Short stories, Flash fiction, and Novel Excerpts

Coyotes of Cheyenne

In Writing on December 11, 2009 at 12:51 am

Shawn hobbled his horse to the fence rail. He rubbed the dappled gelding on the nose, and stepped up to the gate; straightening his coat while the youngling, still between hay and grass, shuffled his way over.

“Mister,” the youth greeted. “What can I do you to?”

“This still the McConnell place?”

“Yeah, been a hard year but the boss is keeping it up,” the boy looked around proudly.

“Good. He around? I gotta a dicker for ‘im,” Shawn said pulling a copper from his pocket.

The youth looked up at him narrowed eyed, “He know ya?”

Shawn smiled, “Yeah, we been through the mill a time or two.”

He flipped the coin to the boy, “I’ll wait right here. Just tell ‘im Shawn is here to see ‘im.”

Catching the coin the boy inspected it in his palm, nodded, and shuffled off to the house.

Shawn turned around, leaning up against the rails, and chucked his horse under the chin. He looked south, the setting sun to his right, and squinted at the plume of dust coming from the road. They’d be here in a few minutes whoever they are, he thought.

Two men rode up at a canter, reining to a harsh stop. No call to treat a horse that way, Shawn thought, shaking his head. While the men dismounted, he opened his poke and rolled a cigarette. Tobacco and paper danced between his stained fingers. Striking the match with a worn cracked thumbnail Shawn lit the smoke between his lips, taking what could be his last drag.

The men looked as rough as they treated their horses; unwashed hair hung in strings, faces that hadn’t seen a razor in weeks, and ragged dusters in sore need of patching. One of the men was missing the little finger on his left hand and the other had a long purple scar running from temple to chin, just missing his eye.

Scar-face stepped forward and asked, “You a McConnell?”

“Aye, that I am,” Shawn answered. “What can I do fer ya?”

Lefty guffawed and slapped Scar-face on the back, “Dude,” he said sneering. “You can start by paying your share of the insurance on this here grange.

Shawn kept his face smooth, but switched the cigarette to his left hand, keeping the other free for his Model-P, and asked, “I hadn’t been here for quite some time, just what does the insurance cover, hmm?”

Lefty leaned forward, tipped his hat back, and demanded, “Cover? You got me balled-up boy! That what they say back in the Old States er somethin’?”

Scar-face didn’t say anything, but he flipped his duster back, showing he was heeled. So that’s how they want this to play-out, Shawn thought. He stepped away from the fence stopping a couple paces short of the pair.

“Yeah, that’s what we say back East,” he told the blowhard. “You know which direction that’s in?”

“You need ta pull in your horns there boy,” Scar-face said, dropping his hand to the butt of his gun.

Lefty crossed his arms over his chest a smirk playing at the corners of his mouth. “You can start by handing over the reins of that crow-bait there by ya,” he said.

“I’d take it as a kindness if you wouldn’t talk about my horse that way,” Shawn said, lowering his hand to his pistol.

Lefty shook his head, “That there is our horse now. Best you just step away.”

Shawn didn’t move, didn’t blink, just watched Scar-face’s fingers from his peripheral.

Lefty frowned, demanding, “You hear me boy? I said step away.”

Scar-face’s thumb twitched and Shawn turned to the side as he drew and fired twice, feeling something tug at his shoulder. Through the haze of gun smoke he saw Scar-face fall into a crumpled heap. Shifting his stance, he brought his sights to bear on Lefty—who struggled to pull his iron.

“Stand down Mister,” Shawn said. “No more killin’s needed.”

Lefty froze then slowly looked up into Shawn’s eyes. “You killed my brother. I can’t let it stand at that,” he said, pulling his gun free. And fell to the dust beside his brother.

“What in Hell-fire is going on here?” Shawn heard a voice yell. “Not back ten-minutes an already cause’n trouble.”

“They tried to take my horse Danny,” Shawn said turning to face his brother and six other men armed to the teeth.

I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have. –Thomas Jefferson

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