by StarGirl5000 and Scottish Princess (aka, me -wink-)
Ethan Holm pocketed the $150 dollars. Bringing in Fred Gavy hadn't been worth it. Especially since Gavy had shot his horse. It'd take most of the reward just to get a new horse. Sighing Ethan nodded to the sheriff and placed his black hat on his head, before turning to leave the office. He stopped, however when he saw the bulletin nailed to it. The face on it was slightly familiar, but what really caught Ethan's eye was the $700 reward above it. At the bottom of the poster it read Kyle J. Wilson Wanted for murder. $700 alive, $200 dead. The name bought up the image of a wild, young, redheaded Reb, riding a dragon of a black horse. Ethan had tangled with him some in the war. The sketch really wasn't very good. Turning back to the sheriff he asked, "Any news on where Wilson may be?"
The sheriff looked up, "Funny you should ask about him. He's reported to be in the area. I was going to look for him myself, but two of my deputies are out of town and I not as young as I use to be. He may even be around town, there was some sorta commotion at the Saloon earlier. Haven't really got around to checking into that either."
The sheriff scratched his balding head guiltily. Ethan rolled his eyes. It was no wonder the state had to offer rewards, when they had old cowards like this as the law. With out a word, Ethan ripped down Wilson's poster and left. Outside it was raining and Ethan rolled the poster up and put it in his coat pocket, as he headed toward the saloon.
The well-populated cow town was a dreary sight that afternoon according to the observations of the man on a jet black horse who had stopped on a hilltop, and the storm was not helping at all. All the movement in the town came from the livery stable, hotel and saloon. The man sighed and turned his horse down a small side path and made his way down to the main street of the town.
The rider and horse did not go unnoticed as they entered the town, but, due to the downpour and the rider's low hat, the hired hand at the stable they were approaching could not really make out any of the details of the man's features. However, there was no mistaking the two holstered pistols showing through the open rain slicker.
Without a word the stable hand held the doors open and then motioned the rider to an empty stall. The rider dismounted, rubbed down and fed his horse himself, then looked at the stable hand. "Treat him right, but don't let him get too comfortable. Keep him ready if I need him." The boy nodded once, eagerly taking the gold coin which the rider held out.
With a flash of a smile, the rider made his way through the rain towards the saloon, taking in everything around him. Even though he had observed the town as he had ridden in, he still stayed alert for anything out of place. The only motion he noticed was a lonely wagon making it's way down the road off to his left and the door to the Sheriff's office beginning to open. He hoped it had nothing to do with him, but he wasn't about to ignore it.
He pushed open the batwing doors which led into the saloon, immediately drawing the attention of every man there. Taking in the men's stares with scarcely more than a glance, the rider took off his rain slicker and hat and hung them by the door, before making his way to the bar and leaning against it.
"Rye." He said in the same quietly gruff way in which he had addressed the stab;e hand, "And a decent meal."
He accepted the mug of rye from the bartender and sat down at a corner table, wiping wisps of damp red hair from his eyes. Most of the men, he noticed, had continued their games of poker and their drinking, but he was waiting for that predictable drunkard to approach him.
Ethan stepped quickly up onto the Saloon porch and stepped into the swinging doors. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he glanced around. He noticed Kyle's red hair still dripping, but the youth's face was in the shadow of the corner. Still, perhaps this was his lucky day, thought Ethan and made his way toward Kyle, hoping to get a look at his face. If it wasn't Wilson, he could still ask about him.
Sipping his drink in the comfort of the shadows, Kyle needed only to cast a quick glance at the person who was approaching him. He didn't say anything, however, instead, just nodding and accepting the plate of food as the barkeep set it on the table for him. The redhead set his drink to the side and started in on his food, acting as though he hadn't even noticed Ethan.
"Afternoon," greeted Ethan looking down at Kyle, his holstered 45s were obvious, but he gave the Reb a friendly doff of his hat and a small smile, before sitting down uninvited. "I mean no offense, Lad. It's just you look a little familiar. Did you serve in Howard's 3rd division?"
Kyle raised an eyebrow and set down his fork, looking at Ethan. "What if I did?" he asked, a very slight cold edge to his voice, "What's it to you?" He didn't like it when people sat down at his table, unless he'd said it was okay, and he especially didn't like it when people pretended to know him. But, as he looked more closely at Ethan, he actually thought he'd seen the man before, but he just couldn't quite place it.
"Well I served in it myself... for a little while," said Ethan, keeping up a pleasant tone despite Kyle's cold tone. "You might remember me as Jim Elliot, you and I shared the cover of a stone fence at Fisher's Ridge. You saved my life, Mr. Wilson." Ethan took off his hat and pulled his chair closer to Kyle's table, letting some torch light fall on his dark, handsome face.
Kyle frowned for a moment before a smile broke out on his youthful face. "Oh yeah! Now I remember! Good ol' Jim." He picked up his fork again and stuffed a bite into his mouth. "How you been?" he asked around his mouthful of food.
Ethan smiled back "Alright, been trying my best to scratch out a living. Hard times will drive a man to fairly desperate measures, but I'm hoping to pick up some good money soon." Ethan pushed some damp hair out of his face. "How about you? How's life after the war been for you?"
Kyle nodded. "It's been rather hard lately, not that many ranches left intact and certainly not many people wantin' to hire a Reb. I've been tryin' to get a hold of my lawyer brother, you know, the one I told you about? He's supposed to be 'round here somewhere."
"We could go ask the sheriff," suggested Ethan, "He should know who's in town." Under the table Ethan put a hand on his gun, ready to draw it.
Kyle, narrowed his eyes ever so slightly and shook his head. "I'd rather not. I haven't had it good with Sheriffs lately and I'd rather not get throw out of town just yet." He flashed a grin, seemingly at ease in his seat as he took another bite of food. But on the inside he knew that something wasn't quite right with the situation. This Jim character seemed to be a bit too friendly to Kyle, even if Kyle had saved his life in the war. Setting down his fork and reaching for his mug of ale, Kyle looked at Ethan, studying the other man. Yes, something was definitely on his mind, something that Kyle was sure wasn't good.
"You're here for another reason than to just chat." he stated. While he'd been talking to Ethan, he'd been ever so slowly moving his left hand down to his gun butt, ready to pull and fire if he had to. Sure, he knew the man, but that didn't mean he wasn't aware how desperate a 'friend' might get for reward money.
"Actually I am," agreed Ethan, casually taking out his gun and cocking it, as he watched Kyle carefully "See I'm a bounty hunter at the moment, Wilson. So would you please raise your hands and come with me."
Kyle swallowed the mouthful of ale he had, fully aware of the sudden silence in the room. He twisted his mug in his right hand, his left moving too slightly for anyone to notice as he got a firm grip on his gun. "Sorry, Jim, but that ain't gonna work with me. See, I've got a bead on you already, have had one for the last few minutes. I know you won't get near enough money with me dead and I know you don't want to die yerself." He cocked his own gun, his green eyes growing colder than ice as he looked at Ethan.
The left hand had caught Ethan off guard he remembered Kyle being right handed. Glancing toward Kyle's left hand as he heard the gun cock, Ethan lowered his own gun a bit. "You know true be told, Kyle I would have been a bit disappointed in you, if you made this easy. You were one wild Reb." Ethan uncocked his gun, "How about we put this off for old time's sake." He met Kyle's cold eyes with his own hard brown ones. Meanwhile, his own left hand had inconspicuously slipped toward his other 45.
Kyle raised an eyebrow, shaking his head slightly. "I ain't that stupid, Jim. Sure, I was wild in the war, but this ain't war no more. Don't you even try going for that other gun, or you won't live to pull the trigger." He spoke with such cold sincerity that several of the men at the tables closest to them were getting up and backing away, making sure to keep their hands away from their own guns as they went.
Ethan lifted his left hand and put it in sight on the table, giving Kyle a conceding nod. "Just trying to do a job is all." Ethan glanced nervously at Kyle's left arm, hoping the Reb would just take the opportunity to escape and not shoot him. He remembered Kyle being wild and unpredictable, but he hadn't seemed to be the out right murdering type and he wondered what the real story behind the accusation against him was.
Kyle noted that both of Ethan's hands were in plain sight on the table and he pulled out his gun with his left hand, resting it next to his plate, aimed in Ethan's general direction. "I always knew you to be the type to go after the easy money," he commented, taking a swig of his ale, "But I never thought you'd be a double-crossing type, just for a few extra dollars." He shook his head. "Hell, if you would've just asked for some help, I'd have been happy to oblige."
Ethan couldn't help but chuckle slightly, "Don't think I'm not thankful for the offer Wilson, but I don't think you knew me as well as you thought you did." Ethan beckoned to the barkeeper, who was watching as nervously as anyone else and asked told him to fix up another plate. The man glared at Ethan, taking in his dark skin and muddy clothes. "You have money, Half Blood?" he asked gruffly, forgetting the emanate gun fight for a bit. "I do," answered Ethan, without looking away from Kyle, "You mind if I smoke, Wilson?" he asked not wanting to make any moves that Kyle might see as threatening.
Kyle smiled slightly, though not warmly. "And you don't know me as well as you thought you did." he said, not looking at the barkeep as he added. "Don't make too many demands, barkeep, he's no less a man than any of us."
The barkeep grumbled under his breath, but didn't dare say anything against Kyle, the redhead was the one with the gun after all. The barkeep went off to get a plate of food and Kyle nodded to Ethan. "Go ahead. Just don't try anything. You know how techy I can be with my guns."
"I haven't forgotten," answered Ethan, slowing taking a cheep cigar from his coat pocket, where it'd been beside the the wanted poster. After lighting it he looked Kyle calmly in the face. "So your wanted for murder?" he asked around the cigar, "Maybe I didn't know you as well as I thought. I wouldn't have taken you for the murdering type, crazy as you were."
Kyle sighed, downing the last of his drink. "I didn't murder no one. The basterd got his just desserts, I just happened to be the one who pulled the trigger that killed him." he glanced down for a moment, before looking immediately back at Ethan, "He killed my parents in cold blood. Both of them. Val and I just took the law into our own hands, was all."
"Sounds about right. Never had much respect for the law myself," said Ethan. The barkeeper slammed a plate of food in front of him. "Where's your money, Half Blood, or are will the murderer be covering for you?" he demanded gracelessly. Ethan frowned, looking angry, but took a couple dollars from his pocket, ignoring the barkeeper question. "Can I buy you another drink, Wilson?" he asked, before handing the man any money.
Kyle narrowed his eyes at the barkeep, nodding to Ethan. "Sure, another drink would be fine and barkeep, I'd suggest you stop the insults if you want to stay alive."
The barkeep paled, but only slightly and waited impatiently for the money before storming off to get the drink.
Ethan smiled gratefully at Kyle. Not many men stood up for him like that, especially southerners whom he was trying to capture. Glancing down he realized that the barkeeper hadn't brought him a fork with his food. Shaking his head slightly he contented himself with his cigar while he waited for the barkeeper to come back with the drink, so he could request a fork. "So you and your brother took your revenge and ended up with your faces on wanted posters?" he asked, "Is your brother worth as much as you?"
"Not nearly." Kyle replied" I think it's pretty entertainin', to tell you the truth. He's only worth about $300 alive, I think." he shook his head. "And he's the older one who killed more than I did in that perticular time. But 'course I'm the one with the bigger reward. Must be my hair."
"Your hair and all that comes with it," chuckled Ethan. The barkeeper brought Kyle a drink and glared when Ethan asked for a fork, but left to get it without a word. "So where are you and your brother from again? I think you told me once but I can't remember?"
Kyle chuckled at Ethan's comment, nodding his thanks to the barkeep and sipping on his drink. "We're from a smalltime ranching community in Texas. Been a while since I been back there... I betcha it hasn't changed at all."
"You can't be too sure, A lot of things have changed since the war," commented Ethan as the finally got a fork and began eating. "Nothing stays the same, change is always wrecking things for good or bad."
Kyle raised an eyebrow. "You sure sound mighty pessimistic there, Jim. What makes you think that everything has to change?"
Ethan Shrugged "Just speaking out of past experiences. Maybe you'll be right." Ethan took a moment to eat quickly, he was rather anxious to leave. "You got a girl or anything down in Texas?"
Kyle shook his head. "Got no one but my siblings. No girl has ever taken much of a liking to me for long." He downed his drink in several gulps and looked at Ethan, adding quietly, "I think both of us are wantin' to get outta here, how about we take it nice and slow and you go out first." he smiled, "You know I won't dare shoot a fella in the back."
Ethan finished the dinner in a couple more bites, "No I reckon you wouldn't," he agreed, putting his hat on and slowly putting his gun back in the holster, before getting up and walking toward the door.
Kyle picked up his own gun and followed Ethan to the door, grabbing his hat and rain slicker and shoving his hat on down his head. He opened the door, holding it with one hand while still aiming his sixshooter with his other, motioning Ethan outside.
Ethan stepped out onto the porch. It was still raining and the temperature had dropped, as the hidden sun moved down toward the wet horizon. "Where to from here, Wilson?" asked Ethan, still smoking his cigar and looked out into the rain, purposely not facing Kyle.
Kyle sighed and shrugged one shoulder. "Let me ride out of town and forget you ever saw me? I'll pay you what money I've got now if that'll make you feel better."
Ethan laughed slightly and threw the butt of his cigar into a mud puddle, before turning to face Kyle, "You'd pay me all the money you got just to make me feel better?" he asked, like it was a joke. He shook his head, "Good God, Kyle, you really do have a lot to learn." Ethan leaned against the porch post and put his hands in his pockets. "Go get your horse and get out of here. I don't need your money."
Kyle grinned, holstering his gun. "Well, if yer sure..." he trailed off, chuckling and stepped off the boardwalk. "I guess I might be seein' you around, Jim." Still facing Ethan slightly, Kyle put his fingers to his lips and whistled. A whinny sounded from the livery stable and out galloped Kyle's black horse, who came to a stop in front of it's owner. "Good boy, Achilles." Kyle murmured, jumping up into the saddle. He tipped his hat to Ethan and then kicked Achilles into an instant gallop.
Ethan remained leaning against the post, watching the $700 bounty ride away, without regret. Freedom and goodhearted innocence was something beyond value. Sighing Ethan pulled his hat lower and walked out into the rain. He needed to see someone about buying a horse.
This story was a roleplay game between myself and StarGirl5000. Ethan Holm is her character; Kyle Wilson is mine. We thought it would make a good story if we put it all together.... so there you go. Hope you enjoyed it. :)