The land around him was so lush and green. He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen so much green in his life. Even what he saw in his travels paled in comparison to the rolling hills and mountains with their thick forests and rich grass.
A cabin sat at the top of the long, winding path. This was not exactly what he’d been imagining when he got it in his head to visit the fellow bounty hunter.
He knocked on the door and stood back. He wasn’t sure of the welcome he might receive.
“What are you doing here, boy?” So far, so good.
“Thought I’d drop by for a visit.”
Beady eyes narrowed further. “Come an awful long way for a visit. Might as well come in.”
Mortimer turned and headed back inside, pipe clasped in one hand, as always.
“Have a seat.”
He sat, still looking around the rather rustic cabin.
“So, did you spend all that money already?” He smiled around his pipe as he poured two glasses of whiskey.
The younger man laughed, “No. Half is yours.”
Mortimer leaned forward seriously. “No, it isn’t. Thought that was obvious when I walked away.”
“We worked together and it’s too much even for me. I’ve got my half and spent a little to get here, but you still have your half and I’m not gonna touch it.”
Mortimer sighed and sat back. “I got what I wanted then, and I doubt you came all this way just to give me $13,500. I’m actually surprised you’d come this far East, and while we’re on that subject, how did you find me?”
“I asked around. Made it clear I wasn’t looking for a fight or anything. I knew you were from the Carolinas, so when I arrived in Charlotte I just started looking around and asking. It was pretty easy after that. Folks are less suspicious of people around here than out West.” He’d also sat back as he explained.
“I guess I’m not surprised. What happened after? It’s been a year after all.”
“Had to take care of a few things after I carted in all the bodies for the bounties. Might have grabbed another bounty or two along the way.”
“That’s making it sound as if you don’t plan to go back West, and I’d find that unusual if that’s the case.”
The younger man laughed and rubbed at his neck. “You know how it is. You collect a lot of bounties and make a lot of enemies along the way. I got a few friends here and there, but I think it’s time I got out while I’m still alive. Though I’m not too sure what to do with myself now.”
“Is that another reason why you’ve come here? I don’t think I’ve got any answers for you.”
“Well, you seem to have retired, and look to be taking it nice and easy. How did you manage that?”
“Money. Even with the war being over, my family still had a lot of money left and I claimed my inheritance when I returned. We also had a large house, but I’d no need for something so big when I’m the only one left. Sold what else I didn’t want, and kept the rest. I got this place cheap thanks to it being a bit out of the way and I can keep to myself without a problem. I stay busy and don’t dwell in the past.”
He stared. Mortimer was oddly nonchalant about selling his family’s home. Mortimer looked far more relaxed than he’d ever seen; not that they’d had much time to be relaxed while chasing down Indio and his gang.
“Since you’re obviously not going to take ‘no’ for an answer, I’ll take the damn money. You still haven’t said what your plans are now that you’ve found me and delivered my half of the bounties.”
“I honestly hadn’t thought that far ahead. Any recommendations, old man?” He grinned.
“I think I have one, boy.” Mortimer grinned back at him around his pipe. “You mentioned ‘our partnership’ before. Seems we both have more money than we know what to do with and we aren’t likely to spend it too fast either. If you don’t mind the close quarters, you’re welcome to stay here a while. It’ll give you a chance to rest up from your journey and I can comfortably say I wouldn’t mind the company at this point.”
“You sure it’s a good idea? We hardly know each other and considering our backgrounds, I’m not sure it’s wise to have two bounty hunters in the same area, never mind the same house, like this even with being retired.”
“Fair point. Perhaps you’re not as reckless as you once were. All said and done, after our temporary partnership a year ago, I find myself trusting you. You said it yourself, we’re retired now. We’re free to do what we like, and you might find that the calmer atmosphere here is something you can adjust to after a time.”
Mortimer relit his pipe and waited for Manco to make a decision.
He looked around the small cabin. In retrospect, it wasn’t all that small. With a hallway stretching out from the shared kitchen and parlor, there seemed to be at least one other bedroom, or at least something that could become a bedroom. There was enough space both inside and out that he and Mortimer could put some distance between them should the cabin become too cramped.
“All right. I’ll give it a try. No promises about staying around for long or anything. I’ll head back West if it doesn’t look to be working out.”
Mortimer stood and held out a hand, “In that case, welcome.” Manco stood and shook his hand.
“Let’s get you settled then.” Manco followed him through the hallway to a door on the left.
“It’s not too much, but it should do all right.” He said, opening the door to reveal a simple and sparsely decorated bedroom. “It’s a guest room, but better than most hotel rooms.”
“I’m across the hall. The outhouse is out back, and there’s a well also. I’ll leave you to get settled in.”
“It shouldn’t take too long. Other than the money there wasn’t much for me to bring.” He once again looked around the room. He already almost felt at home and he hadn’t been in the cabin for even an hour.
“Oh, one more thing,” Mortimer said from the doorway, “If you’re going to be staying, I probably should get a name. I doubt ‘Manco’ is your real name, after all.”
He snorted. “Hardly. It’s...uh...” It had been a long time since someone wanted to know his name, and since he’d had cause to tell anyone.
“Relax, boy. You can make something up if that’s easier. Or I can.” He laughed.
“Been a long time since someone wanted to know my name.” He paused again and looked around the bedroom. Mortimer had said it was his guest room, but it was still larger than most bedrooms he’d been in, and he wasn’t counting hotel rooms. Not with their cockroaches and rats.
“Well, now we can be properly introduced. Douglas Mortimer.” The colonel stuck out his hand again, and James shook it once more.
“If I’m being honest, which is probably the best policy for us, I don’t care for my name. If you would, stick to Mortimer or Henry.”
“My middle name and more preferable than Douglas.”