Word count 577
An episode tag for The Experiment
Murdoch was well and truly in a pucker with me and Scott. Don’t know why he was laying the blame on us, we weren’t the ones who killed Kells.
Scott had tried to say that, but Murdoch growled he’d talk to us when he was back from burying Billy. We had to stay and clean up the camp.
I toed the dirt with my boot and looked up at him. “Where are you doing the burying?”
Murdoch let out a breath, like maybe letting go of his temper. “I’m going to take him to the undertaker in Green River and he’ll get a proper burial in the graveyard there.”
I stood and watched as he drove the wagon, loaded with a body wrapped in a blanket, away. Scott nudged me. “Come on Johnny the sooner we close this place down the better.”
A week later I was in Morro Coyo to place an order at Senor Baldermeros store, I saw old Senor Guillermo drawing water from the well. The memory came back to me then clear as if it were yesterday.
I’d watched Billy and the other prisoners acting like tontos checking if any faces were from my gunfighting days. They weren’t, but the guard though reminded me of a deputy I’d come across years back, so I’d pulled my hat low as I leaned down on the corral fence resting my chin on my hands.
Wasn’t until I came across Billy at the well I got a close look at him and a vague memory of maybe our paths crossing when I was a lonesome kid. Couldn’t pin it down then, but in Morro Coyo looking at that well I remembered when I was a skinny stray kid earning a meal by carrying water for the village curandera. ‘Cept Billy Kells wasn’t called that then, he was Guille, and he ran with the gang of village boys. Back then I was Juanito and not long escaped from the orphanage. I kept my distance from the boys and didn’t go looking for trouble, or draw too much attention, not that I didn’t face it down if it came my way.
‘Course like boys in those villages do they tried me, I was a stray on their patch needing to be taught who was in charge. Even though I was outnumbered I held my own and gave the men of the village quite a show to bet on.
Didn’t stick around there long enough to get to know Billy ‘cos that was where I partnered up with Val and went off travelling.
I placed the Lancer order with Senor Baldermos but instead of going straight back home as demanded by the tune caller I went to Green River and found the new grave. There was a simple wooden cross carved with the name Billy Kells and the date of his death.
I took off my hat and looked down at the mound of fresh earth. “I remember you Billy when you were a kid called Guille. Sorry, you ended up here, guess it was too late for Murdoch to set you on the straight road he’s got me travelling on.”
Got torn off a strip when I was late home and didn’t tell why. I reckoned Murdoch didn’t need to know, it’s the past and gone, don’t change the here and now.
Also a prologue to the Surrogate Father series.
2017/Amended September 2022
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