The sun raked across the sky, a molten bird soaring through angelic blue, a tiny strip of which found the corner of un-curtained window in Bennet's bedroom and shone into his sleeping eyes. When he opened them, his first words for the new day were, "God fuckin' damnitall." And then he rose. His breath tasted like a dead hog and his mind was clouded by last night's drink and troubled dreams of Indians and bears and tomohawks buried in skulls. And gold.
Bennet knew that starting a day with a curse was bad luck and, sitting down at his table for a breakfast of bread and sun-dried burro meat, he asked the Lord to watch out for him and to forgive his earlier cursings.
Most days Bennet would leave his house and go to work, clanging out horse-shoes or gun repairs or any other such things the townsfolk saw to needing that day, but today he would work his second job. He stood from his meal and went out to the workshop and took from under the covered money-printers four bags of Mexican currency he'd seen to making over the last month. Coins, paper-money, even some falsified gold Spanish dubloons as was used some years back and was still accepted as payment for most things to be bought. Gold is still gold, no matter what emblem, country or name is stamped on its tempered face.
He'd met the smugglers some years back, when times were tougher and laws even easier than now. He had been a fellow who defected from the USS Maine during the Spanish-American on hearing of brutalities committed by the Cubans on American soldiers just before it all went up in the smoke and flames of his best friends' bodies and their guns and dreams and thoughts of their families. Just before casting off for Key West, Florida, Bennet had snuck out the back of the line like a coward Judas and bargained his way through a band of Mexicans he encountered on his retreat before he could reach home with promises of wealth.
"My blacksmithin' skills is considerable," he said. "Muchos dinero. Oro, si?"
Bearded, bloody and soot-blackened men had looked at him. His Spanish not as considerable as his skills with metal and hammer, but he knew enough to bargain for his life. The men conferred among themselves.
"Muchos dinero?" they said, their eyes unsure but glinting with opporunistic greed. "We no kill you, you make us dinero?"
"Si," Bennet said. "I need gold, oro, papel y la tinta. Tengo máquinas. Puedo hacer las máquinas."
The men smiled, the black holes of missing teeth mirrored in all of them, gold teeth gleeed from others. One of the men, Sanguar, put a hand to his mouth and with ample effort, tore out a gold tooth.
"Oro." he said, and laughed. The others laughed too.
Holding the gold tooth glistening red with blood and the fires of the burning fortress behind him, Bennet tried to laugh. And then he was whisked up onto Sanguar's horse and ridden off away from the battlefield to begin work on the money presses.
Bennet thought on these things as he loaded the bags of blood-gold and paper onto his pack-mule and saddled his horse. No time for the past, he thought. No time at all. Barely enough for now, and he climbed up onto his horse, his rifle sitting across his lap, pinned against the horn of his saddle, and clicked his tongue. The horse moved with a snort and dragged the pack-mule behind it with a long hemp rope. It was a day's ride out to the meeting point and he always went alone.
He popped the stopper on his whiskey and drank deep, the sun burning into his skin and sweat traced dirt trenches across his skin from under the brim of his hat. As he rode his saw a bleached white cow's carcass sitting in the sand, the last remnants of its leathery hide being picked away by a buzzard and Bennet spat.
"Hey, Bennet," a voice called out from behind him, the sound of clomping hoof-pounds in the sand sped up.
Bennet turned and saw Jake catching up to him on his black thoroughbred, "Aw, shit." he said and took another sip of the whiskey.
"Goin' fer a ride today?" Jake pulled up next to him. "Mind if I join ye?"
"I got some buisness outta town. Might be a whiles."
"I don't mind. Ain't got nothin' else to do."
"Figure I will," Jake said. "Pass us some a that there whiskey."
Bennet passed the bottle over and they rode out in silence.