Word Count: 6850
Joe was tired. Completely and totally exhausted, he thought as he recalled how he had spent the last eight hours sitting in this saddle. Early this morning he had been dropped off by the stagecoach at a way station north of the town he was heading. For some reason the small town of Elizabethtown, set on its own in the desolate regions of New Mexico, didn’t have service, something that was odd to Joe. So now he was saddle sore, although he had to admit that he did know better than to ride so long without stopping, but he was tired of riding in the dry desolate country with no one but his horse to talk to. His horse was probably tired of him talking to it also. Was it only a week ago that he was in Virginia City? Why was he so eager to leave? Oh yeah, his girlfriend, petite and blonde Kathy Parker was angry at him. No wait, his ex-girlfriend. At the last dance, she didn’t like him talking with a new girl who had arrived in town, so she had thrown a cup of punch on top of his head and all over his new suit before stomping out of the dance. Now it seemed like, all the girls in town were ignoring him. So, when his Pa had asked for one of his sons to check out some riding stock in New Mexico, he was more than happy to get out of the area for a while. Although now that he thought back on it, he probably was a little too eager considering the look of relief on his two older brothers’ faces. Muttering to himself, he shook his head at his foolishness. He could have at least tried and got something out of the deal, say a week off when he returned or a new rifle that he had seen in town. But no, this is one of those times where he didn’t think fully before jumping in.
Raising his head from his musings Joe took the time to look around him. Off in the distance he could see a town in the distance, Elizabethtown. Just knowing the town was within range took every ounce of self-control Joe had within him to keep from kicking his tired horse into a gallop towards town. But he knew his horse was as hot as he was, and he certainly didn’t want him overheating and collapsing in the desert. The last mile seemed to drag, but Joe soon saw the wooden sign that quickly lifted his spirits, “Welcome to Elizabethtown”.
He had an overwhelming desire for something other than water, something that was wet and cold to drink. Slowly Joe rode through the town, his eyes glancing to his left and right for some sort of sign indicating a saloon. Up in front of him, a board that sagged off onto one side announced the That Rambling Rose Saloon establishment. With a sigh of relief Joe nudged his horse forward and slid off tying it to the post. Aches and pains followed him as he trudged inside. The inside of the saloon was dark and musty, with a little trickle of light coming in from the swinging doors leading in the saloon. Walking past one fellow at a table, Joe could faintly smell the stench of stale urine wafting from him. Joe couldn’t help but crinkle his nose as he hurried over to the bar and tapped on the counter for the bartender’s attention.
“What can I get for you feller?”
“A cold beer if you have it,” Joe requested as he leaned against the bar. It moved slightly as his weight pressed against it. Curious, Joe turned and saw that it was a makeshift bar, a plank thrown over two wooden barrels. Tired as he was he knew that hell would break lose if he broke any of the bottles or glasses that were balanced on it. He rested his elbow on the bar while he waited for the bartender to return with his drink. A clank on the board behind him announced to Joe that his drink had arrived. Tossing a coin onto the counter, Joe grabbed the beer and took a large swig as he walked over to an empty table near the wall. His beer was not cold he thought grumpily as he kicked a chair out from beneath the table. Carefully he set his saddle sore bum into the chair and sank down, propping his feet up in the chair next to him. He began to roll his shoulders in an attempt to loosen them up when a chair scraped next to him. Joe jerked forward and turned to look at his neighbor.
“What brings ya to E-town?”
The speaker was a young man around Joe’s own age, with a shock of red hair sprouting from his head. “E-town?” Joe asked curiously.
“Yeah, Elizabethtown. Lotta word for such small digs.” The red head leaned forward and stuck out his hand towards Joe. “My name is Tom Jenkins.”
“Where ya from?”
“Virginia City, Nevada.” The two men talked for awhile until the exhaustion that Joe had been feeling earlier caught up with him as he muffled a yawn. He took one more swallow from the warm liquid then turned to Tom. “Say, do you know of anyplace in town where can I stay a couple of nights?”
Tom rubbed his chin as he thought about Joe’s question. “There’s a room here at the saloon, but I’ve discovered that get really noisy at night. Then I stayed a few night’s at the Perry Hotel, but that burned down last week. Finally found a place at a boarding house at the end of the street. The guy who owns the place goes by the name Kennedy. He’s a strange fellow, but he and his wife have a nice boarding place. The bed’s soft and the grubs good.”
Joe listened then scratched his head as he considered his options. All he really wanted now was a good bed and some hot food. The evening was getting late and supper should be starting soon.
Taking one last swig of his warm beer, Joe put the mug down as he stood up. Wiping the sweat off his forehead, he turned to face Tom, “Thanks. Would you by any chance know of anyone by the name of Tyler?”
“’Fraid not,” the young man answered. “But ask Mr. Kennedy, he seems to know a lot of folks in town.”
Joe pushed away from the table and walked slowly outside the building, taking a moment to take a deep breath of the fresh air and get his eyes adjusted to the sunlight. He had arrived into town from the north and the few buildings that were there looked to have been thrown together in a slipshod manner. Then to the south, he could see a mercantile and the burned out remains of the Perry Hotel. Further on, beyond several other buildings he could just barely make out the outline of a house. He hoped it was the Kennedy house, because Joe wasn’t sure how much longer he could stay on his upright without passing out. Unlashing the reins from the post Joe stepped into the stirrups and guided the horse down the street to the south, passing several miners in the dusty street. He took a moment to look up into the burned out remains of the Perry Hotel. It looked to be a fine establishment at one time, nice for this town, Joe thought as he turned his attention back to looking for the boarding house. There it was, a few blocks down from the hotel, a white house, its paint already peeling with the name Kennedy painted in bold black colors across the front of the house. He was there finally, Joe thought as he led his horse up to the post and slid off. Peering around for a barn to stable his horse, Joe didn’t see one. Instead he quickly tied the reins to the post then pulled his saddlebags from the horse and looked at the house. It was a two-story structure that strangely enough looked as though it had a basement from the amount of steps he had to take to make it to the first floor. He sighed, then took the steps two at a time and stood in front of the door raising his fist to knock when the door swung open. The entire doorframe was filled a large man who peered down at him from his 6’4” stature. This man even made his brother Hoss look small, Joe thought.
Joe dropped his fist and stuttered, “Uh, yeah… ummm… I’m looking for a room to stay in for a couple of nights.” For a moment Joe felt very uncomfortable as the older man peered down at him, uncertain as to why there was a long silence. It felt as though he was under some sort of examination, but for what, Joe didn’t know. Suddenly finding lodging at the saloon sounded like a good idea, but before the thought could be put into action the man spoke.
“Yes. We have room. A room became available last night.” The man pushed the door back and stepped out of the way, curling his finger towards Joe, encouraging the young man to enter. “My name is Mr. Charles Kennedy, and if you are wanting a room, it is a dollar a day, and that includes the meal. It’s fifty cents if you are just wanting the bed.”
Joe nodded his head, “I’ll take a room with meal if you have one available.”
“Sure do, young man,” Mr. Kennedy answered. “Follow me this way.”
As Joe entered the house, he couldn’t help be impressed by the cleanliness of the place. Despite the strange behavior of Mr. Kennedy, Joe had to admit he ran a clean boarding house. “Yeah, I’ll take it. I’ll just be here a few days, and then I’m headed back north. Name’s Joe Cartwright.”
“What brings you to Elizabethtown, Mr. Cartwright?”
“Looking for a rancher by the name of William Tyler, and the only thing I know is that he lives around these parts. I’m checking out some stock of his to purchase. Do you know where I can find him?”
“Why yes I do. Follow me to the desk, and I’ll get you your key and directions to the ranch. Were you planning on buying some horses while you were in town?”
“Yep,” Joe answered quickly.
Mr. Kennedy studied the young man before him, as he started to ask him questions that had no relevance to his stay at the boarding house. “Do you know Mr. Perry?”
“Perry, uh, no. Is he the fellow whose hotel burned?”
Mr. Kennedy ignored Joe’s question other than to give a nod and proceeded to ask a procession of other questions, all centering on people who lived in town. Finally having enough, Joe was ready to toss his key back at the man when Mr. Kennedy must have sensed his annoyance, because he stopped with his questions. “That will be two dollars for tonight and tomorrow night’s stay.”
“Where can I board my horse?”
“Oh yes, we have a barn behind the house. Is that mustang down there yours?” Taking Joe’s nod as a yes, he continued. “I’ll get one someone to stable it for you. It will be an extra 25 cents for the horse to board.”
“No problem,” Joe said as he dug in his saddle bag and pulled out his wallet. Counting out two bills he handed it and a coin over to the big man, and then slung the saddlebag over his shoulder. Normally wanting to be the one to care for his horse, he was too exhausted to bother stabling it him self, instead Joe depended upon the graciousness of his host. With the map that Mr. Kennedy had drawn up for him in hand, Joe clutched the key in his other hand and started up the stairs, shifting his saddlebags to his other shoulder. He disappeared down the hallway and began counting off numbers, looking for his room for the night. His room was a few doors away from the staircase, he noticed as he slid the key into the lock and pushed the door open. Tossing his saddlebag onto a chair next to the dresser, Joe shut the door behind him and locked it then rolled his shoulders and sat down on the edge of the bed. The room was nice and simple, a dresser with a basin and a pitcher filled with water. The bed, just as Tom described, was soft and calling out to him. Slowly Joe tugged his boots off, watching listlessly as they dropped noisily to the floor. A wave of exhaustion went through his body, as the soft feathers cushioned and hugged his body. Without thought to anything else, Joe pulled his legs up onto the bed and as soon as his head hit the pillow he was asleep.
The next morning Joe woke up slowly up as a stream of sunshine hit him on his face, creating a shaft of sunshine to warm his cheek. Blinking rapidly, Joe was surprised to discover that he hadn’t budged from his previous night’s collapse to his bed. Refreshed, Joe couldn’t help but give out a long yawn as he swung his legs off the bed. He shook the lingering sleep from his eyes and slowly undressed, tossing his soiled shirt and pants into a pile next to the bed. Stumbling over to his saddlebags, he rifled through them until he found a clean outfit. The wallet containing the $3,000 was lying at the top of the bag, so Joe piled his dirty clothes on top of the wallet, burying it to the bottom of the bag. He then shook the wrinkles out as much as he could before slipping his arms into his shirt. It was as he was tucking his shirt into his pants that he remembered the map that Mr. Kennedy had drawn up for him. Glancing around the room, he saw it lying on the floor next to the saddlebags. He grabbed it, and brought his boots over to the bed and as he studied the map, tugged on his boots. Man, he was still so tired, he thought as another yawn tumbled out. Determined to fight the lethargy, Joe walked over to the water basin and poured some water into it, then splashed the cool water onto his face. Ahhh, he thought, this feels good. After toweling dry, he grabbed his saddlebag and key, unlocking the door as he went out. He had just made it to the stairs when he heard his name being called.
Joe turned around to see Tom coming out from the room across from his.
“You got a room!”
“Yep. Slept great last night.”
“Whatcha think of Kennedy?”
Looking around, Joe made sure the man wasn’t around before he answered, “I agree with what you said…he’s odd. Asked so many questions about if I knew certain people in this town. Strange.”
Tom’s eyes widened, “You to, huh? He did that with me to! What ya think he wanted?”
“Don’t know. Maybe he thought we were someone important,” Joe answered with a laugh. “So what brings you here to this town?”
A big grin splashed across Tom’s face as he answered, “I’m heading for California. My Pa died and left me some money, so I’m taking that and starting a new life there. Stopped here for a few days on my way there. I’ll be leaving the day after tomorrow.”
“That’s great Tom, just great.”
“What brings ya to New Mexico?”
“Down here to check out some horses. My Pa and brothers live on a ranch in Virginia City, Nevada and we’re always on the lookout for sturdy horses for the ranch. Heard about some horses that are supposed to be really good. So, I was sent down to check them out.”
“Cool! How long are you going to be around?”
Scratching his head, Joe answered, “Probably just tonight, then going back home tomorrow. Depends on whether or not these horses check out.” A loud clanging echoed through the house, causing Joe to jump. “What’s that noise?”
Laughing Tom pushed Joe towards a door to his left, “That’s the dinner bell calling us to breakfast. Let’s go eat!”
Immediately after breakfast, Joe gave his compliments to the cook, Mrs. Kennedy, and then departed for the Tyler ranch. The directions that Kennedy had given him were well written and with little difficulty he found the ranch. However, meeting up with Tyler on that particular day was impossible being as he was out visiting another ranch to the west. When Joe tried inquiring about when he was expected to be back, the answers given to him were vague. Even when he wanted to just look over the horses on his own, he was given various excuses why he couldn’t. After trying to find every reason possible to look at those horses, he gave up and angrily headed back towards town. By the time he reached the outskirts of town, Joe was in a foul mood from this apparent wasted trip to New Mexico. Settling his horse in at the stable, he stopped by the boarding house to grab something to eat before heading to the saloon. As he entered in through the front door, he passed by Mr. Kennedy on the way in. Again, he made a mental note of how strange the fellow was, as Mr. Kennedy turned his attention his way.
“Good evening, Mr. Cartwright. Did your business go well?”
Still irritated at the turn of events Joe didn’t really want to talk more than necessary, so he shook his head and answered with a short no. He slid his hat off and shook the dust off before heading up the stairs.
“Mr. Cartwright?” Kennedy called out, “Supper will be served in fifteen minutes.”
Not even bothering to acknowledge he heard, Joe disappeared up the stairs. As he passed by Tom’s room, he knocked on the door hoping to catch a word with him. There was no answer. But what was strange was that the door gave way slightly as he knocked. Carefully Joe pushed the door open to see that the room was bare. No sign of Tom ever being there. That’s weird, Joe thought. Puzzled, Joe went into his room and tossed his saddlebag and hat onto the bed then turned and locked the door behind him before heading downstairs for dinner.
An empty seat near Mr. Kennedy was open. As Joe slid into the seat, he asked a general question to those at the table. “Has anyone seen Tom today?” Most of the boarders either completely ignored Joe, or shrugged their shoulders as to where his friend could be. Determined, Joe asked again. This time, Mr. Kennedy stopped his talking with his wife and focused his attention on the young man sitting next to him.
“Mr. Jenkins packed his things and left this morning.”
“Huh?” Joe asked puzzlement apparent on his face. “But I thought he said he was staying another day?”
“Things change,” muttered Mr. Kennedy as he turned his back to Joe.
Scratching the back of his neck, Joe felt like something wasn’t quite adding up but he couldn’t put his finger on it. A nudge on his arm let him know that the dishes were being passed and he’d better pay attention. He put aside his thoughts and turned his attention to the wonderful food being passed around. His plate piled up with vegetables and meats, Joe reached over to drink his water when he noticed that his glass was empty. He was about to voice his displeasure when Mr. Kennedy jumped up from the table.
“Let me go fill that cup up for you right now, young man.”
From the corner of his eye Joe watched as the man disappeared into the kitchen. He was there for awhile before he returned, setting the glass down next to Joe’s plate. From then on Joe could sense Mr. Kennedy watching him, a feeling that Joe didn’t really like. He finished off the contents of his water as he let out a large yawn.
“Would you like something else to drink, Mr. Cartwright?”
“No thank you, I’m stuffed as it is.” He couldn’t help but groan with the amount of food he ate. Turning, he saw Mrs. Kennedy standing in the doorway. “This was delicious ma’am,” Joe praised, as he watched Mrs. Kennedy blush with the compliments.
Suddenly, feeling extraordinarily tired, Joe got up from his chair and stretched. He could feel another yawn following on the heels of the previous one. Not sure why he was so tired, he bid the other boarders a quick goodnight then headed up the stairs towards his room. Weaving down the hallway, he had to balance his hands on the walls so he wouldn’t fall. He couldn’t figure out why he was so exhausted, especially after he had such a good night’s sleep from the night before. That ride must have wiped him out more than he realized. One more yawn threatened to overtake him, just as he slid the key into the lock. He had barely enough time to shut the door behind him and stumble over to his bed. Within seconds, Joe was asleep.
Somewhere during the night, Joe began to have horrible dreams. It felt as though he was being dragged down several flights of stairs, and just as he struggled to wake up, he had the sensation of flying through the air. Joe was fighting to open his eyes when his body struck something hard and his dreams ended abruptly.
It was early the next morning when Joe awakened. Gone was the sunshine, in its place darkness. A heavy chilled darkness that left his body chilled and shivering. He felt as though he was in a hazy fog, with nothing really making sense. Part of the night he remembered was a bizarre dream, but those ended. Rolling over to his side, he groaned as he felt a wave of ice-cold air drape over his body. He reached down to pull up his covers. Patting around Joe realized that he had no blankets. Not only did he not have any blankets, but he wasn’t on his bed or in his room. Reaching down to tug on his night shirt, Joe’s mouth dropped open. He wasn’t wearing a night shirt. He wasn’t wearing anything!
Shocked by what he discovered, his eyes popped open as he tried to make sense in his confused head what was going on. He was laying butt naked on a cold floor with a draft blowing on him from somewhere. Shivering, Joe tried to sit up but was forced back down by the sudden onslaught of a throbbing head. As he moved his hand to the back of his head, he felt a knot that must have developed sometime during the night, which probably had something to do with his dreams last night. Slowly he tried lifting his head, but it felt as though someone was pounding it repeatedly with a hammer. Determined to get up off the floor, he held his head hoping that would help relieve the pressure. But as he got up, he felt briefly embarrassed about having no clothes on. He dropped his hands down in front of him, so that they covered him when he realized that was ridiculous considering the inky darkness. Even so he kept them there until he started moving around the room. Needing both hands to balance him in the darkened room, he slowly moved careful not to trip over the small items that lay at his feet. The farther he went, the more his eyes became adjusted to a light that was projecting itself from somewhere in the room. His eyes, now adjusted to the light, saw someone sitting near the fireplace.
“Hey you!” Joe cried out, as he shuffled across the room towards him. But as Joe got closer to the man, he realized that there is something wrong. There was no movement, and the way the man was sitting was strange. His hands appeared to be bound behind his back, and the man’s legs were buried beneath a pile of trash stacked high around him, with dried blood splashed all around and over his body. Still unable to see who it was, Joe leaned forward and in a flash of firelight, saw that it was Tom Jenkins. The boy from upstairs! Shocked, Joe stumbled backwards and became tangled up in cloth lying around on the floor. He fell down onto his hands and knees and scrambled away trying to make sense of what he saw. Tom? Kennedy said he had checked out. What’s going on here? Joe thought to himself, as tangled thoughts entered his head. Yet nothing seemed to be making sense, and it didn’t help any that the pounding in his head hadn’t diminished any. Standing there shivering, he realized that he was feeling warmth on his bared buttocks coming from roaring fireplace behind him. He turned and began to warm the rest of his body when he saw over by the hearth a stack of clothing. Curious as to whose clothing it was, Joe cautiously approached the stack and with a sigh of relief recognized his clothing on the top.
Joe leaned against a table that sat behind the body of Tom and began to get dressed. There were a few pots on the table that clanked together as Joe hit it while slipping his pants over his hips. Grabbing his boots, he was slipping them on, or more like tugging them on when one of the boots broke free from his grasp and flew onto an adjoining table. With a sigh, the now dressed man walked with one boot on and one boot off to retrieve it. As he grabbed his boot, a sight caused Joe to cry out. There on the table there were various sizes of bones laying on the far end of the table, some of them still had skin attached to them. It took only a second for Joe to realize they were human bones. Before he could turn away, he recognized a pair of hands and a part of the leg stacked up on the fair end of the table, the blood recently dried. The food that Joe had left in his stomach quickly disappeared as he retched where he was standing.
“Oh God! I must be in the gates of Hell!” Joe thought, as he wiped his mouth the queasiness not too far away. Just from looking around the room, Joe knew he had to find a way to escape. From the glow of the fireplace, he could barely make out the frame of the staircase. Wobbling that direction, he took special care not to step or trip on anything. He took one last glance towards Tom and quickly wished he hadn’t. Stumbling against the wall, his stomach once more gave way.
He was panting by the time the vomit had expelled itself from him. Determined to get out of the place, he stood at the bottom of the staircase and stared at the steep steps that led to freedom. With his head still pounding, he leaned against the stair railing, trying to rub the throb away. Then as the gathered some energy he silently began to take one step at a time, slowly making it up to top of the stairs where he carefully laid his ear next to the door. The doorknob just below his hand began to move.
“Delores! Where’s that saddlebag we got from that green-eyed fella?”
Joe couldn’t hear an answer, but could tell that there was someone else in the room also, as the same voice replied. “Not downstairs? Oh! Here it is. That red haired fellow was a gold mine. This one had almost $3,000…..” The doorknob that was slowly turning suddenly stopped. Joe sagged against the doorframe when he realized that who ever was on the other side of the door was gone. He stood there quietly for a second more then slowly turned the doorknob. With his hand firmly grasping it, he pushed the door open and grimaced when he heard it creak. But he was determined, and took a chance. He shoved the door open as the light came flooding in, surrounding the blinded man.
Joe stood there his eyes blinking rapidly as his eyes slowly focused on the room. He was standing in the middle of the kitchen. A sound behind him caused Joe to turn around abruptly, his body staggering as he watched Mr. Kennedy come bursting into the room and stop in front of him in stunned disbelief.
Mr. Kennedy began to mutter something under his breath as he turned to glare at Joe. “How did you get out of there? You can’t stay up here now; you know too much.” His thoughts were distracted as he lifted his arm, his hand and the knife it held drenched in blood. Without warning, Kennedy began advancing towards Joe swinging the knife through the air at him.
Stunned at the turn of events, Joe leaped into action by grabbing a cast iron frying pan with both hands from the stove and used it as a shield against the deadly weapon. Unfortunately, the adrenalin that had sent him into the room seemed to be leaving his body at a rapid pace. With every jab that Kennedy made, Joe was able to offset it with the heavy frying pan. However, the weight of the pan made standing difficult, and the headache that he thought had dissipated earlier was returning with a vengeance, causing Joe to quickly lose strength. With one quick slice through the air, Kennedy made it through Joe’s defenses and was able to slice Joe across his right forearm. Joe numbly watched as the pan fell to the floor, as he felt the edges of pain etch into his consciousness. Desperately his hands fumbled as he tried to pick up the pan, but by now the pain was sending tremors of pain coursing through his body. Unable to defend himself, he found himself lying prone on the floor, as he desperately tried to crawl away from the inevitable deadly attack from Kennedy’s knife. From the corner of his eye, he could see Mr. Kennedy raise the knife above his head and swing the knife down for the last blow.
Without warning, Kennedy dropped the knife and ran out of the room. Lifting his head in confusion, Joe could faintly hear the sound of a woman screaming, her voice echoing through out the house as he tried to sit up. Trying to rise up off the floor, the combined pains through his body caused Joe to end up sprawling out on the kitchen floor in a dead faint.
Slowly Joe woke, to the feeling of someone torturing his arm. Already in pain, he was confused and scared and determined not to die without a fight. So fight is what he did, struggling when suddenly he felt his arms being held down in a powerful clutch. The force holding him down was too strong for him to get out of when he heard a voice speaking to him.
“Whoa boy, lay still a moment. I’m not going to hurt you.”
Joe’s eyes opened and fastened on a man who hovered above him, a bruise already forming on his jaw. “Who are you?” Joe whispered.
“I’m a doctor,” the man replied. “Are you still going to try and fight me?” The doctor asked, as he looked down at Joe. The young man shook his head. The doctor let go of Joe, then sat down on the edge of the bed.
“I’m Dale Winters, the doctor in this area,” he explained. “You got yourself a nasty cut here on your forearm. I cleaned it out, and have been giving you medication to help wash the poison out of your system.”
Joe tried to move and was pleased to notice that the headache that had been plaguing him was gone. “What time is it?”
“It is Monday morning,” the doctor replied as he pulled the sheet up around Joe. “You’ve been here since yesterday morning.”
“That long? What happened? How did I get here?”
“Hold on a second, let me answer one question at a time here. First off,” the Dr. Winters said with a shake of his head, “you were one lucky man, son. If Mrs. Kennedy hadn’t screamed when she did, without a doubt you would have been dead on her kitchen floor.”
None of this was making sense. “Screamed? Where was she? I never saw her, so how did she know what was happening?”
“She wasn’t screaming for you; she was screaming because she found her baby dead upstairs. Her husband, Charles, had killed him.”
It was then that Joe remembered the horror from the previous day. The image of Kennedy with the knife that was wet from dripping blood standing over him caused him to shrink back in fear. He shuddered as the remembered the flash of pain that followed when Mr. Kennedy slashed at him.
“Where is he now?”
“Charles? He’s dead. The town got really mad at him when they discovered what he had been doing. Did you know that you were the latest victim of the Kennedy’s elaborate scheme in making money? Newcomers in town would stay with them, and if they had a large possession of money on them, they would never be seen again. Delores, that is Mrs. Kennedy, admitted that Charles would cut up the bodies and then burn them slowly bit by bit.” The doctor shook his head in disbelief as he continued, “The townspeople were so mad that this happened in their town that they grabbed Mr. Kennedy and hogtied him. Then if that wasn’t enough, they tied the ends of the rope onto a horse and dragged him through the town. Needless to say, when they called me out to examine him, he was dead.”
“What made Mrs. Kennedy tell on her husband?”
“Strange,” the doctor commented, “but apparently killing innocent people who drifted into town didn’t bother her. It went too far when Charles killed Joshua, her newborn baby. That is when she realized she had enough killing.”
“So what’s going to happen to her?”
“Delores? I don’t know what will happen with her. The sheriff has her locked up in a cell right now, trying to figure out what to do with her.” Pulling loose Joe’s arm from beneath the covers, he checked the young man’s pulse. “Good strong pulse you have there. Let me check out your arm.” With the injured arm lying on top of the sheets, the doctor began to loosen the bandages and began to tenderly probe the cut.
“Did I have to have any stitches, doc?” Joe asked, as he squirmed under the doctor’s attention.
“Yep, you got three stitches.” Rewrapping the wound, the doctor patted Joe on the shoulder before he got up. “How is your head doing?”
“Much better now. It was killing me yesterday, though; what did they do to me?”
“They slipped a heavy dose of sleeping powder in your drink, which in turn knocked you out. Then your fall to the floor appeared to have knocked you out for a couple of hours, but other than a knot on your head you should be okay.”
“Yea, I knew I was tired, but I don’t remember anything after supper.” He was feeling pretty good, especially in comparison to the previous two days. “So doc, when can I leave?”
“Anytime you feel like it; figure I can’t tie you to that bed. Although to be on the safe side it would be better if you had a few more days of bed rest.”
“I think it’s time for me to head home. Uh, by the way, what happened….uh….to…..in the basement….uh…..”
“What happened to the young man that was down in the basement?”
Wiping his hand across his face, the doctor shook his head. “That was the worst thing I had seen in my life.” Looking off into space, he waited a moment before continuing, “The young man, what was left of him, we buried in the cemetery just outside of town. Tom was his name, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, Tom Jenkins.”
With nothing more to say, the doctor left the room leaving Joe to his own thoughts. He lay there for a few minutes when he realized that he couldn’t stay in this town a moment longer. The further he was the better. Tossing the covers back, he grimaced slightly as he felt the slivers of pain shoot up his arm. He gasped and caught his breath as he slid his legs out onto the floor. He wasn’t expecting the pain, but despite it, he was determined to leave. As he stood to his feet a wave of dizziness passed over him, but he ignored it as he slipped his shirt on, a new one placed there for his use. One thing he was glad of as he stood, and that was that he didn’t have to put on his boots or pants. Completely dressed, he walked into the examining room where the doctor was working at his desk.
“Say Doc, I wanted to thank you for what you did.”
Turning around, the doctor looked over at the man facing him. “You were a lucky one, son. Someone was looking out for you yesterday. Before you leave,” the doctor said as he tossed his pencil on his desk, “let me open this drawer here. Hold on a moment.” He tugged on his stubborn drawer and freed it, then pulled out two gun belts. “We found these on the floor in a closet by the kitchen. I didn’t know which one was yours, so I kept both.”
Looking at the two gun belts, Joe could easily identify his. The pearl handle and the left holster fitted especially for him were lying below the other one. Recognizing the other, he lifted it and handed it back to the doctor. “This one is Tom’s. I remember it, because of this notch on the side. Told me at supper the night before he disappeared that is where a bullet had creased by him. Said he was a lucky dude. Apparently his luck ran out.” He didn’t know what else to say, so he said nothing.
“I’m really sorry for everything that happened to you here. The town is paying for your medical bills, and will pay for your lodging also if you want to stay. Oh,” he said with a start, “the sheriff has your other belongings over at the jail. Go see him before you leave town.”
Joe nodded and stretched out his good arm. “Thanks doc for fixing me up.”
“No problem, son. Those stitches in a few days will just drop out, so don’t worry about them none.”
With the words of advice from the doctor, Joe left the doctor’s office and headed down to the sheriff’s office. There he claimed his saddle bag, and provided proof that the three thousand dollars was his. He didn’t hang around very long, despite the sheriff’s urge for him to stay. Joe couldn’t stay. There were too many memories in this place, for the short length of time he was there. He couldn’t stay. He was heading home, to his Pa and his brothers. With his saddle bag slung over the back of the horse, he mounted his horse and led it to the north. Off in the distance, he could see the cemetery, with three freshly dug graves. With his eyes misting, Joe said a silent prayer for Tom as he slowly rode out of town and headed for home.
Author’s Note: While reading about ghost towns in the west, I came across this town located in Northern New Mexico. The following is an excerpt from what I read about Elizabethtown from the website listed below. –“ Elizabethtown – a post office was established in 1868. Charles Kennedy ran a boarding house there and when newcomers would come they would soon disappear. Charles was killing them and would take their valuables before burning the bodies bit by bit. His wife confessed after he killed their newborn son. The town was so enraged that they tied a rope around his neck and dragged him by horse up and down Main Street long after he was dead. The town died out in 1901”.