THE CARPET-BAGGER

He died the day we had first fall of snow that year. Ole Pa Quentin had got up early so as to go over to Frank’s place first thing, reckoning on an early start meaning an early return before the drifts were gettin’ too deep. Now, ole Quentin wasn’t a one to be takin’ a trip on unnecessary, if he was takin’ his horse and cart that far an’ that early it was to be for askin’ a favor or lendin’ one, folks never did find out which one it was to be on that occasion. Somethin’ about the way the front gate was blowing in the wind, that’s what Quentin said, that was the first thing that made him feel a little uneasy, couldn’t say why, just somethin’ not right. He hopped down from his cart and went through that gate, makin’ real certain he tied it shut. Then he went into the house. He rode back into town faster than anyone, anyone who hadn’t known him in his youth, had seen him ride, and he had left that gate untied.

He hadn’t returned with the Sheriff or the Doctor, just said they needed to get up to Frank’s place, which gave them plenty of time on the journey up there to joke about why Pa Quentin would be a’callin on Frank anyways. Frank had money, and he was happy to lend it, for a price, but his father and Pa Quentin went back aways, so maybe Quentin was hoping for easy terms, who knows. What they did know, the Doc and the Sheriff, was that whoever had shot Frank, it wasn’t Ole Quentin.

Sure as he had told ‘em, there was Frank sprawled on the floor of the cabin with a pool of dried blood framing his shattered head. Hard to tell how long he’d lain there, been mighty cold the last few days and the Doc reckoned on that keepin’ the body fresher than expected. A week, maybe a little more. He had taken one bullet, through the forehead, from a forty four Remington Army revolver Model 1863. Eight inch barrel with five groove, right twist rifling. Now, neither the Doc, nor Sheriff Baxter were astute enough to glean all that information from the ugly hole where Frank’s head used to be, no, only I knew those particulars, and I knew them for one good reason, I had squeezed the trigger of that particular Remington, and I knew that gun, like a close friend.

Did I know Frank? Not personally. Did he know me? Nope, he had probably heard all about me. She always loved to talk about her big brother, how he was making his fortune up North, in the fur trade, how he’d always be sendin’ money to her and their Mother, looking after them. Guess that’s what attracted Frank to my sweet little sister in the first place, that and the fact she had been beautiful. Cutting to the chase, he had ruined her. Physically, emotionally, mentally and financially. You see Frank was a carpet-bagger, a con-man, whatever you want to call him, don’t make no odds now, he ain’t none of those things anymore. It killed her and I tracked him down and I killed him.

When I had stepped out of the shadows and pointed the gun at him, well, he had kinda looked surprised. He didn’t know me, but I figured he knew I wasn’t there for a friendly chat. Maybe, he thought he deserved some explanation as to why his life was ending that day. Seen it myself, plenty of times. The way they have to give a reason why they’ve turned up to shoot you, like they have to get it off their chest, condone it to you, to themselves. Waste of time and a weakness. A fatal one. I didn’t see why I needed to provide an explanation as to why Frank was meeting his maker that day, so he never got one. His mouth started to open, forming a first…or last word and I just put one bullet into him. He wasn’t the first man I had killed, doubt he would be the last. I left the way I had came, and it wasn’t North.

All that money I sent down to Ma and Johanna, the way she’d proudly tell anyone who listened about how well I was doing in the fur trade up North. Guess she had been flattered by his attention, Frank had been a handsome man. All that money he took from her, he, nor she, never knew the truth of it. I’d never touched a fur in my life, I was a damn carpet bagger, just like good old Frank.