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Copyright 2017 by Christopher Davis

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Disclaimer: The persons, places, things, and otherwise animate or inanimate objects mentioned in this story are figments of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to anything or anyone living (or dead) is unintentional. The author humbly begs your pardon. This is fiction, people.


It all happened so fast, quicker than the young man would have believed, if he had not seen it with his own eyes as he stood next to the bar in a rundown little desert village of Auga Peligro.

The saloon was crowded. Oil lamps and tallow candles smoked and flickered, casting a dim yellow light over the two rooms. He sat with his head bare, drinking nothing more than water. Bardwell—seated next to him—sipped whiskey under a black Stetson.

One of the saloon gals—presumably employed in the horizontal trades—walked closer.

“You like to fuck, sweetie?” she asked.

Heavy makeup made a poor showing in concealing the exposed sores that littered her skin.

“No, señorita,” he replied, shaking his head and looking away. There was no soul in the woman’s eyes. Gustav Quesada—known as Brother Francisco to those of the church—had seen it before.

“I’d be more ‘n happy to do both of you boys,” she continued. “If there’s a little silver involved?”

The lawman paid the woman no attention. Quesada shook his head, but said nothing as the woman finally walked away. He did turn for a glace as she worked through the crowded saloon.

“They’re zombies, son,” Bardwell finally said. “You don’t have to talk to them.”

The young monk in brown homespun nodded his understanding.

Smoke from the long grass hung thick about the dirty ceiling. Two seats down from where they sat, a couple injected heroin into collapsing veins.

“Do they all live like this, señor?”

“What,” Bardwell asked, signaling the barkeep. “The dope?” he paused. “No, son, not everyone here along the border uses the stuff, but a lot of ‘em do.”

Men played cards under big hats in the back room, Mexican mostly. Tequila and warm beer flowed. A woman smoked toxic long grass from a glass pipe, while others snorted fat lines of cocaine or shot the Mexican opium.

Quesada had never seen such as this. Women traded sexual favors for a hit as did some men in the shadows. The acts were played out right there in the saloon before God and everyone else for that matter, a far cry from the missions along the El Camino Real.

The Benedictine monk—on hiatus—nodded his agreement with what his neighbor had said.

“It will take some getting used to,” Bardwell went on. “But you will, in time.”

Quesada made the mistake of looking at one of the Mexicans too long. Something about the man under the big straw sombrero drew his interest.

“What the fuck are you looking at?” the man sneered in Spanish.

“Nothing, señor,” Quesada replied.

“The fuck you aren’t,” the man replied, getting to his feet from behind the round table where he and five others played cards.

“I can assure you, señior,” Quesada said. “I mean no harm.”

The big Mexican had a long pull from a bottle of rotgut tequila. “Maybe I should just kill you right here?”

“The boy said that he didn’t mean nothing by it,” Bardwell said, placing his empty glass on the bar.

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