d like to think I did, but it probably didn’t make much difference.
They weren’t so gentle with me as they’d been with Father Julio. The biggest one hit me in the chest with his elbow and knocked me back onto my ass.
The goon saved my life.
While the four men were either pushin’ Father Julio, throwing the casket lid, or elbowin’ me out of the way, Slimy was reaching for his shotguns.
I don’t know if Slimy aimed at each individual and unloaded four quick shots, or if he just held his guns apart and fired a single spread. Saint Frank’s has a high hard roof. It’s a precious loud place for gunfire. It sounded like Slimy was firin’ cannons instead of scatterguns.
From my perspective, one moment there were four tall men and one short man standing over a casket, and then the next moment they were all the same height, but only Father Julio still had his head. I sat there on the floor holding my ears, waiting for the boom to stop bouncing off those hard church walls.
When I sat back up, it looked like everyone was dead. The casket was blown back off the stand. Slimy and Rutherford were tangled together behind it. Father Julio was covered in blood from the neck up.
Costner's been in some good movies - but Silvarado is the only one where I liked him.