“Snakes in the Sneak Box”
An excerpt from Chapter Five of Ronnie McBrayer’s Wild Wild Walton:
W.D. Holly was a clean, handsome, well-dressed man; tall and striking. Holstered on his right hip was a massive Colt Peacemaker and a Bowie knife just in front of it. On his left side was nothing, as his left arm hung there stiffly, apparently made useless for some unknown reason. Towering in the Florida brush and flanked as he was by his accompanying hired men, he made a most sinister impression.
His voice was low and full of gravel. “You gents about ready to roll along?” he asked.
“Yes, yes, of course,” Bishop answered with more nervousness and fidgeting than he would have liked. “Now, Mr. Holly, to the issue of payment as of yet undefined. The portage, in my associate and I’s estimation, is worth some $3 or $4 dollars. Yet, in the interest of goodwill and seeing that you have controlling interest of this mode of transportation, I will gladly pay you $5 for your troubles. How does that sound?”
Holly’s countenance was unchanged. He only spoke: “Sounds mighty cheap. It’ll be $10.”
Bishop was startled at the price and Saddles gave a snort. Holly and his men remained emotionless.
“Certainly, I have left room for negotiation with my initial offer. What about $7? How does that strike you, sir?” Bishop asked, beaming a smile. Holly simply spat at the ground, missing Bishop’s boot by an inch. His face remained a stone wall.
“Splendid, then! We have an agreement. $10 it is,” Bishop answered breaking the tension. With that, the dollars were exchanged and the hired men headed for the wagon with a begrudging Saddles right behind them to keep a watch over their belongings. With whips and ear-splitting cursing, the oxen were put into motion. As Bishop started down the wilderness road, Holly snagged him by the sleeve and spoke in a tone as close to kindness as the man possessed: “How ‘bout we have us a bite to eat ‘fore plungin’ into the palmettos? Wes’ll travel much faster than the ox and wagon. Ain’t no need to hurry.”
Cautiously, and with more than a little trepidation, Nathaniel Bishop followed Holly to a small shack alongside the Choctawhatchee Bay…