After a week off, I'm back with the Friday Flash Fiction crew. As I've said previously, I view FFF as a chance to get back into the groove and also to try out new stuff. Speaking of new stuff, check out this week's installment. I hope y'all like westerns.
Moment of Vengeance
In matters of life and death, one could not forever rely on the judgment of his fellow man. Augustus Poole removed the bandanna from his captive's mouth and slapped him hard. When he didn't respond, Augustus dunked his metal cup into the barrel of water and threw it in the man's face. He awoke with a spurt and a sputter. The captive squinted his beady eyes at Augustus and said, "You've got some nerve. Do you know who I am?"
"Do you know who I am?"
The captive turned his head and spat, never moving his eyes from Augustus's face. "I can tell you are a God fearing man. Do you really think you'll get to heaven with my blood on your hands?"
Augustus said, "As it says in the Bible, 'And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.' You have been judged guilty, Mr. Scott. And I am going to mete out your punishment."
Marshall Zeke McCoy pushed his hat back and wiped beads of sweat from his forehead. Unscrewing the lid of his canteen, he took a swig of water. He sat tall in the saddle and wore a bushy mustache and guns on both hips. Years of staring out onto the plain with the sun and harsh wind gave him a permanent squint and weathered face of a man much older than his own twenty-eight years. He shifted his weight to keep the blood flowing to his legs. He had to be ready for action at any moment.
McCoy and his Apache guide had been tracking Augustus Poole all day and felt they were close to the end. Word came to McCopy early that morning at Fort Bowie that Poole had kidnapped Rupert Scott and was planning to kill him.
"Jesus," McCoy said, startled. Even high on the bluff with no cover nearby, he hadn't seen or heard Kaywaykla approach. The Chiricahua knew this land like the back of his hand. "You found him?"
Kaywaykla nodded his head, "A small shack about a half mile from here. Best to go on foot."
McCoy dismounted and tied the reigns of his horse to a nearby mesquite bush. He pulled his Winchester from the saddle and said, "Let's go."
The path was fairly straight, but it was on the side of the bluff. Loose gravel underfoot made the going slow and treacherous. McCoy didn't want to end up sliding into the ravine below. His sweat plastered his woolen shirt to his broad back. Kaywaykla abruptly put up his hand and pointed a gnarled finger ahead. McCoy could see a small shack up ahead. It was a simple structure of clapboard walls backed by a large stone wall. The only opening in the front was the door, but there were several wide slats in the walls that someone could put a gun through.
McCoy motioned to Kaywaykla and the Apache moved farther down the ridge. McCoy climbed down to the land below and walked toward the shack. He stood next to a large boulder and shouted, "Augustus? I know you're in there and I know you have Scott. Why don't you hand him over to me and we'll take him to see the judge."
"Sounds like the law's here."
Augustus glared at his captive. "You do not speak unless I've given you permission to speak."
He went over and opened the door and carefully stood to one side. He said, "Marshall? Is that you?"
"Yes, it's me, Gus. Come out here and we can talk this over."
Augustus shook his head, "There's nothing to talk about, Marshall. This man is guilty and he must be punished."
"He will be punished," said McCoy, "according to the law. If he's found guilty by a jury of his peers, he will be hanged."
Augustus's lip curled and he sneered, "This man has no peers. He is a drunk and a scoundrel and a thief. What difference does it make if I punish him or if you do?"
"That's not the way we do things, Gus, and you know that. I know what he did to Annabelle. I know what he did to your daughter and I understand how you must feel."
"You have no idea how I feel." He removed the poker he had laying in the coal stove. Its tip glowed red and white hot. "Listen very carefully, Marshall. You're about to hear what justice sounds like."
McCoy heard the scream and knew he had lost. He raised the Winchester and sighted at the front door and fired three shots. He heard Augustus shout, "I know now that you are on the side of the demons, Marshall. After I'm done with Scott, I shall punish you for interfering in the Lord's work."
"Shit," McCoy muttered. He whistled and saw Kaywaykla poke his head over the ridge to the left. "Remember what he did in Contention last July?"
Kaywaykla nodded and his head disappeared back over the ridge. McCoy took cover behind the large boulder and sat down. The sun was starting to set over the plain, casting its orange glow over the red and yellow sand. This must be where the locals got their inspiration for their magnificent sand paintings.
Just as dusk was setting in, McCoy heard an Apache war cry and stood up behind the boulder. He saw Kaywaykla running at the shack and sighted the Winchester at the front door. Kaywaykla approached the shack from the left and hurled a flaming torch onto the roof which burst into flames.
An eternity seemed to pass while the shack was consumed. McCoy loosened and tightened his grip on the stock of the rifle. Come on, Augustus. You don't want to die in there.
Just when he thought all hope was lost, the door burst open and Augustus came running out. McCoy aimed and shot Augustus in the shoulder and Augustus spun and fell into the dirt. McCoy put the rifle down, drew one of his revolvers, and ran toward the shack. Augustus lay on the ground, writhing in pain.
McCoy looked up and saw Kaywaykla carrying the limp body of Rupert Scott out of the burning house. The Apache nodded his head, indicating that the outlaw was still alive.
McCoy pointed his revolver at Augustus Poole and said, "I wish you'd let me take care of this. Now the two of you are going to hang together."