Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Eighth Angel, Chapters Three & Four


Chapter 1

Chapter 2



Northern Texas or southern Oklahoma Territory


Angel lay on his belly at the crest of a hog’s back as he looked across a small stream meandering through some bottom land. The sun rose behind him to reflect off the water. He’d been there for over an hour waiting for Kansas Jack Sloat to awaken.

Kansas Jack had not been easy to find. With warrants bearing his name from Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arkansas, he only remained available for Angel to track due to guile and cunning.

Angel pulled a Sharps rifle from the grass beside him as Kansas Jack shrugged off his bedroll. No more than 250 yards distant, in line with what little breeze there was. He rose and stretched. Started a fire for his coffee. Scanned the horizon 360 degrees. Angel remained motionless, knowing he was not visible, as flat to the ground as he was, buffalo grass around him and the sun rising behind.

Jack poked the fire to get it burning how he wanted. Walked away to a small stand of trees to do his morning business. He had returned to within thirty feet of the fire when Angel shot him low in the belly.

Angel walked down the reverse slope of the hill to retrieve his horse. Slid the rifle into a saddle scabbard and mounted. Allowed the horse to pick its own pace down the hill toward the stream. No need to hurry. Kansas Jack would wait.

 Jack had crawled to within a few feet of his kit when Angel’s roan splashed int the stream, the sound drawing the wounded man’s attention. He looked toward the water, a hand shielding his eyes from the morning glare. Lay motionless until his face showed recognition of his plight. Started crawling with increased vigor.

Angel let his horse amble through the water. Jack got within a foot or two of the pistol sticking out of his bedroll before Angel drew his Colt. Thumbed back the hammer. Jack froze at the click of the cocking mechanism. A quick calculation before he reached for the gun. Angel shot him through the hand.

Jack yelled. His other hand fluttered, unsure of which wound to cradle. “Son of a bitch! Who the hell are you?”

“That was a mistake. Walking away without your guns.”

“I checked. Everything was clear.”

“Not as clear as you thought.”

“I asked once already. Who the hell are you?”

“My name is Angel de Venganza.”

“That supposed to mean something to me?”

“Not yet.” Angel holstered his gun and sat his horse. “What about Jaime Escalante? Maria Rodriguez? Do those names mean anything to you?”

Realization crossed Kansas Jack’s face. “The pistolero in that canyon south of Juarez.”

“My friend in the canyon. My friends.”

Kansas Jack glanced again toward his pistol. Not three feet away. Resignation began to settle onto his features. “You the one killed Easy Book?”

“And Red Durham.”

“Red’s dead, too?” Angel nodded. “Pete Davis.”

“Not yet.”

“You will, though.” Not asking. Angel nodded. Kansas Jack grimaced. “What about that peckerwood Travis Anderson? It was him started all this.”

“His turn is last.”

“Why’s he get to live longest?”

“So he can know what is coming.”

“His old man?”

“He will have his own reckoning.”

Kansas Jack rolled from his side to his back. Looked into the sky. “Gonna be hot.”

“Not compared to where you are going.”

Kansas Jack said, “Kiss my ass” with no venom, almost like to felt obliged to say it. “How’s it gonna go? You leave me here to fight off the coyotes and buzzards till I bleed to death? Or do you got something clever in mind?”

“I am not a clever man.”

“You outsmarted me sure enough.”

Angel scanned the horizon. Jack was right. It would be a hot day. The morning sky was beautiful. “I am not here to make you suffer.”

“You’re doing a damn fine job of it, if it’s not your intent.”

“I only want you to understand why you are here. Dying by my hand like this.”

Kansas Jack closed his eyes. Shuddered. “I won’t beg, and I won’t apologize. Not asking no consideration, but I argued against killing the woman.” Wiped his brow with the sleeve of his union suit. “Would it be too much to ask for my hat?” Pointed. “Sun’s coming right in my eyes.”

Angel dismounted. Picked up the hat. Tossed it to Jack. Positioned his horse between the dying man and the sun.

Jack left the hat be, shaded now by the horse’s shadow. “I’m obliged to you.” Breathed like someone was sitting on his chest. “We took a job. For money. We did it. That’s how I earn my living. I never figured to die indoors but I damn sure never thought I’d go out like this, gut shot by a Mexican that’s keeping the sun off me while I die.”

Angel tapped his thumb on the butt of his pistol. “Why did you do it?”

“I told you. It was a job.”

“How much were you paid?”

“I don’t remember.”

“That much?” Angel shook his head. Put a foot into the stirrup. Gave Kansas Jack a long look before mounting.

Jack said, “So that’s it? You’re gonna leave me here to die after all?”

“No.” Angel turned the horse so it stood alongside the man on the ground. “They should not have died, but Jaime and Maria died well. I will give you the same opportunity.” Drew and cocked his pistol. Aimed so Jack could look into the barrel. “You can look away. You can close your eyes. Or you can watch the bullet come for you. It is your choice.”

Kansas Jack said, “I’ll see you in hell.” But he watched.



El Paso, Texas


Angel held the pistol along his leg as he opened the hotel room door. The man in the hallway was at least sixty years old. Tall with a bit of a stoop. Hair was white and wispy on top. He wore expensive clothes and boots and the hat in his hand cost more than a cowhand made in a month. “You the one goes by Angel?” Pronounced as Angel did.


“You know who I am?”


“You know why I’m here, then.”

Si. I did not think you would come alone.”

“Then you don’t know why I’m here. You mind if we sit?”

Angel stepped back. The man entered the room. Took the only chair. Angel leaned against the wall.

“You killed them all. Didn’t you?”

“Jaime killed one. In the canyon.”

“You killed the rest, though.”

“I did.”


“You went to the trouble to find me and you have to ask me that?”

“Are you finished?”


“Just my son left to kill. Is that it?”

Angel did not think that required an answer.

“What Travis did was wrong. What I did was worse.”

“I can forgive you protecting your son. Sending five men to kill two you knew were innocent is not so excusable.”

“That’s not why they were sent.”

“Think of who they were. What did you expect to happen?”

“I didn’t know the woman would be there. The man I wanted brought back to stand trial.”

Angel shook his head. “That might have exposed your son’s responsibility. You could not risk it.”

“I didn’t know at the time my son was responsible. I give you my word on that.”

Angel didn’t answer right away. “A trial would never have happened. Vigilantes would have taken a role.”

The older man lowered his head. Nodded. “I expect so, knowing what I know now.” The room remained silent but for the sound of the man’s breathing. It had an unhealthy rasp. “How can we make this right? Short of you killing us?”

“An act of contrition.”

“That some Catholic thing?” Angel nodded. “The way you mean, it stops short of killing Travis?”

“You are not concerned for your own life?”

“I got it coming.” The older man tapped the hat against his leg. “I lived my whole life trying to do right. Drove a hard bargain but I honestly don’t think I ever cheated a man or took unfair advantage. Maybe if I had more experience doing the wrong thing it wouldn’t have gone so bad this time, but, Lordy, I have left the path. So, yeah. You think I got it coming, I have no argument for you.”

“And your son? Travis? He does not have it coming?”

“I never taught Travis wrong from right. Not proper. You want to take this out on someone, take it out on me.”

“You do not think a grown man should be able to figure out for himself that rape and murder are wrong?” No answer.

Angel straightened himself from the wall. Sat on the corner of the bed closest to the older man. “You deserve to die for what you have done.”

Tears filled the man’s eyes. No fear on his face or in his voice. “I do.”

“I believe the penance you are putting yourself through is more righteous than a quick death. An act is still required.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Give your son to me.” Angel went on before the man could protest. “I swear to you on Jaime’s and Maria’s graves I will not kill him. I suspect he will not be as willing to make amends as are you, so it is likely I will have to impose his contrition upon him.”


“Not the way you mean. Any physical pain he endures will be far less than what you are putting yourself through.”

“You won’t kill him.” As if afraid to believe it.

“I will not kill him. I give you my word.”

“What’s my part?”

“It must be you who delivers him to me, and he must know it was you who betrayed him.”

“But you won’t kill him. Cripple nor blind him?”

“I will return him to you in perfect working order.”

The man showed his resignation. “When and where?”

“Send him to town one week from today. Alone.”

The man looked into Angel’s eyes. Either saw or didn’t see what he looked for. Whatever he saw, he stood. Slapped his expensive hat against a thigh. Halfway through the door he stopped and turned back toward Angel. “How do you know I won’t have a posse waiting for you?”

“You won’t.”

John Anderson settled his hat. “No, sir. God help me, I won’t.”


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