Beamo’s Gold part 28
Beamo and Little Bit have to deal with some new realities at the Saint trading post.
Just forty minutes later we spotted two smoke plumes, one rising from the Dezret trading post chimney and the other from the nearby blacksmith shed. Lodgepole pines and other greenery emerged before us.
My engine coughed and sputtered again, but we made it to the large, rectangular log lodge. A small river flowed next to several big workshop barns with stables set back behind the three-story-tall main building. More horses and mules tied up in front of the place than parked cycles. The trading post had expanded since my visit five years ago.
When we chained our cycles to some small trees aways back, I noticed four Mutant Angel chrome choppers parked amongst the thirty to forty Dezret diesel cycles and atvees. Little Bit saw them and didn’t like it, but I wasn’t concerned. The Saints and the MA had been warring for centuries. I figured it was just some Saint vets showing off their trophies from their dead enemies.
Fine lynx and martin furs displayed high on the whitewashed walls in the foyer where we entered. Trappers, wildcat drillers, and prospectors crowded around tables in the big dining hall eatery. No other females in the crowd. Eyes started scanning over Little Bit and then me.
I passed a rotund man sitting at a booth across from an off-white pig wearing a lamb-leather vest and a bandolier. Made me double-take because the Saints were known for not keeping pets. Even dogs were not allowed inside their dwellings. Then I saw that the geemo creature had human arms coming out of shoulders ridging his back. A hogman eating waffles topped with spud donuts, using both hands to shovel the tall stack into his maw.
As Little Bit walked past, the hogman stopped scarfing donuts and pancakes to leer at her. When she got close, he lasciviously licked his stubby fingers, giving her a wanton face-to-face stare with his human brown eyes. She just walked on past, her chin held high in disdain.
The hogman’s human partner sported clean-shaven cheeks and a shiny shaved head. He looked us over with light blue eyes feeding a brain that never stopped scheming.
We sat down on stools in front of a kind of diner-bar combo. A middle-aged man, towel over his shoulder and a scarlet MA rune tattoo on the back of his right hand, sauntered up to us.
“What you needing?” His face wasn’t friendly or not friendly.
“I know I’m in Saint territory, but could a man get something to drink?” I asked with a smile.
“A man shouldn’t but a man could,” He said. “We got dandelion wine.”
“Looking for something stronger.” I said and the bar man nodded.
“Make it two,” Little Bit chirped. “And bring us some biscuits and sausage.” She gave a slight smile at me as her eyes veered back at the hogman.
The barman frowned at her then stepped into the back to fetch us two jars of the local bootleg moonshine.
We both sipped on the white lightning without talking. Finally Little Bit said, “Had a bad dream last night. Tee used to talk about the constant grating noise he had to deal with when he was serving down in the Yiyou country in the far south. He said it was too loud to even talk to people. I dreamed there was this loco-angry groan blasting up out the wet earth.”
“They sent me down there to advise his firebase company at the end of my tour. Like you say, dreams are funny things. Believe it or not, I just had a dream about that same episode two nights ago.” I gulped my ‘shine, got it halfway down. I knew Little Bit worshipped her dreamtime, thought it made the world real, so I made sure to take what she said seriously. “It’s not just down there. Illnoise country quired its name for the same reason. The evil noises have calmed down in our part of the Midwest though. They say it comes from cavities put into the earth by the Mericans looking for gas and oil. They called it fracking.”
“The last time you two were together but you couldn’t even talk to each other. The last time the sea caught fire.” She tipped her glass, finished her moonshine.
“Yes, that’s right. We barely made it out, were almost roasted alive.” I finished my glass, the nice warm feeling spread down and around inside my belly. Since it was outlawed, the Dezret bootleggers had to make their spirits mellow, as their fellows’ delicate stomachs are not used to liquid fire.
The barman came out with our biscuits and sausage. I flipped him some Zark silver. He looked it over. Little Bit wanted butter and honey for her biscuits, so the barman sighed and slipped into the back again.
I reached out and grabbed a pitcher of water. I filled her glass and then mine. The barman didn’t return. I was about to yell back there when something made me turn around on my stool. I watched three Mutant Angels strutting down the winding stairway from the third floor. They stepped out at the landing under a pair of big mammoth tusks mounted on the wall. The three were dressed in human skins, but not impressive thicknesses. They had their arms around two bawdy girls each.
We both froze. The rest of the place quieted a little but most chattered on as if the mutilated freak-faces’ presence was natural. But this wasn’t neutral Mo’s Island this was Dezret. They weren’t supposed to be here.
Under my breath I said, “We need to keep eating, Little Bit. Just keep on like it’s nothing.”
When we had about finished, two Saint ruffians in coypu vests and beaver hats stood behind us. I chewed and swallowed my last bite then stood and faced them.
“What kind of business you in, billy?” The taller ruffian asked. His shorter, darker haired partner didn’t say anything, kept sucking his lip and inside cheek, more the murderer glint in his eyes than the pasty one asking the question.
“The name’s Beamo Roamer, not billy,” I noticed on each of their right hands a new, bright red MA rune tattoo.
“You talk to me about the business.” Little Bit turned on the stool then stood up next to me. She scooted her stool behind her as she stared up at them. Her green eyes didn’t give the two ruffians any courtesy.
“You let this woman talk without being spoken to?” The taller ruffian challenged, smiled like the schoolyard tormenter of weak kids.
“Who could stop her?” I said back and shrugged. Little Bit flashed a perturbed glance at me then stared back at the two ruffian Saints.
The shorter one now spoke. “She yours? I don’t see no ring.” He cocked his head at my left hand then continued the sucking sound on his lips.
“We’re engaged to be engaged,” I said with a sneer and moved in close to the taller one who was not quite my height. I stepped on his toes, my normal overawing tactic, and he awkwardly stumbled back. Suddenly his eyes got shifty, not wanting to look at me.
“Hey, hey, you steppin’ on my boots!” The taller ruffian looked over at his shorter partner.
“You ain’t very friendly,” the shorter ruffian said. The closest dudes in the dining hall noticed and it started to get quieter.
“Nobody’s seen anything that’s not friendly yet.” I kept looking at the taller one but had the shorter one in my peripheral.
Little Bit drew a deep breath like her patience tank was on empty. “You two going to keep flapping your liver lips about our personal affairs or are you interested in business?” Then she sported a sneaky smile and said in a lowered voice, “We trekked three dozen young girls over the Shining Mountains from the Zarks. Expect to get a good price for each one.”
“Real young girls.” I chimed in with my quiet voice. “Fresh. There’s been a lot of fighting in the Zarks between the county nations. A bevy of poor orphans who would be grateful for the peace of a happy home. They’ll make primo sister wives.”
The clanging and talking picked back up. The ruffian duo’s faces changed. They were sure enough interested but then a Mutant Angel stepped up behind them. He was about my height. The gourd-headed skull-face didn’t enter the conversation. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing here or what the hand tattoos on the Saints signified. The whole bizarre atmosphere threw me off my game.
Little Bit gave no sign of being vexed about the situation. She went right at it, quietly embellished our made-up story without missing a stroke. The two ruffian Saints offered to haul our fuel for us in their six-wheeled diesel atvee for an escort fee. Little Bit agreed but mandated that they keep their mouths shut and do the work of filling up a portable tank we were about to rent.
When we got out the door of the rental office, heading for the exit, the shaved-headed man with the hogman partner touched my arm. “You don’t know, do you?”
“Of course I know,” I lied. It was usually easy to get away with a fib to a Saint, if you were not bargaining with them. But this particular Saint dude was a little more savvy than the usual temple-raised, never lie, never expect anyone else to lie, Dezret citizen. The other Saints called a rogue like him a Jack.
He turned his head, a haughty smirk on his face, to look down at the grimacing mug of his hogman bud then turned back to me. “You don’t know, bully-billy. We–the entire Dezret nation–lost to the Mutant Angel Empire this spring. May 1st the Deacons surrendered New Salt Lake to the General.”
“You mean General Wound?” The news shocked but I don’t think I showed. “If it’s true why do you still have your balls? Why aren’t you castrated and thralling down in Xice?” It explained everything, not only what was going on here but the fact no traders or missionaries had visited the Zarks in over six months. Hearing that the never-ending war between the Dezret Saints and the Mutant Angels was actually over was like living in a strange dream.
“There’s other things they do to you, bully-billy. The General makes other arrangements. Listen, you look like a serious customer, but you’re gonna need a guide out here.” Like all of them Dezret dudes he was looking to make a deal.
I shook my head. The man packed a lever action rifle, held at his side, ready for shi to get real at any time. A heavy-set dude but easy to tell he knew how to handle conflict. You could see in his sun-beat skin he spent a lot of time out in the bush. Still, I didn’t need a guide. “Name’s Roamer. I don’t preciate being called billy and I’m not interested in your services. You savvy?”
“I didn’t mea–mea–mean to hurt–hurt your fee–fee–feelings.” He gave a mocking baby-stutter response as we turned and stepped out the open exit into the bright late afternoon sunshine.
“You didn’t hurt nothing,” I said over my shoulder as we walked away.
“My handle’s Killa Milla in case you change your mind,” The shaved-headed Jack said. I picked up a hint of desperation in his voice.
“I’m Arvey Three-Sixty-Three,” the hogman grunted out after us. He now wore a grimy grin under his snout and sported a wide-brimmed, floppy hat. His four hooved legs trotted after us several paces out the door. “If you need extra coin, I’ll be happy to take a turn on your female.”
“Don’t do smelly cob-rollers,” Little Bit quipped over her shoulder.
We got the chains off our cycles and mounted up. I looked around to make sure we were out of earshot. I turned to Little Bit.