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 Jackson brothers were back on the trail and headed as far away from the posse as possible. Ethan was still keeping to himself a lot more than usual. Whatever happened to Ethan in that tunnel had stirred something in him, but just what–he didn’t know.
Ethan couldn’t talk to his brothers about it, he knew they just wouldn’t understand. Well, Holden would, but Holden was… gone. Maybe it was this disconnection that was comin’ back to haunt Ethan. It robbed him of his revenge, so somethin’ wasn’t in balance. And he had to fix it, no matter what.
Thinkin’ on all that had happened lately, Ethan was just glad to be out of that mess with nobody dyin’. And in their line of work, that was a goddamn blessing. Ethan was willing’ to throw himself in front of any bullet if it meant savin’ his brothers. He knew he blamed himself for Holden, and he couldn’t escape it. And it was like a stabbing feeling in his gut every time he thought on it.
Ethan took in a deep breath.
Lookin’ up towards the sky, he could see the white clouds mixin’ in with the grey. That was kinda how he felt about things–he had mixed feelings about everything. And he hated feelin’ unsure.
One thing he was sure of was his skill with a gun, and doin’ another job right now was exactly what he needed. He needed to clear his head of all the doubt and just focus on the job ahead.
As three, the Jackson brothers worked well together. With such a small number, there was less to worry about and less to get wrong. His brothers knew their part, and they did it well. At least that was one thing Ethan was sure of.
The job itself was mostly uneventful. Nobody got hurt, no law to speak of and nobody fallin’ behind or doing the wrong thing. And afterward; the boys relaxed a little more with food in their stomachs. And Ethan didn’t dream of ghosts that sounded and looked like Milly in dark places he couldn’t see beyond.
It was as good a day as the Jackson brothers could expect. Ethan secretly hoped it would stay this way. But he knew that it wouldn’t and he was runnin’ out of time.
Soon enough, he’d have to leave his brothers again to do what he should’a done all those months ago.
Ethan woke early the following morning and sat at the kitchen table waiting for his brothers to wake up. While everyone was eating breakfast, Ethan figured it was as good a time as any to break the news.
“Got somethin’ I need to be tellin’ ya” Ethan said
Jason kept eating, but Floyd dropped his food onto his plate and stared across the table at Ethan.
“Don’t even try sayin’ that yer leavin’ again” Floyd said
“I’m sorry, but I have to. Ain’t got no choice,”
“That’s a lie and ya know it!” Floyd said
Ethan looked at his brother, and he could tell it pissed off Floyd
“Ya know that I have things I still gotta do and I still gotta find Milly–or at least find out where her family are, or somethin’,”
Jason stopped eating and finally looked up at his brothers
“Why ya need to go alone?” Jason asked.
Ethan looked away. He didn’t know how to reply to that question that made any sense. Hell, he wasn’t even sure it made sense to him.
“I brought her into the gang, whatever happened to her was my responsibility just like findin’ her is my responsibility” he replied
“But you didn’t tell her to run, you didn’t tell her to leave the gang, leave you,” Floyd said
“I know you two got history but I think you’ll be better off with us than without us,” Jason said
Ethan shook his head
“I get why ya think you’re the reason Holden’s gone–but this don’t make no sense. She’s not kin… she’s just some girl,” Floyd said.
Listening to those words really hurt Ethan, but he tried hard not to show it. And he could feel the temperature rising in his body and the churning of his gut tellin’ him to run away from the uncomfortable feelin’.
“More than just a girl… right Ethan?” Jason said
Ethan was looking down at the leftover food on his plate, slowly trying to choose the right words.
“She ain’t kin, but she might as well be,”…
“Didn’t I hear you argue with Holden ‘bout people not bein’ kin, Ethan? And now yer sayin’ this is okay caus’ it’s Milly?!” Floyd said,
“Don’t bring Holden into this” Ethan replied, pushing his plate and getting out of his chair
“It’s a fair point, Ethan,” Jason said
“What d’ya want me to tell ya? Huh? I need to do this and that’s all I can say about it,”
“You promised you wouldn’t leave again,” Floyd said, getting up
“Unless you can tell us a good reason not to go with ya, we ain’t stayin’” Jason said, tidying up his plate
“How ‘bout dyin’? That a good ‘nuff reason for ya?”
“Not really… we coulda’ died that night at the farmhouse, but we didn’t. Don’t see how this is any different,” Jason said.
Jason kept makin’ sense of everything Ethan was struggling with, and Ethan couldn’t find the words to persuade them to stay. His brother was right. If they survived the posse, why is this any different?
“Besides–if we go with ya, then ya ain’t leavin’ us” Jason said, picking up his dishes
Ethan was leaning against the wall with his head hung low, thinking on what his brother said.
Jason and Floyd continued to tidy up the table and wash the dishes in silence.
“If anythin’ goes wrong and I mean anythin’”…
“We know Ethan, it’s your responsibility,” Jason said
“That’s that then. When we leavin’?” Floyd asked lookin’ at Ethan.
“Was plannin’ on first light tomorrow”
“Tomorrow it is then,” Jason said
And with that, the decision was out of Ethan’s hands.
Whatever hand fate had to deal to Ethan, she was dealin’ it to his brothers as well.
Ethan felt both uneasy and comforted by this. He never saw his brothers taking this part of the journey with him, but now he didn’t have to feel any guilt about the decision to leave. They were grown men; they could make up their own minds, and he respected that.
Ethan was finally learning how to let his brothers in.
-END OF PART XXIII-
You can read Part XXIV of Ethan’s story right here.