My epic revenge western novel.
The two orphaned children sit alone, rocking back and forth, forever united by the forces that tore their lives apart.
The fields are burning. Embers light fires that spread through the corn. Shades of fresh ash billow upward before joining their predecessors upon land stained gray.
The man turns toward John. Dead eyes lock upon their pray. The two men’s hands drop to their sides and close around their weapons. Fingers tighten against trigger.
Alexander draws a pistol from his belt and lays it beside the black revolver that rests atop the casket’s unpainted surface. The slide of metal on cloth, steel on wood reaches Prince.
He raises the knife to the boy’s throat. The jagged steel touches skin. “You know what this is?” The child nods. “Did you see me?” The child shakes his head. “Good.”
Prince scans each of their faces. He turns back to the giant before him. Both men tighten their grips on the weapons they hold. “We really going to do this?” “No choice.”
“You’re a liar.” “They’re dead, John!” The Tall Man screams, “They’re all dead!” John reaches for his revolver.
“And you think killing a few will end the slaughter? Violence only begets violence.” “Someone has to try.” “But why you?” Jed asks, “Why you, John?” “Because I was chosen.”
“Bless you, Father.” Peter smiles as he bows his head. The child below him grasps his finger in its deformed hand. He strokes its cheek. “Yes, the Lord has.”
The man in the suit edges closer. The barrel of The Tall Man’s gun digs deep into him. His blade slides slowly across the Rider’s throat. A thin line trails, just enough.
“I do not understand his will.” “I do not understand his will.” “But I accept it.” “I accept it.”
"I can hear you breathing.” The Tall Man remains silent, hidden by shadows that lie beyond the lamp's reach. “Whatever you’ve come to say or do, say or do it.”
"Do you believe in evil, Father?" Maxwell leans forward to match her stare. "I do."
Robert and Jesse enter the dining hall. Ben follows close behind. They dress well in clothes clean and pressed. Father Gabriel sits before an extended table. Peter stands beside him.
Peter steps from his podium and gestures towards the family. "Come now, my children, we must wash you. Wash you so that sin shall flee. Wash you in the waters of the Lord."
Peter stands on the stage, the child between him and his enemy. His eyes shine dark. He lets out a shrieking laugh as John nears. "That's far enough, one more step and I bleed him."
“You ought to get out more, Varlyn. Enjoy yourself. Who knows when this is all going to end?”
The men sit in silence. Jack speaks with voice slick and taunting, as though a laugh could rise from his throat at any moment. "I killed them. You know that, right?"
“You can’t change what’s coming.” “What’s coming?” With a snap the handcuff on John’s left wrist swings open. Sunlight glitters upon cold steel. “Death.”
"I want you to teach me." “Teach you what?” “To shoot. To fight. I’m going to hunt him.” “You can’t.” “I will.”
John can hear Paul cough at night. It goes on for minutes without pause. John closes his eyes to pretend he doesn't notice but the sound goes on and on, filling the house.
Barrow's hands close around the hanging chain. With a yank the bulb blazes to life and light floods the hallway. From the kitchen John emerges, his revolver already drawn. “Hello, Daniel.”
“We all sin." “But not all are damned, son.” John tips his hat to the salesman and sets on down the road, not pausing as he bids his adieu. “Not all, but some.”
“You’re an animal.” The Tall Man licks his lips and smiles. Blood pools underneath his fingers. “That I am, John, that I am.”
“You got a lot of wounds, John, many recent,” she says, poking her patient with the tip of her finger, “You still feel pain, right? You’re not dull yet.”
John's hands drop to his sides. Boss rises up with his fingers wrapped tight around the hatchet’s handle. “We have a problem?” “That depends."
“I prefer honesty to politeness. You wanted to die; I say we should have let you die. I’m guessing by your continued presence here that my decision would have been a mistake.”
“Now I ain’t taken many women by force, something I’m proud of in relation to opportunities presented, but it’s mainly Varlyn’s watch that’s kept me from such indulgences."
The last of the Larrity townsfolk exit through the carnival’s gates. Lamps die around the provisional camp as fires rise up near wagons. John sits alone before an unattended flame.
“Cause I’m no good tracking tired,” Prince says, “Even the wicked need their rest.” “You call yourself wicked?” “Best word for me.”
"Every man deserves a box, John.” “Even the wicked?” “Especially the wicked,” the coffin maker replies, “Where they’re going, might as well go with some class.”
Fireworks burst overhead. Shrieks of glee and excitement fill the air. Lights move and sway in tandem. The carnival roars with life. A black horse appears on the horizon, its rider cloaked in night.
John and Roy enter Lawton. The ride has passed in silence with no words spoken. None needed be.