These are short stories put up each Friday that you can read for free. By the next Friday the post will be taken down and a new one will go up.
Special Note: This is a continuation of Free Fiction Friday #20: “Payback's a Bitch” and #23: “Riding Out of Town” and #37: “Fire in the Rain.” Enjoy!
“Whoa!” he said, pulling up the reins on the horse. He threw his hand up to fasten his hat down then threw it back to brace Jose’s body. The head was already halfway blown off, and he didn’t want the outlaw to become anymore unrecognizable.
“You it?” the rider’s voice called out when he was still several yards from Mike. Mike nodded and his hand put up as if to blot out the sun, trying to make out who he was speaking to. Finally he saw that it was Old Rich.”
“Old Rich,” he said, a smile coming to his face, “what are you doin’ out here to meet me?”
“What happened to the others?” Old Rich said as he drew his horse in close and kept on walking it past. Mike saw him give a good look down at Jose’s body, then a sharp look at himself. It gave Mike an uneasy feeling.
“Gunned down,” Mike said with a gulp. “There was some action outside the Crystal and we lost two men, and then there was more shooting on the flats outside town.”
“And who did this?” Old Rich asked, nodding down at Jose’s dead body strapped to the back of Mike’s horse.
Mike smiled again. “That was my work there, boss.”
“Good work it is, now let’s ride into camp.”
Old Rich didn’t wait for a reply, just kicked his horse and was gone. Mike quickly followed.
The sounds of horse’s hooves pounding on the hardpan drew Cecil’s eyes up from his coffee. Sure enough, there was Old Rich coming back in, and with…just one of the boys behind him. What the hell happened last night, the leader of the outlaw gang thought to himself as he rose up and threw the dregs of his drink off toward the sagebrush.
“Whoa!” Old Rich called out, and brought his horse to an abrupt halt just feet from the fire. He was off faster than one would think his gray-haired bones capable of, and already looking back as the second rider came up behind.
“Mike here’s the only one left from the night’s raid,” he called out, looking up to Cecil and then to Mike and back again. “He says the others were killed, a few in town by the Crystal Palace and some on the road.”
Cecil nodded and came forward. He clapped Old Rich on the shoulder and then gave Mike a nod as he approached. His real interest was in the body on the back of the horse, however, and he went like an arrow straight to it. Lifting up the head by the back of the hair he could see clearly that it was in fact Jose Warren son of Sap Warren, the man that’d been hunting the outlaw Earl James for years. Earl James had come up north after the war and Jose had been hot on his trail. Cecil had seen that, and had taken the boy in. But the boy was hotheaded, and Cecil had come to regret his decision sooner rather than later, unlike the situation with most of his boys. So when the opportunity had come up to let Jose get his revenge while doing in a known outlaw, Cecil couldn’t refuse. And he couldn’t refuse the wiser men around him that said cut those ties now, all of them. And so he had, and now there he stood, his eyes staring into the half-face of Jose, an outlaw from the south that was hunting another outlaw from the south. It wasn’t what he’d envisioned for himself when he’d left Sheridan’s army that April day in Virginia to come up to the lands of Lewis and Clark, Indians and traders, businessmen and savages…all often one and the same.
Cecil let Jose’s head drop and turned back to Old Rich. “What’d that paper say?”
Old Rich’s eyes narrowed. “The one from yesterday?”
“Yeah, about the governor.”
“Said Meagher was appointed acting governor now that we know Edgerton’s gone for good.”
Cecil shook his head. “No, what’d it say about the legislature.”
Old Rich narrowed his eyes again, not sure he was liking where this was going. “Said they’d likely be calling a special session for the spring, down in Bannack.”
“Bannack?” Mike said with disgust, drawing both men’s eyes back to him. “There ain’t nothing but dusty miners and dirty whores down that way, boss.”
Faster than a fire sparking at night, Cecil took out his Colt and fired. He was still close enough to Mike that the force of the bullet in the gut took the man clear off his horse. He landed on the ground a few feet away with a sick thud, and failed to move.
“Old Rich,” Cecil said as he put the Colt back in its holster and turned to his subordinate, the only one he had left, “I think it’s time to get into politics.”