Get Along Little Doggies





Colt's Justice: The Death Ride

Available on Kindle

"No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right and keeps on a-comin'."
Captain Bill McDonald - Texas Ranger

Chapter One

"Any idea who this bird is, Colt?"

"Not a clue, Sheriff."

"Have you moved the body?"

"Nope. All we did was strip the horse and put him in the corral, make sure he was fed proper. We put the man's saddle an' such in the barn."

"Well, once the coroner gets here and declares the cause of death, we'll see if he's got anything on him that might tell us who he is and where he came from. In the meantime, let's take a look at his saddle, see if there's any markings on it that will help us figure out anything. Mind taking me to the barn and showing me where it is?"

"Follow me, Sheriff."

"I wish you'd just call me Eric, Colt. We've known each other for quite a spell now, and as much as I appreciate you treating me with the respect of my title, that's all it is, a title. I'm not looking to do anything but my job, and calling me 'Sheriff' won't change that."

Colt chuckled at the young man's attitude as he opened the barn door. "Here ya go, Eric."

The sheriff looked the saddle over, and then lifted the saddlebags, opening first one side and then the opposite pouch. "Saddle maker has his mark here, says 'F. A. MEANEA MAKER CHEYENNE WT', so I think we can say this cowboy is from Wyoming." Looking inside the saddlebags, he said, "Hmmm… What have we here? Hard tack and jerky, and two cartridge boxes, one that's empty and the other with just half a dozen cartridges left. Looks like they'll fit both this Winchester and his Colt. .44-40's with two hundred grain slugs. That's what you carry isn't it, Colt?"

"Yup, me an' near ever'body that uses both a Colt an' a Winchester. Saves carryin' double the ammo. What's that envelope?"

Lifting the sealed envelope out of the pouch, Sheriff Swenson looked it over before handing to Colt, "Got your name on it. Go ahead and open it. Let's see what it says."

"Ya sure ya want me ta open it 'fore the coroner gets here? He might wanna take a look at it first."

"I'm not worried about that at all. He'll have plenty to worry about with that body out there. Go on, open it."

Walking over to where he kept his knives, Colt selected the Arkansas toothpick, slipped it out of its sheath, and smoothly opened the top of the envelope. Sliding the knife back into the sheath, he carried the letter back to the barn door, but there wasn't quite enough light to make out what it said. "Eric, we're gonna have ta take it inside an' get it under some light, 'less'n ya wanna stand out here in the barn under a lantern. I reckon Sissy's got a fresh pot o' Arbuckle's on by now."

"Now, that sounds good. All right, let's go inside. There's not much more out here I can see anyway. I'd like to leave all this here for now. I'll send out one of my deputies to retrieve it later."

"Sure, Eric. An' I'll make sure nobody messes with it," Colt said as they stepped outside and swung the barn door shut, fastening it closed. A few minutes later, they were sipping Arbuckle's sitting at the new dining room table Sissy had insisted on Colt buying them for Christmas.

Colt handed the letter to Sissy to read, not quite trusting his reading skills yet, as Sissy was still having to coach him when he read anything of importance. Pulling the letter out of the envelope, Sissy was surprised to find there were three sheets of paper involved. The outer sheet was blank except for a simple, handwritten note regarding the name of a ranch. The name written on the outside of the paper was "Lazy L Cross Ranch (Also called Scaffold)," under that was "L Bar C Ranch (Also called Latigo)" and right below that it was "Latimer & Collins Cattle Company."

Continuing to unfold the correspondence, the next two sheets were the main body of the letter, which read:

March 19, 1886

Mr. Raines,

If you are reading this, my messenger, Charles Maxson, has reached you with this letter. If he made it alive, so much the better. Tell him I said, 'Job well done, Charley.' He will add any details I've missed in this correspondence, and hopefully convince you to come to our aid.

However, if he didn't arrive alive and you are still reading this, then Charley did his job. Please arrange to have him returned home as quickly as possible, once your lawmen are no longer in need of his body. Please feel free to keep his tack, as well as anything other than his personal effects. I'm confident Charley bought a good horse there, though not certain what he purchased, but he had a good eye for horseflesh. You are welcome to keep the horse as well.

Now, to explain our plight. My partners, Terrence Marshall, Levi Spokes, Ralston J. Fairburn, and Cooper Collins, and I are under a virtual siege by rustlers, and can no longer stand the depredation of our mutual and combined herds. And we are not alone. Every rancher in the region is dealing with this problem. These thieves have now resorted to trying to kill anyone who tries to stop them.

As a member in good standing in the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, I have sought their help. But alas, this last winter was very harsh, a weather trend that looks to continue. That fact combined with the current economic depression and overstocking of cattle across all the ranges in the territory, as well as permanent changes to the western cattle industry, has drastically reduced the Association's membership, as well as their effectiveness.

The law here in Johnson County is very thin, including the number of detectives and brand inspectors hired by the Association, as those detectives and inspectors must cover most of the entire Territory. They, too, are under constant attack. Detective Joe Wilson was killed last month, and one of our partners, Cooper Collins, and Brand Inspectors Ben Burton and Claude Taylor have also been shot, minor wounds.

We are desperate, so much so that we are reaching out to you for your assistance in eliminating this problem. We have access to funding, as well as some financial assistance from the Association, thus we are willing to meet and discuss your fees with the full intent of hiring you to put a stop to this thievery. We fully expect to pay you in the neighborhood of fifteen thousand dollars total.

Mr. Raines, you come very highly recommended (J.T. Keever and others), and we desperately need your assistance, as previously stated. If Charley didn't make it, it had to be because he was killed to prevent this letter from reaching you. Killed by the very villains we are up against.

In a sealed pocket on the inside of Charley's left saddlebag pouch, you will find a Wells Fargo bank draft made out to you in the amount of five thousand dollars, sent as a deposit on your services. If I receive it back, I'll understand. If, however, it is deposited I will be notified, and begin looking for you to arrive at the Lazy L Cross Ranch. Please make your decision at your earliest convenience. Our very lives and livelihoods are at stake, along with those of the hands we employ.

Major James R. Latimer

PS If you will make your way to Buffalo, Wyoming Territory, follow Clear Creek to where it joins with Piney Creek and you'll see our L Bar Ranch up the Piney."

"Daggone, Colt, you get those kinds of letters very often?"

"Naw, Eric. They usually come a callin', but I reckon a feller like this'd rather send a rider an' stay close ta his cattle an' men. Sounds ta me like he sent his best man. Too bad the man didn' survive the ride."

"You going to go get that bank draft?"

"Nope, not tanight. Reckon it'll still be there come mornin'. Well, I hear a buggy comin', sa I reckon Doc Wheelwright's comin' in. Bes' we get a couple o' lanterns lit up for him, sa's he can see what he's a doin."

Grabbing the first lantern, lighting it and handing it to the sheriff, Colt pulled the second lantern from its hook, lit it and followed Eric out to where they body was still lying. Dr. Wheelwright had already lit one of his own, and was kneeling down to look at the rider before the two men could get there.

"Evenin' Doc. Sorry ta get ya out sa late," Colt offered.

"Yeah, well you always seem to call me out at the best hours, don't you? You, too, Eric Swenson. And you're beginning to make too much of a habit of it."

"Sorry, Doc. I can't really help it when people die of get killed. I do all I can to keep it from happening, but they are still just as dead when I get there."

"Oh, I know. I'm just tired and hungry is all. Been at it since four this morning with Mrs. Broughton. That's fourteen kids for them now. And it hasn't let up all day. Didn't even get time for lunch, let alone supper."

"Well, Doc, Sissy'll take care o' that right quick, onct ya get done lookin' this poor feller here over."

"Why, thank you, Colt. She's a fine cook, and I'm looking forward to it now. Still serving that Arbuckle's coffee?"

"Yup, we sure are."

"Well, then, I guess I'll do my best to make this my last stop for the night, other than my bed."

"Doc, any idea what killed him, other than getting shot?" Eric asked softly.

Ten minutes later, the three men were sitting in Colt's dining room sipping coffee, Doc waiting to be fed. Wheelwright took a deep breath, and began. "Gentlemen, it's pretty obvious that this man, you said his name was Charles Maxson, right? Well, it's pretty obvious what killed him. Exsanguination. He simply bled to death. That bleeding was caused by four deep knife wounds, two front and two back, and three bullet holes, one in his back and the other two in his stomach. From what I can tell, the bullet wounds are nearly a week old, and they alone might not have contributed to killing him if he had received treatment, other than what he gave himself from the looks of it. The knife wounds came sometime earlier today. There is no way he could have survived them, and I'll be dogged if I know how he lived to get this far."

"I reckon he was determined ta get ta me, from the sounds o' the letter he brung along. Tough man, no doubt 'bout it. An' they want his body sent to 'em in Wyomin'. Not sure where other than the Lazy L Cross Ranch up in Wyomin', ain' had time ta fin' it on a map, but I reckon we'd bes' figure it out an' get him there. Say, Eric, did ya check the loads in his Colt, 'r the rifle?"

"No, I didn't. Why don't we do that while Doc here eats?"

As if on cue, Sissy brought in a large piece of roast beef, fresh biscuits and raw honey, and garden fresh green beans. "Will that hold you until I can get a fresh apple pie out of the oven, Doctor?"

"Oh, yes, ma'am. I may not be able to move once I finish this, but I'll make room for some of that pie of yours. You boys go on and do what you're going to do with our dead man while I eat. I'll need help getting him wrapped and loaded into my buggy when I finish here, so don't sneak off anywhere."

Back outside, Eric lifted the Colt Frontier out of Charley's holster, and snapped it open to find the chambers had all been fired and reloaded at least once. In his shirt pockets were the makings, along with a spare tobacco sack, unopened. His britches pockets held a pocket watch, a jackknife, some stick matches inside a brass shotgun shell case, and two hundred thirty-two dollars in gold and silver coin. Colt pulled Charley's Bowie out of its sheath and looked it over. It was covered in dried blood, and had a small nick in the blade.


Copyright © 2018-21