So we’re into week 3 of NaNoWriMo, and I’m writing it from the Highlands bolthole I stayed in over the summer. This has the advantage of being in a house with rotten internet and beautiful inspiring surroundings, but all the disadvantages of being here in the grip of Wester Ross’s answer to Hurricane Bawbag, and being 8 single-track-road-ed miles from the nearest overpriced corner shop that at least has the decency to stock cheap wine for writing fuel. Still, it’s worked wonders for the word count: over 39,000 words in and some of it might even not be terrible.
Well, it’s still a Western, although it’s now got one MG character, a YA sibling and the cowboy seems to have aged into his twenties, just to cover the NA market. And what with the gaucho fashion, he’s got the hipster market covered too.
Anyway, some folk asked me to post up an excerpt like I did with last year’s offering, so here is some of The Saviour of Cordillera Central in all its hideous, unedited glory. May contain ill-advised first person, nudity, violence, Guaraní profanity and a cowboy causing trouble in the mayor’s house, because why not?
How the other half live, huh. The room they put me in had a great big four poster bed in the middle, draped in plush green velvet. All the furniture was mahogany, polished till it gleamed. The bathroom next door had a great big tin bath, full and steaming, with all kinds of smelly perfumed oils in colourful bottles on a shelf nearby.
I took a look at myself in the mirror. Jesus, I looked rough, much rougher than I normally did. My stubble was out of control and fighting with the huge bags under my eyes. Big greasy dark tendrils of hair clung to the side of my face. My bad eye was all over the place. Sometimes, folk had suggested I should get myself an eye patch, so as not to scare the normal people. They tended not to suggest it again. If they couldn’t deal with the way I looked, they could go hang for all I cared.
The bath was glorious. I wasn’t used to this sort of luxury, so I decided I may as well make the most of it. Well, I was all set for an evening of Pedro’s kind hospitality, but things didn’t go to plan. Just as I’d finished soaking the grime of the past few days away, there was a knock at the door.
Great timing. I hauled myself out of the bath and wrapped a towel around me. Maybe it was Pedro, inviting me down to one of his fancy banquets. Or it could be the doctor, telling me Maria was sitting up and feeling right as rain. I felt a tightness in my stomach as I got to the door. Should’ve listened to my gut.
‘Who’s there?’ I asked.
‘It’s Eloy,’ came the reply. ‘Pedro asked me to send you up a little something.’
‘Just a minute,’ I said.
I looked at my clothes and weapons laid out on the bed, too far away to grab in a hurry. As soon as I tried, I bet that damn lackey’d kick the door down. There was another knock, more urgent this time.
‘Alright, alright,’ I said. Guess I’d just have to rely on my bare hands. Unless…
I opened the door just a crack, pressing myself flat agains the far side. Just as I thought, my visitor assumed he’d be met with my face. The bullet shot past the bed, sending splinters flying from the bed posts, smashing through a window pane. Eloy came tumbling into the room, far enough for me to rush behind him and bring the vase I’d found crashing down on his head. He slumped to the floor but he wasn’t out cold, the stubborn sonofabitch.
‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you, sir,’ I said as he made to twist round and fire at me. A quick kick to the hand sent his gun flying, and I slammed the door shut before he could escape.
‘Why you… eiko nde revikuápe…’
‘That’s a real filthy mouth you got on you, Eloy.’
I grabbed one of his arms and twisted it sharply behind his back. He howled in pain and wriggled around more than a wild young steer.
‘You let me go at once, Toli,’ Eloy whined. ‘You don’t know who you’re dealing with here.’
‘I know damn fine who I’m dealing with, and it’s a low life, dumb, crawling little insect who does whatever his master tells him.’
Eloy stopped his squirming when he heard this. ‘It ain’t like that. You don’t understand. If I don’t kill you, well, Pedro said he’d… he’d…’
‘He’d what, now? Out with it!’ I growled, and pulled his arm upwards until there was a sickening cracking sound.
‘Aiiieee… please… stop… he said he’s gonna fire me and send my family down to Potosi to work in Jorge’s mine.’
Eloy was crying like a big baby now, sniffling and sobbing, the goddamn coward. I wasn’t surprised. I knew some Guaraní who’d just given up and sold themselves to the highest bidder. Ain’t no way I was ever gonna stoop to that.
‘What about the others? Does he have orders to kill them too?’ I asked. ‘You better tell me before I wring your scrawny neck.’
‘It was just you!’ he cried. ‘You’re the troublemaker…’
‘You’re damn right I am, Eloy. And here’s what’s gonna happen now. I’ll take this here gun off your hands, you mosey on downtown and never trouble Pedro again, and I’m gonna get my friends together and get the hell outta this ridiculous mansion.’
I let go of him and he scrambled upright, leaning against the bed.
‘What if… what if Jorge finds me?’ he whispered.
‘Well, then we all got ourselves a big problem.’ I leaned in closer. ‘Where is Jorge?’
‘I… I don’t know.’ Eloy flinched away when I raised my hand to beat some sense into him. ‘Wait! Pedro’s telling the truth. Domingo’s staying at the hotel. If anyone knows where Jorge is, it’s him.’
I got to my feet and hauled Eloy up with me.
‘Alright, I believe you. Now get your ass outta town. I’ll deal with Pedro.’
Eloy damn near looked like he was about to faint, but he bolted outside, just in time for the rescue party to turn up.
That was when I realised I wasn’t wearing my towel no more.