CHAPTER 3: NOMAN’S WIFE
Geoffrey Noman’s wife left the house shortly before chores, but not so early Geoff would notice and be alarmed, but while it was yet light. Though she rarely left the house, she made her way in haste to the Clementine’s bunkhouse and knocked boldly on the bunkhouse door, passing Freya Gunderson on the way, and shaking her head in disgust.
Salina Montoya, Theresa Salida’s sister answered, and asked Geoff’s wife what she wanted as if to ask her to leave, and now, but never to come back, in her strange voice that made her sound like the wicked child of a gnome in a play Noman’s wife saw when she was a child herself, and it always sent chills up her back.
“Where is he?” Noman’s wife asked.
“What do you care you’ve been wrestling in the haymow with Preacher DeShamer today already! Can you really want for the stranger too?” then she giggled which was more a the taunting cry of an old hag than a giggle as she shook her head indignantly at the immoral woman she thought stood before her.
“You creepy little witch!” Noman’s wife screamed coming at Salina, who began swearing in Spanish and yelling voodoo curses in the old Mayan tongue, so Noman’s wife feared, scaring her half to death.
Just as she grabbed at the ugly little half Mexican girl’s scraggly dirty hair, the stranger grabbed her about the waist from behind, and then slipping between the women he held each back away from the other by simply spreading his arms and placing a huge hand high on their chests near their throats as if threatening each with bodily harm at any moment.
“What’s going on?” he said calmly. “Why are you ladies fighting?”
Salina took to stroking his hand and rubbing her face against it with a wild animal like look in her very blue, huge blue eyes that looked like they were crossing as she watched his hand with unnatural interest, but Noman’s wife stood her ground and made neither attack nor girlish play for the stranger, causing the stranger to look at her in disbelief just before he noticed Owen Lee the sheriff step into the yard just outside the door of the bunkhouse.
He let go of the women, and Geoffrey Noman’s wife looked into his eyes and saw there was someone behind her now, and turning to look at the sheriff she noticed Salina Montoya was still fascinated by the stranger’s hand, he was trying to keep her from handling with little success.
“Howdy stranger,” the sheriff said. “Mind if I ask what is going on here?”
The stranger was silent.
“How’s Geoff?” the sheriff asked Mrs. Noman, and Noman’s wife tried to rush by him as if it might leave her out of it as Owen said to the young gal behind the stranger, “Salina, honey, I think it is time you better be on your way home. It’ll be dark by the time you get there. Now get!” but she was oblivious to the sheriff.
“Get along home now, girl!” he persisted with almost a yell which startled the girl whose eyes came alive with fear at the sight of Owen Lee the sheriff.
Then alone with the stranger Owen Lee said, “Listen mister, you are causing quite an uproar around town. Let’s see Disa Oelstrom, Freya Gunderson, that’s two.
Hedvig, Salina, and now even Noman’s wife? Five? You, my man, are a very busy man. The only woman, if you can even call Salina a woman; but the only women whom you haven’t touched so far are old lady Clementine and poor blind Mrs. Tell, both of them in their nineties and past their prime.” Then he noticed the telltale pies on the makeshift table and shook his head as he walked over and with a slender finger dipped it into the fresh sweetened whipped cream. Owen Lee then noticed the one pie had writing on it, and when he figured it out he shook his head and looked at the stranger as he removed his hat and began whipping his right thigh with it. “Even those two old grandmas are interested in ya?”
The stranger nodded his head.
“Why ain’t a man like you married?” the sheriff asked before he added as an afterthought, “Never mind, I think I can figure that one out for myself.”
The stranger touched the tip of his white hat as the bay whinnied out in the corral.
“That’s the last one, stranger,” old man Clementine said as he walked a mare off to the barn right by the front door.
“Even your horse is a damn stud!”
The stranger smiled. “It’s our present,” he said in a quiet voice that held no charm for the sheriff of course.
“Well,” Owen Lee the sheriff said, “as far as I’m concerned you can stay as long as you like, Preacher DeShamer has and Freya is heathen just like Davey Helmsrud, Clementine’s only cowhand and stable boy. I always thought those two should get together and hammer out a marriage between them, but Davey just don’t seem to have enough potential for Freya. When the preacher hears about this he’s not going to keep it quiet; he’ll pound your soul like he was nailing you to the cross himself come Sunday morning.”
The stranger leaned against a broken chair at the makeshift table. “So, sheriff, what have I done wrong?” he smiled and then quickly added, “in the eyes of the law that is; not God.”
“Well, my friend, I just thought I might warn you, the men are already talking about hanging ya. As a matter of fact a bunch of them are down at the saloon right now; Davey, and Gunther, and Ole Oelstrom, and a few more of the more distant farmers and ranchers; Noman’s down there too now that he noticed his wife was gone also, and a bunch of others, mostly cowboys and the like. They’re getting drunk and Ole has them at fever pi-itch…” he said as his wife, Theresa Salida, suddenly appeared in the doorway.
Shocked he looked at his wife logically assuming the worst of her.
“It-it’s not what it-it looks like, Owen Lee,” she said in perfect English though she was clearly thoroughbred Mexican.
“What does it look like?” Owen Lee the sheriff said.
“I-I know all of the women…”
She looked down at her Sunday dress and then turning scurried away.
The silence was deafening in the bunkhouse for nearly ten minutes. Then Owen
Lee the sheriff sighed and put his hat back back on his head, took a deep breath and walked toward the bunkhouse door. Reaching it, he stopped and said, “I catch you with my wife, I’ll not stop hunting you down until you’re dead or I’m in prison for something I done.”
Then he walked through the door and it was almost dark, too dark to see who snuck back in the bunkhouse after he was a far piece away, but he hoped it was Davey Helmsrud turning in for the night his self.
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