Trench was stacking stones from a cleared field. Bone breaking but honest. His older sister Abby, stood in the sun and did what sisters do well. Cried a bit, then stopped, then cried some more. “Their young, impetus and they had you as an Uncle.”
“Look Sis I told you and the boys, them days where done. No more ridding the range looking for somebodies war to fight. This is my life.” And he waved his arm at the worn out horse and plough. The sun was high in the heavens. And the sweat poured off him like an overworked panhandle mule.
He looked at her and thought about the boys. They had ridden away with the immortality cloak of youth. Heading for Largo. The latest boomtown north of Silver City. Laughed at him when he said be careful. “Come with us Uncle Jim.” was their reply. We’re going to strike it rich” Trench had thought about going. Largo was a silver mining town and mining towns had graveyards full of drunks, fools and young immortals. But Josh and his friend Matt needed some growing to do or they would never be happy pushing a plough.
“They know you there, Uncle Jim. They know maybe, your name.”
“No, nobody knows a sodbuster called Trench.” Matt and Josh looked disappointed but Trench helped them pack and sent them off, on their way. Abby, Josh’s Mum was not so happy.
“They have to go. It’s what men gotta do.”
“They’re not men. Their just boys.”
Trench had no answer to that.
Now just dead boys. The rider came in hot and fast kicking up a twister of dust.
The screaming brought Trench running in from the fields. Gunned down in a bar in Largo. Called some slicker out and paid the price. Largo Sherriff said it was a fair fight. They wanted someone, kin, to come and pick up the bodies.
“They’ve been murdered and you could’ve stopped it.”
Trench held her. “People die, Sis. It’s the way it is. In a bar. In a storm. In a field of stones.
“But they were only boys.”
“Sis I’ll bring them back. And if it turns out there was a helping hand. I’ll deal that deck when I come to them.”
Abby just said “I’m coming to.” Abby looked at him and he knew there was no going back.
“You know what’s going to happen.”
“Yes, evil men will die. It’s the way it is.”
Sometimes Trench worried about Abby. She was a fine looking widow. But men were put off by the hardness.
Then Trench went and got the tools of a forgotten trade. Well-oiled and well used. A Walker Colt. Big, heavy, but when you hit something they stayed hit. Last was a Winchester 92. Kept them well-oiled and in fine trim. A gun was a just tool. And needed tending and caring. As much as a horse or a wife.
Work as a regulator involved killing and these where the tools of the trade. He could clear the 15 inches needed to point and shoot the Walker Colt. And Trench didn’t miss.
Lesson number one from a master. You pull a pistol, goddamn, you better hit the target every time. Trench had been taught by the best shooter in the business.
Trench and Abby took the wagon and headed for Largo. Largo was a boom and bust town. As soon as the silver ore ran out. It would slide away. Buried by history. But for now, it was a magnet, for every card sharp, grifter and dandy pistolero for miles around. Dumb ass miners losing their shirts at the tables. And their pants to the sporting ladies. The big beasts of the saloons just ate them up and spit them out. Brain dead from drink they headed back to the hills to mine for more ore to sell, spend and lose. A never ending circle. Only interrupted by a one-way trip to boot hill.
Trench stood at the bar and watched Farargo through the long mirror, sitting, playing cards, Trench had no pistol. Met at the town border by a reception committee. Every man entering the boom town had his pistol taken away. Returned when he left. A new, keep the peace order from the Sheriff. Trench had a weak beer in front of him as Farargo studied him from his table. Three companions just sitting dealing cards. All very innocent like. The bar keep was cleaning glasses, looking nervous and kept glancing at Farargo.
“Trench, it is Trench,” Farargo said, raising his voice over the piano player plonking away in the corner. The unmusical sound quickly died away, as the sporting girls fled upstairs. A built-in bad weather warning system. Developed to go with their lusty trade. They say, prairie dogs scarper just before a storm or a quake. Must run in the blood. Thought Trench. He had dealings with Farargo. Had ridden with him. Should have killed him. Didn’t, regretted it now. If ever a man deserved killing, it was John Delfone Farargo. Born bad, lived bad and without any doubt, will die bad.
With his pistol taken at the edge of town. Trench felt as naked, as a Godless sporting whore. In a Bible thumping revival meeting. Trench didn’t think he’d get shot in the back. But then again, this was the Boom Boom West. And a lot of folk, of various honest persuasions, tended to die very quickly. While looking in the wrong direction. Trench drank slowly and watched the sweat gather on the bar keeps mop head, then drip down his face. He knew Bonehead. One of Farargo’s crew. So he must have the town all tied up tighter than a Comanche slave.
Trench turned, elbows on the bar, to check out the opposition. Farargo was sitting at a gaming table in the middle of the room. He had three confused looking gentlemen sitting with him. Nervous gaming players. There for show. With no stake in a pistol fight. But, thought Trench, in a shootout everyone ends up wearing a target. The tables around him where full of the Farargo twisted brand. Loyal drunken members, of the Farargo back shooting fraternity.
“Yea, it’s me. Been a long time. When was the last time we rode together? The Castaic Hills feud?”
“Yea, damn thing is still running. Jenkins is as crazy as that other mad gopher “Old Man Chormicle.”
“You and the boy’s cash out then,”
“You betcha, getting to dangerous and to crazy, even for us, professionals.”
And he waved around the room to show just how many professionals he was talking about.
Trench counted nine and a one more hovering on the stairs. Farargo smiled and stroked his flowing blond beard. Trench knew some of them. Canada Bob, Mad Jack Howling, Turn Coat Blue, Reefer McGrantin. Back shooting killers, everyone. The rest looked like wannabe flotsam, picked up in a bad canyon flash storm. Rash itchy on the trigger. Looking to make that name. The name the world would read about in a New York Dime Novel. Farargo sure knew how to pick these fools.
“Now here, it’s still crazy. But it’s our kinda of crazy. No gun problems, as all hardware is taken at the town’s boundary by the local committee.”
Trench got a nasty feeling this was a flowing threat. Farargo followed it up by placing Trench’s Walker Colt on the table. Then flicked his coat to show his Town Sheriff tin star.
Farargo continued, “As the Law, we are duty bound to carry hardware.”
Trench just smiled. Thought, Wolves in Tin Star clothing. Trench turned back to the bar. But continued to watch Farargo through the long polished mirror.
Said, “I just came to pick up the remains of my nephew and his friend. And take him home for burial with their Kin. Know anything about what happened.”
“Knew you’d come. As soon as they started running their mouths off about their great Uncle Jim Trench. That’s when they got plugged. They squealed for mercy when then got done. Squealed to the wrong people. Called me and my compadres, cheats.”
“And you’re still a cheat.” Trench said looking at the mirror.”
“Now that aint a nice thing to say to an old range companion.”
“I should have killed you back in California.”
“Now is your time Uncle Jim. You are gonna be given a sporting chance. Aint that right boys.”
The boys laughed.
Trench knew most of these tinhorn flotsam couldn’t shoot straight, if their life depended on it. It was difficult to hit anything unless you trained very hard and every day.
Back shooting required no such finesse.
“I’ve always been meaning to ask, Trench. About the Crossing. Is it true you where the Kid at the Crossing. I hear, the way it went was, Old man Trench was blasted by the Randall’s gang. Then this Kid, comes out of nowhere, shooting like an Apache. How many got it that day, five, six or seven.”
“It was seven including the Indian,” said Trench, to nobody in particular
“But that was a long ways back. You don’t look the age.”
“Honest living, Farargo. You should try it sometime.”
“Well, this is where honest living and small talk, parts company. Give him a gun Bonehead.”
Bonehead smacked a big Walker Colt on the bar.
“Never knew why you like that there pistol. It’s too big and too heavy. And takes an age to clear before you can start shooting.”
Trench drank some beer. “It works for me.” Trench looked at the gun on the counter and then Bonehead. A tame pistol, 6 caps light.
As soon as he picked it up, the Gatling effect would come into play. As ten shooters would start peppering the bar. All lousy shots but someone was bound to hit home, in that hail of flying lead.
The rustle of a petticoat broke the silence as a lady entered the bar. She stood serenely taking in the scene. A tall good looking gal with a white bonnet and an odd looking parasol down by her side. The shock on the faces of Farargo’s crew was the signal for Trench to start moving. Sliding over the bar and smacking Bonehead with his fist. All that rock busting coming good as Bonehead went down like the sack of shit he really was. Under the counter lay the saloons Parker Coach shotgun and a loaded six shooter Remington. The doubled barrel Parker blasted the Cowboy off the stairs and the first Remington shot blew a hole through Canada Bob’s head.
Abbey Trench’s odd parasol had turned into a smoking Winchester 92 working overtime. Trench continued emptying the Remington into the Farargo flotsam as everybody dived for cover. Then stood, as the Kid from the Crossing went through Farargo’s crew with her Winchester like a wheat scythe. Abby had taught Trench to shoots just like she had been by their Dad. Every shoot struck home. Anybody that went for a pistol got drilled. Including the few that just twitched. Farargo slumped dead over the table a confused look still on his face. As his poker hand of Kings turned into a busted flush. His three gambling companions sat frozen and bolt upright as the bullets whistled around them. The spent shells bouncing of the wooden floor. The Kid from the Crossing, once again was doing the work of the Lord. Smiting Evil. She shot them in the back as they tried to run. She shot them with arms outstretched in surrender. Turn Coat Blue kneeled and begged her for forgiveness. But The Kid from the Crossing was beyond reach beyond mercy. As she shot him between the eyes. Trench tracked the terrified bystanders with his Remington as they fled from this vision of sweet pure hell. Then the petticoat rustled again as she bent over Farargo and took his Tin Star. And threw it with disgust behind the bar.
Trench thought, with the heavy gun smoke and the bandana, people had seen what they wanted to see, that night at the Crossing.
It will be the same here. Buntline will get his Gunfighter Dime story and there will be nary a mention of petticoats.
“It was eight.”
Abby looked wearily at him. “At the Crossing that night. Eight if you include the Indian. Now let’s get Josh and Matt and go home. I’m getting sick and tired of killing worthless godless vermin.”