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
Ethan and his brothers finally made it to their destination, which was about five miles away from the old Miller farmhouse. They couldn’t go back there mostly caus’ there’d be very little left to go back to. And they weren’t too sure how far east the posse had traveled since – if they had traveled at all.
After what Ethan did to the posse back at the farmhouse, there’s a good chance they disbanded. That don’t mean they wouldn’t send someone else after the Jackson’s but it seems with everythin’ goin’ on with Ethan, the Jackson’s forgot all about the “unknown bounty hunter” that killed Earl.
Ethan was only focused on finding Milly right now and seeing Running Elk again. Ethan was so unsure of just about everythin’. He didn’t enjoy feeling this way, but there was nuthin’ he could do about it. He was out of touch with most of his previous bounty hunter contacts, and it was better that they stayed off everyone’s radar for now.
Seein’ Running Elk again made Ethan a little nervous. He weren’t sure of what Running Elk would tell him about Milly–if he’d have anythin’ to tell. Ethan kinda hoped he would be as lost as he was over Milly. But he knew deep down that there’s no way Milly wouldn’t go back and see him–at least once.
And Ethan had to know. He had to know for his own sanity what had happened to her. He couldn’t keep askin’ himself questions he didn’t have answers for. And havin’ dreams about her that turned into nightmares.
It was drivin’ him crazy. His brothers were gettin’ a lil’ restless as well, but there was no way they could saddle up and do a job while they were out here. The closest town was Milly’s hometown, and they were all wanted for murder and theft there.
It’s also where Ethan got shot. And where Ethan lost Milly…
It didn’t seem like such a good idea comin’ back this way after all, but Ethan couldn’t put it off any longer. Chasin’ Earl was a mistake, he realised that now. He should have left his brothers just like he planned and he should ‘a gone lookin’ for Milly.
The brothers decided it was best if Ethan went alone to find Running Elk. Ethan kinda wanted to go alone anyhow, especially if what Running Elk had to say was bad news.
So Ethan left the next morning, and he was in no hurry to get to his destination. He went over many things in his head, things he wanted to ask Running Elk, things he had been thinkin’ on for too long. He wanted this visit to put things to rest once and for all.
Ethan rode up to the spot where Running Elk was living. It seemed like it was abandoned, but then again, Running Elk’s place always looked abandoned. Ethan was sure that Running Elk didn’t sleep inside a single night in the warmer months and preferred to sleep outside closer to nature. Ethan got off his horse and let his horse graze in the grass while he walked around the old shack Running Elk called home.
Ethan took out his pistols and as he did so, he heard the familiar sound of someone pulling back on the trigger of their gun
Running Elk said something in his native tongue.
Ethan turned around slowly, making no sudden moves.
“Ethan?!” Running Elk said from the shadows
“Been a long time ain’t it,” Ethan said
Running Elk came out of the shade and embraced Ethan.
“I heard you died” Running Elk said, looking at his friend
“Ain’t done that yet… been close but I guess it weren’t my time,”
Running Elk sat down opposite Ethan and just stared at him for a minute
“It has been too long,”… he said
“I know and I’m sorry for that,”
“I mourned your loss for many moons,”
“And I’m sorry you had to do that too,” Ethan said
“But I’m here to ask ya Running Elk… about Milly,”
Running Elk started preparing a fire and food that he’d just caught
“What have you heard?”
“Nuthin’–not even from acquaintances that get around everywhere–nobody has heard a thing about her”
“Perhaps it is just as well,”… Running Elk said
Ethan felt that familiar emptiness churning in the bottom of his stomach
“She’s alive then?”
“It was many moons back when I saw her last and,”…
“She is not the person you knew… much has changed in Milly. She carries a shadow over her heart,”…
Ethan sat there thinkin’ on every word Running Elk was speakin’ but none of it made much sense to him.
“She sick or somethin’?”
“I think her soul is”… Running Elk said as he gutted the rabbit
Ethan could tell by the way Running Elk was talkin’ that whatever had happened to Milly wasn’t good.
Now Ethan only wanted to see her even more. And the guilt that was slowly welling up inside him was even worse than when Holden died.
He asked Running Elk everythin’ he could think to ask and still got no closer to knowin’ where she was.
“I have to find her, Elk,”
“I don’t think she wants to be found,”
“A person who runs from themselves is beyond the help we can give,”
Ethan stood up and started pacing which made Running Elk nervous
“Where did she last say she was headed?”
Running Elk stood up and put his hands on either side of Ethan’s shoulders
“You must let her go,” he said
Ethan shook his head
“Can’t do that, Elk,”
Running Elk shook Ethan hard
“You must! Or the same darkness that took her will take you too!”
Ethan pushed Running Elk’s hands off his shoulders
“I hear what ya sayin’ Elk, but yer givin’ me answers I don’t need,”
“If you look for her, you will only find pain,”
Ethan got on his horse
“That’s a small price to pay for what my kin done to hers. And I gotta try to make it right, Elk–I gotta try,”
Running Elk didn’t have the heart to tell Ethan that Milly thought him dead. He could see how much the pain of the past was already eatin’ away at him.
Running Elk watched as his friend rode away into the night
And he wondered if it would be the last time he would ever see Ethan Jackson
-END OF PART XXV-
You can read Part XXVI of Ethan’s story right here.