Friday, July 2, 2010
Gunnin' for Dodge
Part 2: Hangin' at Mount Hope
March 22, 1837
"Push Charlotte, the baby's startin' to crown," the doctor said as the towering man stood behind him, maintaining stern eye contact with his beloved wife. It could never be said whether his look was one of endearment or intimidation for his wife would die shortly after giving birth. She continued pushing until a tremendous cry was heard, but their was no relief. All of the pain and strain her body was being put through did not quit. Charlotte lifted her head up, she could barely speak, her vocal chords tensed past ability.
The agonized mother was almost blinded by her encroaching destiny. Her heart was giving. Her oldest boy stood his back up in his chair outside. Young IV thought he heard his mother's call. So he poked his head into the room quietly. The towering man knew before the doctor did... She was dying. He threw the doctor out of the way and took his baby. After cutting the chord, Wyatt brought the baby up to Charlotte for her to see. He put the baby's powder white cheek against her red one. And she said with her dying breath, "Name him Marshall."
July 11, 1865
Marshall stands behind a tree in the middle of the West Virginia wilderness. He scans the ground around him, holding his buck knife in his hand, mouthing the words he is repeating in his head. He deems it clear to take a step out from the tree and immediately freezes. A gunshot echoes out. His knife is blown out of his hand. Marshall holds both his hands up. "Okay!" he screams. Ira gets up from the grassy ridge above him and laughs as he glides down the hill towards Marshall. His modified rifle slung over his shoulder. When he reaches Marshall, he is crouched over, retrieving his knife. It is not bent nor broken. "Lucky," Marshall says with Ira leaning over him.
"Luck had nothin' to do with it, Slick"
"Well...you were right..." admitted Marshall.
"Oh yeah? 'bout what?"
"I lost you around the bend....by the time I got here you were just waitin' for me, weren't you"
"You still got some stuff to learn, but I'd say your gettin' the hang of it-"
Just then, Ira draws his revolver at Marshall. Marshall instinctively draws too. No hesitation, unlike the bar in Clifton Forge. But when he sees Ira's finger squeeze the trigger, Marshall leaps out of the way instead of firing his own. An unknown force comes rushing past Marshall, barely missing his back. Marshall watches, helplessly as he falls to the ground. A black bear charges Ira. The bear is not phased by Ira's revolver bullet and tackles him, keeping stride. It runs through Ira but slows down as it prepares to turn around. Marshall races over to Ira and gets him up. He had dropped his rifle in the skirmish. Now dazed and confused, it lay still on the ground as their only means of defeating this monster.
Marshall carries Ira with his arm across his shoulders. There is no way they can make it back to the horses in time. He rolls Ira down in the brush, and stands before the circumventing bear. Marshall pulls out his gun along with his knife. His hands are full. He'll have six shots, when one had already done nothing. They'd have to be straight shots. None of which can afford to miss, or he'll have to pay with his life. The bear roared and charged once again. The longer Marshall waited, the better a chance he would have at hitting his rapidly approaching target. All the shots would have to be at once. He took a breath, and tried to focus on his recent training.
Steady arm. Balanced wrist. Anticipate the backfire.
He unloaded all six shots face to face with the bear and was trampled, just like Ira. But still awake, still aware. He searched around on the floor for his knife. Yards ahead, he saw Ira's sniper rifle, catching a glimmer of the sun in its scope. The bear was shook by the shots and no longer running, but licking its wounds just inches away from Ira. He could feel the presence. Ira's eyes opened, he was still in the forest. The trees above him gave it away. He turned his head over, expecting to see Marshall but found the bear instead. He did not move, but continued to lay still.
Meanwhile, Marshall had recovered the rifle and was on one knee, aiming the sights on the bear. He exhaled and pulled the trigger. The shot rang out like before, but the instances were far from the same. Marshall, for one, was on the other end this time around. The bullet from the sniper broke the bear's spine and it collapsed beside Ira. He sprung up and finished the bear off with a shot in the head. They returned to their horses and made their way back to camp.
Ira had cut the bear up into meat and a skin for Marshall. An award for his first victory. It was getting late, they built a fire and reminisced around it about their eventful day. "Where are we even?" Marshall rebuked.
"You're in Mount Hope," answered an outside voice. Ira and Marshall both drew, but when the figure came out of the shadows, it was revealed that they were both matched by a kid wielding two guns. "There's no way you can get both of us before I get you," informed Ira.
"See...now I have to shoot you first."
Marshall looked around nervously. He recalled his fight with the bear and decided to take a deep breath. His mind cleared and he saw what to do. Marshall put away his gun and pulled a chunk of meat off the fire. "You're welcome to join us" he offered, "there's plenty." The kid, now pointing both his guns at Ira was caught off guard by Marshall's offer. He stood still. Ira did not flinch. The kid looked down at his guns and then over at Marshall by the fire. He holstered them with a flip, a brief flare in Ira's face, and walked over, saying, "What'd ya got?...Bear?" He sat next to Marshall and took another piece, roasting on a stick, out of the fire. Ira slowly approached the fire with his gun still out. He put his foot on the log he was sitting on and rested his revolver on his lap. But it did not matter. The kid was eating like he hadn't any food for days. Marshall looked over to Ira. "Put the gun away, Ace." With those words, Ira lost his predisposition and holstered his weapon. "So what's your name?"
Without letting the mouthful of charred meat stop him, he answered, "Kid Colt."
"I'm Ira, and this is Buck Troy."
"Well...Kid Colt," Marshall continued, eager to move the conversation away from his name, "how do you know this is Mount Hope?"
"It's my home."
"Can't find much food in your own home?"
"The town is my home, not the wild. My mother owns the hotel."
"Why are you out here?" asked Marshall.
"Killed me some deputies. Didn't go over too well with the townsfolk."
Kid Colt looked around for judgmental eyes but found none. These man were different from the other stiffs. They had their own lives, their own problems that they were dealing with. They were not too brash to condemn him for his own misgivings. These kind of men were his people. Kid Colt decided to confide in them, "They're going to hang her if I don't hand myself in."
"You're mama?" verified Ira.
"She done nothin' wrong."
"...and you need our help?"
"That's what it comes down to, yeah. I can't do it alone..."
Marshall stared into the fire, "Why?"
"Why should the life of your mother be any different to us from the lives of wasted deputies?"
Kid Colt stood up. "You watch yourself."
"Slick has a point, kid. Ain't no man without a code. So tell us, Colt...what's yours?"
Kid Colt took some time to gather his thoughts on the question. He decided that the only way to portray his personal code of honor to them, is to tell them his story.
"My daddy died when I was four. I can barely remember him. He left us with nothin'. But god bless my momma, she got us by. It wasn't long until we got the hotel, and became well known in town. And it wasn't until I was sixteen that I found out how we got all of it. The men in that town, the deputies, the shopkeepers, the sheriffs, the mayors, the husbands....the fathers...all had their way with my momma and threw her their money and their pity..." Colt paused a while, in the prevention of tears, and gathered his brave voice back, "I intend to pay each and every one of them back."
"When's the hangin' set for?"
"I have till dawn."
"If we help you...there are a couple of things we must agree upon first," declared Ira.
"What are they?"
"We will not help you burn the town down, only save your mother."
"And you must come with us afterward," interrupted Marshall.
"We're going to Dodge, and putting our past behind us along the way. There we can start fresh, as better men, and you can forget about all this...Come with us, Colt"
Kid Colt did not answer, but just looked at Marshall over the fire, and back over to Ira next to him, still standing on the log. Ira looked over at Marshall as a reflex, after all, this kid didn't seem like trouble, he screamed trouble, but Ira quickly gave way to the notion. He turned back to the kid and said, "We get in and get her out...with as little harm done."
"Agreed," Colt nodded his head, "so we have a deal?"
"We're all yours, kid," Ira granted, "What's the plan?"
"Well judging by the looks of the two of you, we should attack on two fronts..." Kid Colt went on from their for practically the rest of the night. The plan was set. They got a few hours of sleep and slowly rode into town under the fleeting night sky.
June 3rd, 1865
Marshall left his hotel room and put his newly bought duster on. With good timing too, for it was pouring rain outside. It would rain all day, like the heavens were gutted above the earth. He took a stagecoach to the Union Army Graveyard. He walked along the rows of crosses until he made it to one specific grave. He knelt down in the puddling rain and had a look for himself for the first time. The tombstone read, Pvt. Wyatt Kaleb Troy IV. Here marked the death of Marshall's older brother. He had found out by mail some time ago in New York City, while he was still sitting hopelessly in that hollow office. He could not help but recall the fondest memories of his brother growing up.
After their mother had died, IV took a controlling interest in his brother's well-being. Whereas their father was removed from them completely. Always away on business, they were raised by nannies and servants. They grew up together in fear of their father. He was an important man, and seemingly emotionless. That much they knew. To them, as kids, his unseen presence made him more than a man. He was a master of their world, an unexplainable and distant force in their lives. As the years moved on from Marshall's birth and their mother's death, Wyatt became increasingly irate. When Wyatt was home in New York he would frequent the saloons and his own liquor cabinet. IV was old enough to register his father's rage. IV protected Marshall from their father as much as he could. Many times he got in between Marshall and Wyatt's fist. Their father blamed Marshall for his wife's death. Although he would never say so, it was clear, that he wanted Marshall to be responsible for losing his beloved. But their stood IV, constantly in the way, which infuriated Wyatt even more. IV took a great deal of his father's wrath, and never once put the guilt on his younger brother. But over time it changed IV. It turned him into a broken man. And after their childhood ended, Marshall's relationship with his father and brother was never the same.
July 12, 1865
Mt. Hope, WV
The clouds made the night last a little longer before dawn. With enough time, Ira, Marshall, and Kid Colt sneaked into place. Kid Colt ran behind the shops and through the alleyways. The noose was set at the head of town, right before the chapel, hung around a tall oak tree. Ira got into the chapel unnoticed, and made his way up the bell tower. Kid Colt came up from an alley onto Main street and got a good look at the chapel and oak tree. The doors opened and his mother was escorted out, bound and gagged, by two shotguns. It was a parade. Kid Colt took a step out from the shadows and retroactively realized it was a trap. Before he cold raise his guns, he could feel a barrel on his back and hear the cocking of rifles all around him. Kid Colt closed his eyes and dropped his guns, keeping his hands raised. The Sun broke through the clouds. It was dawn.
Colt was escorted to the drop-deck built beneath the noose, where he was reunited with his mother. They hugged and she kissed his cheek as she cried. Kid Colt was forced up the deck to be fitted for the noose. "Don't do this!" screamed Lady MacPherson for her boy. The townsfolk came out as his hands were bound and his neck wrapped. Lady MacPherson cried and hollered, "He gets a trial!" with all her might, to no avail. "Mom!" called Colt. "Mom!" she stopped yelping to heed his last words. "Save your strength," he said to her with a wink, "It'll be okay." Just out of town Marshall mounted his horse. Lady MacPherson dropped to her knees before the drop-deck with the entire community now gathered behind her. The Sheriff, the Mayor, and the Minister all stood, with shotguns, along with Kid Colt on the drop-deck as he was finally prepared for execution. The rope was tight. Deputies stood all around the deck and throughout the crowd. Marshall kicked his horse to full speed as he raced into town. Lady MacPherson cried into her handkerchief, hopeless tears. The Mayor made a sanctimonious speech about being virtuous now, after the war, more than ever. The crowd cheered for him, and his hand reached for the lever. A deputy in the crowd noticed a glimmer from the bell tower. A shot rings out and the Mayor's hand is blown off. The lever gets splattered with blood. Everyone screams and they all run for cover. The deputy lifts up his rifle. The Mayor drops to his knees. Marshall comes up to the oak tree and chapel right behind the deputy. Before the deputy can pull the trigger, Marshall runs his horse past him, grabs his rifle by the barrel, pulls his horse into a turn -around stop, and cracks the deputies head with the butt of the rifle.
The Sheriff and the deputies open fire on Marshall, his horse takes a couple hits and crashes to the ground. In the smoke cloud formed by the kicked up dirt Marshall escapes. Ira finds the noose in his cross-hairs. Lady MacPherson gets up and makes for her boy. Kid Colt looks to run but the sheriff pins his shotgun on him. "Don't make a god damn move, boy."
"If you put your gun down, Guy," Kid Colt permitted, "we'll let you walk outta here alive."
"Ha!" scoffed the sheriff. "'We'!" The sheriff blew the shotgun into the floor below Kid Colt's feet and he fell through. The rope tightened and Ira missed his shot. Marshall jumped into the fleeing crowd and blended right in. Ira reloaded under the window, as he heard "pings" and "cracks" bouncing off the windowsill. They were onto him. His location had been compromised. This is when the regiment would move out, but Ace had to take one more shot. Marshall got over to the drop-deck as Lady MacPherson climbed the four stairs. The Minister aimed his shotgun at her and mumbled, "To hell with you harlot." His finger fell down the trigger as it went limp. Marshall cut into his back with his buck knife, paralyzing him.
The Sheriff pulled his revolver on Marshall as the body dropped. Ira raised his rifle up and aimed out of the window. He swept the deck from the adjacent angle. From his scope the closest he could see was Marshall fending off the deputies, after him was the minister on the floor, barely alive, and Lady MacPherson going for the Minister's shotgun. The Sheriff sets his sights on Lady MacPherson while her son chokes to death behind him. Ira makes his decision and pulls the trigger. The bullet goes through the sheriff's thumb and breaks the gun's chamber from its handle. Marshall jumps off the deck and picks up Colt's legs, releasing his throat for the time being. Thankfully, his neck did not snap on the initial drop. "The knife! Get the knife!" Marshall yelled for Lady MacPherson. Meanwhile, Ira was already making his way downstairs and the rest of the deputies were closing in on the drop-deck. Marshall tried to reach for his revolver, but he was on his toes as it was, trying to keep Kid Colt from choking. "Hold on, kid" Marshall encouraged, "Hold on for you mother."
Lady MacPherson got the knife out of the minister's back with little hesitation. The Sheriff got back up from the impact of his wounded hand, and grabbed her neck with his unharmed hand. She discreetly threw the knife into the shotgun hole in the deck, narrowly missing Marshall's feet. Ira finishes running down the bell tower staircase and out the chapel door. He shoots one more time from his rifle, pinning a deputy in the shoulder, bringing him down, and switches to his revolver. Their backs are turned to him as they all approach the deck. Marshall lets go of Colt, re-tightening the noose around his neck, and goes for his knife. He picks it up, cleans it off, puts it in his mouth, and jumps up, grabbing the splintered deck floor, climbing back up. Ira fires his shots with a generous amount of time in between. Never fatally wounding a deputy. Marshall hustles up the deck and onto the oak tree. He wraps his legs around the branch and starts shimmying his upside-down way over to the hanging rope, but Marshall could not get to him in time. Kid Colt could no longer breathe. Ira was too busy dealing with the deputies to give any aid. His sight was failing, his world to black, and the Sheriff was about to kill his mother.
The plan had failed.
December 31, 1862
New York, NY
Marshall walked out of his office to join his father and his brother for New Years Eve. They were to meet at Trojan Towers. Their company headquarters. Marshall became a doctor out of school, where his older brother, IV took on the family business and was now second in command of Trojan Railroads. When Marshall got to the towers, he found his brother's office to be empty. Fireworks lit up the night outside, and flashed through the towers. Marshall avoided his father's office and went down to the saloon, in one last attempt to find his brother. There he was sitting at the bar with a dirt-torn suit on, holding a nearly empty bottle in one hand and a slip of paper in the other. Marshall sat down next to him. "IV, what's gotten into you?"
"Have a drink, doc. Honor your brother." He poured some of the whiskey into a glass in front of Marshall. He looked at the glass and grabbed the bottle from IV's hand. "To you," he said as he drank from it.
"I'm done, Marshall."
"If I ever see him again...I'll kill'em."
"He's a monster, and I can't...you're...."
"IV, what's goin' on?"
"I enlisted this morning."
"Into the war! Are you mad! He'll never let you get away with it."
"He doesn't know. And as for Freelander, if he comes for me, I'll kill him."
Jebediah Freelander was a government bounty hunter. A free agent of death, and Wyatt Kaleb Troy's right hand man. As the boys entered adulthood, and Marshall went off to school, IV apprenticed for Wyatt. In his tenure he had learned many terrible truths and dark secrets that his father kept. IV uncovered his father's success to be built on the blood and bones of innocent people. One last fact that sealed IV's hatred for him. He could no longer lie.
"But there had to be something? Something more than what we know...something...you're not telling me...IV. What are you not telling me?"
"Mother...our mother, Marshall. She was Pawnee. She was...an injun."
"And that's not all," exhaled IV as his stature dropped in despair. "He killed them...After she died, the women, the children, all of them, he burnt their land to the ground for the railroad....It was his plan all along."
"That can't be. What kind of man could do such a thing?"
"The only reason they met was because of that god damn railroad. It's the only reason he's rich and we're alive. Don't you see little brother? We're his evil incarnate."
"How could he get away with it?"
"Told the courts he had just cause, blaming it on some Black Pawnee named 10 Crows."
"And they bought his story about an indian outlaw?"
"It was no story. 10 Crows is real. Accounts of his robberies and duels are all over Wichita and Dodge. According to the paper, bein' a rebel an' all, he joined up with the confederates, and is fighting in the war. Well I'm gonna go find'em!"
"You're really goin' through with this?"
IV handed Marshall the slip of paper he was holding in his hand. It was an Union Army recruitment stub. He was shipping out tomorrow. The brothers sat in the bar and drank all night.
Marshall walked IV to the docks the next morning. Marshall said good-bye to his brother. "I'm going with you," he said, "you can fight and I can treat."
"Don't be a fool. You need to stay here, Doc" IV hugged his brother and walked out onto the ramp for the ship.
"Who's gonna protect me?"
"You're a grown man now, Marshall. Just remember who you are, not where you're from, and you'll be okay." Marshall shook his head, too upset and overwhelmed to respond. "And Marshall..." IV yelled out from the boat, "Never come after me." He watched his brother sail away south, into the war. In the months to come, Marshall, under pressure from his father, closed his practice, and took IV's place as Vice President of Trojan Railroads.
Marshall would never see his brother again. And by the time he got to him at Appomattox, he had uncovered every mystery and secret in his father's dark life that IV had. Marshall sat by the grave, rehashing all this in his head, and finally mustered up the will to say good-bye to his lost brother, "I might be breaking part of your last words, but I'm here to tell you that I'm devoting my life to the rest." He left the cemetery and his past behind, and began his journey to Dodge.
July 12, 1865
Marshall reached for the rope while hanging onto the tree, but could not get close enough. Kid Colt was dying. Ira finished shooting his revolver and returned to his rifle. He reloaded it and planted his feet. Ignoring the deputies, he lined up a perfect shot. Ira "Ace" Davis iced a bullet through the head of the Sheriff, snapping the noose loose from the tree. Lady MacPherson and her son were released. She immediately ran to his side, as he did not move on the floor. Ira tried to reload as a deputy came up on him, cocking back his pistol. Hanging like a monkey from the tree, Marshall swung around and shot the two remaining deputies. He then jumped down off the tree. And they both made their way over to Kid Colt. "Jimmy! Jimmy!" his mother panicked by his side, "He's not breathing!"
"Step aside, Ma'am" Marshall holstered his gun, passed Lady MacPherson of to Ira, and knelt down before Colt. He checked his breathing by putting his ear up to the kid's mouth. "We need to start compressions,"
"What?" Ira froze.
"Trust me, I'm a doctor" said Marshall. "I used to be..." he muttered as he pounded Colt's chest with his arms repeatedly. "If now was the time, I would explain..." He bent over to check his breathing again when Kid Colt stirred awake. He was okay. "Oh, thank the lord," praised Lady MacPherson as she held her son in her lap and stared at the big yellow sun rising.
Without wasting any time they got Colt up. "We gotta get goin' kid" advised Ira while Marshall got their horses and the Mayor rolled over to his feet. Marshall spoke to him bluntly, "Everyone will be okay if they seek proper medical attention. Everyone except the Sheriff, he's dead. We are taking the kid with us and never coming back here. It'll be your town's best interest to let us go" The befuddled Mayor shook his head speechlessly.
Kid Colt bid good-bye to his mother. She was done crying, and knew this is the way things had to be. She took off her necklace and put it around Colt's neck. It was his father's wedding ring. Kid Colt hugged his mother and mounted his horse. They left before noon. Three horses and plenty of rations from the hotel.
After a couple of hours riding they came across a man on the verge of death. He was too sickly to sit up and was huddled over a rotten corpse of cattle. It was a horrendous sight. Marshall dropped down from his horse and began to set up camp.
"What are you doing?" asked Ira.
"I'm making camp for the night." Kid Colt followed Marshall, getting off his horse, and beginning to unpack. "Guy looks like he could use a nice warm fire, maybe some fresh food and water."
"Another charity....We're gonna be a small army by the time we reach Dodge," Ira groaned.
Marshall woke the starving man, gave him some water, and asked, "What's your name?"
After a drink and a couple coughs, his airy voice answered, "Peyton...my... name is Peyton...Quade"
Ira and Marshall were unaffected by the name, but Kid Colt was flabbergasted. There was no way that he was sitting next to one of the greatest outlaws in the west. This man was a beggar. Just then the man got enough energy to roll over, revealing his black charcoal revolvers. Kid Colt could not believe it, "It is him."
Back in Mount Hope, the Mayor picked the Sheriff's pistol up off of the blood-stained floor and walked over to the hotel. He entered the lobby and without any warning fired three shots into the chest of Lady MacPherson. Kid Colt was too far away to hear the shots that killed his mother, and he wouldn't come to know of her death until it was too late.