Red Valley – Chapter IV

Here we go…

 

IV

West, Charlie, Bear, and Ol’ Joe busted through the cabin door. It was empty but they needed to move quick. The law was closing in behind them.

It had started out as Joe’s gang. He’d recruited them, showed them how to ride, taught them how to aim, but in the public’s eye, West was the leader. He was tall dark and brooding and he didn’t speak much, but his brand of violence and cunning had made him a celebrity. They’d even written a song about him. Ol’ Joe knew his time was coming and he’d been grooming West to take over anyway. It was only natural.

Charlie was more refined and would have fit in perfectly on the east coast. His soft features and delicate hands made him the pretty boy of the gang, and had he struck out on his own he would have never been taken seriously. But Charlie was smart and he knew this. Bear was most fitting of his name. He was a large man with a large personality and he was just as quick to laugh as he was to gun you down. Ol’ Joe’s bones were getting stiff and it was clear who would succeed him.

“Shit. There’s nearly twenty of ‘em.”

“And they’re comin’ fast.”

Bear checked his gun. “Fuck! I’m out.”

“Me too. West?” West nodded his head.

“Fuck.”

“I got some scratch, boys.” Ol’ Joe always had scratch.

“Lotta good one gunman’s gonna do.”

Ol’ Joe noticed a cellar hatch in the floor. He looked to West.

“Now I want you boys to get along and meet me by the cove where I used to teach ya’ll how to shoot.”

“We’re not gonna leave you.”

“That was an order.”

“Joe. Fightin’ ‘em alone is suicide.”

“Now I’ve faced larger possies than this — and with less bullets, too.”

West gave Joe a sad grin, “Legend in your own mind.”

When the lawmen surrounded the front of the cabin it was West they called for.

“Well then I guess that makes two of us. Now go on, get!” West, Charlie, and Bear all gave Joe a solemn look, but he just chuckled. Bear was the first to head down the cellar, followed by Charlie. West held on for a moment longer, and as he descended the stairs Joe flashed him a warm, fatherly smile. West nodded.

Ol’ Joe took a deep breath and paced back and forth for a moment. He fired a couple warning shots out the window. “You sons o’ bitches wanna fight?!” This was met with gunfire and the windows cascaded around him. He was breathing harder now, trying to fire himself up. He lifted the cellar door once more just to make sure the boys had made it out. They were gone and he was alone. He made the sign of the cross and chuckled. “Crazy old man.”

Ol’ Joe kicked the door open and opened fire. He shouldn’t have lasted as long as he did but he was a tough old son of a bitch. Crazy, too. He laughed mercilessly as he mowed down lawmen and their horses and took slugs to the shoulder and arms and legs and he never stopped firing. One bullet grazed Joe’s face and he dropped to his knees but he got right back up. Another shot to the belly dropped him once more and he stayed there.

In the distance, West, Charlie, and Bear watched the carnage play out. There was nothing they could do and deep down they knew Joe’s plan all along. West watched as one of the lawmen rode up to the porch. He was wearing a sombrero. Ol’ Joe was rising once more to his feet and when he saw the lawman he started to raise his gun and laugh, but the lawman never even gave him a chance and Ol’ Joe laughed no more.

West woke up as he always did – startled, sweating, breathing heavy. No amount of midnights could weaken the past. Mary, already half-dressed for the day’s work, put her hand on West’s cheek. She didn’t need to ask but she did anyway. “Bad dreams?” West just looked at her. She moved her hand from his face to his shoulder. “I guess Ellie’s not the only one.” She smiled that wry smile that only she could give him. He patted her hand on his shoulder.

“At least I didn’t piss the bed.”

“West Steel..!” Mary exclaimed with faux offense.

He grabbed her body tight and pulled her onto the bed and he kissed her like he kissed her the night before.

“Can’t we just forget about the fields for today?”

“We could… but we forgot about the fields yesterday. And I don’t feel like working three times as hard tomorrow.” He grunted playfully and she grunted right back. She stood up and kissed him softly on the forehead before leaving the room.

West sat up in bed, his feet on the floor and his head in his hands. The nightmare and the cabin and Ol’ Joe and Charlie and Bear were still on his mind.

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