A Glibertarians Exclusive: Mystical Child Part IX
From the diary of Robert “Cairo Bob” Allen, 1841-1928
November 25, 1886 –The Tomb
Sam’s dead as a doornail, and here at the tomb, it’s just me. But at least the weather broke. Still cold as hell, but the sun’s out and the wind died down. I made one trip on foot over to the spruce and brought back some pieces of dry wood, then got a bright idea and took both pack horses over, loaded them up with spruce branches and some bark off a dead tree for kindling. There’s plenty of rock about, and with the axe I managed to pry out enough flat rock to make a flat fireplace about five feet by three feet, off the ice and snow, right at the base of the entrance to the tomb. By noon I had a roaring, big fire going, and the ice was starting to rot. I took one of the horses over for another load of firewood, and when I got back, the ice was melting away fast. I let the horse rest and took up the axe.
November 25, 1886
Bob sat, watching the ice melt. He had attacked the ice with the axe on and off through the day, but it was apparent that the fire was doing most of the work. As the ice melted, he could see the flat boulder enclosing the tomb more clearly.
That’s a damn heavy rock, he thought, peering through the smoke and flames. Going to have to wait until the fire’s gone out, maybe hitch one or both of the pack horses to it, pull it over.
The sun was growing low in the sky again. Bob dragged Evans’ body away from the fire and away from the lean-to and piled some loose brush over him; he had no desire to sleep next to a corpse.
Bob slept well that night, with the campfire and the roaring blaze at the tomb entry to keep him warm. He got up several times through the night to feed both fires, but otherwise passed the first reasonably comfortable night he had spent at the tomb.
In the morning, in the first light of the weak winter sun, he let the fire at the tomb die down. Most of the ice is gone, he noted. With the axe, he chopped away the remaining fragments.
Bob touched the flat stone barrier. It was still warm to the touch, but not hot enough to hurt. He put on his leather gauntlets, grabbed the top of the boulder, and pulled. The rock did not budge.
Should have known that wouldn’t work, he reminded himself. All right, then, I’ll try the other way.
The pack horses had no collars for pulling, but Bob managed to loop a length of rope around a small projection at the top of the flat boulder and made the ends of the rope fast to the pack saddles, hoping that would be enough.
It was. Bob walked around to the animal’s heads, took hold of their bridles, one in each hand. “All right,” he said, “Git ‘er up. Come on,” he said, pulling the bridles.
The horses drew the rope taut, straining a little. The flat rock shifted, sank a little into the wet earth, then slowly – ever so slowly, at first, then suddenly – fell over.
“Good,” Bob said, patting each horse’s nose in turn. He suddenly remembered something he had seen among Evan’s gear, went looking in the man’s saddlebags – yes, there were some cubes of sugar. He gave a couple to each horse before untying the rope. He picketed both horses in a new stand of dry grass.
Then, Bob went back to the tomb.
Well, he thought, this is it, sure as hell.
He looked inside the open tomb, but it was too dark to see. A brand from the campfire did for that, and finally, at long last, Bob entered the Spaniard’s tomb.
The chamber was small, maybe eight feet deep, six feet across, and five feet high; Bob had to crouch a little to go in. The floor of the tomb was dusty and dry.
There was nothing on the floor. In the back of the tomb, there was a hole, partially obscured with what was left of some kind of wooden cover.
Bob stepped to the hole and pushed the cover out of the way. He held the brand so he could see down into the hole.
No gold. No jewels. No silver. No nothing. Just some dry bones and scraps of cloth.
“Son of a bitch,” Bob muttered.
Feeling a little ghoulish, he moved the skull aside. Nothing. He rooted through the scattered bones, through the scraps of cloth that disintegrated almost on touch.
“Nothing,” he said. “God damn it.”
Bob went back outside. He looked at the campfire, at the makeshift shelter, and then at Evans’ wrapped body, not far away. Cursing softly, he picked up the coffee pot, packed it full of snow, and set it on the fire.
He squatted morosely by the fire, waiting for the coffee to boil. His eyes kept drifting back to Evans’ body.
Well, Bob thought, he’s dead. My Ma would have cut a switch and took a lick out of me if I’d have spoke ill of the dead, and I suppose she had a point. But damned if he didn’t leave me in a hell of a spot. All the way up here in Canada, probably illegal to boot, and no damn gold or nothing.
I suppose he thought he was doing me a good turn. But damned if it ended up that way. I’m no closer to getting Isis back than I was before I set out.
Then he looked up, at the pack horses and Evans’ saddle horse, at Evans’ traps laying near the lean-to, the rifle leaning on Evan’s saddle under the lean-to. He remembered Evans had a little Smith & Wesson sixgun in one of his coat pockets. I didn’t even ask him if he had any kin, Bob realized. Wonder if he has anything in his pockets, might give some clue. If he has any folks, they’d probably care to know what happened to him.
Damned if I know what I was thinking, leaving Carson City to chase this here wild goose. One thing, at least – spare as things is, I’m coming out of it better than Evans, and that’s for sure and for certain.
The coffee boiled. Bob set about putting some venison on the fire to warm up, tossed in a little bacon to give it some heft. He looked around again. Might come out of this a tad better than broke, he realized, presuming I make it back to Boise.
Reckon I’ll spend the night here, he thought. Sleep a bit warmer just inside that tomb, anyway, with a fire at the entrance. Then tomorrow I’ll load everything up, light out for the border. Snuck two of us up here past the Mounties, reckon I can sneak back by myself.
I broke into the tomb, but the casket was empty.
There was no jewels no nothing I felt I’d been had.
When I saw that my partner was just being friendly.
When I took up his offer I must-a been mad.