(PLEASE REMEMBER THIS IS HOT OFF MY KEYBOARD FOR NANOWRIMO. THERE HAS BEEN NO EDITING AS YET.)
Daniel awoke to a dark sky and a quiet campsite. Tor was nowhere in sight and he wasn’t about to start yelling for him. A quick check told him that Tor’s horse was still tied to the line they had set up for the three horses. His saddle was on the ground and his bed was still laid out like he had just gotten up from it.
He stepped into the brush to relieve himself. When he returned to camp Tor was there whittling on a long, straight limb. “Where ya been?” asked Tor.
“In the bushes, uh, lookin’ for you.”
“I was over on this other side doin’ the same thing. Them boys down there like big fires, look at that baby.”
The yard of the ranch headquarters was lit up like midday. Men were moving around with a purpose. “I wonder why.”
“Simple. They think we might be coming in to join them for one reason or another.”
Deacon kept looking as if he were mesmerized by the fire that far away.
“Don’t stare at it. You’ll have a blind spot in your vision for a while if you do.” Tor was not a happy deputy from the tone. “I do know that they have something in that small shack to the of the biggest shack that they want to keep. There’s a man stationed on each side of it. Every once in a while someone comes over and looks in the window. Big guy down there, big around that is, must be the boss. He seems to be grabbing men from time to time and sending them on their way to do something or be somewhere.”
“Any way we can get to the big shack. We torch it and we just might be able to get to the smaller shack in the ballyhoo.” The Deacon was not happy with the situation. It looked like more killing to him.
“Ballyhoo. Where’d you ever get a word like that?”
“Miss Evelyn. She had quite an education before the death of her family put her on another track.”
“She’s a pretty lady. Sings nice, too.”
“She is a lady. Wasn’t always, but is now.”
“Who cares about what folks were yesterday? I surely don’t. I just hope I’m alive tomorrow so I can continue to learn new and greater things.” Tor was looking into the night sky as he spoke. “You still gotta teach me about this God of yours who can be a Father, the Son, and a Ghost.
“Wow. You, a philosopher. Let’s make war on these men. And remember, God will deliver them.”
Both of them looked at the thirty or so men running around like ants whose hole had been flooded. Neither of them was too happy with what they saw. “Deacon. I reckon that gal is in that cabin.”
“You wouldn’t kid me, now would you? I agree. Let’s go get her.”
“Yeah. If we leave now, we got time to do what we need to do in the dark. We’ll lead our horses and leave them as close to the shacks as we safely can and continue walking the rest of the way.”
Moments passed as the rolled up their beds and loaded the horses with saddles and the rest of the camp things. The third horse was free of any kind of a load. “Deacon, I can ride as well bareback as I can in a saddle. So, when we get the gal she gets my horse with the saddle.”
“I hope she ain’t wearing a dress.”
The fire was still blazing as they watched men throw logs on it. Every once in a while major plume of sparks would fly and produce a series of eerie shadows all around the fire. Men would laugh or make ghost sounds, or at least what they were ghost sounds, into the dark.
Tor signaled a halt, “This is as close as I want to travel draggin’ a horse. Let’s take a good look and set up the details to this plan.”
Daniel was trembling inside a bit. “I ain’t too sure this is a good idea. How we gonna do anything without killing a mess of men?”
“Let’s work on that.”
They spent 20 minutes watching what was going on until Daniel said, “There’s only about 18 men down there now.”
“The boss musta put a dozen to bed. Gonna need some sharp men in the morning. I figure we got till a hour before sunup to act. They’ll be set for the good old Indian trick of a dawn attack. What’s your plan, Preacher.”
“Just a deacon, a servant of the Church.” The Deacon was testy. “My idea would be for one of us to go around the camp down there, come up on that shack where the gal is from the back, the dark side, and the other stays here to make a buncha noise for a distraction so’s the one behind the shack can sneak in and take the gal far, far away from here.
He looked over to Tor, “What do you think, Mr. Deputy?”
“I was thinkin’ exactically what you is thinking.” Tor grinned to make the statement a lie.
“Who does what?”
“Well, danged if you ain’t the better shot and I’m the better injun. I’ll get the gal and you get to shoot to your heart’s content.”
“My heart would be more content if I didn’t have to ever shoot again. Specially, if I didn’t have to kill again.”
“If you kill a couple, they’ll all dive for cover for sure. Just throwing lead isn’t go put the fear of God into’em much.”
“I know.” Daniel was not happy. “I’ll shoot’em up right nice while you get the girl. I hope she’s ugly and eight years old, and bites you when you grab her.”
“If she is and does, I’ll leave her there to chew on the crew down there. That could be why they have her guarded so well.” Tor chuckle at his own wit.
“Bye. I’ll meet ya where we camped two nights ago. Remember, her name is Diane.”
Tor started off with the his horse and the spare. “Diane the eight year old terror here I come.”
The Deacon said, “Howl like a coyote when you are in postion.”
“I can bark like one, but never howl.”
“Bark then. Daylight comes. Git.”
Daniel sat back to wait.
Tor led the horses to a gully heading in the right general direction. After a hundred yards he was out of sight of the shacks due to a rise coming between him and them. He climbed aboard the saddled horse and led the other at least a half mile beyond the shacks before he turned toward the back side of them. Thanks to another rise he was able to ride to within a few hundred feet behind the place he really wanted to be, the shack.
He dismounted and tied the horses off to some brush after he walked them until he could see the sparks fly from the fire. He crawled until he could see the target silhouetted by the fire behind it. Two men were in sight, one to the right of the shack and the other in back. The one in back stepped out into the light just as he was looking for him just like he knew there was someone who wanted to see him.
Tor crawled on his belly like a reptile until he was no more than a hundred feet behind the shack, rolled over on his back, cupped his hands around his mouth with the cone opening away from the ranch buildings, and let fly with his best imitation of a coyote barking.
Daniel was almost asleep when he heard the barking of a coyote and wondered where it was. “Oh yeah. Time for some shoot’em up.” The Deacon laid the barrel of his Winchester in the fork of a sage bush and lined up the sights on the man guarding the front of the shack. When he squeezed the trigger he was sure he had missed when the man was still standing there as the barrel came down and his sights were lined up again.
The man dropped like he was made of syrup, cold molasses syrup. He just folded in the middle and fell face first into the dirt. A moment later a cry went up and every man in sight moved toward anything he saw as cover.
The Deacon shot again. Another man tumbled to the left of the cabin. That left only the two dark sides guarded. The man that had been on the left side stepped into the light to find out what was going on and received a special delivery of lead just below his right collar bone.
Tor heard the first shot and saw the second man drop before moving toward the back of the shack, watching the man on the left side sneak his head out in the open. He drew his knife from the back of his belt and moved toward the man now kneeling at the right back corner of the shack. Shots were sounding all around the ranch area and all aimed up hill on the far side which he thought was a good idea.
The man guarding the back died with a second mouth gurgling blood directly under his chin. Tor moved to the other side. No one was there.
“Diane,” he said in a calmer voice than he felt.
“Diane.” Much louder this time.
He yelled, “Diane!”
“Hush up before you draw all them snakes around here,” came from inside.
“You don’t sound like you’re 8.”
“What? I’m old enough. Get me out of here if you’re friendly. Go away if you’re not.”
“I’m the cavalry comin’ to the rescue.”
“Then rescue and let’s ride. My father’s been hurt and I need to get to him.”
“Your father has been taken care of. How do you think we knew you needed the cavalry?”
Right next to Tor’s let a board snapped followed by a second. “Grab the boards and pull. This shack is just like the rest of this snake pit, old and rotten.”
Tor grabbed and pulled over and over again until he had an opening like a door for the voice to walk through. When she did he saw a slim build with a hat on top and heard spurs jingle at the bottom. “Come on.” He grabbed a hand and started trotting toward the horses. The gal was pulling him within fifty feet.
They got to the horse, jumped aboard, and rode like they were worried a mite about the snakes coming after them.
The Deacon continued to lay down his barrage until the Winchester clicked empty for the third time. His .44 came into his hand. He fired two shots and then loaded the rifle as slugs hit the dirt all around him. “They can’t even shoot,” he said as he saw the closest slug kick up dirt over ten feet away. It dawned on him that dawn was coming to the world and soon he would be seen. Replacing the two rounds missing from his .44, he walked calmly to his horse, swung into the saddle, and calmly rode straight away from the shooting down below.
Just as he crested the slope and was heading down the other side, he tossed two shots in the direction of the shacks with the long gun. “Bye.”