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Thread: work in progress... book 4

  1. #1
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    Default work in progress... book 4

    This one is a western that I began last fall. Haven't worked on it for a while, and figured I'd post what I had so far and gauge some reaction before I continue. Here is the first of 10 chapters. More to come. And yeah, my first attempt at a western. Here goes:

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    1

    The cool night breeze found its way indirectly through every possible gap in his clothing as he sat in silence away from the crackling, inviting glow of the fire. The breeze was not quite a full out wind, and the temperature wasn't unbearbly or painfully cold, but before morning light both aspects would more than likely become the latter. He tried to find some appreciation in the fact that the biting air distracted him from the pain being inflicted by the rough cut rope binding his wrists. And his thirst was growing worse with each passing hour. The last precious drop of water had been given to him around mid-day, when the sun was high, hot, and oppressive. To the best of his estimate that had occurred roughly ten hours prior. If there was any way to get to his right side shirt pocket he could pull out the pocketwatch that had been given to him on his fifteenth birthday by his father. It had ornate gold inlays on the inside of the cover which depicted dogs on the path of a fallen gamebird of some sort. Once opened the face had the color of old parchment, even when new. The hands looked to have been crafted from ageless iron, and painted black to stand in stark contrast to the face, even when viewed at night. It was a work of art, and the only piece of adornment allowed a true everyday man of the time. The only other adornment his father approved of consisted of his two heavy revolvers, which had only left his hips before now to be hung by the bed at night. He imagined now that the men over by the campfire had laid them unrespectfully down onto the dirt of this place. If they had any real comprehention of how much blood those guns had spilled they might have some reverence about them as to how they handled such items. But these men lacked reverence to anything, be it the rarity of the revolvers or the shining silver star that was pinned to his left shirt pocket, directly above the heart that had sworn an oath of protection and upholding whatever semblance of law afforded these savage lands.
    Paul Simmons had nearly lost his thoughts of the cold as he was taken back to the day his father had given him the pocketwatch. He was but a boy of fifteen then, not quite a man physically, but every bit a man in his mind and maturity. He guessed his age was around thirty-five now, making it ancient history as far as these times were concerned. He blinked his eyes hard and winced at the pain that the act brought upon him. They had knocked him several good ones across the face, and one particualrly bad gash ran down his right temple where the youngest of the group had knocked him face first into the dirt with the butt of his twelve gauge shotgun. But the pain brought him back to reality enough, it seemed. He saw a shadowy figure rise against the backlight of the fire and approach him. In his heart he hoped that it meant some reprieve from his thirst, but in his head he knew better. The figure approached somewhat closer and he could make out some features. The swaggering gut, the unkept beard, and the limp the man walked with as he favored the right leg. It was Stanley, one of the hired guns of the group leader. Of the group he was probably the one Paul despised the most, as the man lacked any hint of remorse, not to mention personal hygiene.
    "Marshall Simmons, you got two minutes to piss before bed time. And that started when I got up to walk over here."
    "I appreciate your compassion, Stanley. Can you at least help me up?"
    The man grunted and chuckled a little, grabbing Paul roughly by the armpits and hoisting him onto shaky legs. He led him about ten feet further away from the campfire and stood sentry behind him as he stood.
    "Well, with my hands tied behind my back I can't exactly undo my pants here."
    "Piss in 'em for all I care. I ain't untying you, and I sure as hell aint gonna unbutton yer fuckin' pants, Simmons. You got about thirty more seconds."
    Paul sighed and reluctantly let the water flow into his pants. It was about as shameful an act as they could have made him do, and they knew it. There were more shameful ones, and Paul was sure that they would get to them in time. It was the nature of desperados out here in the scrublands to find whatever humor thay could in any given situation. Times of levity were far and few in between. Especially at the expense of others. He was nearly done when he was pulled back quickly by his elbows. He landed hard onto the sandy ground on his back, still urinating as he did so. Paul felt anger and hate rise inside him and knew that in the end he would have to do whatever he could to repay this particular favor.
    "I told you time was up. Now git back over yonder. We're movin' on first light. Be in yer best interest to find some sleep. Yer gonna need it. We got thirty miles of open desert before we git where we goin'."
    "Don't be so kind next time, Stanley. You're a sweetie, ya know?"
    "Shut yer face, Marshall. And kindness ain't exacly one of my qualities. you know that. After all, 'twas you that arrested me in El Paso back in '68. Wasn't exactly kind then either, was I?"
    "No, don't reckon you were. After all, kindness ain't exactly a quality a man that murders an entire family usually holds dear."
    "Now Marshall, you know I never admitted to that. It was yer damn judge that says I did that. But I got out alright in the end now, didn't I? Didn't hang on yer gallows fer it, obviously."
    "Not yet you haven't. There's always more time."
    "Not fer you, Marshall. You 'bout nearin the end o' yer road here, I'm 'fraid. Now shut up and git back over there before I let Justin whack ya again with his scattergun."
    Paul did as he was told, but sleep was a long time coming. He watched the men from a distance, trying to decide what and when his next move should be. He knew as well as the sun would come up the next day that if he failed to act he would die soon. These men didn't believe in anything else as a means to an end. He watched as the men turned in one by one, leaving Justin, the young one, to stand guard. Paul could see his outline sitting nervously by the fire. The man couldn't have been more than seventeen. Just a boy, really, but one that had his fair share of a long record on his shoulders. Mostly it consisted of cattle rustling and slaughtering herd out of pure meanness. Now he was in the big time with this bunch. The assault and kidnapping of a U.S. Marshall put him into a whole new league that Paul doubted the boy fully understood. He felt the wind pick up for a second and it made his eyes water. At least they had let him lie closer to the fire, but not quite close enough to get any real heat from it. Paul figured that they had done it as a tease and yet another means to break him down. He lie still for another fifteen minutes or so, until he heard faint snoring coming from inside one of the tents. Then he began to fight himself up onto his knees and began to walk on them, toward the distracted boy and the light from the campfire.
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


  2. #2
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    2.

    The door to the office swung open and banged hollowly on the frame behind it, scaring the slumbering deputy and causing his half-empty cup of coffee to spill onto the plank floor next to the heavy desk he sat at, feet propped up. He was first alarmed at the sound, reaching for his revolver, and then seeing that it was Chester, relaxed a bit.
    "Dammit, Chester, you almost got shot dead in the face!"
    "Well, Jack, if you'd a been awake like ya 'spose to been I wouldn't a scared ya. We might have a problem."
    Jack looked at the other deputy for a second before replying.
    "It's Paul, ain't it? He ain't back yet?"
    "Naw. Left early this mornin' ya know, headed out to the Jabobson farm to have a look-see at their downed horses. I met old man Jacobson down at the saloon and he says Marshall never showed up. And now it's almost dark outside and he ain't back yet. Somethin's not right here, at all, Jack."
    "Well let's not go jumpin' to any conclusions just yet. Could be anything. Worst case is he got snake bit and he's down, waitin' fer help."
    "Yeah, could be. We know he knows how to take care of snakebites, Jack. And worst case is he ran into trouble. You know a lot of folk don't like him cuz' he's..."
    "A hardass? Yeah, I know, but he gets the job done. Don't you go and fergit that. The one's that dont care for 'im are the ones who should be concerned anyways. Normal folk like him alright."
    "I know. It's the ones that should be concerned that are a concernin' me. I think we should go look for 'im."
    "Now you know damn good and well that we both can't leave the jailhouse right now. Hell, I got three drunks in right now and Sally's having one helluva git together down at the saloon. They'll probably be three or four more before the night's fully here. Not to mention a half dozen bar fights you know is gonna happen before she closes up and throws 'em out"
    "So what are ya sayin'?"
    "I'm sayin' one of us goes out, has a look around, and comes back in three or so hours. If that one don't find nothin' then we go to plan B."
    "And what's that?"
    "I git Elmer Constance to come up here and sit while we go back out and look some more."
    "As much as I agree you have to remember that Elmer ain't been a deputy for goin' on five years now. Marshall'd have our asses if he came back and found us gone and Elmer sittin' at the desk drankin' from a jug. How's he gonna arrest a drunk when he's one himself? You know don't nobody take him serious."
    "Well if Paul is needin' us then we'll deal with it when that day comes. I'd like to think that if he did need us he'd understand why."
    "Mayhap he will."
    "I'll go. You sit here and make sure them boys don't puke on the bed. I'll be back in three hours. If not then go git Elmer and git yer ass out there and find me. I'll be somewheres between here and the Jacobson place, staying right below the ridge as I ride."
    "Alright, Jack. You take care."
    "Will do, Chester. Hopefully I won't be a needin' you after all."
    He got up from behind the desk and his worn bootheels made a hollow bang on the clapboard floor of the jail. Chester felt a chill run down his spine, thinking it sounded a lot like the sound a man would make if he rapped his fists against the inside of a pine box.
    Jack Constance, a distant cousin of the drunken and disgraced Elmer Constance grabbed his hat and a shotgun out of the case before heading to the door. A man just don't go out at night lookin' for trouble with just a revolver on his hip. He opened the door and was surprised to feel the blast of air hit his face. A windstorm was coming in from the west and would be hitting the town full forse by mid-day tomorrow. If he ever had any doubts about finding Paul Simmons they were swept away by that cold wind. If he wasn't found by the time that storm rolled in he was as good as dead caught out in it.
    Jack climbed aboard his mare and set out riding short of a full gallop past the western edge of town. He pulled his handkerchief up to shield some of the wind-driven grit from his face and blinked at the night as he spurred his horse again. He had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that maybe Chester was right. The first place to look lie somewhere between here and the ten miles out to the Jacobson farm. But Jack had his doubts. If he was to be found then Jacobson would have found him on his way into town earlier. Or at least his horse. As if it were an omen from beyond a lone coyote wailed in the distance. A normal sound out here in the wasteland between towns, but tonight it raised the hair on the back of his neck and sent a chill down his spine. He wanted to find the Marshall now more than ever. Forget the fact that they had known each other since their young days as boys, back before the war tore them apart. Forget the fact that they had crossed many miles and seen countless towns together. Forget the fact that Paul Simmons was the one man in this world in whom he entrusted his life with. Even with trying to forget all of that the fact reamined that one of the few honest men in this savage world needed his help, and he alone could possibly be the only person Marshall Simmons could rely on.
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


  3. #3
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    3.

    The campfire popped and cracked as the breeze blew through the burning embers and partially consumed blend of dry brush and deadfall. Paul could fianlly feel some vestige of radiating heat finally reach his aching bones. As much as he knew he shouldn't, he closed his eyes and let the heat sink in for a brief moment. Upon opening them back up he noted that Justin remained just as he had before Paul had began his knee-walk toward the circle of heat and light. His face was turned away, and more than likely his eyes were heavy and lax. Paul silently crept closer, remarking that the boy had yet to move a muscle or let on that he knew that he was being approached. Paul breathed in a long, silent breath and inched even closer, to the point where he could have reached out and grabbed the boy by the collar and knock him out cold, provided his hands weren't tied. Still a bit unnerved at the fact that the boy still hadn't moved, Paul inched slower than a snail to the left, until he could see the boy's cheek, then a bit of wispy, patchy moustache illuminated by the firelight. He continued still to the left until he could see one of Justin's eyes. It was large, glassy, and very much alive. He could see the moisture reflect the dancing amber and red licks of flame like a mirror. Justin sat, motionless except for the occasional blink. The boy seemed to be so deep in thought as he gazed at the fire that he was almost trance-like. Paul inched just a hair more ot the left and Justin finally did move. Paul felt every muscle in his body tense and he wondered exactly how he would handle the situation quietly, with his hands literaly tied behind his back.
    Justin, however, did not attack him. He simply leaned forward, unblinking, and spat a long, large stream of tobacco spit into the glowing embers at the base of the campfire. Then his left arm rose and a single finger went to his lips in a shushing gesture. Still the eyes never left the dancing flames and never blinked. He simply cocked his head over toward the tent and held up two fingers. Did it mean that there were two still awake, or that two were asleep? There were four of them total. There was Stanley, his brother Vincent, Justin, and the leader of the group, James Steele. Of all of the men James was the only one that would warrant and fear from Paul himself. Paul really feared no man currently alive and breathing, but if there was one that came close it would have been James Steele. A veritable apparition in the land, the man had eluded capture dozens of times, and had killed a verifiable eighty men. And the eighty were just the ones that could be directly linked to his hand. There were more than likely many times that number unaccounted for, either directly or in concert with his own hand. Paul liked to think of it in terms of "hand", as the man only had one. The fate of the left one was a thing of legends. Some believable, most not. The general tale told was one of a single-handed brawl against ten very irate and very drunk Apache tribesmen. He had eventually killed all ten, but one of them had disposed of James' left hand with quick and surgical use of a hatchet. Keep in mind that that was just one of many stories, but the one most widely told and accepted. It was told that James actually kept the warrior's left hand as a souvenier and as pennace for his own. It was reportedly kept in the bottom of a lockbox he carried, along with letters from his wife-that-was.
    Justin motioned for him to stay low and the boy scooted so close that Paul could smell the aromas of body odor and fear radiate off of him like heat from the desert floor.
    In a voice not even a whisper Justin spoke.
    "Marshall, I want you to listen and listen well. If James knew I allowed you to move over, not to mention talk to you, he would kill me dead as four o' clock. You know of me, right? If you do, just nod."
    Paul nodded as he had been bade.
    "Then you know I never did anything like this before. And I ain't really in a mind to start. Killin' horses and cattle is one thing. A man is another. A Marshall is yet another. And it's somethin' I ain't wantin' to git caught up in now. They aim to git a cash re-ward tomorrow for ya. And if'n they can't then they aim to kill you and dump yer body over the wash in the Rio Grande two days after tomorrow. I thank they aim to do that anyways, with or without the money."
    Paul looked into the Justin's wet eyes and knew that the boy was telling the truth. He motioned his hand in a gesture that could only mean "Go on..."
    Justin peered back over his shoulder and began to speak again, even quieter than the first time.
    "James aims ta send Vince over to El Paso tomorrow with word and demands. Now the way I see it I ain't got a whole lot of options either way right now. If I do nuthin, then you will die and I'll be all over them wanted posters along with 'em all. If'n I let you go tonight then James might just kill me for lettin' it happen. I could always say I fell asleep, or maybe that you got loose and beaned me across the head liken I did you earlier. And I want you to know I didn't wanna do that, either. James made me, maybe it was a test to see if I was in with 'em or not for the long haul."
    Paul shook his head in agreement, surprised at how all of the scenarios in his head were nowhere close to this. He hadn't been prepared for a co-conspirator within James' own ranks.
    "I think that no matter what I say he'll blame me and more than likely shoot me in the head and drop me in the river instead of you. He's bad. Evil, in fact. I didn't sign on fer this. He took me in and helped me, and I owe him a lot. But killin' you isn't part of it. If I help you get out, will you take me with you to El Paso and make sure I git somewheres safe where they'll never find me? I want to settle down and find me a fine woman. I don't wanna be like them. I ain't gonna testify ta nuthin, ever, in front of a judge, so don't ask me. All I offer is your life for mine."
    Paul understood fully what cards were on the table. He also knew that unless he was untied and could get his hands on his guns, then he wouldn't live to see the weekend. He motioned for Justin to lean closer and he finally spoke in a tone even quieter than that of Justin's.
    "I can and will, Justin. You have my word. And I am good for it. You know that much. But we need to get goin' if'n we are gonna do this at all. But I want you to do something else first."
    Justin looked at him for a brief second before nodding his head. Somewhere inside this boy was a good man. Paul was determined to get them both out so that the good man might have a chance to overcome the boy's poor decisions. He nodded his chin in the direstion of his heart and spoke again.
    "Take the badge. If something happens to me then you take it directly to El Paso and give it personally to Jack Constance. Tell him that I gave it to you as a promise of safe-keeping, and tell him to remember Pecos Station. We made an understanding there years back, maybe before you were even born. If'n you tell him those words then you will be safe. But we have to move soon if we aim to."
    Justin hesitated before reaching down to unpin the star from the pocket of Paul Simmons. He straightened up and closed his eyes.
    "Marshall, I want you to know I'm sorry. And I am gonna untie you now. please understand and be quick. Your guns are hanging up on a post behind James' tent. The horses are tied over there behind those rocks."
    Paul nodded his head in agreement and scooted around so that his wrists were facing Justin and his face was towards the tents. It was then he saw the flicker of a cigarette and the reflection of the campfire in a pair of lone eyes. The eyes, even from this distance, shone with a blue so bright in the weak light of the flames that it only meant they belonged to one man.
    James Steele, all six-foot-five of him, emerged from the opening of his tent with his revolver raised and pointed in their direction. From this distance the open barrel loomed as large as that of a cannon on the hills of Gettysburg. Paul began to speak when James raised the barrel of the gun to his lips. Justin turned and followed his gaze only to drop the hunting knife he held and blurt out a single phrase, not much more than a whisper.
    "Ahh Shit."
    James Steele walked the distance in a few short strides for his long lean legs and stood over the two men like judge, jury, and executioner. In fact, at that moment, he was indeed all three.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Thoughts so far, guys? The more I worked on this one the more I liked it, but may just be me. I'm crazy like that.
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


  4. #4
    Numenorean ManOfWesternesse is on a distinguished road ManOfWesternesse's Avatar

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    I like it so far Dave, but then I'm a sucker for a good Western too. I cut my reading teeth on my Grandad's old Louis L'Amour collection, and have had a soft spot for westerns ever since. More recently, the books of Thomas Eidson (StAgnes' Stand / The Last Ride) would be favourites.

    There's editing to be done there - maybe some phrasing that I think could be different/better - but the story is looking good so far and already, 3 short chapters in, we have a good layout of the story and great tension.
    Keep at it!
    <img src=http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z47/ManOfWesternesse/dt_bcBanner002d.jpg border=0 alt= />

  5. #5
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    Thanks so much, old friend! As always, your comments are honest and true, and I appreciate the praise! Here's some more:
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    4.

    Jack did as he told he would. He rode west just below the ridge until he saw the plume of smoke that originated from the chimney of the Jacobson ranch/farm house. He knew better than ride along the ridge, as he could have been spotted for miles around with the moonlight as bright as it was. Even though there was a thin haze of dust up high in the sky, the moon was still as bright as the late October nights allowed it to be. The thin haze was a forboding sign of the dust storm to come, and the fact did little to settle Jack's nerves. He felt as if his spine had been stretched out like the strings of a guitar, his arms even tighter. Like the strings of a banjo, they felt. He came to the last rise before the land fell away to the lush grazing fields of the Jacobsons' spread. Over a thousand acres, all much too green for this region. Being the most affluent of familes in El Paso had its advantages. High dollar fertilizer was just one of them. Friends in high places was another. And all of those friends weren't as savory as the law would have liked them to be. Jack had already pondered the possibility that Jacobson was somehow involved, but couldn't be sure just yet. After all, what else did the man have to gain?
    Jack was about to ascend the hill when he heard hoofbeats approaching, and fast, from behind. He dismounted and stood, stooping, beside his horse. He hoped that now, of all times, that his horse wouldn't blare out a most untimely sound of discontent at the movement. He could tell that it was the sound of a lone horse, more than likely that of Jacobson, returning home after being kicked out of Sally's for getting to fresh with either her or one of her three daughters. He knew that the road ran parallel with the ridge, and just on the other side of it. He had avoided the road for the same reasons he had avoided the ridge. Too obvious a path for one that wanted to keep from being spotted.
    He tied his horse off to a large piece of deadwood that was at least half buried in the sandy soil and walked up the hill, crawling the last ten feet or so until he could peer over and see the faint candlelight pouring out of the shadeless windows that lined the front of the house. Jacobson's wife, Loretta, was sitting in one of the chairs on the porch, as if she knew her man was about to be home afer a failed night of drinkin' and whorin' in town. Why or how the woman dealt with the knowledge that her husband was as worthless as a rattler, he couldn't know. Maybe she had a good life with money to burn in the fireplace if she wished to do so, and that was reason enough for her. Only she and God knew the answer to that riddle. It wasn't Jack's place to give it thought or judgement.
    As sure as the wind coming from the west, the horse rode up past the gates and next to the porch. Henry Jacobson dismounted and walked up to his wife, uttering something that couldn't be heard from the distance. The resulting slap, however, was. He noted that Henry returned the favor, and harder. Loretta was knocked off balance and fell off of the porch, out into the grass. He descended the three steps to the grass and picked her up, as if she had simply lost her footing and fell off of a stagecoach. He instantly felt the last shred of respect that he may have held for the man disappear. If there was a man he hated as much as a murderer, it was one that beat on women. He waited for them to enter the house and he walked back to his own horse, untied it, and walked it across the hilltop he had just been lying on. The wind whipped into his face as he topped it, and he instantly thought of Paul again. Was he out there, alive, and freezing to death in this at this very moment when Jacobson, the wife-beating bastard, was inside his warm home? The thought of it made his temper rise even more. He walked right up to the porch and tied his horse alongside Henry's. The two sniffed and snorted at each other in their own secret language as Jack ascended the steps and knocked on the door, feeling his heart begin to beat harder in his chest as he did so. Henry came to the door himself, and Jack could hear Loretta quietly sobbing in the background as the door swung open and bathed the whitewashed planks of the porch in soft flickering candlelight. He had a look of surprise and wariness as he recognized Jack at once.
    "Dep'ty. Can't say as I'm surprised to see you. But at this hour? And I didn't see you on the trail behind me."
    "That's cuz I took another way."
    Henry smiled. He knew that there was no other way directly to town and back except for the road.
    "Z'at right? Well then, whatever pleases ya. I s'pose this is 'bout yer missin' Marshall? Dep'ty Chester already talked to me 'bout it. An I'll tell you like I told him. Marshall Simmons never came out here. Not today, at least. Last time he was out here was a week ago, Saturday. We played poker with the Smith's till 'bout two in the morn'. You know, you should really come out sometime. Helluva time had by all."
    "I s'pose it is, Henry. I prefer to deal my cards closer to the chest than you, I believe. So you don't know nuthin' bout Paul? Nuthin' at all then?"
    "Like I said twiced already. No. But I'll be more than happy to help you look fer him come mornin' light, if ya wish. But tonight I'm all done in. Hard day, and my horses ain't no closer to bein' alive then they was two days ago. So if that's all ya got then I'll ask you to go on back to town where you belong and let me be for the day. That is, unless you's here to talk about my horses."
    Jack stood with his feet planted and smiled. It was as fake as the cheerfullness he heard when the conversation began.
    "Well, no, not tonight, Henry. Not the horses. I think getting my hands around where the Marshall went to is a little more important than your damned horses." All of the false formalities had gone away in his voice. "Is Loretta ok back there?"
    "She's fine. Not that it's any of yer's to ask."
    Jack acted as if Henry had never replied.
    "'Retta, you doin' ok back there, hon?"
    "Me? I--I--I'm just fine as frog hair, Jack. Just upset about the horses, is all. What you doin' way out here this time of night? Don't ya know you'll catch yer death out here in the cold, ridin that dang horse?"
    Jack detected the lie as clear as the fury on Henry's face. He looked up at him and whispered so that only he could hear.
    "I'm thinkin you and me need to step outside on this here porch for a minute, if you will, Henry. I don't think the lady needs to hear anymore."
    "Fine, Dep'ty."
    "Loretta, you take care now, and tell yer momma I says Hi and I want another one of those apple pies as soon as she feels up to makin' me another."
    "Will do, Jack! You take care and give Marshall my best, will ya?"
    Jack winced a little and replied.
    "Will do. You take care now, and come see us if you ever need to, ok?"
    The men walked out onto the porch and closed the door to the light and the prying ears of Henry's wife.
    "So what is you have to say that you can't say with my door open, Jack?"
    It was a first name basis now, no "dep'ty" to be heard.
    "Well, Henry, let me just say that I aim to find the Marshall tonight. Whether it be with you or despite of you. And I don't care, number one, who you know or what you got. I better not find out you know more than you are a tellin' me right now, or it'll be hell if I do."
    "You won't, Jack. And I suggest you pick yer words a little more carefully with me. I'm not some dumbass farmhand or a saloon whore you're talking to."
    "If anyone knew of the saloon-whores then I guess you'd be the one to ask, am I right? But I do have one more thing to say before I go."
    "And that is?"
    "If you lay your hand on that woman again in my sight, like you did tonight, then I'll lay this badge down on the nearset table and commence to beating the everliving shit out of you then arrest you once I put it back on. Do you hear my words, Jacobson?"
    "Oh I hear you, Jack. I hear you well. And you should think twice about your stand, too. Last time I heard it ain't quite legal for dep'ties to go sneakin' 'round in the dark and looking at the affairs of workin' folk. Spyin' is spyin', and I hope you hear my words when I say that next time I might have to shoot first and ask my questions later. Spyin' is spyin', and trespassin' is trespassin'. I don't know who I shoot at when it's dark outside. Hope you remember that one."
    "Oh, I will. And rest easy knowin' that I know how to shoot back, Henry. Don't expect me to lie there and take it like 'Retta does. Maybe one day we'll see. But for tonight I got things that need doin' and this ain't one of 'em."
    "Well then I suggest you git yer fleabag horse and ride on back to where you belong, Dep'ty. And Jack?"
    "Yeah?"
    "I'll let ya know if'n I hear from Marshall."
    "I'll count on it."
    Jack climbed back onto his horse and galloped away, this time on the road. He paused once at the top of the hill and saw that Henry was still standing on the porch, watching him leave. Whether it was to see his path or to make sure he was really leaving, Jack didn't know. Once beyond the line of sight he dropped back below the ridge and headed south, out towards the open desert. He had been east and west. That left north and south. He hoped that Paul had not ended up out here in the wastelands, but something inside told him that it was indeed the case. He figured he could ride for a little while before Chester would be out looking for him, and he meant to be back on the ridge before that happened. All he needed was for Chester to walk into the hornet's nest he had just created, unaware.
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


  6. #6
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    And some more:
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    5.

    James Steele's features never wavered. His mouth never hinted at a smile, and his eyes never let on to the emotion that lie behind them. He was as cold as stone, and as steady as one as well. When he finally spoke, his voice was smooth, even, and deep. It lacked emotion just as much, if not more, than his eyes did.
    "Well now. I sincerely hope that my eyes are deceiving me here. Can't really recall in my life when they ever have, but there's always a first time for everything now, ain't there? But just supposing that they are true, does someone mind telling me just what in the blue hell is going on here? To me looks like a mutiny. Am I the captain of the fucking Bounty here?"
    The man was not only evil and soul-less, but he was brilliant. A very well-read man that at one time, before the war had taken his wife, had been a college professor. A history professor, at that.
    "No answers? Shame. Really. A damn shame. Justin, I can't believe you would stab your savior in the back this way. I gave you not only sustenance, worth, and not to mention acceptance, but a path to greatness. I never expected this from you. Marshall, I'd have to say that this was all expected of you. You don't really think that I would leave the keep of a man so valuable, so intellegent and calculating, to a boy? I knew you would try something. It is your nature. Such a decorated war hero for the Confederacy you were. A brave and resourceful man. And I must say, you don't prove those wrong who know you better than you think we do."
    "At least I got that going for me then, huh, James?"
    "Well if nothing else, you got that. Now what do you suppose I do here? Kill you both? Shoot a horse for your transgressions? What would you do in this situation, were you me, Paul?"
    Paul only sat, speechless. James Steele knew the only logical outcome. He knew what the war general Paul once was would have done. But it wasn't what a man behind the silver star would do. Not any more. "You know the answer to that, Steele."
    "Don't disrespect me, asshole. You address me as 'James', or 'Mr. Steele'. Or maybe 'God' if you think it might prevent me from splattering your brains all over the sand behind you. Fact is you know what the answer is. You would do what I am going to do. You and I are the same deep down inside, Marshall. The only difference is the side of the star we ride upon. You fight for what you think is right, and I fight for what I know is."
    "And what exactly is this that you know?"
    "Ha! I know that the world took from me all I held dear once. The war, to be exact. Your war. And your people. They came into my house, raped and killed my wife, and left me for dead with this." He raised the stump of his left hand. "And I pleaded with them as a weaker man. I begged those dogs to spare us, but take what they wanted. In the end they took what they wanted anyway. They took what soul I had left. So pardon me if I tread upon thee in a manner that does not fit your 'laws', Marshall. You know me and the history of me, whether it be fabricated or factual. I only kill men who deserve no more. And if that makes me a miscreant or an outlaw, then so be it. But remember that the monster you seek is of your own creation, and this monster isn't going away anytime soon."
    With the last syllable the world exploded into bright white light and thunderous gunfire. Justin fell into the fire bleeding from several wounds to the chest. His bootheels clicked and spasmed on the dust of the ground, creating small furrows as they moved, then ceased. His eyes remained open and Paul saw a single tear fall and sizzle away on the hot coals. He looked up at the towering James Steele with hatred.
    "No, I didn't shoot you. Yet. I shot him for his treachery. Kid wasn't mean enough or tough enough for the world he was fitting into anyway. Like I said, never killed a man that didn't deserve it, Marshall. What ya gonna do, arrest me?"
    "Obviously not today, Steele. But rest assured that your time will come."
    "I'm banking on it."
    Steele tossed his gun into the air and caught it by the smoking barrel faster than Paul's eyes could register the movement. He saw briefly the butt of the revolver coming towards him and noticed that it was a Colt. Then the world exploded again onto light, but not a muzzle flash this time.
    He fell backwards onto the hardpacked sand, gushing blood from the ruined tomato that once resembled a nose. He blinked at the pain and the wetness that ran into his eyes as the world began to swim away in the far-away voices of the startled men emerging from their tents.
    "Jesus, James! What the hell!?"
    "Shut up and roll him onto his stomach before he drowns in his own damn blood, Stanley. Vince, saddle up. Since we're all awake and alert out here now I think it's time for you to ride. I want you to make it out to El Paso by mornin' light. I want your ass back here in one piece by sundown. Stan and I are heading out then, with or without you, so it'd behoove you to make haste."
    Stanley was in a crouching position, down on his haunches beside the still body of Paul. "What happened to Justin? Oh Jesus, he's roastin' like a pig on that there fire! Damn almighty it reeks. At least let me roll him off of it, James."
    "Actually I would rather you did that as fast as you could, Stan. And thanks. Can't stand the smell of it myself." Steele was taken back to a time when he could smell the burning flesh of his wife after the soldiers had gone their way south. They each had had their way with her as he had been beaten by the ones waiting their turn. Then he watched helplessly, and slowly bleeding to death from his severed wrist as the lieutenant in charge of the ragged band drew his sword and cut her open like a worthless piece of fallen game. He sobbed aloud as they tossed her body back upon the front porch of their home and set it ablaze. Then the lieutenant drew his sidearm and shot James in the gut and left him to bleed to death from his wounds as he watched his home and his beloved burn to the ground. He flashed back to another time then, nearly two years later, and after the war had ended. He had consumed his life to finding the man that did the deed, and in the end had succeeded.
    It was June 18, 1866, St Louis. He remembered the date, time and location. It was the first life he had aimed to take and certainly would not be the last. The liutenenant-that-was sat at a table playing cards with four other men, drinking beer from a stained glass that sat on the heavy wooden table beside his smoking cigar. The lights were low and the beer house had mostly emptied out by the late hour that he entered it. He pulled his black hat, reminsicent of a fedora, down closer to his eyes to hide his face and walked in, flanking the table and the patrons seated around it. No one gave him a second glance, and thankfully so. He was armed with two simple but effective .45 caliber revolvers and a twelve inch hunting knife, all of which he hid underneath his untucked black button-down shirt. He looked like everyone else in the town, which suited his purposes well that night. No need to draw particular attention to himself until need be. Steele walked to the bar and ordered a bourbon, straight. After watching the game commence from a distance he approached slowly and asked to play in. A man dressed in a red checkered work shirt and dirty dungarees smiled and welcomed him to the next hand. He sat two men over from the lieutenant and kept his face turned toward the table. The lieutenant's name had been Charles Whittinger.
    "Deuces wild, stranger. We never got your name, by the way." the man in the work shirt quipped, a genuine smile upon his face. Too bad that he seemed friendly and an average man. More than likely he would die at this very table in a short few moments.
    "That's because I never gave it. Steele. James Steele." He placed his right hand out for his cards and let the stump of the left one rest on the table. He noticed that Whittinger glanced over at it and then down at his own hand of cards. Then he saw the man slowly glance back up at the stump with a sideways glance and dismiss it. Good.
    "Well then, Mr. Steele. What'll ya have?"
    "I'll take three."
    "Three it is. From your accent I'd say you were from back east. Northeast, maybe."
    "That's right. Pennsylvania. Gettysburg, to be exact."
    "Dealer takes two. Gettysburg. I'll be damned. Serve in the army?"
    "No. Met with some Confederates one night, though. Can't say I cared for them much. Not a nice bunch. Seems they liked raping and burning houses more than fighting their battles."
    It was then he saw the hand holding Whittinger's cards dip slightly. In the corner of his eye he saw the man regard the stump again with a look of recognition. Then the man spoke with the voice that Steele had burned into his memory.
    "Gettysburg. I was in Gettysburg. And I think I might just remember you. Am I right?"
    "Right you are, Charles. You should remember me well. After all it was you that burned my wife and house to the ground and shot me in the gut. And here you sit after all this time."
    He saw the men around the table start at the proclamation and one of them backed away from the table, spilling his worthless hand of cards face-up as he did so. Before any of them could really resgister what was happening Steele stood and had both revolvers out, pointed at Whittinger.
    "Hey! Mister, look, what we did then was..."
    He never got to finish the statement before Steele fired four rounds into the seated man. Two of the other men reached for theirs when he dropped them as well. He then turned to then other two and followed suit. Not more than a few seconds had passed since he had asked for three cards, but the four men that had shared in the game lie dead or dying on the sawdust covered floor. The other patrons of the bar had found reasons to make hasty exits by then, and the room was empty. Steel walked over to the body of Whittinger and proceeded to unsheath his knife. Some of the tales told about Steele had at least some basis in fact. He took from Whittinger what he had been deprived of, and still kept it to this day in a wooden box as a reminder of why he was the man he had grown to be. He left St. Louis that night on horseback and rode west. And kept riding. He had become a monster that night, and the monster would be one that dealt in death, from which he had been created.

    The firelight danced in his moistened eyes as he stared at it, unblinking. Vincent had left several minutes earlier and Stanley sat across from his boss and mentor, wanting to break the trance but not daring to do it. He could see the pain and anguish flash across the furrowed brow of Steele as he watched the man revisit the demons of the past. He felt sorrow for the man, felt pity and empathy. The man was one of a kind, and most viewed him in a depraved and fearful light. Stanley and his brother, however, viewed the man as something much different. He had been a good boss to them, and a good friend. He had saved them from the gallows more than once. The most recent conviction was by the Marshall that now lie, breathing noisily, only a few feet away. That rescue had been seven years back, and they had come back to El Paso for this purpose. Sometimes it took a long time to get your retribution, but it almost always came in one form or the other. James Steele could attest to that fact. Finally the man broke his trance and looked into the concerned eyes of Stanley.
    "I'm ok, Stan. If I had any emotion left in me I might give in to it, but I don't. Emotions make you weak and get you killed. Do me a favor and move Simmons over nearer the fire. I don't want our cash cow dying of the cold on us before we get a chance to use him. He's no good to us completely dead, but halfway doesn't bother me in the least."
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


  7. #7
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    6.

    Chester took the watch from his pocket and looked at it for several moments before rising from behind the desk and walking past the locked cells. Jack had been right, and eerily so. There had been four more drunks to wrangle in, and a couple of bar fight combatants to boot. One of them leaned up against the wall of his cell, moaning thickly and bleeding from a nasty gash across the back of his head. When he left to get Elmer he would also fetch Dr. Jenkins, just in case. At the very least the man would need stitches. Besides, the good Dr. might be persuaded to help keep an eye on Elmer and keep some of the boozing to a minimum. Jack had been gone for three hours to the minute now, and the wind was picking up outside. He double checked the locks on the cell doors and fetched his hat and coat from the peg on the wall. He walked out onto the plank stoop outside and drew his coat tighter around him. Once verifying twice that the door was locked behind him he quickly walked toward the livery, where he knew Elmer would be, tying one on if he suspected right.

    Jack rode for several miles out into the desert, not seeing any sign of the Marshall. His horse was getting antsy, feeling the oncoming storm and protesting as much as he could to the fact that they were still out in the open. The wind whipped around him and thrust his coat out behind him like a cape. The light that the moon had offered earlier had turned to a mere glow above the clouds as he scoured the landscape. By this time tomorrow night the storm would be right on top of them and any search and rescue would be futile as any reasonable person would have sought shelter. He decided that he needed to get back to the ridge as Chester would undoubtedly be riding out to find him at any given moment. He reluctantly squinted his eyes toward the vast expanse of sand and rock one last time, hoping for a sign, any sign. The lonely wasteland offered none and he turned, spurred his horse, and rode back toward the obscured ridges near town to meet up with his partner.

    Chester did as he was told and rode silently below the ridgeline to his right. He admired Jack, and next to the Marshall himself Jack was the smartest man he had ever known. But on this night he reconsidered the extent of the man's common sense. Book learnin' was one thing, and world-smart was another. Most men that had one lacked the other, and up until this point he had never second guessed whether Jack posessed both. Sure, the Marshall more than likely had met with trouble, and if so they needed to do what they could, but this was becoming more insane by the minute. Sand grated across his face, driven by the strengthening wind, and he felt alone and cold out here in the dark. He was nearing the Jacobson ranch and still had yet to see any sign of Jack. Was it possible that both Jack and the Marshall had met the same fate? Were both men possibly now under siege? Were they held captive? Were they, as hard as it was to fathom, dead men at this very moment? The thought of being the lone lawman left in El Paso frightened him. What if they were captured? Was he next? Filled with fear he stopped his horse and gazed out at the expanse of moving sand and sages for an answer. He hated himself for giving into his fear, and hated himself even more for deciding to abandon his orders and head back to town. But a logical man would have done the same. The town would need at least one man to keep order, and he did no one any good if he went missing as well. He turned his horse back east and began to ride with his head down as he heard an approaching horse. His heart leapt up in his chest and he unholstered his revolver, thumbing the hammer back. It could be Jack. Or it could be anyone else. And the "anyone else" that it could be would only have select few reasons for riding out in this weather at this time of night. None of them based on good intentions. He stilled his horse and steadied his sights on the approaching sound. He wouldn't fire until he knew for sure, just in case, but he knew he mustn't wait too long to make the call. Waiting too long usually meant you found yourself with a bullet in the head. A figure emerged from the dark, shrouded in a flowing black cape and a fedora-style hat pulled tightly down over his face. He was alone and closing fast. Chester still couldn't be sure. He tightened his finger on the trigger and inhaled deeply.

    Jack rode to the downslope of the ridge and had a decision to make, and quick. If Chester had already passed by here he would be west, to the left. If not, then he had to turn right and head back to town. He finally decided to turn left, back toward the Jacobson's. If he didn't see any sign by the time he saw the hill he would turn back and ride toward town. Surely somewhere in between they would find each other. That was, if Chester had not gone missing as well out here, or Henry hadn't made good on his promise of shooting first and asking later. Surely Chester wouldn't have ridden right up to the front door, but he may have. After all, isn't that what he himself had done only an hour or so before? He kicked himself for not giving more clear instructions before he left, and promised himself that the problem would not happen a second time. He spurred his horse again and picked up the pace, despite the biting sand and grit that scoured his face. He pulled his hat down lower and hunched down, riding full-force into the wind. It was then he saw the horse and the figure that sat on it. The figure had the stance of a man ready to fire, and he hoped that for one, it was Chester, and for two, that the man wouldn't shoot him out of fear.

    Chester felt a trickle of sweat fall down his cheek, depite the cold wind. What if it was Jack? What if it wasn't? He kept the tight pull on the trigger, just in case. The approaching figure slowed and raised his head. Chester breathed out long and slow, lowering his gun. He really didn't want to think about how close he came to reducing the peacekeeping force of El Paso down to one by his own hand.
    "Chester! Damn it's good to see you! And even better to see you without your pistol pointed at my head."
    "Same here, Jack. Good thing I waited, obviously. Any sign?"
    "No, not one. We need to git back to the office before the wind carries us out into the desert tonight. I'll fill you in then."
    Chester nodded in agreement and pulled his handkerchief back up over his nose. The two men galloped back to town and were thankful to find that both the doctor and Elmer were seated at the desk, playing spades when they entered. Jack gave an appreciative and approving look in Chester's direction and bade both of the other men a good night and many thanks before he sat, propping his boots up on the desk top and drinking long and hard from his coffee cup.
    "So what now?"
    "Chester, I really don't know. I think our hands are tied at this point. I talked to Henry earlier. Let's just say that we'll keep him as a person of interest on our back burner for now. And I suggest you don't take it on yerself to go ridin' out there alone anytime soon. He ain't exactly in the sociable mood."
    "I already talked to him earlier. He says he don't know nothin'."
    "I know what he said. And I know what his eyes said when I saw him myself. Either he knows more than he says or he don't give a shit either way. We'll find out soon enough."
    "So what about Paul?"
    "There ain't nothin' we can do fer him right now, not with this storm comin' in and night out there. We'll see if'n we can git some volunteers to ride out a ways tomorrow. At least we'll have daylight on our side. But that dust storm's a comin' quick. If we go out we can't be gone long past noon. After that it'd be pointless anyways."
    "Jack, if we don't find him before noon then he's as good as dead anyways."
    "I know. Hopefully something will break in the morning or maybe he'll walk in here with that sideways grin and wonder what all the fuss is about. I personally hope it's the last way around."
    Actually something did break in the morning. It wasn't the Marshall, but a man dressed in a thick wrangler's coat and large black hat. The man wearing the coat went by the name of Vincent Silverton, brother of the missing desperado Stanley. And they finally had their answers as to the fate of their beloved friend.
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


  8. #8
    Numenorean ManOfWesternesse is on a distinguished road ManOfWesternesse's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave! View Post
    Chapter 5.....
    "That's because I never gave it. Steele. James Steele." He placed his right hand out for his cards and let the stump of the left one rest on the table. He noticed that Whittinger glanced over at it and then down at his own hand of cards. Then he saw the man slowly glance back up at the stump with a sideways glance and dismiss it. Good.
    ........
    Before any of them could really resgister what was happening Steele stood and had both revolvers out, pointed at Whittinger.....
    ...slight (King-like) slip-up there, kinda hard to draw a gun with a stump!

    But all-in-all I'm really enjoying this story!
    <img src=http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z47/ManOfWesternesse/dt_bcBanner002d.jpg border=0 alt= />

  9. #9
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    hey! it's a special stump! With a gun-drawing claw-thingy! Or maybe he had both in his right hand!
    Thanks, man! I never realized I flubbed that up. Will go back and edit in the real story as soon as I get off the net. That cracked me up! Thanks, I needed the smile! I think I might actually get back to it tonight and write some more. Feeling inspired a bit. And here is the next chapter:
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    7.

    The voices came across as if from a distant room, brought about in waves like the ocean. At first he thought he was still inside his fitful dreams, but could sense the light on the other side of his eyelids and knew that he was waking heavily. And his head pounded like the war drums he had heard from a safe distance throughout the last decade or so. He tried to open his eyes and felt their swollen protests as he did so. Breathing was even more difficult, as if he had been buried in the sand of the desert and was trying to draw precious breaths from underneath several feet of it. Then he remembered the previous night. The talk with Justin, the gunfire, the sight of the man's (really just a boy) hair lighting fire as he watched a tear fall onto the coals. As hard as it was Paul opened his eyes and looked up at the inside of the tent. He could tell that it was daylight outside, but had no clue as to what time of day it actually was. The wind whipped the canvas sides of it like sails on a boat and he could hear the voices coming from outside. At least thay had moved him inside at some point during the night. He knew inside that it was a move to simply keep him alive and breathing, not one of compassion. His nose was broken and his eyes swollen, and he had a pounding in his head like a locomotive, but other than that he was ok. Thirsty, but ok. He attempted to get up and the world swam in and out of focus for a second. His wrists were still bound, and the skin underneath the rope had grown chaffed and raw. He shook off the nausea and fogginess and tried to listen in on the conversation taking place between the men outside. From the best he could tell there were only two now. Steele and Stanley. Vince must have been sent northwest, to El Paso, already. He thought that hopefully Jack would give him the warm welcome he deserved and help would come soon.
    "Stan, I think it's for the best."
    "I know, James. But he's my brother and we told him we would be here until dark."
    "Dark is too late. This damned storm is coming in strong and we...."
    The words were swept away by a gust of strong wind and Paul tried to strain his ears even further to pick back up the conversation.
    "If you say it then I trust it, James. You know I ride with you."
    The flaps of the tent were pulled apart and James' head appeared inside.
    "Ahh I see our guest has finally awakened from his beauty sleep. Can't say that it did ya much good there, Marshall. Come on, we're leavin'"
    Paul simply sat there on his bedroll and waited. They knew that with his wrists tied and his face busted he couldn't rise and walk out on his own. Steele grabbed him by the armpits and helped him outside, where even the diluted sunlight hurt his eyes. Dust filled the air way up high, and the light seemed to be dispersed to the point it came from everywhere and relected off of the light sands of the wasteland around them. The wind had picked up overnight, and at least the air was hot again now. The horses had been brought over to the campfire and Paul noted that someone had pulled the half-charred body of Justin off of the fire. Sand covered half of his face and Paul wondered if it had been placed there to put him out or if the wind had drifted it there. Thankfully the man wasn't burned beyond recognition just in case help did arrive after they had gone. Any clue at all was a good one out here. After the last horse was packed with the remaining tent he had been in Steele turned to him and gestured toward the horse. They aimed to put him across the back of it like a sack of grain and take him to God knows where. It was at that moment that he heard a far-away shout and saw the two men turn in the direction of the voice, hands going for iron.

    Jack sat in the chair, boots still up on the desk when he heard the door open. He was startled out of his slumber and his feet hit the floor hard enough to wake a couple of the sleeping drunks in the cells. A man entered with his wrangler's coat pulled tightly around him and his hat pulled down low. The wind had turned his face from the cheeks up a dull red and blue eyes shone at him from beyond that.
    "Can I help ya?"
    "Matter of fact, yes you can, Deputy."
    Chester walked in from the next room carrying two cups of fresh coffee and stopped in the doorway, regarding the stranger. Something about the face looked very familiar. It was a face that he felt he should recognize, but somehow it was different. It was the eyes. He had seen those same eyes not too many years back. But where?
    "Ok then. What brings ya to El Paso, friend?"
    "I got news for ya. News and some...business matters. I understand that you are a' missin' yer Marshall."
    Chester put the cups of coffee down on the table hard and looked at Jack with wide eyes. Jack simply squinted his eyes in suspicion at the newcomer.
    "Could be. I'd ask where you got this information?"
    "Let's just say a man I know knows things and would like to make a trade for the knowin'."
    Chester eased his hand down toward his revolver slowly and steadily, his eyes never leaving that of the stranger's.
    "I wouldn't do that if'n I was you, Deputy. Shoot me and you'll never find yer Marshall alive. I was sent here to tell you what he wants in return, not to have a gunfight in the Marshall's office. Now I say what I came to say, you tell me what you want to do about it, and I leave. If that don't happen in that order yer Marshall ain't gonna see the mornin' sun."
    "What who wants in return? And who are you?"
    "His name ain't important. Mine's Vincent. All you need to know. Now. I'm s'pse to tell you that we git ten thousand dollars deposited in the bank of Shaftner. I'll stand and wait fer it to happen so I can know it's done. After that I leave and you can git yer Marshall on the bluffs southwest of here, 'bout ten miles out."
    "Well, Vincent. One problem with that. What name is the account under? I can't really deposit money if I don't know who it's for. Actually more than one problem. How are we supposed to get our hands on that sum of money? And if we do, what guarantee do we have Paul's still alive and breathing?"
    Chester sat, marking the face and the details. He watched the man furrow his brow and stroke his beard as he pondered the questions that had unexpectantly come. He hadn't been prepared for the questions and now searched for an answer. There was something in the beard stroking and the eyes that haunted him. He knew those same features from somewhere. A prisoner at one time, but not this man. Maybe a brother of his or a cousin, but not him.
    "Damn. Guess you might need a name after all. Well fine then. Don't change nuthin'. Name will be Steeleburg. Ten thousand, right now."
    Chester straightened up as if shot by an arrow between the shoulderblades. Steeleburg. A very poorly chosen alias for James Steele. He didn't know that all of the lawmen knew of it, and hadn't planned on it, but they knew. Suddenly he recognized the features.
    "Vincent. I'll be damned. Now I know who you are!"
    "Oh you do? Please 'lighten me then, Deputy. Who do you think I am?"
    "I don't think, I know! You're last name is Silverton. You must be Stanley's brother. Damn you two look so much alike I shoulda known it from the minute you walked in here. Jack, these guys ride for Steele. He's behind this."
    Vince stood up straight as if he had now been shot by that same arrow. Surprise flashed across his eyes as Jack rose, revolver pointed at his chest.
    "Now this is how it IS gonna go down, Vincent. You're gonna stay here awhile while we sort this out."
    He led the man to a cell and opened the door, taking his revolver from him as he did so.
    "Chester, send word to Ft. Bliss. I need men, and right away. Storm or no storm we ride out in two hours for the river."
    "And the desert. How many men?"
    "Ten. A few more if possible. I don't know how many men Steele will have, or how many of them are hired guns, but we need to be prepared fer anything."

    The shouting came from a group of three men, apparently wrapping up a hunt. Paul could see several bison skins draped over a fourth horse. They rode down closer and saw that the two men had the third man bound with rope. And the man looked to have been thrown from a tressle by the look of his face. They pulled their revolvers out and continued to ride as the gunfire rang out.
    Steele was the first to fire when he saw the men draw their weapons. The lead horse fell into the sand, sending a plume of it into the air where it was swept away to the east by the strong winds. One of the men had a repeating rifle and Steele then turned his attention toward the man. A round grazed the side of his arm and he fell to one knee, reloading his six-shot. Paul Simmons attempted to dive for the ground as best he could when he was caught low in the left side by a bullet and thrown backward onto his bound hands. The world went dark for him as the men continued to fire at one another, the distance between them now less than ten feet.
    Steele fired and the last remaining horse came down, careening into him and knocking him backward into the sand. Both of his feet were caught up under the dying animal and he was face to face with the rider, who was trying to reach his rifle as it lay just beyond the reach of his fingers. Steele's legs pulsed and ached as he chambered another round and shot the man in the face at point-blank range.
    As suddenly as it had began the fight was over. The three men lay dead, Steele lay with both legs from the knees down underneath the dead horse, and Stanley stood alone, blinking in bewilderment at what had just occurred. Not two minutes prior he had packed the tent onto the horse and gave Steele the reins. Now their world had been turned on its head and the Marshall lie motionless to their right.
    "Will you quit woolgatherin' and git this fuckin' thing offa me?!"
    Stanley snapped back to reality and did his best to budge the heavy dead weight of the horse so that Steele could wrangle his legs out. Thankfully the extent of their injuries only came down to a fairly deep furrow in Steele's arm. Steele walked over to the Marshall and crouched down for a second. He then lowered his head and turned to Stanley.
    "WE gotta git goin' now. He's as good as gone. Leave 'im. If Vince did his job then the money will be there anyways. We really don't need him anymore, hopefully. But if we don't get goin' there'll be more men comin', and a lot of 'em. I feel it. Come on, Stan, we're headin' to Shaftner before this storm strands us both."
    With that the men mounted their horses and rode northeast, leaving the chaos and the dying Paul Simmons behind. From a distance a handful of Apache scouts watched the events unfold and the men leave. They waited until they could be sure the white men had gone before they rode slowly and silently out to the campsite. The dead men would have guns and bullets on them that were very valuable.
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


  10. #10
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    8.

    "You two have no clue how bad you jest screwed yerselves. When Steel comes to town ain't no judge or badge that'll protect ye."
    "Well then if'n he plans on comin' in this here office I suggest he brings more than just your half-assed convict brother with 'im. Besides, ain't none of us gonna be here in a few minutes anyways."
    "Jest what do you mean 'us'?"
    "Just what I said. You're ridin' along. Didn't think we'd be leavin' you behind to cool yer heels in that cell without us, did ya? Whether you like it or not you're gonna lead us on down to yer campsite."
    "The Hell I am!"
    "Oh yeah, the hell you are! Either by your cooperation or my powers of persuasion. Your choice, Vince."
    "Well then I reckon you'd better git to persuadin' then, Dep'ty."
    Jack rose and walked to the door of the cell, keys in hand. Vince's cellmate simply crouched low against the wall, cowering on his bunk and covering his fresh stitches. Both mean heard a low moan and a tiny "oh hell!" come from his direction. "I thought you'd never ask, Vince."
    Jack hit him hard, open handed, several times. The man was no small fry to begin with, but Jack towered over most men with his six-five frame. If he had been born several generations later there would have been many professional level football establishments battling for his signature on a dotted line.
    Vince bounced off of the block wall and barely had time to lift his head before Jack was back on him again, slapping him across the face with his open palms. It was a move so demeaning yet very powerful at the same time. It served to tell Vince that if he didn't agree soon those hands would close and then the real pain would begin. Vince's wind-chapped cheeks protested and began to bleed along with his busted nose, but Jack kept raining down on him mercilessly. After what seemed like an hour (probably all of two minutes, all told) Vince began to blubber.
    "OK! Jebus! Stobbit! OKOK! Dammit man! Ok I'll go just stobbit!"
    Jack stood up straight and drug the man out of the cell by his pants like a defiant child, a dark smirk on his face.
    "Now that we are all in agreement I think you might want to make yourself a little more presentable to the Ft. Bliss boys. Wouldn't want them to think we ain't takin' good care of our residents here in El Paso, now would we?" The sarcasm and joy in his voice were thinly veiled, if at all. Vincent glared at him from the corner of his eye and helped himself to the sink by the rear wall of the office, washing the blood and trail grit off of his face. The water was so cold on his abused skin that it made him wince. As he bent over the clear stream from the pump he tried to remember the last time he had actually had a good long bath that didn't involve chasing away cattle in a pond or river.
    The door behind him opened and he turned to see a group of twelve men dressed in the US Military uniform. Ft. Bliss grunts, for sure. And all were armed with their polished sidearms and boots to match.
    "Deputy Constance, I presume?" Said one of the men with a highly polished mustache to match his boots.
    "Yes sir. And this is Deputy Chester Johnson. Everyone ready?"
    "Well, considerin' that storm might blow us clear down to Mexico, As ready as we can be. This feller yer guide?"
    "Well, yeah, guess you could call him that if'n ya wanted to."
    The corporal smiled. "A guide of the drafted variety I assume?"
    "Is there any better kind to have?"
    "No, not in my experience. You have water and ammunition?"
    "Plenty of both. Now if'n yall are ready let's ride. And if you see my 'guide' begin to stray, then any means of coralin' him back on in are just fine by me."
    The men walked outside and were nearly blown back into the wall by a strong gust of wind. The daylight was a joking reminder of what it should be at ten in the morning. Scraps of paper, wood, and the errant dead sage rolled past and out of town, as they would be doing soon. Sand flew around them and found its way into their clothing and eyes. As if on cue all the men raised their handkerchiefs and left nothing to the abrasive onslaught but their eyes, which they did their best to cover with their assortment of hats. The time had come and the group left town, headed southeast toward the Rio Grande and the bluffs.

    The scouting party approached cautiously and silently. Even dead white men could not always be trusted, and more than once they had come back to life and caused problems. They dismounted and searched each corpse for weapons and water. The bounty was a good one, especially from the fur-stealers. The burned one had a good knife and a cheap and shoddy revolver, but it was better than nothing. But the bound man, the prisoner, had none. Nor did they expect to find any. He was actually the only one of the men left with a pulse, even if it was a weak one. The leader of the group looked at the prisoner for a long time, studying his ruined nose and his shallow breathing. White men, for the most part, were wicked. But there were some that were at least on the right side of things. If this man was a prisoner of the other two then he most likely wasn't wicked like they were. Maybe he was a good one, and maybe he might be worth trying to save. Maybe he would be worth something to the other white men. Maybe worth food and guns. Maybe even a horse. If they left him lying he would be dead within an hour. If they took him back then he might be dead by night. The storm would kill him surely, even if the wounds didn't right away. He gestured to three of the other men and within a minute the Marshall was slung over the back of a horse like a sack of grain, along with the bison skins. The men mounted up and rode northeast, back over the hills and to the shelter where the healer was. If this white man had any chance of living the healer would find it. If not then the sand and the coyotes could have his body.
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


  11. #11
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    9.

    The band of men rounded a hill and Vincent stopped his horse. If Steele was down there like he said then there would be a firefight. Even Steele stood no chance against fourteen armed men. And then there was his brother. He didn't want to see it happen this way, but he knw he would be the one to hang if they didn't get Steele. He thought maybe if they survived then he might be able to bargain for the lives of both Stanley and himself. After all, he had helped them find the campsite. Jack rode up beside him and buried the twelve gauge in his side.
    "Whadya stop for?"
    "It's down there. There's a flat place near a big round rock at the bottom of the hill. That's it."
    "Then keep on ridin', Vince. We ain't gonna go down there without you. After all, we need a shield in front, remember?" Vincent couldn't see the man's features underneath his handkerchief, but knew he had that smartass smirk on his face. He could tell by the way Jack talked and the twinkle in his eye. He spurred the horse and they began the descent to where James and Stanley would be waiting. The wind picked up again in a strong gust and the men stopped for a second to wait for the air to clear a bit. When it did they saw the remains of the campfire. And the four bodies partially buried in the sand around it. There were three dead horses as well. There was no sign of a tent, no sign of Steele, and no sign of the Marshall. That was, unless he was one of the unfortunate men that lie at the bottom of the hill. Jack lowered the shotgun and rode hard and fast down the last hundred feet of hillside to the flat sand of the campsite. Before the other men could join him he was off of his horse and turning the first body over.
    Jack could see at once that this man was not, in fact, the Marshall. Where the Marshall had a close-kept mustache and goatee, this man had one impressive gray-streaked beard going on. There were bits of sand, dried blood, and bits of white caught in it. Jack assumed the bits of white were perhaps teeth or bone, as the man had a gaping exit wound on the left side of his head that had taken off most of his ear and upper jaw. Jack meant no disrespect to the deceased, but let go of the corpse and let the man fall back onto the sand. Under different circumstances he would have handled it differently, but he had to check the other bodies.
    The second body was yet another unknown man, this one taken down by the same high-caliber that had opened the left side of the first man's head. This unfortunate soul had hit the hard-packed sand still alive. It looked as if he had crawled perhaps fifteen feet, trying to hold his own ruined intestines in as he did so. Now his upturned face and open mouth had wind-blown sand in them. He had died looking up at the sky, his right hand still cradling a mass of exposed insides.
    Chester had turned the third body over and simply looked at Jack with a slow shake of his head, his eyes filled with uncertainty. Three out of four men had not given them the identity they searched for. That left several possible outcomes, none of which were good. For one, that last, charred mass of a man could be Paul Simmons. Second, if it wasn't, that meant that the marshall wasn't here among the dead. Which in turn meant that they still hadn't found him, which still left more possibilities. He was alive and a captive, he was dead, or he had been left as such out there in the desert. If the latter were the case they might not ever find him.
    The other men simply stood with their eyes downturned, waiting for Jack to be the one to do the deed. It had to be him, and he knew this. It was an unspoken pact of sorts, or an understanding between men. If Paul were to be discoverd as a burned hull of the man that was, no one better, or fitting, to find him than the one man considered to be his friend. Jack reached out and reluctantly turned over the body, fighting back revulsion and nausea as he did so. The thick smell of burned human flesh was overpowering, even out here in the wind.
    His heart was beating so hard in his chest that he could feel it against his shirt, and it slowed none as he was faced by the man with no face. Terror and sorrow intertwined rose like a wave in his throat. He could have no more identified this man as he could have danced on the head of a pin. Reluctantly he began to search the body, attempting to find whatever clues he could in the charred remains or the clothing. Upon finding absolutely nothing he began to turn away, still not knowing for sure if the man he had considered a brother lie at his feet or not. It was then he saw the faint glint of silver between the blackened fingers of the man's left hand.
    The task at hand was one that he hoped would never be repeated. He had seen a lot of things in his life, had dealt a lot of lead as well as a lot of death. But this was something altogether different. With his knife held tightly he chipped and carved his way around what he now knew to be the badge he hoped he would not find. One by one the rigid black fingers fell onto the sand. With each he felt the remains of his coffee threaten to spew onto the ground at his feet. When he finally freed the badge he noticed that it had branded itself to the man's palm, and a thin covering of skin came off with it. It was the final morbid straw as his stomach let go. When he was finally done he opened his eyes and peered down at the remains of the face peering up at him. It was really nothing more than a blackened skull. A skull missing several teeth. Paul still had all of his, as far as Jack knew. It was then he cleared his mind and looked at the body with fresh eyes. From head to toe. It was there he made the discovery. It was in the boots. Paul wore black ones, rundown and broken in. They had silver spurs. The ones he now looked at were brown, poorly made, and the ancient spurs were simply forged from iron, like any simple drover's or cattleman's would be.
    Jack reluctantly looked back down at the star in his hand and immediately knew that this man was not Paul. But he held Paul's star in his hand as he had died. Had Marshall given it to him with instruction to find Jack? Had he uttered the words? Had this man died hearing of Pecos Station? Could be. Or the man may have had something to do with the fate of the Marshall. Maybe he had simply stolen it. Jack tended to think that this was not the case. Thieves rarely die face down in a fire holding a freshly-acquired item with a chest full of lead. They rarely die making every attempt to hold onto said item as they did so, as well. He felt he had his answer and rose to speak to the group of men who shuffled restlessly on thier feet, much like their horses did.
    "This ain't him either. Dammit, I don't know if that's good or bad, but at least it ain't him."
    "That means he still might be out here someplace."
    "I'd say yeah, it seems that way. And ideas, prisoner?"
    Vincent raised his head and had the look of a man much older than the one who had ridden out that morning. The wind picked up a fresh load of sand and whipped it around the men, but his unblinking eyes seemed not to notice.
    "No, Dep'ty. Cain't say as I got any."
    "Then you know we gonna hold you 'countable for these four men. 'Twas you led us here in the first place."
    "I know ya did, but it wasn't me that did it."
    "Steele, then? Any way it goes here, yer gonna stand trial for these men. That is, unless you can lead us to Steele. He'll stand accountable for these men, and if you can lead us to an alive Marshall as well, then you might just find yerself a free man, Silverton."
    Vince peered at the man, taking in the offer and weighing the options.
    "I'll consider yer offer, Dep'ty. But it ain't gonna happen today and you know it. That damned storms a comin' too quick now. Matter of fact, if'n you ask me, I thank we'd best be gittin' back soon before they hafta' send out a party lookin' fer us."
    Jack chewed his lower lip, knowing that the man was right on several counts. They stood little chance of finding Marshall today, even though they had come a lot closer now. And the storm might very well strand them if they waited much longer here. They did Marshall Simmons little good if they found themselves dead in the sand.
    "Fine. Dammit he's right. Let's head back to town, boys. once the storm is over we can head back out here and start fresh. Won't do the Marshall any good if we find ourselves dead today."
    "But won't the storm do away with any tracks or sign left by Steele?" Chester peered at Jack through eyes no more than slits.
    Jack looked out at the uninviting flat land to his left. "I think it's too late for that anyway, Chester. Any sign is gone already. We'd best be gettin' in, ole' boy. While we can still find our way back."
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


  12. #12
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    *OK, All I have so far. Haven't worked on it in quite a while, but plan on gettin' back at it soon. Suggestions or criticisms, as always, are always welcome...(hint hint)*


    10.

    Thick and foggy sleep held onto the man like quicksand. He was in a sleep so deep that he found his body numb and breathing difficult to do. In a semi-waking state he tried to open his eyes and found he couldn't. He tried to move his fingers and found he couldn't. He tried to even change his deep breathing and found he couldn't. The act simply exhausted him and he fell back into his fitful and feverish dreams.

    He began to find another higher state of waking a full day later. To him it seemed like mere minutes had passed. The thing that woke him was the feeling of water hitting his face. He seemed to not just wake, but felt himself rise up to his body. The man fought to open his eyes again and found that he could feel, from a distance it seemed, one eyelid flutter in protest. He concentrated on the one eye and managed to open it slowly, and only a crack. Everything seemed out of focus and foggy. He could barely make out the ceiling (rock. It is made of rock. I'm in a cave) and a dim source of light coming from above his head. And his vision was suddenly filled by a face, but not that of a human. It was too large and too broad. It was red and had slits for eyes. The hair wasn't hair at all, but a mass of something else. It could have been ropes or snakes. He felt his heart rate rise and terror filled his chest. He tried to open his eye wider and the pain came. It came washing over him more clearly than any mid-day sun ever could. He opened his mouth to scream and fell back intothe black abyss of the dreamworld. A world where things slithered and whispered. A world where the wind blew carrying voices and memories with it. A world where hot and cold, day and night, joy and sorrow were all the same.

    The Healer started at the apparent awakening of the dying man. He had thought the man too far gone to help, but had tried his magick at the insistence of the chief, the revered, the holy one. Taken by surprise, the Healer stumbled back, almost sending his mask to the ground. He quickly recoverd and peered down at the white man, seeing that his eye had closed back and he was gone again. Gone to the land of the nothing. Few men ever returned, and when they did they were different. The Spirits saw to that much. If they allowed the soul to return to the shell of the man, they kept parts of it as the price. The Healer knew of this, and wished that when his time came the rest would let him pass onward, not to encounter the nothing. Sometimes death was the better way to go. The Healer stoked the fire that burned at the head of the stone table the man rested on and continued his ritual. The men standing near the wall exchanged glances and continued to view the procedure in silence. If the white man was to die then so be it.

    The road to Shaftner was much like any other "road" of the day. Dusty and nondescript. It seemed that they had been riding on it for several straight days, Stan thought. He thought also that once they got there that the first stop would be the bank. The second might very well be a doctor. Steele's wound didn't come close to being life-threatening, but if infection set in it could become as such. And not to mention the fact that he had bled constantly from the time they left the campsite. Stan had noticed a steady pattern of blood pattering on the sand as they rode. He dropped his handkerchief and called out to his fellow rider.
    "James! Hold up a minute! Wait!"
    Steele slowed his horse and directed it alongside Stan's. The horses exchanged a brief glance and seemed content at the slower pace for a while.
    "What is it, Stan?"
    "Beggin' yer pardon, but ya might wanna stop fer a minute and see to that gunshot. Yer spillin' blood all over the damned sand. Have been all day. And it's gettin' worse."
    Steele glanced down as if seeing the blood-soaked shirt for the first time. He knew as well as Stan that the wound needed attention soon, and a fresh bandage immediately. He couldn't afford for an infected wound to rob him of then one useful gun hand he had left. He reached down into his saddlebag and brought out several long scraps of shirt and a bottle of Kentucky's finest whiskey. Stan never ceased to be amazed at the man, and today was no different. He watched in solemn respect as the man undid the rawhide that bound the soaked bandage and slowly peeled it back, revealing a deep canyon perhaps four inches long and at least an inch deep in Steele's shoulder. The flow of blood was no longer a flood, but it still ran out readily enough. Without the slightest flicker of a flinch Steele wrapped the fresh whiskey-soaked strips around the wound and bound it again with the rawhide lacing. He then did something so obvious, yet so calculating. Stan thought to himself that it was an act that he would not have thought of. Steele dismounted, soaked the blood-soaked rags in whiskey, and set them ablaze. When he was satisfied with the result he kicked sand over top of them until they dissapeared into the landscape.
    Steele looked up at Stan and smiled despite himself.
    "Now you know why I did that, right?"
    "Yessir. I think I do."
    "Well then you'd better be sure, Stan. It takes a fool to take any chances out here. Chances are they can't track us this far, especially with that storm we left behind us. But just in case it's best not ot leave any sign whatsoever for 'em. Always, and I mean ALWAYS cover your tracks. Get rid of yer campfire coals, yer shit, and yer bloody rags. Leave each piece of ground the way you found it. No more, no less. Now let's git a move-on. Should be close to Shaftner by nightfall. Figure we'll be there bright and early before noon tomorrow."
    The horses protested slightly as Steele and Stan spurred them back into their hurried pace. Daylight was waning already and they still had to make camp.

    Jack opened the door to the jailhouse and led the men inside. They all seemed grateful to be indoors, out of the wind, the sand, and the deserted streets of El Paso. Jack walked promptly to the desk and plopped his hat down heavily onto the smooth and worn wooden top, alongside several sheets of precious paper. He turned to the borrowed hands and spoke to them calmly, but everyone in attendance could see the strain in his eyes, especially those who knew him best.
    "Yall feel free to bunk down in the hotel tonight, free of charge, of course. Tell Sally I said the bar tab's on me. Yall just take care and don't run me outta money, if'n ya will."
    The joke was met with several spurts of laughter and more than a few nods of appreciation. Not more than a few moments later the room was silent, save for the sparse afternoon snores of the few remaining drunks from the night before. Finally Vincent cleared his throat and brought both deputies back to the harsh reality of the day.
    Jack looked up with weary and troubled eyes. "Alright Vince. I ain't in the mood fer a fight today and expect neither are you. All of us are trail-weary and got a lot to think over. I'll put ya in a cell by yerself for the night, best I can do considerin'."
    "Be what it may, Dep'ty. And you's right. Ain't neither of us in the mood fer bickerin', but tomorrow's another day, right?"
    "That it is, Vince. Now git on in that cell and let me and Chester rest fer awhile."
    Vincent actually welcomed what served as a bed this time without a fuss. It was amazing how much half a day's ride in that weather could take out of a man. The skin on his face and his eyes felt worn, and his back ached something fierce. Considering what accomodations Stan and Steele may currently have he felt somewhat grateful for the cell, bars or no bars.

    Camp, which was a term used loosely in this day and time, was nothing spectacular. The men reserved themselves to a single, hastily prepared tent and their bedrolls. The fire that Stan had prepared outside flickered light meagerly against the wall as Steele sat in silence. He had retreated to the far corner of the tent, remarking in how half-assed everything seemed. Not that his life or world was glamorous, but usually it was better than this. He felt that he was losing a part of his edge, his drive. In the end he hadn't even been able to hold onto his single prisoner due to the plan ending up half-assed. THe best he could hope for was the money to be waiting for him tomorrow and the body of the Marshall to be covered in sand by now. He had finally convinced himself that after Shaftner it was time to either head west until he saw the ocean, or south to Mexico. These lands weren't his anymore. People were coming in by the wagon load and the railroad seemed to be expanding civilization and civilized thinking men out in an ever-broadening fan of modernization. He found that being around the general population was increasingly difficult, and he felt that those facts weren't likely to change anytime soon. America was changing, and he felt that he was neither willing or able to change with it any longer. He was fairly certain that a new wave of depression mixed with a touch of fever was about to overtake him when he heard movement outside. He found it alarming that it actually took some effort to grab his pistol and raise his guard.
    Stan opened the door to the tent and grinned as he showed Steele the two scrawny rabbits he had managed to hunt down. His grin faltered as he saw the look on Steele's face. And he could almost hear the thoughts behind the man's eyes.
    "Great job, Stan. Looks like you've found the two rabbits out there that suffer the most from starvation. Top notch work."
    Stan was hurt somewhat by the statement, but what bothered him most was the lack of light in Steele's eyes. The man's mind had seemed ok considering the circumstances on the ride out, but now Stan had his doubts. He had been with Steele long enough to recognize the "down times" when they came, but this was different. If the other times were "down" then this one was a pit.
    "Sorry, James. Best I could do out here in short order. I'll cook 'em up fine fer ya, though. Looks like you need the rest anyways."
    With that the flap closed and Steele could hear the man outside humming to himself. He rolled over and waited for the half-assed supper to come and pondered which direction of the compass he would ride out in, alone, tomorrow afternoon.
    Last edited by Dave!; 09-14-2009 at 02:58 PM.
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


  13. #13
    Gunslinger Apprentice smcicr is on a distinguished road

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    Ok, only read up to chapter 3 (time is not on my side tonight) but I just wanted you to know that there was someone else out there reading it (i will come back and read the rest). I would echo the comments already made - i think there's a lean and possibly mean story in there which a good hard edit will bring out ;D

    Couple of things that stood out (feel free to tell me to go soak my head btw)

    - the watch and the guns made me think of a certain other grim trailhand...but that wasn't my point the description of the watch - it seems to grab focus a bit - maybe if there was a link back to the day he was given it you could blend it more?
    - when the marshall is talking to the young kid by the fire - he motions with a hand - they're still tied behind his back at that point though aren't they?
    - the dialogue (i'm still slightly afraid of dialogue and try to avoid it ) - have you got a definitive picture of each character in your head? Some of the characters (and yep, I know I've only read three chapters - guilty) come across clearer than others, I even think that the dialogue improves from chapter 1 to chapter 3 - just in terms of feeling natural and adding to rather than distracting from the story. (does that make sense??)

    Anyway, by chapter 3 I was seeing the people and places and wanting to find out what came next which is definitely a good thing. I'll be back to read the rest

    Jason.

  14. #14
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    Cool. And thanks!

    As far as the motioning went, I said that "the marshall motioned for him to lean closer" In my head it was a motion with his head, not hand, but coulda been clearer there, I admit...
    The watch will play more of a role later....
    I do in fact have a definitive picture in my head. I tried (and admit that typing conversation and trying to capture an inflection, or a drawl is very hard to do, especially do well and make it sound as if the characters' voices could be heard in one's head as they read the exchanges) to get the conversations out right, but it is hard sometimes to make "natural" conversation just happen. I haven't written a single word on this lately, sad to say. My GF and work consume my time, but she likes what I have so far and wants to read more, so maybe eeking a little time from her might not be too hard....lol. Anyways, good honest advice is always what I want, and I thank you for yours!
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


  15. #15
    Gunslinger Apprentice smcicr is on a distinguished road

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    Well I'll be - you are, of course, right I must have read / added the non existent word 'hand' in my head apologies!

    Ok, so I'm back from holiday and am going to work through the rest, more half useful, half imaginary comments to follow no doubt... ;D

  16. #16
    Gunslinger Apprentice smcicr is on a distinguished road

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    4. like the dialogue and interchanges here, specifically the part where the deputy is speaking to Loretta and then effectively 'asides' to the husband. Generally good but I would say that I think an edit would bring it out further if you get the time

    5. love the flashback, great stuff and the whole backstory for Steele gives you a great position to work from in terms of tension. It's not a nice and simple 'good vs evil' affair and so the reader has to re-assess their initial thoughts of Steele and continue to do so as things progress. One thing I would ask though -
    "He had become a monster that night, and the monster would be one that dealt in death, from which he had been created."
    I like that line generally, particularly the second half BUT in my head it played better if he became the monster (or at least the seed was planted) when they killed his wife and took his hand? So the night he gets retribution it's more a case of that initial act coming to fruition, to quote u2 directly rather than just alluding to it:

    "You plant a demon seed
    You raise a flower of fire"

    It was just a better fit for me and reinforced the fact that this is whay he is the way he is - it starts way back at that moment and everything else is a result.

    Also I feel like a broken record with the edit axe but still.. For clarity, it's mostly what I think of as 'streamlining' so stuff like "He left St. Louis that night on horseback and rode west." would become "He left St. Louis that night and rode west."

    (Oh and I see someone else has already noted the special stump based abilities of Mr Steele )

    6. keeps the pace up, nice moment of tension for Chester too

    7, 8 + 9. like the way the story runs but slightly confused about the three men who ride in on Steele's camp and attack it. I initially thought it was going to be the deputies with the outlaw brother (especially when they messed up his face) I also had a moment where I thought the scouting party were rescuing the third guy (who was also a captive it would seem) before it became clear that it was Paul they were taking.

    Also -
    "Sand covered half of his face and Paul wondered if it had been placed there to put him out or if the wind had drifted it there. Thankfully the man wasn't burned beyond recognition just in case help did arrive after they had gone."
    "it slowed none as he was faced by the man with no face."
    "he opened his eyes and peered down at the remains of the face peering up at him. It was really nothing more than a blackened skull."
    I'm not sure from this whether he has a face, half a face or nada (granted I'm still suffering from travel weariness so it could well be me...)

    10. Really like some of the description at the start of this:
    "A world where things slithered and whispered. A world where the wind blew carrying voices and memories with it. A world where hot and cold, day and night, joy and sorrow were all the same."
    I also like the section on Steele - nice touch to have both the protagonists in a similar (kind of) situation. Paul doesn't know where he is and Steele has lost his certainty, his drive almost. Not sure I see him as a 'half-assed' man though - doesn't seem right coming out of his mouth if you know what I mean? Great finishing line too by the way - the suggestion that Stan might not be long for this world

    More please - want to know what's next for both of them and if Steele's day at the hands of the Marshall does ever come.

  17. #17
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    Here is a little bit of the next chapter I just got through with...more to come.


    11.
    When the paltry rays of sunlight pierced their way into the windows of the jail, the time was nearly nine in the morning. Hours later than any of the men had slept in recent memory. Jack was the first to open his eyes, and it took a moment for his mind to register where he was. Most of the men were still sleeping, Chester obviously deeper than most, as his snores resonated off of the plank walls and back again. Vince sat quietly in his cell, staring down at his dust-covered boots with an introspective look on his face. Jack wasn't sure if it was a peaceful on, one of worry about his own hide, or just a sham. The man was not to be trusted as a general rule, but to his defence he had led them to the right spot, as agreed. Jack turned toward the filtered rays of sun and peered out of the hazy window at teh street outside. It was still quiet, and more deserted than usual. The fact did not surprise him, however, as most people were probably cleaning up what the wind had left behind of their homesteads. The street was littered with brush, boards, and one lone boot that poked out of the sand like a forgotten tombstone. Even from this distance he could see that the wind had driven the sand in a drift so deep that it was even with the planks of Sally's place. And that porch had to be at least three feet off of the ground, if he had to guess. As he peered at Sally's he wondered inside exactly how much the previous night's tab would be, and if the men were still asleep in the hotel next door to it.
    He heard movement behind him and turned to see Vincent standing at the bars, his swollen face looking like a collage of the colors of twilight. Vincent peered back at him with a the beaten look of resignation that only a man that had come to terms could muster. Jack walked over and stepped silently over the sleeping form of Chester.
    "I reckon you did yer part yesterday. It don't change a lot of anything, but it don't hurt none, either. If you can act like sumbody you can join me over at Sally's fer some grub. But don't try nuthin' stupid or I'll shoot you in the back. Figure it'd be some 'preciation fer ya since ya let Chester and me sleep in this mornin'."
    Vincent was taken aback by the compassion and knew by the man's eyes that he would indeed shoot him in the back if he turned stupid. He mustered the best smile he could and nodded his head in agreement. The simple move made his ehad swin with vertigo and pain, but he was appreciative, nonetheless. He watched silently as Jack produced a key, and listened to the sweet sound of a bit of freedom as the tumblers fell. He wouldn't become suddenly stupid today, as he knew what it would bring if he did. Besides, his stomach ached for some real food and his parched throat wanted refreshment even worse.

    It seemed that this day was one for sleeping in, as the same sun that lit the windows of a jail a hundred miles to the west awakened a groggy and feverish James Steele. The light woke him, but it was the throbbing pain in his shoulder that brought him around fully. Stan slept silently to his right, and Steele preferred it that way. He crept outside and stood upon shaky legs, peering out at the tan blur that was the west Texas desert lands. He knew that Shaftner wasn't far now, and he could feel the day wiegh upon his mind like a thousand pounds of the sand he stood on. He could smell trouble in the air the way a horse could smell a snake. Today was going to end not nearly as serene as the ones before had, and he knew it. Somehow, deep inside he knew it as plainly as the pain that threatened to drive him batshit crazy. His hopes of being in Shaftner before noon had abated like the clouds the night before. The best he could hope for was an early afternoon arrival. And once they did make their entrance his plan would play out. There was no chance this side of Hell that he would walk into the bank there. He was to send simple old Stanley in first, to "feel the air" as it were. If things felt right only then would he go back in with his sidekick and withdraw his fortune. Time had not taught him to be careless, nor to underestimate men. Regardless of the outcome he would ride out alone tonight. Stanley would have served his purpose in this part of life, and how he chose to go about living the rest of it was his own choice. Steele had killed greater men, and ones closer to his heart. He didn't neccesarily want to kill Stanley, but only time would tell. If the man chose the right path then maybe Steele would even give him a hundred dollars or so to part company and ride off into the opposite direction. As if on cue, the tent flap peeled backward and Stanley poked his head out, regarding the man he would have died for with nothing short of blind adoration. He smiled weakly at Steele and asked if he felt any better. Not being able to face the man whose death he was just pondering, Steele turned and muttered over his shoulder that he did feel a bit better, even if it was just a lie. The two men gathered their belongings, much of the deed performed by Stan, and mounted up to ride into Shaftner, both exicted and nervous, but for entirely different reasons.

    And yet a third man was awakened this morning by the warm rays of that same sun. But this man was different from the rest. Those circled around him wondered what type of man, or what shell of one, would open his eyes to the world. The fact that the white man had lived through the night was nearly impossible, but it had happened. And that only meant one thing. The Spirits weren't ready for this one yet, and there was a purpose to his survival.
    The man that once answered to the name of Marshall opened his one good eye and recognized nothing. He felt no alarm at the sight of the four men crouched around his feet, as he had no knowledge of who they were of from where they came. On this particular day he had no knowledge of anything before the visions the previous night had brought. His own identity and life were a shroud of mystery, and only upon attempting to rise from his prone state did he even know he had been injured. The world swam out of focus for a bit, then came back. He watched in silence as one of the men rose and brought him a bag made out of skins for him to drink from. He blinked gratitude at the man and the man opened his mouth and let words come out. Words he recognized but could hardly understand.
    "You back now. It is, um, miracle of Spirits you wake. Not many men ever come back to this land. Must have plan for you, white one, so now you rest and heal. Later we talk much more, but now rest until sun get low. Then talk if you can."
    The white man nodded slightly in agreement and lay his head back against the soft mass of hides underneath his head. A thousand voices and faces faded in and out of reality above him and he was taken yet again into a deep slumber. But this time the men surrounding him exchanged looks of reverance and wonder. Not only had the man come back, but they sensed no evil, no aggression, no dark desires. They had made the right choice it seemed in saving this one, and they believed that their hands had been led by the Spirits to do so.

    Vincent sat silently while waiting for his food. The smell of frying bacon made him salivate like a dog, and his stomach ached in anticipation. Jack sat staring at the windows in silence as well, taking in the information that his "posse" had left nearly an hour before he woke, paying all of thier tabs in total before they did. He knew that the fight was now down to two men, he and Chester.
    The bar was nearly empty, save for a young couple at the end of the bar and three or four patrons sitting at booths at the far end of the room. They whispered silently and stole glances at the bruised and battered man sitting beside the Deputy, and the fact that Marshall Simmons was still nowhere to be found. Jack knew as sure as he sat there that specualtion and rumors would be rampant by nightfall.
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


  18. #18
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    Wow I have not been on here ina year and a half!!?? Dude! Hope everyone is doing well, and hope to get caught back up with some of yallaand see what I've been missin'! I posted the next part here, re-posting from the beginning of the last paragraph. More to come...

    Vincent sat silently while waiting for his food. The smell of frying bacon made him salivate like a dog, and his stomach ached in anticipation. Jack sat staring at the windows in silence as well, taking in the information that his "posse" had left nearly an hour before he woke, paying all of their tabs in total before they did. He knew that the fight was now down to two men, he and Chester.
    The bar was nearly empty, save for a young couple at the end of the bar and three or four patrons sitting at booths at the far end of the room. They whispered silently and stole glances at the bruised and battered man sitting beside the Deputy, and the fact that Marshall Simmons was still nowhere to be found. Jack knew as sure as he sat there that speculation and rumors would be rampant by nightfall. Part of him wished that Chester had been there to break the silence. But a larger part of him relished in its simplicity and purity. Moments like these and silence this heavy usually came directly after or just before gun smoke filled the air and ears rang from echoing reports. In all cases there would be one side celebrating a victory (as it were) and yet another enveloped in loss, as all men had a family somewhere. Most of those on the wrong side of the law were loners with the only known family being what straggler sort of men happened to travel with them, but a family just the same in still most of those cases.
    "Penny fer yer thoughts, Dep'ty?"
    "Huh!? Jack almost dropped his half-full cup of strong black coffee as he was startled back to the flesh-and-blood world of Sally's. "Oh just thinkin' me thinks is all. Wrapped up in things that won't pay yer way out of breakfast if'n ya needed 'em to."
    Vince eyed the sizzling bacon and turned to regard Jack with a genuine half-smile. Then he dropped his eyes to the floor before regaining the Deputy's gaze.
    "Hey, Jack, I just want to say a couple o things fer a minute. I had me a long time to think about thangs last night and this mornin' before you woked up. I cain't say that yall are right or wrong, but I can say that I ain't so sure as I was day before yestidy that I'm always on the right side 'a thangs either. Take that fer whatcha will. I ain't sayin' I'm 'a ready to lick yer boots and beg fer a Dep'ty badge, but I reckon what I'ma gittin' at is I'm sorry we mighta got off on the wrong feet."
    "Foot."
    "Huh?"
    "Wrong foot. Fact is, I really don't know 'xactly how things are going to go these next few days. I don't know where the Marshall is, where we might end up, or how you fit into it all. And no offense to ya, but fergive me if'n I don't feel as fergivin' as you want me to. But alls I can say is that we are definitely startin' on a better 'foot' than we did at first. Time's gonna tell what happens here on out."
    "Reckon so. Sounds fair 'nuff fer this mornin' anyhows."
    Jack smiled despite himself. "Anyhow. There's no 'S' on the end of that'n."
    Vince's wan smile broadened as a heaping plate of eggs and four perfect strips of bacon were placed in front of him.

    The two men sat on their horses on top of a ridge overlooking the town of Shaftner. It was a shoddy place in a shoddy land, not much to look at either from a distance or up close, but it was what it was. One of the men sat up straight and as proud as he could be. The other sat halfheartedly, slumped slightly more to the side than the previous day. He had feared the fever would come, and it had. His head wasn't quite buzzing with the incoherent fog it brought, but he wasn't far from it. He lightly nudged his horse back away from the obvious outline of the ridge, and Stan followed suit. Once more hidden, Steele reiterated the plan, hoping that Stan wasn't as stupid as he seemed. Because now the game had changed. All of his eggs were now in a basket held by this simple man. He watched in a semi-wary state as Stan dissapeared over the rise, and was surprised that for the first time on many years he was now uncertain and nervous. His entire plan hinged on whatever synopsis his companion could glean from the town. Were they a sleepy, unaware, and sheep-like town that wouldn't bat an eye? Were they observant and well guarded? Were they somehow prepared for Steele, and one better, even maybe expecting him? Would there be a "Rabbit snare" awaiting him provided he even got close to the bank? Time would tell, and he hoped now more than ever that he could trust the eyes and senses that he hoped even further that he had taught Stan to have. Once he was alone, and sure of it, he gently dismounted his horse and took the bloody bandage off of his shoulder. The crevasse there had stopped bleeding, for the most part, but it had taken on an angry look, swollen and red at the edges, that he looked at with disdain. Looking back now he couldn't believe he had been so stupid as to not burn the wound closed with a hot poker when it happened. But they simply hadn't had the time to then, and his intent was to get "disappeared" as soon as possible. Maybe once in town he could find enough time to get some medicine, but of that fact he wasn't entirely sure.

    The second time the white man woke that day his eyes were a little more clear, but still simple and full of a thousand questions for which there would be no easy answers. Most had no answer at all. He sat up a bit easier this time and struggled with his throat working for a few minutes until the Healer brought him the water skin. He smiled a bit of gratitude and spoke his words for the first time.
    "Name?"
    "Eagle Claw. Healer of my people."
    "Good. Eagle Claw it is, but I was talking about me. Can you tell me my name?"
    The Healer looked only somewhat troubled, as emotions ran deep under the surface with him."We not know, white one. All we know is Spirits leave you here with men. You get shot down low, but look like get better with few days. Other men dead, two more ride to rising sun way. Some come back next sun day, leave again for town in sun down way."
    Paul sat and processed it the best he could. There had been others with him, all but two dead, and those two had headed east. More had come from the west, and went back the same way, to whatever town lie in that direction. The English was simple and broken, but enough to understand the meaning.
    "Who shot me?"
    "We not know. Maybe two men that go on horses rising sun way. We only see last part of fight. One man of two very good shooting, kill all other men on horses. But not take anything after, just ride fast away."
    "East. We call rising sun way East in my language. Sun down way is called West."
    "Good. I say East now for you. West too if I think of all words that are 'nievga', new to me. I not know what you are called, so sorry I am not to have..help for you on name, but one thing I have give to me that is yours. when you can stand on two legs again you have it back."
    "What would that be, Eagle Claw? May I see it now even if I can't hold it just yet?"
    "I think maybe ok this time, just no tell War Feather. Him no trust white man."
    "Ok. No tell War Feather. My promise to you."
    "Promise by most white men no good. Maybe promise by you ok. More suns will tell story if yes or no."
    With that he rummaged behind him and produced a blued Colt .45 with well oiled oak grips. He held it to the light across his palm, like a man would hold a new born baby.
    "This we think might be owning by you, not sure. Look much better than most white man gun do, and little more heavy."
    Paul regarded the weapon for several seconds, watching the firelight dance down the length of the barrel and make tiny capsule-shaped flashes in the hollows of the cylinder. The light was mesmerizing and looking at its patterns he was lost, miles away from this place, the pain in his battered body, and the haunted dancing eyes of the man named Eagle Claw. He remembered very little, and what he did see were flashes of light. Gun-light. It came from the ends of the guns in his hands. As if from across an ocean he heard men scream and heard the thunderous orchestra of another set of guns from his right. He tried to make his eyes look in that direction, but couldn't. They were fixed forward, noticing every movement, following every shadow, tracking every shimmer. He could read one lone sign hanging high on an arch of birch wood logs. "Pecos Station" was written in paint as red as the blood that ran across the hard packed dirt road in front of him. He blinked once, despite his best efforts not to, as the eyes he looked through never did. As soon as he did the vision vanished as if it were never there. He looked back into the haunted eyes of the Healer and uttered a phrase before he could even comprehend what the words meant.
    "There were two and they were mine. From them I kept my life at a place called Pecos Station. But I think in trade I took many lives. And I think there might have been one more man beside me, on my right, fighting the same battle."
    "I have heard of place you speak of. We might talk about with War Feather. Any man knows, him will know. But not in this night. Now you sleep more, I go and come back in next sun day."
    "Tomorrow. Next sun day is called tomorrow where I come from."
    "To..To-mow-oh. Your words are hard. But I try. To-mow-oh." With that he smiled a genuine smile and turned to leave. Paul Simmons returned the smile and winced as he lowered himself back down, thankful for the kindness and honesty he found in Eagle Claw.
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


  19. #19
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    Wow I have not been on here in a year and a half!!?? Dude! Hope everyone is doing well, and hope to get caught back up with some of yall and see what I've been missin'! I posted the next part here, re-posting from the beginning of the last paragraph. More to come...

    Vincent sat silently while waiting for his food. The smell of frying bacon made him salivate like a dog, and his stomach ached in anticipation. Jack sat staring at the windows in silence as well, taking in the information that his "posse" had left nearly an hour before he woke, paying all of their tabs in total before they did. He knew that the fight was now down to two men, he and Chester.
    The bar was nearly empty, save for a young couple at the end of the bar and three or four patrons sitting at booths at the far end of the room. They whispered silently and stole glances at the bruised and battered man sitting beside the Deputy, and the fact that Marshall Simmons was still nowhere to be found. Jack knew as sure as he sat there that speculation and rumors would be rampant by nightfall. Part of him wished that Chester had been there to break the silence. But a larger part of him relished in its simplicity and purity. Moments like these and silence this heavy usually came directly after or just before gun smoke filled the air and ears rang from echoing reports. In all cases there would be one side celebrating a victory (as it were) and yet another enveloped in loss, as all men had a family somewhere. Most of those on the wrong side of the law were loners with the only known family being what straggler sort of men happened to travel with them, but a family just the same in still most of those cases.
    "Penny fer yer thoughts, Dep'ty?"
    "Huh!? Jack almost dropped his half-full cup of strong black coffee as he was startled back to the flesh-and-blood world of Sally's. "Oh just thinkin' me thinks is all. Wrapped up in things that won't pay yer way out of breakfast if'n ya needed 'em to."
    Vince eyed the sizzling bacon and turned to regard Jack with a genuine half-smile. Then he dropped his eyes to the floor before regaining the Deputy's gaze.
    "Hey, Jack, I just want to say a couple o things fer a minute. I had me a long time to think about thangs last night and this mornin' before you woked up. I cain't say that yall are right or wrong, but I can say that I ain't so sure as I was day before yestidy that I'm always on the right side 'a thangs either. Take that fer whatcha will. I ain't sayin' I'm 'a ready to lick yer boots and beg fer a Dep'ty badge, but I reckon what I'ma gittin' at is I'm sorry we mighta got off on the wrong feet."
    "Foot."
    "Huh?"
    "Wrong foot. Fact is, I really don't know 'xactly how things are going to go these next few days. I don't know where the Marshall is, where we might end up, or how you fit into it all. And no offense to ya, but fergive me if'n I don't feel as fergivin' as you want me to. But alls I can say is that we are definitely startin' on a better 'foot' than we did at first. Time's gonna tell what happens here on out."
    "Reckon so. Sounds fair 'nuff fer this mornin' anyhows."
    Jack smiled despite himself. "Anyhow. There's no 'S' on the end of that'n."
    Vince's wan smile broadened as a heaping plate of eggs and four perfect strips of bacon were placed in front of him.

    The two men sat on their horses on top of a ridge overlooking the town of Shaftner. It was a shoddy place in a shoddy land, not much to look at either from a distance or up close, but it was what it was. One of the men sat up straight and as proud as he could be. The other sat halfheartedly, slumped slightly more to the side than the previous day. He had feared the fever would come, and it had. His head wasn't quite buzzing with the incoherent fog it brought, but he wasn't far from it. He lightly nudged his horse back away from the obvious outline of the ridge, and Stan followed suit. Once more hidden, Steele reiterated the plan, hoping that Stan wasn't as stupid as he seemed. Because now the game had changed. All of his eggs were now in a basket held by this simple man. He watched in a semi-wary state as Stan dissapeared over the rise, and was surprised that for the first time on many years he was now uncertain and nervous. His entire plan hinged on whatever synopsis his companion could glean from the town. Were they a sleepy, unaware, and sheep-like town that wouldn't bat an eye? Were they observant and well guarded? Were they somehow prepared for Steele, and one better, even maybe expecting him? Would there be a "Rabbit snare" awaiting him provided he even got close to the bank? Time would tell, and he hoped now more than ever that he could trust the eyes and senses that he hoped even further that he had taught Stan to have. Once he was alone, and sure of it, he gently dismounted his horse and took the bloody bandage off of his shoulder. The crevasse there had stopped bleeding, for the most part, but it had taken on an angry look, swollen and red at the edges, that he looked at with disdain. Looking back now he couldn't believe he had been so stupid as to not burn the wound closed with a hot poker when it happened. But they simply hadn't had the time to then, and his intent was to get "disappeared" as soon as possible. Maybe once in town he could find enough time to get some medicine, but of that fact he wasn't entirely sure.

    The second time the white man woke that day his eyes were a little more clear, but still simple and full of a thousand questions for which there would be no easy answers. Most had no answer at all. He sat up a bit easier this time and struggled with his throat working for a few minutes until the Healer brought him the water skin. He smiled a bit of gratitude and spoke his words for the first time.
    "Name?"
    "Eagle Claw. Healer of my people."
    "Good. Eagle Claw it is, but I was talking about me. Can you tell me my name?"
    The Healer looked only somewhat troubled, as emotions ran deep under the surface with him."We not know, white one. All we know is Spirits leave you here with men. You get shot down low, but look like get better with few days. Other men dead, two more ride to rising sun way. Some come back next sun day, leave again for town in sun down way."
    Paul sat and processed it the best he could. There had been others with him, all but two dead, and those two had headed east. More had come from the west, and went back the same way, to whatever town lie in that direction. The English was simple and broken, but enough to understand the meaning.
    "Who shot me?"
    "We not know. Maybe two men that go on horses rising sun way. We only see last part of fight. One man of two very good shooting, kill all other men on horses. But not take anything after, just ride fast away."
    "East. We call rising sun way East in my language. Sun down way is called West."
    "Good. I say East now for you. West too if I think of all words that are 'nievga', new to me. I not know what you are called, so sorry I am not to have..help for you on name, but one thing I have give to me that is yours. when you can stand on two legs again you have it back."
    "What would that be, Eagle Claw? May I see it now even if I can't hold it just yet?"
    "I think maybe ok this time, just no tell War Feather. Him no trust white man."
    "Ok. No tell War Feather. My promise to you."
    "Promise by most white men no good. Maybe promise by you ok. More suns will tell story if yes or no."
    With that he rummaged behind him and produced a blued Colt .45 with well oiled oak grips. He held it to the light across his palm, like a man would hold a new born baby.
    "This we think might be owning by you, not sure. Look much better than most white man gun do, and little more heavy."
    Paul regarded the weapon for several seconds, watching the firelight dance down the length of the barrel and make tiny capsule-shaped flashes in the hollows of the cylinder. The light was mesmerizing and looking at its patterns he was lost, miles away from this place, the pain in his battered body, and the haunted dancing eyes of the man named Eagle Claw. He remembered very little, and what he did see were flashes of light. Gun-light. It came from the ends of the guns in his hands. As if from across an ocean he heard men scream and heard the thunderous orchestra of another set of guns from his right. He tried to make his eyes look in that direction, but couldn't. They were fixed forward, noticing every movement, following every shadow, tracking every shimmer. He could read one lone sign hanging high on an arch of birch wood logs. "Pecos Station" was written in paint as red as the blood that ran across the hard packed dirt road in front of him. He blinked once, despite his best efforts not to, as the eyes he looked through never did. As soon as he did the vision vanished as if it were never there. He looked back into the haunted eyes of the Healer and uttered a phrase before he could even comprehend what the words meant.
    "There were two and they were mine. From them I kept my life at a place called Pecos Station. But I think in trade I took many lives. And I think there might have been one more man beside me, on my right, fighting the same battle."
    "I have heard of place you speak of. We might talk about with War Feather. Any man knows, him will know. But not in this night. Now you sleep more, I go and come back in next sun day."
    "Tomorrow. Next sun day is called tomorrow where I come from."
    "To..To-mow-oh. Your words are hard. But I try. To-mow-oh." With that he smiled a genuine smile and turned to leave. Paul Simmons returned the smile and winced as he lowered himself back down, thankful for the kindness and honesty he found in Eagle Claw.
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


  20. #20
    The Tenant Jean has much to be proud of Jean has much to be proud of Jean has much to be proud of Jean has much to be proud of Jean has much to be proud of Jean has much to be proud of Jean has much to be proud of Jean has much to be proud of Jean has much to be proud of Jean has much to be proud of Jean's Avatar

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    welcome back Dave! great to see you resuming the story

    Ask not what bears can do for you, but what you can do for bears. (razz)
    When one is in agreement with bears one is always correct. (mae)

    bears are back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. #21
    Gunslinger Apprentice Dave! is on a distinguished road Dave!'s Avatar

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    Thanks, Jean! Glad to be back. Missed you guys a lot and wondered how everyone was getting along..This group occupied a lot of my time and helped get me through some really rough times, so I felt like it was high time to get back and reconnect.
    Here is another snippet (once again, completely unedited and in very rough form, but the story is what it is, mostly written in quick fits of fingers flying over keys and words spilling out. Most of the time I have to scroll back and read what I had written, because it is almost a trance-state until I sit back and think about what comes next... but anyway, thanks and remember that it is rough...)

    12.
    Jack Constance ate without much gusto, not really even tasting the food at all. His mind was years and miles away, in a place his beloved and missing friend was also remembering at the same moment.
    The vision was more clear, more defined, and horribly real.
    Jack and Paul had ridden their horses to the brink of death to get to the outskirts of a small shanty town near the Mexican border. Pecos Station was what the locals called it, but most educated men gave it a wide berth, as it was more commonly known as "Hell". It was a place of desperation and men who wanted very much to disappear and remain that way. Most of these men held no names, no pasts, and tolerated questions even less than strangers. But these two men were not most men. They had done battle before on the fields of Gettysburg and every small forgotten field from there to the farthest unknown reaches of the southern Appalachians. And they had done it all at each others side.
    The larger man, Jack Constance, was younger by a few years, but followed his companion with the allegiance of a brother. Paul Simmons had taken a bullet in the leg for him, and would have a slight limp from it the remainder of his life. That bullet had sealed their friendship with a finality that neither man nor years could reverse. Now, a full year after the last battle had been fought, the government they had rallied against had made them soldiers for their cause. Simmons was a full blown US marshall, and Constance was a deputy marshall. Constance never minded taking the co-driver seat. Simmons was far smarter and much more level-headed when the proverbial shit hit the fan.
    Now they found themselves alone on the cusp of being outnumbered with the worst odds yet to face them. They were two men who would have to possibly stand against every man, woman, and child in the town that lie below. It all depended on how many had been fooled into becoming "friends" with the man they were after. The latest name the man had adopted for himself was "Jackson Weaver". The two men silently watched the lights dance and listened to the piano music waft across the hills from the saloon below. Paul guessed that their quarry was at this moment sitting at a card table drinking yet another addition to some untold number of beers with his feet propped up. Weren't they always? One tune turned to another and then yet another. When it seemed that they might stay that way all night Paul leaned in close and began to whisper.
    "Not yet. It doesn't feel right tonight. Something in the air just isn't good for it yet. My gut tells me tomorrow evening. When the sun is at our backs. Something tells me this fight is going to be more in the streets than inside yonder saloon. And it also tells me that we are going to need every advantage we can get. Let's ride out a few miles back in the desert and make camp. We'll be safe there for the night."
    Jack nodded agreement, as no words were necessary. Paul had spoken and his hunches hadn't proven them wrong yet. They turned and rode softly and quietly into the desert, both nearly electrified with anticipation.

    The sun was beginning to get low in the sky when they silently checked the loads in each of their guns. Paul had his two Colt .45 revolvers and a repeating rifle snugged beside the right side of his saddle. Jack had his two revolvers, almost duplicates of the ones Paul carried, and a 12 gauge with plenty of extra shells in a bandoleer across his chest. With one last look behind him, Paul mounted his horse and checked to make sure Jack was on his, ready to ride. With a slight nod they were off to the probable end of their lives, but one they would reach together.
    By the time they dismounted behind a general store directly across the dirt street of Pecos Station, the sun was just beginning to kiss the hazy mountains on the horizon, and it was indeed at their backs, just as Simmons had wanted it to be. They positioned themselves behind several stacked bales of hay and wood and were in the process of digging in when fate dealt its card early.
    The very man they had come for opened one of the swinging doors and saw the movement across the street. Jackson's eyes locked with Paul's, and his gaze dropped to the left breast of his shirt, where the silver star shone like a beacon. Jackson promptly remembered something he had forgotten inside the saloon and let the door swing shut behind him, but not before Paul saw his right hand drop to his gunbelt. Paul had time to get most of his next sentence out before the lead began to fly their way.
    "Get ready, Jack! Here it come..." The rest was lost in the thunder of gunfire as Jackson and six of his new-found cohorts broke the windows out of the building and opened up on their position. Several more men, who moments before were walking with their backs to the town, turned and began to draw their weapons as well. Paul moved to his left a bit, trying to discover a bit more cover from the stacks of planks, and raised one of his revolvers. Jack followed suit and began to fire at the men down the sidewalk, trying to eliminate the possibility of getting flanked. Three of them fell in bloody heaps before they could complete their turns or even get their guns up. Paul lay down his revolvers and raised his rifle, taking in short breaths and aiming carefully. He fired off four or five quick rounds, and two men fell through the bat-wing doors, dead before they hit the porch. A third fell partway out of one of the shattered windows, and took the remainder of the glass with him as his arms pinwheeled out and fell lax onto the siding. Blood ran down the flaking white paint and stained it a dull red before pooling up on the boards below.
    Jack caught movement out of the corner of his eye, and turned, firing as he did so. A teenage boy, no more than fourteen, was propelled backward through the board fence behind them, dropping his raised pitchfork in the process. Before the boy landed on the ground amid broken and splintered wood, the gunfire ceased. And the silence was more deafening than the gun battle had been. Smoke hung lazily in the air, which was heavy with the smell of gunpowder. When Paul spoke from his left, Jack nearly jumped out his skin.
    "Weaver, if you come out now, with your guns on the ground, you might still walk out of this town in one piece. If not then we'll drag you back dead. Either way we do our job. Cards are in your hands now." His eyes never left the bat-wing doors, now hanging by only one hinge each, as he spoke. But his hands did their work under cover of the bale of hay he was behind. Without even looking he reloaded both revolvers and the repeating rifle. With that done he lay another ten rounds for the rifle on the piece of wood at his knees. Jack smiled despite himself, because he found that he was doing the exact same thing without being told to do so. But Paul didn't return the smile. He was completely honed in on the doors and the slightest indication of movement behind them. The shadows became harder to follow by the moment, as the sun was now half consumed by the landscape to their back. The silence prevailed for a moment and he saw Paul tense and flick the chamber closed on his revolvers with one quick movement, almost too fast to be registered. It was then he heard the sound that Paul had reacted to. It was the sound that only could be made by spurs on hardwood. The sound meant either a quick and civilized end to the fight, or more of it.
    The remnants of the saloon doors didn't just open, they exploded outward with the combined rushing force of another eight men running into the street with their guns drawn and their eyes fixed. Weaver was the last man to exit, firing his revolver as he ran.
    Paul and Jack stood at the exact same time, in one fluid movement and emptied their revolvers into the crowd of men. Bullets whined past, all around them and yet they continued to stand their ground. Paul dropped his left revolver into the sand and used that hand to rapidly reload his right, quicker than the time it took to breathe. The men were felled one by one. A bullet took Jack high on the left ear and kept traveling past, burying itself in the wall above Paul's shoulder. He could actually hear the air collapse behind the slug as it went past and knew that he had only been a mere inch from dying.
    Paul emptied his revolver one last time and dove for the 12 gauge at Jack's feet. Like a graceful dance he rolled back up onto one knee with it and fired twice, emptying both barrels.
    Weaver cried out and held the bleeding stump of his right hand to the sky. His mangled revolver lie in the dust ten feet behind him.
    Jack could then begin to hear sounds around him, as the blur of battle had diminished all of his senses except his sight. There was an ever increasing sound of a man screaming, and he realized that it was Paul, running toward Weaver, reloading the 12 gauge as he ran. Weaver forgot in that moment of clarity about his bleeding wrist and his eyes widened. He turned his back to run when Paul raised the shotgun and emptied it yet again, an easy target now standing defenseless in the middle of the street.
    Jack saw the result as if it were in slow motion. The last rays of the sun illuminated an impossibly large cloud of pink mist as Weaver was virtually cut in half from the blast. His legs continued to run forward for a half step before falling down onto the street, kicking up small clouds of dust as they did. Jack broke cover and ran to Paul, grabbing his shaking arms and pulling them down as he caught up with his mentor.
    Because of you I'm Alive. For you I'm awake-Godsmack

    What shall a man have if he gain the entire world but lose his own soul?-Book of Mark

    I will fear no evil. Cuz I'm the baddest muthafucker in the valley-Jarhead


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