I have messed here and there with parts of this story. I have other scenes and an outline which I will eventually expand to a book. This is draft from a chapter I wrote today. The young man strikes out for the west in the post Civil War. He is traveling the old National Road through Indiana.
Colton saw the men off the side of the road up ahead. He saw the big one look down the road at him, stand up and look at the other one, then dust his pants off and pick up something. Trees and brush blocked Colton’s sight for a moment as he moved forward. When he got closer to the men, he could see that they had camped. One was older and well worn of his 40’s or so, the other much younger and sort of dumb looking.
The older one, now leaned against a tree with a rifle propped next to him. Colton recognized it for a Maynard .50 caliber and immediately thought of the Confederacy. The younger, dumb looking man had a massive stick of ironwood in his beefy right paw and was tapping it absently on the ground. Colton smiled his best boyish smile but his alarms were sounded. He would be wary, which he realized may be all these gentlemen were doing.
“Hey there young fella. Spare a minute for a chat? We ain’t seen anyone since yesterday.” The older man spoke and dropped his hand to the barrel of the Maynard.
“Gentlemen.” Colton reigned Oma to a stop. He saw a fleeting, stealthy movement from the big one to position himself behind Oma but still at a safe distance.
Effortlessly and with polished practice the older man flipped the Maynard upward and to his waiting hands, he pointed it at Colton and cocked the trigger in one continuous fluid motion. “My name is Parson Taylor and that’s my little brother Dan and I’ll be thanking you to get down off of the horse.” He said.
Colton judged his chances for successful pulling of the Henry repeater and decided against it. He glanced back at Dan who was still in place in back of him but with the ironwood club firmly in both hands now. He looked back at the older man. “Mr. Parson Taylor and Dan” He said after a moment “we are not enemies. I don’t know you.”
“No sir, you don’t. But I mean to have your horse, that nice rifle you got there and whatever else I may want.” Parson Taylor said. “You have made a clear decision to leave your rifle holstered; there would be no opportunity for you there.”
“I see.” Colton judged that Mr. Taylor would and could easily shoot him should he spur Oma and try to run for it. He pushed hit Stetson back on his head and smiled at the old man again. “Sir, could we not discuss it? I will gladly share my provisions and be on my way with no harm done save perhaps a misunderstanding as it were.” He saw only one course of action and gently stirred Oma to the position he desired.
“Sonny, you can stop moving the horse. You can’t outrun a bullet and I am a crack shot, I admit.” Taylor continued. “No, I must insist that you dismount.”
Colton spread his hands and entreated, he moved Oma the slightest bit more. “Mr. Parson Taylor, you seem like a reasonable man. And an honorable veteran of the Great War.” Oma was in place, angled perfectly.
“Shoot him from the saddle.” Dan added from behind.
“That is a thought brother Dan.” Mr. Taylor said. “And maybe I will if he does not dismount soon. My arms weary holding this rifle at aim.”
“What will you do with me, Mr. Taylor? You and your brother Dan?” Colton took his feet from the stirrups and checked on Dan again. Dan was still in place.
“I’m sorry to say that we cannot let you go. You see the Sheriff in the county knows us; it would never do for you to report to him.” Taylor explained.
“You mean to shoot me anyway? I truly wish that you wouldn’t.” Colton said. He was ready now.
“No, I will only shoot if needed. I mean for brother Dan to kill you with his club. Now please, for the last time would you dismount?” Taylor insisted.
“I am to die either way.” Colton smiled.
“My brother Dan is what some call retarded. Meaning not swift of wit and a bit slow to catch on.” Parson Taylor explained “Look at it this way; you have at least a chance to escape Dan but none to escape my bullet while mounted.”
“You make a point, Parson Taylor. It seems my options are limited.” Colton spread his hands in a surrender gesture and put the right hand on the horn of the saddle. In one motion he put his left foot in the stirrup, swung his right leg over the horse and dipped his body to dismount. Simultaneous to dismounting he slid his left hand inside his jacket to the holstered Colt pocket revolver. He was hidden from Parson Taylors view by Oma and brother Dan would not see what he was doing from his angle. As soon as he had both feet on the ground he drew the Colt, ducked low and aimed the pistol from under Oma’s neck where he fired, hitting Parson Taylor in the stomach. Well trained, Oma did not move. Colton wheeled around and shot the slowly advancing Dan in the center of his chest. Dan dropped forward to the waiting ground without ceremony. Years of practice with Salathiel Fields and his other friends made all of this second nature and Colton performed the observation, reasoning, and action quickly and almost by instinct.
Colton turned back to Parson Taylor who was slouched to a sitting position against a tree and reaching for the Maynard. He stepped quickly to the rifle and nudged it away. Taylor dropped his hand to his wound and looked up.
“I am gutted. You have killed me boy.” Taylor said with a gasp.
“You meant to kill me.” Colton replied. “I feel no guilt. You should not have made on me this way.”
“Huh” Taylor shrugged “I meant for Dan to kill you. I didn’t care to use a bullet as they’re hard to come by for that rifle.” Parson Taylor explained.
“I don’t regret what I did.” Colton continued “I regret the necessity of it.”
Taylor shook his head. He looked at the boy and let a small smile creep forth. “You are well practiced, yet too young for the war.”
“I mean to live in the Wild West.” Colton explained “I am prepared and educated in all things of the west. I have never killed before.”
Parson Taylor looked up at the trees then down at his bloody hands clutched to his abdomen. He looked at last at the boy. “I should be playing Whist.” He said.
“Mr. Taylor?” Colton asked.
“I should be at my sister’s house in Wheeling, West Virginia playing Whist in her parlor.” He explained. “She begged us not to leave, but somehow we are here.” He sighed.
The old man shook his head again and the boy could see the color slowly draining from his face. He did not particularly care to watch Parson Taylor die, but considered it indecent to leave a man utter his dying words to the empty wind. “I urge you to not report this to the county Sheriff.” Taylor said “He is an unpredictable sort and may welcome your news by placing you in jail for future hanging.” Taylor was beginning to gasp at the end of his sentences and the boy figured it could not be long at any rate.
“Would you like for me to contact friends or kin?” Colton offered.
Taylor looked at him desperately. “No. That would be as bad for you as the Sheriff, possibly worse. Leave us here, we will be found. You should ride before another traveler comes and complicates the issue.”
Colton looked up and down the road for as far as he could see. No one presented themselves but Parson Taylor’s words were true. National Road was abundantly traveled as he well knew. He looked back at the old man who now had closed his eyes. “If you are sure then.” Colton said.
The boy got back on Oma and holstered the pistol. He looked back at Dan who had not moved and then at the old man who still breathed with eyes closed. He checked the location of the Maynard and knew it was too far for the dying man to reach before he would be out of reasonable range. For no particular reason, he tipped his Stetson and spurred Oma to an even and quick trot.