Hairtrigger Colt .44
Colt's Justice: Chasing a Shadow
"No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow
that's in the right and keeps on a-comin'."
Coulton Raines, Jr., Colt to all who knew him, was hard at it rebuilding the fence line on the north end of the ranch after a summer lightening storm had spooked most of his cattle and stampeded them into the next county. It had taken nearly two weeks to round them all up and push them home, this time into the smaller south pasture closer to the house. While it might have been a difficult task for many, it was easy for Colt. He had learned to track, like most his age, long before he learned to read or write.
His father had once said that Colt could track a butterfly through a windstorm and that there wasn't a sign he couldn't read, as long as it wasn't on paper, and the only thing he could do better than track was shoot. Sissy, his wife, had been the one person with enough patience to help him read and write better, but she had no desire to change his quiet voice or his Southern drawl, as she really loved that the way he spoke was so much a part of her husband. She was, however, also very proud that he had become a much better spoken man, able to convey his thoughts in terms that everyone could understand and appreciate.
Yet under that normally soft spoken and gentle exterior was a man of extraordinary talents in the art of death. It was something Colt did all he could to keep hidden from his part of the world, and for the most part he was successful. Still, the world came to his door looking for him to use those violent talents, often using his desire to protect the innocent as the core of their plea. His reputation spread well beyond the small community of Gladewater, Texas, yet none came looking to try to do him harm, only to enlist his help.
As daydreams of sitting in the shade of a Cottonwood tree catfishing on the Sabine kept drifting through Colt's head, he kept pushing those thoughts back knowing that if he didn't finish the fence rebuild by the end of the day Sissy would be after him. She had her hands full with their firstborn, Arthur, as he was a colicky baby, even at over a year old. Arthur was named after the uncle the boy would never meet, Colt's oldest brother lost at The Second Battle of Bull Run.
Sissy hadn't been getting much rest, and had made him promise to hurry up with the fence and take care of the boy for a few hours so she could get some much needed sleep. Her being pregnant again wasn't helping much either, as the morning sickness was taking a lot out of her.
Colt was still hanging onto some of his father's gold double eagles as well as all the other items he had recovered from Eric Griffin and his band of misfits when he finally ran them all into the ground, and decided that if he was going to make sure they both got the rest they needed he was going to have to hire some help. The Widow Baker had asked several times if they had anything she could do to earn a few dollars, but there wasn't anything at the time. Knowing she was struggling after her husband Lem had died of consumption the year before, he would take down a nice buck or doe and leave it on her stoop whenever he could, just to try to help her along.
He made up his mind to ride over the next day and see if she would come by for the next week or so running, at least for at least half a day each time. They really couldn't spare too much money, but he also knew any little bit would help her, though he would be as generous as his pockets wound allow.
He was so deep in thought and concentrating on sucking the last wire up good and tight without breaking it that he didn't hear the riders come up behind him. They allowed him to wrap off a good tie before speaking up.
"Colt, mighty fine job there, son. That the last of it?"
"Yup, Sheriff. That's the last of it, for now."
"Colt, I'd like to introduce you to an old Army friend of mine, Jacques Devereaux. Jack and I served under Beauregard, but that's another story. Jack here needs some help, Colt, and I couldn't think of anybody better to get done what he needs done."
Colt leaned over to spit, aiming for the bottom of the last post he had set, striking it exactly where he aimed. "Yeah, an' just what kind o' help ya need, Devereaux?"
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Raines. I like a man who gets right to the point, and so shall I. I need a man brought to justice, and my daughter and grandchild returned to me. Burt tells me you are just the man for the job so we have come to you."
"An' just who is this here fella ya think needs ta be brought ta justice, an' what's he got ta do with your daughter an' gran'baby?"
"He's a worthless whiskey drummer turned gambler, sir, who she ran away with some five years ago. After my daughter was in the family way, he ran off and left her in Pueblo, Colorado. She found her way to Denver, went to work in a boarding house determined to make it on her own. From what I've been able to learn, she was afraid to come home and face her mother and I. After nearly two years, he showed up again, found and kidnapped she and my grandson in the night. Then the bastard had the audacity to try to ransom her for fifty thousand dollars. Mr. Raines, I lost my wife last year, and I am dying. I want to see her again before I die, and before he does anything to further hurt my daughter and grandson. I will pay you well, and in advance if you so chose, if you decide to help me."
"How many ya hired before me?"
Devereaux looked at Sheriff Campbell before answering, and continued after Burt nodded. "To date, six men have tried. Four are dead, killed by the drummer, and the other two were severely wounded and unable to continue."
"This drummer, he a gun hand?"
"No, but he is a backshooter and knife man."
"An' how do ya know he ain't all ready killed her an' the boy?"
"They were still alive five days ago, when the last man was stabbed and nearly killed."
"An' where was that?"
"Abilene. He keeps moving from place to place, trying to keep from getting caught. The last man wired me to say my daughter is afraid to try to escape, as he has threatened to kill the boy if she tries to leave him."
"Any idea where they're headin' now?"
"None, but he doesn't seem to be too hard to track down as none of the other men had any trouble finding him. The mistake I made with them was that I only wanted to get my daughter and grandson back, but that is a mistake I will not allow to be made again. I want him dead, or in jail."
"Well, let me set ya straight. I ain' no bounty hunter. An' I got a pregnant woman an' a baby boy ta worry about, not ta mention this here ranch an' all my cattle an' horses. I cain' just go gallivantin' off for who knows how long an' leave it ta tend itself."
"Colt, if I may call you Colt, I am prepared to pay the sum of ten thousand dollars for the death or imprisonment of this coward and the return of my daughter and grandson. As I said, I am willing to pay you up front. I have less than six months to live now, so the sooner I can settle this the better. Are you willing to take the job?"
"Not without talkin' ta my wife, I ain't. An' even if she says yes, I got ta find somebody ta help her an' ta take care o' my place an' my stock."
"Then when might I expect your answer?"
"Tell ya what, Devereaux, let's just ride on inta the house an' ya can talk ta her directly."
"Very well. I will even go one step further to enlist your help. Whatever additional costs you incur, help for your wife and someone to tend to your ranch, I will cover that expense as well."
"Ya can promise all ya want, mister, but it all falls ta her now. Let me gather up my tools an' we'll head in right now." Without waiting for a response, Colt picked up his tools and the extra wire left over, laid everything in the back of his wagon, crawled up into the seat, and then clucked the team into action.
An hour later, Sissy had not only said yes, after listening to Devereaux's tale, but she had also suggested that her brother Ed would be able to come by every few days to check on the stock, and her. When Colt mentioned the Widow Baker as an option to help her out, Sissy thought that was a good idea but took it a step further.
"Millie has two sons, Colt, both young but from what I hear they are both willing and hard workers. They are twelve and fourteen now, and can feed and milk, gather the eggs and all the other little chores. Since we have no idea how long you'll be gone, we can ask what they'll charge a month to help out around here. But I want a promise from you that you'll be done with this business before this baby comes. That gives you between six and seven months the way I figure, which should be plenty of time, don't you think?"
"Yes, ma'am. I sure hope so."
"Good, Colt. How soon can you leave?"
"Look Devereaux, I still need ta ride over ta visit the Widow Baker, an' go see Sissy's brother Ed ta make sure he can help out. An' I'll need at least a day ta get all my gear ready. I'm gonna need ta take my two good horses an' my mule, an' I'll need ta make sure I can get a stock car up inta Kansas ta carry me an' them both."
"I can handle the stock car for you. I just need to get into Gladewater and send a wire. But I can have a car ready for you by day after tomorrow, and I'll make arrangements for you to take that car all the way to Abilene. And I can arrange for you to have rail access to anywhere you need to go anytime you need it along with many other privileges. Now, I believe we are down to payment for your services, in advance as promised, along with the additional monies. I can write you a bank draft…"
"Hold it right there, Devereaux. We got no deal if ya don't pay in gold coin. That paper ain' worth nothin' out here except waddin' in the outhouse."
"Excellent. I'll have the money here by day after tomorrow. I can meet you at the depot in Gladewater and pay you before you board the train."
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