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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year:

Juan the Silent - Episode One
Hannah Langley

Juan moved soundlessly from the shadow of a great pine tree. He shaded his eyes and scanned the bare landscape of red and yellow rocks, down to the road that wound along the canyon floor far below. The slightest puff of dust looped through the sky as a lizard skidded across the dry land. He smiled. Almost there. Almost home. Juan breathed in the arid midday air. Then he closed his eyes and filled his mind with the smell of his darling Katharina.

Tonight, he would make it home. She would be waiting for him in the safe little cabin of logs and bricks. His latest expedition had taken him away from her for two months. He’d told Katharina that the buffalo, whose valuable pelts he sold, had moved far away to the Plains and that he needed to go there to hunt them.
He shook his head. But that wasn’t the full story. Actually, that wasn’t the story at all. He did make the Plains expedition to earn money. Not by hunting the mighty buffalo, but rather by hunting a man, a man who had done something that angered a very wealthy client.

The skills Juan learned from his Sioux father made him an especially efficient killer. He knew how to stalk prey, and he had earned his business name, Juan the Silent. He was no stranger to taking down a target with his bare hands. But he hadn’t told Katharina that.

Juan cringed. He hated lying to her. But he shuddered at the idea of telling her who he really was.
Juan wound his way between the trees making his way down to the canyon floor. He never planned on getting married, but after meeting Katharina on one of his jobs, he changed his mind. She stood outside the blacksmith shop of a small prairie town. Juan fell in love when her large green eyes flashed his way.

He smiled at the memory of their quiet wedding only two weeks later. At that moment he had decided that, in order to keep his new wife safe, he could never tell her what he did for a living. The less she knew the better, for he had many enemies, who would do anything to get to him . . . anything.

He shivered in the hot sun. He tried to shake off the thought. Instead he imagined seeing his wife tonight, her dark hair flowing behind her strong shoulders as she ran to embrace him. He would drop his battered buckskin bag and let his guard down in their secluded little home, with Katharina.
Juan picked up his pace, eager to get home.

Katharina stood over the stove making tamales_Juan’s favorite meal. Over the sizzling of the meat in the frying pan, she heard a noise from the front room. Excited, she left her cooking and ran to greet her man. She brushed her hair back out of her face, smoothed her dress and swung the door open.
She gasped and took a step back. A large man with foul breath and a leathery face glared at her.
"Is Juan the Silent here?"
She shook her head, confused. "Juan the Silent? No. My husband’s name is Juan Clearwater and he’s not home."
She tried to shut the door, but the man thrust his huge boot inside the frame. He shoved the door hard into her shoulder. Katharina fell backward onto the wood floor. The man followed her and slammed the door behind him. He grabbed her by the hair and lifted her to her feet, then shoved her across the kitchen. Katharina fell against the counter and felt one vast hand engulf her neck.
Tears ran down Katharina’s face as she tried to breathe. She clawed at the man’s arm.
"Where is Juan? I know he’s here!" The man pressed Katharina back against the sink, his hand still tight around her neck.

She struggled and kicked, then bent back onto the counter, limp. He released his grip on her throat. She spat in his face, fumbling behind her for the rolling pin she’d just been using and swung as hard as she could. She felt the sickening thud as the wood connected with his nose.
He cursed and doubled over with both hands to his face.
Katharina ran toward the stairs.
"I’m gonna kill you!"

At the landing she skidded to the left and into her bedroom. She swung the door shut and tried to hold it closed. But the man easily pushed his way in. Katharina backed up into her night table, toppling the heavy clay water pitcher that sat on it.
The man reached inside his jacket. A gun.
She grabbed the heavy pitcher and hurled it with all her strength toward the man’s head. The pitcher hit its mark with a horrible cracking sound. The stranger fell backwards onto the landing, unconscious.

Katharina stepped over the man, then staggered back downstairs. She could smell the tamales burning. Where was Juan? She stood, breathing hard as she covered the smoking pan with a lid and moved it off the heat. Adrenaline still pumped through her. She knew she needed to go back upstairs to check on the stranger. Her leg ached as she hobbled up the two flights of stairs. A slight breeze from the open window at the landing ruffled the cotton curtain.
Moonlight shone on the top few steps. A pool of blood glistened in the dim light. She winced and swallowed the bile rising in her throat. She looked down at her injured leg, hoping that most of the blood was hers. Then she saw the jagged pieces of the broken clay pot and the body that lay so still next to them. Now she couldn’t hold it in. She leaned out the window and vomited. She had killed a man.
Someone shuffled on the stairs behind her. She twirled around, shaking, but ready for what was to come.
She recognized the voice. "Juan!"
Juan scooped her shaking form into his powerful arms and kissed her forehead. His eyes widened at the dead body.
"He was going to kill me, Juan." She sobbed and buried her head in his arms. "I didn’t want to kill him."
Juan swallowed hard. "I know." There was a long silence.
Katharina looked up at her husband, curiously. "He said he was looking for Juan the Silent."
Juan’s heart skipped a beat. He looked down at his wife. If she was strong enough to handle that guy, she was strong enough to hear the truth. "Honey," Juan said, taking a deep breath. "I may have lied about my job...."

© Hannah Langley - January 2009
page at

Hannah is a high school junior who looks forward to a career as a fiction writer. An excellent student, Hannah has her eye on Stanford after graduation and has already been published in the fall 2008 Edition of Intercut Magazine in addition to her completing her first novel.

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