Saturday, March 20, 2010
Gunnin' for Dodge
Part 1: Reconstruction
June 2nd, 1865
New York, NY
"END OF THE CIVIL WAR" the paper read, falling to the desk. "How many times do you have to read it, before you can believe it?" asked the towering man in the shadowed corner.
"Just once," answered Marshall, "Just once, pop."
His father walked out, leaving his presence behind to further infect Marshall. He sat back down and grabbed the paper, pinning it up to his eyes to read again. The ink spilled to red and blew out of Marshall's nerves. In a sudden, wild rage he crumbled the newspaper into his palms, and threw it into the wall. Blistering fireworks over the Manhattan isle illuminated the office, and Marshall's eye caught a different headline, an unread headline. He picked the paper back up, ripped out the article, stuffed it into his pocket, and pulled out stationary. He quickly wrote a letter, put it in an envelope, and addressed it to, "PRESIDENT & CEO of Trojan Railroads: Wyatt Kaleb Troy III"
Marshall Troy left the note on his desk, and his office never to return. He boarded the Boston Post Railway, and took the 8:00 PM Trojan Bullet Express Train to Appomattox, VA...
The tents stood pointlessly around the town. He leaned over, picked up the rest of his bags, and stopped laughing. The men were tired. His corporal, Peter Walker was lying in the cot next to his empty one. Allowed to keep laughing by his tightly made bed. Ira's time was up. Even though he was one of the only ones who wanted to stay, he was the one who was leaving. "Well good luck, Sarge" the corporal said in a bitter slight. After all that war, four years of bloodshed and death, he had to move on when the rest of them had to stay on security detail. The war was over. The sniper column was finished, but not dissolved. Ira Davis was discharged from the 1st Battalion New York Sharpshooters; mustered out of his home amongst the Charlie Company. He carried away a severance pay hefty enough to fund a deep journey into the west. He would only take with him from the camp a New York Times newspaper and his modified rifle.
"Ten dollars," said the grizzly old man.
"I'll take it." Ira handed him the money and mounted the horse. He slipped his long rifle into a slot on the side of the horse and fixed his hat. Ira looked around. The war was finally over. He left Appomattox and began the ride west to his new homestead.
Lee's Summit, KS
Winfield threw the empty bottle against the wall. He kicked his unpolished boots onto the sheriff's desk. A loud burp and a scratch of the chin, made it official, no one cared. In the early morning there was a fire that burned down the schoolhouse, but no one got the sheriff. "Wild Card" Cass had no deputy, had no friends. But he did have the town's fear and respect. A wayward gang came into town. "Mad Dog" McCreedy got off his horse and told his crew to pillage and burn. They howled and they cackled, forty men in black hats and armed holsters, firing their guns into the air and throwing windows into pieces.
The townsfolk hid, even the men. Most of the posse ended up in the saloon getting drunk. Wild Card Cass walked out of his door ready to light a cloth that was sticking out of a whiskey bottle. The townsfolk watched the crazed old man carrying the torch. He walked down the street and straight into the saloon. A loud flash and ruckus blew flames all around. Almost every member of Mad Dog's gang hit the floor. He had blown the entire bar up. Wild Card walked out of the inferno as calmly as he walked in. Mad Dog McCreedy came barreling out after him. Without any warning he drew his gun and fired on Wild Card. The drunken sheriff dropped to one knee ducking the bullet, swung around, pulled out his pistol holstered on his left hip, and fired on crying Mad Dog McCreedy. The bullet blew back his head. What was left of his crew that got themselves out of the saloon and were able to put the flames out on their backs, ran out of town in a frantic haste. They wanted no part of a man with the force of a god. Meanwhile Wild Card was laughing and coughing as he brushed the soot off his open vest. There, embedded in the sandy floor, was a bottle from the dying saloon. He picked the bottle up and wiped the label clear. It was bourbon, the good stuff. Wild Card Cass looked back one more time and walked away from the burning saloon. While passing the onlooking school teacher he popped open the bottle of bourbon and said, "Eye for an eye" before he started taking down the bottle's contents in several bulk gulps. It was empty before he returned to his door.
Mt. Hope, WV
The cell door slammed closed. "What's your name, boy" the deputy asked. The room was quiet. The kid looked at the deputy but did not answer. "I said....what's your name?"
The deputy stared at the top of his hat as Colt avoided eye contact, kickin' dirt on the floor.
"You can't be older than fourteen-"
"What... the hell... does it matter?"
The deputy held his gun belt in the air to attract his attention, shaking it softly, luring his eyes.
"You're Lady MacPherson's kid."
"Don't you say my momma's name."
"What's the matter, scared I've said it before?"
"I'll kill you."
The deputy punched his palm in phony outrage. Colt didn't move, but sat in the center of the bench, calmly resting his shackled arms behind his back. The deputy opened the cell door to teach the kid a lesson. But directly after a turn of the key opened the lock, Colt kicked off the bench, rolled back, slipped his arms under his legs, and bounced off the wall at the guard. As the deputy dropped the prisoner's belt and tried to draw his own pistol, the kid's collision brought them both to the floor. In a scramble he sprung back up, pinning the deputy face-down with his knees, and throttled his neck with his shackles. "Bill?" a deputy in the other room called, "Everything alright in there?" Colt was busy fiddling with the keys to get his restraints off. But the door was already opening, so he abandoned the keys, slid across the floor, swooping his guns up, and kicked the door open all the way, gun's a blazin'. The first three rounds he fired off, right, left, right... all hit the same target, the deputy who had called out. Three more bullets ...left, right, left, capped off the remaining two officers in the jailhouse. He fired them with both arms crossed, the left one under the right one.
When Colt went back into the cell room to get the key and his belt, the original deputy was coming-to on the floor. "Who...who are you?"
Jimmy MacPherson took his time with his answer. He un-cuffed his shackles, put on his belt, and reloaded his pistols as the deputy crawled back to the far wall inside the cell. He swung his guns around, following him inside, and holstered one, leaving his right gun out. It was a point blank stance. The tip of the barrel, still warm with resonated heat from the previous gunfight, blistered the feint deputy's forehead. His thumb cocked the .44 Colt Dragoon back...
"The name's Kid Colt..."
"And I'm only sixteen."
He did not fire, but knocked the deputy across the face with the handle of his gun. Kid Colt ran out of the Sheriff's Office laughing. An agent of mayhem...
Outside Wichita, KS
The horses pounded hard against the dry sand. The storm around them was caused by them. A fleeing tornado of disturbance. The posse did not stop or slow. The loads on the horse's backs were heavy. Large bags stuffed with the coins and bills from the Wichita Bank. But they ceased to quit. They could not stop for they were being followed. The hunting party had been on them since Dodge, and they had wasted all the time they could robbing the bank. There was no getting away from them now. It was time for Peyton to defect. He looked across at his partner in crime, Charlie "Slaughterhouse" Slater, and did not say a word. A betrayal brewing that would not be forgotten. This had been coming for a while. Peyton hated himself. With a jerk, he pulled his horse off course and made a run for it. He spent two days on his own before he went into a town.
When he got there he entered the Saloon, desperate for a drink. The bartender asked him, "What can I get ya?" as he polished a mug with his towel. "Some of the good stuff," said Peyton as he threw down five crisp bills. The bartender fixed him the drink, collected the tab, but upon seeing the amount, looked over at Peyton. He recognized him in an instant. He ought to have, for Peyton had just been part of a bank job across the street not a month ago. "You're....B........b..b........" The bills slipped out of his hand and parachuted to the sticky floor. "You're Blackheart Quade."
"I'm not here to make trouble. I just want a drink." The bartender calmed down and picked the money back up with his jittery hands. Peyton slugged back the glass of whiskey and let the warm quench drown down his throat. He closed his eyes and pretended, for a second, that he wasn't one of the most wanted outlaws in the west.
Clifton Forge, VA
There were four men in the quiet saloon of Clifton Forge.
"What are you doin' here?" the bartender asked the one standing before the bar.
"I came to get my money back," declared Ira Davis, "and I ain't leavin' without my hat."
The man sitting at the edge of the bar kicked back his chair and drew his gun. Ira jousted back and the crack of his gun's fire was already sounding off. The man fell to the ground before he could pull the trigger. Ira walked over to him and knelt down, "Look's better on me anyways." He took off the dead man's hat and placed it back on his head. It was a new black hat with a brown leather lace around it. As he searched his pockets for the money owed to him, the bartender took a shotgun out from underneath the bar. It seemed to be already cocked as he held it up, ready to fire, and crept up on Ira.
Marshall Troy was the only other person in the saloon. Silently sitting in the corner, watching this whole ordeal go down. Marshall had unknowingly wandered up here from Appomattox, paralleling Ira's path, trying to pave a road of his own, while staying far enough away from the railroads. He had gotten himself lost almost immediately. It felt good not being known or noticed. His prestige and fame was finally gone. He was on his way to rebuilding his life. Marshall stood up and apprehensively went for his gun. Both the bartender and Ira looked up at Marshall. Ira realized the bartender was plotting to blast him away with a shotgun and acted. He reached up, over the bar, grabbed the bartender's head, pulled it down, and slammed it against the wood of the bar. Ira heard the bartender's body hit the floor as he shook the loose hairs from his hand. He put the coins he pillaged in his pocket and stood up, brushing off his coat sleeves.
"You stealin' that money?" asked Marshall, his gun now drawn.
"You gonna shoot me for it?"
"I'm claiming what is rightfully mine." Ira walked around to the other side of the bar and Marshall approached it, holstering his sidearm. Ira poured two shots of whiskey and left the bottle open right next to them. They both drank the whiskey. Marshall choked and coughed.
"What're you doin' out here, city boy?" asked Ira.
"Is it that noticeable?"
"I smelled it when I walked in..." They both laughed and Marshall poured two more shots and took both of them, back to back, "I'm lookin' for a fresh start," he said in an empty breath. Marshall pulled out the newspaper article he took from his office and tried to flatten it on the bar counter.
"You're goin' to Dodge," Ira said before he even had a chance to read it.
"I thought it's as far west you can go without hittin' California."
"And now that the war's over, where else can you get payed to shoot a man?"
"You're headed out that way too?"
"I was thinkin' about it, before I got caught up in all this..."
"Gamblin'...You see...I never miss my mark..."
"Is that right? What's your name cowboy?"
"Sergeant Ira Davis, Union Army, Sharpshooter Division."
"That's a mouthful."
"And you are?"
Marshall looked around for inspiration to think of an alias. He could not let anyone know his true identity and risk leaving a trail for his father to find. He noticed his hunting knife, strapped to the other side of his belt. "Buck..." he said, "Buck Troy."
"Well Buck, I'll make it easy for you. You can call me Ace."
"...because you never miss."
"Ha. That's right Slick," laughed Ira. They had another shot of whiskey each. "It can be a rough ride to Dodge, even if you're an experienced rider," Ira explained, "You're gonna go a couple days at a time without a bed or fresh water."
"I know. I'm ready for it."
"What do you say we ride together? You watch my back, and I'll show you how to watch it right."
"You said you're from the Sharpshooter Division?"
"For three and a half years."
"I was goin' to leave after this drink."
"Might want to make it a couple more," suggested Ira as he poured two more shots.
"What are we waitin' for?"
Three deputies and the sheriff rode to the saloon and dismounted their horses.
"Them..." answered Ira as he took his shot, picked up the bartender's cocked shotgun, and ducked down behind the bar, slowly making his way to the front door.
Marshall pulled out his gun, kicked a table over, and got behind it. When the first deputy walked in, Ira held his breath. The other two deputies walked in behind him. Ira rolled out from behind the bar, and barked, "Hey!" The deputy closest to him turned around and caught a shotgun shell in the chest. As the deputy's body hit the ground, Marshall stood up and fired his pistol at the other two deputies turning around. The bullet blew off one of their ears, and Ira cocked back the shotgun. He tried to fire it but it was empty. Marshall fired another shot and missed, but before the last deputy could shoot him, Ira flipped the shotgun around and swung it into the unsuspecting deputy's face. The other deputy writhed on the floor in pain and cupped his missing ear. The sheriff walked in slowly. He spat on the floor as he got in Ira's face. "You killed one of my men," he said. Ira let the shotgun slip out of his hands. "We don't want any trouble," Ira tried to explain.
"It's too late for that..." the sheriff said coldly as he unbuckled his holster, "Get out of my town." Ira and Marshall went to leave but there the sheriff stayed in the doorway. "We're not going anywhere, are we?" asked Marshall.
"Don't look like it," said Ira as he drew his gun. But it was knocked out of his hand by the sheriff before he could fire it. The sheriff then lunged at Ira but was blown back. The handle of Marshall's buck knife was sticking out of his chest as he fell to his knees, exhaling his last breath.
Marshall pulled out his hunting knife and wiped it off before he put it back on his hip. Ira finished off the bottle of whiskey and took another bottle to go. "We better get out of this town before there's no one left."
Marshall stood frozen, too shocked at his own actions to move, "Back in the city, I would be hung for this."
"We might be if we stay any longer. Come on, let's go..." The two of them gathered their stuff and left the saloon. Before Ira left he caught a glimmer of the sheriff's badge. He ran back, pulled it off the lifeless body, and put it in his pocket. Something inside him made Ira feel like he would need the sheriff badge in the future. He laughed and shook his head, then he got back up to leave. When he got outside, Marshall was already on his horse. He gave Ira a look and asked, "Do I want to know?"
Ira once again laughed and shook his head. They left Clifton Forge never to return and began their ride to Fort Dodge.