Seth Briars had ridden directly to Odd Fellow’s Rest after he’d coerced Moses to reveal where the rest of his map was hidden. He’d made a vague promise to that Marston fellow to help him with something or other, but right now that wasn’t an important concern. Seth could only think of finding his treasure which seemed closer now than ever before.
He dismounted his haggard steed just at the gate of the old cemetery which was nothing more than a small circle of fence and a handful of graves. He sighed to himself through a toothy grin as he looked over the small graveyard, his long search was almost at an end. He could feel it.
“Well, there ain’t much to the place, but I won’t haveta search that much to find my map. Hoo-hoo!,” he said out loud to no one in particular, dancing a half-hearted jig. Seeing as how he was usually alone, Seth often talked to himself. He couldn’t stand other people much and preferred to avoid them, finding solace only in the conversations with himself and those he was exhuming.
The sun was already rising by the time he’d dismounted and while he generally didn’t care much when he did his exhuming, if he did it during the day, he could see a lot more clearly than at night with a lantern and moonlight. Also, the lantern, or a fire, sometimes caught unwanted attention. The horse began munching the weedy grass that grew around the fence posts, so he hitched it to an unbroken section and began unloading his tools from the saddlebags.
Before long, the chuff of the shovel could be heard and Seth had the first grave already open by a couple of feet of ground before stopping to wipe the sweat from his brow. He might have seemed wiry and weak, but when it came to digging up graves, Seth had no equal. He was genuinely offended when Moses got the credit for his work in that newspaper article, but he was more than willing to allow Moses take the fall in his place.
Once he struck the coffin, he began clearing the dirt from around the sides so he could pry the lid open. Usually, the wood had rotted along with the corpse, so popping the nails out with the edge of the shovel to get the lid open wasn’t all that difficult. Seth peered inside the open coffin – he didn’t even have to turn away from the smell having long since grown accustomed to it – to see what was, in life, a female. He could only tell it had been a female because the desiccated corpse was wearing a dress – a dress now filthy with mold and dirt.
“Well, sweet little lady, let’s see whatcha got fer yer ol’ pal Seth.”
Seth preferred to find females because they usually wore jewelry that he could sell for small amounts of money. This one had a gold locket which Seth quickly removed and stuck into his pocket. He also removed a silver ring that had some kind of green gemstone set into it. Seth wasn’t too smart about the value of gems and rocks, but he knew that rings with gems in them usually fetched more than just a plain old band. What he didn’t find was the map piece for which he was actually looking. He dropped the lid back into the hole and began to quickly pile the dirt back inside. In a short time, there was a mound of fresh dirt covering the once-open grave.
Undaunted, he immediately moved on to the next without stopping to rest. Opening the second grave took about as long as the first, but this time the occupant was male. The corpse had had a pocket watch on it but it had filled with dirt so it no longer worked, Seth tossed it back. Unfortunately, there was still no map. Seth reburied the coffin just as he had the first, and continued this pattern until mid-afternoon. After he’d turned half the graves in the cemetery plot without finding the map, he began to get the sinking feeling that Moses may have been lying to him despite the fact that Seth had threatened to cut him.
He took a short break to contemplate that new thought and to re-gather his strength so he could finish looking in the other graves. His obsession would not allow him to give up before checking every grave in the cemetery.
* * * * *
“Are you certain that is him?” Enepay asked peering through binoculars at the strange little man in the graveyard.
“I’ve known ‘im since we was kids,” Moses replied, “so that’s sure-as-shit him. Not to mention he’s dug up three graves since we started spyin’ on ‘im,” worried that Seth would find the map piece he added, “Why don’tcha just go and kill the guy?”
“Mr. Van der Linde gave instructions that no man should die who has knowledge of the location of the item,” Nashoba reminded him, “do not forget this. We are meant to return him to Mr. Van der Linde.”
God damn Van der Linde and his “civilized savages”, Moses thought. Why couldn’t they be as gullible as he’d hoped and just do what he wanted them to do? He fidgeted impatiently as Enepay continued to observe. Now that the sequence of events was playing out, Moses realized that he really had no plan at all for disposing of Seth and both of these savages so that he could go find his treasure unimpeded. Especially since the savages wouldn’t let him have a weapon.
“We will ride over together,” Enepay said, breaking the silence.
* * * * *
Waist-deep in a freshly dug grave, Seth whistled a tune to himself to try and keep his spirits up. There were only a few more graves to go before he had to admit defeat and that Moses had lied to him. And, at this rate, there was no way he’d finish before nightfall. He stopped whistling and cursed under his breath. His face began to twist into anger, he began panting and his eyes lost their focus as rage started to build within him.
“No!” he barked at himself trying to calm his own rising temper, “we still got places to look, so keep it together, Seth! We almost got our treasure!”
His breathing slowed and the anger drained from his face as he regained his version of composure. He lost his balance for a second but caught himself with the shovel he’d been gripping the entire time. He stared blankly for moment, blinked twice and attention snapped back into his eyes. When he took in the sight of the grave he was standing in and the few left yet to check, he was given renewed purpose and began whistling as he tossed shovels full of dirt out of the hole.
“You there!,” a deep voice boomed behind Seth startling him.
Seth whirled around in surprise and lost his balance, “Gah!,” he yelped as he tripped over the shovel and fell back into the grave with a grunt. He’d been so enthralled that he never noticed the arrival of the three men on horses.
Picking himself up, but remaining in the grave, Seth immediately recognized Moses behind the two Native Americans, but instead of getting angry, Seth tried to make light of the situation greeting them with a wide smile. If for nothing else, this was merely to buy time for Seth to think of some way out of this predicament.
“Moses! How’s it been friend? Got yerself a new paira trousers, I see. Hee-hee!”
Again embarrassed, Moses turned red and scowled, and as he drew breath to tell Seth off, Enepay raised a hand silencing him.
“We have been told by this man that you might have information that will lead us to an item we are looking for,” Enepay informed Seth.
“Oh, yeah?” Seth shot back, “And what might this item be that ol’ Seth can help ya find it?”
Enepay described the coffin to the best of his ability and showed Seth a crude drawing of how it might look, but was sure to leave out that it was filled with treasure, just as Dutch had ordered. Enepay explained instead that the coffin contained a sacred Native American heirloom that was taken by an unnamed white man over 50 years prior, buried with him and they were trying to recover it. Enepay also told of how they’d read about Moses in the paper, and, in turn, how Moses had lead them to Seth.
“Oh, well, now ain’t that quaint,” Seth said wryly, “but you boys’ve been had.”
The two natives traded confused glances before Seth continued.
“Y’see, Moses ain’t no grave robber, not really. They’re just givin’ him credit fer my handiwork ‘cause he’s the one they caught. I was gonna let him take the credit and do the jail time for me so I can continue workin’.”
Moses attempted to say something, but Nashoba once again cast a stern look in his direction, cutting him off.
“And I do know where that “item” is,” Seth continued, lying through his teeth, “I didn’t have no proper tools ta open it when I first found it. So I buried it again til I could come back for it. Moses can’t help ya with nothin’…”
Both Natives turned to glare at a wide-eyed Moses, Nashoba drew his pistol and said, “Then your presence is no longer a requirement.”
When the two natives turned away from him, Seth drew the Cattleman he always has tucked into his waistband and aimed on Nashoba. He was never a terribly good shot, and the gun was far from clean working order, but he didn’t have much choice so he squeezed the trigger when Nashoba drew a weapon. Though Seth was aiming for his head, the bullet struck Nashoba just to the left of his Adam’s Apple and as he clutched at his throat with his free hand, blood spurted between his fingers. Nashoba turned to look at Seth, a mixture of shock and anger at himself for underestimating Seth ran across his face. In that same instant, Nashoba inadvertently squeezed the trigger on his own pistol, but the shot was wild. The bullet struck Enepay high in the thigh, passed through and was embedded in his steed. As Enepay’s preference is to dual-wield, he was pulling both his pistols at the moment this occurred. Having nothing to grip, when the horse bucked at the pain, Enepay was thrown from the saddle. His foot remained caught in the stirrup and as the horse galloped away with fright, it drug Enepay off in its wake. Nashoba, slumped forward onto his horse which simply trotted away from the loud gun blasts. Nashoba’s blood trickled down the horse’s neck.
In the confusion, Moses had fled, and Seth could see the dust cloud raised by Moses’ horse galloping as fast as it could away from the scene.
Seth couldn’t believe his luck, but he decided it as a portent of good things to come. He was not only close to the treasure for which he’d been looking for so long, but he’d been given a tip to find another treasure as well. Whatever the natives were looking for, it clearly had value if the coffin was the lock-box that the Native had described. However, he’d truly lied about knowing its location, and was not sure how he’d uncover clues to find it.
He wasn’t clever enough to figure it out on his own, this he knew, but there was someone else more resourceful that he might turn to for help.