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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Four Days From San Francisco

They arrested him outside of the town saloon, or more accurately, what the locals referred to as a saloon. Truthfully, it was little more than a dusty shack which sold the occasional cot for the night. Hui stood with a shotgun aimed at the bounty, while Dodson stood further away with his pistol in hand.

By this point a small crowd of townspeople had begun to form around them. Hardly a dozen of them, though in this isolated patch of eastern California it constituted a significant portion of the community. “Who are these interlopers?” they murmured amongst themselves, and how could a man of the Orient dare to detain a white man?

Dodson, who had neither the proper mood nor the inclination to explain the legality of their abduction, felt a warning shot would better suffice. He discharged a chamber of his Navy revolver skywards and the crowd, not feeling any particular loyalty towards the detained man, quickly dispersed. 

Holding it from the waist, Hui kept the shotgun trained on the man as Dodson tied his hands behind his back with a length of rope. After he finished, Dodson stepped in front of the man to observe his face, before nodding to Hui in conformation. This was indeed David Cribbs.

Cribbs did nothing to protest the situation. He remained calm, if somewhat annoyed, in his demeanor. He paused for a moment to glare at Hui, before turning to Dodson to ask, “You let that Chinaman have a gun?”
“It’s my shotgun,” Dodson replied, “Can’t be trusted with a pistol. C’mon let's go.” Hui handed over the shotgun, which Dodson subsequently strapped to his saddle bag. 

What Dodson had said was not entirely true, although he did not know it. Hui had purchased a Derringer pistol with the money from their last job. He had to keep it hidden away in his left pocket, as carrying it with him was strictly against the term of his employment. Although he doubted he would ever use it, just feeling the weight of it in his pocket gave him a tremendous feeling of satisfaction. This was one part of his life that Dodson could not control.

Hui remained stoic as they led Cribbs out of the town, however he could hardly contain the excitement of their forthcoming financial windfall. Finding Cribbs out here was the result of a tremendous stroke of luck. He could have easily disappeared into the nameless village, which most searching for him would have likely never discovered existed. Indeed, Cribbs would have vanished entirely had it not been for the fact that the neighbour with whom he decided to confide his escape plan happened to employ Hui’s cousin. 

For several hours they rode their horses in silence. Cribbs, now tied to Dodson’s horse, awkwardly shuffled behind. He struggled on the rolling California hills, and eventually it became evident that Cribbs was no longer able to keep up without risk of collapsing. Hui and Dodson found a small clearing in the pine, and brought their horses to a halt. This was to be their stop for the night. 

Dodson allowed Cribbs to sit down on a log, before reattaching his rope to a nearby tree. Dodson himself sat a few paces away, near enough to keep an eye on him while also out of his physical reach if he decided to put up a fight. He began disassembling his revolver to clean, while Hui began to work on their fire for the night.

After regaining his breath, Cribbs became the first to break the silence. “This ain’t right,” Cribbs murmured in protest, “I am an honorable man. I fought in the War.” 

Dodson continued to focus on his revolver, running a small cotton chord through the now empty chamber. His brows furrowed, and without looking up he replied, “Just about everyone did. I fought in the Army of Mississippi.” 

Cribbs’s eyes lit up and he leaned forward with an intense expression of excitement, his legs struggling to retain his balance. He said, “I didn’t think you to be another Southron! I myself served as an officer directly under Robert Lee.” 
This revelation caught Dodson off guard, and his furrough lifted as he looked up in interest. Starstruck, he replied, “You knew General Lee?”

A smirk began to creep over Cribbs’s face, “I did indeed. I was a captain in his cavalry.”

Dodson chuckled, “Well damn. I don’t run into too many of us out here. I’ve never been up there, but my nephew fought in northern Virginia too. Have you ever heard of the Daughly plantation?”

Hui by this point had finished setting up the campfire. He continued to kneel by it to ensure that the flame had sufficiently taken to the kindling, before rising to his feet to walk over to Dodson. Hui kneeled next to him, and quietly muttered that he needed to speak with him. 

“Don’t interrupt!” Dodson angrily muttered in response, before happily returning to chatter with his new comrade in arms. Exacerbated, Hui left his side and retired to the edge of the campsite to sleep. 

From the edge of the site Hui watched the two excitedly exchanging stories. The inconsistent flicker of the campfire offered brief windows where he could see their expressions. Dodson, wide-eyed and grinning, loudly boasted of his various feats in Atlanta or other sites Hui did not recognize. By contrast, Cribbs sat calmly and did most of the listening. Cribbs sat attentively and politely, although Hui could see the clear hint of a smug grin in the corners of his lips. 
After a while their voices grew softer, and Hui could no longer make out what they were saying. It appeared as though the roles had shifted, and Cribbs was now doing most of the speaking. As Hui faded into sleep, he thought he saw Cribbs motioning in his direction.
******
The sound of four metallic clicks woke Hui. Opening his eyes, he saw Dodson peering down at him with his pistol pressed against Hui’s forehead. Hui darted his eyes from left to right, scanning the scene. Cribbs was nowhere to be seen.
Hui finally managed to force some words out of his mouth to ask, “What are you doing?” 

Dodson replied, “I heard over in Monterey they’re looking for a Chinaman who’s guilty of a killing, matches your description. I’m fixing to bring you there to face justice.”

Under the blanket, Hui began slowly reaching into his left pocket to retrieve his derringer, taking care not to elevate his hand. He said to Dodson, “You know that’s not me. I’ve been with you for the past few months.”

“Now that I don’t know,” Dodson replied sarcastically, “And it can’t be helped either way. I’ve decided not to bring in Cribbs, I ain’t going to bring in any more of my brothers who fought for the Cause. I still need the bounty, so I’m taking you in instead.”

Hui lay silent. He was surprised not so much by Dodson’s betrayal, but by his foolishness. He knew that Dodson thought of him as little more than an extra set of hands, however he had put up with Dodson’s bigotry and abuse under the assumption that he at least knew what he was doing. Hui didn’t figure him for the type to fall for such a simple con. He asked, “Dodson, do you remember what Cribbs is wanted for?”

“Yeah, he killed his landlord. What’s your point?”

“The notice said he killed his landlord of ten years. He couldn’t have fought in Virginia.”

Dodson’s eyes widened as he processed the information. He exhaled a frustrated sigh, angrily muttered something incomprehensible, and for a brief moment moved his eyes upwards. Hui saw the brief window of opportunity before him, and unveiled his left hand from the blanket. By the time Dodson’s eyes returned downwards it was too late for him, Hui discharged his Derringer directly into his neck. 

Dodson fired his pistol in response as he fell, though the bullet safely flew away from Hui in the direction of some nearby brush. As he lay bleeding out, Hui retrieved Dodson’s pistol and placed it in his own waistband. 

Hui surveyed the land around him, endless hills of grey pine trees enveloped him as he now stood alone. Travelling alone as a Chinese man on the long ride back to San Francisco was dangerous enough. Now he would also have to explain the absence of Dodson when he returned, while another man of similar appearance was also wanted for a killing. A description which now factually applied to Hui, the right of self defense not being a luxury typically afforded to his people. He collapsed in despair, capitulating in his struggle to retain the tears which now flowed freely down his cheeks. The grey pines stood as somber gallows, enveloping and endless, with little hope of salvation beyond.

Four Days From San Francisco

They arrested him outside of the town saloon, or more accurately, what the locals referred to as a saloon. Truthfully, it was little more th...