Author’s Note: This is Part II in Book I of my series Tales of the West. You may read Part I: “Milly” here.
Genres: Fiction – Western/Action/Romance
Please be aware this story has elements of violence, gun violence, murder and death.
Ethan played by Boyd Holbrook
The gang was ready to move out and everyone was in their groups—Ethan, Earl and Floyd went off ahead of the others as they were scouting the township to make sure there was a clear route out of there. Floyd would ride back with the details and the rest of the gang would get into place if Floyd said it was alright to go ahead.
Durham wasn’t a huge township, but it was big enough to have its own sheriff, which always bothered Ethan. A sheriff meant they probably had deputies, which meant they had a way of protecting themselves against raiders like the Jackson’s. But that also meant they had enough of a population to make the job worthwhile. Not to mention the much-needed supplies.
Ethan, Floyd, and Earl tied up their horses close to the main street. They put on their hats, tidied themselves up and went into the main street. It was a fine Saturday morning; the sun was already high enough to make wearing too many layers uncomfortable.
Ethan walked slightly ahead of the others; his eyes narrowed as he made a note of where everything was. When they finally got to the main store they stood off to the side aways so as not to attract attention. Floyd crossed the street so he could survey the quickest way out of Durham from that position.
There were two alleyways on either side of the store which would need to be checked. Floyd crossed back over and Ethan and Earl walked towards the first alley. They walked down until they came to a dead end. They walked back and around to the other alley, which lead out into a side street that looked more like a path than a street. They followed the path as far as they could and it lead right out towards a field–the same field the gang saw when they were riding on the way in. This was going to be the quickest route out of the town.
When Ethan and Earl got back to Floyd, there was a town deputy walking right towards them. He was dipping his hat at the locals, but Ethan could tell he was making a beeline right for them.
“Act as natural as you can… and I’ll do the talkin’” Floyd said in a lowered voice
Ethan and his brother turned around as the Deputy walked up, dipping his hat and grinning.
“Howdy folks… ya’ll new in town I take it?” the deputy asked
“Well howdy there–yes we are, we’re just really passin’ through and won’t be here long” Floyd replied
The deputy nodded and looked at each one of them in turn.
“Well, that’s a shame but Durham sure is thankful for ya’ll stopping by and buyin’ our goods!” he replied
“Yessir, we’ll be headin’ into the store soon enough, we’re just taking stock of what we need is all”
“Well, don’t mind me then, take yer time, enjoy the local company and thanks for stoppin’ by!” the deputy replied, nodding to the men
“Thank you deputy… much obliged,” Floyd replied
Ethan grinned at the deputy as he turned and walked on down the main street
Floyd let out a sigh of relief
“I guess it’s a good thing these folks haven’t heard of the Jackson gang–not a single wanted poster anywhere,” Earl said
“Yeah well we’re far enough south for Durham to be mostly unheard of–we chose it for a reason,” Floyd replied
“We best be headin’ back out so we can get the gang up to speed” Ethan said
The boys went on back to their horses and rode back out to the camp to update Holden and the others.
Ethan was watching Earl–he seemed just a little too quiet today considering how talkative he was yesterday.
After Holden was up to speed, he decided that they’d be postponing the job by at least a day because of the deputy running into them in town. If they suddenly appeared in town again, it might gather suspicion, and that’s exactly what they didn’t need.
Everyone was laying low and biding their time for the next day while they waited to go back into Durham
But something was amiss and Ethan was first to notice that Earl had somehow disappeared from the campsite.
Ethan got up from his camp spot and started walking around to see if he could find Earl. But Earl was gone.
Ethan went straight to Holden and told him Earl had disappeared.
“Yeah, I said he could check in on his family–apparently he’s got family this way he wanted to call on,”..
“And yer not at all worried about that?” Ethan asked
“What’s there to worry about Ethan? He’s got family to see… boy, you’re way too jittery. Maybe you need to let off some steam… visit the local whore house or somethin”
“I ain’t jittery, Holden. We don’t know him and he’s just off suddenly the day before we change our plans?”
“Little brother… it’s fine. Let’s just give the new men a reason not to trust them first before we do anything–how does that sound?”
Ethan had a disapproving expression on his face
He shook his head and walked back to his camp spot
Earl arrived back at camp several hours later, and Ethan watched as he walked back to his camp spot next to Jed and Lincoln.
Ethan looked across at his brothers who weren’t paying no mind to Earl, and he wondered then about all those things he taught Milly about survival. His brothers taught him those lessons when he was knee high to a cricket, and he never forgot a single one.
But Ethan made an exception for Milly. When Milly came into his life, he couldn’t tell right off that they could trust her. But she proved to be trustworthy over and over. Actions speakin’ louder than words. And so far, Earl’s actions were tellin’ Ethan he was not to be trusted.
-END OF PART VI-
You can read Part VII of Ethan’s story right here.