Gun For Hire
: Evil Lurks by Catherin Elizabet Belle
Dawn lightens the darkness to gray with the mountains cast in deep shadows as the three lawmen ride out toward the way station. Flapping wings of the owl returning from his hunt silence as he settles in a nearby tree. The meadowlarks morning song drifts with the northerly breeze rattling the pines. Cal smiles, "Beats hell out of being caged in by four walls."
Jeb rides up beside him riding that way 'til the trail narrows where he drops behind. The sheriff sets a steady pace, they have the Winters to bury if there's enough left from the coyotes and buzzards when they get there. They ride a trail steadily climbing until the sun peaks above the tree line and they reach the crest; pausing still mounted, he waits for the two to come alongside. "Well boys, it's downhill from here. Reckon we'll reach the way station about mid-afternoon. Let's rest the horses for a spell."
Cal steps back in the trees squatting near a scrub oak he listens to the sounds of the forest. Hearing nothing, he moves where the others are standing with the horses.
"Are we being followed?"
"Naw, Jeb. Why, you asking." Cal rubs his mustang's neck running his hand down his flanks in what could be called a caress. Comes from living on the range most of his life; being one with the animal each dependent on the other.
Tipping his hat off his brow shrugging his black eyes dancing with mischief, "You spotted the moccasin and unshod pony tracks. Wouldn't wanta get an arrow in my back side." Side stepping a punch from Cal. "Sheriff you ready to ride?"
He laughs at the antics of the two lawmen. Must be nice to be young; "Yeah, Jeb, let's do it."
As they ride down the mountain they enter a stand of Aspen bare except for the few green buds heralding spring growth. A roadrunner skitters from a clump of sagebrush sending sage permeating the soft breeze. Except for the clop clop of the horses no sounds are heard from the riders. Spending a lot of time on the trail of outlaws talk is something you don't do much. Pausing among the trunks of the trees the sheriff says. "Boys, we're a couple hours out let's rest the horses. Here chaw on piece of jerky."
Stepping out of the saddle Cal and Jeb sit down with their backs against an aspen. The sheriff stands looking off in the distance. Jeb asks. "What's on your mind sheriff?"
Still gazing into the valley below he says, "The Winters were good people come to a bad end. This is the part of the job being sheriff I never get used to."
Cal shakes his head and speaks. "None of us do, Sheriff, comes with the territory." With that the riders mount moving out of the aspen into pinon and cedar on the last stretch before the way station.
It's been three days since the stage coach hightailed into Santa Fe reporting the massacre. As they draw near there is a whiff of smoke still rising toward the blue sky. Off in the distance a few clouds amble across the blue above. Without a word the three riders spread out approaching the way station from different directions.
When they're sure no unsavory characters are hanging around they cover their mouths and noses with a bandana and ride in firing in the air to scare off the buzzards. The two bodies were ravished by the buzzards, eyes plucked out pieces of flesh torn off in places to the bare bone.
The sheriff takes the blankets from his bedroll to wrap the bodies in for burial. Cal and Jeb locate shovels near the burned out building and start digging graves. The sun is just setting behind the western slope when they place the last shovel full on the graves; and the Sheriff places make shift crosses at each grave.
Cal quietly speaks. "God, please receive the souls of Mr. and Mrs. Winter." Jeb and the Sheriff remove their hats as Cal continues with the Twenty-third Psalm. Upon completion of the Psalm Cal and Jeb walk away leaving the sheriff at the graves.
Going to the side where the corral had been Jeb starts a fire as Cal prepares coffee to brew when the coals are red hot. Soon the sheriff joins them where he sits silent. "They were good people, boys, good people."
Staring into the blazing coals as he puts the coffee pot on the edge of the embers Cal remembers the massacre of the Cahill's. "Lot's a good people come to a bad end."
|© Copyright 2011
Catherin Elizabet Belle
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