Updated: Mar 26, 2021
Chapter 5 © 2018 Steven D. Shepard
Sergeant Buck Hartley
Captain Douglas Ivey was so distracted and upset he was barely aware of his ride back through Shreveport. He was already missing his life and his wife. Added to that, the problems facing him with the assignment General Taylor had saddled him with raced through and occupied his mind. At the moment his troubles and his worry overwhelmed anything he might have seen or heard as he plodded through town once again. He rode completely distracted through town and was at the river before he realized it. His ride took him back by his mother's house again and he was glad to see it was OK. There were still people camping in the yard. It was only at the Texas Avenue Bridge that he started paying attention to what he was doing and what he should be doing. The River wasn't running particularly deep or wide anywhere Ivey could see. Up or down stream. Since there had been no Winter floods, he could see from the bridge the raw Bossier piers standing black, bare, steady and tall along the eastern bank. The River stream slipped around, by and in between the sand bar obstructions and favored the east side and these piers more. So Bossier had more water than Shreveport this year. Not that either city drank the river water. They couldn't. It was so full of mud and silt, sometimes it would make better grout than water. Looking at the low water now, a stranger would find it hard to believe this muddy creek could ever host river boats going up and down stream to market. But like most western rivers, the Red could fool you - and kill you.
Ivey took the rickety, wooden Texas Avenue bridge. His horse's hooves clopped loud on the worn wooden planks. He was the only traffic this evening. After he crossed the bridge, he took the Monroe Road and dismounted deciding to stretch his legs with a walk. He had a feeling it was going to be a long night. Bossier wasn't a big town. Hell, it was barely a village. Bossier City's claim to fame were the gin halls and bordellos that were spread out, staggered up and down the river and northeast into town. But loose dogs were a problem. He didn't want them running up and spooking his horse in the dimming light. So walking the horse was a good idea. Not far from where he crossed the river it was walking distance to the first pub he saw and as a good a place to start as any. The structure he approached in the dark used to be an old two story storefront that had gone out of business before the war. It opened back up when the new owner got a steady supply of corn liquor coming in from stills in the woods or an account with a liquor distributor over in Texas. The place didn't have or want a name. The only marketing this store did was to paint the word “Bar” in white letters on both double doors. That was pretty much all they needed to do. Any man who wandered into town and wanted or needed a drink would get the idea. Tonight there were only three horses tied up at the wooden rail in front. Ivey tied his horse along side them and his boots thumped hard on the wooden porch. Walking up he peeked in the front windows and through the shadows he could see there were a lot more than three customers drinking tonight.
When Captain Ivey opened the door on the right side he noticed the tables that had been placed on the storefront floor where grocery shelves used to stand. The old cash counter had been turned into a bar. There were at least eight men sitting hunkered down at the tables with their faces lit up from coal oil lamps. The poor light shined up their faces, casting evil shadows and made them look more menacing than they really were. That dim lamp light reflected poorly back down from a tin plate ceiling. The place smelled of tobacco and sweat. The men in the bar turned around long enough to see who was coming in the door. Not recognizing Ivey, most of them turned back to their conversations and drink. However, three men standing to the right of the bar counter turned away and retreated out the back way when they saw the Captain's uniform. Their retreat reminded Ivey to reach down and check himself that he still had his sidearm on. He reminded himself when he came to a place like this, it was good policy to look around and figure out who he may have to fight or kill to get back out. The two men chatting and standing to the far left of the bar looked nearly harmless. One was clearly a farmer still in his dirty overalls who managed to get away from the dirt for the night and have a shot. The man to his left at the end of the bar was a rail thin business specimen with a derby hat and an ugly pencil thin mustache on the top of his lip. The offensive mustache stuck straight out from the man's lip like a brush and pulsed up and down when he talked. He still had his derby hat on, but his jacket lay on the bar to his left so the man could do his drinking in suspenders and shirt sleeves. The thin man disregarded Ivey and resumed speaking in low tones to the farmer in a herky-jerky manner that was only interrupted with a nervous laugh that sounded phony.
Captain Ivey strolled to the bar deliberately, holding himself and his shoulders back as high as he could. At five foot seven, he wasn't a big man. So he stood as tall as could hoping it made him look a little more imposing. He took a stool to the far right side of the bar where one of the retreating men surrendered it. At first the bartender pretended not to notice him and didn't get in any hurry to provide any service. Finally setting down a towel and the glass he was tending he walked over to Doug's position at the bar, spread his hands on his edge of the bar and asked, “Something I can do for you Captain?” Doug looked at the man and said, “Maybe. I'm looking for a friend.” As he reached for an empty glass and set it on the bar in front of Ivey the bartender replied, “Captain, if you got any friends in the world, I can assure you they are not in here.”
As the bartender spoke these words, the three men who left out the back came back in the front door. Once they realized Doug was alone and this was not with a deserter round up party, they felt safe coming back in to finish their drinking. Even so, they parked it at a table and let Doug keep the bar. Captain Ivey addressed the bartender again, “Maybe you would recall this man if you saw him. Big buffalo looking guy, in a Sergeant's uniform. Mostly in uniform. He usually walks around in his undershirt and suspenders. Holds his liquor pretty well.” The bartender started pouring Doug a drink without even asking him for his order. “Captain, even if I saw a man like that it would not be in my best interest to say. Now no offense, but I want you to have this first drink here on the house and with my compliments for all your service. And, after you finish that drink, I want to ask you to leave as quickly and as quietly as you can. That uniform makes my customers nervous and that's bad for business.” The bartender finished his sentence setting the bottle down and placed both of his hands out stretched on the bar again. His head and chin pointed the way out the door. Doug Ivey looked back at the man dead in the eyes and reached down for his drink. Ivey had never been much of a drinker and he never was prone to chug a shot glass. So he sipped his drink calmly giving the impression he had no intention of leaving at all. He paused briefly between each sip without putting the glass back down. But after the second sip his drinking had to stop because the double doors of the bar entrance suddenly slammed open! Both doors knobs crashed into the interior walls on either side from the kick of a large bulk of a human who now stood profiled and towering in the double doorway. The coal lamps did a poor job of illuminating the behemoth that filled the double opening. A cool breeze rushed in a new smell with the doors open but that smell was no help making out the face of the huge body blocking everyone's exit. But the breeze did reveal that whatever it was, it was wearing a dress. Before any further conclusions could be made the giant in the doorway let out a bellow that filled the bar and shook the night, “WHERE'S LUTHER?!”
With that roaring question, almost every face in the bar turned in unison away from the intruder and back towards the left side of the bar. In the dim light their gazes focused to where the thin, mustached man was leaning. That thin man was now frantically fumbling with his coat and clothes. Looking for something. The farmer to his right quickly and wisely back stepped away to the right, to get as far away from the thin man as he possibly could. The farmer knew something was coming and he wanted no part of it. The behemoth stomped loudly through the doorway and bellowed again, “LUTHER, you son-of-bitch! You put your hands on little Jane and now I'm gonna kill you – YOU BASTARD!.”
With that declaration, 300 pounds of large woman charged full speed through the door towards Luther pushing tables and men out of her way spilling drinks and easily knocking full grown men off their feet. She thundered towards the thin man in an attack fully loaded with determination and bad intentions. But just as she was barreling down upon him, Luther found what he was looking for in his coat pocket. Just in the nick of time. Luther had microseconds to raise a twenty-two short-nosed pistol to pull the trigger six times. Each shot roared and echoed an ear splitting sound like a cannon going off in the small space of the dirty bar. Each bullet hit her and cut its cruel mark into her large round body. And she kept a coming. The small bullets thudded into her flesh. And she kept a coming. The big woman winced painfully with each hot slug that hit her. The bullets ripped and pierced her, producing crimson rivulets of blood that ran down the front of her body and dress. But the shots didn't slow her down one bit. And she kept a coming. Suddenly her angry bloody bulk fell upon Luther, slapping the smoking pistol clean out his hand and grabbing the man by his throat in one smooth move. When she had him in this death grip she picked the helpless Luther up off his feet and into the air and slammed his skinny body down to the wood floor. His body and his ribs crashed to the boards with a loud smack that took away what little breath he had in him. The woman followed him down. keeping her grip on him as she squeezed his bulging Adam's Apple with both of her meaty, sweaty hands. Bringing her full weight into violence, the woman followed her grip on the man's throat and she fell on top of him. Once mounted, she began to shake Luther's skinny neck and head up and down as hard as she could. Banging his stupid head on the floor, trying to take the life out of him.
Finally some of the other men in the bar woke up and realized what the hell was going on. It simultaneously occurred to them all the right thing to do was to intervene in this marital squabble, jump up and try to keep the woman from choking the man to death right there in front of God and everybody. So six men leaped from their chairs into standing positions to run to the woman, grabbing a hold of her to pull her away. The female Goliath let loose of Luther's neck long enough to swing back at the men annoying her. She caught two of them with her fists right in the nose and eyes. The man who took the nose shot shrieked away trying to stop a flood of blood that erupted out of his injured nose. The other five men grabbed and pawed and pulled until they finally managed to get a hold of the big woman and rip her off the poor shattered, skinny man. Her dress tore as they pulled on her. When they got her off, what was left of Luther choked and coughed, shivered and shook wildly on the floor, trying to get some air through a damaged wind pipe and into his nearly crushed lungs. The bartender finally got his wits about him and he pulled a rope out from behind the counter. The barkeep leaped over the bar and joined the five men in trying to restrain and tie the woman up so she couldn't hurt them all. As they tussled with her on the floor. the blood from her bullet wounds spurt at them and stained the plank floor red with crimson stripes that made all of them slip and slide in the liquid ooze.
All of this had happened so fast that Captain Doug Ivey didn't have much time to think or react. When she charged, his flight instincts kicked in and he instinctively backed away as far to the right of the bar as he could. Once he knew he was out of it and was going to escape the heat of battle, he resumed sipping on his shot glass. Now with some amusement, Ivey watched the men and woman kicking and a gouging in the blood, mud and the booze. They went on grappling in the blood and gore that slicked the barroom floor. With considerable difficulty, the men managed to get the bartender's rope wrapped around the female's arms and torso a few times. It was just enough to keep her from getting to her feet and kicking the shit out of all of them. Doug drained what little was left in his glass and negotiated his way around the clot of struggling humanity still wrestling on the red floor and he headed out towards the door. Not looking back, he stepped back into the night air. And Ivey thankfully let the sounds of the struggle grow faint behind him. He decided then and there, it may have been a mistake, starting the search for Buck Hartley in that place. The best view of that bar was leaving it.
Where Captain Ivey should have started searching all along was Sack's. Sack's was just a little east down the road on the other side of Bossier town. It was all around a better establishment with a proper bar and bordello upstairs. Sack's was one of the few places in Bossier that was well built, had plenty of room, was painted lively, well lit and usually had live music playing in the large barroom floor area almost every night. Liquor flowed at Sack's 24/7 and a Roulette table rolled each evening till midnight. Most of the time a card game could be found on just about every other table. But most of the intimate business was done late in the night. After dark, dance hall girls patrolled and strutted the bar floor in their corsets and stockings trying to get a customer to buy more liquor or go upstairs and let loose of their money or gold in their crotch. Buck Hartley's favorite whore, Missy Link, worked most nights as Madam at Sack's unless she was scrapping with the old man about his take on her work. Sack pretty much let her run the upstairs, but when Missy got out of line he would run her off. But he always took her back. Missy was just too good and she brought in more customers than all the other whores combined.
Missy Link was an orphan gal from the Texas Hill Country. Her parents were German immigrants killed by Mexican bandits. She was twelve years old and in school when the bandits raided her father's farm and executed both the adults. After her parents death, one of the other German colonist families took her in, but they never treated her right. By the time she was seventeen she packed up what few belongings she had , sneaked out of the house in the middle of night and walked forty miles to San Antonio. It was not long after she arrived, she got a job working in a bordello. She found the work appealed to her and being large, fresh and young, she got popular real quick.
It was not that Missy Link was an especially attractive woman. But she didn't hurt the eyes either. She was different. She had to wear spectacles all the time due to poor vision. Most of the other girls would never wear glasses at all, even if they needed them. Missy's glasses helped to disguise a face that only allowed a greedy smile when she thought she was going to make some serious money off a stupid man. Missy never wore her thick straight blond hair up like most of the girls did. She always had it down around her shoulders where it flattered and framed her face. She did make minor changes to her hair style periodically, going from bangs back to long and parted in the middle like she couldn't make up her mind which she liked best. She enjoyed her work. A lot. Even so, she wasn't particularly friendly. Even when a client was paying his bill.
Missy's big attraction for the men were her enormous breasts which were an epic legend throughout the entire region. They were so large she pretty much had to keep them supported and tied up on her chest. On the rare occasions she was seen topless or nude, her massive breasts nearly hung down to her waistline expanding her nipples so wide and white they nearly disappeared. Having never had children, Missy's waistline still complimented her forty-five year old body and full round hips. Never a gaudy dresser, Missy tended to dress just like the other ladies she saw in the Shreveport/Bossier area. Since so many of these women were now in mourning, black was the color of the day. When she dressed in a similar black fashion, if a stranger saw Missy on the street in town they would jump to wrong conclusions about how ordinary and plain she seemed to be. Because Missy tied her huge breasts tight to her torso when she did have to make a rare public appearance. This breast binding made her look more normal, but a sharp-eyed man usually noticed her full bosom. What folks could not know just by looking at her was that Missy and her breasts hid a ravenous sexual appetite that few women could or cared to match.
In fact, there was no kind of sex that Missy was not curious about, hadn't tried or was not willing to try again. She let men and women alike know it. Except maybe animals and children. Even whores got limits. Missy's sexual appetite was unusual for a woman and her appetite commanded a man's performance in her bed. A man didn't stand much of a chance of dominating Missy Link or wearing her out. But they did have what she wanted. In their pants and in their pockets. Missy enjoyed men, sex and money. When the price was right, she never hesitated to add another woman to the bed if the man asked for it. To her, the human body was a sexual playground.
Missy consumed young men who had little experience with women. Their orgasms and their fresh seed were a reward she enjoyed and had come to covet. Most of these inexperienced boys left her with their pockets and their sack empty not quite sure what the hell had just happened to them. She was a curiosity and a wonder to the other whores who would sometimes peek in and watch with envy and surprise the incredible business that went on in Missy's bedroom. It was a performance. They learned with pleasure how Missy had been in the business for so long and had never got pregnant or caught a disease yet. Missy rarely let a man into her vagina. She let them go just about anywhere else they wanted to go, but she saved her box for her special cases and special customers.
Missy's special cases were businessmen and officers who came over from Shreveport with real Yankee greenbacks or solid gold coin to lose. These horny men paid extra for the privilege of visiting her box which was still firm, wet and tight. And she knew how to use it. She milked these men of their money and their seed and that effort became her mission in life. When she come up from San Antonio before the war her wild reputation spread quickly with men who were prone to frequent the bars and brothels of Bossier City. It didn't take long for Missy to become one the most desired, popular and successful whores in Bossier and the region. After a few months, Missy was able to pick and choose what man she would even climb the stairs with. She usually directed the smelly cowboys and loafers to the other girls. Especially if the men were ugly. If she rejected a man and he took it wrong, Missy had little trouble putting him in his place and showing him to the door. She kept a derringer pistol in her corset. She found when you hold a gun to a man's head, he tends to settle down pretty quick. That habit had got her in trouble in San Antonio and there was still an outstanding warrant down there for her arrest. So far, no man had been brave enough to come northeast to collect the bounty. So far, no man in Bossier City had forced her to pull that pistol and use it again.
In Winter, the bar and brothel business tended to slow down just like business everywhere. That happened when the boys didn't have any money or the weather discouraged them from paying their respects. To keep away the chill Missy usually let or made one or two of the other girls share her bed and service her during the long Winter nights. After all, two bodies in a bed kept it warmer. If a young lady protested, fought back or resisted she soon found herself beat up and down with her face in Missy's crotch that night. The real stubborn ones found themselves on the road looking for another place to work.
But there was one man that Missy liked a lot. Maybe too much. The man was a powerful exception and able to command a special place in Missy's unusual heart and habits. When this man came to Bossier City he got Missy's full attention and affections. He was not particularly handsome. He was not well built. In fact, he was a barrel chested soldier boy and when he moved he mostly resembled a shuffling bear. He seemed to always be in need of a hair cut and although he had a uniform he never seemed to wear all of it. He sure didn't have much money. He was loud and funny and fun to be with. He was also married and the man had an aggravating manner of walking in and acting like he owned the joint. That behavior would aggravate most folks and usually they would steer clear or dispose of the loud mouth. But Sergeant Buck Hartley had such a good sense of humor and tolerance of other folks that he made you like him. Not only was he a man who would give you the shirt off his back, because he didn't like wearing it, he was a man who slap a stranger on the back and buy him a drink just cause he had the money. Which he rarely did.
Missy Link fell in love with Buck Hartley the first day she met him. Although she would never say that in public, out loud or to his face. Buck never hid the fact he was married and had a wife and family down in Keachi. It didn't matter. She loved his company, his sense of humor, his affectionate manner and his powerful love making that made other men feel like women in comparison. From the first time she slept with him the big hairy bastard pulled her thick hair and jabbed her so hard with his fat cock that when he ground it inside of her it felt like he was trying to dig something out. It drove her crazy and she enjoyed it everywhere he wanted to stick it. And good god, the man could talk the bark off a tree! She looked forward to the next silly and stupid thing he had to say including the animal growls that came out of him as he finished inside of her. Cause both of them made her laugh. Their sex together was fun, powerful and playful and she never wanted any man as much or the way she wanted him. So she would let him have his way and have her any way he wanted her. He always left her sloppy, squishy and wet inside. He always left her wanting more. Buck would never know, that if he had asked, Missy would have quit the business for good and gone anywhere in the world with him that he wanted her to go. Hell, she would even move down to Keachi and be wife number two if he wanted. But that was never going to happen.
Buck ended up becoming her champion and protector. That included sharing money, food and time together whenever he was in town. They never slept together on any regular schedule, but when Buck was around he never got in any hurry to leave. Buck would have her, but unlike other men he didn't pull out and leave in disgust and shame. Men pulled that quick exit stuff because they were ashamed of their own sinful behavior or they were trying to show disrespect and contempt for the whore who they had just soiled. The men should have known women hate that behavior. But Buck was different. Buck made love to Missy and after they both laid in each other's arms trying to recover. Usually with Buck still inside of her somewhere. It took him a while to fully discharge and she liked feeling his member inside her pumping and throbbing to get the last of it out of him and into her. He never interfered or questioned her work, but if any other man even hinted he was going to show any disrespect, become a problem or trouble for the any of the girls, that man had a real problem on his hands. He had to deal with Sergeant Buck Hartley. Hartley could be a dangerous man and had already been through many battles and battlefields.
Hartley didn't really like hurting anyone, but when he felt he had to he was clinical, quick and deadly efficient about doing it. He killed with methodical and terrible practice. His lethal style was to notice any weakness in a potential opponent. Then he would attack that weakness without warning and with terminating force. Hartley's attack would be aimed at disabling the man so he couldn't pose any further threat to Buck or anyone else. Then Buck would jump on the man's disability and use that to destroy or dispose of the man and his life. It was a strategy that had already worked too many times. Unlucky victims found out that when Hartley was provoked to violence, he maintained a scary calm detachment from the person and the conflict he was engaged in. His face went blank as he set about dismantling his opponent. He was so experienced and strong, he could dispatch most of his opponents with his bare hands. Anyone who required more force would soon find out the man was such a sure shot, he could shoot your eyeballs out. One shot, one kill. Locals who knew him, knew better than to even risk crossing him. Strangers soon found out how dangerous it could be to mess with Buck Hartley.
Captain Doug Ivey got back on his horse and rode into Bossier and down to Sack's. Half a mile away he could see the lights. As he got closer, music and laughter drifted out the open windows and made the place look and sound just as inviting as it was. There were multiple horses tied outside the club and that was a good indication they were doing brisk business for good reasons. Doug had to tie his horse to a fence rail away from the building and walk the buckshot clay road to the entrance. The smell of cigars and whiskey rushed out to greet him. He stepped up onto Sack's semi-circle front deck that extended out the front of the building. In the Summer season the staff would bring the tables out on the deck and serve customers in the shade. Sack's occasionally had ice and it could be an idyllic place.
For northwest Louisiana, Sack's was on the verge of turning into a top notch gin club and it was plain to see that old man Sack was trying to build an establishment in the New Orleans tradition. Even though the building stood alone in the village, it was the only place in Bossier where a Victorian building with ornate finish work complimented the business that went on inside. A heavy carved front door swung open easily and welcomed Doug in. Once inside, smoke was thick enough to cut with a knife even though the place wasn't really packed. The smoke floated in a cloud above a wave of happy customers in full swing in nearly every corner of the bar. This was no quiet place with men mumbling secrets in the dark. This was men and women laughing, socializing and talking loud under bright gas lamp chandeliers hanging from high ceilings. Any corner the chandeliers couldn't reach were lit by coal oil lamp wall sconces. The stained walls and plush couches contained brash customers with laughing semi-naked girls on their laps. Lush full length felt curtains with tassels adorned each window and muffled the noise that tried to escape into the cool night air. The crowd ebbed and flowed in joyful volume. The big wooden bar itself was first class hand made and cut with wide mirrors hung on the wall behind it. It was obvious talented finish carpenters had built the custom bar right into the building. Liquor bottles were stacked in tiers in front of the mirrors and light from the crystal chandeliers danced off the bottles and mirrors in uneven reflections that shined out into the customer's faces. In between the two wide mirrors was a full size painting of a reclined nude woman holding up a handful of grapes. The painting made no attempt to hide the raw sexuality of the model. It invited the viewer to see the detail of her small breasts and unashamed bush captured on canvas. Across the first floor from the bar was a staircase that stretched up from wide to narrow to the second floor. The stairs led up to a loft and to several private rooms. The bar was busy and it took two bartenders just to keep up with drink orders. The girls not working upstairs already were plying the men in the crowd to laugh, drink and and spend. Mostly it was working. It made Doug wonder where the hell all the money was coming from.
Captain Ivey went to the bar again and assumed the position. One of the Sack's bartenders paid attention and got to the officer just as quickly as he could. With familiarity his bartender opened with, “Hello Doug. Long time no see. How in the hell are you?” “Not bad Tom, yourself?” Doug gave a friendly reply. “Working hard?” “Working on a hard.” the men smiled and they chuckled. “What'll it be Doug? “Rye whiskey will do as long as it gets here quick.” Doug playfully jibed the man. Taking the hint and the humor Tom Hopkins grabbed a dark bottle and spun it in his hands like a pistol. Magically a shot glass flipped out, landed square on the bar and took a three count of rye whiskey to the brim. The barman slid the glass professionally to his new customer and Doug grabbed it right out of the slide, held it in the air in a toast and said, “Many thanks.” At the first sip he could tell this was good quality stuff. It was smooth and didn't choke or fight with him going down. Ivey went ahead and chugged the shot glass and was grateful for the warm feeling it put in his gut. He smiled his biggest grin at the bartender and nodded his head in approval. The bartender was grateful for the acknowledgment and glad to see an old friend once again.
Doug turned away from the bar and spent a few minutes watching the activities and mayhem going on around him. No one seemed to even notice him. They were much too busy. When he turned back to the bar, Tom was still standing there ready to serve. Doug tapped down on the bar next to his glass. Tom took the hint and got the whiskey flowing again. As Doug watched the glass fill he asked a question, “Missy around?” Tom stopped pouring immediately and a dark cloud swept over his face. With his eyes down and with a frown Tom replied, “Well Doug, Missy's dead. She died in December. The flu got her. Took her quick. She's buried over there in Oakland Cemetery near you. I thought you knew about it. Buck put her a headstone up. It's a nice one.” This news made Ivey step back with astonishment and sadness. He was sorry to learn about Missy's death. He was never one of her customers. He didn't know her that well. But they had met. He knew the woman through his Sergeant. He knew how much Buck cared for her.
“My Lord.” was all he could say shaking his head. Now he had to add Missy's name and face to the long list of casualties the Winter left in its deadly wake. While he tried to muster up the dead in his head in chronological order a part of him tried hard not to remember them at all. All he could feel about her death was a great sadness that weighed more on his heart than his head or his face. Missy had been a legend at Sack's. It was never going to be the same without her. Doug asked, “So who's running the upstairs now?” “Mary Hester is trying to. But she's too young and I don't think she's going to make it. Won't be long before one of them girls replaces her.” Tom replied. Doug also remembered Mary Hester and it occurred to him she had to be about the most drastic contrast to Missy there could possibly be. Mary had long dark hair that she pinned up when she was trying to work. If a man was on top of her the hair got caught on just about everything and it pulled painfully. Sometimes it made it impossible for her to enjoy the work. Mary Hester had just about the smallest breasts there could be on a full grown woman. They were little more than buttons on her upper chest. A lot of the local boys didn't care for them much. Even when they were willing to take something instead of nothing some of them asked for a lower price cause she had no titties. None of this hurt Mary's feeling. She had been hearing the complaints all her life. She knew how to shut those complaints up with the rest of her body and she was quite skilled at doing that. But in contrast again to Missy, Mary Hester would never be a dominatrix in any kind of relationship. Her style was to spread and submit and let the man pretty much do what he wanted while she laid there and decided if it aroused her or not. Hester was more likely the let the man hurt her if it pleased him. Because sometimes it pleased her. She never was able to come out and tell a man that. But some of them figured it out if they came back to see her with any regularity. She didn't scream with her regulars, but it was not that uncommon for her to come out of her bedroom bruised and bleeding somewhere.
“How's Buck holding up?” Doug inquired. “Well, if he's suffering you wouldn't know it. He was here earlier, cutting up, shucking and jiving. He got pretty lit. He got on some stranger's nerves and they were having words. They started in on each other here in the bar. I thought I was going to have to pull my club out on the both of them. I run their asses off. You know Sack don't allow no fighting in here. It would've meant my job. The last I saw them, they was heading outside to discuss it further. Don't know how it turned out but I don't think the stranger knows what he's getting into. Whiskey will do that to a man.” Tom turned away and raced down the bar to help a another customer. He never did let Doug pay him.
Tom's information was certainly a lot more to go on than Doug had so far. But he knew Buck wasn't outside the bar having a squabble. Because Doug didn't see or hear him when he came in. The mystery now was just where the hell would these two men go to have a fight in the dark? The right thing to do was to find them as soon as possible. Before Buck broke the man's back or did worse. Ivey was a fair tracker but tracking them in the dark wasn't going to happen. He thought for a moment that maybe just waiting there at the bar and drinking might work when it occurred to him that Buck didn't have a reason to come back to Sack's that night. Missy was gone. His reason to ever come back to Sack's late at night was probably gone forever. Buck would dispose of the stranger if and when he got the gumption to attack and then Buck would head on home down towards Keachi. That's where Doug would find Hartley. On the road to Keachi. Buck had a head start but his business with the stranger might delay him long enough for Doug to catch up. The stranger should hope that's the case. Otherwise, the stranger was in for a bad night.
Doug left the bar and walked back out to his horse. The animal was asleep, didn't hear Doug walk up and jumped with a start when Doug touched it. After calming the animal he mounted and loped back towards the River and Shreveport. It was unlikely the fighters would have crossed the bridge yet. If the Moon cleared the trees, Ivey might be able to see which way they went. To get home to Keachi, Hartley would have to ride south. So chasing him and catching Hartley would get Ivey back home late tonight. He wanted have a proper goodbye with Betty. That idea excited Ivey and he spurred his horse to get on back down the road to the river. On his way towards the 'Bar' again he approached the major pier he and his horse had passed earlier that evening. In the starlight he could tell where the ferry used to dock. Ivey wasn't really sure where the ferry docked anymore. He dismounted to start a walk down the river bank to check it. Once on the ground he felt like could see better. Before he got far or to the left of the long pier he heard a distinct, thick grunt out on the end of the boardwalk near the water. In the dark and he couldn't see that far or that well yet but the more he listened he heard the familiar old sounds of two men punching, scuffling, stomping and bashing each other. It wasn't the first time these piers hosted such activity.
Ivey tied his horse to a post and began a cautious walk out the pier towards the combat. He had no idea what the condition of the pier was now. If he hit a bad board he could fall right through. It occurred to him to pull his pistol and have it at the ready in case the conflict tried to include him. But he thought better of it. The closer he got the louder the curses, struggle and grunts became. Louder blows and stomps on the wooden pier echoed across the muddy river water and traveled downstream. Just as he approached the two men and could make out what was going on, he could tell Buck Hartley had got a hold of a his opponent and had heaved him up in the air over his shoulders. At the very next moment he flung the man's body into the Red River. The poor man plummeted fifteen feet into the darkness and splashed loud hitting the water flat. His impact on the water stung every exposed inch of skin on his body. The current caught him immediately and he started floating away coughing, choking, gagging and splashing in the muddy water that was trying its best to get inside him. His arms flayed at the surface of the water in an attempt to try to float or swim with his coat, clothes and shoes weighing him down and not helping at all. Hartley stood there at the end of the pier in a hunched pose with his head cocked, his mouth open and his arms hanging down in front of him as he calmly watched the man take his leave down the Red River. Then it occurred to Buck Hartley he never knew the man's name, but that train of thought got interrupted. “Sergeant, a word please.”
Hartley turned to the voice warily, thinking he may have another fight on his hands. As he turned he raised himself up from his hunched pose and assumed a fighting position once again. It was then his drunk eyes told him it was his old friend and officer Captain Douglas Ivey. He squinted and rubbed his eyes to make sure it wasn't the dark or whiskey playing tricks on him. But sure enough, it was Doug Ivey standing there on a Bossier City pier in the middle of the night. Didn't make much sense.
“Am I interrupting anything, Sergeant?”, the Captain asked cautiously. There was still a chance that Hartley could be so drunk he would turn on an officer or just about anyone else. Hartley tried to stumble to attention but pretty much failed saying, “Umm, no Sir. I think that business is pretty well concluded now.” Hartley finished this sentence with a deep grunt and a burp while he shuffled a bit trying to get his back leg to find the right position. Then he farted. His mouth dropped back open so he could breathe through it cause the whiskey made his nose stop up. Doug tried approaching the non-com to get a closer look. Keeping his distance, he stood about six feet away on the end of the pier and leaned down a bit while he looked downstream. “Do you think we ought to go fish the man out?” Hartley squinted a bit and leaned to look downstream with Doug. “Seems like he's swimming pretty good to me Sir. But if you want to go fishing, I'll wait here for ya.” Ivey let those words hang in the air just a bit. “Hmm, very well Sergeant. Can you walk?” Doug asked. Hartley struggled to raise his head up to look at the Captain and replied, “Why yes Sir, certainly. Be a pleasure.” “Walk with me Sergeant.” The two men walked in familiar step back down the pier towards the sandy bank. They passed in front of Doug's horse and strolled the river bank in silence for a while. Hartley stumbled a couple of times on roots and debris in the trail but he kept up the cadence without too much trouble or discomfort. Their breath turned to fog in the cool, damp night air rolling off the river water. Hartley sucked in and exhaled heavy every now and then with his stuffy nose trying to get more oxygen than whiskey to his swimming head. The Captain used the walk to judge the Sergeant's ability to carry on a coherent conversation.
“I understand you're on leave.” Doug finally broke the silence. Hartley instinctively replied, “Yes Sir, two weeks. I was heading home to Keachi to see Pam.” But even when the words were coming out of his mouth Hartley could tell something was up. Drunk or sober, he had been in the Army long enough to know when an officer came looking for you in the dead of night nothing good can come of it. Doug stopped and turned towards Hartley, looking him dead in the face with the most sincerity he could muster under the circumstance. Doug drew a breath and said, “Buck, I'm sorry. I gotta cancel your leave. General Taylor has assigned us to a recon mission to the south and he wants us to get underway with all due dispatch. I need you and I need you to sober up as soon as possible. And get us a recon detail together.” Doug stopped and let that bit of information sink in. Hartley's chin was on his chest. He had been looking down to try and help his feet not trip. Now he was looking down to ponder what the Captain and his old friend had just told him. It didn't sit well. But Buck knew any kind of loud protest would be out of line and disrespectful in many ways. And wouldn't do any good. So he stood there in silence and let Doug try feel the pain these orders brought to Hartley now. When he was able to push aside his anger and hurt feelings he understood what these orders meant. The Yankees were coming and they were going to have to go find them. Probably kill them. Or get killed. Without looking up Hartley asked, “When do I report?” “Like I said, as soon as possible. Taylor is probably expecting us to be on the road now. How soon can you round up some men?” Doug looked south now with more apprehension than he wanted to feel himself. Hartley finally raised his head and replied, “Sir, I just don't know the answer to that question.”
Doug understood the answer but it was not anything he was going to be able to accept. He looked back at Hartley and said, “Sergeant, I need you to get sober as soon as you can. I want you to meet me in my office at Fort Turnbull as soon as possible. When you show, I need you to have me a list of volunteers we can take on this recon mission. However, you are not to tell these recruits what's going on. I repeat, you are not to tell them anything. Is that clear?” “Yes Sir. Quite clear. Begging the Captain's pardon?” Hartley asked. “Go ahead Sergeant.” Doug replied. “What in the fucking hell are we and this detachment supposed to use for ammo, mounts, weapons, uniforms and supplies? Sir.” With this question Sergeant Hartley stepped forward quickly for a drunk man and nearly got into Captain Ivey's face. The man asking this question was the fighting Buck Hartley and Doug Ivey knew the answer had to satisfy the whiskey that prompted his back talk. “Buck, I've been saving up gear and supplies just in case something like this come up. I think I got us covered on the supply side. But YOU know who we can or should take on a mission like this. I wouldn't go with anyone but you.” The answer touched the Sergeant and the sober Buck Hartley put John Barleycorn back in his place. “Understood Captain. I'll be with you as soon as I can. Goodnight Sir.” Hartley weaved a bit on his feet and turned on his heels with this response. But it was what Doug needed to hear.
“Buck do you need a ride back to Turnbull?” Doug called at him. Buck replied with his voice echoing out of the trees, “I got a mount tied up around here somewhere Captain. I can't see her from here. You and me got to get across that river though. I don't fancy standing here until morning.” Doug agreed with that twisted sense. With that, Hartley turned and marched off into the dark and disappeared. He was already walking better. Turned out, one of the three horses tied up at the 'Bar' belonged to Hartley. He didn't really remember leaving her there until he walked up and saw her. The other two horses were gone and the 'Bar' was shut down and dark except for a lamp shining through the window upstairs. Hartley had no idea why. When he came walking up the horse recognized his step and his smell and she snorted at him in resentment. She was actually glad to see him. She was getting scared standing there alone. He was lucky she hadn't been stolen. But horse theft was a serious and risky crime here so close to town. He mounted his horse and was back at the river with Ivey shortly after.
It was fortunate for the both of them the Moon had cleared the trees while they had talked. Now high in the sky, the cold Moon shined a cold, pale light directly down into the riverbed so fine minerals in the thick sandbars reflected and twinkled tiny points of light back up at the stars. A light fog was misting up from the black water. The two soldiers rode together back across the Texas Avenue bridge like they had done so many times in their lives. Crossing the bridge their horses hooves clopped loud on the wooden deck and echoed back at them and the night. As they rode, they both looked down on a sandbar lit up and visible by the Moon. This sandbar contained sand trapped busted logs with broken tree branches. The black branches reached eerily up out of the fine red sand like dead men's arms grappling desperately at the damp, wet air. Shadows from these morbid arms reached across the sand to each other in an impossible grasp. Trapped pools of water rippled with multiple white spots of light. Inside these pools the Moon looked down on her own frigid reflections. Reaching the other side of the river the two men nodded at each in the usual way and rode off in the dark, in separate directions, on their respective tasks. Neither one would get much sleep tonight. Captain Ivey knew what they were going to have to do. He and Sergeant Hartley would get no sleep or rest until they assembled their detachment and got underway. Once down the road they could bivouac somewhere and try to get some rest. But Ivey was right, whether it was possible or not, General Taylor would be expecting them to be in the field already.