Mark of the Shadow Part 7: The Hitch’N Post
Miss the beginning? Start with part 1.
My “best big and tucker”, was a yellow dress with a white outline and a few modest frills. I tried a bow in my hair, but Rolph said it would be better to keep my hair down. Best to not attract attention to my face I guess. Though if anybody asked I was sposed to say I fell off my horse, and that it’d clean up nice and well in a weeks time. God knows when I’d actually be rid of it, or it of me.
Rolph wore a dirty suit, that didn’t seem to fit him all that well. It was all crinkled, looked like it hadn’t been worn in a lifetime, and it sort of scrunched up around his shoulders. Still it was the nicest thing I’d ever seen him wear.
We’d changed after we entered the city. Rolph had to convince one of the guards that we were here on Army business. I mean technically it wasn’t a lie. Rolph gave me one of them womanly umbrellas, though it was green, and hardly went with the dress. Said I should try and keep my face from been’ seen with it.
The city didn’t look any different, little adobe houses, and wide streets, but something felt different. There was no one at the market, no one was out for a stroll, and Union soldiers were posted at street corners. The saloon, The Hitch’N Post had been refurnished to be the Army’s command post, and that’s right were we was headed.
Right outside Rolph stopped and bent down to me.
“Now I think I know these people…but remember anything could happen. Anything does I want you to run, or… just do what I say, understand?”
I nodded, and we walked into the bar. The Hitch’N Post was poorly lit, and even more poorly ventilated. Smelled worse in here than it did in the factories back east. People were just as grimy though. A man decorated in a high ranking uniform was hunched over on the bar, a couple of men played cards on a table to the left, and a few men were cleaning their guns at a table to the right.
Rolph grabbed my hand and pulled me closer to him. I had to steady my umbrella, not that anyone would have been able to make out my face here. I wouldn’t be seen a fool here though. We approached the man at the bar. Rolph took a seat next to him. I remained standing, unsure of what I was supposed to be doing.
“Sir?” Ralph said, trying to keep his voice sounding professional.
The man swiveled, and raised his head towards the sound. His face was wrinkly and pockmarked. His eyes looked small in the confines of his face. His brown hair was messy, and he held a brown drink in his left hand.
“What? Civilians ain’t allowed in here! Get him outa here boys, christ your getting slow on me or what?” was his response.
Every man in the room jumped up at the call to arms and looked at eachother expectantly.
“Hold on Carriage, you sayin you don’t recognize me?” said Rolph.
Carriage looked at Rolph again, and the army boys looked at each other confusedly.
“Rolph?” he guessed.
Carriage waved his boys down, only compounding the confusion on their faces. Then he smiled a toothy wicked smile.
“Hahehe,” he laughed.
Rolph returned a smile though I can’t say he looked happy. “I’m here to find out what the hells going on. First of all why is the army even here? Don’t you mongrels have a war to fight? And then why is the city under quarantine?”
“I could ask you what your doing here yourself Rolph…” he said talking slowly. He took a drink. “Didn’t know you showed your face in civilization anymore.”
“Funny,” said Rolph clearly not amused, “But I’m not here to exchange small talk, I’ve got business here, and I can only guess it’s somehow connected to you fellows.”
“Were here under Grant’s orders, or don’t you two lovebirds talk to each other anymore?”
“Grant? Like the general?” I asked, causing Carriage to notice me for the first time.
“Well, you have been busy haven’t you?” said Carriage barely acknowledging me still.
“She ain’t mine, but she is under my protection.”
“Getting more people wrapped up in your shit… and a child at that,” said Carriage his tone turning sour, “Christ how did we ever let it come to this.”
“You all had a choice, but you decided to take the easy road.”
“Easy!” he yelled so the whole room could hear. “You think commanding the Army, to fight our own people has been easy! You don’t know shit, now I’ve been forced to take over marshal law here, you think thats easy!”
This perked Rolph’s interest. “What was that about marshal law?”
Realizing what he had said Carriage shook his head, “Damnit. Somebody get me another drink! OK, this Bringham Young,” he said the name like a swear, “is getting out of control. He’s marshaled a militia, and this whole polygamy thing isn’t good press for the Union. Plus we can’t have a major railway being controlled by these people, the Army needs these supply lines.”
“Or you could just give them the state…” suggested Rolph.
“Give them the state! Like we have time to grow the Union, were trying to preserve it while your out here hunting ghosts playing with your red skinned friends.”
“Well I think you can tell me who really sent you here.”
“What are playing at, I told you! Grant sent me here.”
“Grant sent me here, he would have told me if he knew anyone else was here.”
“Maybe you just aren’t as close as you thought, hmmm? Or maybe, just maybe commanding an army changes a man.”
Rolph got up and grabbed my arm. “We’re leaving.”
At the door Carriage called out to us, “Hey Rolph…I’m guessing your indian friends didn’t help you when you asked huh?”
Rolph stopped. “Go outside,” he said softly, but I didn’t dare move.
“But I’m guessing you need help otherwise, why even find out why I’m here? You need something from them. They needed something from you though.”
“Your pushing them off their land,” said Rolph coldly.
“Please, they’ve been pushed off their land by the government since you were a child. This isn’t my decision, it’s not Grant’s. You can’t blame us. But I do have a proposition for you. This situation with Young may get out of hand. If it does I’m not sure I have the means to fight him. I could sure use some of that red skin zeal.”
I could feel Rolph’s hand grow hot in mine, he held on tight.
“And they get to keep there land. It’s not a promise, but I do still hold sway in Washington,” he continued.
Rolph breathed in and out slowly. “It’s a good deal. I get what I want, they get what they want, you get what they want. Whats the catch?”
“Your too pessimistic, there isn’t always a catch. Maybe thats why you were never fit for command.”
Rolph stormed out with me in tow.
“Think about it!” Carriage yelled after us.