Western Short Story
The Conquistadors in New Pants
Tom Sheehan

Western Short Story

Deek Garcia was in trouble from the first word spoken on the job, a glob of language leaving no interpretation but that of a one-sided son of a bitch who had more hate in his body than a scowl on dead meat. The speaker would never mention Mexico, or border crossing, or any pithy word that said Deek was poor at his work. The fact is, when guns are drawn, an ally’s an ally, and he damned well ought to be.

The transplant was a remarkable gunman, quicker than most, deliberate as many, deadly as the best in their part of Texas, as the stories began to conclude. From knee-pants days, his father, realizing some of the future, had trained the boy on the art of survival. For an old man, with one bad arm from a fall off his horse, and one eye just about shot out of his head, the air full of other bullets, he would impose instructions on survival and make them stick like a cow lick on a fancy suitor.

Deek Garcia was a listener and a learner, and knew the language of hate in its merest utter, and let it go the way he did of mean barbs, beautiful bird calls, and busybodies at their useless work; all expendable at gun time. Reaction is a natural conclusion, usually an immediate expression of hate and anger, or thought and temperance, though it is difficult to wrangle them together.

The day he donned the badge of a Texas Ranger, crudely made for him by his father from an old Mexican soft silver and lead coin with a rugged Texas star on the face of the coin, and with a pin attached for wearing when feasible. The badge was Deek’s pride after an oath that stuck with him for life. It all started when he viewed a schoolhouse, full of kids he knew, was shot up by a Mexican bandit and his gang, and his life found meaning as the residue of that sight.

It burned him every day thereafter. More to it than a horse, a gun, a badge.

All of this, the current spoiler of words, was fully aware. Chuck Beaurdeaux was Parisian by birth, American by parental transport, Ranger by desire. He loved horses, the wide outdoors not found in New York or Boston, and allowed a series of moves get him to Texas which had been a state since 1845, though the Rangers had been created by Steven Austin another 10 years earlier than statehood.

Things, as one might say, were put in place before him, the road greased, the lane trimmed, yet he was the outsider come inside, and, for these moments, all the way with a badge.

When a new gang, some Mexican locals calling it “Los conquistadores en pantalone nuevos,” (The Conquistadors in New Pants), raided in brutal fashion a small outpost of folks, the case was assigned to Deek Garcia and Chuck Beaurdeaux, the improbable pair. Some people thought it was forcing the issue of closeness, others that it was as much a test as a duty for the pairing.

But they responded from the moment of assignment, two men of different backgrounds bound for a kind of hell on horseback, chasing down the new gang, their inner parts and members nameless and unknown from the start. They agreed that lone investigation was demanded of each of them, and without their badges, to poke around sections of the area on their own and keep each other advised of findings and determinations on a weekly basis. That would be confined to a lone canyon, half a day’s ride to reach. Both men spoke Spanish, Deek as born to it, and Chuck as a spirited student.

Deek rode into Hollow Springs showing his thirst at the bar of the Horse Head Saloon, gulping down three drinks that made a customer at the bar say, “You look like you been in the desert for a week. mister.” It was in Spanish, as was Deek’s reply; “I been drier than desert dust for 20 miles looking for work, and not wanting to hang around the last spot for obvious reasons that got out of hand. I don’t like the idea of a noose around my neck either quick or slow, so I went vamoose.” He paused, ordered another drink and swigged it down.

The other customer said, “What kind of trouble were you in? Enough for the promise of a neck dance? By the way, my name’s Luke Garner, if you’re ever looking for me.” His voice had adapted a very friendly but inquisitive tone, almost asking questions but suppressing the urge to “dig for info.”

They shook hands as Deek replied to Luke’s question, “Enough to scramble in the dark, hightail it here to this anywhere in the open country. The fact is that hereabouts looks interesting to me. At least the drinks are great and the company, so far, has been pleasant. I’m in here out of the rain, to say it another way. Both men chuckled with agreeable pleasure, buying each other a new round, and Deek disclosing a quick idea, “Some folks back there call me ‘The Kid with Three Legs.’” He was not sure at all where it had come from, but felt it fit the situation with distinction.

It was an artful way to pry doors further apart, gain inner reaches.

It worked its purpose because Luke Garner opened another door with his reply: “Well, Kid, I got a friend who’d probably be interested in your working for him, and it’s all making quick money and having fun at the same time.”

“Interests me already,” Deek said with honest emotion.

“Well, I’ll talk to him for you. You going to be around a while so I’m not wasting my time?”

“No place for me to go now, except to visit a new lady I met on the way here. Damn near held me up for good. Deserves a payback call every once in a while. Nothin’ like Chikita Marita for comfortin’.”

Their laughter this time was contagious, making the saloon warmer.

Deek got a room, slept off his ride, told the landlord he was going to visit a dear friend, and left early in the morning. Near half a day brought him to Chuck Beaurdeaux sitting against a wall in the shade, his horse tied off behind a huge boulder. He had a smile on his face that Deek could just about read, making him say, “Well, Chuck, you look like you have the kind of news I have, and I hope it blends with mine.” He dismounted, tied off his horse, and sat beside his partner. both enjoying the comfortable ease and a reunion of sorts.

Chuck said, “I’m guessing you heard about “Los conquistadores en pantalone nuevos,” (The Conquistadors in New Pants), a new group of Mexican raiders with a mysterious leader whose name is unknown as yet, but they’re as wild and savage as hell and care for nothing but their own gains and satisfaction.” His interest jumped when he asked, “Did you hear anything like that?”

Deek slapped his hands like applause and explained, “Keep your fingers crossed because I just might have made contact with a gent named Luke Garner who promised me a possible contact and/or a job with the gang, no name of a leader brought up, just Him each time he’s mentioned.”

He kept nodding, and added, “It looks as good as it sounds.” There was a bit of pride in his voice.

“That sounds great, Deek. You got grease on your tongue too, I’ll bet.”

The laughter was instant on both sides, with no explanations necessary.

They agreed to meet a week later, if it was practical and sensible, successful secrecy being the best for their job, and Chuck promising to check things on his end about any information concerning the new gang of bandits, The Conquistadors in New Pants.

Deek entered The Horse Head Saloon at noon the next day, to find Luke Garner waiting on him. “You visit your friend, Kid? Must be a nice stop-over. Any shares floating around?”

“Not this one,” Deek said firmly. “Any of the others are free-floaters and can do what they want, but not my new sweet one.” His words were firm, near hard, and said that part of the discussion was over.

Garner tapped the bar top, not for another round, but to say, “Pedro Garcia López, the big boss, wants to meet you, thinks you’re the kind of man he wants, that he needs in his gang. Let’s face it, force and power are the only ways to get ahead in any fashion these days, a kind of deadly power that makes people quiver and fall prone to harsh demands, and always at the point of a gun, and the more guns the better the catch, the better the spoils.

“Hell, I get a hundred bucks for bringing you into the fold, and he’s dying to find out what Kid on Three Legs means. Says he can’t picture it and wants an explanation right from your mouth, about what it means. You really got him interested, Kid. I sure hope you can carry it off. He don’t like no halfway stuff, if you know what I mean.”

He bought another round, and said, “Tonight’s the meeting and no sweet stuff interrupting the session. No visit out of town. Stay put until I pull the two of you together.” He knocked once on the bar top to note importance.

A few hours later, in a room at the back of the saloon, Pedro Garcia López made his appearance, gun hands all around him. and he was a handsome dog of a man, a head of curly black hair, a beard trimmed to perfection, eyes as wide as the open trail, a special air about each movement he made as if he was being judged on each move he made.

Neither Pedro Garcia Lopez, nor any of his gang, nor Deek Garcia himself, nor Luke Garner, knew that an odd hand was in attendance in a small entryway where Chuck Beaurdeaux had stationed himself, his attention previously alerted that Deek Garcia was at the crucial point of their investigation. He was armed to the teeth’

Luke Garner almost at a bow, said, “Pedro Garcia Lopez, I want you to meet The Kid on Three Legs.” He ushered Deek Garcia forward with some celebrity, his face full of a smile, a hundred-dollar smile. “He can tell you the origin of his name, as only he can tell it.”

“Tell me, Kid,” Pedro Garcia Lopez said, his face set in an innocent smile, as if he was not about to believe any story thrown his way, “where in Hell did this kind of name get put on a such skinny, rinky-dinky kid such as you. I find it had to believe and don’t even have a picture it in my head. You look as healthy as a sick horse; your face shows it.”

Chuck Beaurdeaux was ready, two guns in his hands, nerves taught, action at hand, as he waited for the whole scene to explode, somehow realizing that Pedro Garcia Lopez was not about to be taken in by any kind of explanation of a Kid on Three Legs.

Silently, in his secrecy, he cocked his weapons, palming each move under an armpit, his partner on the firing line.

Deek Garcia said, ”Pedro Garcia Lopez, into such lives ordained from the very beginning comes a special dispensation where a third leg to spin on, to balance one’s self is a gift not to be ever betrayed, that is only used when the occasion demands it that the selected person can operate on that third mystical leg to spin and twirl and mystify his opponents so that their effectiveness is totally diminished, such as when employed this way.”

And he spun about in a spin and twirl and drew his guns and fired away, even as from secrecy Chuck Beaurdeaux began to fire his weapons with great accuracy, and his spinning, twirling partner fired two deadly shots into Pedro Garcia Lopez, who succumbed immediately and other gang members, in a state of misbelief, dropped their weapons in great disappointment and fear.

As might be said, “The shooting was over before it began, especially for The Kid on Three Legs and his intuitive partner.”