Authors: R.J McCabe
He pulled the doors open. Bill stood for a moment wondering what it might be. The doors folded back to reveal a huge, white and black horse. It was the best looking horse that Bill had ever seen.
‘Wow!’ said Bill, ‘She's a real beauty.’ His hands on his hips as he stood, admiring.
‘Well, don’t let her hear you say that, as she is a he and yeah, he really is somethin' huh?’ Ken was patting the horses neck as he spoke.
The two men walked in and Ken stroked the horses face. ‘He belonged to Sheriff Watts. I reckon the sons of bitches who killed him would have stolen him for sure if he had been over at the house but the sheriff liked to keep him up here. Theres a young lad by the name of Cobb who looks after him for pocket change.’
‘So who does he belong to now?’ asked Bill, unable to take his eyes off the magnificent beast.
‘Well, he belongs to the sheriff and right now that sheriff is you, so he’s yours,
replied Ken, with a big smile on his red face.
‘What? Mine? I cant take him. Surely the old sheriff would have wanted you to have him?’ Bill said.
‘Don’t talk horse-shit Bill. The sheriff wouldn't have wanted anyone to have him. He loved this horse dearly but now Sheriff Watts doesn't really have an opinion so it’s up to me to decide where he goes. He is a sheriff’s horse, no doubt bout that. I saw the look on many a crooked son of a bitches face when the sheriff rode up on this stallion. When you saw this horse, you knew your chicken was well and truly roasted. Besides, you came in on a stage coach. So that means you ain’t got no horse and what the fuck kind of sheriff ain’t got no horse? Just imagine, you see a band of men, all wanted for murder and instead of ridin' after em on horseback cuttin' those bastards down, you go runnin' down on foot. By the time you reach em you’ll be blowin' out of your ass, so tired you cant get your breath and whilst you’re standin' there wheezin' and sweatin' like a son of a bitch, they fill you full of lead. Now does that sound like the stuff legends are made of? Bill James, the sheriff who serves out justice…on foot…if he can catch you.’
Bill laughed and shook his head. ‘I guess it doesn’t. I would have gotten a horse of course. Hey, that rhymed! But if this big guy really is on offer, I'm afraid I'm going to have to accept.’
‘Well, that’s that sorted then. Now you can call yourself a proper law man.’
‘What’s his name?’ Bill asked running a hand down the horses face.
‘Watts called him Wrath, I always thought it was kind of a harsh name for a law servin' animal such as this but he seems to like it, ain’t that right Wrath?’ The stallion shook its head before regaining his proud prominent posture. It seemed to Bill that the horse did indeed like the name, so he wouldn't be changing it.
‘You can take him out for a ride if you want, I'll get Cobb to saddle him up.’
‘I will, though not right now as my head is still boomin' due to those lovely head-butts Big John gave me. Say, have you any idea on there whereabouts of those Hamilton boys these days? If they are indeed responsible for the Watts’s murders, then I bet you wouldn't mind bringin' those boys to justice.’
Ken’s face grew serious
‘You’re damn right about that Bill. If I had any idea where those boys were I’d bring them in and put them on the end of the rope but no-one ain’t heard nothin' from them since the sheriff was killed and believe me, I’m always askin', don't you worry about that.’
‘Well, be sure to tell me if you hear anythin'. Im more than happy to follow up any leads. I have a feelin' that one day, those boys will get their comeuppance.’ Bill said.
‘Will do Sheriff. Say, why don't we have a little walk around and introduce you to the traders here as it’s always nice to be on talkin' terms with the folks you are protectin'.’
‘I totally agree and that sounds nice and easy, lets do that,’ said Bill.
With that, the two men gave the horse a final stroke before leaving the barn and heading on down to meet the people of Sundown.
Big John Duggan reached the Blackwater railway camp and was amazed at how much had been done since he had worked there. There were three times the amount of workers there now and more enforcers than there had been. John dismounted his horse and then led it in between the tents, which had been set up to accommodate the people in the camp. John looked at the men who were there to protect, not recognising any of them so he decided to keep walking until he saw a familiar face and it didn’t take long.
‘Well, look who we got here, if it ain’t Big John Duggan,’ came a voice John recognised instantly.
John turned to see Joel Blackwater standing outside a tent, he was holding a knife in his hand which he was using to peel an apple. Joel had a grin on his face, though no smile ever made Joel look friendly, he just didn't have that type of face.
‘Joel, good to see you buddy.’ John said, a hint of nerves in his voice. This being down to the fact Joel was an unpredictable piece of work and he made many men feel nervous.
‘What brings your big ass back here Duggan? I heard you'd gotten home sick for that shit hole town you come from.’ He placed a slice of apple in his mouth and began chewing, his steel blue eyes though, did not leave Big John.
‘It’s true, I did have to head back, the missus hasn't been too well of late. A man has to try and keep his house in order, take care of his woman,’ John said trying to put on his best concerned husband face.
‘Is that so, and here was me thinkin' you just missed that filthy whorehouse, rumour has it you can’t keep your little ding-a-ling out of that place,’ Joel spat bits of apple as he spoke.
‘Well, theres always plenty of rumours, shouldn’t listen to all of em,’ replied John.
‘I suppose not,’ said Joel eyeing John curiously. ‘You gotta a few marks on you their John boy. Someone given you an ass whoopin'?’
John looked a little sheepish. ‘I got into it with the new sheriff, took me by surprise, lucky he did too, otherwise.…’
‘Otherwise you’d have kicked his ass right?’ Joel interrupted.
‘Damn straight.’ John said clenching his jaw.
‘A new sheriff huh? Did they catch who did the last one? That was some bad fuckin' business,’ said Joel, briefly looking into the distance before returning his gaze to John.
‘Not that I know of. Some say it was those Hamilton boys but that could just be more rumours. Say I was wonderin' if you had any work goin' here? I don't mind labourin' if need be.’
‘Well,’ said Joel, chewing the last of the apple. ‘I cant have a big tough lookin' son of a gun like you wasted on labour. No, I think I got just the job for you Big John,’ the unpleasant grin was still present on Joel’s face.
‘Sure anythin' you got Joel.’
‘We’ve grown a little short of whiskey here in the camp due to the heavy drinkers my father chooses to employ. I need me a couple of boys to ride on into town and pick up a few crates of liquor. I'll be damned if I'm gonna sit out in this crap hole without a drink to take the edge off.’
John’s face changed to one of concern
‘JoeI, I don't know that I should go back there just yet, given the trouble with the new sheriff and all.’
‘Okay then Big John.’ Joel looked around the camp now as he spoke. ‘If you don't want the work I'm offerin' you, then maybe you should get the fuck out of here. Maybe you should go talk to the Apaches see if you can get some work makin' head dresses or some shit, or maybe you can help that old chief bastard bury his boy.’
‘No, no I'll take the work. I'll just have keep my head down when I get there. You havin' trouble with those Apaches again?’ John asked.
‘Oh I think its fair to say that the trouble is good and done with now. I had to let those dirty, dog eatin' bastard’s know who they were trying to fuck with. Showed em good too.’
‘Oh yeah? What you done Joel?’
‘I put a blade right into the chiefs son. He sure didn't look like no great warrior sittin' there dyin' and gurglin' and shit.’ Joel let out a cruel laugh.
‘You know you gotta be careful Joel. Those Apaches can fight but theres a whole other world of weird shit that they are into that you don't want to fuck with. Some spooky shit.’ John Duggan now found himself growing concerned about his own safety at the camp.
‘Fuck them! Fuck their spells and fuck their spooky shit. Im the boogey man and they damn well found that out. Nope, I don't think we will get any more trouble from them. You know John, sometimes you just gotta put your boot down and show folks how things are. You know what I mean ? A bit like that sheriff did with you.’ Joel laughed again.
Big John looked sheepish
‘Okay, if you say so. You want me to go over to Sundown now?’
‘Nah, you can go in a little while, theres a game of cards bout to start if you wanna join in you can.’ Joel’s voice sounded almost friendly.
‘Sure, I ain’t got much money on me though but I'll have a game.’ John replied.
Joel held up the curtain of the tent
‘I will lend you a few dollars but be sure to pay me back, otherwise you might just go the way of the Red Bear.’ Joel laughed, but John knew he wasn’t joking.
Chief Eskadi’s shoulders shook as the cart trundled and rocked along on the dry stoney ground, pulled along by the two horses. The body of Red Bear lay in the rear of the cart, the moon lighting up his still face, his eyes were closed and the body wrapped in a fresh, clean bison hide. Eskadi’s wife and daughter were sat huddled beside the chief as he drove, both with tears in their eyes mourning the loss of their son and brother. Eskadi’s demeanour was much different. His face was stern, focused, his teeth gritted, his jaw muscles clenched.
The man had taken his only son, his heir and the future chief of the settlement and now a new one would have to be chosen but there were none as good as his son had been and he would have only gotten better, smarter, stronger.
The man with the devils eyes had taken his son by surprise and killed him before he had even realised what was happening, before any of them knew what was happening. Nobody ever thought a white man would dare come into their place, on their land and take one of them down. Many men had come in the past, trying to make terms but this one had been different, he was reckless, fearless.
Soon, Eskadi thought, that look the white devil had in his eyes would be replaced by a different look altogether. By crossing Eskadi, the man had opened a door that could not be closed.
Eskadi had not had to think long about how he was going to handle the situation. From the moment his sons life-force had faded, the chief knew there was only one answer. Everyone had told him he was crazy to do it and they spoke of the legend surrounding the ground, but new legends needed to be forged and forge one he would.
The ground where he was taking his sons body was well known and feared amongst all of his kind. Growing up, Eskadi’s father had told him of the spoiled ground and the legend attached.
The story of what had happened was enough to keep any Apache from wanting to use the land. No one had wanted to be responsible for the horror and destruction using the rotten ground may cause and so it had remained, untouched for over a hundred years.
Finally, the Apaches arrived at their destination. Once the cart had come to stop, Chief Eskadi climbed down from his seat and walked around to the rear of the wooden cart. Following them had been a procession of soldiers wearing full face paint and headwear. They had stopped when Eskadi had and now the two men at the front of the procession ,one of whom was Zata, dismounted their horses to help Eskadi carry his sons body.