I put my feet up on the desk and stared mindlessly through our little front window. I’ve been looking at this same scene damn-near every day for the past 18 months. What ever possessed me to think that I could cope with the boredom of being Deming, New Mexico’s first and only deputy sheriff? This job really fits the sheriff; he’s had years of practice sitting on his ass waiting for something to happen. He spends a lot less time doing nothing now that he has me on board.
Our one makeshift cell is empty and clean, I just finished sweeping the office floor and I don’t see any paperwork that needs doin’. Guess I’ll make my rounds and see how the town got through another night. I try to stop in at most business establishments every morning just to see what’s up and if anything happened last night after I turned in. The saloons and the whorehouses usually have a story or two to tell even if they don’t have a crime to report.
As you can probably tell, I’m new at this sheriffin’ business; I’m actually a gunsmith by trade or at least I was before the war. The war seems so long ago because I’ve tried to forget everything about it. I enlisted in the 1st Pennsylvania Rifles in the winter of ‘61 and fought at Shiloh in April ‘62. I deserted my post outside of Antietam in September of ‘62, stole my captain’s horse and headed West without as much as a look back over my shoulder. I figured the West would be a good place to hide out until that damn war was over and they’d forget about hangin’ me for desertion. I bummed around mostly working as a ranch hand and cowboy until I got here to Deming. The sheriff was looking for a deputy and I was looking for a job. This is a real settle-down kinda town. Maybe it’s about time and this seems like as good a place as any.
I normally have coffee at Millie’s place, Deming’s top bordello. Millie’s a real character and I look forward to our chats about anything and everything. She also has a Mexican girl working for her that I’m kinda sweet on. Juanita is from some dusty town in Sonora and has picked up enough English at Millie’s to almost carry on a conversation. I like Juanita a lot and I see her now and then professionally and she usually joins Millie and me for coffee. This morning it’s just Millie, her black cook and cleaning lady, Sarah and me in the kitchen.
“Millie where’s Juanita this mornin’,” I ask over my third sip of Sarah’s coffee.
“She’s got the monthlies and I’m afraid she won’t be down this mornin’,” Millie says like she’s unsure how to respond.
Millie’s hidin’ somethin’. “Millie, I don’t know much about that sort of thing but I seem to remember Juanita having her monthlies just a week or so ago. What’s wrong, is she down with somethin’?”
“Sam, don’t pry. Juanita got hurt last night and she’s going to be on the mend for a few days. She’ll be as good as new in a week or two.”
“What happened?” I shouted as I sprang from my chair. I don’t know what I thought I was going to do, fight Millie?
“I can’t tell you Sam. There’s nothin’ to report, she just had a little accident.”
All sorts of images raced through my mind as I bounded up the stairs to Juanita’s room. I knocked but she didn’t answer. I knocked again, and then pushed the door open. Juanita was propped up in bed. She was covered in big ugly bruises and make-shift bandages. One eye was patched and her upper lip was split wide open. It looked like she’d need stitches to get her lip back together.
“Sam, don’t come een, I no want joo see me like dis,” she whispered through unmoving lips.
“Juanita, what happened? Who did this to you? I’ll kill the bastard. Juanita, you’ve got to tell me.”
“I can’t Sam; he es un hombre muy importante. He will keel me if I tell joo.”
I sat on the edge of her bed and held her hand as I tried to inventory her injuries. She was embarrassed for me to see her like this. She looked awful. I couldn’t tell if she had lost any teeth or if her bandaged eye was permanently damaged.
“Juanita, you have to tell me who did this to you. I won’t do anything that will get you in any more trouble. I’ll come up with somethin’ to get back at him in my own way. He’ll never know that you told me.”
“Sam, Sam mi amor, eet was Ben Robinson. He was muy drunk and couldn’t get eet up for me and that made him mad, muy enfadado. I tried to get away but he sat on me and beat me with his fists.”
Ben Robinson was one of Deming’s most prominent businessmen and a blow-hard civic leader. That asshole is going to pay for what he did to my Juanita. I don’t know how yet but he’ll pay and pay through the nose.
“Juanita, I’m going to send Doc Ambrose over to take a look at you and to sew up your lip. I want you to stay in bed and don’t talk to anyone about Ben Robinson. Does Millie know it was Ben?”
“Chure, che knows.”
“Tell her not to do anything; I’ll take care of it. Adios, sweetheart.”
After sending the doc over to Juanita’s I was too pissed-off to complete my rounds. I wandered back to the office to think. I’d never liked Ben a hell of a lot before now; now I wanted to castrate him with a broken beer bottle. There’s no way I could run him in. It would be his word against that of a Mexican puta and we all know how that would turn out. Millie won’t testify and jeopardize her fragile business interests. No, I’ve got to come up with some revenge scheme that won’t reflect back on Juanita, Millie or me.
I think I’ve got it. The more I think about it, it’ll work. It means using maybe even abusing a couple of friends of mine but if what I expect to happen happens it will be well worth it. The only ugly part of my plan is that I have to buddy up to ole Ben Robinson so I can dangle some bait he won’t be able to refuse. Ben hangs out in his bar every afternoon before dinner for a couple of drinks with whoever happens to be around. I’ll join this after-work drinking group and swap good ol' boy stories with the guys until Ben and I become bosom buddies. This could take me a month or so of kowtowing to this pompous ass as he holds court in his bar in his hotel.
Ben was at his usual table when I stopped by a little after four. Walter a rancher and Herman the owner of the general store were well into a bottle of Ben’s finest when I wandered up. They welcomed me and I joined them, but claimed I couldn’t have whiskey because I still had some work to do that evenin’. I had a beer and joined in their conversation about the price of beef and the railroad’s latest promises to the town. This was the usual town chatter that I would normally run and hide from. I bit my lip and sat and talked about these meaningless things as if I actually gave a damn.
Soon I was a regular at Ben’s table and the guys actually asked my opinion on such weighty issues as the price of cattle feed and what we should do to keep Silver City out of our affairs. Breaking free from Grant County and forming our own county seemed like the right thing to do. My championing of this cause elevated me to mover and shaker status with the local politicians and wind-bags. I was clearly one of Ben’s buddies and solid member of the Spruce Street town fathers.
It took nearly three weeks for Juanita to heal up enough to go back to work. She still had a scar across her upper lip and her left eye didn’t look quite right. I spent an evening with her and checked out all of her other parts and assured her that Ben was going to get his payback soon.
One afternoon well into my third beer Ben started bragging about all of his escapades with the local Mexican whores. He seemed to know them all and know them quite well. Fortunately for him he never said a word about Juanita. Maybe he was hiding his recent drunken savagery or maybe he just knew better than to say anything in front of me. It was time to set the bait.
“Ben, you’ve missed the best piece of Mexican tail in town. I can’t believe you’ve never been over to Rosa’s place for a bit of afternoon fun.”
Who’s this Rosa, I don’t know any Rosa and I know every hussy in town.”
“Rosa’s not a hussy; she’s a housewife with a little whorin’ business on the side. That’s what makes her so special, she’s practically an amateur.”
“If she’s so good how come I don’t know about her?” Ben stammered with excitement.
“Well it’s a little complicated. See Rosa is an upstanding married woman that will see a guy now and then in the afternoon while her very jealous husband is at work at the livery stables. You’ve got to go over to her house about one in the afternoon and she’ll let you stay until three if she likes you and the money is right. I think knowin’ that her husband may come home at any time adds to the excitement. Anyway, you haven’t had the best until you’ve been to Rosa’s.”
“Where does she live and what do I have to do?”
“Just show up at her house on Copper Street a little after one with a few bucks and knock on her door. You can’t miss it; it’s the one with the big ristra hanging by the window. She’ll do the rest.”
“Damn, I’m gonna try that.”
He had fallen for the bait now for the second part of my plan.
The following afternoon I staked out Rosa’s knowing full well that Ben would be there, stiff as a new broom. Sure enough, at one fifteen Ben rides up to Rosa’s and goes right in as soon as she opens the door. Ben must have come with a wad of bills to guarantee that she would see him.
Once Ben was inside I raced to the livery stable to find Rosa’s husband, Alfredo.
“¿Hola Alfredo, Cómo está usted?”
“Hola, Señor Sam. How’re joo doin’?”
“I’m OK Alfredo, did you get a new horse, a big white gelding?”
“No señor, why do you ask?”
“I saw one tied up at your house when I rode by a few minutes ago and figured it must be yours.”
I could see the wheels turning as Alfredo thought about all of this. He dropped his pitch fork, ran to the barn, grabbed his gun and took off down the street without saying another word.
My plan was now in play.
I waited fifteen minutes then rode over to Alfredo’s. His front door was wide open and I could hear Rosa wailing as I approached the house. There in their bed was Ben’s big, naked ass sticking up over the blankets. I walked over to Ben to check him out but didn’t need to see anything beyond the bullet wound to the side of his head and the pool of blood he was laying in.
“What happened here?” I asked as if I didn’t know.
Rosa spoke first. “Señor Sam, this big fat gringo came to my house and before I could do anything he drug me over to my bed and raped me. Thank god that Alfredo came home when he did or I’d probably be dead now.”
“Alfredo, what’s your story?”
“I ran home after joo told me there was a strange horse at my house. I opened the door and saw this big gringo on top of my Rosa. I didn’t think; I just shot him as he turned to see who I was. He was still humpin’ Rosa when he died.”
“I believe you and I’m sure the judge will too but I’ll have to take you in. Rosa, do you want me to send the doc over?”
“No Señor Sam, I’m OK, just scared.”
“I’ll send a couple guys over for the body, adios Rosa, come with me Alfredo.”
I locked up Alfredo, got Ben’s remains to the undertaker, notified the sheriff and knowing Ben had no next of kin, I told Ben’s bartender and hotel manager of his demise.
Alfredo’s preliminary hearing came up three weeks later. He was charged with murder. Alfredo and I were the only witnesses. We both told the story that Rosa and he had told me the day of the shooting.
The judge listened intently, thought for a couple of minutes before declaring Alfredo not guilty of murder and that his actions were justifiable. He complemented Alfredo for valiantly defending his wife’s honor and possibly saving her life.
At that brief instant in time there was justice in the world.
©2009 by Bob Rockwell