The Million Dollar Bounty
Written and dedicated to my Grand dad who was a huge western fan. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be writing this. I'm sure he would like it. I miss him every day and I know he would help me if he was still here.
Ironclad. God's town, well at least it use to be until the Civil War tore it apart. Now it's a dark pit of dread and anger. I'm afraid that it's not such a positive start to my tale but it is reality. You see the Wild West isn't all heroic cowboys on horseback like it's portrayed in the Eastern and Southern states. It's a giant wasteland were its every man for himself. When you see something you have to take it before it's gone. You have to think and act quickly. You see there's a saying here in Ironclad. Shoot first or be shot at.
My name is Lewis Macgregor. I am a part time bounty hunter as well as a small town sheriff in this baron, pathetic mining town. I had been living in Ironclad for only three years and I already regretted each and every day. I was originally born and raised in El Paso where my father worked as a bank clerk. I never really knew him that well because he was always working, trying to make a living for my mother and me. I was only fifteen years old when he died from Tuberculosis. My mother died a year later from a broken heart. I had to take responsibility for myself as I had no other family, so I bought a horse and set off towards Ironclad where I hoped to make a fresh start. Ha fresh, what a joke.
I can still remember the first day I arrived in town. I was welcomed by the cold stares of the town's folk. It was as if they had never seen an outsider before. Mind you, I was just your average drifter. I bought a small house by the lake which was nothing special but I liked it. It didn't take me long to get a job too as the towns Sheriff wanted a Deputy Marshal to help him keep town safe at night. You see Ironclad had been under threat from notorious outlawing gangs that were being paid by corrupt businessmen. Nobody could be trusted with anything, especially where money and gold was involved.
I found the job pretty easy at first. The streets were quiet pretty much every night and I was getting paid to do pretty much nothing. I had to admit though; I could've killed to see some action. That action finally arrived one summer night as I was called out to lead a posse to a nearby ranch. It had been seized by outlaws that had killed a family of four. I could remember the sheer excitement I received as we stormed the house and gunned down the outlaws. The smell of smoke and blood filled there and I sat outside basking in my first victory. However, the leader of those vile bastards escaped, which leads me to my story. Someone had to bring him in and try him for his crime. Suddenly, the guilt began to set heavily on my soul as the other posse members removed the bodies. They carried out the mother followed by the father, both in their thirties. Eventually, they brought out two young girls, both thirteen years of age. I could feel the pain course through my veins. They didn't deserve to die. Anyway that's enough about my life. Now let's get on with the story.
This incident began on a typical spring morning. The sun was up and a gentle breeze swept the main dusty street. The local businesses had already opened for an honest day's work which meant that the people of Ironclad were out and about without a care in the world. It also meant that it was the start of a very long and pointless day for me. By now, I had become a bounty hunter as the towns Sheriff no longer needed me as a Deputy Marshal. I preferred this job better as it meant that I could travel throughout the county where the money was concerned. I had been a bounty hunter for two months running and I had already seen my fare share of deaths and captures. Some of my bounty's even helped reunite families that had faced terror from these scum bags. It felt good to help these poor people. I felt respected and useful which left me wanting for more. I suppose in the long run, being a bounty hunter is a better life for me.
As I walked towards the railroad station, I noticed that the town's postman was nailing a sheet of paper to the chalk wall. As he returned to his office, I became interested and decided to investigate. It was just as I thought. Another wanted poster. However the man looked familiar to me, far too familiar. I couldn't put my finger on it so I took down the poster and headed towards to Sheriff's office, hoping to get an answer.
Now when it came to having a friendly talk with the Sheriff, it was not always as simple as that. The Sheriff had a habit of hiding truths from the town which didn't set well with me. We had done this song and dance on many occasions so we both knew what to expect. His name was Leigh Joules and he had been Ironclad's Sheriff for over fifteen years. He wasn't that great at his job, but he kept the streets safe all the same. He was a middle-aged man who loved his smart striped suits. He kept his small revolver close to him as he had it holstered on his right rib cage. His bristly brownish beard flicked and fluttered along with each breath he took and his eyes were piercing brown due to the thick rectangular frames in his glasses.
"Ah Mr Macgregor." He said as a smile erupted under his beard. "Come in. What can I do you for? Would you like a drink?"
"What I would like is some answers." I replied as I showed him the wanted poster. "I want to know who this scum bag is. I recognise the face."
"Well let's see." Leigh replied as he studied the picture. "Says here, his name is Bill Diego. He is wanted in four states for murder, robbery and arson. The bounty rate is at one million dollars."
"That's a lot of money for one man." I stated as I reached for my top pocket and pulled out a cigar. "Especially for a man who is responsible for the slaughters at the Kinney Ranch six months ago."
"Now come on boy. You don't really think that this is the same guy do you?" Leigh huffed in disbelief, which really made growl. "That man was found and tried over in Tennessee three months ago. It was made official through telegram remember?"
"Well somebody got it wrong." I countered, adamant that it was the same man. "Now I know the guy when I see him. I can tell from his eyes. That man is alive and the yellow bastard has caused enough chaos to gain a million dollars on his head."
"That's only because he's hard to track." Leigh explained. "The bounty stands at a million dollars because no one can bring him down. For each lawman and bounty hunter he kills, the price goes up. He's a dangerous menace to the entire west. Nobody here will go after him."
"And how the hell do you know all this?" I asked suspiciously. "You are one mysterious son of a bitch you know that?"
"Don't get funny with me Macgregor." Leigh snarled as I successfully wiped the smug look off of his face. "Look the fact is that no one can catch him so I don't see why you have to know. This poster is just a crock of bullshit."
"That's where you're wrong." I said correcting him. "Because I'm going to get him and bring him in."
"You've got to be joking?" Leigh laughed. "Boy, what happened at the ranch is no more than a past memory."
Just hearing those words made my blood boil. He knew very well that that incident would be forever engraved in my mind. I could never forget seeing the blood stained bodies. That family didn't deserve the pain that they endured. They didn't deserve to have their lives taken from them so soon. All I wanted to do since then was to avenge them. I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity.
"A dead family is not a past memory!" I growled as my voice echoed across the room. "That man will pay for what he did to the Kinney family! Those people didn't deserve to die that way. Those girls. Th…those two young girls were only children! Who speaks for them!?"
The Sheriff didn't reply as lifted out of his seat and stared out of the window, looking into the street. I could tell that he took in the message well. Perhaps he forgot his priorities as a lawman, I don't know, but whatever it was, I had gotten through to him. After a brief moment of silence, he began to speak.
"You know what, your right." he said as he presented his words in a more respectful tone. "Please forgive me Macgregor. I never knew you felt so strongly about that family."
"I just want to see the justice system take its toll." I replied as I turned to leave. "I'm going after that man."
"It won't be that simple yet." The sheriff said as his words stopped me in my tracks. "First things first, you'll need to find his associates."
He walked over to his desk draw and retrieved a slip of paper which had been folded in half. Slipping it into my hand, I opened it up to see that it was directions to a certain town.
"One of our trackers had found one of Bill's former flings." He explained. "We've been working secretly on this case for a while now. We didn't tell the people because of fear of mass panic, something that this town can do without. Head thirty-five miles west towards the town of Coyote and look up this woman. Her name is Beth Stevens. She'll help."
"What makes you so sure?" I asked.
"She's an ex-prostitute gone straight after she agreed to help us in exchange for a pardon." Leigh explained. "She won't dare mislead us."
"That's good enough for me." I muttered as I stepped out into the street and headed towards my home.
I needed to pack a few supplies before I could set off west towards Coyote. The road was well known for its rocky terrain and narrow bends which made travelling all the more difficult, but it was the only way as the railroad was heading in the opposite direction. As I mounted my horse and set off down the main street, I waved goodbye to everything that I was leaving behind. I knew that I was going to be away for a while so I had to prepare for a new life in the wilderness. With a hard clap at the reigns, I rode off into the scorching desert, disappearing into the heat waves. My personal hunt for justice had begun.