Short Affair challenge (Hostile. Silver)
Illya meets a cowboy who keeps his back
Illya meets a cowboy who keeps his back
Small Blazing SaddleSunday, a day of rest. Illya was running – just for the pleasure of it rather than from necessity – feeling the grass under his feet, the sun on his head and a sense of peace.
From the window of a high apartment overlooking the park, there was a flash, the gleam of a pair of binoculars.
“Is that the one?”
“Looks like him. Difficult to tell in a tracksuit; I’ve only seen him in a suit and tie.”
“Let me see… yes. Blond hair – that’s the one who got my brother. Send the signal.”
As Illya drew level with the road, he became aware of a car moving slowly, keeping pace with him at a slight distance. He casually glanced behind him and observing that the road was clear, suddenly darted across it and into the narrow street opposite. Being Sunday, it was lined with the parked cars of residents. He bent double and, keeping moving, considered his options.
The car reversed and turned into the street in pursuit. When it passed him, he was crouched down, hidden on the steps that led down to a basement apartment, but started when someone tapped him on the shoulder and in high-pitched tones cried, “Hey, mister, are you hiding from injuns?”
He looked up as a diminutive figure dressed in a cowboy outfit waved a silver pistol in his face.
“Injuns?” he said.
“Yeah, they’re everywhere.”
“Are they hostile?”
“Injuns are always hostile. I shoot first, and ask questions after.”
“That’s quite bloodthirsty – what if they’re innocent?”
“They’re never innocent. What kind of cowboy are you?”
“I don’t know. What kind do I look like?”
“We’ell, not a proper one. Where’s your gun? And your cayuse?”
“The gun is hidden.” He didn’t exactly know what a cayuse was, and suspected the boy didn’t either, so avoided the question.
“Where’s it hidden?” said the importunate cowboy, meeting the blue stare with total equanimity.
“That’s for me to know.”
The boy considered this, and looked him over. “No pockets… no holster. Must be strapped round your ankle.”
Bright kid, he thought sourly. “OK, cowboy. I’m undercover,” he confessed. “They’re after me, I need to hide.”
“Oh boy! Who?”
“You can hide with us. My Mom’s cooking breakfast in the ranch – want some?”
Illya brightened. “Yeah, guess ah do,” he said in the proper cowboy manner.
Some mothers take it amiss when their small son brings an unexpected guest home for breakfast. This one was certainly taken aback but, after appraising him, she was inclined to welcome the visitor. He looked harmless despite an unshaven chin and untidy hair, and his tracksuit, though sweat-stained, matched her own somewhat informal early-morning attire. So, with that and similarly unbrushed hair, they both looked a mess which made objection a little redundant.
He nevertheless apologised for the intrusion, and said, “Your husband…? I don’t want to take his breakfast.”
“My husband is a doctor – he’s working. It’s just Junior and me – you’re welcome to join us.”
“Can I call you Slim?” piped up Junior.
“If you want to. What shall I call you?”
“Duke. I’m the Sheriff. We’ll go get those injuns when we’ve eaten.”
“Billy! The gentleman doesn’t want to play your games.”
Trust a mother to put a damper on a Sheriff’s activities. “He’s not a gentleman, he’s an undercover cowboy. This ain’t no game, lady,” squeaked Duke.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “he doesn’t have many friends his age in the neighbourhood.”
“It’s OK, he saved me from an encounter I was trying to avoid.”
“Oh, I know, the kind of people you just don’t want to see when you’re having a quiet day – they always appear, don’t they.”
Illya smiled and started to eat.
Before leaving, he helped to dry the dishes.
“Say, can I go with you?” asked Billy.
Illya shook his head. “I’m going to run back across the park,” he said. “You wouldn’t be able to keep up.”
“I could get ma mustang,” he drawled, but his mother intervened.
“Oh, Billy. The gentleman has things to do.”
“I’ll go as far as the park, then, and check on the injuns,” he said firmly.
Billy went out ahead of Illya, who whispered conspiratorially, “Look out for a big green stage-coach, full of injuns, Duke. Do you see one anywhere?”
At the end of the road, he asked again, and again it was clear.
“OK, Duke. Thanks, partner. Guess I’ll mosey on home now.” Adept at learning new languages, he had picked that one up from an afternoon watching one of the cowboy series that seemed to be the sole output of some TV channels.
Billy followed him at a distance, cantering cowboy-style, as Illya headed across the park, but ran hard to catch up when he saw him suddenly slump to the ground. He found him bleeding from a wound in his back. Illya looked into the boy’s frightened eyes and whispered, “Billy, get the pen in my sock.” Billy retrieved it silently, and seeing a real gun in the ankle holster, gulped.
“Take the top off and turn it over. Say ‘Open Channel D, emergency.’ Tell them where we are.” Illya closed his eyes.
Napoleon, also alerted, arrived at the same time as the medics, and watched as his friend was taken away, then turned to the small boy.
“Was it you made the call?”
Billy looked up anxiously, “Yeah, it was me. Will Slim be OK? He looked real bad.”
“Slim. He’s ma deputy. I have to watch his back.”
Napoleon smiled, “He’ll be fine, thanks to you.”
With the return of confidence, Duke relaxed a little and, narrowing his eyes, said, “They got him. Someday, I’ll get even.”
Napoleon clapped him on the shoulder. “Sure you will. Now, can I escort you back to the homestead?”
“OK. Mom gave Slim his breakfast. There might be some left,” he said doubtfully.
Note: Injun is, of course, a pejorative term. This is set in the politically-incorrect 1960s and no offence is intended to Native Americans.