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 boys were on the route towards Masterton and to the town just before it. It weren’t even on the map; it was that back country. The reason Ethan backtracked was because that was where he last saw Jed and Lincoln. And those boys didn’t seem all that bright and probably headed right back there after Ethan left town–even after Ethan threatened Jed. It was a long shot but Ethan was gettin’ irritated with not findin’ a single thing on either of them, let alone Milly.
It also irritated him that whoever was huntin’ them was as good as he was at the job, maybe even better. That was somethin’ he was keepin’ to himself and it was buggin’ him the more he thought on it. He’d already gone through a mental list of bounty hunters that could be on their trail, and one of them stood out to Ethan.
The boys stuck close to each other as they rode into the next town before Masterton. It was still shitty lookin’ but at least there were people around and some signs of life. It made Ethan feel less annoyed about their situation, but only just. The boys headed for the saloon caus’ that’s where everyone went in a new town. People stared at them for a minute or two and then carried on with their business. It weren’t nuthin’ they hadn’t seen before. Towns this small bound to have everybody knowin’ everybody and any outsiders stuck out like a sore thumb. But this didn’t bother the Jackson’s. They were used to it by now.
The brothers tied up their horses and headed on into the saloon one by one. Ethan and Jason sat down while Floyd went up and got their whiskey shots. They all sat down at the table farthest from the bar and closest to the door and silently surveyed the townsfolk. Ethan didn’t notice anyone or anythin’ suspicious–and no Jed or Lincoln neither.
“You owe us Lincoln… and you’d best be payin’ up or else!”
Ethan and his brothers and almost everyone else in the saloon looked towards the sound of the commotion.
And low and behold…
“Speak of the devil,” Jason said
“Damn! Now that’s timin’” Floyd said.
All Ethan could think was that he was finally gettin’ a break from things, not goin’ his way.
Ethan got up with his brothers and they waited for Lincoln to sit down.
Lincoln looked somethin’ awful. He had bruises and cuts all over his face, and his right arm was in a sling. He was limping too.
One by one, the Jackson brothers took their places at Lincoln’s table.
After downing a drink he couldn’t pay for, Lincoln looked up.
“Howdy, Lincoln” Ethan said, grinning at him
Lincoln looked like he was about to get up out of his chair just as quickly as he sat down, but Jason pushed him back into his seat.
“Now… ya listen ‘ere Ethan… I ain’t done nuthin’ and I stayed outta yer way just like you told me” Lincoln sounded nervous and was actin’ strange.
Ethan looked around.
“Uh… where’s Jed at?”
Lincoln stuttered and fidgeted in his chair.
“What the hell’s wrong with ya boy?” Floyd said
He started shakin’ his head like he was sick or somethin’.
“Can… can’t t-t-a-alk a… bout th-th-that,” he said
Ethan pushed a shot of whiskey towards Lincoln, who reached over and knocked it back.
Lincoln could only nod
Ethan poured Lincoln another shot
“Start talkin’” Ethan said
Lincoln looked around the saloon. He was nervous about it, and that was puttin’ Ethan on edge.
“Lincoln… don’t worry about what I told ya last time I saw ya–we ain’t here to settle unfinished business. Just tell us what happened to Jed,” Ethan said.
Lincoln nodded, swallowed down another shot of whiskey and steadied his hands
“Can’t tell ya much about the night in question, caus’ I weren’t there. If I had been, I woulda’ been… I woulda been… killed dead just like Jed was”
“Goddamn” Jason said
“Who, Lincoln? Who was it that killed Jed?” Ethan said.
Lincoln shook his head
“I ain’t lyin’ Ethan… I dunno who killed Jed and I don’t wanna know!”
Ethan bit on his lip and sat there thinkin’ on what Lincoln said
“Looks like you were right, Ethan–we got someone on after us,” Floyd said
“Someone… good at killin’” Jason said
“I been thinkin’ on it for a while now–how Earl’s body was all cut up. That ain’t normal” Ethan said.
“Earl’s dead?!” Lincoln said, lookin’ up from his glass
“Dead as a doorknob,” Jason replied
Lincoln started shaking all over again.
“Here Floyd, go on and pay up what Lincoln here owes. We need to be gettin’ on outta here” Ethan said, throwin’ Floyd money from his pocket.
“I can’t… pay that back to ya… ain’t got a dime,” Lincoln said
“Let’s go–yer comin’ with us”
The boys went out of the saloon and to the horses.
“Double up with Floyd for now, but yer gonna need yer own horse,” Ethan said
“I’m comin’ with… you?” Lincoln said
“If you wanna stay alive,” Floyd said
Lincoln looked back at the saloon. He knew he had no choice, and it was the best offer he’d had in a long time–well, any offer at all. He didn’t know what the Jackson brothers were up to takin’ him in after what him and Jed did with Earl. But he weren’t about to question nuthin’.
He nodded and climbed up behind Floyd
The Jackson’s rode on out and didn’t look back
As for Lincoln, he felt safer than he ever had. He didn’t know who he had to be thankin’ for this stroke of luck, but he didn’t question it.
Ethan felt a little bad for Lincoln, even though he knew what he had done with Jed. But losin’ a brother is a helluva thing and Lincoln had nobody. Ethan felt responsible for what happened to him and Jed–they were part of the Jackson gang and wanted in several states. He figured he could kill two birds with one stone by keepin’ Lincoln close.
And if the killer was after Lincoln, they were gonna have a hard time gettin’ past the Jackson’s.
When the boys got back to their makeshift camp, they changed their plans a little now that Lincoln was back. They were gonna use Lincoln as bait in Masterton. And even though Lincoln didn’t wanna do it, he also knew he had little choice. Either way, he was gonna pay for his part in gettin’ Holden killed.
And better to be doin’ that with the Jackson’s, than without ‘em.
-END OF PART XXIX-
You can read Part XXX of Ethan’s story right here.