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May 20 12 12:29 PM
LexiCrowegrapher to the
i'd rather regret the things i've donethan the things i did not do.
May 20 12 2:35 PM
Isobel1013 wrote:The Padre is very adept at getting his wanton flock of sinners to drop to their knees and take communion, praise God almighty!
May 20 12 3:17 PM
Priestess of the Sex God
Wantons, the confessional is open. If you have something naughty to confess, speak slowly, so I can hear every detail...ahem. - Cort
May 20 12 3:55 PM
Crowe Crossing MemberBen Perver
May 20 12 8:42 PM
May 23 12 2:42 PM
May 25 12 11:38 AM
May 25 12 5:28 PM
May 28 12 11:56 AM
Killer – part 4
Rosarita, Arizona – 1883
Cort woke with a start and reflexively reached for a pistol
he wasn’t wearing.
In a moment, his half-sleeping mind worked out that the
morning sun had stabbed his eye and woke him as it moved down the bed, streaming
through the thick velvet curtains that cast Lilly’s bedroom in a warm red glow.
Well, Rosa’s bedroom…for now at least.
He breathed deeply and relaxed back into the soft pillows.
Visions from last night settled around him like the sparkling dust motes
illuminated by the sunbeam, full of sweet lovemaking, intimate reminiscing, and
very little sleep. Cort was exhausted, even a little sore, but so happy he felt
drunk. He honestly couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so good.
his childhood love; alive and well and in his arms. If the devil had asked, he
would have gladly sold his soul to make it so. Maybe he just did.
Cort drowsed in hazy comfort, cradled by the deep feather mattress
awash in the commingled scents of their bodies. It amazed him how easy it was
to pick up with Rosa where they’d left off so long ago, like the time they’d
spent apart had never truly existed, even with all that they’d both endured;
how life’s travails had changed them from the children they once were into the
man and woman they were today.
How long had it been since he had talked to a soul that he truly
trusted? Someone that he cared for? Someone who knew him to his core? He
marveled at the lightness of his spirit. It felt like a whole new world was opening
up, full of possibilities. And it made him heartsick to think of the long
lonely years he’d spent surrounded by rough strangers who didn’t care if he
lived or died, if they weren’t overtly trying to kill him in the first place.
The thought made him greedy for more.
“Mmm…honey,” he purred, reached over to Rosa’s
side of the bed, and found it empty. His heart leapt in his chest and his eyes
shot open. “Rosa?”
“Here, amor,” came
her voice from the bedside.
Cort rolled to peer over the edge of the bed, and was
surprised to find her kneeling, a little candle lit on the nightstand before
her, rosary beads wrapped around her hand. She wore her robe of red silk and
He reached for her hand, which she took and kissed.
“You still pray?” he wondered aloud.
She nodded a little shyly. “It has been a long time, but I
felt I should give thanks today.”
Sliding out of bed, Cort knelt down on the carpet behind
her, wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her into his body. The cool silk
of her robe against his naked skin felt sinfully pleasurable. Cort kissed the
back of her neck, then her lips when she turned to offer them.
Rosa breathed against his
mouth quietly, “I don’t know if God hears my prayers, but la Madre always does. They say the Magdalene was a whore and our
Savior forgave her.”
Cort opened his eyes to look into hers, so full of love. “They
say Jesus loved her best. Made the other disciples jealous.” He cupped her face
in his hand, ran a thumb across her full bottom lip, and gave her a wicked grin.
“Can’t imagine why.”
It made her blush. “That is blasphemous.”
He smiled more, as his hands found the flesh of her pert
backside and kneaded, “I’m a sinner.”
Rosa drew her arms around
his neck, reminded in a teasing tone, “You always went to church with me.”
“I wasn’t there for the praying,” Cort confessed, his hands
still exploring. “I went to watch you take that little communion wafer between
those pretty lips.”
Rosa sighed with pleasure
when his seeking tongue stole into her welcoming mouth with his kiss. But when
she looked at him again, her dark eyes were full of longing. “It’s been so long
since I’ve been to church…to confession.”
He smoothed the long dark hair back from her face,
considered her seriously. “I’ll take you if you want to go,” he breathed. “And
if the place don’t fall on us, I’ll ask the Padre to marry us, too.”
Her eyes sparkled at the suggestion, and Cort took her mouth
in a deep and urgent kiss. Standing, he drew her to her feet, opened the ties
of her robe, and eased her back in the soft feather bed. Climbing in over her
body, he stopped his advance when he sensed her reticence.
“What’s wrong, Rosa?” he
She hid her eyes from him. “I’m already married, Cort.”
Cort sighed and slid to her side. Drawing her into his arms,
he remembered Lilly’s words of warning last night, steeled himself to ask the
question and hear the answer.
“What happened to you Rosa? How did you end up in Juarez? Won’t you tell me?” He took her chin between his
fingers and looked deep into her eyes. “You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of
with me. Anything you’ve done, I’ve done worse. I’ll always love you.”
She closed her eyes, as if drawing strength from his words.
He heard the low susurration of her breath in the quiet morning.
“What's his name, your husband?” he prodded gently, gave
her a place to start.
“Hernan Miguel de Aguilar,” she breathed his name like a
curse. When she looked into Cort’s eyes again, they burned with hatred. “My
father chose him for me after you…died. Hernan came from a noble family. Papa
wanted someone to take over the rancho, be his foreman. But he found Hernan was
a spoiled child of privilege, never made to work, only wanted to drink and
gamble. Hernan had a noble family name, but no money. It was all he wanted of
Rosa looked away, and he
could tell she was lost in her memories. When she looked at him again, tears
stood in her eyes.
“I had a child, Cort,” she whispered so low he could barely
hear her words. “A baby girl.”
“She was so beautiful, my Katarina. But she was so tiny, born
too soon.” Her brow knit in pain at the memory. “When my husband came to me in
the birthing bed, and I gave him his child, he slapped my face because she was
not a boy.”
Cort’s breath exhaled and his brows furrowed. He closed his
eyes against the painful thought and touched her face, as if to heal the blow
from so long ago. “That bastard,” he cursed.
“She lived only two weeks, died in her cradle.”
“Lo siento,” Cort
breathed, kissed her cheek. “I’m so sorry, darlin’.”
She sighed as tears coursed down her cheeks. “I used to
curse God for taking my baby from me, but now I am grateful that she is safe in
heaven with la Madre. She would never
be safe with Hernan.”
Cort felt his anger rise at Don Ricardo, the man who tried
to kill him and let another man take Rosa from
him. “Your father let him do this to you?”
“Papa died soon after my wedding,” she explained. “Fell from
his horse and broke his neck.”
“Don Rico fell off his horse?” Cort wondered aloud. It
didn’t make sense. “He was born on a horse. I never saw a better rider.”
Her only response was an arched brow.
It hurt Cort to ask, and he knew it would hurt her to tell
him, but he needed to hear the words. “Rosa, your
husband…tell me what he did to you.”
She considered her words carefully, and her voice seemed far
away and monotone when she finally spoke again.
“After my father died, men came to collect money from Hernan
for gambling. It was Salazar. They beat him, and secretly I was glad. I hoped
they would kill him. But instead of protecting me, Hernan let them take me to
pay his debt, to the casa de putas.”
Cort’s head spun. He knew the story well enough, had played
his own part in it time and again as Herod’s right hand. But he still couldn’t
fathom such a fate for Rosa. “He sold you out
to a bordello? To save his own worthless hide?”
She nodded, and her eyes looked so empty. She’d gone
somewhere deep inside, hiding from the pain.
“At first I was afraid, so ashamed, still grieving for my
child and my father. I wanted to die. But Salazar was good to me, gave me
laudanum. I came to enjoy taking men into my bed. It made me feel powerful and
numb. Every man I had was revenge for what he’d done to me. The shame was his,
Cort was shocked, but not sure why. He’d heard Lilly say
much the same thing once long ago.
“Salazar heard me sing one night, and then he put me on the
stage. After that, I didn’t have to go with men anymore, and I didn’t need the
medicine. I brought more money into his place than the putas. I regained a little honor.”
While his thoughts raced, Rosa
touched the bullet at Cort’s throat, fingered it idly. “You must make me a
He started to attention from his racing thoughts. “Anything.”
Rosa’s beautiful eyes became
cold and deadly. “I don’t know if he’s still alive, but if you ever meet my
husband, I want you to kill him.”
Cort swallowed. Grasping her shoulder, he looked into her
eyes when he made the vow: “I promise, Rosa. If
the bastard is still breathing, I’ll kill him for what he’s done to you…if it
takes the rest of my life.”
After a moment’s consideration, he took the bullet on the
leather thong from around his neck, and pulled it over his head. Careful of her
long hair, he lowered it around Rosa’s neck.
“Wear this, honey,” he said. “Every man who sees it will
know you’re my woman: Killer’s woman.” His green eyes were narrow and certain. “And
they’ll know what’ll happen if they touch you.”
“Cort…Killer,” she breathed, raised her lips to be kissed. “Te amo.”
“Te amo,” he breathed
in answer and took her mouth to drink her breath.
They made love again to seal their vow, until the bright morning
sunbeam moved from one edge of the high white feather bed to the other. And
when they’d found fulfillment in each other’s arms, Cort remembered the thought,
the instinct that had woken him.
He was without his weapon because he went unarmed to John
Herod’s house for dinner last night, left it in the hotel across the street
where he lived. Without it, he felt vulnerable and exposed, worse than naked; like
he’d lost a limb. And now he had something precious to protect, something other
men would want enough to kill for.
Finding his clothes by the bed, he dressed without care and
checked the watch in his pocket. It was nearly nine. John Herod’s men would
still be sleeping off their drunks from last night, but Rosarita’s decent folk
would be awake and going about their day’s work.
From the hidden waistcoat pocket, Cort withdrew the little
two-shot Derringer, considered it in his hand, and leaned to put it into Rosa’s.
“No sense bringing a knife to a gunfight, darlin’. Take this
and keep it with you,” he whispered as he leaned for another kiss. “You get
some rest now. I’ll be back in a little while.”
* * *
Cort watched as a wagon passed, and loped across the dusty
street, the sun already bringing the temperature to near 90 degrees. The
Rosarita Hotel was the tallest structure in town, its high vaulted Victorian turret
dominated the town courtyard making it the third major landmark in town, after
Herod’s house and the Blue Bonnet. It was painted bright white, with gold
highlights on its filigree woodwork that glinted in the morning sun.
An adobe building with thick walls would provide a cooler refuge
than his second story room in the wooden building, but as it was the only hotel
in town, he didn’t have much choice.
His boots sounded hollow on the wooden sidewalk as he
climbed the stairs. Inside, the lobby was bright and cheerful, with upholstered
settees and ferns in oriental pots on wrought iron stands. It always seemed
comical to him, the quixotic attempt to bring the trappings of civilization to
this wild and reckless place. Some people had more money than sense.
At the front desk, Mr. Carlton, the balding weasel-faced
hotelier, looked up from his paperwork. Cort watched his eyes dart to the clock
on the wall, marked the hour. He peered down his nose at him through his wire
“Good morning Mr. Davis,” he said. “Working late again?”
Cort didn’t like his superior tone, was in no mood for it
today. As there were no ladies present, he told him so. “Fuck you, Carlton.”
Through the doorway that opened to the restaurant off the
lobby, Cort was surprised to see John Herod sitting at a corner table, sipping
coffee, his breakfast plate already cleaned.
“Morning, Killer,” he called from behind his cup. “I thought
you’d be in a better mood than that this fine day.”
Sitting among the other diners, even in his fine tailored
suit, Herod stood out like a fox in a hen house.
“John.” Cort nodded in greeting and crossed the lobby to
meet him. He suddenly wished he’d left his Derringer in his pocket.
The restaurant was cheerful like the lobby, with red checkered
cloths on the tables. When John gestured to the chair across from him, Cort folded
his long body down to sit.
“You looking for me?” he asked casually, though a surprise
visit from Herod was never a welcome prospect. “Everything all right?”
Herod grinned like a proud papa. “You didn’t come back to
your room last night, so I assume it is.”
The waiter came and refilled Herod’s coffee, poured a cup
for the newcomer.
Cort’s brows arched. “Keeping tabs on me?” he asked.
“I know everything that goes on in this town,” Herod smiled coldly. “So tell me
Killer, how was she?”
Cort drank his coffee and gave him a look that told him he had
no intention of answering the question.
John let the awkward silence hang in the air for a long
moment. “Don’t I get an answer, Cort? Did I go to all the trouble and expense to
bring your lady fair all this way for nothing?”
“Rosa said you brought her
here for me,” Cort stated plainly. “What is she, a present?”
Herod chuckled his greasy laugh. “Something like that. You
ought to know, it pays to ride with me. And when you’ve got all the money you
can steal, what else can I offer you? I’m a man of resources, Cort. I know
there’s more to you than money. You love the ladies, and they love you. But like
me, you’re a man of taste and discrimination. I’ve taught you well and you were
smart enough to learn. You don’t want just any whore…so I found your special
Cort worked to contain his flaring temper. “She’s not a
whore, she’s a singer.”
“I bought her, Cort. She’s a whore.”
“That ain’t no fault of hers and you know it.”
Herod shook his head, as if the fact made him sad, and
sipped his coffee. “They all are, when it comes down to it. Even when you marry
He knew John was thinking about his own wife, a beautiful
woman who gave him a son. But she was unfaithful. And now she was dead.
Cort’s voice was low and dangerous, and his eyes burned with
“John, if you think I’m going to sit back and watch while
you turn Rosa out with the rest of the girls…”
Herod held up a halting hand. “Whoa, Killer. Hold your
fire,” he laughed. “She’s for you, son…exclusively. Though I did hope to profit
from her talent for a time. Let her sing, class the place up a little. I paid
enough for her.”
Hearing the words from John’s lips made Cort exhale a breath
he didn’t know he’d been holding, but it didn’t ease his worries completely.
“How much?” Cort asked. “I’ll reimburse you. You know I have
“Now, Cort,” John grinned his devil’s grin and sipped his
coffee. “I wouldn’t hear of it. Call it an investment…in our future together.”
So that was it, just as Cort imagined. Rosa
was Herod’s leverage to keep him here in Rosarita, keep him happy, keep him
quiet and doing his dirty work, living under his thumb.
“I want to marry her, John.”
John dabbed his lips on his napkin, smiled behind it. “She’s
already married, but you know that. Her husband’s the one who sold her out.”
“She told me,” he said, though it still hurt, hearing the
shameful words from Herod’s lips. “Do you know? Is that bastard still breathing?”
“Cause if he is, I want him. I’m gonna kill him.”
“Don’t get distracted, Killer.”
Cort leaned over the table, made his tone deadly serious, a
warning. “And I’ll kill any man in this town who touches her. That’s a
Herod blinked. Cort saw it: his tell. John was the first
completely fearless man he’d ever met, but now, at this moment, he was
afraid…of him. It made them both smile.
John lowered his voice in the crowded café. “Keep your mind
on business, Cort. We have work to do. The army payroll to Fort Huachuca
comes through next week, and I want it.”
Cort’s arrow straight brows rose. “You want to take on the
“It’s just Wells Fargo, like any other stage.”
“And the Pinkertons,” Cort added factually.
“Old news,” Herod grinned confidently. “Take a few days, get
reacquainted with your sweetheart, but then I want you to take the boys south
and collect that payroll. I have the schedule.”
“How did you get that?”
Herod wiped his hands on his napkin and set it over his
plate, looking amused. “On my way to Mexico, I happened upon a lost mailbag.
Imagine my fortune.”
Cort scowled. “Robbing the mail and the army is a federal
offense. It’ll bring the Marshalls
down on us.”
“If they catch you, they’ll hang you either way. But we’ll
talk about it later, go over the plan.” John looked into his eyes. “I want you
to run this one, Killer.”
Cort was surprised. “You’re not coming?”
“You’re ready,” he said. “And you owe me.”
Cort considered his words for a moment, and nodded. “All right.”
He stood, rapped his knuckles on the table. “You’re a man of resources, John. Find
Rosa’s husband for me and I’ll owe you more.”
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