Merkabah Rider Book 2: The Mensch With No Name

(wasn't sure if this was meant to be in the comments or here, so apologies for the double post -EME)



This is an excerpt from the second book in my weird western series, Merkabah Rider, about a gunslinging Hasidic Jewish mystic tracking his renegade teacher across the demon-haunted West of 1880. The series is told in the style of the old 30's hero pulps. Each book is a series of four episodic novellas in chronological order.

This particular segment is from 'The Pandaemonium Ride,' the last novella in the Mensch With No Name, which is out in ebook/Kindle now and should be in print in two weeks. The first book, Tales Of A High Planes Drifter is out now in print and ebook.

This introduces the character Kabede, a Falashan Jew (Beta Y'srael) from Ethiopia, a secret member of the Rider's order who has come to America to retrieve a powerful artifact, the Staff of Solomon. I got some help on the African Military Database from some of the forum members in my research on stick fighting.

Dorado stared at the writhing legs of the cockroach he held pinned to the table with his thumb, and grinned a golden smile of satisfaction as he slowly pushed down, hearing and feeling at last the little pop as its yellowish innards spurted from its behind. He watched it kick its last before he spoke.

“So who is he?” he said, indicating the skinny figure all in dusty black resting in his folded arms on the table in the corner, beside an untouched plate of beans around which the flies were beginning to congregate.

“Hell if I know,” said Ocobock, scratching at the sore on his cheek until it leaked blood, then frowning at the red on his fingertips as if he was at a loss as to how it had happened. “He’s been sittin’ there since we been here.” He put the bloody finger in his mouth and sucked at the nail.

“I know you idiots can’t read,” said Amonson at his side, “but are you blind too?” he took a drag of his drooping cigarette.

“I can read,” Dorado said, wiping the bug guts on his wooly vest.

“You can not,” said Ocobock, taking his finger out of his mouth and sitting up straight.

“I can read E’spanish,” he countered.

“Well this is America, and we don’t write nothin’ in E’spanish here,” Ocobock said.

“You wouldn’t know the difference,” Dorado grinned.

“Why don’t the both of you shut up and look at what I’m lookin’ at,” Amonson whispered, angling the smoking end of his drooping cigarette at the wall over the stranger’s head.

The dingy east wall of The Senate Café, the most thriving business in the marginally established desert community of Escopeta, was papered with reward posters. The owner, Long George Lamartine, encouraged his diverse and mostly anonymous patrons to tack them up there. Over the years the wall had come to look as if it had been transplanted from a post office, being cluttered with yellowed bills depicting grim sketches of frowning, unshaven men and big bold type promising dollars for their blood. Some of them were autographed, complete with scrawled sentiments addressed to Long George, thanking him for his hospitality or good naturedly cursing the abominable fare he dished out from the kitchen. Some of them had crude zeroes added to the dollar amounts by men who thought the initial offerings beneath them. One up there was notorious for being splashed with specks of dried brown liquid which the poster had loudly proclaimed was the blood of the bearer who had come to collect on him. Sometimes men came in and took them down without a word, the scraps of torn paper still clinging to the wall. Sometimes half a phrase or the crown of a hat or one ragged slash of a face were all the dead left behind.
But there was no question as to which of the myriad of paper faces Amonson was talking about. It hung like a bad joke over the head of the man at the corner table, and depicted the dozing diner himself.

“That’s a fair likeness,” Ocobock allowed.

“Ain’t it though?” Amonson said through his yellow teeth. “How’s your numbers, Dorado?”

Dorado had come to understand from looking at years’ worth of wanted posters that the first amount on a sheet was what a man got if the one in the picture was brought in dead, and the second (usually greater) amount was what a man got if he was brought in alive. But the third amount toward the bottom of the post confused him. More so, because it was the greatest number of the three.

“Five hundred dollars dead, and a thousand alive,” he mused. “But what’s that big number on the bottom for?”

Amonson smiled, and silently thanked the Lord he was blessed with ignorant partners. Five thousand dollars for the return of a scroll, which he knew was a roll of paper. The man at the table had a set of black saddlebags next to him on the bench, and right on the table before him, a leather tube with a carrying strap that made Amonson’s pulse flutter beneath his kerchief.

“Oh that’s for his gang,” Amonson said.

“Too bad they ain’t here,” Ocobock remarked.

“A thousand dollars….,” said Dorado, his eyes flitting to the ceiling for a moment as he rapidly divided in his head. “That’s more than….three hundred dollars a piece, if we bring him in alive.”

“What’s it say, Amonson?” said Ocobock. “What’d he do? Kill a rich fella?”

“Killed a whole lotta fellas,” Amonson said, squinting at the poster. “’Manasseh Maizel, the Killer Jew of Varruga Tanks.’ Killed seven men and dynamited a waterin’ hole in New Mexico.”

“He don’t look so tough,” Dorado said.

It was true. The man slumped over the table looked anything but a hard case. He was thin as a rail, grey skinned and sickly looking. His odd black frock coat was patchy and covered in trail dust, and the brim of his black hat was beaten and frayed. He had a bristly, dirty beard and two scraggly black curls on either side of his face. His thin, bony wrists were crossed as a cradle for his head, and poked out of the sleeves of his coat. A tarnished silver ring caught the light on the third finger of his right hand. He had some kind of a pistol on his right hip, and a big Bowie knife drooped on the left side of his cracked belt, but he didn’t look like he had the strength to pull it let alone use it. His eyes were half-lidded and shaded by deep dark circles, and a pair of blue glass spectacles rested upside down on the table.

He looked like a starving bookkeeper or a medicine peddler past all luck.
Still, you never could tell about these killer types. He might look like a scarecrow, but somebody wanted him bad enough to pay out a fat lot of cash for him.

“Well let’s go palaver with the man,” Amonson whispered, shifting his pistol forward from where it had wandered to the small of his back.

The three of them got up in unison and stepped over the long bench.

Long George, the rawboned, one-eyed proprietor called to them from the counter.

“You ain’t paid yet.”

Amonson looked back at the man. Long George kept this place way out on the trail as a kind of haven for outlaw types, having reputedly been an outlaw himself once somewhere. But the bullet holes in the walls and the torn reward posters attested to his standing non-interference policy. The badge-toting law wasn’t welcome in The Senate, but not every man who came to tear down a poster was on the side of the law. When dollars were concerned, an outlaw could take the law’s side for a little while.

Case in point.

“We ain’t leavin’ just yet,” Amonson said, winking at Long George, a gesture he realized might be misconstrued by a one-eyed man.

He turned and led the way to the Killer Jew’s table.

The three of them stood over him for what seemed like a long time before Amonson finally cleared his throat and the skinny man stirred and blinked weary eyes up at him. He was a hell of a sight up close. There appeared to be a slew of faint crisscrossing scars all over his face and hands, as if he’d tumbled through a briar patch or something.

The thin man took them in with half-lidded brown eyes that hung in the midst of bloodshot webs, and slowly raised his head. He looked like he was about to pass out.

“Manasseh Maizel,” said Amonson, folding his arms, while at either elbow, Ocobock and Dorado rested their hands on their guns.

The man blinked slowly. Did he even speak English?

Amonson nodded to the poster hanging behind the man’s head.

“How about it? That’s you, ain’t it?” he pressed, the cigarette bouncing in his lips as he spoke.

The thin man slowly straightened, palms flat on the table, and turned to look back over his shoulder at his own face. The only sound was that of the flies buzzing about his untouched repast.

He turned back and nodded, not looking at them any more.

Dorado and Ocobock exchanged a look and took out their pistols, cocking them.

Amonson reached down and picked the leather tube off the table, turned it over in his hands.

The Killer Jew made no move, but seemed to waver with the effort of sitting up.

Amonson popped the top off the tube and peered inside at the roll of old paper or cloth. Satisfied, he snapped it shut again.

“What’s that?” said Ocobock.

“Nothin,’” Amonson said offhandedly. “Thought it might be a shotgun or something.”

He tossed it over his shoulder, making a note as to where it landed.

“Well, I guess you’re comin’ with us,” Amonson said. He pulled out his own pistol and flicked his cigarette at the man. It bounced off his arm, trailing a momentary shower of flaring ash. “Get up.”

“Leave him be,” said a deep voice from the doorway to the café.

In the doorway stood the silhouette of a man, pitch black with the desert sun behind him. He was the strangest figure Amonson, Dorado, or Ocobock had ever seen in all their lives between them.

He was a tall Negro, broad shouldered, and dressed like something out of The Arabian Nights. He wore a blue and white head wrap that draped across his shoulders, a long white shirt beneath a sheep hide tunic, and white cotton pants like a peon’s. His feet were sandaled, and he had what looked like a long, curled ram’s horn strung over his shoulder resting at his hip. He carried a pole with a knotted top and there was a curved knife in a golden sheath tucked into a green sash wound around his waist.

Amonson broke into a grin and looked to Dorado in mock disbelief. Dorado shared his bemused, dubious expression.

“What the hell are you supposed to be, boy?”

The black man in the doorway said nothing.

Ocobock sniggered.

“Hey boy,” Amonson said, “you talk to a man like that, you best have a pistol to see it through.”

It was on the word ‘see’ that the man in the doorway began to move. He darted across the threshold and halved the distance between the entrance and the table, moving faster than a man of his size should have been able to move. The staff hissed through his palm, and lashed out in a wide arc, striking Ocobock in the left temple. Ocobock went down flailing but without a sound. He crashed against Amonson, whose pistol went off like an ear ringing cannon burst in the closeness and lodged a bullet in the door frame.

He shrugged the falling Ocobock aside, but before his body hit the floor, the hard wood of the staff shot back and forth again like a billiards cue in the Negro’s hand, and bashed Amonson full in the face, mashing his lips bloody and cracking his right front teeth off with an unsettling ‘crump.’

Amonson fell backwards, hearing Dorado cuss in E’spanish. He landed flat on his back, both hands clapped to his bleeding mouth, and in an instant Dorado was beside him, clutching his purpling wrist and groaning.

The Negro poised over them for a moment, knees slightly bent, the dark wood pole in both hands. Amonson could see that the butt end was sharp like a spear, and he counted it a blessing that at least it wasn’t that end that had come at his face.

The Negro relaxed then, and straightened. He turned to the man he had saved, but the Killer Jew had his pistol out, a boxy, brassy looking thing, and appeared to be pointing it straight at him.

“Move,” the Killer Jew rasped.

The Negro pivoted deftly, as if to let a man pass, and the Killer Jew’s gun barked.

There was a crash from behind them, and Amonson looked over to see Long George Lamartine (who welcomed outlaw and bounty hunter alike into his place but did not abide Negroes) tumble back against the stove with its bubbling pot of beans, squeezing his bleeding collarbone with one hand and struggling to raise his Colt Navy with the other. There was a terrible hissing as the hot stove burned through his shirt and scorched his back, and he screamed, gave up the pistol, and fell behind the counter, overturning the hot pot of beans and wailing again as the contents spilled over him.

Then Amonson saw how the Killer Jew might have been at Varruga Tanks, just for an instant. He looked down on them with hard eyes and levered his weird pistol. He looked to Amonson like a corpse animated by hate just then and only held together by his frayed clothes, an evil scarecrow that had jumped down from its pole in the Devil’s alkali fields.

“Shuck your guns,” he croaked in a hanged man’s whisper, undercut only by the flies and Long George’s moaning.

They did as he told them, slinging their pistols into a far corner. Amonson had to get rid of Ocobock’s himself, as he was out cold and bleeding from the nose, a big, mad welt rising on the side of his head. Dorado’s wrist was twice its normal size.

“Get out,” he said then, and Amonson and Dorado picked up Ocobock between them and dragged him out of The Senate, his boot heels hissing in the hard packed earth and bumping over the rocky ground outside as they fled into the sunlight.

Pick up the book on Amazon at

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