Crossing the Long Horizon

Long Horizon

Submit or Fight

Bald William reached behind his wagon’s footboard while keeping his pistol trained on Easterly, Atá Halné, and Esther May. He pulled out a tangle of short ropes, the kind used for hobbles, and shook out two. He held them out to Easterly. “You will tie their hands behind their backs.”

Esther May leaped to her feet screaming like a mountain lion over a kill. She lunged for Bald William, her fingers claws aimed for his eyes.

With nonchalant ease, Bald William leaned aside and swung his pistol. It seemed to Easterly no more than a fly swat. It chunked against the side of Esther May’s head with a hollow gourd-like thud.

Time and motion slowed for Easterly. He saw details: the turn of Bald William’s torso, the blood appearing in Esther May’s hair above her ear, the angry contortions of her face even as she fell.

Atá Halné lunged, a long hunting knife held low, ready for thrusting upward. Where had he gotten it? From his boot? The Navajo was two steps too far away. Bald William recovered and fired. Atá Halné doubled over.

Bald William was still pointing at Atá Halné. He might shoot again.

The palm-sized rock was in Easterly’s hand. He threw it as hard as he could. It glanced off the top of Bald Williams’s shoulder and hit him in the temple knocking off the large sombrero.

In the space of a breath, three people were on the ground. Esther May was groping like a drunk Easterly had seen in Santa Fe. Her limbs were uncoordinated. She couldn’t find leverage to stand. Each struggle to right herself caused a sloppy tumble backward or sideways. Her head drove into the dirt again and again.

Atá Halné dropped his knife. He lay on his side with both hands pressed against his stomach. Moaning and yelping, he acted like an inchworm by drawing his knees up then straightening his legs.

Bald William rolled over on his back. His eyes, under his bushy black brows, were unfocused. He licked his lips and strained to use his left hand to help sit up. Easterly stood with one foot on Bald Williams right wrist pinning the trader’s dreaded gun hand to the ground.

Easterly took the pistol and fired three rounds into Bald Williams’ chest.

What Just Happened?

Easterly had seen it all, was acutely aware of every minuscule detail. He was sure that he was drawing only his second breath since Esther May opened the fight.

Hund had retreated behind a tree. Esther May and Atá Halné each struggled in the dirt. He must take care of his friend first. Easterly dropped the gun and knelt by the Navajo.

“How bad is it?” It was a senseless question. Easterly saw the wet red blood oozing between Atá Halné’s fingers, soaking his shirt, painting the yellow grass.

A long moan from the wounded Indian made the back of Easterly’s neck tingle. Atá Halné’s face scrunched in pain. He opened tear-filled eyes to Easterly. “Kill me.”

Easterly couldn’t answer. He clamped his mouth shut. All that did was make him smell his friend’s lifeblood returning to the earth.

Atá Halné screamed. “Kill me!”

“You’ll be all right, partner. I’ll check on Esther May and be right back.” He knew it was desertion, but Easterly wouldn’t—couldn’t—do what was necessary to ease Atá Halné’s pain.

When Easterly touched Esther May, her thrashing increased. She screamed.

“Esther May, listen to me. It’s OK. No one’s going to hurt you. We’re safe now.” He kept talking to her. It was a struggle to keep his voice low and reassuring. “Breathe in and out. We’re safe.”

She slowly responded.

A shot caused him to jump. Esther May screamed.

Easterly spun around to see that Atá Halné had crawled to the dropped gun and took his pain medicine.

Were they right to fight? Leave a comment.

To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

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