top of page

Brother Against Brother, Chapter 11

Chapter 11 © 2018 Steven D. Shepard

Doc Lanning

Doc Lanning sat at his desk holding his cigar in one hand and tapping on his makeshift desk with the other. What had just happened with Mrs. Ivey had been interesting. But over much too quickly for him. If he had more time and more privacy, he would have liked to have entertained her a while longer. Very interesting woman. He had women take him their mouths before, but most of them did so clumsy and with great reluctance. In fact, they usually had to be forced. As he tapped out this recent memory, he was trying to think of the last time. There was that whore over in Memphis and then the black gal down in New Orleans. Yeah, New Orleans didn't go well. He got a little carried away with that one and he ended up tying her down in a swamp. Pity. He didn't mean for that to happen. But Doc always did have a bad luck with women.

In fact, one of the reasons Doc had kept moving south and then west across the country was because he left a trail of damaged women behind him. Some he had left in a family way. More than once his prurient habits had forced him to abandon potential markets. It had been that way ever since he got into the peddling business. But peddling was the only thing he knew how to do, ever since he got kicked out of Columbia Medical School for his drinking and whoring habits. That certainly was a memory. It wasn't that he didn't make grades. In fact, Doc was pretty good at school. But he was better at pulling all nighters and frequenting every pub and tavern New York City could offer. What was amazing was he could stay drunk for three days and still keep up. One day, he showed up for lecture with a whore he met the night before. He left the whore sitting out in the hall while he made the lecture. His plan was to catch his classes and then take her back to the dorm room for another romp. It was about that time Columbia had enough.

When he got called into the Dean's office there were two big men sitting in chairs outside the Dean's office door. They looked at him briefly as he approached and there was no friendliness in their faces as their gaze followed him. Lanning went inside and got dressed down and dismissed by the Dean pretty quick. Then he was told he needed to get off campus immediately. When he walked out the door, the two men stood up and aligned themselves on either side of him. For a moment Doc thought he was going to have to fight them. But one of the men looked him in the eye and then pointed towards the exit. Doc took the hint and as he made his exit the two men walked close behind. They escorted him out and off campus. They wouldn't even let him go back to the dorm to get his stuff.

Doc couldn't go back home and face the family in Pennsylvania. So he bummed around New York for several years, living off his wits as best he could. A lot of those years were financed by playing cards and smuggling tobacco and whiskey into New York without paying tariffs and taxes. That work had a danger to it, but it paid well and allowed Doc time off when he didn't feel like working. But he got on bad terms with the Irish mob in New York for not delivering on time, not delivering full loads and not paying suppliers like he should. When he got jumped by two Micks one night outside a bar, he had to beat the crap out of both of them just to get away. Lanning knew then his time in New York was over. To stay would have been suicide. They would have got him sooner or later. So Doc cruised over to New Jersey and stayed as far away from Manhattan as possible.

Doc was in a game in Trenton one night when he won his peddler wagon in a poker game from an older fellow who had it special built and used it for several years. Beating the old boy at poker was not much of challenge because the man was already stupid drunk. But Doc didn't bother trying to sell the crap medicine the old peddler had been using. He mixed up his own concoction with whiskey, opium, cannabis oil and honey. Doc's elixir had a kick and some medical benefit to it. If it didn't cure your headache, it damn sure would give you one if you had too much of it. Doc experimented with the drug on himself, keeping careful records of which combination of the four ingredients was the most palatable while delivering the best kick. When he got the formula he liked, he memorized it and then repeated it hundreds of times. He had some funds remaining and used that money to buy as many bottles and drugs as he could fit into the wagon and still move it. Then Doc hit the road. When the folks in New Jersey found out that Doc's elixir could and would provide some relief from common ailments, the formula sold well. Doc could have gone into production and made an industry of it. But he met this eighteen year old gal outside Trenton and he got more of her than he should have. Knocked the girl up too. Her father and family came out after him one night looking for Doc Lanning with shotguns and bad intentions. One of Doc's drinking buddies gave him a heads up warning and told him if he had a brain in his head he would get the hell out of Trenton. Doc didn't need to be told twice, he rigged up his team of horses and got out town as quickly as possible. He had been on the move every since.

When the war started, Doc got a new motivation to keep moving. When South Carolina opened up on Ft. Sumter, Doc was in Richmond, Virginia. He hung around Richmond as long as he thought he could, but when it became obvious the Union Army was going to use Virginia as a battleground for most of the war, Doc wanted nothing to do with it. So he began his migration south as a way to avoid the conflict. He considered going back north where he was from, but he dreaded the cold weather. When Doc heard and read about the federal draft, he wanted no part of that or either army. Doc figured that if he could keep moving, he could dodge the draft and any potential shooting war. This strategy might allow him to miss the whole shebang and this war would be over before anybody even noticed him.

Doc did manage to avoid most of the war. Mostly his journey across the southern states had been entertaining and interesting. Doc's modus operandi became one where he would head for the next urban center, stop in town and set up right behind his colorful wagon and start hawking his wares. He got lucky at first. Someone had seen him up in Trenton when they bought a bottle there. This satisfied customer announced out loud that he had tried Doc's potion, it worked and he wanted more. That was all it took to get business rolling again in the new location. But the further Doc went south and west, the smaller the towns became. And smaller returns. Doc's problem was, he tended to exhaust his market if not his supply, pretty quick. When hawking just stopped producing, he would pack up and move on. The odd thing was, he never got rich but he always seemed to have money on him. Until he left New Orleans.

Atlanta was profitable, but not a welcoming community. The Baptists there didn't take to peddlers or strangers. It was hard going at first to gain any acceptance for his product or him, but eventually when the pecker-woods tried the product and found it useful if not intoxicating, they came back for more. However, most of them did so when their neighbors weren't around to see them do it. In fact, it was not uncommon for potential customers to come around Doc's wagon at night when they thought no one was watching. It was odd behavior and their skulking got on Doc's nerves. But he maintained a diplomatic demeanor that included his best manners and a big smile. Atlanta also was good place to stock up on ingredients for his elixir. It helped the town was a railroad hub for the entire south. Doc spent a lot of his time there mixing, bottling and creating inventory. It was necessary. He wasn't sure what the bottle or ingredient supply was going to be like the further south he went. He was wise enough to make camp outside of town and that was a good thing. His chemical operations soon exceeded the capacity of the wagon and he ended up boiling, cooking, mixing and bottling outside. It was difficult to maintain sanitary conditions, but Doc had a lot of practice at it. The cooked cannabis and opium smell was terrible and it traveled well. After a couple of days of cooking the local Sheriff showed up and asked him what he was doing and why he was doing it in Fulton County. There were no laws against what Doc was doing, but the Sheriff decided he didn't like Doc or his work. And he strongly suggested Doc move along as soon as possible. Atlanta was probably the only location Doc had to leave before he had a chance to meet and taste the hospitality of the local females. He regretted that.

But Doc really liked New Orleans. It was a hoot. New Orleans was his kind of town and he enjoyed the hell out of it. The Big Easy was the next big city he had come to since he left Atlanta. Unlike dour Atlanta, New Orleans was so much more alive, busy and bustling. People were always coming and going just like he remembered in New York. Unfortunately, soldiers were also coming and going. Doc met this young mulatto whore in New Orleans and he took an immediate liking to her. She was a cream colored beauty with big brown eyes. With points all her own sitting way up firm and high. Diane was happy and lusty. And the woman was a human dynamo in his cot. Doc had met women all across his long journey south, but most of them were country girls who didn't know any better than to get mixed up with him. But that mulatto, she was nothing like Doc had ever met or seen before. The woman seemed to be able to hold her whiskey better than Doc could. He tried to keep up with her one night. He hurt so bad the next day, he never tried again. Even better, Diane had a big wide smile, quick laugh, warm breasts, full hips and a cruel wit. If the woman had any education at all, she would have been dangerous. She was also an excellent source of cannabis and other drugs that Doc needed to make elixir. The drugs he needed came into port on a regular basis from the Caribbean. Diane often had a marijuana cigarette dangling from her mouth. The woman always seemed to be in some state of joyful inebriation from something. But all her high did was make her happy and horny. Doc was happy to oblige. They were together for many months and were becoming an item on Bourbon Street in the clubs they both like to frequent for drinks and meals. Diane and Doc scandalized whiskey street because in New Orleans plenty of men had black whores, but they didn't flaunt them out in public in broad daylight or take them out to dinner like Doc did. When the white barkeeps and waiters saw them coming, they refused them service. But the black porters always made sure their glasses were full and they got a good meal.

Doc worked New Orleans hard. He had to. His and Diane's habits required it. She moved into the wagon with Doc, but all that meant is she brought her three changes of clothes and her bad habits with her. Doc had to rent a room once a week just so the two of them could get cleaned up and wash some clothes. The only place that even let them in were the black dives in the Ninth Ward. The other blacks living there took them in like family and treated them like they belonged there and had always been one of them. If he had time, Doc would reciprocate by providing what little medical service he could to Diane's friends and family for free. It was all going pretty fast and hard until the Union Navy showed up one morning near port at the loading docks. And the shooting started.

More than one hundred Union ships arrived that day transporting over thirty thousand infantry soldiers of the northern Army of the Gulf. That force was already off loading men onto the docks where they took up positions that would soon engulf the entire city. Some members of the southern Army of the Trans-Mississippi were in and around town, but they were a confused group of militia who were caught completely off guard. None of the Confederates knew what they were doing or where they were going. They didn't know where their command was or what their orders were. All the men knew to do was start shooting with their small arms and running like hell. That is exactly what they did. For a while, it was bloody street to street guerrilla warfare that sent frightened civilians scattering and wounded soldiers bleeding. The dazed contingent of southern fighters was soon overwhelmed and run out of town into the swamps west of town. The victory in town made it unnecessary for the Union Navy to shell military positions in the city. So New Orleans was saved any serious infrastructure destruction. The destruction of the city culture would come soon enough. West of town, Lieutenant General Richard Taylor gathered a body of the Confederates together into a defensive force. The Confederates put up such a fight using the woods for cover they forced the Yankees to stay in town. Attempting to pursue this small force into the swamp proved to be costly, deadly and difficult. But New Orleans is what the Union Army wanted all along, so they stayed in town and took control of the Mississippi River. They let the Confederates have the swamps. The invasion Louisiana of had begun.

It was by sheer chance that Doc Lanning had the wagon team already harnessed up and ready to go that day. It had been his plan early that morning to drive over to the north side of town near Lake Pontchartrain and hawk over there near the plank house suburbs away from Bourbon Street and the downtown area. He had not tried any other side of town since he got there. Diane was still asleep in the cot inside the wagon, hung over from the night before. When the shooting started, she never even heard it. Doc sure heard it. He heard the too familiar crash of cannon shot and a fifty caliber mini-ball singing over his head. And that was all Doc needed or wanted to hear. Doc scrambled up in the wagon seat and whipped the team away from the invaders and the shot. The crash and rolling of the wagon on the dirt streets woke Diane and it was all she could do to keep herself from being thrown around inside the wagon like a steel ball inside a tin can. Doc ended up taking the west road out of town. Not by choice, but because that is where the flood of fleeing humanity took him and the wagon. He drove the team hard, he didn't stop and give the poor lathered horses any breath until it was almost dark. By the time he did stop, he was so far into the woods he was lost. Doc had no idea where they were and where he was going. Most of the human tide that started all around him had fled into the woods or away from his position. There wasn't even anyone around for him to ask where the hell they were. After he stopped, Diane nearly fell out of the back of the wagon cursing and screaming. She was plenty mad. When she saw they were in the middle of nowhere and not in New Orleans, she got even madder. Doc tolerated her ranting for a while. In fact, he was so concerned about their current predicament, he ignored her and didn't even notice what she was going on about. The more Doc ignored Diane, the more enraged she got at him. Her hangover and hunger kicked in and fueled her rage even further. Then she picked a dead tree limb off the ground and started after him. She missed her first swing and that was her last mistake.

Self defense woke up in Doc. He never did tolerate nonsense from a woman. Doc caught Diane by the throat with his big right hand and slapped away the limb from her with his left. Without even realizing what he was doing, he lifted her up off the ground with his right hand, clenching her slender brown throat tight in his huge right hand. Diane grabbed and scratched at his hand and wrist with both her hands, trying to break his grip and get loose while her feet frantically peddled in the air, trying to gain some traction and kick Doc away from her. But it was no use. Doc's grip had caught her between breaths and she had little or no air to work with. She started passing out quickly. She had Doc mad now. He didn't know or care that he should or when he needed to stop choking her. His strong right hand soon crushed her trachea. Diane's eyes and tongue bulged out of her face, then rolled into the back of her head and she was gone. When she stopped struggling entirely, Doc dropped her to the ground like a twenty-five pound sack of potatoes. As she lay there in a dark pile, it sadly occurred to Doc he was going to have to get rid of her. That was a shame.

Stones are not real common in south Louisiana. In fact, you have to search far and wide for them. There is plenty of red clay dirt and it's easy to dig into. Until you get to the tree roots. A fresh grave dug anywhere near the road would have to be shallow it would soon get noticed. There was no way of dragging her into the jungle and burying Diane's body there. The trees and under brush were much too thick. That under brush was full of thorns and varmints and it would have torn Doc to pieces even trying. But out of the brush, nearly all around him he could see the swamp water that seemed to be everywhere the forest wasn't. The foul black water sat pooled and still in and around the bell bottom glades of cypress trees and foliage. The majestic tall cypress trees flourished in these pools with long hanging weaves of Spanish Moss that hung from their limbs like gray mesh drapes. In fact, as the sun set and the shadows stretched from these giants it gave the entire area an eerie and spooky look and feel that Doc didn't know and didn't like. But he knew he could dump a body into that swamp water and the gators and turtles would dispose of it even before she started to smell. Doc fetched what little rope he had out of the wagon and took most of his clothes off. He put his boots back on. It was much too dangerous to walk out into that water barefoot. There was no telling what he might step on and there was a definite chance he could step on a snake. He tied a lead around both her feet and dragged Diane's body off the road which was the only high ground in sight. When they hit the water her body pulled easy, almost floating. The water started out shallow and was easy to wade. But it soon got deeper as Doc dragged Diane's body slowly along feeling his way along the slimy bottom. Sure enough, he had to avoid a deep black pit in the water that threatened to suck both of them down under. Wading around this pit he stepped on something that slithered quickly out from under his boot. He told himself it was probably a catfish, because he just didn't want to think it was anything worse. The further he went out the black water intruded and seeped into Diane's body filling up her mouth, nose, lungs, stomach and other body cavities. Her clothes started to water log and she got heavier and harder to drag. Doc only went as far out so he could not see the road and the wagon. Then he stopped, wrapped the rope around Diane's dead body, sunk her in a deep pool. Stepping on her, he tied her to two cypress knees so she would stay down. And Doc got the hell out of there.

As Doc tapped on his desk remembering the journey that brought him to the edge of nowhere in Shreveport, Louisiana, he decided it was time for his cigar. He didn't like to smoke inside the wagon. Cigars left a smell that just would not go away. That smell might discourage any potential female guests from joining him inside again. As he stepped outside, it was after lunch. There was plenty of day left to do some hawking and maybe make some money. The west end of Texas Avenue might produce some business. He had to do something. He wasn't broke, but he was running short of funds. When he considered his finances and the female guest today, it occurred to him he probably was not going to be able to stay in Shreveport very long. It was very possible that Mrs. Ivey still had a Mr. Ivey. Or family somewhere. She didn't favor much, but she was a smart woman. He could tell. And in Doc's experience, the smart ones caused more trouble than dumb country girls. The dumb ones usually took their licking, put up with it and kept their mouths shut. No matter how much he packed and stretched them. But the smart ones, they're trouble. They tended to hold a grudge for being poked without their permission. They could figure out a way to get you for it. That was not good. The more he thought about it, he decided it might be a better idea to drive the wagon on over to Bossier City. The River crossing might give him some cushion and time to escape if anyone came looking for him. While in Bossier, he could try and catch a card game in one of the saloons. Doc walked across the road to the livery stable where he had left his team. The workers had give the horses a good feed and water and they were already out in a pen chasing each other. Doc leaned on the pen fence and watched the huge nags frolic for while. It had been some time since his horses got to relax and stretch. But it was time to go. Doc started rounding them up one by one and taking them back to the wagon with a lead rope. He harnessed them all up himself. He had so much practice, it was second nature by now. It wasn't too long before Doc, the horses and the big wooden oval wagon were clopping across the Texas Avenue bridge into Bossier City. As the heavy wagon passed over, the bridge groaned and swayed with the strain on the worn clapboards Doc looked down from the bridge and he thought he saw Betty Ivey sitting on the steps in the back of a little plank house. Whoever it was, she moved and Doc lost sight of her.

It didn't take Doc long to roam Bossier City and figure out where he wanted to go. The village wasn't big enough to get lost in. All it was was a crude, mean hovel spread out along a dirt road to the east. It was laid out like the businesses and homes didn't even want to be close to each other. Quite unlike most of the cities and urban centers Doc had passed through in the last three years. In fact, the village was a disappointment. There was a small downtown area of about ten wooden buildings. Beyond that, most of pubs and saloons were run down shacks that required a drive or walk down dusty roads and through the woods to get to them. It didn't take Doc long to figure out that Sacks was the best joint in town. Had it not been standing so isolated and alone by itself like it was, it would rival anything Doc saw in New Orleans. The building was a well built two structure with Victorian flair that was in conflict with the dense forest that surrounded it. By the time Doc decided to land at Sacks, it was dinner time and Doc's stomach was talking to him. He had enough cash on him to buy a dinner and a drink. After that he wasn't sure what he was going to do. He parked the wagon in the plentiful shade and slapped the horses. They would be fine. They had their dinner. Doc walked the oval plank deck into Sacks. The heavy wooden doors were propped open. Just as soon as Doc walked in the resident piano player started his night shift and he made music float in the cool night air. The bar smelled of cigars, whiskey, cat hall women and fine leather. To Doc, it smelled like home.

Doc got a table and one of the barkeeps got to him immediately. Tom Hopkins still had a clean shirt and apron on because it was too early to have messed it up yet. He had a towel over his arm just like they do in the fancy restaurants in New Orleans. He met Doc with courtesy and a smile and asked, “What's your pleasure Sir?” Doc appreciated his professionalism considering where they were. So it was a pleasure to order a whiskey and get his evening meal rolling. After he had a large steak and fresh vegetables, Doc sat a while sipping on a good whiskey. He had already noticed a pair of men sitting at a table across the saloon and they were doing the same thing he was. But they glanced out the window they sat near. They did this often like they were expecting or looking for someone. Doc was sipping on his second drink, when the someones showed up. Three more burly men in dirty boots walked in the door and went straight to the table with the pair. Doc tried to size these men up, trying to decide what they were and what they do. It was hard to say. The men were dressed coarse like riders, but they weren't cowboys. Doc could tell that. For one thing, they didn't bring the smell of cows in with them. They looked hard like they might be bandits. But Doc didn't know Louisiana bandits that well. So he wasn't sure. After the table of five got a bottle and glasses, one of the original pair pulled out a deck of cards and a game got started. And that was what Doc had been waiting for.

Doc paid for his meal and was pleasantly surprised with the price. He stood up and put his hat and coat back on. He took his time. He brushed at his shirt and pants to make sure there was no food crumbs on them, stroked at his thick mustache until he thought he was ready. Then he strolled slowly over to the table of five men and put his hands up to his chest holding them on the lapel of his long coat. He smiled his friendliest smile at the men and addressed them politely. “Gentlemen, I couldn't help but notice that you had a friendly game of cards going. I just wanted to ask if I could join you? I truly enjoy card playing myself.” All five of the men looked up from the table at Doc and none of them returned his smile or said a word. In fact, they looked at him like they resented the interruption. There was an awkward moment of silence as Doc waited for a response. The men looked Doc up and down trying to figure out what he was and what he wanted. Doc noticed slow minds usually operate in that way. But it would have been rude and ugly to turn Doc down, so the response they gave him was to scoot their chairs away making a hole at the table. So Doc could pull another one up. Doc took the hint and grabbed a chair from the next table. He parked it between two of the men where he could get dealt a hand. The men shuffled a bit to get used to having a stranger come in, but eventually they got back to their game and business at hand. One of them slid a spare glass over to Doc and the man to his left poured him a shot. Doc responded by raising his glass and offering a “Many thanks.” He drained the shot quickly. The other card players watched Doc down his drink from the corners of their eyes. It was a good sign when a man tried to get drunk quick. The liquor made it easier to beat him at cards. But the five were making a serious mistake with Doc Lanning. Doc didn't like getting stinking drunk and he could hold his liquor just as well as any man. Better than most. Especially when he had something to concentrate on like a card game.

Doc anted up and the game got going without much conversation. The men didn't know Doc, so they ceased discussing whatever it was they were discussing before he showed up. No one bothered with introductions. The lack of common courtesy was a bit uncomfortable but Doc soon figured out these men had something to hide and they were keeping it to themselves. The game continued like expected. Doc played his hands like he was accustomed. He lost in the first few rounds. He did this deliberately to size up his competitors and to suck them in. It usually made them think he was no good at poker and they loosened up. Doc's ruse was starting to work again like it had so many times before. The men were starting to feel their liquor and they started smiling and hacking on each other. Conversation about who was winning and who was losing produced some humor and they all seemed to be enjoying the game. About 10:00 PM Doc decided it was time to move and he started memorizing cards and playing them like he knew how. And Doc was good. He started winning the pot and he didn't let up like he usually did. Usually Doc understood that it was not a good idea to drain his competitors right away. In better days Doc would start winning, back off and then come back strong, winning again after the other players started getting too drunk to notice. Tonight was different. Doc's low finance level made him greedy and he got after this band of country boys pretty quick. By 11:30 PM, Doc had a pile of money at his elbows and he was looking at a pack of resentful faces across the table from himself. One of those faces was getting pretty agitated and it started growling about Doc's good luck. Doc ignored him and tried to maintain a polite and professional demeanor. But just the same, he moved his belt knife up around his waist so it would be easy to get to if he needed it. Doc never carried a gun, but that was no reason to think he couldn't use one. He had several in the wagon. He just didn't think a gentleman should carry one. If he ever needed a gun, Doc could shoot the eye out of a squirrel.

Then, the agitated card player started getting angry at Doc's luck. One of the other men urged the man to calm down and reminded him it was just a game. But Doc had over fifty of his Yankee dollars now. That money was hard to come by. The agitated man's name was Bill. This was no place for last names. Bill had already broke a sweat over his losses and that made him take his hat off to try and cool his head. But the table was full of cards, whiskey and elbows and there was no room to place his hat. So he slapped at his thigh with it while trying to hold his cards with his other hand. He was already too drunk to know he could have hung the hat on the back of his chair stem. Bill winced at the hand of cards he was holding now and he knew it was a bad set. About that time he got the idea in his head that Doc was cheating. But Doc wasn't cheating. He didn't have to.

The sweat was running into Bill's eyes and the salt bothered him. He mopped his brow with the back of his hand and thought about the fact that at that moment everything was bothering him. Even that damned piano music. He slapped his leg with his hat again. When Doc threw down another hand with two Aces and two Queens it was all Bill could take. Bill jumped up and threw the table over at Doc spilling money, cards, whiskey and bottles. The other men jumped back like they knew it was coming and most of them saved the drinks in their hands. Doc didn't know it was coming, but he had seen this act before. When the table flipped at Doc, he slapped it away with his big paw, then he jumped up out of his chair. Now the table was no barrier, Bill come at Doc fast with bad intentions. His first mistake was trying Doc with his fists. Doc caught the rushing man and easily spun him around and away across the barroom floor. This maneuver surprised the man and made Bill even more angry. He had no idea how Doc had spun him across the floor but he wasn't going to allow a dude to shame him in front of his own compadres. The other men were out of their chairs now. They all backed away to let the two fighters have at it. But the bartenders were not so idle. Sack's bartenders had been taught and trained not to allow this kind of behavior and trouble in Sacks. And they leapt into action.

Tom Hopkins grabbed a wooden ax handle out from under the bar and he jumped over the bar to get at the two combatants. Tom's partner went for a shotgun. Tom got to the two men first, just as Bill was launching his next attack. But Bill never made it to Doc. Tom Hopkins clubbed Bill on the back of his neck near his head. The blow dropped the man to the ground and seriously stunned him. Despite this hard knock, Bill still tried to get up and respond. As Bill tried to pick himself up on hands and knees Hopkins gave him a swift kick to the ribs that knocked the air out of him and Bill dropped face first flat to the floor. Doc backed away with his hands raised in the air and let the bartender do his job. He also didn't want any of that ax handle. Tom turned and figured out Doc wasn't going to be a problem so he let him be. Then he turned to the four other men.

Pointing his ax handle at them he said, “You boys pick Bill up and get him out of here. And don't any of you come back tonight. I mean it!” The men shuffled a bit and made out like they were going to pick up some of the spilled money off the floor. Tom Hopkins pointed his handle at them again and shouted, “LEAVE THE POT!” And just to make Tom's point, the other bartender cocked the scatter gun close and loud. Everyone heard the metal click of the shotgun. So the men walked around Doc and the bartenders warily, picked Bill up off the floor and started dragging him to the door. Bill had his arms around two of their shoulders, but he made them stop. He turned back to Doc and shouted, “Stranger, you're a dead man!” The men forced Bill out the front door and into the night. After they were gone Tom told Doc, “Pick up your winnings and go.” Doc didn't have to be told twice. But as he made his exit, he peaked out the door first. Then he walked out into the darkness cautiously and slowly. He didn't know if those men were going to be out there waiting for him or not. When Doc got to the wagon, he checked on his horses first. They had gone to sleep like they had done so many times before. They pretty much knew the drill with Doc and it was a pleasure for them to sleep and not have to pull that wagon. Doc walked around checking their harnesses. He knew he was going to have to drive them somewhere tonight where they could graze, water and try to fill up on grass. As he was finishing up his team inspection, an angry shadow rushed out of the dark shadows straight at Doc. Doc saw him at the last moment, he ducked and moved just enough to avoid the deadly point of Bill's attack. Bill swung wildly with a knife that tore at Doc's coat. Doc spun around, recovering from his escape while simultaneously pulling his knife from his belt. He stopped his spin in a defensive position. There was just enough light from the bar and the Moon for Bill to tell Doc was ready for him with his knife. The sight of this armed, big man smiling at him unnerved Bill to his feet but he was all in it now. All he knew to do was charge with his knife and do what he could. But Bill was drunk and he had just been clubbed pretty good. There was no way his attack was going to work. As he closed in on Doc, a six inch Bowie knife plunged deep up the man's solar plexus and into his heart. His heart's blood gushed out the gash onto Doc's arm and coat, sticky, warm and wet. Bill died immediately, but he hung there a moment on Doc's knife with his mouth opening and closing in a scream that just would not come out. And then Bill dropped to the ground for the last time. It was too dark for Doc to see the expression on the man's face. Doc had killed him so fast and efficiently, his death did not even disturb the horses until they smelled the man's blood spilling and running onto the ground at their feet. Doc left Bill's body laying where he killed him. He got in his wagon and drove the team back over into Shreveport, west up the Texas Avenue slope and onto the high ground cotton fields far west of town. The first field he come to was near a cemetery. Doc decided this was as good a place to stop as any. So, he unhitched the horses in the dark and let them into Oakland Cemetery to feed and sleep. The only cemetery in town had an iron fence with a gate. Doc closed the gate to keep the horses in. Then he went back inside the wagon, took his hat and coat off, laid down on his cot and tried to get some sleep. It would be his last night alone.

13 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


  • LinkedIn
  • Black Facebook Icon
bottom of page