- February 12, 2021
The Hood: Legacy & Immortality Chapter 1
It’s 1883, the Wild West of America. A never to be forgotten time, full of people and places who will assuredly be forgotten. The Wild West is a time of cowboys, lawmen, outlaws, and victims. I said cowboys and outlaws separately. Take notice.
Cowboys are the kind of people children are told about on the coasts. The kind of men children will want to be. Cowboys are gunslingers, womanizers, conflicted heroes, but at the end of the day, are the kind of men who will let the piece of shit get back to his feet, after the scum has been knocked down. Outlaws take out their guns and shoot them where they lay, or keep beating them, just because it feels good.
Outlaws and cowboys, they run together, that’s why everyone mixes them up. They respect each other, sometimes, but they like to convert the other into their own ranks. Cowboys want outlaws to be the kind of people that small town kids can look up to. To be the kind of person legends are based on, the kind of men who will grow old, and have the happy ending. Outlaws want cowboys to realize that they’re criminals, and always have been. That in reality, it’s easier on them, and more fulfilling, to be the nightmare smart people really know outlaws to be. To realize that the end of the line is always over the horizon. That the end will be cruel and harsh like they all deserve.
Well, unless you’re me.
The sun beats down hard against us, which only adds to the misery that is our extraordinarily long trip. Bumping up and down on a horse does nothing else if not make my bum hurt like hell.
I complain to my gang, “I love Blaze,” my horse, “but goddamn do I hate having to ride her today, in Texas, in August, when it’s over a hundred degrees!” In a moment of overreaction, I throw my hands in the air, as if begging for rain from a clear blue sky.
“It’s not over a hundred degrees, Anne!” the all too frank Mike Cassidy corrects me. The way my right-hand man says that name, makes me wish I had given him a different one. Does the name sound so plain because of the way his old man beard muffles everything he says? Or is it just that I should have thought of a better fake name?
“You sure, hermano?” Jose Ramos jokes through a cigar. “Sure feels like it to me.” Rarely do I find accents that I like as much as I like his. Makes up for the fact he has a lot of scruff on his face, and he ain’t too tall. Still taller than me at least.
Last is the youngest of our rag tag group and the only one without a cowboy hat, teenage Robert Leroy Parker, who I like to call, Butch, because of his square face. Being Butch and being square-faced don’t really mean much to each other, but I don’t really care. Butch asks Jose about his native language. “Ramos, do you know any Mexican besides ‘hermano’?” Butch finds it annoying to have to listen to anything that’s not ‘American.’
Ramos takes the cigar out of his mouth to correct the young lad, “First off, it’s called Espanol or Spanish, not Mexican any more than English is American.” He taunts the kid by talking in a fake American accent. “Second, I also know hermana, and gringo, now shut up, gringo. We’ve had this conversation several times already.”
“I know,” Butch says sarcastically. “I just like to keep asking because I think you’re lying. I mean, how does a Mexican, only know three words of Mexican?”
“Christ,” Jose swears. “Kid, if Cassidy and the boss didn’t like you so much, I’d shoot you.” The boss is me, and Jose doesn’t really mean it. He likes the kid, the thing is Butch can be just as much of a prick as Jose, but only is so to Jose.
“And don’t forget it,” Cassidy reminds him. Then reminds me, “The trip is almost over anyway. Jimstown is dead ahead.”
“And then we can get our bounty,” I add.
“Yes, and we get to ride all the way back again,” Jose complains before blowing more smoke.
After trotting on our horses mercilessly for miles on end, the plains stopped looking pretty, and became pretty boring. It took forever to get to this place. The sheriff’s office had told us which direction to head, but not how long it would be. I’ve never come to this town from the east before.
Butch asks me, “Boss, wanna tells us about the guy we’re looking for? Maybe where to look. Do we even know the name of the guy we’re looking for?”
I inform him in a sneer, “Of course I know who we’re looking for. Some piece of shit named Coble Rudabaugh, apparently shot his father and made off with the family savings.”
“Can’t imagine a first-time offender would drum up any decent cash,” Jose points out.
“Well, you would be right,” Cassidy tells him. Cassidy, now he knows the plan too. He finishes explaining, “He’s bait to draw out a bigger fish. Dave Rudabaugh and his gang. They should be coming to meet Coble all the way from Decatur. Now, old Davy, he’s our man.”
“Dead or Alive?” Jose asks.
“Alive,” I say, then I add, “but not all together.” prompting a chuckle from Jose and Butch. Cassidy cracked a smirk. They all know what I like to do. Then I tell the plan as we start getting close to town. “Now seriously, listen up. Cassidy and I are gonna go inside the tavern, and ask around. Jose and Butch, I need you two watching the outside. Shoot to wound anybody who gets out before us if it turns into a fight.”
“Why are you teaming me up with a gringo, Anne?” Jose asks sarcastically.
I look back over my shoulder at him to tip my red cowboy hat. I assure him, “We can team up later.” Then I wink at him, much to his satisfaction, for which I receive a happy whistle.
“Gross,” Butch complains.
Now we’re in the town, and we ride our horses to the nearest water trough to tie them up. The town is small, the tavern is the only reason people come here as it’s a gathering spot for gangs like mine. The shops are just for the couple dozen people here and the farmers who live around. The shops and the buildings are ragged, and it’s no secret that people live above their shops, not even living separate from the family business. I don’t much like these towns, because they have order only because they’re too poor and sad to do anything.
As I slip off of Blaze, I tell the black beauty, “Be nice to the boys. They don’t like it when you bite them.” I get my necessary neigh from her and rub her mane before I leave her.
I pat my red oilskin raincoat, and push the flak back as to not block my two holsters. I tug at my jeans which had ridden up my waist during the ride, and adjust my red bandana and blazer appropriately. I start walking through town, walking past the townspeople and the shops. Most stay on their porch, if they stay outside at all. I’ve been to Jimstown before, not a nice place.
The tavern is in the middle of town, which means it’s far enough away from the horses that our boy Coble will have to fight his way out for escape.
When we get to the front of the tavern I turn to Jose and Butch. “You two know the plan. Stay right here.” They nod their heads knowingly. “Butch, ready your rifle.” Then I nod my head to Cassidy. I don’t have to tell him to follow my lead, he already knows.
With my first step the floor creaks, and it bothers me how this place is falling apart. The paint of the wood peeling, and pieces of wood blatantly falling off. Poor old Hames, probably doesn’t have any cash to fix up the place.
I walk up the rest of the steps and push in the doors to realize one thing, we got a full house. They all turn to stare at me, and I stare at them, not recognizing one of them. That’s too bad, I liked the old crowd, but at least I got a bullet for everyone here. Eventually they turn back to their food, drinks, and whatever else they were doing, but they maintain a healthy readiness for me. Then I turn my eyes to the bartender, and he ain’t old Hames.
I walk up to the bartender and place my hand on the counter. I ask him, “New management?”
“Yeah,” he says simply. The bartender seems unusually young, and lacking of any hair on his face, a boy at the end of his adolescence. As I look him up and down, sizing him up, I notice him staring at my face. If he were staring somewhere else, I’d question it less.
“Kid, what the hell are you looking at?” I inquire with obvious annoyance.
“I just gotta know,” he starts as he places down a clean glass face up, without any motion to fill it. Supposed to face glasses face down if they’re not going to be used. He continues, “Are you redskin or a nigger? I just really can’t tell.”
I don’t wince, nor flinch. Rarely am I allowed to forget, the people I’m from don’t exist anymore, so they think I’m the next best slur. I probably look in between the two he said except for one thing. I rub my left hand against my jaw, as unbeknownst to him, I slip my right hand to the Colt Navy revolver on my hip. I inquire, “Is it my jaw or my nose that confuses ya?”
“Both,” the bartender admits. “You look like I took one of my own and painted her chocolate.”
“I’ve always thought caramel, but oh well,” I jest. “Tell me, you wouldn’t happen to know a Coble Rudabaugh to be hanging out around these parts, would you?”
Too quickly he answers, “Nope, never heard of that name.”
“Doesn’t ring any bells?”
“None,” he answers too quickly yet again.
I tell him, “You know something, I’ve met a hell of a lot of bartenders and owners in my travels. I’ve never met one who told me no when I came asking around for information.” I watch as the kid starts getting twitchy, and his hands slowly inch backwards off the counter. “They rather ask me for money, and tell me bullshit than say no, except for once. Want to know why he said no?”
“Why?” the kid says, his face now looking sweatier and grosser than it did before.
“Because he was who I was looking for,” I finish. In that moment we stand frozen before either of us draw our guns. We just stand and stare. “How you feeling, Coble?”
“I’m feeling good,” the kid answers. Coble’s hands are at the edge of the counter, too nervous to go for the gun he no doubt has there. “I was just-”
Then as he’s talking someone walks down some hidden stairs behind the bar, and Coble swings his head immediately to his right. Out of a door next to the far side of the counter comes out another kid, identical to Coble, though not lacking in hair and muscle.
I tilt my head in confusion. I mutter in astoundment, “There’s fucking two of you?” As the new twin brother looks between me and his brother, he looks completely sure of what he has to do. He bolts back upstairs.
I then pull out my revolver and whack it across Coble’s face before he thinks to grab his gun. I hear men behind me start standing up, so I swing around, my left hand moving to my other Colt Navy as Cassidy pulls out his own Dragoon revolver, and we light the place up.
The men we don’t kill, are the smart ones who never went to unholster their weapons, and ducked to the floor before the shooting even started. The brave fools who wanted to protect their source of free drink I bet, were each shot where they stand. Between my twelve and Cassidy’s six we put two bloody holes in every one of them.
I always appreciate how everyone’s body whips back differently when they’re hit. The heavy guys fall forward and then fall backwards on their legs. The skinny and shorter guys tend to fall backwards as if they were stopped by a flying log. With the force that hits them, I would expect no less.
As I stand up nonchalantly and turn back around to Coble, he’s bringing up his gun to point at me. Because the kid has a weak grip, I grab his gun away smoothly with my left, then quickly chop him in the neck with the side of my right hand to stun him. I then throw away his gun to begin reloading my own. The other men who didn’t want to fight, cleverly choose to continue hiding on the floor.
“Cassidy, go get the other maggot, would you, hun?” I ask of my pal.
“Alive?” he asks as he walks around me.
“Preferably,” I say. As he makes his way to the far side of the counter, I remind him in an order, “Cassidy!” He whips his head back to face me. “Don’t die.” He smirks and shakes his head as he goes up.
I grab some bullets from the bullet box that’s inside the pocket of my coat, and start reloading. “Coble,” I start speaking to the kid, scared out of his mind as he leans against the liquor cabinets behind him. “Which one of you was it who killed old Hames?”
“I, um, don’t remember,” he mumbles.
“You don’t remember?” I ask facetiously. “Coble, I can’t come in and find you running his bar, and not have you know whether or not you or your twin killed him. Now think about it.” The kid still remains quiet. I tell him, “Listen, maybe I’m asking because I hated the guy.”
With that suggestion in his head, the kid foolishly informs me, “Yeah, it was me.”
I smirk and shake my head over his stupidity. “Coble, I feel that I should tell you that I only need one of you brothers to draw in your cousin, Davy.”
Coble asks me, “Are you going to kill my brother, Rich?”
In a mock tone of sadness, I inform him, “No Coble. You see, I really liked old Hames and his drinks.” Then I lift my right revolver and shoot the bastard right in the temple through his eye. “I really did like his drinks.”
Then I hear a thud outside before I hear a gunshot, and one of my boy’s screams. I hear a kid say, “Put the gun down! Put it down now!” Rich must have gotten away. Now I really believe that he didn’t kill old Hames if he didn’t have it in him to shoot whichever just screamed.
I holster my left revolver and put both hands on my right. I need to shoot straight for sure, now on only one target. I run to the door gun raised, and push it open.
Instantly I see that Butch has taken one to the left shoulder, and Jose has his arms up with his gun on the ground. As I turn my head, but not my gun, I see Rich turning his own rifle to shoot at me. He’ll shoot me first so I jump back into the bar as he pops off some shots at me.
I land on my side on the ground as I curl my legs up with my hands over my head. I shut my eyes to protect them from the wood splintering as bullets fly through the door and pass above me.
“Anne!” Jose yells before I hear a loud whack.
I hear footsteps running away so I quickly clamber to my feet go back out the front door. I look down the street to see Rich Rudabaugh running as people run away from him back into their homes. Then I look around to see Jose clambering to his knees as he rubs his jaw in his hand. I see Butch, groaning and clutching his left arm. I order Jose, “Stay here with him! Rudabaugh’s mine.” Jose waves me off so I take off.
I run like the wind after Rudabaugh, and as I run I towards him I take aim with my revolver and takes shots at him. One just whizzes past his arm, prompting him to look back at me gaining on him. He’s so close to the horses, but he knows he’s a goner if he doesn’t think of something. Before he ignored the people running from him, but then the bastard hones his eyes on a mother and daughter. I take one last shot and miss before he gets to them. Right when I’m about to get close for a shot I can’t miss, he punches out the mother, and grabs the girl no older than thirteen to use as a body shield.
Rich faces me now with his gun to her head and yells, “Leave me alone! I’m getting on my horse with her, and if you follow, I’m killing her. So you better back off!” I keep my gun raised at him, looking for a headshot, when the mother gets in my way.
“Don’t shoot!” she tells me, giving Rich the chance to back towards the horses with the girl, begging him to let her go.
I sidestep left and right to find a shot but the mother keeps moving to make sure I don’t accidentally shoot her daughter. I try to run past her, but she grabs me, and we struggle for a few seconds as I watch Rich throw her onto his horse, and when he starts climbing on, I lose it. I deck the mother across the face and take my last sporadic shot at them. I miss them, and clip the horse, but it keeps trotting off.
I run to Blaze as the Rich makes his way outta town. As I pull myself onto the horse, the mother runs over to yell at me, “Don’t chase them. He said he’d kill her!”
As I holster my empty revolver and take out my other, I throw some logic at this woman. “I don’t care!” Then I pull on the reins and steer Blaze after them. Blaze only needs one kick, and she takes off like the wind.
I grab my hat in my right hand to keep it from flying off with the wind blowing against me. I have to put it in my left hand to hold it along with the reins. Blaze is a well-oiled thoroughbred, and catching up to the injured pony that Rich rides is easier than hitting water from out of a boat.
As I get closer to the escapee and captive, I aim my revolver and try to line it up with Rich. As we get farther and farther away from town, I realize that we’re now riding over the grassland. I change my aim to the pony’s legs, and I shoot. I miss with the first shot, and realize I can’t get a bead on them bouncing up and down with only one hand.
Two hands on the gun are necessary for me to make this shot. I feel for how steady Blaze is managing her speed, how consistent and concise the thoroughbred is in every step. I let my left hand off of the reins and place both hands on the revolver and take aim.
I shoot, and I don’t miss.
The bullet hits the back of the pony’s ankle, and it trips and collapses forward throwing both of the riders from the horse to the grassy ground. Hopefully that lessened the impact.
I regain control of the reins and Blaze, prompting her to slow down and circle around the two. I aim my gun at Rich with one hand, ready to shoot him if he tries anything.
Of course, he does, by popping up from the grass to try and take a shot at me. I shoot first, and the bullet flies straight through his hand, disarming him.
“Try something like that again, I’ll blow out your damn kneecaps, and drag you by the horse, you understand?” I threaten him. “Ain’t nothing that’s going to mess up my shot at this range.” This bounty has become a bigger hassle than it was ever supposed to be from the very beginning, and I’m sick of it already.
Rich chuckles stupidly for some reason. He has no chance of escape, I’ve got him, so why the hell is he smiling?
I see the girl struggle to get her feet. I ask her, “Hey! Girlie, you okay?”
She looks up at me, a cut above her and her lip split. She tries to stand but has an obvious limp. Her old and dirty dress couldn’t look more tarnished. Still, she tells me, “I’ll live, but I think I sprained my ankle.”
“You’re right, you’ll live,” I assure her. “Sprains heal. Now pick up his gun for me.” I take my eyes off of her to look at Rich, grinning like he slept with somebody’s mother. “Hey, what are you smiling about?”
Then I hear a gun cock and I turn my head to see the girl pointing it at me.
Rich explains, “I’m not an idiot, my horse wasn’t going to get me away. I promised her I’d take her outta here, get her in my cousin’s gang if she helped me. Clever girl knew what was good for her. Now lower your gun.”
I look at the girl sideways, intently watching as the gun trembles in her hands. The look of terror on her face as she doesn’t know what to do. “Stupid girl,” I tell her. Then I turn my gun and put one between her eyes. “I guess you won’t live.”
“What?! Oh shit, oh shit, she was just a kid, and you killed her! What’s wrong with you?!” Rich starts screaming at me.
I dismount from Blaze and walk over to him. I whack him into the dirt, hard with my revolver. God, I love doing that. I inform him of his mistake. “You’re an idiot for ever thinking that girl could possibly pull the trigger, and if people point a gun at me, they don’t get to live if they ain’t worth any money. That girl was worth about as much as her clothes, absolutely nothing.”
Rich looks up at me with surprise and fear, unsure of what happens next. I inform him, “I killed your brother because I only need one of you, but if you so much as look at me or one of my gang the wrong way, we make like the Romans. Tie you up to our horses then ride in opposite directions. Trust me, there are many ways for you to go when this is over.”
When he swallows I hear an audible gulp. He simply answers, “Okay.”
“Anne!” I hear a familiar voice call out in the distance.
“I’m right here with Blaze!” I call back, not taking my eyes or my gun off of my catch.
I hear the trotting steps of horses coming towards, and not before long, I see Cassidy’s mustache atop his horse. “You got ‘em I see. I got the rope.” Then I see Butch and Jose riding up behind him. Jose sticking close to make sure the kid can handle staying in his seat one-handed.
I question Cassidy with a tilt of my head, and a blatant tone of anger. “What the hell happened with you that he was able to whack Jose and the kid?”
Cassidy looks down at the ground and to the side in shame. “I don’t know boss. I let him get the drop on me and he knocked me out. I don’t have an excuse or an explanation.” The man looks mighty disappointed in himself as he should.
“Get off that horse,” I order him. “Bring that rope.” He dismounts from his cobalt stallion and gets the rope from his sack. When he comes to hand me the rope, he punches Rich first, causing our hostage to spit blood all over the ground. Instead of grabbing the rope, I clutch the inside of his forearm and bring him to me. I mutter to him real close, “He could have easily killed you know. Could’ve just lowered his gun when you were on the floor, squeezed the trigger and you’d be gone, you know that right?”
“I know,” he mutters back in the same hush.
“I told you, don’t die, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did.”
“Now make sure you don’t come close again. Hate to lose you too.” Then I let him go and walk past him. Then loud enough for Jose and Butch to here, “Also, Cassidy, you can tie him up, and put him on your horse.” The other two laugh to each other, until Butch’s arm hurts and he stops. The older Cassidy seems frustrated over this, but accepting. Begrudgingly he gets to work. To give him an inkling of happiness, I tell him, “Cassidy, don’t look so down. When you’re done tying him up, you get to ask him where and when he’s supposed to meet our Davy.” Cassidy starts laughing quietly to himself over how’s he gonna take everything out on our captive. “Let’s just do it later. I want to get somewhere else before the mother gets here.”
The small house that the Rudabaughs had decided to take up shop in is a shit hole, through and through. Jimstown was broken down, and this house would fit right in. The one good thing about it, is that it’s easily recognizable as being in the center of this slight dip of the plains. The plains have this ditch, which would be a small valley if it were between mountains. It is also the only place with trees in the middle of the plains for miles, two on either side of the house.
From the fun I let Cassidy have with Rich Rudabaugh, we learned more than just about this house, but also that David Rudabaugh is going to come here the next morning, with a large number of his gang. Apparently once the cousins reunited, they were going to rob a well-off town with all their riders.
I guess my gang and I are going to have to put a sock in that.
Right now, the day before Davy gets here, I sit at a rickety old table with Jose and Butch, waiting on Cassidy to finish up. After hours of listening to him beat the shit out of the kid, we finally hear Cassidy finish him off with a bullet. When Cassidy walks out to join us he gets scared questioning from Jose.
“Damn hermano, you really took you time with him,” Jose starts. “What kind of sadist must you be? And you wonder why I have trouble being nice to you.”
Cassidy reminds us who taught him what he knows about getting answers out of people. “Just remember, hermano, you’re sleeping with the one who taught me everything I know about getting answers out of people.”
Jose gulps and looks between me and Cassidy, a little nervous. He’ll get over it. Then as Cassidy looks at his bloody hands. He asks me, “Anne, would you mind lending me your handkerchief? Mine really needs to be cleaned right about now.”
I reach into my pocket and take my red one out for him. I remind Cassidy, “You know, mine isn’t any cleaner than yours. Mine’s just red so you don’t see the blood stains.”
“Is that why you wear red all the time?” Butch asks. I nod my head in confirmation. Then after looking me up and down, he wonders, “How much shit must you be covered in?”
“I use my guns more than my hands nowadays, so hopefully not too much,” I say.
Jose, no longer resting his arms behind his head, asks us all, “So, what are we going to do now about Dave?”
Cassidy smiles and tips his head towards me. “You got a plan yet boss?”
I take my hat off and rest it on the table. I try to tune out the finer points of my plan in my head as I push my hair out of the way of my face to the back of my head. Taking notice of how long it’s gotten, I comment to myself, “Should really think about cutting it.”
Butch tells me, “I think it looks nice.”
“Thank you,” I say as I finish polishing my ideas. “Okay, Butch, do you remember how much dynamite we have?”
“Still have two whole sacks that we got from the raid a few weeks back,” he tells me.
“Good. We’re going to spend all night digging up the ground outside the house, that way the whole place looks torn up. Then we plant the dynamite all around to blow the shit out of everyone.” That’s my basic strategy.
Cassidy cleverly asks, “How do we make sure not to kill Dave too?”
“We don’t,” I tell him. Everyone gets surprised at this. I remind them, “Now that we know he’s bringing a big gang with him, it’ll mean a gunfight we probably can’t win. The extra money to bring him in alive isn’t worth it if we don’t live to spend it.”
Everyone seems a little upset about it except for Jose, who starts to take out another cigar. “It means less work and risk for us, I’m all for it. I love money, but I like livin’ just a little more.”
“Speaking of work, Jose, you’re gonna be the one who sets up the dynamite,” I inform him.
“Huh? Why? Butch is better at that crap than I am.”
“Butch also has an arm in a sling because he took a bullet,” Cassidy reminds Jose sternly. “You know how to rig up dynamite better than me or Anne, so suck it up. God forbid you have to get your hands dirty.” Cassidy’s insinuations about Jose being lazy can really get to him at times.
Jose starts threatening, “Hold on, now you listen to me old man. I’m getting real tired of taking your shit just because I like things being easy over when they’re hard. Let’s also not forget whose fault it is he got shot.”
Cassidy scowls over the reminder, but responds by facetiously pointing out, “Now you see, easy don’t make no sense. If you wanted easy, you shouldn’t be a cowboy.”
Before Jose can open his mouth again, I yell, “Enough! The both of you. Nothing wrong with playing things smart, and nothing wrong with showing some initiative, but let me make one thing clear, because right about now, only Butch and I understand this.” Butch comedically is surprised by me mentioning him, and quickly remembers to nod his head in agreement. For this interjection I lean over the table and hold up my pointer finger, “We’re outlaws, and the only reason we don’t have bounties on our head is because we’re smart enough to shoot any honest folk who would rat us out. Cowboys don’t do that shit. Cowboys don’t get paid neither. Understand?”
“Yes I do,” Jose says.
“Yes ma’am,” goes Butch.
Cassidy crosses his arms and sits back in his seat. While neither of us have much more morality than the other, Cassidy’s got a small hero streak, and the outlaw stuff always rubs him the wrong way. He was the kid who grew up playing cowboys and Indians. He simply replies, “I understand.”
“Good, so let’s get to work in five,” I say. Then add, “You know what, if there’s a chance, let’s take him.”
I don’t which bothers me more, reuniting with my cousin Richard, or being bothered by the fool Coble. Either way, it was a bigger hassle than I thought to find this old place. I found it venturing with the other two when we were younger. After straying so far out my uncle cursed me out and banned me from seeing them. Imagine my surprise when I was sent word that one of them finally killed the poor bastard. I got a message to them to meet immediately afterwards.
After I find the twins we’ll set out to a little town by Houston, which holds a big bank, and big sheriff’s office. It’ll be bigger than any racket I’ve tried before, I’m excited and nervous at the same time.
As I see the house in the distance, and then I see the ground. One of the gunmans I got riding with me gallops up alongside me. “Uh, what’s with the dirt? Who’s raked this shit up?”
“I don’t know,” I tell him. “What do I look like? Whoever did it, did a shit job. It’s like they used their hands instead of a rake.” Then I look at the house. The door’s closed, but that doesn’t mean much. “I’m gonna take a look inside. Let’s go.”
I drive my horse through the dirt, and he trips a little but he manages well enough. All twenty of my boys follow behind me, some tripping and cursing over each other. Some of them need to learn to be more careful. As I get close to the house, I get so tired of the pansies bitching, I just yell at them, “Stop! Just stop and stay here. I’ll go inside.”
I dismount off of my horse, and start walking towards the stairs. I start knocking on the door calling for my cousins. “Coble, Rich! It’s David! Come on out!” I keep hammering on the door, and try the doorknob to find that it’s locked. “What the hell?”
Then I hear some horses start neighing, and I turn around. I look in time to see a horse swinging his leg around, with some line caught on it. The man on the horse is saying the same as me.
I look at the dug-up dirt and the wire and it hits me. I yell to everyone, “Run away!” It’s too late.
Everything starts blowing up in my face as all of my men are blown to bits and smithereens.
“No, no, no,” I mutter as it happens, twitching with every simultaneous explosion. The dirt rising up high in the sky, blocking out the plains from sight. I’m just standing here, watching, and I got nothing to say anymore.
“Don’t look now,” an old voice says behind me. I turn around to see the white beard deck me across the face. I hear a nice crack in my jaw as I stumble away and quickly gather myself back together. I turn around to duck under the old man’s next swing and uppercut him right in the jaw.
I ask him as he stumbles backwards, “I’m not gonna see my cousins am I?”
He rubs his own jaw and informs me simply, “Nope, both as good as dead. Bodies will earn a pretty penny though.”
“Not as much as mine I’m sure,” I remark.
He chuckles, agreeing, “No, not as much as yours.” Then he swings again at me with his right, and I catch his arm to elbow him in the face. I have a big advantage now, knowing that he doesn’t want to kill me. There’s nothing keeping me from killing him.
When he takes a step back from the hit, I go low and hit him right in the gut, earning a considerable ‘hmph!’ I knee him in the face, causing him to stumble backwards as his nose bleeds and he brings his head up. The man is too old for a fist fight.
“Should have just took the dead bounty,” I tell him. Then I run straight at him and spear him in the gut. I lift him up, then slam him back down.
“Oh, ho, ho,” he groans in a scratchy voice. Then he laughs with bloody teeth. “That’s what the Mexican said!” Then he goes back to groaning.
I punch him across the face, once with my left, and again with my right. As I keep battering his face, I tell him, “Should have listened to the Mexican.” Then I get him good.
“That’s what I said!” another man with a Mexican accent says behind me.
Real quick, I’m pulled off of the old guy back to my feet as I stumble backwards. I see the scruffy looking Mexican right before he clobbers me in the gut. I give him an audible ‘humpf!’ So that’s what losing your breath feels like. I try to push the man away from me, but he ain’t slow and methodical, he’s a young and loose cannon.
With speed and efficiency, he dodges my grab, and punches me in the ribs with his left hand, then punches me in the gut again with his right. When I lean over, he punches me square in the face with his right fist, sending me stumbling.
Before I fall, he grabs my shirt and punches me square in the face once, then twice, and the last time he punches me straight to the dirt on my side, my head going limp.
The Mexican spits on me and says, “Keep your hands off of my gringo, gringo.” Then he leaves me in the dirt to go help his friend, thinking a few punches are going to knock me out.
He walks over to the old man, and asks him if he’s okay. “Cassidy, how you doing? Can you stand?”
“Yes, I can stand, you prick,” the old man named Cassidy says. I start to pick my head back up, and run my left hand down my back to get my Colt revolver. Old Cassidy says, “You waited a long time before you stepped in.”
As I get my gun out and start to sit up, the Mexican says, “Well, maybe I thought you deserved it from earlier.”
As I’m standing up, I cock my revolver and point it at them. Immediately with the click, the Mexican turns back around frozen, and the old man picks up his head with surprise and a bloody nose.
Blood starts running from my nose before I tell them, “Gonna take more than a few punches to take me down.” I smile at them and get nothing in return. “Now tell me, which of you killed my cousins.”
The old man tells me, “I killed the smartass called Rich. Boss killed the other punk.”
“So, you’re the one who killed my favorite,” I say. I shake my head. “Tell him I said hello.”
Then a gunshot goes off, but it ain’t mine.
“Gah!” I scream as a bullet passes through my shoulder. Then another gunshot sounds off as one of my knees gets blown out. I kneel to the ground in immense pain, and try to look at the sound of the gunshots.
Quickly, I see her, walking through the smoke from the dynamite, a witch in red. She walks towards me slowly over the bodies of horses and men, holding a rifle down across her chest with both hands.
The other two start laughing. The Mexican chants weakly, “Anne, to the rescue.”
As she gets closer, Anne asks them, “What did I tell you two about not dying?”
Neither has an answer immediately. The old man says, “Don’t do it.”
“And yet I find that I have to save you two from not dying yet again. Step up your game boys,” Anne scolds them. Then as she walks up to me, she kicks me over onto my side. She picks up the revolver I dropped and tosses it to the Mexican, calling out, “Catch.” Then she turns her gaze to me as I lay on the ground. Then she tilts her head with a smirk on her face.
I spit at her shoes and say, “Go ahead, kill me, bitch.”
Then she really grins. “No, I think I’ll patch you up, and tie you up. Rush you away to see if we can still get the bonus by turning you in before you die. I like that idea. How about you boys?”
Both of the other two cheer as the Mexican helps the one called Cassidy up onto his feet.
“Glad you like it,” the boss lady says smiling. Then she turns to me and raises her rifle, the butt pointing down. “Say goodnight, bitch.”
She slams it down on my face before I can yell anything.
Almost night and during dusk, I ride my horse leisurely, my paid bodyguards in tow, following my tracker that I paid to find her. As we come over the drop, we see the bodies, and I can smell the familiar scent of charred flesh. The tracker and bodyguards are disgusted, but it’s all the same to me.
“Damn, seems like we just missed her, but we’ll find her again soon, kid,” the tracker tells me. As much as I would like to gut him with a knife for calling me kid, he’s gotten me closer to her than anyone else in a long time. I’ve been losing my touch. Once again, he asks too many questions. “Still, I wonder how a 12 year old gets Daddy’s money to hunt down some crazy psycho cowgirl.”
Coldly, I remind him, “Don’t ask questions you’re not allowed to know.”
“I didn’t ask,” he corrects me. “Just wondering. Wondering a crime now?” He turns his head to look at me, and I just move my eyes, warning him to close his mouth without saying anything. “Jesus, my apologies Mr. Sunder,” he mutters. I wish people would stop bringing him into everything.
As my bodyguards shift in their seats, I just stare at the death she’s left in her wake.
I mutter to myself as I smile gleefully, “I’m so close, Claire, after so long. I’ve found you, Guardian of the Forest.”