LA PLATA COUNTY, COLORADO
The Widow Montoya’s Farm
SUSPENDED HIGH IN THE SOUTHERN SKY, THE SILVERY SATELLITE PULLS a diaphanous cloud veil over her naked, pockmarked face. Is this a matter of modesty—does the pale lady prefer not to be seen? Or might it be the other way around—is there something on the widow’s property that White Shell Woman prefers not to see?
THE SLEEPER As a youth, Loyola sought adventure, wealth, and pleasure. In her wiser, twilight years, she treasures peace above all earthly delights; a good night’s rest is a gift beyond price and the soothing lullaby of rippling waters a powerful sopori.c. This is one of the reasons the widow has clung to her isolated farm, which is bordered by Ignacio Creek.
The other is that the stubborn old soul is determined to die in the house where she entered the world screaming bloody murder.
ONLY A few moaning groans and irregular heartbeats ago, when Mrs. Montoya settled her brittle bones and creaky joints into the brass four- poster and pulled a quilt over her old gray head, the widow believed herself to be alone in her isolated home. And she was, if beady-eyed mice, clicketycritching crickets, dozing black.ies, venomous red wasps, bulbous black widow spiders, and other pestilential residents were not included in the census.
Which was why, when she was awakened suddenly from a deep and blessedly dreamless sleep, the elder ly woman was startled to hear the sound of voices. Oh my goodness, somebody’s broke into my house! Sitting up in bed, she realized that this was not so. But outside, somewhere beyond the restful hush of the rushing waters, she could detect low murmurings. Malicious mutterings. But were these unsettling articulations actually voices? The lady cocked her ear.
It’s them damned witches again—they’ve come back!
As she had on previous occasions, Loyola strained vainly to make out the words.
Those jibber-jabbering brujos sound like they’re under the water.
The weary woman knew she wouldn’t get another minute of sleep. I wish my grandson was here; I’d send Wallace out to tell his nasty friends to be quiet. But the great oaf had been gone for . . . how long—only a day or two? Or had it been a week? Loyola could not remember. Not that Wallace’s unexplained absence surprised his grandmother. Her long and mostly unhappy experience with members of the other gender had led her to some . rm conclusions.
Whenever you need a man, he’ll be somewhere else.
Where? Either with some of his idiot men friends in a stinking saloon—or with some slut of a woman.
And when the rascal is at home, he’ll lay around watching TV, expecting a good woman to .x his meals, mend and wash his . lthy clothes, and take care of him like he was a snotty-nosed . ve-year-old.
Even so . . .
The lonely woman sighed. Tears .lled her eyes.
It would be nice to have a man around the house. A man who has a gun and knows how to use it. It occurred to her to call the police.
A pair of salty drops rolled down her leathery cheeks.
A lot of good that’d do. After all the times I’ve had them out here for one strange thing and another they couldn’t .nd any trace of, they . gure me for an old crank. Cops ain’t worth the dirt under their . ngernails.
Loyola recalled the single exception. Charlie Moon came out every time I called, and he never made sport of me when I told him about that big, hairy monster that looked like an ape or that thirty- foot-long purple snake with black whiskers and horns like a billy goat. Sadly, Daisy Perika’s nephew had quit his job with the Southern Ute police and moved up north years ago to a big cattle ranch. And I ain’t laid eyes on him since.
But wasn’t that always the way with people: the good ones go away, the no-accounts are always underfoot.
Pushing away the hand-stitched quilt, she grunted her way out of bed. Like always, I’ll just have to take care of things myself.
Loyola stepped into a pair of tattered house slippers and shuf. ed over to the closet, where she selected a pea- green government-issue woolen overcoat that her late husband had brought back from the war in Europe. Pulling it on, she made up her mind. Tonight, I’m going to go . nd out where they are and tell them either be quiet or I’ll get the pistol out of the closet and shoot the lot of ’em!
A reckless old soul. But courageous. Also dangerous.
By the time she opened the back-porch door, the voices had fallen silent. This was, one would imagine, fortunate. But for whom? Loyola Montoya— or those folk whose confounded mutters and murmurs had disturbed her slumbers?
It is too early to say.
But after retiring to her parlor rocking chair, the elder ly lady intended to stay wide awake until that cold, gray hour that would precede a wan, yellowish dawn.
During that interval, she dozed intermittently. And . tfully.
In Loyola’s fretful dreams, malevolent witches peered through her windows.
Turned knobs on her locked doors.
Whispered obscene curses.
In her dreams.
If dreams they were.
Excerpted from The Widow’s Revenge by James D. Doss.
Copyright © 2009 by James D. Doss.
Published in November 2009 by Minotaur Books.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.