Fleischer and Lewis mounted their horses, as it was their turn to relieve Salty and Buck at patrolling the perimeter. And, as they headed for the pre-arranged rendezvous, the Hessian finally decided to voice his curiosity.
"Forgive me, mein hauptmann. But, vas ist between you und your step-vater? You seem unusually acrimonious toward each other."
Lewis half-smiled: "You might say he dislikes the way I idolize my forebears."
"My grandfather was born 'Constantino De La Cruz!' But, he adopted an alias when he fought alongside the Brits, in the Peninsular War, because his father--a Spanish Basque named Gaspar De La Cruz--privateered against 'em during and after the Revolutionary War. He revived that alias when he emigrated to Mexico, and ran guns for the indepenentistas. Yet, after his death at the Alamo, his widow reverted to the true family name. While her son anglicized it after marrying Miss Amelia Bennett-Fisher from Savannah, Georgia."
"Your mutter, ja?"
Lewis nodded: "When he first met her, he was following in Great-granddad's footsteps. Privateering for the Texas Republic Navy. Eight years later, he was a captain in the U.S. Navy, killed during an exchange of cannon-fire at the Siege of Veracruz. I found that heroic. Joseph Winthrop Dalton didn't."
Lewis' stepfather, an ex-army engineer of Massachusetts Pilgrim descent (and one of the founding fathers of Tonkawa Springs), felt that his wife's twin sons should take more pride in building and creating. Not revel in what he considered wanton destruction.
To use his words:
"Violence in defense of one's self and loved ones might be unavoidable, on certain occasions. But, that does not mean it has to be a lethal first resort."
It was his persistence in reciting that, after being appointed town marshal in 1850 (two years after his mother's remarriage to the man), that Lewis had found hypocritical.
"Back then, Comanche raids on the town were more than occasional and more than certain. They were practically guaranteed! And, Tennessee Joe Dalton had no trouble resorting to lethal violence, at those times. I told him so, to his face, after mine and Clark's eleventh birthday. He slapped me across the face for it. Clark stood up for me by kicking him in his right shin. And, I tackled him to the ground and started pummeling him! You know what happened to us a year later."
"Well, mit all due respect, mein hauptmann" replied Fleischer: "I think der two of you should call a truce until dies...bizzare crisis is resolved."
No sooner had he said this than the frightened whinnying of a horse came to their ears. Followed a moment later by the appearance of the riderless saddle mount, itself.
"Good Lord Almighty!" exclaimed Lewis: "That's Salty's horse!!"
* * * * *
Buck Skinner had been approaching his next intersection with Peters, in their polar-opposite circlings of the town, when he heard the other horse scream. Whipping out his telescope he trained it ahead of him...and gasped in horror at the thing he beheld through it. But, he quickly shook his head, to mentally rally himself, and put the scope away with his left hand while simultaneously withdrawing his Henry rifle with his right.
"Hey, yahhhh!" he yelled, urging his horse to full gallop.
* * * * *
Heraclitoris' mouth opened wide, just like the snake her lower half currently resembled. Pausing, all-too briefly, to sadistically savor the little man's terror as he dangled over her mouth.
Then, she let him go.
Heraclitoris now closed her eyes as she absorbed Salty's penultimate memories. By this necromantic process, she learned that the old horse marine had not exaggerated the campfire tale he had told Hiram Barlow concerning his loss of virginity.
In this fashion, she also learned a little more about Captain Lewis Cross.
"Oh, yessssss!" she mused half-aloud: "Thissssss one will make a perfect conssssssssort."