Saturday, May 21, 2016

Serial Western Part two-War Wound

May 21 a bit late in the evening here, the next day in some places but Happy Armed Forces day to all members and ex-members of the Armed Forces.

This is part two and final section, of War Wound, my post Civil war action packed Western.
Even if that is a redundant sentence. :)
Comments are welcome.

I ended up adding over 1,000 words to my original tale. That was after I cut a few sentences and phrases. I added more in descriptions, action and the five human senses to draw people deeper into the various scenes. It's very hard to do that with just one or two senses, even though there are a couple of authors who can. But for most of us we need the whole batch of human senses. Even with that I believe I would have done more of that if I had rewritten this by scratch.

I added a bit from last week to help reorient the reader to what is happening in this week's section.

He figured the something was him. He saw one of them glance his way. 
     John glanced down at his clothes. He cursed—silently again. He had forgotten he was wearing a red plaid shirt. That wasn't good at all, he must be standing out like a Yankee among Johnny Rebs.
    More gun shots.

 John spurred his horse and raced down the other side of the hill, and around a huge outcropping of rock. He jumped off his horse, opened a saddle bag, then rummaged around in it. He hurriedly sorted though the three shirts he had in it, finding the one that would be the least noticeable in this terrain. It was dark blue with some green in it. Not the best, but at least the green was the same as some of the leaves this far up the mountain, and it would be harder to see in shade. John quickly pulled off the red shirt, popping two buttons as he did. He stuffed it into the saddle bag under the other shirts, than put on the blue one. 
     He leapt back onto his horse and started off, buttoning his shirt as he did. The new shirt was thicker and may keep him warmer too. It didn’t smell of sweat either. One less thing to alert them to where he was. He looked around, listened for birds, squirrels, horse steps or low voices. Now he would take the fight to them. Old instincts came alive as he circled the hill to get behind them. Even his senses seem to come alive. It always seemed that he could hear and see better. And he would notice a tiny breeze brush his arms hairs. His nose functioned a cut above its normal ability.
     Forty-five-seconds later he found that he was now behind and to one side of them. He watched them as they rode on. Now there were five and none seemed to be wounded. Maybe the wounded one was hold up somewhere, too hurt to join in looking for him. He could hope anyway.  
     John noticed that all five were about to ride around a second large outcropping of rock near that hill he had been on. This one had a cleft in it and two tiny trees growing from it. Around the rock there were many trees clumped together. He heard their horses snort and their hoofs hitting the mulch covered ground but they didn’t speak. Not even in a whisper. A heavy breeze blew over him. He thought it was away from them. The only   odors he caught came from the forest: mulch being stepped on and crushed, bird droppings, pine needles. 
     They probably thought he was still running, and would be easy to spot in that red shirt he had been wearing. Their mistake, he thought. Wished he had some mint leaves to chew on to keep his mouth busy.  
    The last man was behind the others by a few feet. He looked young and probably did not have as much experience as the others seemed to have. He wore new solid blue shirt and denim pants too.
     John urged his horse onward. He, even though a gelding, was a good horse well trained in being quiet. He planned to come up behind the man from one side. John debated how to take him out. Shooting would make too much noise this close to the others. Looks like it has to be the hard way.
     The younger man must have sense something and turned to see John right next to him. 
     He looked startled and said, “You're not..."
     John didn't let him finish, before he grabbed him and pulled. Both men fell off their horses. John made sure he landed on top and was up first and punched the other just as he was standing. It was a hard hit, but the other took the punch and threw one of his own. He was faster then expected and hit John on the chest. It hurt, but John ignored the pain and swung again. They traded blows for a few seconds with John landing more hits then his foe.
     The younger man must have realized he was losing for he stepped back and started to draw his gun. John could smell the man’s sweat as his fear grew. John almost nodded because he had expected that action. As the gun cleared the holster and started swinging up, John brought down his hand hard. His hand impacted the top of the gun and the man’s thumb. The force of the blow hurt, but not bad enough to interfere. The weapon flew out of the guy's hand. The man made an automatic reach for the gun, even though it was a useless action. It was a short motion for the man aborted the effort, but John still could take advantage off it. First he jabbed the guy in the stomach hard. The man bent over and as he did John threw an uppercut right into his moving chin. The man's eyes glazed over and he collapsed. John had almost cried out from the pain of the impact, it hurt a lot more than he recalled. 
      Age or out of practice.
     That had taken longer then John had planned. He backed up and smacked into the unconscious man's horse. The horse spooked and took off around the bend. The same curve the others had taken not that long ago. They would be wondering what was taking their companion so long. If they didn't know something was up, they would now. John ran over and leaped on his horse and rode into the trees.
     In scant heartbeats the four riders came back around the bend and galloped into the trees after his own horse’s thundering hoofs. For the next few minutes he and the four played a deadly game of hide and seek. They managed to get three shots off. Twice as he slipped, barely in time, out of a small clearing as one or more of the others rode in. One of those thumped into a tree next to him. Birds took off screaming their fear. Bile came up in Tom’s mouth. The third shot missed be a good distance.
     Finally John decided it was time to end it, in a way he didn't want to, but had already decided to do. He maneuvered his horse though a thicket then in between two trees very close together. The trees had high brush around them and some very low branches. He had his horse ease into a clump of bushes-the bark on either side scrapped his outer legs even though his pants-and stop. He just sat there while waiting for the others. He saw three ride nearby slowly looking though the brush. All three turned to their right and entered a small clear area. He backed his horse out silently, then followed them in drawing his gun as he did. 
     As they were about to head back into the trees, he said, "Hello,". 
     He had his pistol ready and fired one round as he finished saying, "Hello". John moved his arm to his left, firing again. He  kept his arm moving, without slowing and fired once more. 
     When they heard his hello, two had started to twist around in their saddles, drawing their pistols as they did. His first two shots hit them before they could finish the movement. The first one had his gun halfway out of his holster when John's bullet drilled into him. The impact knocked him off his horse. The second  had twisted around enough to see John, but the second bullet hit him before he could even think about aiming his revolver. He fell sideways, landing by his horse's hoofs in a clump. Both men were dead. John's third shot missed.
     John reamed and as he did he noticed that the third man was the one he thought of as the leader of this band. Before he could fire again there was a movement behind he more felt then heard. He did something he hadn't had to do in years, but his body still remembered. He pitched himself off his horse, rolling as he hit the ground. He hit a little hard, but was able to keep rolling. He rolled for a few feet though a small clump of bushes. He finally came up on one knee facing toward the leader, on one side and his horse on the other. There was a fourth rider on a horse behind and to the right of John's horse. He had a rifle pointing at where John had been a moment ago. The guy looked puzzled like he couldn't figure out why John was no longer in his sights.
     John thought about shooting him, but the angle was wrong to get a good shot, so he fired at the leader again. Right after squeezing the trigger, he stood and took off, running in a zig zag pattern. He stopped behind one of the larger trees and quickly reloaded his pistol. It wasn't empty, but he had been taught, which had been confirmed by experience, that he should take the time to reload any chance he got. It was not a good idea to have a suddenly empty gun in the middle of a fight like this one. 
     When he was done he courteously peered around the tree he was behind. The bark dug into his face but it wouldn’t be deep enough to cause bleeding. He had his gun out ready, but John didn't see anyone. Gun smoke drifted and spread out from his original position and he could smell it. 
     With a suddenness that always surprised him, two bullets thudded into the other side of the tree. Neither penetrated all the way though the tree, though. Both John and his wife was glad of that. He pulled back and as he did he realized that from the sound of the impacts, each bullet had come from different directions. So they were trying to come at him from opposite directions, like a pincer. Since he hadn't heard them talking, they were probably using hand signals to communicate. Which supported his idea that they had some experience, probably from the military.
     He spied another hiding place, crouching low, he ran though some underbrush. He ran for some heartbeats before half jumping behind another wide tree. He kept low and peered around the tree. Nothing, he moved to the other side and peered around it again.
    There was one of the two making his way though the underbrush, going from tree to tree. John carefully aimed and pulled the trigger. He thought he hit the man, but in case he hadn't, John dived behind another tree. There was no return fire. 
     Very courteously he made his way to where he had shot the man. No body, not even any blood. That meant he had missed. He froze except for his head. He moved his head around looking for any movement, but saw nothing. They must be waiting for him to move, he thought. He stood there for what seemed like five minutes, or more trying to look in every direction at once. He was in a position he had hated getting into during the war.  
     He finally saw something move. He watched the place for a moment since he could not tell if it had been an animal, or one of the men. On his way through the forest, he had seen, raccoons, squirrels and the like. It could quite easily been one of them that had just moved. In a fast movement, he bent over picked up a large pine cone and threw it where he had seen the movement. It landed and bounced, but there was no further movement. He dived to his right and scrambled on his knees though some bushes. He could feel that the knees of his pants had worn thin with all of this scrambling. He ended up behind a four foot tall, five foot wide rock. Two bullets hit near one side of the rock, throwing up miniature geysers of dirt.
    Tom’s heart rate jumped and he ran in a crouch again, as close to rocks, trees and taller bushes as he could. He made it among a group of trees small very close together. No movement, then a leave rustled on one side of a tree. He ran from the other side of the tree, crouching as he did. At least two bullets buzzed past him and he dived into a roll. 
     He came up on one knee firing. The leader was standing in front of him and to one side. John had seen him, as he came out of the roll, and had his gun ready. John fired three shots at the man. The bullets hit him in the stomach, chest and face. Blood sprayed out of the holes. 
     As the leader went flying backwards from the force of the impact of the bullets, John heard a grasp from behind him. He fell over to his left. He flipped over to his back and very fast pushed with his feet to get his head under some heavy brush. Pine needles, dirt and tiny pebbles poured through the neck hole in his shirt, but he ignored the discomfort. He laid there and tried not to breath hard, and hoping that he was right in thinking that he would not be seen by a standing man. 
     Suddenly something larger than an arm crashed into the brush to one side. Seconds later another crash happened a couple of feet from his right side. He could see part of what looked like a rather large branch. It looked like the last man must have picked up a heavy branch and was trying to smash John with it. He must have lost it when he saw his leader get shot. Again there was a crash, this time a bit further away, near his feet. 
     John saw two feet smash though the underbrush. Dust was thrown up, some settled into Tom’s mouth. He would have to wait to wash it out. He could stand the taste as long as he didn’t have to start coughing to clear his throat.
    The  feet came his way, so he scooted backwards again. This time though his upper half popped out into a clear place. The man and John saw each other at the same time. The man flung the branch at John then drew his gun. The branch landed heavily right next to John's face, but he ignored the crashing branch and more raised dust. John raised his gun and shot the man before he could aim his own weapon. 
     The man just stood there for a long moment then his expression changed from rage and anger to shock. He stood another moment or two, half way bent over, said, "You're not...," then fell forward. John scrambled up and hurried over to check to check the body. He was dead.
     Next John rushed over to the leader. He was surprised to find that he was still alive. The last bullet had just scraped one cheek, probably because the first two bullets had pushed him backwards.
     When John knelt next to him the man looked at him with shock showing, said, "You're not..."
     John said, “You're the third person who has said that."
     "Who are you?"
     John said, "The man you have been chasing for the last few hours."
     The man nodded and said, "You changed your shirt to something that wouldn't stand out so much."
     "Why were you trying to kill me? I don’t know you nor have I harmed you.”
     "We thought you were someone else. Someone who had cheated us, he sometimes liked to dress like you were, and we were told he would be where you were."
     John Adler felt rage boil up, he felt like throwing his gun as far as he could.
     In a voice that was almost yelling he said, "All that death over a mistake?!"
     "It looks like it. In your case it was mistaken hate, with those minors it was just a mistake, we didn't set out to kill them."
     John couldn't believe his ears. He felt even more rage and bought down both hands, hitting the ground hard. He let out an angry scream. He didn't feel the small pebbles and dirt particles dig into his hands. 
    "All of this death! You killed innocent men and you forced me to kill you and it was all over a mistaken identity."
     The man looked taken back by the violent reaction, he coughed in pain, then said, "We've... paid for our mistake. The man we were after pretended to join us, became out friend. He...(cough) he cheated us out of some money and a job we had been hired to do. When we saw you, we thought you were him... two of our younger men started shooting at you. They reacted too soon because of lack of experience. Then when you led us to that minor's camp," 
     He coughed again, swallowed hard, then continued, "The same two men opened up, when they thought the minors were drawing on us. I saw what was happening and shouted not to fire, but it was too late. I really am sorry about their deaths."
     John shook his head in unbelief as the dying leader continued, "You shot the two men over there," 
     With an effort he raised one arm and pointed in the general direction of where John had shot the two men after coming up behind them and the leader.
     John sat back and thought about the death that he had just seen and participated in. He had thought that he had left all this violence behind, far behind in the war, but it had come back into his life the hard way. Over a stupid mistake even. He shook his head again.
     A few seconds later the man he was kneeling next to gasped and died. John checked the body to make sure the man was dead then walked over to where the two men were. He double checked them as well. One had died instantly, but the other may have lived a couple of minutes after being shot. Next he found his horse.      
     After he had brought his horse back to where the leader's body was he went back to the two, than he found the last man he had shot. He dragged all of the bodies together. More dust rose up but now he could drink from his canteen. The warm afternoon weather made the water taste better than usual. 
     A new idea formed. He went though the pockets of the dead men, taking what he thought was valuable. That included their weapons and money. There was not much on the way of jewelry. He bundled what he found together in an old half blanket he had. He then put it in one saddle bag. 
     When he was done he got on his horse and rode to the minor's camp. As he neared the camp, he rode slowly making sure his horse made plenty of noise this time. When he rounded the curve in the trail, he was met by two guns, a revolver and a rifle. He stopped making sure he kept his hands in plain sight.
     Ignoring the weapons pointed at him, he explained that he had seen what had happened and after finishing some personal business he came back to see if he could be of assistance. At first the two surviving minors did not want his aid, but he used a quiet voice and was able to convince them that to allow him to help. They finally agreed and he slowly got off his horse, still keeping his hands in plain view. 
     As he helped dig graves for the dead he talked with the survivors finding out that the two had been off hunting when the others were shot. One had heard the shots and had hurried back. He was in time to see someone ride off, but hadn't get a good look at him. The minor didn't know if he had been responsible for this or not. John, who thought that it was good that he had changed his shirt, just nodded. John also learned that only one of the dead had a wife and child waiting for him back home. One other, the youngest, had two parents and some brothers as well as sisters who would be sad to learn of his fate.
     When the dead minors, were buried and a few words said over each grave, they put the dead killer on the back of John's horse. While digging John had explained the he knew where to dispose of the body. John got on his horse and after a farewell he rode off. 
     As he neared the trees he stopped, and said that he had something he had gotten while taking care of his business. It could go the widow of the one dead man. He fished the half blanket out of his saddle bag, dropped it, then hurriedly rode off. He stopped within the trees though.
     One of the two walked over to the bundle, unwrapped it, stood up in surprise, then called his buddy over. The other came over and grasped in surprise when he saw the money, guns and two rings. They bent down probably to examine the revolvers. One was a fine one that officers used in the army. After a discussion John thought they may have decided that they would sell the weapons and rings and add what they got to the cash. They would then give it all to the widow of their friend. It would not bring him back and it would not be as much, as if they had struck it rich, but it should help ease some of her burdens.
     John rode back to where he had left the bodies of the other killers. He dropped the one on the back of his horse. He then went off to take care of some bodily needs, which including eating. It had been hours since he had last taken a bite of food and even though he was still emotionally upset his body insisted he feed it. That was something else he had learned to do 
during the war. To ignore various bodily needs for long periods of time, but at the same time his body did need fuel eventually. Best to feed it when he could. That had come in handy during this reopening of his war wounds. 
     He had ridden off for a good distance so he could eat without any reminders of what he had just been though. When he was done with everything he made his way back to the bodies. They were gone. He thought he heard some horses riding off in the distance, but still checked the surroundings to make sure no one was around. He found no one, but he did find tracks to indicate that seven horses, all with burdens, had ridden off. He decided not to go after them.
     He rode slowly back down the hill and at one point when he came out into a clearing next to a short cliff on the side of the mountain. As he scanned the terrain he noticed seven horses that were being led down another area of the mountain, two had riders while the others had something laying across their saddles. One of the two looked to be assisting the other rider. John hoped that the wounded man would make it Ok. He wondered if the two would keep after the man they hated so much, he surprised himself by hoping that they would find and deal with the person who had cheated them. The man most have gotten some false information to this gang and that is what had set up this rotten, damnable fiasco.  
     John Adler shook his head, his mind still on the fact that  he had thought he had left all this killing behind. Yet he had slipped back into it as easy as he slipped his pants on every day. True his life had been threaten, but that didn't explain how he easy it had been. He thought he had left it far behind him, but it was still there. At least though it had come in handy for something good. Keeping himself alive and stopping a band of marauders with revenge on their minds. With that gang that was a good thing.
     He decided he would have to live with his abilities and the memories of what happened during the war, for the rest of his life. With both just under the surface. He tilted his head, maybe, just maybe, he could after all. After all during this fight his mind had stayed clear of his memories of war. After another pause he gave himself a one quick nod and decided it was time to head home. His wife would be glad to see him, especially when he told her he would be home for a while. He spun his horse around and started back down the trail.

                          The End 

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