2949-09-21 – Tales from the Inbox: Monte Crow’s Host
As soon as they were inside, Leopold Mendel gestured with his gun for David Montero to sit in one of the wickerwork chairs in the big house’s anteroom. David eased himself slowly down, not wanting to make any sudden moves. He had never been in the Mendel house before, and he had to admit that what he could see so far impressed him. Though the place was built to nowhere near the level of precision which had been the norm in his own recently-destroyed house, the sprawling compound oozed a feeling of homey security.
Though the plank floorboards were covered by Ravi dust blown in underneath the door and between the joints of the stiff metal panels of the outer siding, the wickerwork furniture and cloth wall-coverings gave the anteroom a cozy, quiet atmosphere entirely at odds with the winds which at that moment had just begun to rush down into the basin outside. The storm blowing in was as multi-edged as the dust particles it carried - it would blind whatever security system Mendel had, but it would also prevent David’s would-be killers from following his trail.
“I’ll let you call the Sheriff as soon as the storm lets up.” Mendel shouldered his rifle and turned a crank on the door, which pushed a set of heavy deadbolts into place. “Transmitter sure as all hells won’t work in that mess.”
“Will your crops be all right?”
“Crops?” Mendel frowned as he sat down in a chair opposite. “Oh, the garden. Yeah, I think so. That’s Phyllis’s project. Not sure how she can get anything to grow at all."
David frowned. True, the greenery around the Mendel homestead was unusual, but it was hardly the only green patch on Botched Ravi. The settlers of the world had engineered a few types of food crop that grew well enough, given water and some shelter from the storms. “Botch Peas? Wyrmroot?”
“Probably those.” Mendel shrugged. “Why don’t you tell me about those off-worlders who wrecked your house?”
David glanced toward the door, though the wind howling outside would flay him in thirty seconds if he decided to use it to escape the conversation. “Hells if I know, Mendel. They showed up pretending they were locals, and started shooting when I didn’t buy the ruse. I think they were at Palumbo’s before me.”
“And they demolished your house for shooting back?”
“For shooting back too well, I reckon. Bagged at least two of the bastards.”
Mendel nodded casually and glanced down at the gun resting on his knees. David knew immediately that his fellow homesteader didn’t buy the story. “How many were there?”
“Six at least, including the ones I holed. Could have been more hanging back.”
“At least four still after you, then.” Mendel frowned. “As soon as the storm lifts, they’ll follow you here.”
David shrugged. “I lost them, but other than Palumbo you’re the closest place I could have run, and they’ll be able to figure that out. Shouldn’t be too much trouble for the two of us, at least until Deering catches up, and I’ll help you see to anything that gets shot up.”
Mendel scowled. “My house is not a fortress, Montero, and I am not a gunman for hire. Whatever intrigue you’ve gotten mixed up in, you go out there and face it when this storm is over.”
David sighed. He could easily overpower Mendel and fight off Grif’s gang from within the house, but he hadn’t come to Botched Ravi to keep living a brigand’s life. “I’ll go out after I’ve called Deering. If they come here, tell them I’m headed for town.”
Mendel nodded, then looked up as a strong gust shook the house. “You’ve got at least two hours before that squall lets up. I’m going to go get some coffee.”
As Mendel exited the anteroom through an inner door, David scanned the space he’d been left in. Though a gun rack protruded between the tapestries near the door, it held nothing but an empty cartridge box. A few crates along the opposite wall looked to be full of foodstuffs. There was, in short, nothing worth stealing, at least not in his current situation. He wouldn’t steal from Mendel unless his life depended on it, of course, but old pirate habits died hard.
If it had been anyone but Grif, he might have tried hiding in the expansive Mendel homestead, but Griffon Baum never forgot a grievance, and he never gave up once he smelled blood. He’d tear the Mendels’ house to pieces and torture them for weeks on the slightest chance of finding his old adversary. Without Mendel’s help and without Deering’s posse, David would have to face the pirates alone in the open – a sure death wish – or watch them turn Csorba Basin into a charnel pit looking for him.
The door clicked, then opened to admit Leopold Mendel once more. He still held the gun, but it pointed at the floor, which told David that there was some sort of surveillance system in the anteroom which told Mendel he hadn’t moved. His other arm cradled two insulated carafes, and he tossed one across the room.
“Thanks.” David popped the seal and smelled the steam wafting out. “When this is over, I owe you a drink down at Talleyrand’s.”
“When this is over, I don’t want to see you for three T-years, Montero.” Mendel scowled. “Phyllis and I didn’t come here to get dropped into some hoodlum’s shooting gallery.”
David shrugged; if he went out to face Grif’s gang alone, Mendel would most probably get his wish and then some. “You want to know what this is really all about, Mendel?”
“Not in the slightest, unless it’ll get you off my property sooner.” Mendel broke the seal on his own carafe and sipped lightly.
“Smart play.” David smiled; though newcomers to Csorba, Mendel had seemingly internalized the madness that passed for local wisdom. “What’ll get me off sooner is a stormcloak, some goggles, and a decent rifle that’ll handle the dust for at least ten shots.”
Mendel narrowed his eyes. “You’re out of your mind.”
“Offer’s on the table. I’ll try to bring the stuff back, if I don’t get shot.”
Mendel sat wearing a silent scowl of deliberation for several seconds, then turned back for the door. “Out of your damned mind, Montero. I’ll be right back.”
This week’s entry concludes the publishable section of David’s account. Though he does announce that he was able to get the drop on Grif’s gang as the storm lifted, he does not provide details, most likely to avoid revealing anything incriminating about what part of the badlands the bodies are buried in.
I doubt he needs to worry about such things; from what I hear the Botched Ravi badlands make short work of any human remains committed to them.
David does say that the local police helped him hush up the cause of his house’s destruction, so searching for Botched Ravi houses that exploded (as I’m sure many of you did) won’t give you any clues as to his real identity.