Authors: David B. Riley
Copyright ©2005 by David B. Riley
First published in 2005, 2005
The Two Devils
Copyright © 2004 by David B Riley. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
While inspired by actual events, this novel is a work of fiction.
LIC in Progress
A co-publication of:
LBF Books & Hadrosaur Productions
Pittsburgh, PA Las Cruces, NM
This book is based on characters that first appeared in
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, January 1866
"Commodore!” Sub Lieutenant Watson yelled. He had a young, brown-skinned native girl by the arm. “Lookie what I got.” The girl was bare-breasted, wearing only a thin, woven cloth around her middle. “I ain't had me one of these in neary a year."
"As long as you share her with the rest,” Commodore Ian Macintosh decided. “They burn for a woman just as much as you."
"This is not the way to endear ourselves with the natives,” General Creed protested.
"Quit your yappin,” the commodore snapped. “Go ahead, Sub Lieutenant. We in the Confederate Navy don't answer to General Creed. Have your girlie."
General Creed glared at him. “Some navy genius
are; one United States warship and here we are in this crap hole."
"Ships sink. That's part of naval life. If your men hadn't failed to get President Davis to our rendezvous, we would be in Mexico City instead of this bug-infested crap hole,” the commodore snapped back. “Now, he sits in a Union prison and we hide from the Union navy—and the Federales. If you want to blame someone, look in a mirror."
"Gentlemen, we need to get along,” Commander Philo McGee intervened. There are just a handful of us in a very foreign land."
Sub Lieutenant Watson had his trousers off and the cloth was off the girl. Just after throwing her to the ground, his head—in that instant before he lost consciousness—realized it was no longer attached to the rest of his body.
There were lots more shirtless brown people. One of them held a big knife in his right hand and Sub Lieutenant Watson's head in his left. He held the head up into the air and admired it.
The confederates stood motionless, each with a similar knife at each of their throats.
The men were tied, then marched off into the jungle.
Confederate General Renaldo Creed, a West Point graduate, found the rhythm of the drums beating to be oddly compelling. Soon, they were taken into a clearing. A massive stone building stood before them. It looked to the general like one of the pyramids in Egypt, or at least a terraced version of one of them.
The drums stopped. Ten men wearing orange and black robes marched single file to a point behind an altar-like stone table that was erected in front of the pyramid. One of them, though dressed identically, seemed in charge. More robed men brought an ornate chair and placed it behind the altar. Then, a lone man brought an owl, an odd-looking owl, to the altar.
"Must be their god,” the commodore said.
"You are right,” the man in orange and black robes said.
"You speak English?” the commodore asked.
"No. You are speaking Mayan,” he corrected.
"How can this be?” the commodore asked.
"Which one of you is in charge?” the man in the orange robes asked.
The commodore pushed past General Creed. “That would be me."
Two of the men without shirts grabbed him by each arm. One of the wickedly sharp knives they'd just seen relieve the head of Sub Lieutenant Watson did the same for the commodore. As the head rolled along on the ground, the body was placed on the altar.
The owl moved the lower part of its body into the neck cavity of the commodore's body. In a few moments, it sat up. The owl-headed man briefly looked at his new body, then moved over to the ornate chair and seated himself. He looked at the confederates. “Why have you come?"
"We were in a naval battle, sir,” General Creed explained.
"Address Ah Puch as Great Lord,” the man in the robes instructed.
"We were in naval battle, sir ... Great Lord,” General Creed said.
"A naval battle?” Ah Puch asked. “What is that?"
"A battle between two ships, at sea."
"At sea? With cannons and such?"
The man in the robes gave General Creed a look.
"Great Lord,” the general added.
"Where are you from?” Ah Puch asked.
"The Confederate States of America,” General Creed said.
"Fascinating,” the Mayan god of Death said. “Tell me more."
I'd been in Virginia City the better part of a day, coming over from California on the railroad. I was fired from a job in Stockton. It was either the mining camps or San Francisco. The coin landed tails. A fellow at the general supply store introduced me to a man from a mining company. I got hired on the spot, no questions asked.
The dirty, shanty town was making me nervous with its muddy, rutted streets, dilapidated shacks, torn canvas tents, and an overall crowded feeling. Someone once told me Virginia City now had more people in it than did San Francisco. I believed it. And, every one of them was after a buck, though this form of capitalism was proving a little too stark for my liking. Two plump prostitutes were looking me over. I pulled out the empty linings of my pocket and shrugged my shoulders. The women immediately turned their attention toward someone else.
This was a strange place. It was awful to look at. Yet, they had an opera house and really good singers came through regularly. The newspaper was remarkably well written. The
could be seen in the hands of just about everyone as the writings of Dan Dequille and some new guy named Mark Twain kept folks informed and entertained.
And, most of the miners seemed literate and could actually be seen reading the darned thing. Half the people in my hometown couldn't even read a newspaper.
"Hey, kid!” I looked around, then noticed Mr. Benson standing over in front of the dry goods store. I waved and hurried to the buckboard. I dropped my duffle in the back and climbed aboard. “All set, kid?” the burly, bearded man asked me.
"I reckon.” I didn't really like being called kid, but protesting seemed pointless.
The ride up to the mine turned out to be a rather grueling experience. The country was extremely rugged and the roads were little more than animal trails chewed up by a newfound avalanche of men scouring the land for ore. We'd ridden for some time before my new employer again spoke.
"So you're from Virginia?"
"No,” I answered. “That ain't right."
Mr. Benson scratched his head. “Oh? Thought they said you were from Virginia?"
"They may a told ya that, but it ain't right,” I said. “No. I come out of Kansas."
Mr. Benson shrugged. “As long as ya work, I guess that's all that matters."
We rode along for another mile or so. “Is it a big mine, sir?” I asked.
"Nah, a little piss-ant operation. We struck a small vein. Oh, we do all right. We're not nearly as big as them shaft operations near town. Hell there's one shaft that goes right under Virginia City. Folks are sleepin’ and they start blasting away some nights. Scared the bejeebers out a me when I hit town."
He turned off the bad road and onto a really miserable one. We rounded a bend then I was able to see the mining camp, which was mostly a collection of canvas tents on platforms. A bluish haze filled the little valley as the cooking fires revved up. We parked the buckboard and I helped unload its contents into the yellow canvas supply tent.
Then, I was handed off to a toothless, crusty individual named Roy.
Roy took me to a tent. “This here's where you'll be sleepin', kid. Now your two tent mates are down in the mine. They're workin’ nights, so ya may not be seein’ much of ‘em.” Roy tugged on his suspenders. “We eat in around twenty minutes. You can wash down by that water tower."
Then Roy hobbled away, leaving me alone in the tent.
I didn't think I was going to like the job of “kitchen boy,” but at least it would provide food and shelter until I found something better to my liking.
Supper proved an experience. It was the first, last, and only chance I was going to get to eat when the miners ate, as my duties would require me to serve them the slop. “Mmm, slops up,” had replaced “come ‘n get it,” the mandate from the ranch in Kansas where I'd grown up.
The cuisine actually was palatable, with a well-seasoned stew, ample cornbread and a generous wedge of apple pie. Roy had a variety of rigged-up stoves, and even an oven. It was all outdoors, but a canvas tent could be erected over everything if need be.
I found myself annoyed with the miners and kitchen help. I knew they were talking about me, though I never really could figure out what was being said. Being the new guy, I expected some curiosity. But, the snickers and laughs were making me more than a bit uneasy as I slopped down my third glass of apple juice and fourth slice of pie. I might've responded, but I decided to keep focused on what really mattered. I hadn't eaten a true meal in days. Finally, with belly sated, I waddled back toward the tent. I nearly collided with two skinny, tall men who were leaving as I was going in.
"Eh,” one of them said.
"I'm Miles,” I introduced myself to my tent mates. I offered out my hand, but found no takers.
"Eh,” the other one grunted as they both scurried off toward the main tunnel entrance of the mine.
The following morning, Roy extracted me from my bunk promptly at four o'clock. Groggy-eyed, I soon found myself crying over a bushel barrel of onions. I had to dice all of them for the taters Roy was preparing for morning breakfast. I'd never seen so many onions in my life, nor even heard of putting them in with taters. And, every single one of those onions was soon devoured, along with every biscuit, egg, potato and scrap of jelly to be found anywhere near camp. Roy fended off complaints that there was no more ham by waving a large cleaver around and threatening several of the miners with castration if they didn't shut up and quit their “yappin'."
I complained to Roy about all the gluttony. “Shucks, that taint nothin', just you wait till dinner rolls around. Them men work hard. They eat."
By the time dinner did roll around, and the last supper plate was washed and put away, I simply staggered to the tent and collapsed on top of my bunk. I was asleep before I hit the pillow, with my clothes still on.
Then someone was tugging on my pant leg. “It can't be time for work,” I protested. “I'm tired."
"Shucks, it's only around nine, I figure,” a woman was telling me.
A scent of lilac water wafted into my nostrils. There weren't any women around for miles, as I recalled it. But, there was one sitting on my bunk. I sat up and futilely tried to un-mesh my hair.
"Hi, I'm Ruth,” she greeted.
"Uh, Miles. Miles O'Malley,” I declared. I was still completely baffled by what was going on.
She nodded some sense of recognition. “Oh, you're Irish then."
"Uh, my parents were born there. I was born on a boat. Grew up in Kansas."