Friday 21 September 2012

#FridayFlash - Mahko

As part of my two week celebration of The Guns of Retribution, I decided to dedicate the two Friday flashes that fell within that period to my bounty hunter, Grey O'Donnell. Last week told the story of how Grey got into the bounty hunting business. A lot of people asked me how Grey met Mahko, so here is that story. Enjoy...

I never liked being indoors if I could help it, so when the blacksmith asked me to take four newly shod ponies up to the Apache camp, I damn near took his hand off in my hurry to say yes. I spent most of my days working in the livery or the blacksmiths, so I never said no to running errands.

My horse trotted along the road out of Retribution. Blue sky stretched in all directions and I sat back in the saddle to enjoy the sun on my face. It was a twenty minute ride out to the hills and I was damn well gonna enjoy it.

The Apaches had a bad reputation in Arizona but the band near Retribution just wanted to live quietly, not bothering anyone. Some of the folks in town thought the only good Apache was a dead Apache, so it fell to people like me to run between the two. Sometimes I took supplies, sometimes I brought things back. That day I was delivering their ponies.

The road led up into the hills and I let Applejack slow to a walk. She was my beautiful grey and white mare and I figured she'd enjoy the exercise. Mr Foster was expecting me back at the livery but on a day like that, you couldn't help taking your sweet time.

A thin scream broke the peace and quiet. I whipped around, trying to spot the source. It sounded like a woman, and I thought of my Peggy. My hand strayed to my Colt at my belt, just in case.

Another scream, this time followed by a string of shouts. I couldn't make out the words but it sounded like some kind of taunting. That didn't sit well with me, so I climbed down from Applejack, drew my gun, and made my way up the rocky outcrop to my right.

Four Apache boys, probably about sixteen, crowded around something heaped on the ground. Three of them held sticks, and the fourth held a horse whip. He raised it above his head and brought it down on the heap. Another scream.


They turned around when I shouted. They all cowered in toward each other, their sticks twitching at their sides. One of them stared at my Colt.

"Get away from there!"

They kept scowling, refusing to move. I holstered my gun and made a 'shoo' motion with my arms - the sudden movement made them scatter. The boy with the whip turned, his face full of fear, and he tossed the whip into the bushes.

I knelt on the ground beside the heap, which turned out to be a much younger Apache, probably about thirteen. Bruises covered his arms and legs, and livid red slashes opened his bare back.

"Hey there, young fella."

He waved away my hands, crawling to his knees by himself. Tears ran clear tracks through the dirt on his face.

"Are you alright?"

He nodded. I stood up and he slowly pulled himself to his feet. He swayed, and grasped my arm. The four bullies lurked at the back of the clearing, pressed against the rocks. I growled at them and they clambered away. I turned back to the boy.

"You live up at the camp?"

He nodded again. I led him out of the clearing and back towards the horses. I helped him climb up onto one of the Apache ponies, and climbed up into Applejack's saddle.

"I'm headin' up there, I'll take you home."

He didn't say a word but he stared at me the whole way back. We reached the camp and all eyes fell on us - I shivered with so many people staring at me. The Apache leader made his way through the silent group - I think Nantan was the only one who spoke English, besides the boy. I did all of my trading through him.

"What has happened?" he asked.

I told Nantan what I'd seen. He narrowed his eyes and scanned the group. I spotted the four bullies loitering behind a knot of fellas so big they damn near looked like trees. I pointed them out and Nantan grimaced.

"They will be punished."

"I brought your ponies back, all shod and ready to go." I pointed to the horses. I felt uncomfortable with so many people staring at me, and I didn't want to get caught up in Apache business. Suddenly I forgot about how beautiful the day was, and I just wanted to get back to town.

Nantan helped the boy down from the horse. Instead of running off to find his momma, the boy stood in front of his chief, staring up at me.

"Mr O'Donnell, I should introduce you. This is my son, Mahko."

"Well hey there, Mahko."

I held out my hand. A few of the Apaches gasped - guess they didn't see that many white folk holding out hands to them. I don't think I ever understood the hatred. Half of Retribution's population came from Irish settlers, so it wasn't like this was their land. They just found it. Mahko shook my hand, his grip surprisingly firm for a bruised, whipped kid. 

"You have a friend for life, I think." Nantan smiled.

"Just doin' what I'm sure he'd do for me."

Nantan untied the ponies and another Apache led them away. I tipped my hat, which raised an embarrassed titter from the ladies, and set off back down the path through the hills. I turned back and Mahko still stared at me. He raised his hand in a silent greeting, and I figured Nantan was right. I'd made a friend for life.

* * *

If you enjoyed that, you can buy The Guns of Retribution for the Kindle US or Kindle UK


Sulci Collective said...

Loved the mage of the tear tracks clearing a path through his begrimed face.

marc nash

Helen A. Howell said...

Grey is a real nice fella! It was wonderful to find out how he met his Apache side kick.

Anonymous said...

I'm about a quarter of the way into The Guns of Retribution right now, so this cool little snippet of their back story is awesome.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Marc - Mahko might cry but he'd never talk to you about it.

Helen - Grey just really, really doesn't like bullies!

Aaron - Hopefully it'll enrich the rest of the book for you!

Peter Newman said...

Grey's voice is so distinct. It's also easy to listen to. Looking forward to the next chapter in his story.

Larry Kollar said...

Grey has a streak of common decency you don't see too often, then or now. I like this guy.

Virginia Moffatt said...

Really good piece of writing, says a lot with sparse use of language. Really building up to a great character and western!

Steve Green said...

I enjoyed this second view into Gray's world, I have downloaded the kindle edition of Guns of Retribution now and shall be looking forward to reading more of his exploits.

John Wiswell said...

Strong sense of voice to both the introduction and the conversation, Icy. Some top Westerny #fridayflash.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Icy. A really nice, easy-to-read piece, which I zipped through. I like Grey! Still want Fillion to read the audiobook, mind..

Cat Russell said...

Now I'm wondering why they were picking on him!

Nicely done. :)

Anonymous said...

Me too - you have us wondering, why was Mahko being bullied? What a great character Grey is.

Stephen said...

Hi there Icy -- I enjoyed that slow trail out of Retribution. Nicely told.

Interesting reading, rather than watching, a western, and reminds that I must start on your book (purchased a while back and now lurking in my epic virtual and physical book list, bandana and guns at the ready).

Why was Mahko being bullied? Lol -- ach, the audience always wants more. Which is a good thing :)


Icy Sedgwick said...

I suppose the implication is that Mahko is being bullied because he's Nantan's son - but he's too proud to tell his dad.

I'm really glad everyone likes Grey. He's wonderful to work with.

Cindy Vaskova said...

Grey is one cool guy! I like him, his attitude and POV.

Really enjoyed this piece; although I'm still not that familiar with the charecters, last weeks piece was helpfull for me to make notice of the young Apache side kick and now to see how he came to be that side kick. Should be getting the kindle edition soon!

Also, love the names.

Anonymous said...

More awesomeness from Retribution. Great to hear more about a way cool bounty hunter.
Adam B @revhappiness

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