A Glibertarians Exclusive: Mystical Child Part IV
From the diary of Robert “Cairo Bob” Allen, 1841-1928
November 17, 1886 – Somewhere in the Canadian Rockies
Cold up here, in Canada. Never been up in these parts before, and I see now why. In November back in South Carolina when I was a boy, can’t hardly remember even wearing a jacket in November, but up here, even in the saddle and moving, I’m bundled up in damn near every piece of clothing I own, and wrapped up in a blanket to boot. Sleeping isn’t easy, either. Especially since we aren’t up here legal and don’t want to draw attention to ourselves, so we’re only making small fires to cook at night. Reminds me of back during the War of the Northern Aggression, when we were raiding up into Yankee territory. Not rightly sure how folk can live in a climate like this.
It was nearing sundown on the fifth day.
The two men had snuck across the border into Canada two days before. Bob’s skills as a cavalry scout stood them in good stead; they had once spent a half-hour hiding in a small copse of trees as a patrol of Mounties went past, but they had neatly evaded the Canucks. “J.E.B. Stuart couldn’t have done her any better,” Sam Evans observed, which made Bob grin.
But that had been some time since, and the weather turning worse.
“Five days,” Bob groused from the saddle. “Five days since we left Boise. Just keeps getting colder every damn day.”
“This here sure as hell ain’t Dixie,” Evans agreed easily. He let out an audible gasp as a gust of wind drove snow into his thin coat. A coughing fit seized him. “Wish I’d thought to have bought a better coat. I been through these parts once before, but that was in summer.”
“Here.” Bob untied a spare blanket from his saddle and reached across to hand it to Evans. “Can’t have you catching the grippe or something and dyin’ before we find this here dead Spaniard.”
“I sure do thank you,” Evans said, wrapping the old wool blanket around his shoulders. “Damned if it ain’t as cold as a Yankee banker’s heart up here. But I’ll get you to where we’re going, don’t you worry none – you got my word on that.”
“Dark soon,” Bob pointed out. “See that line of trees ahead? Must be a creek. Good place to shelter for the night.”
“Looks like,” Evans said.
An hour later, the horses were tended, and Bob was stirring a small pot of beans over a cavalryman’s fire. He was mulling over the comment he had made to Evans earlier in the day, about Evans dying of the grippe. On the other side of the fire Evans was squatting, cutting up chunks of bacon to go into the beans. Another coughing fit seized him as Bob watched.
At least the snow’s stopped, Bob thought. The sun was gone; Bob looked up at the glimmering, ice-chip stars shining through gaps in the clouds.
“Say,” Bob said at last, “you do know where we’re headed, right?”
“Think so,” Evans said. He took out a dirty handkerchief and wiped his mouth with it. “About another forty miles or so – call it two day’s ride. The Nez Perce I talked to called it what amounts to “straight-sided mountain” or “cone mountain.” The one I talked to didn’t know exactly how to savvy it in English. But when I had passed through these parts the summer before, I do remember seeing a mountain, straight sided, looked just like one of them ancient pyramids over Egypt way. Say, you were there; ever see them things for-real?”
“Couple times,” Bob replied. “Some big ones not far from Cairo. I was there a few times. That’s where I picked up the ‘Cairo Bob’ handle.”
“Well, this here mountain, she looked just like the pyramids I saw once in a picture book. We’ve got some nasty badlands to ride through, but as long as the weather doesn’t get worse, I reckon we’ll be all right.”
“So how are we supposed to find this Spaniard’s grave, anyway?”
“Now that’s the interesting part,” Evans said. “The Indian said he didn’t rightly see the man himself, you understand. But on the east side of the mountain, there’s a big stone mostly blocking a cave entrance, and there’s a Spanish cross carved into the stone. That’s how we’ll know where it is.”
“So, all we have to do Is move that stone, and the grave’s inside?”
“That’s how I see it,” Evans agreed. “Grave, tomb, whatever.”
“I sure do hope you’re right about all this.”
Bob stirred the bacon Evans had cut up into the beans. After a little while, they were ready to eat. Each man had a tin plate and a spoon. They divvied up the beans and bacon and ate in contemplative silence.
When they were done, Evans offered to wash up the dishes in the creek. He gathered everything up and walked the few paces to the little stream. Bob could hear the pot and plates clattering as Evans dunked them in the cold water. Bob could also hear Evans coughing again.
Wonder if he’s consumptive? Bob shook his head. Reckon not. Everyone I ever heard of with the consumption couldn’t hardly eat. Say the flesh just melts right off them. This Evans, whatever ails him, it ain’t that.
Presently Evans came back. He handed Bob his plate and spoon. With an old field soldier’s care, Bob tilted them towards the fire so he could look them over. They looked clean enough, so he stowed them in his saddlebag while Evans stowed the pot and his own eating gear. He knew all too well how dirty eating gear could make a man sick, and he had no desire to pick up a case of the quickstep in this weather.
“Two more days ride, you say,” Bob asked.
Evans nodded. He rolled another cigarette, lit it with a brand from the fire, and took a long, contented drag. “Two more, maybe a day finding the grave.”
“And then, what, a week getting back? Figure on going back to Boise?”
“Sure,” Evans said. “There’s enough mining in the area, I figure we should be able to cash in the gold. We can always melt it down into chunks, so they don’t suspect we stole it. Ought to be able to make it look like credible nuggets.”
“Won’t folks wonder when we don’t file any claims?”
“I doubt it,” Evans assured Bob. “Claims office isn’t even in the same building as the assay office. Even if someone did wonder, we’ll be long gone by the time they put it all together.”
“You say so.”
Evans took another drag on the cigarette. “I reckon we’ll be back to civilization by, oh, third or fourth of December. Not that long.”
“Well,” Bob said, “that ain’t the worst news I ever heard.”
They rolled up in bedrolls to sleep close beside the fire. As he was drifting off, Bob heard Evans coughing again.
We set out that night for the cold in the North.
I gave him a blanket, and he gave me his word.
I said, “Where are we going?” He said, “We’ll be back by the fourth.”
I said, “That’s the best news that I’ve ever heard.”