Every Undertaker’s Friend
by Trek Journeyman © 2016
Part One Start at Chapter 1.1
Four men were sitting on logs near the freighter’s ramp when a shot rang out from the trees. It was dinner time and Esparza dropped his plate in his lap as he slapped for his blaster. Both Marco and Franco drew their blasters as food, plates, and utensils flew into the air around them.
There was a second shot. At the sound of the first shot, Sanford had ducked behind a stack of crates sitting on the edge of camp. The shots were not from blasters, nor any Gauss weapon any of the men were familiar with. The explosive sound seemed to be from an older slug-thrower. The gunpowder type.
It couldn’t have been the lifeforms that made the tracks at the edge of camp. They had bows of some sort. So who?
All three men approached the trees. It was still light as they were eating an early meal after loading the gold into Esparza’s ship. But by now it was getting gray. The men watched the trees for several minutes, then a voice called out.
It was Nombeko.
He sauntered into camp as he holstered his slug-thrower. Esparza noticed it was a revolver, a true antique. Nombeko raised his arms when he noticed three men with blasters. “Don’t shoot Esparza. Its me, Nombeko.” It was getting dark enough to be cautious with his identity.
“How did you find us?” Esparza asked.
“It’s done. Alluisi is dead. I just shot him in the head.”
“Was that you we just heard shooting?” Marco still had his blaster ready, but Esparza and his brother were holstered their own as he spoke.
“Yep,” said Nombeko. “Just splattered Alluisi’s brains on a tree back there. He was watching you as I came up behind him.”
Confused, Franco asked, “Wait. You’re the guy we sent to kill Alluisi?”
“Where’s his body?” Esparza demanded.
“Back there,” Nombeko gestured behind him as he walked into the camp. A nearby table held fixings for the dinner the men were enjoying before the racket started. He reached for a decanter and poured himself a cup of Caff.
“Show us,” demanded Marco. “Maybe you just shot your gun off in the air.”
“Don’t believe me, eh?” Nombeko took his time drinking the fresh Caff. He pointed back in the same direction he had come from. “Go look for yourself,” he said dismissing Marco’s distrust. “I shot him two times, as you heard. One was a head shot, the other in his torso, I think.”
“What do you mean, think?” Esparza growled. “Either you shot him or you didn’t. Did you look the body over?” Esparza walked up to Nombeko and stood close enough to make Nombeko back away and set down the Caff.
“I didn’t going near him.” A look of horror played across Nombeko’s face. “I watched him for a moment and then as I walked past he still hadn’t moved. I said I splattered his brains, so he’s dead.”
“Well, things are going really good today.” Esparza smiled. “First, Sanford walks into our hands. Then we get the gold. And now, Alluisi is dead.” Esparza turned to face Sanford.
Sanford wasn’t anywhere in sight. His plate lay upturned on the ground near where he was last seen. As all eyes and blasters were turned toward the trees, Sanford had crawled from behind the crates. He crawled around behind his ship, then he had made for the trees.
Marco and Franco made a dash to the backside of the freighter, then they ran for the trees. But it was too late. The forest was too dark to see into more than a few feet beyond the edge. The thought of how Nombeko had seen Alluisi in these trees led Marco to doubt the truth of the claimed shooting. Both men returned to Esparza without a clue as how to find Sanford. In the excitement, they forget about checking on Nate’s body.
Nombeko was eying the freighter hatch, wondering where its crew was. The women were foremost on his mind. Then he saw the security camera for the hatch. assuming it had audio pick-up he said, “Alluisi is dead folks. He won’t be coming to save you.”
He didn’t know if anyone heard him, thinking that somebody from the crew might be on the command deck. What he didn’t know was Erica had access to the security camera and had been watching and listening. After she had fled back inside after her attempt to rescue her father, Erica remembered the console in her quarters. From there she accessed the security camera.
Esparza’s attention was focused on the woods. He was far enough away he couldn’t hear Nombeko talking into the camera. The light for the hatch control screen blinked SOS in Morse code. “I can help you, for a price.” The screen blinked a Morse code Y, acknowledging his criteria for helping them. “Good, Stay where you are. I suppose your confined somehow?”
Again the screen blinked a Y.
“Keep watching and listening out here, I’ll get back with you.” The light blinked a last time. By now Marco and Franco were moving back within sight. Esparza was also approaching, but was still out of sight of the blinking light.
Then Marco roared, “He stole my goggles!”
It had been a long day in the women’s dorm. Though they didn’t have complete trust in Nombeko, Erica felt relieved to a small degree. Maybe now they had a chance to come up with a workable plan.
“What are you going to pay him with? He’ll want payment the very moment he rescues us.” The doubt on Jessica’s voice was thick as butter.
“For now that doesn’t matter. We’ll deal with it when it happens,” Erica said.
“And if it doesn’t go so well?” Kenya chimed in.
“I’m armed,” Erica patted the small blaster tucked under her shirt. “By then, there should be less of them to deal with. Hopefully, only him.”
Kenya pulled up her shirt, revealing she too had a small hold-out blaster. “This might help,” she said.
Erica smiled, “Yes. It will.”
“I don’t believe what he said.” All eyes turned questioning gazes toward Jessica. “About Nate,” Jessica said. “He can’t be dead.”
“We all heard him tell Esparza,” Erica reminded both women.
“Whatever! I still don’t believe him!” Jessica blurted. “Like Stink-face thought, maybe he shot into the air and made it up.”
Nombeko stood by the campfire. As he stared into the dancing flames, he thought about what the crew would be able to pay him. Esparza claimed to have the gold on his ship, so that was out of the question, for now. He had only been paid part of the bounty promised for killing Alluisi. But, now wasn’t the time to talk money with Esparza.
The odds were that Esparza would back out on the second payment. So why not make up the credits by helping the circus crew. The two brothers helping Esparza were two reasons to be careful. Then again, Esparza was plenty enough reason to reconsider his plan. Killing Esparza might cause the brothers to throw in with him.
A payout was reason enough to stick around instead of leaving this mess behind. If Nombeko were to leave now, it might give Esparza cause to believe he would tell of their involvement in the disappearance of the circus.
He would wait for an opportunity to speak with Esparza alone. Maybe he would get paid then. If not, then he would kill Esparza on the spot. Killing Esparza with the brothers around would not result in their supporting him. They would be loyal to their employer to the last, but not if they weren’t around when Esparza died.
In the meantime, Nombeko would work to free the circus crew. He’d done some rotten stuff in the past, but no decent outlaw would harm women and children. The penalty on the frontier for such things was most severe. Esparza and the brothers were fools, in the worst way.
Marco added a log to the fire as he spoke. “Sanford can’t come back now, not with four of us and him with no weapon.”
“Maybe.” Nombeko looked at Marco, trying to gauge the likelihood the man would revenge Esparza’s death. Marco was rash, and prone to react with violence. The women might be too tempting a prize for him to let them go, even with Esparza dead.
Franco, however, could be trusted as much as a paper flightsuit. No, Nombeko was better off without the brothers, so he needed a plan to deal with them too. After Esparza.