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Yellow Mountain

By Peter Smyth

A family driven apart by greed and lust. The desire for gold and wealth is overwhelming like the lure of a naked thigh. After the death of old man Hudson many had searched for his gold mine, but none had found it. Damsel Parker, cow hand and drifter, learns of the gold mine through the old man’s granddaughter, Gale.

Damsel Parker is thrust into the middle of a divided family, where he learns that lust and greed is the parent of all evil.



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Part 1


Damsel Parker stumbled heavily into the sparse bush at the edge of the scalding desert. His feet were cut and swollen. The hardened bedrock lay bare by the shifting winds, and his constant stumbling over the loosened jagged stone had cut through the leather soles of his riding boots, and now the burning sand bit cruelly at his open wounds.


Damsel Parker was heavily laden. Besides his normal riding gear, bedding, and his 38-40 Winchester, he carried his saddle and bridle across his shoulder, because a man's worth in the wilderness depends upon his saddle and the swiftness of his hand with a gun. Three times the sun had passed through the clear oval dome of sky; a scorching heat that dries the lungs and ravages the exposed flesh - since his horse had fallen exhausted and lifeless from beneath him. There were times when he had cursed the sun - ephemeral fits of madness, when he wanted to tear the clothing from his body - but despite the heat and the weight he carried, he stumbled on, resting only at noon, using his blanket as a make shift tent to protect himself from the sun. Then, as late afternoon approached, he would emerge sweat-drenched and light-headed from beneath his shelter, setting off once again, walking late into the night.


As the darkness of evening closed in around him, Parker bundled himself onto his aching feet gathering some of the heavier fallen foliage into a neat small pile and lit a fire. From his saddle bag he took the last tin of beans and with the razor edged of the Bowie he carefully opened the can. His cook-pan and utensils he had left in the desert beside his horse, so he placed the tin directly into the open flames then sat back silently staring mindfully down into the burning coals.


Damsel Parker was not a stranger to the hardships of life beneath the stars. For three years he had driven cattle across the southwest country, a country once the home to many different Indian tribes. But as the white man had drifted into the land in search of gold and adventure, and with the added promise by the state of Washington of cheap land offered to the earlier settlers - they were driven from the land. A people reduced to a life of constraint, suppressed of all freedom, and now totally dependent on white man's whisky.


Carefully he removed the tin from the fire and with two fingers he scooped hungrily at the beans, and then washed them down with the last of the water in his canteen. He slept poorly that night, troubled by bad dreams of rattlesnakes and coyotes, until finally late into the night he fell into a heavy sleep. He never heard the sound of the horses as they approached; four riders side by side etched against the dawn and the endless waste of sand like turbid ghost-like forms.


"We’ll start at the other end of the ridge," said one of the riders. "It`s as good as any place to start. If we follow the north fence across Springs Valley, then south at Devils Peak, we should be in sight of Grayville’s Ridge by evening."


Another laughed. "Depending on the condition of the fence," he said. "Last season I spent a month out here repairing broken strands and replacing shattered poles. Something must have spooked them - they stampeded out a hundred yards of wire."


Veronica Staples rode quietly beside them, her thoughts and concentration deafened the onslaught of their ramblings. Her attention was drawn to a set of scuffed markings in the sand that ran at an angle to them. Shortening her length on the reins, with a sudden flick from a skilled hand, she veered quickly away from her companions. The markings were the stark footprints of a solitary man, scuffed and deep. Raising herself in the stirrups she traced them to the end of the desert sand.


Drifter?" grunted the tall rider reining in beside her.


"Keep it down, Luke," she stubbed him. "He could still be in there."


"If he is, we’ll flush him out Miss Veronica. The boys and me will have no trouble in doing that."


Veronica ignored him. Instead, she turned in her saddle towards the desert. The footprints were clearly visible in the sand stretching far back into the distant. "He must have walked in late last evening," she said mindfully.


"- or early this morning, Miss Veronica." Luke slid from the saddle of his chestnut gelding to study the markings. Then slowly he rose back to his feet dusting the loose gravel sand from his hands against his worn denim jeans, and smoothly slipped one of the notched, bone handled, handguns from its holster. "Take the right of me," he said quietly up at William. "And you the left, O’Rourke."


Parker was awakened abruptly by the sharp pain that exploded in his side. He rolled over clutching at the pain, his free hand instantly reaching for the Colt .44 beneath his saddle, but another wave of stabbing pain rocked his shoulder and he wheeled away empty handed.


"Get up!" Luke snarled down at him. "We don`t take kindly to your type around here."


Parker dragged himself unsteadily to his knees, and finely to his hunches. He rested for a moment huddled forward leaning against his out stretched right arm, and then slowly raised his left hand upwards in a gesture of submission. "Listen boys," he said gingerly, "I … I don`t want any trouble."


"Trouble!" O’Rourke laughed. "That’s what you drifters are all about. Nothing but trouble. Your type just don`t get it, do you?" And he lashed out a thunderous right boot that caught Parker squarely across the head.


William not wanting to miss out on the fun followed quickly with one of his own.


The force of the blows sent Parker crashing to the ground, landing face down in the dirt, his left shoulder crumpled awkwardly beneath his chest. For a moment he lay still spitting a mixture of dust and blood from the corner of his mouth. O’Rourke stood over him now silhouetted against the morning sky. He had the build and stance of a Longhorn, heavy shouldered and a thick neck. He shuffled his leather riding boots mockingly in the dirt and Parker quailed away slightly.


"Lost your horse?" He taunted Parker.


"Three days out in the desert," Parker mumbled softly. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and a smear of dust and blood appeared across his cheek. "All I need is a horse," he added quickly, his eyes not straying from the dusty leather boots that scuffled the earth before him, "and … and I’ll be on my way."


William had moved around to the rear of Parker, stopping momentarily to rummage through his things. "No doubt it was a stolen horse," he scoffed harshly, and placed another solid boot deep into the center of Parker`s back.


Parker rolled through the dirt coming up quickly at O’Rourke, but checked himself abruptly as he found himself staring down the cold steel barrel of a Colt .45.


O’Rourke smiled, sucking loudly on his tongue as he shook his head slowly down at Parker. "Looks as though we've caught ourselves a nasty little rattla," he said across at William. "What say we skin the bastard?"


William grinned openly and spat a half chewed sod of tobacco at the ground. "Can`t say that I mind, " he started, but Veronica Staples cut him short with a spiked tone that left him hanging.


"Enough!" she scolded them. "We've wasted enough time. Get him to his feet."


Still mounted, she had moved in closer behind them. A tall and slender woman with long black hair that she wore pulled tightly into a ponytail at the back of her head. It hung with a twist like that of a corkscrew to the center arch of her shoulders shimmering in the morning light from beneath a large black hat. The eyebrows were black also, thick and boldly arched over the eyes that stared down at Parker.


Luke took hold of Parker dragging him to his feet. His mouth was still bleeding, and he wiped at it tactfully. Though she was only a young girl, there was no doubt in Parker`s mind who was in control. She sat poised as if one with her large black mare, as if trained from an early age, relaxed and in control. The eyes were cold and dark yet there was an inner glow about them that held his stare. Her cheekbones, high and finely pronounced, curved smoothly round to a full yet shapely noise, and below her lips were soft pink and well formed. She was dressed completely in black; riding jacket, trousers and long leather boots - except for a full white laced blouse beneath the riding jacket that hung loosely about her neck and shoulders revealing the soft gentle curve of cleavage. Despite her deep golden tan, her skin still had the soft smooth appearance of pampering, a skin that glowed with good health and circulation. The skin had a sheen of plasticity to it, almost lucent, and it seemed if one looked close enough, as Parker was doing now – one could see the clean fresh blood rising warmly up into her neck and cheeks. She touched the thread of her hair that had escaped the ponytail and floated gently against her cheek. The gesture was deliberate, almost seductive, and the command of her authority showed clearly in her dark blue eyes.


She nudged the large black mare with a firm jab of her large-roweled Mexican-spurs, bringing the large animal forward so that she towered above Parker.


"What is your name, stranger?" she demanded. Her voice was commanding but gently moderated, a cultivated and educated voice, and suddenly Parker realized that he was staring. Although she was only in her early twenties he knew instantly that she was no longer a girl - but a full woman.


”Damsel Parker." he said at last.


"Damsel Parker," she repeated, mockingly. "And what brings you to these parts?"


"Work," he answered. "I`ve just finished a drive of two thousand head of cattle from Lydenville in the north to Charters Creek in the south. A month ago, while still out on the trail, I was recruited by two men from around these parts. They paid me a month’s  wages in advance to come out here."


She turned quickly from Parker to Luke "Are we hiring cow-hands?" she asked. "Daddy mentioned nothing to me about it."


"Not that I know of," Luke shrugged his gaunt shoulders. "If we were, he sure would have mentioned it to me."


The light caught her eyes as she turned back to Parker, and he realized they were the same dark uncanny blue as that of the frozen mountains in the north when the late autumn sun shines directly on them. At first he had thought her no more than just attractive, but now he began to notice her finer qualities, the long neck, the narrow waist and the promise of fine shapely legs beneath the black riding slacks. Slowly the full effect began to sink in.


"You have me at a disadvantage," he said eventually. "I don`t know your name."


Luke turned abruptly, grabbing hold of Parker by the scruff of his collar, the index finger of his right hand waving sternly between Parker`s eyes. "Watch your mouth, boy!" he growled harshly. "The likes of you have no rights around here."


"Who were these two men?"  Veronica prompted him impatiently.


"Danny Fletcher and Tom Ferguson from the Hudson Ranch," he replied. ”But what's it to you, any way?"


Luke tightened his hold on Parker`s collar. "Not only a nasty little rattla," he growled, "but a loud mouth as well. You're pushing my patience.” And he lifted his right hand as if to strike Parker.


"Leave him alone," the young woman said suddenly, and Luke responded immediately. Parker shock himself then straightened his shirt, and for the first time he saw her smile; a soft and gentle smile that parted her full pink lips slightly revealing a full set of clean and snow white teeth. "It sounds as though old man Hudson is looking elsewhere for his workers," she chuckled softly. "It could mean that we've finally got through to the local work hands around here."


"But what of this one, Miss Veronica?" Luke remarked. "We can`t just let him go. If the locals find out, it …  it could lead to all kinds of trouble."


She was still smiling, looking directly down at Parker. "I have a feeling about this one," she answered thoughtfully. "Maybe a cowhand on the inside could work to our advantage. Especially one from not around these parts. What do you say, Mr Damsel Parker. How would you like to work for me? Double wages of cause," she added quickly. "Besides what Daddy pays you, you can keep whatever old man Hudson is offering."


"I can`t say that I like the idea," Parker spoke directly up at her.


"The thought of all that money doesn't appeal to you?"


Parker shook his head. "I can`t say that it does. It`s not manly to steal from another. It`s just not right. Besides, I can`t imagine myself riding with the like of these three."


The words had hardly left his mouth when he noticed the charmed smile disintegrate. Instantly her face had twisted into intense anger, the corners of her mouth had dropped and tightened the eyes thin and darkening beneath the thick black eyebrows. She nudged her large black mare again - this time with extreme force that sent the animal surging forward knocking Parker clear off his feet.


"Around here you do as I say or suffer the consequences." Her voice was raised to an almost scream and Parker noticed the three men, which now stood over him, tense instantly. She had lost control, a fit of madness that flushed her cheeks as her roseate heart pumped her bright red blood directly into them. Her hand fletched, moving swiftly down towards the handgun that hung from a broad leather belt and resting intimately against her outer thigh.


Luke sensed it coming and reacted immediately. He lunged forward taking hold of her right hand as it fastened against the cold steel. "No!" he bellowed. "Let me and the boys take care of him."


Parker never saw her left hand move, but in an instant it held the second handgun. It was leveled squarely at Luke's head, and the hammer was pulled back. She was perspiring now across her forehead and small pimpled goose flesh had appeared across her exposed skin.


"Don`t ever do that again," she shriek. "Or by the Lord, I’ll send you straight to hell."


Luke turned pale, almost white and took a step backwards. "Easy, Miss Veronica." He raised both his hands to the level of his shoulders. "Leave him to us. We’ll take care of him. There's no need to trouble yourself with the likes of him."


Slowly she relaxed back into to the saddle releasing the hammer with her thumb. She was heaving heavily as her breathless lungs gasp at the air. For a brief moment longer she stared down at him, her dark uncanny blue eyes clouded in fury with the same ice-blue glow like that of blind man, before slowly holstering the long barreled handguns.


Then suddenly her eyes were clear again, and she said: "We are wasting time boys. Come, there is work to be done."


The three men looked at each other, then up at her.


"And him?" Luke pointed at Parker.


"Leave him be," she told them. "But take his saddle, bridle and guns," she added, now smiling again, "I quite fancy them."




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