Court debuts... with true grit...
Thirty Miles North of Cheyenne
The coachman slumped in the upper bucket seat with his rifle across his lap, two holes in his chest. The horses neighed and stamped in the traces. The blackbeard leaned against the doorjamb of the stagecoach and deliberately reinserted two shells.
“Hope the rest of you plan on being better behaved,” he said. “Now get on out.”
The gang, five sweat-and horse-reeking bearded men, lined the passengers up beside the stagecoach: the guard blubbering in a foreign accent no one could understand; the Omaha cotton merchant in fancy tailored clothes, bowler hat dusty at his feet; the cotton merchant’s wife; the cotton merchant’s twin daughters, sixteen years old; the cotton merchant’s son, twelve. The gang kept their pistols and rifles leveled steady on the passengers.
The blackbeard spit out his rolly, smoked to the nub. The mulatto from Missouri relieved the cotton merchant of his ivory-handled pistol.
“We been out in the hills a long time,” said the blackbeard to the cotton merchant. “So we’re going to take your girls here down to the creek. And the boy, too, come to think of it.”
The drifter from Arizona wiped his nose and sniggered.
“Now you, mister,” said the blackbeard, “You can be peaceable about it, and you all walk out of here. Even if some of you will walk a little cockeyed.” The rest of the gang sniggered. “Or you can get heroic and get shot. Up to you. Either way we take your girls, and your boy, down to the creek.”
The cotton merchant’s wife in her tailored Omaha petticoats clothes moaned, and the children, clothed likewise and not understanding, cried into her skirts. The cotton merchant put arms round them all. The ruffles in his cuffs flapped in the dusty breeze.
“For the love of God, please … ” cotton merchant said.
“Shit,” said the new kid. He stepped forward, put a cold muzzle against the man’s ear, and fired.
The cotton merchant’s son tried to make a run for it. The drifter from Arizona got him in the gut with a boot tip and the boy, who’d got as far west as he was going to, went down retching.
“I don’t see why we got to haul them all the way down to the creek,” said the mulatto from Missouri.
The blackbeard inserted a new rolly in his mouth. A sudden gust put out the match he struck against his holster. “Guess I don’t see why neither,” he said, pulling out another.
The gang started in. Amidst the screaming and ripping and cussing the guard started to back away.
“For chrissakes,” said the mulatto from Missouri, tearing the bodice from one of the shrieking squirming twins, her cherry nipples taut in the midday sun. He shot the guard through the jaw.
The Apache thrust the cotton merchant’s scalp in his belt and leapt to the guard. The guard was on his belly crawling over dirt and bits of bone. Using the guard’s eye sockets for a hold, the Indian took the scalp.
Thrusting down his pants over the pistol-whipped naked wife, the new kid said, “You sure are a savage, chief.”
The Apache whooped.
“Christ Almighty,” said the blackbeard, taking a slug from the flask he found in the coachman’s pockets as he rummaged for the strongbox key, “Gag them up, will you. I can’t stand that screaming.”
Court's work is forthcoming in PANK and Shotgun Honey and has appeared in Night Train, Midwestern Gothic, Kyoto Review, Blackbird, Evergreen Review, Numero Cinq, Identity Theory, Pulp Metal, M-Brane Science Fiction, and others. You can find links at http://courtmerrigan.wordpress.com/short-stories/. After a decade of the nomadic life in East Asia I'm at home in Wyoming, having an American adventure with my wife and two kids.