Sung Home: Chapter Forty Five. {fiction}

Frank took the lead as we wended our way through the deteriorating streets as quietly as possible.

Silver City looked much like Deming had, nearly a year and half ago, some sections completely destroyed, as if bombed, and some areas relatively whole. The horses found it easier going through the areas with less debris, so I was glad when our route wound through a fairly intact neighborhood.

Victorio had moved up to ride next to Frank, Tochuku rode several paces behind them, and Ching Shih and I brought up the rear. All of us swiveled our heads — right, left, forward, look behind, right, left, and so on, vigilant for the slightest sign of trouble. Even Tochuku maintained a high level of alertness, despite his notorious tendency to wander into mental distraction.

A sudden rushing sound emanated from a street to the north and we all halted tensely. Yowls and frenetic barking broke out as one pack of feral dogs encountered another. Frank turned to us and tilted his head in the opposite direction from the dogs, indicating that we needed to get out of there before they came our way.

The Monks had warned us about the dogs, saying that in a pack they wouldn’t hesitate to attack a horse. We turned south at the next intersection, the snarling and barking diminishing.

The tall building that Matthew had described loomed just a few blocks away, indicating the center of the Makers’ compound. I saw Frank slip his hand inside his jacket pocket to find the letter of introduction.

Victorio and Frank rounded the corner ahead just as Beans reared suddenly. I barely kept my seat as she kept stepping oddly backwards as if trying to avoid something. As I swung off her back while holding the reins tightly, I saw the problem: her foot was hurt. Speaking soothingly into her ear, I finally convinced her to let me look at it.

At first I couldn’t see anything, but then the moon glinted on something clear and shiny, stuck just along the edge of her shoe. Glass. Ching Shih had dismounted as well and helped me hold her foot so we could pull the glass free. Tochuku turned back towards us to see what the fuss was about.

Just then an uproarious shouting erupted a couple of blocks east, exactly where Frank and Victorio disappeared. Horses neighed in alarm as the human tumult grew more frantic. Without a thought I shoved my horse’s reins into Ching Shih’s free hand and sprinted down the street, staying as close as I could to the buildings I passed for any cover they might give me.

I rounded the corner and could finally see the source of the sounds when someone tackled me to the ground.

“For Christ’s sake, be quiet!” Frank hissed into my ear as he clamped one hand over my mouth. He had tied his horse to the same bit of fence that hid us from full view of the brouhaha ahead. Eyes popping out of my head, I jerked my mouth free of his hand.

“Where’s Victorio?” I whispered fiercely.

“There,” said Frank, nodding in the direction of the crowd.

“Let me up!” I hissed.

“I’ll let you get up slowly, but you can’t go darting down the street after him or they’ll just get you too.” Frank growled.

“Okay, okay, I’ll be quiet but we gotta go see at least, right?”

“Yes, we do but you’ve got to promise you’ll stay out of sight. It won’t do him any good if you’re captured.”

“Got it, got it! Now get off me.”

Frank eased his grip very gradually, watching my face closely.

Once his weight was off me, I rose slowly to demonstrate my reliability.

“Let’s go down this alley. We’ll leave the horse here,” said Frank.

Using our best hunter’s stealth, we made our way down the alley that led to the street where the altercation was in progress.

Peeking around the edge of a house, we saw four people on horses and two people on foot being pulled behind them, bound by long ropes. A squirming, crying child was held by one of the riders. The two mounted people who did not have other people attached to their horses confronted one another directly. Victorio was of course one of them.

Suddenly three more horses and riders rounded a corner to the east. I hoped like crazy that they were people who would be on Victorio’s side in this standoff, or at least not against him, but they weren’t. The new arrivals quickly surrounded Victorio, one of them cracking him on the head with a club. As Victorio’s body fell forward on his horse, one of the riders dismounted and pulled him off.

My heart thundered like a thousand stampeding bisons as Frank wrapped his arms around me like a vise, one hand clamping again onto my mouth. I watched helplessly as two men draped Victorio’s limp body over his horse and tied him securely to it with thick ropes. One of them turned towards Frank and me, the full moon lighting up his features and frame nearly as clearly as the noon-day sun.

A man I recognized.

It was Lem. My throat opened in a scream, despite the hand over my mouth, but fortunately the sound stayed mostly in my throat, and the bit that escaped was drowned out by the sounds of the horses and yelling men.

Soon, the entire party departed, heading north with their two original captives trotting behind the horses they were tied to in order to keep from being dragged. Frank eased his grip on me, allowing me out of the confines of his arms.

“Back there,” I said, nodding in the direction of Tochuku and Ching Shih.

“Let’s go try to find them. I hope there aren’t any other Slavers around now.”

After retrieving Frank’s horse, we found our two remaining traveling companions and the three horses tucked into a little fenced yard behind a house, just steps away from where I had left them.

Frank shot Ching Shih a chastising look and she responded, “She bolted like lightning. I wasn’t going to leave him alone,” tilting her head at Tochuku.

After we had filled them in on events, we debated what to do next.

“We have to go after him,” I insisted.

“Not yet. We can’t go now. They’ll expect us,” countered Frank.

“You’re the one that let him get caught,” I shot angrily.

“No, I wasn’t. He went ahead of me while I took a piss. I told him to wait. They got him at the intersection. They didn’t see me, but of course they won’t assume he was traveling alone.”

“We have to get him,” I repeated, my voice rising. “That was Lem. The guy I told you about. One of Darian’s gang. He was tying Victorio to the horse.”

My three companions gaped at me, comprehension dawning.

Suddenly Ching Shih and Frank were at either side of me, each holding on to one arm each, firmly.

Ching Shih spoke to me in a low voice, “Listen, little sister, we have to be careful. On my honor, we’re not going to abandon Victorio. But if we want to be successful, we have to be mindful, right?”

I nodded mutely.

“I think we should continue on to the Makers’ place. They may be able to help us. In fact, those were probably two Maker people they had. They may want our help too,” said Frank.

“That’s a good plan,” concurred Ching Shih, “but they’re going to be pretty wound up right now if some of their people just got taken.”

“Well, I guess we’re just going to have to be extra careful,” said Frank, “and for crying out loud, would everybody stick together?”

Tochuku appeared stunned by the whole thing, eyes wide, glancing about fearfully, clearly in no mood to debate anything.We all remounted, Frank taking the lead as we made our way along our originally planned route, Frank extending his letter in front of him like a flag of surrender.

This is an ongoing series from a forthcoming fiction novel by Laura Ramnarace.
Tune in weekly for the next chapter in ‘Sung Home’.


Laura Ramnarace, M.A. was driven to earn a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution while on her quest to find out why we can’t just all get along. She has published a book on inter-personal conflict, ‘Getting Along: The Wild, Wacky World of Human Relationship’, published a newspaper column also titled ‘Getting Along’, and submits regularly to Rebelle Society. Since 1999, she has provided training to a wide variety of groups on improving personal, working and inter-group relationships. ‘Sung Home’ is a work of eco-fiction set in southwestern New Mexico.


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