Book Four – Sneak Peak.

The work on Book Four continues, but it’s time for the first couple of chapters to be posted… because I want to tease people a bit with what’s coming.

Enjoy.

-Erik

***

The Shaynee brave was looking for a cow to steal when he saw the large plume of smoke rising in the distance.

Curious, he slowed his spotted pony and stared.

The smoke was in the direction of Huck Berry’s ranch, and it looked bigger than the usual wasteful white man fire.

Kicking heels to the flanks of his mount, he rode towards the pillar of smoke, and soon heard faint pattering shots of gunfire.

Warily, he considered slowing, but curiosity got the better of him, and he headed into the nearest patch of forest instead. The rest of the way, he’d approach quickly but under cover and unseen.

By the time he reached the edge of the trees by the ranch, the shooting had stopped, and the house was engulfed in flames. Several men were throwing corpses over the backs of riderless horses. On their dark suits, tin badges flashed in the morning light.

Pink Men, the Indian thought bitterly.

Squinting through the leaves of the underbrush, he watched as the riders rode away in the opposite direction, down the wagon trail and into the forest. Behind them, they pulled the small three horned beast the white man had been raising. The trike bellowed pitifully and pulled against the rope only to be tugged down the road against its will.

Once the group of Pink Men were out of sight, the brave pushed his pony through the forest brush and into the open.

There were two bodies in sight. One looked familiar. And the horses in the corral that stamped their hooves and shifted about nervously, he knew them well.

Reaching the packed dirt yard, the brave slid from his pony and ran to the downed man.

It was Huck Berry, and he wasn’t moving.

His fingers were splayed out in the dirt, fingernails cracked and broken from trying to pry himself towards the burning house.

The brave looked at the horses again, then back at the house. Large amounts of smoke were billowing from the windows as flames lapped at the roof. He hadn’t seen the Pinkertons take anyone with them but there were four horses in the corral and only two bodies in sight.

Without thinking, he ran onto the porch and hit the closed door with his shoulder. It was barred from inside and withstood his strength.

But one of the windows… the shutter was cracked open.

Taking a deep breath, he leapt through the billowing smoke coming out of the window and dropped to the floor on the other side. He landed painfully on several fired cartridge shells that rolled on the floor beneath him.

The brave could hold his breath a long time under water, but inside this burning inferno, the smoke stung his eyes and leaked into his nose as he clamped shut his lips. The heat was unbearable on his exposed skin, and he fought the fear that he would burst into flames himself.

Reaching his arms out, he slid across the floor on his belly like a snake, searching for anything of importance.

He found a discarded rifle. Pushing it aside, he crawled further into the house.

He touched something warm. Not from fire. But from life.

A slender bit of flesh, soft and supple, but long… an arm, he thought.

Grabbing it, he pulled and threw himself backwards towards where he thought the door was while tugging the dead weight with him. Flames and smoke made it impossible to see, and his lungs screamed for him to swallow a fresh breath of air.

Fighting against his body’s urges, he moved against the wall until he felt the rough door against his back. Squinting upwards in the semi-lit darkness, he found the board barring the door. It was on fire. Bracing himself for the pain, he slammed the heel of his fist upwards against the burning piece of wood, knocking the door free and open.

Tumbling outside, he reached back in, grabbed the still form under the arms and pulled.

He dragged a white woman out with blood smeared across her chest and shoulder.

Skyla, he thought. He felt her chest for movement and found it. She was still breathing, barely.

The roof collapsed in a shower of sparks and flame.

There was no going back in for anyone else.

Grabbing her around the waist, he lifted the woman over a shoulder and carried her away from the fire and smoke towards where his pony stamped its hooves impatiently.

Gently laying her down in the grass, Otto swept dark hair away from her soot covered face and looked back towards where Huck Berry had fallen by the corral.

The body was gone.

As was Carbine.

***

My body felt like it was on fire. Carbine’s galloping sent wave after wave of pain through my body until it felt as though it would consume me from within.

But hatred kept me going.

Skyla.

Charles.

Bo.

All dead.

And it was all my fault.

Coughing up a wad of bloody phlegm, I spat to the side and checked my weapons.

I had only my Eighty-Six, Bowie knife, and shotgun tucked away in my bedroll behind the saddle. It wasn’t much, but it didn’t matter.

Vengeance called me.

And I was answering.

Riding around a curve in the trail, the Pinkerton’s appeared before me. They were walking their horses nonchalantly while leading several horses with bodies tied to the saddles. The so-called detectives didn’t have a care in the world now that their evil work was done. Sara shambled along behind them, her head dropped low and defeated.

Gritting my teeth, I pulled the Eighty-Six into my shoulder, waiting for the ivory beaded front sight to drop on the closest detective’s back that held the rope to my trike.

For Skyla.

I pulled the trigger.

The man arched upright and toppled off his horse. Before his corpse hit the ground, I thumped my heels against Carbine to keep him running.

In confusion, the surprised Pinkertons milled about, turning around to see what was happening behind them.

The next detective, I hit in the chest with another large .45-70 round fired from my rifle.

I racked the lever on the weapon. This time I was close enough to fire without aiming. Blood splattered on the horse’s neck as a third Pinkerton slumped forward lifelessly and slid from his saddle.

The next Pinkerton I passed; I jammed the rifle barrel into his face like a mounted knight with a lance. A strip of flesh ripped away from cheek to ear. His scream was just empty noise in the background as I focused on the next man.

Passing my rifle to my left hand, I drew my Bowie and hurled the blade at him. The practice with Skyla’s old butchers came in handy as the blade whipped past his horse’s head and sunk into the detective’s belly.

Screaming, he fired his pistol without aiming, hitting another detective’s horse, before grasping feebly at the massive knife jutting from his stomach and falling from the saddle.

The wounded horse bucked, throwing his rider to the ground, then raced away through the forest.

Passing through the group, I jerked on Carbine’s reins and spun him around to face the survivors.

There was only one with any fight left in him.

The man thrown from his wounded horse.

Detective Thompson. The leader of the Pinkertons.

The large man pushed himself onto all fours, breathing heavily as though the wind had been knocked out of him.

I jumped Carbine forward, bumping my horse against the detective’s side and knocking him back down.

He lay sprawled on the road, coughing painfully and clutching his chest. The fight in him was gone.

My entire body was racked with pain. I knew that faintly, but all I could feel was the pounding of blood in my ears and the hatred that I knew was twisted on my face.

Reaching behind me, I jerked the hidden sawed-off shotgun out from between the rolled blankets then stepped down from the saddle.

Stalking forward, I watched the lead detective crawl onto his knees.

With a hand upraised towards me in a plea for mercy, he began to stand, and I fired the first barrel into his left leg.

Pink mist, bloody chunks, and pieces of shattered bone sprayed from the buckshot’s impact.

Screaming hoarsely, he toppled back over, grabbing at the mangled remains of his lower limb.

I stopped in front of him and waited as the screaming turned to a low whimper.

“How, Jed?” He cried out painfully as tears rolled down his face. “I-I killed you.”

I unloaded the second barrel into his chest without answering. He could ponder my survival on his way to hell.

Turning, I looked around the trail. There were a lot of bodies strewn about. The man with my Bowie in his belly was still dying though. And the Pinkerton whose face I nearly ripped off was busy trying to disappear into the forest.

Pulling a pistol from the nearest corpse’s holster, I fired a shot into the back of the escaping Pinkerton, pitching him face first into the muddy wagon ruts.

He didn’t move again.

I surveyed the area. Bodies. Lots of bodies. And a handful of horses standing around as though unsure of what to do. Sara was tugging at her rope, pulling it free from the dead man’s grasp.

The anger in me was burning off, and I felt sick, battered, and exhausted.

I dropped to a knee and let the shakes take over me.

Everything hurt.

Everything felt like it was on fire.

I felt like I could scream, shout, cry, mutilate the bodies around me, or just put a bullet through my own brain. I was pulled in a dozen different directions at all once. Anger, grief, sadness, loneliness, rage, and fear… the emotions ran the gauntlet all at the same time.

Vomit spewed out of my mouth onto the grass beside the trail. I let myself fall to the side of the splattered pile and lay there, breathing heavily as tears streaked down my face.

Sara nudged her beak against me as though to offer comfort and I placed a trembling hand on her small horns to steady myself.

But of everything, all the thoughts, all the emotions, all the pain, there was one thing that forced me to wipe the tears away and crawl back onto my feet.

Revenge.

***

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