The sky was bloodshot red. Wild wind whistled through the air, bringing with it a whirl of dust. And there was young Billy Bartlet; face alive, knelt down under the crawl space of Doc Forester’s medical practice, trying best to catch his breath. He’d shot a man.
Not for gold, property, or even out of spite, but for forbidden love. Billy’s two pistols still felt warm against the leather belt on his waist side—the tips of both gun barrels still singed with smoke. It was just minutes ago, when he and his tall, bronze lady with cool black eyes ended up at this very spot.
A large covered wagon carrying vegetables barreled past Doc Forrester’s, digging into the hard packed sand of Main Street.
“Well, there went our means of getting away easily.” Billy gritted his teeth.
Sewanee finally broke her silence. She had not said much since Billy met her husband behind their house, to finish the job the two lovers planned for months: the old man’s murder—his burial—and finally…their getaway…Until death do us part…Sewanee’s pondered that part of her wedding vow well—even before Billy came into the picture.
“We will make it back to the caverns and gather his money once night falls.” Sewanee said confidently.
Billy’s eyebrows came together in concern. “That’s too long—they’ll be looking for the both of us sooner than that.”
Hours later, after the two of them argued a lot, and made love even more, the night sky fell, making it just dark enough to sneak out of town. Sewanee got dressed and woke up Billy up by running her hands through his curly golden hair.
“It’s time to go,” she said softly. Billy shrugged, tucked his hair in under his brown Plymouth derby and they snuck out from under doc’s place. They did not have far to go in actuality, just a few more streets over, where the hills were abundant.
Silver Creek was a small, dried up mining town; maybe a good hundred and twelve folks in all lived there. Even so, it was smart to be careful. If suspected; they would not make it out of town alive. Tiny in size, Silver Creek was still home to men of war who were handy with a gun and since the economy was in a slump, would do just about anything for money.
“It’s quieter than normal,” Billy said to Sewanee, as they carefully tippy-toed their way down Main Street.
The only light in town belonged to Father Mange’s church. It sat just beyond the border end of the street. Sewanee whispered to Billy, “Look…the entire town is raging about the gruesome discovery of my husband.”
“In the year of our lord, 1864, Silver Creek has been invaded by formidable demons! We must do our duty as God’s children and prepare ourselves to be his army. We will clean this town of such filth and for those who seek to dance with the devil—well…they will know our wrath. We say this in our fathers name…JESUS CHRIST!”
“Jesus Christ have mercy on their souls,” the congregation resounded.
Those were the righteous words belonging to Father Mange. Everything that fell off his lips came out like candy, either softening one’s heart, or provoking another to purge their soul. Around Silver Creek, his word was law and unchallenged. The town had themselves a tried and true zealot and sincerely believed the man had ridden through both heaven and hell for them all.
This was about the time when it got scary for Billy and Sewanee.
“I know who these demons are!” Someone cried out.
“There are more than one?!!” Another voice resounded.
“Who are these blackened children?” Father Mange demanded to know. He dropped to his knees, cuffed his palms, and said a prayer. His voice was as loud he could make it.
“Tell us now and by the power of Christ, we’ll be ordained as God’s army!”
He then stood up, looked about the congregation and with a strong whisper, said, “and only then will we extricate this filth.”
“I saw that young orphaned child, Billy Bartlet and a Cheyenne Indian girl fleeing old man Freehausen’s place, hours back. They didn’t see me but they musta’ done something terrible; they were running like a mean old grizzly bear was chasing after them.”
“Billy’s too young to know the evil way’s of man.” An old woman said.
“No he’s not! The boy’s seventeen.” A younger man retorted.
Billy and Sewanee looked at each other, still peeking through the cracks of the church door, seeing they would never be able to return to Silver Creek again. The last thing they saw before they took off was Father Mange’s head nodding, confirming the boy’s age and the capable trouble that girl possessed.
Father Mange remembered the day she came into town. A few years back, old man Freehausen’s wife died. Not even a summer passed before a beautiful young Cheyenne girl filled her shoes. About that time, the poor old sucker hired on farm hand; a young strapping boy, who had been orphaned, after his parents up and mysteriously vanished from their farm. Some said the strange tribe of Indians who called themselves the Black Hand Ravens who lived up in the hills were responsible for their disappearance—Billy’s Mah and Pah built on their sacred land and refused to stop, even after confronted by the Indians. Awkward, how Billy ended up with Sewanee, considering the bloodshed between both families.
No sooner than those two met eyes, they were in love, and weeks later, Billy walking in manhood and she…bonded with her soul mate or as she nicknamed him, wastelakapi wicasa, Cheyenne, meaning: Beloved man.
At first, Billy begged her to run away, but Sewanee surprisingly refused. She carried a secret, which he was not ready to learn yet. The only thing she told Billy was that it was a life debt. Eventually, Billy’s persuasive ways won, and soon they were not only planning an escape, but also a murder of her husband—that was after Sewanee divulged Freehausen had lots of money stashed under the waterfalls, in a deep cavern up in the hills. What Sewanee did not say was the reason she was betrothed to Freehausen... For the time being, they had to hustle up the falls and get that money.
When Billy and Sewanee arrived, they heard voices within the cave. Freehausen’s name came up amongst whoever was lurking inside.
“Damn them—it’s bandits!—how’d they find out about that money?” Billy said angrily. He looked over at Sewanee; she tugged at his arm and they courageously entered.
The cavern was somewhat lit from the intruders, allowing Billy and Sewanee to make their way through. The walls of wet jagged rock and thick green vines made up the long winding corridor behind the falls. Sewanee mentioned the place belonged to her ancestors. It was where they would gather during storms.
The intruder’s voices continued to echo while they trekked along. Finally, they made it to the chamber where Sewanee mentioned Freehausen’s money would be. Billy and she carefully peeked around the corner and finally got a good look at the Bandits.
There were four of them; three about his size; all except for one man. He was huge, about seven feet tall and looked ugly as an ogre. The monster of a man carried a whip with him, while the others carried guns. Billy knew he was not tough enough to tangle with this guy. Billy turned away and gulped out of nervousness—then looked down at his colt dragoon and gave the revolver a spin. He counted four bullets in the chamber.
A grin formed on his face. “I thought I had three left but that aught a do it,” he murmured quietly to himself. Sewanee was smiling wolfishly—her reaction had nothing to do with the gun. She didn’t say anything to Billy, stood up, and walked right towards the men. Billy tried to block her from going, but she just kept on walking. When the bandits turned to see her, Sewanee threw her arms up in the air and the lights in their lanterns completely faded out.
A howling wind swept through the cave and with it came the sound of ravens. Billy then saw two glowing yellow eyes in the darkness. They belonged to Sewanee, but she was not herself. Seconds later, the men started screaming and Billy heard bones breaking, and thud of bodies being dropped to the floor. Suddenly, all of the noise stopped and there was silence. Billy could hear his own heart pounding in his chest.
He raced over to Sewanee, found the first lantern he could and lit it back up. The light shone on the ground, covered with a slew of black feathers and the bandits’ mutilated bodies. Billy was shaking.
“What did you do these men, Sewanee?” He looked at her and saw her eyes, still glowing like yellow pearls.
She had no words to answer him and began rolling her head around like hands on a clock and then finally fell to the ground. Billy caught her just in time from nearly hitting her head against a rock.
“What did you do to those men, Sewanee?” Billy asked again. She was conscious now.
Sewanee smiled at Billy and pointed to the money. It was in a small iron chest.
“Go ahead and open it…”
Billy shook his head. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Sewanee answered.
Billy went over and opened the chest. There was a dusty leather knapsack inside. It felt heavy when he lifted it. He threw it over his shoulder and walked back to Sewanee. Sadness had swept over her face.
“What is wrong?” he asked. She didn’t say anything but whimpered softly.
“Are you ever going to tell me what you did?” He placed his hand on Sewanee’s arm.
Sewanee rose to her feet and replied, “I saved us—and the money...”
“But how?—look at those men!” he pointed again over to their mutilated bodies.
“I cannot tell you right now Billy. We have to get out of here.”
The faint sound of a crow, echoed throughout the walls, yet there were no birds in sight.
“We got to move fast Billy.” Sewanee took his arm, and they hustled for the exit of the cave. The whole time, she thought about the consequences of her actions. A voice of reason peered into her ears; it was her father.
“No white man should ever see the damage we can invoke. To break this vow is a sentence of death.”
Billy and Sewanee headed back down the falls, and on foot, over to the next town. There, they hopped on a train; it traveled East; perfect for them—all their troubles began the opposite direction. In addition to that, Billy remembered he had kin out East. He nudged Sewanee, pointed over to a nearby passenger, quietly reading his newspaper. On the front page, it read, The New York Daily Times.
Sewanee smiled, gave Billy a peck on his cheek and they waved goodbye to Montana.
“We’ll start a new life there,” he whispered softly into her ear. They were cuddling in their seats. “My aunt and uncle, Georgia and Harold Wilson, they live there. They are my kin.” Billy whispered again, “And with all the money we have, we’ll be well.”
They fell asleep and rested peacefully for the next several hours. The only distraction was the whistles of steam from the engine, about two train cars up.
Fate was about to play its card, however.
About three seats back, quietly reading his newspaper was Lars Fettler. He kept his eye on the Billy and Sewanee. In fact, he had been tracking them ever since they left the cavern under the falls. When he discovered the remains of his gang, he vowed vengeance and he was not a man to be trifled with.
Lars Fettler was a natural born criminal; the creep could never keep himself out of trouble. Ever since the tall dark haired fellow was sixteen, he had been in trouble with the law. Petty crimes and then there was the incident that put him behind bars for good (that was until he recently escaped) – murder.
As night approached, Lars followed behind Billy and Sewanee, back to the luggage car. Billy wanted to have a better look at their money; he would rest better if he did.
Behind Lars backside, he covertly carried a long lead pipe. When he entered the luggage car behind Billy and Sewanee, he gently placed it in the corner. Lars then introduced himself to them, cracked a few jokes, and acted to search for his own belongings. He made it look good and so far, they were unsuspicious.
It got dark in the luggage car. Billy went to reach for a match to light the sidewall lanterns but Lars grabbed his hand.
It was apparent—Lars’s intentions were hostile. He was staring at their knapsack, Sewanee had just located. She regretted storing it there, but the coins and gold pieces jingled around too much.
Billy let out a whistle, signaling Sewanee. With a deathly look on Billy’s face, she reacted, just as she did back in the caverns; she whisked her arms up into the air, in which they grew into black feathers and then the rest of her body transformed. Both Lars and Billy were shocked by what they saw next—Sewanee had turned into an enormous black Raven. In a heat of madness, she swung around, knocked Billy against the wall, and then tore right into the back of Lars’ neck and chest.
Blood spatter covered the walls and then to follow was the eerie sound of a thousand birds all fluttered their wings in an attempt to flee the luggage car.
Moments later, Sewanee lay naked on the floor. Billy rushed over to her and screamed, “What have you done?!!”
At first, Sewanee was oblivious to what she did, that was until she looked down at her arms covered in the blood of Lars. She whimpered to Billy and went to give him a kiss. He just turned and walked to the corner where he sat down and folded his arms.
“Please Billy…Do not blame me…I cannot control it,” Sewanee said to him. Her voice sounded muffled and broken.
“I’ve seen enough to know, that you are some kind of a monster. How am I to love a monster?” Billy looked down at his feet while fretting.
“Just love me Billy, like I do you—what’s done is done now, and there’s no turning back...” Tears rolled down her cheeks. “I did this out of love to protect you—it’s the truth, I swear I had no control, it was my heart reacting.”
“What are you Sewanee?” Billy’s voice cracked.
She closed her eyes and shook her head as to hint, she could not tell him. By then, Billy had relaxed a little; he turned to her again and asked, “What do you mean it’s done now?”
“I’ve shown myself for the third time, therefore breaking the vow of silence amongst the tribe.”
“What’s that mean?—now you tell me, Sewanee!” Billy’s voice was rising by the second.
“They will hunt me for eternity.” She replied solemnly.
So much for Billy keeping a cool head; as he listened to her, his eyes got big and his hands got shaky.
“What do you mean, Sewanee?”
Sewanee still would not say.
Billy stood up and spouted his bravery.
“Well, no matter what you’ve become, we’ll be in New York City in eight days’ time. They won’t follow us that far.”
Sewanee put on some fresh clothes she found nearby and against her better judgment, finally divulged to Billy, their predicament.
“I was forced to marry Freehausen, Billy…”
“I knew that part, please continue…”
“One day, while he secretly was stashing his gold, my people were nearby, celebrating the year of the raven; a ritual that takes place once every four years when the moon aligns with the mountains. There on top of the mountain, the Moon Spirit, and the Raven Father Dance, symbolizing the harmony of nature and life. Freehausen stumbled upon our ceremony while we were in the midst of it.
My brother discovered him lurking nearby and brought him before my father. I thought they would kill him, but for some strange reason, could not. My father and he made a deal. I was betrothed as a gift to him with a promise to never speak of what he witnessed. He agreed.”
Sewanee felt good, ridding herself of the secret. Billy, however, did not say much afterwards. He began to make sense of it by thinking it was all a bad dream. They got cleaned up, after a best attempt to remove traces of what happened in the luggage car and went back to their seats.
A few days passed and the two lovebirds forgot all about their troubles, leaving them far behind. Billy, in some strange way, found it exhilarating and fantasized every time Sewanee took off her clothes for him, that she would fly him away to some distant place. It never did happen, but to Billy with her, walking in beauty was a great way to pass the time, along their endless train ride across the West. From sun up to sun down, they did little trips back and forth between empty cars, giggling on their way back.
On the fourth night, something strange happened to Sewanee. As she closed her eyes for the night, she slipped into a deep dream, where she saw visions of her father. In her native tongue, he tried to communicate with her. All she could decipher was that the spirit belonging to her father was warning her.
It happened again the following night; the same dream, but this time, her father took her to an ancient burial ground where she witnessed both the incident of Freehausen, through the perspective of her father’s eyes, seeing that it was no coincidence that the great Indian chief spared his life. Freehausen unknowingly had in his possession an ancient artifact belonging to her tribe.
Long ago when both the moon and raven spirit honored her tribe by transforming them, a leader had to be chosen. The most powerful would claim, what was known as the raven’s beak. A fight ensued to decide, but both who struggled, ultimately kicked the relic over the waterfall by accident and it was lost forever; that was until Freehausen, found it while panning for gold. Ultimately, the raven’s beak saved his life.
Sewanee woke up covered in sweat and pulled Billy aside. She knew the location of the beak.
“We got to go back,” she begged Billy.
“Why? Can’t we just run forever?”
“No…I have found a way for us to live in peace for good.”
She went on to explain the meaning of her dream to him. Billy realized that in order for both of the to live freely, he had to agree to make their way back home.
Back in Silver Creek, they headed up to the caverns in the waterfalls. Above them, were rocky cliffs; the same location she saw the raven’s beak in her dream.
She and Billy took to searching and it did not take long until they realized it was not there. As they went to climb back down, her father along with the tribe met them. Billy looked at Sewanee and whispered, “We are surrounded—what will they do to us?”
It was then Sewanee saw that dangling around the neck of her father was the raven’s beak. She was irate.
“You tricked us, Father!” She shouted at him. “You used a shaman to get inside my dreams, leading me to believe I could find the raven’s beak here.”
Her father did not say a word and signaled the tribe to apprehend the both of them. Billy dropped the knapsack of money belonging to Freehausen and brandished his pistols.
“I might not wound you all but I’ll get some of you!” Billy shouted at them as they hurdled towards him.
Before Billy could fire off a shot, Sewanee grabbed him, and as they ascended over the falls to their death, Sewanee told Billy she loved him and they would be together again in eternity. They flew away, off into the rising mist of the waterfall.
They never made it to the bottom of the falls. Seeing them flee instigated the tribe to turn themselves into Ravens. A cloud of angry birds headed for them, through the misty water, and when they caught up with Billy and Sewanee, they bit off her wings so that she and Billy, for certain, would sail down into the rocky springs and meet their fate—and they did.
Billy and Sewanee, nor the tribe was ever to be seen again. They all completely vanished. On the other hand, Freehausen’s plunder was discovered months later upon seeing sightings of a strange entity roaming around the falls. Every night for a good long month, the creature cried out until finally, someone in Silver Creek heard him.
Once they arrived at the location, they found the knapsack with all his money. The town did quite well financially thereafter and the entity belonging to Freehausen made his peace, leaving the world knowing his enemies never escaped.