Do you believe in ghosts?
Some folks do, some don't. I'm not sure which I believe. In this short story you will have to opportunity to make up your own mind as to what you want to believe.
Flamingo Flats, New Mexico Territory—1875
A lot of folks say the town is haunted. About the same amount of people swear that it isn't. But, there is one group of people who have no doubts about their small town.
They know for a fact that Flamingo Flats, New Mexico Territory is definitely, haunted.
Each and every person living there, be it a grown person or a small child has experienced first-hand, the apparition of Juan Santiago Margles Rodriguez, the famous marauding bandit that spent the last moments of his life in this small New Mexico town.
Why does his ghost, if it is his, continue to hang around this town? No one seems to be able to answer that question, because most of the inhabitants of Flamingo Flats did not live here at the time of Rodriquez's death.
However, there is one old man who lives on the outskirts of town that might know something. He is very old and as far as anyone knows he was here during the reign of Juan Santiago Margles Rodriguez, yet each time he is approached and asked about it, he vehemently denies that he knows anything. He refuses to talk anymore about it and usually slams the door in their face.
Until one day a newspaper man asked the old man the same question that everyone else had been asking for years. Apparently the old man was in a good mood, because he began talking.
"Of course," he started, "as with any legend, there are stories, many of them telling how Juan Santiago Margles Rodriguez and his gang of cutthroats rode into town that fateful morning in July of 1865."
The old man continued, "They immediately shot and killed the sheriff and the deputy and began taking control of the town. They set up their headquarters in the hotel, then thought maybe the saloon would be a better location since it was closer to the liquor. Each day, one of the gang would go on, what they called a shopping trip, for a new woman. It didn't matter to these evil men, whether she was married or single, a mother, or a spinster.
They did however, set limits on the age of the females. Any female under the age of sixteen was safe from their clutches. They would bring the woman screaming and kicking to their headquarters and take turns, using and abusing her. Several of the women killed themselves, rather than submit to the cruel tortures of these loathsome creatures.
If a man decided to intervene in what was going on, he was taken to the center of town and strung up on the flagpole, then beaten with a whip, within an inch of his life. There weren't very many men brave enough to try anything after the first couple of men were dragged back beaten, bloodied and bruised.
Then there were the men of the town that didn't condone violence of any kind. These so called peace loving men tried talking reasonably to the outlaws, but to no avail. The second in command, of the outlaws, cut the tongues out of two of the men for spouting, as he put it, peace and love that God would bless them all if they would only stop what they were doing.
These were some of the most evil men on the face of the earth. They were extremely satisfied with the way things were going in their town. Then one night after they had been ruling the town for almost three months, something happened to put the fear of God into even someone as evil as this gang of cutthroats.
One of their men was found one morning with his throat cut from ear to ear. He had been strung up on the same flag pole on which the killers had been stringing men up.
Juan Santiago Margles Rodriguez called a town meeting demanding that all the citizens come to the center of the town.
He began to speak in his broken English, "I am Juan Santiago Margles Rodriguez. I am the Lord and master of this town. Something has happened here that I did not condone. One of my men was viciously murdered right here on this very spot. I expect you, as law abiding citizens, to bring the guilty party to my headquarters by two o'clock today. If you do not do what I ask, one of you will be sacrificed. My advice to each of you as the leader of this town, would be to turn in this cold blooded killer, so that you," he pointed a crooked finger at one of the people standing in front of him, "or you," he pointed at another and then another. "What is your life worth? Do as I ask, no, I do not ask, but I command that you obey. That is all."
He turned and walked back into the saloon. Two o'clock came and went. At fifteen minutes past two, he told his second in command, "Go and bring back one of the people. They must be taught a lesson."
The man left intending to pick a man, whom he did not like very much. However, the second in command did not return as quickly as Juan Santiago Margles Rodriguez thought he should.
He told one of the other men, "Go look for Alejandro," his second in command."
Twenty minutes passed and Juan Santiago Margles Rodriguez was getting worried. Could there be a brave man amongst these people that he did not know about? He looked around. There were only two members of his gang and himself.
"You and you," he shouted, "Come with me. We need to see what is going on here." As soon as they stepped into the courtyard, they saw the missing men.
Just as the first man had been strung up on the flagpole, so were these men. Juan Santiago Margles Rodriguez drew his pistol and fired in all directions, until the hammer was echoing empty, in the quietness, after all the shooting.
He cursed when the sound of a rifle was heard and he watched as the man on his left crumpled to the dusty street. He quickly hid himself behind the post holding up the porch. A second shot rang out and the last member of his gang was slammed back against the hitching rail, turning a somersault over it. He was dead when he finally came to rest, face down in the dirt.
Juan Santiago Margles Rodriguez ran back into the saloon. There was no one to help him. No one to protect him. This was the first time since he had turned sixteen years old and began leading a gang of thugs that he was alone. It was a scary feeling.
He removed his pistolia and reloaded it with fresh cartridges, but did not put it back in the holster. He cocked the hammer and stood waiting for his fate. He vowed to himself, he would not go up without a fight.
He poured himself a drink, then another and another. As he lifted the third one to his lips, he threw it across the room.
"I need to keep a clear head," he said aloud.
He walked to the swinging doors and peered over the top. Just as his nose settled against the top of the door, a shot rang out. He heard the report a moment before the slug tore a chunk of wood from the door jam.
He quickly jerked back and flattened his body against the wall next to the door.
He took a deep breath, trying to get his heart to stop racing, then he hollered, "Are you afraid to face me man to man. Are you a coward? Why not come out so I can see your ugly face when I kill you, then I will cut out your heart and feed it to the mongrel dogs. Come on out," his voice was quivering and whining.
He let his body slide down the wall until he was sitting on the floor. His mind started racing, remembering all the times when he had men in just this same situation. He remembered how it made him feel at the time. It gave him a feeling of power to be in control of whether a man lives or dies. He remembers the first man he killed when he was only fifteen years old. He remembers each of them, one and all. So many, he cannot count the final tally of how many lives he had taken. When he did it, it was fun and exciting.
Is that how this man is feeling right now. Is he feeling the power of having me in his sights? I can promise him this, if he does kill me, I will take him with me.
He heard boots echoing on the wooden sidewalk. They stopped just the other side of the saloon door.
Juan Santiago Margles Rodriguez wiped the sweat from his face on his shirt sleeve.
"Come on in, you coward," he shouted.
He heard as the door swung open on the squeaky hinges.
Juan Santiago Margles Rodriguez sat pressing himself against the wall as if trying to blend into the wood. His heart was beating so fast and hard it felt as if it was going to burst out of his chest.
He tried raising his pistolia, but his hand wouldn't or couldn't move. He tried with all his might to raise his weapon, the tears streaking down his face.
He was, however, able to raise the hand that wasn't holding his gun and he made the sign of the cross, something that he hadn't done since he was a very young lad going to church with his mother.
He tried to close his eyes, not wanting to see the end coming, but his eyes wouldn't close. However, he was able to tilt his face up and looked into the eyes of . . . What was it? . . . Is it an Angel?
His mind flashed through memories that were long forgotten. Something his Grandmother had told him. A story from the Bible about an Angel of Death who destroys the evil that is hurting God's people.
Juan still could not raise his weapon, and yet he knew even if he could, it was not the kind of weapon to defeat this foe.
He watched as the rifle was raised to the shoulder, watched as the hammer was pulled back.
He wanted to pray, tried to pray, but had forgotten how. He had been so wicked his entire life and now all that wickedness was going to come to an end.
He felt the impact of the bullet as it slammed his head back against the wall, then his head slumped forward resting on his chest.
Juan Santiago Margles Rodriguez's evilness had come to an end in this little New Mexico town, but even in death, he was not going to be able to rest. He would wander all the days of his afterlife in this town that he had ravaged. His job now, was to atone for his evil ways by protecting this small town from any evil that tries to raise its head.
Flamingo Flats, New Mexico Territory has been peaceful ever since that night.
Oh, there have been men, evil men come riding into town, however, they do not spend more than a couple of hours, before they mount up and ride out of town just as fast as their horse will take them.
Is this a true story? Who's to know? It has often been said that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.