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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  GENERAL TOPICS  |  Saddlebag Tales (Moderators: Marshal'ette Halloway, Lucky Irish Tom)  |  Topic: What happens next? 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: What happens next?  (Read 15423 times)
The Trinity Kid
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« on: June 23, 2014, 11:01:27 pm »


Hey there y'all.

SO, I figured I'd take a swing at this.  I'll start this, and y'all keep goin' with it.  Here we go:


Buck Grimes awoke with a start.  Exactly what had wakened him, he didn't know, but his grip closed involuntarily on the butt of his Colt.  In the days merely one year following the Civil War, one could never really be too cautious, especially when alone on the plains.

     Buck topped out at four inches over six feet with his boots off, and tipped the scales at just over two hundred pounds.  To anybody looking, it would be quite obvious that none of that weight was fat: his arms bulged beneath his shirt, connecting to a muscular torso.  With his short black hair and intensely blue eyes, he was an imposing figure.  His tan duster added to the effect, especially when it billowed in the wind.  However, there was nothing to distinguish him from any other cowboy in Texas.  His dress was standard, consisting of a blue tartan shirt, tan pants with the cuffs rolled up slightly, riding boots, a black Stetson, and a bright red bandana knotted tightly about his throat.  His Army Colt was slung on his right hip, perhaps a little lower than the average cowhand, but not so much as to get in the way of cattle work.

    Despite his cowhand appearance, Buck was not a cowboy.  Should anybody get ahold of his right boot, they would find a pocket sewn in, containing a badge.  No matter what the Yankee carpetbaggers said, the Texas Rangers were still around, and kicking.  And while he couldn't make a regular arrest, none of the men he apprehended cared to point that out to him, especially not over the barrel of his forty-four.


    There it was!  A rustling in the bushes to the left of Buck's small camp.  To his well trained ear, he could tell it was the steps of a man, not an animal.  However, he would have preferred it to be an animal.  Men usually were trying to kill him.

   Then Buck heard another, more sinister sound:  the sound of a revolver coming to to full cock...






--TK
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"James shook his head and twirled his Colt into it's holster with a smile.  There was some coffee left in the pot, so he poured it in his cup and leaned against the wall by the door.  The sun was setting in the distance, creating a beautiful sunset. 
   “Texas has better sunsets.”  He heard Terri say next to him.  He turned to face her.
   “Of course it does.  But we gotta get what we can in the mean time.” He said with a lopsided grin.  She smiled back and pulled her Colt, stuffing the barrel into his belly.
   “Yer' getting slow.  Better work on that.”  She said and walked back into the house with the empty coffee pot. 
   “We saw that, y' know.”  Clint Rounds said laughing.   James turned red and tried to hide his embarrassment."   Excerpt fromTHE FLOPPY HAT FROM TEXAS," being written by yours truly.



   I was told recently that I'm "livelier than a one-legged man at a butt-kicking contest."    Is that an insult or a compliment?
RobMancebo
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« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2014, 10:19:15 am »


He flipped over in a roll away from the coals left from his hatful of fire and heard the deep bellow of a gun.  His blanket fell free as he rolled over again and he scrabbled off deeper into the shadows of the brush and grass.  He wasn’t wounded, but he didn’t want to move and give anyone a second chance.

He heard the sound of boots running toward his camp and a scratchy voice called out, “Did ya get him?”

“Naw, he rolled off inta the bresh,” a voice replied from dangerously close by.  “That boy’s slipperier than a greased eel.”
 
“Well, is he gone?” 

“I didn’t hear him leave, but he was barefooted.  He may have just snuck on off.”
 
“Check his gear then,” a small, skinny figure stepped up to the coals of Buck’s fire and threw on a handful of sticks.  Buck just held fast in the brush.  He could see, between the tuft grass and a knot of white sage, the camp-robber was a waif-like rag-picker.  His coat and hat might’ve been pilfered from some farmer’s scarecrow.  His ragged pants were ill-fitting and barely held up with a piece of rope through which was thrust, like a baton of imperial rank, a long, hand-carved, wooden spoon.  He carried a big Enfield musket with no more grace than he would’ve lugged a weathered fencepost.  All-in-all, everything about the little man looked awkward.
 
“I don’t know, Chigger,”  a second, more cautious voice said.  “I recon I woulda heared him.”
 
“You wouldn’t hear the clarion call of Gabriel’s trumpet,” the man called Chigger accused.  “C’mon an get some vittles.”  He tossed Buck’s sheet iron skillet onto the growing blaze then tipped open the lid and smelled the coffee pot Buck had left at the edge of the fire and cackled.  “Coffee!  He has real coffee, not chicory nor burn’t cornmeal an molasses!”
 
“Coffee?”  A much larger man, though no better dressed, stepped out into the halo of the fire.  “I ain’t had no real coffee since we skedaddled from the Army.” 

The bigger man laughed as he rooted through Buck’s gear.  “This feller was purty well set-up.”  When he turned a boot to measure its sole against his own foot, something fell out with a weighty ‘thunk’.
 
“Say, whatcha got there?”  Chigger asked.

“They’s a pocket in this boot,”  the big man reported. 

“Well what was he hidin’?  It sounded like a double-eagle.” 

The other man picked up the shiny badge from the dirt and wiped it off with a calloused thumb. He crouched to the light of the fire, his rifle across his knees and read, “Koa Texas r--r--ay--nn--grrr--.”
 
“Whatchewsay?”  Chigger demanded and leaned over to look at what he’d found. 

“That’s,”  Buck stood up and the quadruple click of his Colt rooted them to the spot, “Company ‘A’ Texas Ranger.”
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RobMancebo
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« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2014, 10:37:15 am »

(Sorry it took so long to get back to this.  There’s bad-guys to chase off and I don’t have time to write during my work cycle.  Have gun - will Travel. Wink)

The big man wheeled like a cat with a scorched tail and let blast with his Enfield.  Buck’s Colt was already on-target and spoke only a moment before.  Chigger tossed his rifle down and raised his hands, his eyes scanning the darkness blindly. The camp robbers had been looking at the bright fire and their night-vision was ruined.  The brush-littered landscape around them was only a haze of darkness.  Dropping his empty rifle, the big man whipped out an old Savage revolver and began blasting into the night.  Buck’s second shot folded him up like a two-dollar shirt on a mercantile shelf and he lay there in the Texas dirt, bent double as though he’d just sat down and tipped forward, asleep. 

“Ohhh, Bull?  Bull?”  Chigger moved around his fallen partner frantically.  He obviously wanted to move him, to shake him, to seek some sign of life in the big man, but he was too terrified to lower his hands.  He would half-lower them, vent an inarticulate whine, then raise them again and look pleadingly at the threatening darkness surrounding them.  “Well, help him!”  he pleaded.  “He’s dyin’.”
 
Buck rose up and stepped out into the halo of firelight, leading with his Colt.  He walked up to the flinching Chigger first and patted him down.  He relieved him of the .32 in his pocket and the Green River knife that was thrust in his rope belt.  Then he saw to his partner.  He reached down and took Bull by his wild mop of hair.  Lifting the man’s lolling head, he gave him a quick look before dropping it to wilt back forward.  “He’s dead as Judas,”  he told Chigger. 

The little man lowered his hands.  There were tears in his eyes.  “I knowed it,”  he said.  “I knowed it at that second shot.  Even a big boy like Bull cain’t stomach that much lead.”

“Ask and Ye shall receive,”  Buck told him.
 
“Oh, I see you’re one of them ‘preachin’ Rangers’,”  the little man said with a disdainful curl of his lip. “You send a body off with a smile and a word of comfort.” 

“Not me,”  Buck hocked and spit on the corpse.  “I save the words of comfort for the deserving.  Trash like you boys, I just bury ta keep from poisonin’ the buzzards.” 
 
“Well that is a hell of an attitude for a servant of the public trust,”  Chigger scolded. 

“There’s a shovel by the fire,” he told the little man.  “Get to digging.” 
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RobMancebo
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« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2014, 07:38:27 am »

“H-how many graves am I diggin’?”  the little man asked. 

“Just one,”  Buck told him.  “But make it deep.” 

“So’s the coyotes don’t get him?” 

“Nope, in case it has to make do for the both of ya,”  the Ranger warned with a wave of his gun barrel toward the spade.
 
“Now that’s just plain cussedness,”  Chigger whined as he took up the spade and began digging.  “Bad enough to dig a grave for a big galoot like Bull without havin’ to worry about--“  he looked back at the Ranger’s pointing gun muzzle,  “about what comes after.” 

“You don’t have to worry about what comes after,”  Buck assured him. 

“I don’t?”  the little man’s dirty face broke into a smile. 

“Nope.  What comes after is whatever I decide.  Nothing for you to worry about one way or the other.  It’s just going to happen.” 

The little man’s face drooped back into a scowl.  He vented a frustrated moan and began digging.  Buck walked around, well out of reach of the spade and gave Bull’s body a thorough search.  He found a fair-sized wad of Yankee shinplasters and an oilskin parcel of papers shoved down in the man’s pocket. 

“What are you boys doing with these?”  he demanded.
 
“We didn’t kill nobody fer ‘em,”  the little man ceased digging to inform him.  “We just sorta found ‘em.” 

“Found ‘em where?” 

“In a feller’s pockets.” 

“And did he object, this fellow whose pockets you cleaned out?” 

“Awww, no.  On accounta him bein’ ventilated through various parts of his anatomy with a shotgun.”

“He was dead?” 

“Dead as Judas.” 

“And you just happened to stumble upon his body?”
 
“Well, rightly it was all the smoke and buzzards a circlin’ about them other bodies what led us there.” 

“What ‘other bodies’?”

“Oh, them what was mixed in with the burnt wagons an’ . . .”

“Burnt wagons? Talk straight!”
 
“Well I am, Mister,”  the man grumbled.  “You just ain’t askin’ straight questions.  You want ta know about the feller whose pockets we found that stuff in or about the massacre in general?” 

“Massacre?”  Buck took a breath to calm the urge to lay his gun barrel across the meandering little man’s head and told him,  “Tell me about the massacre.” 

“Well, yestaday Bull an’ me was a slopin’ along over east of here . . .” 
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RobMancebo
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« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2014, 10:31:46 am »

“An we seen smoke an’ buzzards.  Well we figgerd ta go on over and see if we couldn’t help a mite.” 

“Or fill your pockets,”  Buck prompted. 

“Well it ain’t proper ta be leavin’ needfuls wastin’ about.  If folks is expired then they got no use for the goods of this world, do they?” 

“Okay, go on.”  Scavenging low-lifes irritated him, but Buck knew that he should just let the thief ramble out the story in his own time and from his own, twisted point of view.

“We found where three er four wagons had been hit by Comanch.   An’ you know, them Comanch’ll strip a train of pilgrims cleaner than a flock of buzzards cleans out a carcass.” 

“So they didn’t leave much for you, eh?” 

“Nothin’ but a couple of dead mules, some clothes what wasn’t fit fer a scarecrow, and do-dads what didn’t interest ‘em, like them papers.”  He laughed and added,  “I guess them injuns don’t know nothin’ about paper money yet.  They thought them shinplasters was worthless.” 

Buck held one of the bills up to look at it in the firelight and grumbled,  “Yeah, when I see the price of things nowadays, sometimes I think the same thing.” 

“Well anytime you want ta toss some of ‘em away, you just hand ‘em on over ta me,”  the little man cackled.  “I’d be glad ta take ‘em off your hands.” 

“Go back to digging,”  he ordered.  Buck had some serious thinking to do.  If it really was a Comanche raid, the Rangers would need to know.  They would need to collect a force and get onto their trail.  If it was white bandits, running them down would be just as imperative.  Either way, his former duties would have to wait.  He had to winnow through the massacre site to learn what they were dealing with. 

He had the thief bury his partner.  The little man was monstrously relieved when the Ranger had him stop digging with only enough room for one corpse.   The fellow tossed his big friend into the hole with as much joy as he would plant corn. 

But Buck faced the problem of sleeping then.  He didn’t trust Chigger as far as he could toss a bull.  The little thief would likely stave in his skull with a rock the moment he closed his eyes.  There wasn’t even a tree nearby to handcuff the man to. 

“Sorry,” he apologized as he took out a pair of iron handcuffs from his saddlebags.  “Had I known I was going to entertain guests, I would’ve camped nearby a tree.”  He locked a cuff around the man’s wrist. 

“That’s all right, mister, I’ll just sit quiet-like over on the far side of the fire whilst you sleep.  You won’t hear so much as a peep outta me.” 

“Of course not,”  Buck said with a smirk.  He led the man out into the moonlit darkness. 

“I mean it, mister, I won’t cause you no trouble,”  Chigger pleaded. 

“Damn right you won’t,”  Buck said.  “Sit down.” 

“There?” 

“Right there.  One leg on each side.” 

“But you can’t ask a body ta . . .” 

“Sit!” 

“You just ain’t human, that’s what it is.” 

“You chose the time and place.  Now live with it.” 

“How’m I supposed ta get any sleep?”  Chigger demanded as Buck waved at him to extend his arms to the front. 

“You might try imagining that you were hugging Lily Langtry all night long,”  Buck told him as he locked the hand cuff about the man’s other wrist to secure him to the tall saguaro cactus rising up between his legs. “But if I were you, I’d try and stay awake.”   

“Hey, now,” the little man whined after him as he headed back toward his bed.  “You’re not really goin’ ta leave me here huggin’ this cactus?” 

“Lily Langtry,”  Buck corrected.   

“All night?” 

“I wouldn’t want ta interrupt your sweet dreams.” 

“Bastard!” 

“Good night.”           
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RobMancebo
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« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2014, 09:25:46 am »

Buck awoke as the first glimmer of dawn was tickling the sky.  He could tell by the lingering heat that it was going to blossom into a day fit to grill bacon on the Texas rocks.  He stretched and built a fire to reheat the coffee in his pot.  Then he went off to relieve himself and see to his horse.  Addy was a lean, raw-boned, looking mare.  Her scruffy coat was mud-brown and she sported three white stockings.  Buck had to admit that she was a shabby looking old girl who always seemed in dire need of a brushing and a bait of corn.  Looks aside though, she was mustang bred and the toughest horse he’d ever owned.  She’d carried him through the long miles of many a chase through the Texas brush with never a misstep.

By the time he’d brushed down Addy and saddled her up, the coffee was warm and he wandered on over to un-cuff Chigger from his spiny associate.  He found the little man asleep, his battered hat leaning against the cactus.  “Ow-- ow-- ow-- easy there!”  the little thief complained as Buck un-locked the cuffs.  He leaned back in obvious relief as the Ranger stepped away.

 “Hell of a thing ta do ta a feller,” he grumped as he pulled a scattering of spines out of his coat sleeves. 

“Yep, and it made me feel terrible to inflict such misery upon a fellow human being,”  Buck apologized blandly. 

“Rightly so,”  Chigger said as he tossed a spine into the sand and eased away from the cactus. 

“Made me feel so bad, I just won’t do such a thing again.  If we find ourselves in a similar situation tomorrow night, I’ll just shoot you ta save you such an ordeal.” 

“Well, let’s not get to hasty now!”  the thief jumped in.  “They’s times when sufferin’ is good fer the soul!” 

“Silent suffering,”  Buck prompted. 

“Silent sufferin’,”  Chigger agreed and then closed his mouth pointedly. 

“You got a horse?” 

“No.  We was afoot.” 

“Got any gear?” 

“Only what was in my pockets.” 

“What kind of a ratty outlaw are you anyway?”  Buck demanded in disgust. 

“Well, times is hard.  Folks is broke.  It don’t do no good fer ta rob folks who don’t got nothin.” 

“It’d almost make a fellow wishful of taking up honest work,”  Buck prompted. 

“Almost,”  Chigger admitted sourly. 

Buck gulped down a cup of coffee.  It was only warm but he wasn’t going to wait.  “You got a  cup?”  he asked. 

“Naaw.  I been usin’ a tin can.”  Then the little man added,  “Y’know it’s a downright marvel the number of uses they is fer a good ol’ tin can.  Why ya can--“ 

“Here,”  Buck filled his cup and handed it to the garrulous little thief.  “Drink up, we’re movin’ out soon.”  He rolled up his blanket and groundcloth as the little man drank.  As he was tying it to the back of his saddle, he saw Chigger spit into the empty cup and then re-fill it from the pot.  The thief obviously didn’t realize how much Buck depended upon his peripheral vision.  Although he was working, he certainly wasn’t ignoring his prisoner. 

When he came over to the fire, Chigger handed him the cup and smiled at him affably. 

The Ranger raised the cup to his lips, but then lowered it without taking a drink and asked,  “Say, how far away was the site of that massacre?”   

“Oh jest a few miles from here,”  Chigger never took his eyes off the cup as he spoke. 
Buck raised the vessel as though to take a drink, but hesitated again and asked,  “Is that overland or as the crow flys?” 

“Well as the crow flys, o’course,”  the thief said with a sigh of disappointment.   “She’s a might further as a horse walks.  They’s some hills an’ breaks on the way.” 

“Oh,”  Buck raised the cup again and watched the little man’s eyebrows raise along with it.  “Say, did you want some more coffee?”  he lowered the cup to ask. 

“Nope, I’ve had aplenty,”  the man declined.  “You’all go right on ahead.” 

He raised the cup, but then suddenly flipped its content into the fire and said,  “We’d better be ridin’ along.  Can’t waste about drinking coffee when I should be investigating a murder.”  He almost laughed at the look of clear disappointment on Chigger’s face.  “That’s the thing about honest work.  Folks pay me their hard-earned money to uphold the law.  I can’t just loaf around drinking coffee on the public payroll.  Got to make hay when the sun shines.”  He dumped the rest of the pot of coffee over the fire and watched Chigger squirm at the waste. 

“Uh, did you want that?”  Buck asked innocently.  “You said you’d had aplenty.” 

“No.  I’m fine,”  the little man assured him but he vented a huff of disappointment.   

“Well then let’s get to gettin’,”  the Ranger prompted.  “You’ve got a long walk ahead.” 

“That’s all right,”  Chigger told him staunchly.  “I been walkin’ places a fair many years.” 

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RobMancebo
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« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2014, 02:38:20 pm »

It was three hours later that Buck saw the buzzards circling.  Another hour before they got close enough to make out what they were interested in.  Coyotes had been at the bodies.   They were in terrible condition, but there was still enough left to see that many had been mercilessly shot at close range.  Others had been killed with arrows.  All had been scalped.  The whole stinking pile was a sickening sight.  Sadly, Buck had seen many others that were just as bad. 

“Them Comanch, they don’t leave much,”  Chigger complained. 

“Those are Comanche arrows,”  Buck told him after checking several of the bodies.  “But there’s shod ponies mixed into the tracks.  This don’t look right to me.  It don’t feel right.  How’d all those bodies get gathered together like that?  They weren’t dragged.  It’s like these folks were collected up and then murdered in a bunch.  That’s not how Comanche kill.  They’re hunters and warriors.  They like a good fight or a good chase.  Murderin’ folks like sheep ain’t their style.”   Buck looked over the entire mess.  It had been rooted through by critters, both animal and human . . .   ‘Well, half-human anyway,’  he thought with a sideways glance at Chigger.  The spindly little man was scratching at some sort of body vermin as he perused the area with the Ranger. 

“I’m thinkin’ there’s white men ridin’ along with these raiders,” Buck opined.  “Maybe there’s more whites than Indians.” 

“That’s as likely as anythin’ else,”  Chigger agreed.  “They’s lots of no-accounts ridin’ through Texas who juss’ don’t care what they do.” 

“You don’t have to tell me,”  Buck told him.  “Why, I was sleeping peaceful-like last night and a couple of ‘em tried to shoot me as I lay.” 

“Now you don’t have ta get all prickly about that lil misunderstandin’,”  Chigger grumbled. 

“Misunderstanding?”  Buck snapped.  “Oh, I think I understood pretty good.” 

“It weren’t like it looked,”  Chigger whined.  “We thought you was one of them damned Yankee carpetbaggers come ta fleece folks outta their farms an’ bussiness’s.” 

“Because I’m carrying a carpetbag?”  Buck prompted.  He, of course, wasn’t.   

“No.  You just had that, well set-up look to ya.” 

“You could see that under my blankets, could you?” 

“No, but, well, you had blankets an’ a horse, a good lookin’ saddle, an’ coffee . . .” 

“There’s something rotten in a country when a man can be murdered for a bag of coffee and a blanket.” 

“Mister, there’s fellers in this country who’d murder a body fer a crossways look,”  Chigger warned him.  “Take that . . .” He suddenly clamped his jaws shut and looked around as though someone might’ve heard him. 

“Fellows like who?”  Buck said mildly. 

“Juss folks.  It don’t do ta talk about ‘em.”  Chigger looked around again.  “Sometimes a body isn’t as alone as he thinks he is.” 

“Is that a hunch or a warning?” 

“Well was you ta sneak a glance over your right shoulder,”  Chigger whispered, “You’d see a little movement in that clump a sage.  I been wishful of a little breeze ta take some of the sting outta this broilin’ sun so I been payin’ pretty close attention.  I didn’t feel no breeze, did you?”
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Slamfire
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« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2014, 09:47:37 pm »

I'm Hooked,,,, get on w/ it.










  Hootmix.
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RobMancebo
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« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2014, 12:51:46 pm »

I'm Hooked,,,, get on w/ it.

Sorry, it's not a case of writer's block.  I walked into the bedroom the other day to find-- puppies!  So I've been a little tied up here.  Pugs are terrible mothers and my wife is off visiting relatives for a few weeks so I'm having to play surrogate to half-a-dozen little, rat-sized, infants. Mother and puppies are doing well.  Even though I'm having to hang onto her throughout every meal so she doesn't get excited by any old noise outside and jump to her feet barking and swinging puppies like cowbells. Like most pugs, she's more interested in being with her humans than with her puppies and gets distracted from mothering by anything going on in the house.   








  Hootmix.
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RobMancebo
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« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2014, 02:22:50 pm »

Buck made like he was rubbing his eye to cover the slight turning of his head to survey the surrounding landscape.  There was a slight movement in the bushes.  If it was an Indian raider, either of them could get an arrow in their guts at any moment.  If it was a white marauder, a bullet might be forthcoming.  An attacker could sit out in the brush and pick them off at his leisure.  Buck went to his horse and pulled one of the pistols he’d taken from the thieves from a saddlebag.  He offered it to Chigger but held onto it when the little man sought to accept the weapon. 

“You don’t fire unless it can’t be avoided,”  he ordered.  “And you give that piece back when this trouble is finished.” 

“Sure enough,”  the little man promised.  “What’re you gonna do?” 

“Well I’m not figuring to stand about until I get shot.  Anyone tries to kill me, I want to make sure I get the same chance with them.” 

“So I recall,”  Chigger said dryly.  “You want me ta . . .” 

“You just stay here out of the way,”  the Ranger warned.

Buck turned so as to mount his horse on the side away from the sniper’s position.  He swung up into the saddle, keeping low and Addy was well trained and knew what that sort of mount meant.  As soon as he swung up that way, she bunched herself and began her first bound as his legs locked about her middle.  She was a wiry, nimble mount and they were at a full-out run in a few excited strides.  Buck had his Sharps carbine in hand in less than a moment and they circled the clump of concealing brush at a gallop to reveal whoever was hiding there. 

He caught the blur of a scampering figure and his rifle was up and ready as he rode down his fleeing quarry between the tufting brush.  He held his fire.  He was a lawman, after all.  Captain Coley would have his ass on a skillet if he brought in a body instead of a prisoner without a damned good explanation.  Killing outlaws elevated their status to folk hero and martyr, putting them before a judge and sending them off to jail made them look small. 

There was something wrong about the running figure.  He was spry enough, but he moved wrong.  Buck didn’t have a good look but . . .  It hit him as Addy cut around a chest-high Palo Verde.  Buck Grimes cursed and reined Addy in.  It was a girl! 

“Hey, lady!”  he shouted at the running figure.  “Hey, I ain’t going to hurt you.  I’m the law.”  She kept running and he slowed Addy to an easy canter to pace her.  “You know, you really aren’t going to outrun a horse.” 

Undaunted, the girl kept running.  The brush had thinned and she was sprinting straight-and-true to nowhere in particular with Buck following along. 

“Addy, we’re going to have to wrassle this filly ta earth just ta keep her from a injury,”  he said as he returned his carbine to its scabbard and bounced his heels against her flanks.  Addy picked up her pace and they closed the gap with the sprinting girl in moments. 

As he reached out to sweep her up in the iron embrace of one arm, Buck saw that she was a white girl, so covered in dust and grime that he couldn’t make any more out about her than that.  He caught her up and heaved her onto the saddle as though she were a child. 

Then his troubles really began!  She kicked her feet frantically, hammered him with flailing fists, and screamed, “Lig dul ar dom tú muc!” He was hard-put to hold her and at one point she almost got hold of his Colt.  He pulled Addy up and let the girl slide to the ground whereupon she grabbed up a broken branch and held it threateningly before her like a sword. 
“Coinnigh baway!” She ordered while swinging the branch in his general direction.   

Buck sighed as he got off his horse and grumbled,  “Things just keep gettin’ better and better.” 

“Look, girl, I’m just here to help.”  At his assertion, she narrowed her eyes and hefted her stick in defiance.  At such close range he could see that she had blue eyes and he thought that her hair might be red.  She was such a dust mop that it was hard to tell for sure.  She was young, barely a woman, and her clothes had been badly torn by abuse from the Texas brush.   

He retrieved his canteen and offered it to her.  She shifted the stick to take the canteen, but she kept hold of it-- just in case. 

“Whoa, easy, easy,”  he cautioned her when she gulped at the water breathlessly.  “You’ll make yourself sick.” 

When he moved to slow her, she raised the stick.  “I’m just sayin’ to take it slow, girl.”  He held out his fingers close together making a motion for ‘small’.  “Just a bit at a time.” 

She took several gasping breaths and nodded her understanding.  She took another drink, but this time it was a small one. 

“A couple of days without water’ll turn a body crazy,”  he told her.  “Were you part of that wagon train?”  He waved back toward the burned wagons.

The girl’s eyes narrowed and she did not answer.  Buck sighed and retrieved his badge to show her.  “I’m the law.”  When she didn’t seem to understand, he extended the badge and pointed at his chest.  “I’m a Texas Ranger.” 

“Texas . . . ranger?”  she repeated.  Suddenly, her eyes flared with understanding.  “Moladh do Dhia ina Texas Ranger!”  The dusty girl dropped her stick and hurled herself into his arms.
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RobMancebo
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« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2014, 09:46:07 pm »


Whoa, girl!”  Buck held his arms away as the girl clamped onto him in a death-grip embrace.  “Whatever are you babbling about?” 

She uttered words in a constant, sing-song string and he couldn’t make head nor tails of them. 

“Okay, okay,”  he patted her on the back and then un-locked her embrace.  Tears trailed down her dusty cheeks and he didn’t quite know what to do.  “You drink your water, girl, and I’ll take you on back to civilization-- such as it is.”  He motioned toward the canteen that dangled forgotten in her hand.   

“My handle’s Buck,”  he introduced himself.  “Buck,”  he repeated while pointing at himself as she took another sip of water. 

“Ah, Buck,”  she exclaimed.  “Tá mé Hisolda.” 


“Tommy?”  he asked curiously.  “Is that Tommy or Tammy?”  Then he grumbled,  “I’ve never heard of a woman named Tommy.” 

“Níl tú dáiríre!” she exclaimed. “Níl mé, Tommy!  Tá mé Hisolda-- Hisolda!”

“Oh, Hisolda,”  Buck echoed as he walked her back to Addy.  “Well, Miss Hisolda, I’m afraid that I’ll have to beg your indulgence.  I’ve got a man to run down and I’ll need to be astride to do it.”  She, of course, couldn’t understand a single word he said but it put her somewhat at ease to hear him talk.  He held out a hand to her and encouraged,  “Up we come,” as he pulled her up behind him to sit on his bedroll.  Then he rode back to where he’d left Chigger. 

As he suspected, the man was gone.  “It was my own fault,”  he grumbled.  “A snake is always a snake.”  It was no problem for him to track the bandit, even from horseback.  The tracks headed straight and true.  Chigger was obviously trying for distance, not stealth.  His tactic was a mistake though, because Buck knew the country.  The Ranger could tell by the direction of travel that the irritating little outlaw was heading straight for the nearest water. 

Buck took a longer route around a mesa.  It was more than a mile longer that way, but he didn’t want to follow the man directly and walk into an ambush.  It was no problem for Addy to canter faster than Chigger had any possibility of running.

He tied Addy deep in the brush and had Hisolda sit on down by her out of sight.  He concealed himself where he could observe the water hole.  He made sure that none of them approached the water so as  not to warn his quarry. 

He had a good view as Chigger approached the water hole.  The little man strode up with a smug smile upon his face.  He pulled off his battered old hat and wiped the sweatband with his fingers as he surveyed his back-trail.  He cackled as he made sure no one was following. 

Buck waited until the little man had dumped a hatful of water over his head, then he called in a low voice,  “Hello, Chigger.” 

The little man sputtered and grabbed for the gun in his waistband. 

“Are you sure you want to do that?”  Buck asked. 

Sputtering, Chigger left the gun where it was and raised his hands.  He shook his head to get the water out of his eyes and grumbled,  “What’d you wanna foller me fer?” 

“You’re still under arrest,”  Buck told him. 

As they were talking, Hisolda brought Addy from where she’d been tied.  When she saw the little man, she broke into a rolling accusation and punctuated it with many gestures. 

Of course, Buck understood none of it but he told the thief,  “It looks like the little lady knows you, Chigger.  She must’ve watched you and your partner rummaging through her folks belongings after that massacre.” 

“Well she might’ve at that.  We spent a lot of time rootin’ through the wreckage.  They was almighty slim pickin’s.” 

The girl let loose of Addy’s reins and walked directly up to Chigger who just stood there with his hands raised and a look of curiosity upon his foolish face. 

The girl snatched the gun from his waistband, pointed it at him, and cocked it with both hands. 

“Hey!”  Chigger shouted.  “Watch it, that’s loaded!” 

“Uh, Miss Hisolda . . .”  Buck had been surprised by her boldness. 

“Dóigh i ifreann, dúnmharfóir!”
She screamed at him and leveled the revolver in the direction of his nose.  Chigger turned his face away from the black, cyclopean eye of the pistol barrel.


“Hsolda, No!”  Buck hadn’t expected things to get out of control so fast.  He’d been expecting trouble from Chigger, not the girl. 


She turned her head somewhat to shout an incomprehensible diatribe at Buck, keeping an eye on Chigger all the time. 


“Just put the gun down, girl,”  Buck told her calmly. 


She was having none of it.  She screamed, “Fola Meirleach tart!”


“Well what’s that supposed ta mean?”  Chigger grumbled. 


“Hsolda, put it down . . .”  Buck ordered. 


In reply, the girl yanked the trigger defiantly. 

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RobMancebo
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« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2014, 06:14:24 pm »

The gun made a sharp ‘pop’ and Chigger dropped to the ground holding his ear.  “Ow, ow, ow, ow . . .”  he howled.  “She’s made me deaf!” 

Hsolda scowled and looked at the gun.  She turned it toward her face and looked into the cylinder.  Venting what was obviously a coarse invective, she threw the gun at the cringing bandit. 

“Ow! ow!  You ain’t gonna let her beat me ta death are you?” 

When the girl stooped to pick up some fist-sized stones to throw at him, Buck finally walked over to intervene.

“Whoa, girl,”  he said while catching hold of her pitching arm.  “Just lay off that.” 

“She shouted more unintelligible accusations at Chigger while the bandit worked one dirty finger around in his ear.  “I’m tellin’ ya, that girl is tetched by the sun.  Whatever is she babbling about?” 

“I’ve got no idea,”  Buck admitted. 

“Well she’s crazy!  She purt near deafened me!  An’ you was gonna just stand there an’ let her turn the middle of my own poor forehead into a veranda!” 

“Aw, you don’t imagine that I’d be fool enough to give you a loaded gun, do you?”  Buck asked.  “I pulled the powder and balls from your friend’s pistol last night while you and Lily Langtry was romancing out amongst the tumbleweeds.”

“Well ya left the caps!”  the bandit complained.  Now I can’t hear no more.” 

“You can hear the judge’s gavel,”  Buck told him.  “That’s all that counts.” 

The Ranger waved a hand at Hsolda to calm her down.  She was still leveling incomprehensible accusations a mile-a-minute. 

“I’ll take him.”  He pointed to Chigger.  “You go and wash up.”  He pointed at the pool of water and pantomimed washing. 

She glared at Chigger, but she nodded her acquiescence and headed for the water as Buck dragged away his prisoner. 

“What kind of a low down, sneaky trick was that?”  Chigger demanded.  “Give me a empty pistol!  There coulda been blood thirsty Comanch out here!” 

“Better injuns that might be out here lurking about, than you out here skulking about with a loaded gun.  Besides, what kind of a fool takes up a gun and doesn’t check the loads?” 

“My Mamy always tol’ me that I was too trustin’ of folks.” 

“Could be.  But I pity the folks who’d trust a back-shooter like you.” 

“I done tol’ you,”  Chigger insisted with a huff of frustration,  “That was all jes a mixunderstandin’.  We thought you was a Yankee.  Bull an’ me didn’t never rob no Texicans.  Er . . . “  he hesitated before correcting himself.  “Not apurpose anyway.” 

“Not on purpose?” 

“Well ya know a odd one might’ve slipped on inta our net here an’ there.  But did we know they was from Texas, well we left ‘em alone.” 

“Chigger,”  Buck commended,  “You’re a saint.” 

“Ya think?”  The bandit completely missed the sarcasm in Buck’s voice. 

“No!”  Buck told him.  “Turn around there.”

 Chigger sighed and turned around.  Buck cuffed the bandit’s hands behind his back and ordered,  “Have a seat.” 

“Right here?  In the dirt?”  Chigger looked around in distaste.  “Ain’t there a log or somethin’ ta sit on?” 

“I could allow you to rest in the warm embrace of Lily Langtry . . .”  Buck waved at a near-by cactus. 

Chigger immediately dropped to the ground.  “This spot will be jest fine.” 

“Unn-huh, I thought you might do just fine here.  I’m glad to see you so agreeable.” 

With the prisoner out of his hair, Buck went to care for Addy.  After trailing around the thick brush, he caught sight of Addy’s rump down by the water hole. 

Buck whistled to call her and Addy stepped back from the water to come to him.  As the big mare moved, Buck was left face-to-face with the dripping form of a willowy red-headed girl.  She’d been at the edge of the water next to Addy.  Buck caught a flashing vision of startled blue eyes above a turned-up nose that had been blessed with a spray of freckles. 

The Ranger spun so fast that he almost tripped.  How much or how little she’d been wearing he didn’t know.  He hadn’t taken the time to evaluate.  He’d just balked and wheeled. 

“I’m sorry Miss!  I was just after my horse.”  Buck cursed to himself.  Only a complete tenderfoot would get undressed to wash up in the wilderness.  How could he have guessed? 
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RobMancebo
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« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2014, 02:54:05 pm »

He heard a girlish giggle and felt Addy’s reins pushed into his hand.  Out of the corner of his eye he caught the white of a petticoat.  Well, at least the girl hadn’t gotten completely undressed.  He led Addy away without turning around.  Buck wasn’t much on swearing, but what the Hell was he supposed to do with a girl out in the wilds of Texas? 

He packed the empty pistol away in his saddle bags and checked the cinch while he considered.  No, there was just nowhere for him to send her.  He had to bring her with him until he got to a town.  Buck didn’t like complications.  A prisoner and a girl-child were about as complicated as things could get. 

When the girl came back in her damp, freshly washed dress, Buck was impressed.  She was quite a looker with all the dirt washed away.  It made him wish he understood her when she talked.  He knew that he didn’t have any time for girls though. 

"I can't send you anywhere safe--"  Buck began but stopped at Hsolda's questioning look.  "Oh, what's the use?"  He held down a hand to pull her up behind him.  "Might as well save my breath,"  he grumbled.  He had trouble looking at her now that she was cleaned-up.  She'd gone from looking like an old dustmop to a pert young lady in a single bath.  He wasn't used to having a girl around, certainly not a pretty one.  It was more than a little distracting. 

"Come on, Chigger," he snapped at the irritating little man. 

"But I ain't even got no horse.  Am I supposed ta walk again?"   

"Oh, quit your whining.  You were in the infantry, weren't you?" 

"Wull yeah, but--" 

"Well then, forward march!"  He heard the little man curse him under his breath but chose to ignore it.  He didn't want to waste the powder to shoot him or the ink to explain it to his captain in a report.   

When Hsolda wrapped her slim arms about him, Buck stiffened, but he supposed that she needed to do that in order to keep her seat as they rode.  It gave him a funny feeling though.  He could've sworn that she rested her head against his back, but he shrugged it off.  That would've been a silly way to ride. 

The tracks told him a typical story.  He was able to read all he needed from the saddle.  The raiders had scattered, but then met up again as he suspected they would.  These men were a gang with some organization.  The murder of the travelers was not a one time sort of an attack.  It was the type of raid that they perpetrated before.  The type of a raid they would execute again, if they were allowed to.  He intended to make sure they weren't free to continue.  He had only to follow a single member of the gang until they gathered again.   

As he expected, the trails re-joined a few miles away.  The gang all knew where they were headed.  He began to see signs of sloppiness.  The men did not expect pursuit.  They thought that they were clever, but they weren't.  They had gotten away with their murders because Texas was so big and the lawmen were so few.  Arrogance was a flaw that Buck appreciated in an enemy.  He wanted them to feel safe while he ran them down. 

He paid more attention to the surrounding country than to the tracks.  At some point the raiders were going to figure out that they were, themselves, being hunted.  Buck hoped that he could keep them ignorant of that until he could meet them upon his own terms.  He hoped to be able to capture some of them.  A badge and a Henry repeating rifle were a strong argument in the right situation.  Of course then, a man 'hoped' for a lot of things in life.  That didn't mean it would happen that way. 

Two hours along the trail of an un-shod pony, Buck saw buzzards circling.  Not daring to leave Hsolda with Chigger, he just took her with him.  He knew that it might be a gruesome sight, but he expected that she'd seen worse.  He pulled his rifle clear of its fringed case and heeled Addy into a lope. 

Buzzards were timid scavengers.  If they were circling instead of feeding, then their targeted meal was either still alive or someone else had beaten them to it. 

Buck was more relieved than he would ever admit when he found a dusty coyote chewing on a buffalo carcass.  He didn't waste a bullet on the little yodel-dog, he just rode on up and told it to, "Get!"  The coyote ran off, but he looked back like he was tempted to fight for his supper.   Coyote apparently thought better of it and scurried off into the brush.

Buck eased the girl to the ground before dismounting.  He gave her Addy's reins and motioned for her to stay-put while he looked over the ground.  Unshod pony. Comanche moccasin prints.  He found the mark where his quarry had rested his musket butt.  It looked like it might be the imprint of an Enfield but he couldn't swear to it-- no, it was more narrow, probably a Sharps.  The carcass was fresh, shot only that morning.  That was good.  He could use the meat.  He hadn't brought food for three with him.  By the look of the animal, the hunter had only taken the tongue.  That gave him pause for thought.  Buffalo tongue was the best of the meat.  Indian or white, the hunter would've taken that-- but nothing else?  Nothing else? 

"White man,"  Buck grumbled in anger.   
                  #

Indians lived on wild meat.  It was a 'feast-or-famine' lifestyle much of the time.  Also, the hunter was going to join up with his friends.  Would a tribal hunter who'd 'made meat' only take enough for himself?  Would he leave all that buff for the buzzards when his companions would be hungry too?  Lots of things the Comanche did that Buck didn't like, but he never had met a Comanche who'd fail to feed a hungry friend. 

"Damned Comancheros!"  Buck spat into the dust.  He looked back at Hsolda.  Comancheros would trade whiskey, horses, women, guns, anything they could get to the Comanche.  It would be bad if they got hold of Hsolda.  Another reason to get her to somewhere safe. 

Buck looked around then he pulled his knife and cut out several nice pieces of buffalo steak.  He wanted to cut out the bullet to see what sort of a rifle the hunter had used, but digging through the carcass of a huge buffalo after a little bullet-- well he couldn't even roll the thing over.  Maybe, if he had an axe he could-- 

"Buffalo!"  Chigger shouted as he trotted on up.  "Buffalo!  Ain't nothin' like a nice piece of buff!  I am hungry enough ta eat him, hide, hair, an all!" 

"Good thing, because that's what's for supper,"  Buck replied distractedly.  "Chigger, take a look at this."  He walked over and waved at the hunter's tracks.  "You any good at reading sign?" 

"Oh, fair ta middlin'"  the little man wandered over and bent low over the tracks.  "Jess a feller.  Shot him a buff, got his chunk, an' rode off." 

"What kind of rifle?" 

"Marks in the dirt shows her stock's round at the toe an' squared-off atop.  Ain't a Spencer er a Henry.  Looks a mite small fer a Enfield er a Springfield.  Was I ta speculate, I'd say it's a Sharps." 

"Any Commanche around here with breech-loading guns?" 

"Hell, ain't even no white folks hereabouts with breech-loadin' guns.  I mean, 'ceptin' you." 

"You boys 'round here see many of those?  During the war, I mean." 

"Awww, they's always a few.  Mostly all the boys was issued them Enfields what come on through the Yankee blockade from England."  He scratched his un-shaven chin in thought.  "Now that ya task me though, we was supposed ta get some.  The Colonel tol' us, but they didn't never get here.  Yankees must've got 'em fust,  like every other gol durned thing we was supposed ta get.  Wull, except fer socks.  We always got a hell of a load of socks.  I 'spect the gals of Texas spent every extra minute aknittin' away at socks--" 

"Shhhh!"  Buck wanted the garrulous man to be quiet so he could think. 

"Wull, I mean, a feller's only gots two feet.  What's he need more than one pair of socks fer?"   

"These boys were pretty bold, wiping out a whole wagon train.  A band-- injuns or white-- well they'd have to hit hard to wipe out a group of pilgrims so completely." 

"You ever see a Commanch shoot a bow?"  Chigger snapped.  "Why he can have four arrows in the air before the first one hits!" 

"Yeah, but a bow's only a close range weapon.  Even Comanche don't get too close to a wagon train load of folks with guns.  And all the bodies I found were shot.  Oh, some of them had arrows in them too.  But they were all . . . shot."   

"Harrumph, you thinkin' someone's got them breech-loaders?" 

"I sure want to find out." 

"Aw, it ain't like they're repeaters er nothin' like that." 

"Comanche's are the best light cavalry in the world.  They're bad with bows or muzzle-loaders.  If they get hold of breech-loaders to use on horseback, they'll be ten times as dangerous as they already are." 

Chigger let out a cackle of mirth. 

"Well, what's so funny about that?" 

"They's goin' ta be a whole lot of Yankee carpetbaggers a sorry they cheated Texicans outta their land!" 

Buck didn't laugh at Chigger's joke.  He'd seen what angry Comanches could do.  There was nothing funny about it.  For the hundredth time he wished that he could send Hsolda somewhere safe. 
                  #

Buck wrapped the meat in his bandana and stored it away in his saddle bags.  Then he mounted and pulled Hsolda up behind. 

"I've got to see which way these raiders are headed and what they're up to,"  he told Chigger.  "You can follow along as you're able." 

"Follow . . .?"  Chigger expelled a breath in exasperation. 

"Or you can just wander off on your own,"  Buck told him.  "Say hello to any Comanches you meet." 

Then he tapped Addy and followed the trail.  He could hear the man cursing, but he didn't look to see if Chigger would follow or not.  He knew he would.   Only an ignorant fool would wander off in Comanche country alone and unarmed. 

He continued to follow the trail while keeping off the trail itself.  He would miss the more subtle markings, but he didn't want to ride into an ambush.   

Almost a half a day later, Buck found that the trail led up a valley into some low, rolling hills.  He made out a thin trail of smoke against the blue sky and circled to come into the valley from the South/West.  He was riding high enough to get a good look, but not up on the crest of the hill where he would be skylined.   

As they got closer, he eased Hsolda down off Addy and unsheathed his Henry rifle before getting off himself.  He waved for the girl to stay there with Addy and, crouching low, he skulked around the edge of the hill to see into the valley.  He crawled up behind the trunk of an old, fallen tree some eight hundred yards from the camp he found in the valley.

He cast an eye upon the camp through his spyglass and found that it was a regular pirate's warren.  Thirty or so horses were kept in a rope corral. There were two Comanche teepees, numerous ragged tarps set up for shade, and a sort of a wooden blockhouse. 

The men in the valley were drunk as lords and playing with plundered finery, frock coats and sun dresses, probably stolen from victims of their raids.  But these things were not what Buck was focused upon.  As he watched, someone yelled and fired a rifle off into the air exuberantly.  Others followed his example.  Then they all fired again.
"Breech loaders, sure enough,"  the ranger grumbled.

He scurried back and brought Hsolda and Addy to a spreading oak that nestled in a small valley.  Chigger arrived, puffing, as he was unsaddling the horse. 

"Comancheros,"  he told Chigger.  "Drunk as lords and armed to the teeth.  That's where your consignment of Confederate breech-loaders went." 

"Bastards!"  Chigger swore, but then doffed his hat to Hsolda and apologized.  "Beggin' yer pardon, Miss, but we surly coulda' used them durin' the war!  Them bluebellies always lined up so oblidgin' like fer us ta shoot 'em down.  Why I got so goldurned tired a' rammin lead down the barrel--" 

"Okay, let's figure out what to do,"  Buck interrupted. 

"Wull, jess think on it.  How many Yankees mightn't we have killed with rifles what loaded that fast?" 

"How many settlers and families will those Commancheros kill with them?"  Buck told him. 

"Wull we ain't gonna let 'em run wild, are we?" 

"Not if we can help it,"  Buck assured him.  "The question is, how can we help it?"   

"Pshaw, that ain't nothin'."  Chigger told him.  "Lemme see that glass."  Buck gave him the telescope and Chigger scuttled around the hill where he could take a look.  Watching the way the man moved, Buck could tell that he'd done this sort of reconnaissance many times before. 
                  #

Chigger came back after only a quick look.  "Be commin' on to night directly.  With everyone so ding-blasted drunk, I'll jess mosey on down there.  That log place is the onlyiest building they might be keepin' anything valuable in.  Didja see how they was fetchin' whiskey outta it?" 

"I hadn't noticed,"  Buck admitted. 

"Wull guns an' likker is somethin' that the boss will have under lock an' key.  That's where his loot'll be stored too.  You get me a couple o' matches an' I'll start youall a bonfire that'll shade election day fireworks!"   

"I'll--" 

"You?  Ranger, you ain't got neither the look nor the smell ta wander into a camp like that,"  Chigger stopped him.  "They'd have you spotted an' scalped an'-- wull, they'd do such things as I ain't gonna say before a lady whether she understands 'em er no." 

Buck knew that the man was right.  It was a slim chance, but if the little thief could pull it off, dozens--maybe hundreds-- of lives might be saved.  The Ranger sighed reluctantly and dug into his saddlebag for a pistol.  He checked that he could see a pinhole of daylight through each of the cones then proceeded to load each chamber while Chigger observed.   

"A knife would be appreciated,"  Chigger added.  Buck got him a skinning knife and the thief cackled as he thrust it through his rope belt.  Buck also gave him a handful of matches which Chigger squirreled away in a pocket of his frayed coat. 

"Ready?"  Buck asked. 

"Soon as the moon's up,"  Chigger replied as he sat down and leaned against the tree.  "Was I you, Ranger, I'd load up them shootin' irons.  Anything goes wrong, you'll think I stirred up a hornet's nest in that valley." 

Buck had to agree.  He filled his coat pocket with shells for his Henry, checked his extra Colt and thrust it into his belt.  He also gave Hsolda a loaded revolver, just in case. 
Then they waited.  Buck checked Hsolda's pistol at least three times.  From the doe's eyes she made at him, he knew that he would do well to drop her off just as soon as he could.  When a girl started looking at a man like that, he knew that his bachelor's days were numbered.  That is, they were numbered if he couldn't escape right smartly.  Buck figured that he still had a lot of Ranger'n to do before he settled down and he was planning his escape accordingly.   

When the full moon had climbed high into the Texas sky, Chigger got up and dusted off his britches.  "Okay, Ranger, we all ready?" 

"I expect,"  Buck was still leery of trusting the little thief.  He only consolation was that everyone despised Comancheros.  He didn't think Chigger would betray him to men like that.  At least, he hoped he wouldn't. 

"They've still got a couple of sober sentries,"  Buck warned.  "How are you going to sneak up on them?" 

"Quit frettin', Ranger,"  Chigger brushed off his worries.  "I done my share of mischief afore this, ya know.  You just be ready ta commence shootin' ifn it becomes needful." 

"I'm ready." 

"All right then."  Chigger led the way to the fallen tree trunk they'd overlooked the camp from the day before.  Buck shook his head as he saw the brilliantly moonlit ground the thief was going to have to cross to sneak up on the camp. 

But Chigger seemed not to notice.  As they passed the fallen log, he waved for Buck and Hsolda to take up a position there while he just continued walking toward the outlaws' camp. 
"What is he doing?"  Buck wondered outloud as Chigger just continued to walk for several hundred yards.  "If he gets any closer, they're sure to spot him." 

Then chigger picked up the pace and began to jog toward the camp.  His speed increased as he neared the guards.  Suddenly, the thief waved his pistol back over his shoulder and there was a yellowish flash and the boom of a shot.  Buck could hear the man's shout of, "Texas Rangers commin!" faintly in the night air.  Then Chigger shot back over his shoulder again. 
"He' s betrayed us!"  Buck snarled.  "He must've been one of them all along!"  He drew a careful bead on the little man's back, adjusted his sights up for the extreme range, and squeezed off a shot.  The bullet traveled in its rainbow-like arc for several seconds before it impacted.  The .44 Henry was a rather anemic round.  Fate intervened at the last moment, Chigger side-stepped and the big, slow slug knocked down the guard he'd been talking to.  Immediately, the other guard snapped a shot at the flash of Buck's rifle.  Drunken Comancheros staggered out of teepees and bedrolls and they all began to fire upon Buck's position.

The Ranger fired several more times then stopped to re-fill his magazine for the comencheros were beginning to move toward his position.  "Chigger, you rotten little--" 

"Madra atá suite"  Hsolda finished for him. 

"Exactly!" he agreed as he leveled his rifle and lowered his sights to compensate for the closing of the Comencheros upon their position.  He took his time now.  The big Texas moon was bright enough for him to see his sights and he squeezed off his shots with care.  Man-after-man tumbled as his rifle barked.  The Comencheros were too crazy-drunk to be cautious and just continued to come-on after him.  The firing wasn't all one-sided, but the hitting was.  The closest the shots from any of the moving men got was to graze the log Buck and Hsolda were hiding behind. 

Yet, despite the carnage he wrought, the murderers came-on doggedly up the slope.  His rifle clicked on an empty chamber and Buck had to stop to re-load again.  The men came-on faster when his rifle stilled and he blessed the repeater as he quickly reloaded.  He lowered his sights again before he resumed shooting. 

As he continued to fire, the rifle's hot barrel began to burn his fingers and Buck wished for a glove to protect his hand, but there was no time for that. He found out the hard way that some of those he'd thought he'd shot had gone to the ground on-purpose and were crawling up to his position.

Such a man rose to his feet right in front of them and gave a whoop of blood-lust while flourishing a tomahawk.  Buck stepped back from the swinging weapon and yanked the trigger.  His rifle clicked horrifyingly upon an empty chamber.  The Comanchero smiled drunkenly, but thinking fast, Buck tossed him the hot rifle yelling,  "Here, catch!"  as he reached for his Colt.  The man caught the mighty weapon eagerly.  Buck knew that he had the man, but his spur snagged upon something and he fell onto his back.  The Comenchero made ready to swing the rifle at Buck as a club.  It took several heartbeats for the burning heat of the barrel to register upon the man's alcohol-soaked senses.  He suddenly flung the smoking rifle into the dirt with a scream and Hsolda took a two-handed grip on her pistol and put a bullet through him. 

Buck drew his Colts and rolled up to his feet.  He shot man-after-man as they came at him.  They weren't even firing anymore, just running at him with drunkenly swinging gun butts or raised knives.  He heard Hsolda firing next to him and spared a desperate moment to think, 'Now there's a girl to keep around!' 
There were still several men approaching carefully, but with murder clearly in their eyes when Buck and Hsolda's guns went empty.  Buck spun the long Colts and grasped them like hammers to strike with as the Comencheros came closer. 

A shot roared and one of the men pitched forward crumpling like a discarded doll.  As the other looked at his friend, Buck clubbed him with a gunbutt. 
Chigger came riding up on a barebacked Indian pony with a Sharps carbine in his hand.  "I know that you Rangers is supposed ta be rough as a cob, but you looked like ya needed a mite of help." 

"Well you've got brass coming back after--"  The night sky was suddenly ripped by a monumental explosion as the wooden blockhouse ruptured in a yellow and blue flaming eruption. 

"Wull I jess needed a little distraction ta git past the guard an someone for ta keep them fellers busy whilst I worked,"   Chigger told him while admiring a display of golden rings he wore upon all his fingers.  "An' I must say, you two did a right nice job of it."   He leveled a carbine at Buck and told him,  "But it's over now an' I believe its time fer me ta skedaddle." 

"You're still under arrest,"  Buck reminded him. 

"Not when all your guns is empty,"  Chigger told him with a smug smile,  "and mine's loaded."
                  #

"I'll-- ouch!  I'll get you for this!"  Buck railed while trying to look at Chigger around the cactus the little man had manacled him to. 

"Easy, there Ranger, easy,"  Chigger chided.  "Lily's got sensitive feelin's.  Besides, I'm bettin you're gonna be busy fer the next few years." 

"I will be," Buck promised, "Chasing you!" 

"Mebbe, mebbe not."  Chigger said with an impish grin. 

"I had me a moment er two ta ransack that blockhouse before I busted open a keg of powder and set it up with a candle fuse ta blow up all their whiskey an ammunition."  He considered the plethora of rings he carried on his fingers and selected a gold one with a diamond on it.  "I figure ta leave ya with somethin' ta take yer mind off huntin' me." He appraised the ring carefully and then nodded to himself and pulled it off. 
 
"Hsolda?"  he called to the girl. 

"What?  No!  You know what that means to a girl!"  Buck protested. 

"Hsolda,"  Chigger ignored Buck to present the ring to the scowling girl.  "It's from him!" he said pointing a finger at the helpless Ranger.  The girl put on the ring then ran over and clasped Buck's head-- which was all of him that she could move away from the cactus-- to her. 

"What?  No!  Ouch!  Hsolda watch the thorns!" 

"You may even find out what she jabbers on about someday."  Chigger said as he mounted his captured horse and kicked it to get it going.  "I put the key ta them cuffs in yer saddle bags.  I know you'll figure out how ta explain it to her-- eventually.  So long, Ranger." 

"I'll hunt you down like a dog!"  Buck promised.  "Ouch!  No, Hsolda, no get the key!  The key!  It's in my saddle bags--  No, not a kiss, the key!" 
                  ---Fin   



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