“Pleasure to meet you,” I say to the bear shambling toward me as Randy locks the cell door behind me. “I’d shake your hand but…” I look back over my shoulder at Randy and waggle my bound hands at him. “A little help here?”
Randy spits tobacco juice on the floor. Apparently he never heard of a spittoon. “Help is something you ain’t going to get.” He looks at the bear. “Have fun, Horace. Don’t go easy on him. He’s the one kilt the marshal.”
Horace rumbles something in return. The smell coming off of him is bad enough to make my eyes water. Not long on bathing, is our friend Horace. I sure wish I was anywhere but here.
Randy laughs and walks out of the room. “I’ll leave you two to get better acquainted. I have a feeling you have a lot to talk about.”
I eye Horace. He seems to be mostly hair. It’s brown and longer than mine, flowing over his shoulders. His beard reaches down to his stomach. The sleeves are ripped out of the homespun shirt he’s wearing and every bit of his arms is covered in long, curly hair. I can see the glint of his eyes and a little bit of bare skin on his cheeks and nose, but that’s about it.
“If it makes any difference, I didn’t kill anyone,” I say.
“And I never stomped you into jelly,” he says back.
Could just something go right today? “I don’t want to fight you.”
“But I want to fight you.” It must be a smile that splits his massive face. At least I catch a glimpse of something wet and yellow inside the part that opens in the middle of his face.
I give up talking. It’s never gotten me too far anyway.
I turn halfway to the left, move my weight to my left foot and aim a kick at where I reckon his knee must be. The kick lands solidly and Horace actually stumbles back a little. I feel a little bit of hope…
But it’s soon crushed.
Horace smiles again. “I had a colt used to kick like that. Want to know what I did?”
No, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to ever see, or speak, to you again.
“I broke his legs. One at a time. Then he didn’t kick no more.”
I don’t waste any time. I kick him twice more, once in the stomach and once in the side of the head. I’m pretty fast and he doesn’t block either one.
It doesn’t look like he even tries.
He rubs the side of his head. “If we was in Arkansas, and you was a girl, I’d think you wanted me to woo you.”
I crouch and kind of jump up a little, get my hands around in front of me. I shoulda done this sooner.
“Now it’s my turn,” Horace says.
He spreads his arms and runs at me. He slams me up against the bars and that’s it. I’m dead now for sure. There’s no air left anywhere in my body. I hope my ma never sees my body.
Horace pulls back. One meaty fist comes around in a slow arc toward my head. I duck, but there’s another meaty fist coming in from the other side. It hits me in the side and I’m pretty sure something, maybe more than one something, breaks.
While I hammer at the side of his head with my bound fists, Horace picks me up and throws me across the cell. I hit the outside wall of the cell hard enough that something cracks. I hope it’s the wall and not me. Feels like me.
I stagger back to my feet as he lumbers toward me. Why’d they make this cell so small? There’s no room to move in here at all.
I manage to hit him in the nose hard enough to flatten it and make some blood fly out, but it doesn’t stop him and he slams into me again. I knee him about where his nuts should be but it only makes him smile again.
“Got those things mashed into paste when I was just a young un,” he says. “Don’t hurt so much anymore.”
Woulda been nice if he’d told me that sooner.
This time when he picks me up he throws me down on the floor. Then he kicks me. The only bright spot here is at least I don’t have to go through the whole humiliation of hanging. There won’t be enough of me left to hang.
“I think this is about over,” he says. “You don’t got much left.”
I try to stand up, but he’s right. I’m done. Let’s call an end to the worst day ever.
A woman’s voice from the other room cuts through the pain.
“I want to see the prisoner. Please take me back there right now, Deputy.”
(Due to contractual obligations with Amazon, who is publishing this work soon, this is all of the tale I can post here.)