Wild Justice – The Ballad of William Black

A Short Story by

Ian Kiely

1

William Black was the sheriff of a small town named Clearwater, which had begun to grown since a gold rush gave way to some prominence. William would patrol around the town on a daily basis. He would talk to the townsfolk and they recognised the sound of his spurs on the old wooden floorboards before he entered a room. William had a serious face and he carried himself as a serious man but knew how to relax and enjoy himself when the setting was right. William Black had done a lot for the town and he was held in high regard by the people of Clearwater. William was six-foot-tall, he had blue eyes and a scar on his neck that he would scratch at when he was thinking something over. It was only those closest to William that knew he got his scar in the war and only a select few were close enough to the man to feel brave enough to ask him about it. He married a woman named Violet who he fell for instantly after seeing her. He had never seen a woman as beautiful as her and he had never met anyone who understood him so well. William at times felt that Violet knew him better than he knew himself. The two met eleven years ago, within three months they were married and within two years they were a family of four. They had two children together, one boy and one girl. Violet taught their children and others from the town in the school that was built in the last year.

William had fought for the North in the war and served his country honourably, even though if you were to ask him he would say war is the last place for an honourable man. William felt a duty to the small town to watch over it as the sheriff. When he first arrived in Clearwater, he was haunted by the horrors of war but the kindness and safety offered by the people here were foreign to him up until that point. When the town continued to grow, he wished to step down from his role as sheriff and try his hand at running a business, maybe a hotel. He had always loved to travel as did Violet. On their travels they would fall in love with the towns and areas they went to. They would imagine their lives in these places and operating their business. The timing was just never right for such a transition, at least not yet.

Clearwater was once a small mining town but recently it was turning into a town with gold running through the newly paved streets. With money and gold came many great things William discovered. A school for his children to get an education, a post office to contact the outside world with ease, a tailor for the new money to prance around the streets and look down at those they once walked alongside. With this new found wealth also came saloons, brothels, and gunslingers. William felt that he had repaid his debt to this town and wanted a more peaceful and simple life for his family. William however was never a man to suffer criminals. When a posse of seven weather-beaten and dangerous-looking men ride into town and destroy a saloon, shoot up the streets and murder a woman before fleeing under the cover of the night meant only one thing. William discovered the bloody scene and the brutality left even a man as accustomed to violence as him feeling sick to his stomach and he knows what he must do. William rides after them with both of his deputies Charlie and Jack.

This story of violence, murder, and revenge starts here on this fateful night. When William discovers the location of this posse, he and his deputies surround the hills of the cabin. The seven men are hiding out inside playing poker. The lawmen ride up along a ridge overlooking a small wooden cabin. Charlie takes out his binoculars to take a closer look. The men are inside drinking and playing poker late into the night. William dismounts his horse and turns to his deputies to lay out his plan.

Jack, one of the deputies raises his hand to try ask William a question.

Okay, what’s the plan here Sheriff?”

Alright, men, these sons of bitches down there came into our town and pissed all over our rug. I know if a dog did that, I’d rub their nose in that piss. I count seven men in there with guns and plenty of whiskey too, so in my mind that gives the three of us the advantage.”

William takes a cigar out of his inside jacket pocket, sparks a match, and lights his cigar. William could hear the nervousness in Jack’s voice, the was boy was only twenty-three and until this point hadn’t had to do anything as serious as this. William puts his hand on Jack’s shoulder before he speaks to him.

“Alright now Jack you don’t gotta raise your hand alright. We got one door into this little hellhole and I see a window at each side but it looks to me like they can’t see much out of them it’s covered in so much filth. That outhouse there is where they’re most vulnerable so here’s the plan. It’s nightfall in a couple or three hours so I want Charlie up on that ridge opposite the front door with your bolt action covering me. Jack when one of these guys heads into the outhouse, I want you to knock that son of a bitch out and hogtie him, then move up alongside that window on the right.”

Jack nods in acknowledgment, he’s eager but anxious. William thought that between him on the ground and Charlie on the ridge Jack was as safe as he could be.

Charlie looks at William and asks

What about you Bill? and please don’t say the front door

William keeps his eyes on the front door of the cabin and says without a moment’s hesitation

“Of course I’m going in the front door, I got some questions for those pieces of shit down there. Don’t worry we aren’t dealing with geniuses here boys and besides I’ve seen first-hand how Charlie has the eyes of an eagle.”

Charlie lets out a slight laugh as this comment before he takes the three horses and hitches them out of the way. Charlie then moves along and takes aim on the ridge. Jack loads his revolvers and gets his shotgun ready to knockout whoever shows their face first. William reassures Jack before he goes along the side of the house, he’s just waiting for someone to leave. After about fifteen minutes a short, fat man stumbles his way out the front door and slurs his words as he shouts back inside.

Alright you fuckers I’m goanna go take a goddamn piss them I’m coming back in to kick your asses ….. and if anyone touches my cards… they’re a dead man.”

He stumbles his way down to the outhouse and reaches for the door when he hears.

“Time to go to sleep”

Jack hits him on the back of the head and he collapses to the ground and hits his head against the door. He hogties him and nods at William who gives him a nod back, he knew Jack could handle himself. William starts to walk up to the front door, he can hear the men cheering and laughing inside. He kicks in the front door to the surprise of the six drunk card players inside. One of them stands up and fumbles for his handgun in his holster. William draws a revolver and shoots him in the head in a split second. The wall behind him is sprayed with an explosion of blood and brain matter. His body gets blown back onto the ground with such velocity that three of the men fall onto the ground to take cover. Another throws his hands into the air. The last man sits at the table, unshaken by what’s just happened around him. William recognises him as the man he’s after for rape and murder from the description he got before he left town. William grabs him and puts his gun to the man’s head. He starts to back out of the cabin slowly. The four men draw their weapons and aim them at William. One of the men shouts

“What ya want me to do Tommy?” 

With William’s gun still held forcefully to his head Tommy screams

You put a bullet in this GODDAMN CUNTS HEAD, that’s what I want you to do !”

Before a shot can get fired William says

“Any of you boys even thinks about shooting me then you’ll have the hellfire of my ten deputies down on you before you can even figure out which one of you scum of the earth stinks the fuckin worst.”

Tommy starts laughing after this comment is made

This goddamn liar ain’t got no ten deputies outside boys, c’mon now, blow his goddamn head off already. I got a good hand on that table there I wanna get back to.”

William asks the men if they’ve got the stomachs to find out if he’s telling the truth. William keeps his grip on Tommy and uses him as a shield as the two back out of the door slowly and move alongside the cabin. A deafening and bright shotgun blast fires a hole through the door sending shrapnel and pieces of wood flying into the night air. One of the men runs out quickly to catch the sheriff off guard. He aims his shotgun towards William, before he can fire his weapon a bullet from a bolt action rifle blows through his knee and he falls screaming in agony to the ground. The man grabs at what remains of his knee, while blood openly flows from the wound. Tommy shouts to his men,

“Sniper on the ridge boys!, there’s a goddamn sniper on the ridge!”

The words just leave his mouth when William brutally hits him with the butt of his gun and cuffs him beside the cabin. Jack takes aim at the front door with his shotgun, he’s nervous but his hands are steady. William shouts in.

Alright, boys! There’s only one way out of there! You can walk out that front door with your arms raised high to the heavens … or me and my ten deputies can blow you to pieces in there and carry your bodies out like that dead friend of yours in there… I’m here for Tommy, the rest of you can come with me in chains or on the back of a horse. I’m giving you one minute to decide. But for you and your bloody friend on the front step, you best be quick, because after that I’m deciding for you!

Inside the cabin, the three remaining posse members argue amongst each other while the man with a blown-out knee drags himself back inside the cabin. Crazy Coons looks around the cabin, his eyes are wiry as hell and he’s well into a drunken stooper. He isn’t a happy drunk either, he starts shouting.

I ain’t letting this lying bastard take me in alive, he’s got one sniper out there at the most. That town is too goddamn small to have ten deputies and a sheriff.”

One of the men gets up off the ground and says

Fuck this I ain’t gonna die to find out, he’s a lawman he isn’t goanna gun us down if we go out unarmed, I’m leaving.”

Coons glares at the man after he says this with a drunken animalistic rage burning in his eyes. Coons gestures his gun to the front door before he says

“We’ll see if you feel the same way after that sniper takes your fucking knee off you cunt!”

The scruffy cowboy gets up and shouts out

“Alright alright I’m comin out now don’t shoot me I ain’t got no weapon on me.”

William shouts out

Come on then ya got ten more seconds.”

The scruffy cowboy gets up and walks outside with his hands held up. The cowboy takes a step then another, he can hear the floor creak beneath him. He steps out into the night, he sees Jack aiming a shotgun at the door from the outhouse. Before he can turn to William, the thundering blast of a shotgun rips a hole through his chest blowing him down the steps in a bloodied mess. Crazy Coons reloads his double-barrelled shotgun inside the cabin, the other men look around in disbelief at what just happened. Crazy Coons gets in cover beside the cabin door and says.

“Since when did this outfit start bending over for the law, coward got what was coming to him. This goddamn Sheriff ain’t getting out of here alive with Tommy Jackson are you fucking insane. Now grab those guns and gimme that stick of dynamite there. Let’s see what these fucking deputies have to say about that.”

A stick of dynamite comes flying out the left window, the explosion rips into the night air. Before William and his deputies can react the second shatter of glass and explosion comes from the right window. William drags himself and Tommy out of the blast zone. Jack moves up towards the cabin with his gun drawn. The three men make a drunken last stand and begin firing into the night air. Charlie aims down his sights and shoots through the cabin door, he hits the injured man in the head.

Crazy Coons tells the last remaining man inside to take the front and he’ll take the side window. The man shoots out the front door at the lawmen and Coons fires a bullet before he moves and hits Jack in the shoulder as he moves up closer. Coons lights a stick of dynamite and tosses it on the ground by the front door of the cabin. Before the explosion happens he dives out the left side window and makes a run into the night. The explosion hides him from Charlie and Jack can’t get a shot off with a bullet in him. Crazy Coons makes a run into the night and disappears. William runs around the cabin to chase after him but there’s no sign of him. The scruffy cowboy continues to scream on the ground inside. The explosion nearly killed him and his right leg got the worst of it. William runs over to Jack.

“How ya doin Jack how bad did he get ya.”

Jack stands up and looks at William,

“Bastard only winged me I’m okay, I’m okay I think.”

Charlie moves down off the ridge and comes down towards William and Jack. William walks up to the screaming cowboy on the ground, he’s lying on his side barrelled over screaming in agony. William turns him over and looks at his wounds.

“Quit your hollerin or I’ll have to put ya down like the animal you are.”

The cowboy slowly draws his gun in his hand, but before he can get a shot off William kicks it away and cuffs him. He calls Charlie over.

Hey, Charlie get a set of cuffs on him before he hurts himself, good shooting up there again, thanks Charlie.”

Charlie cuffs the man and wraps up his knee.

“You might lose the leg but I don’t think that’s gonna be an issue for you. The hangman in Clearwater is more concerning.”

The three lawmen get the bodies on their horses and take in the seven horses with them. They search the cabin before they ride back to town but after the explosion, there isn’t much left. They find some money, jewellery, and empty whiskey bottles scattered across the floor.

As the men ride back to town Tommy begins to wake up and starts talking to William.

“You guys are so fucked you think this is all the men we got? when my brother finds out what you done here tonight you’re all dead men.”

William asks him

“Who’s this brother of yours that’s so tough. You cowboys always got big talk don’t you. Break the law, murder, steal and rape your way across this country. You think justice won’t catch up to you. You ride around with your shit kickin law-breaking goddamn imbecilic gang. Well I got news for you, justice is coming for you and the hangman is all that’s waiting for you.”

Tommy looks at William with a sinister smile on his face, he’s unmoved by what the sheriff just threatened him with.

What’s the matter, sheriff? You never heard of Wild Warren Jackson before?…. That’s my brother and the leader of this here outfit. He killed better men than you and if you think he’s letting his brother hang then you’re stupider than you look.”

William continues to ride along his expression has changed since hearing what Tommy said, he shares a passing glance across to Charlie.

“You think I’m stupid kid? I’m not the one who’s going to hang so you talk all you want. Wild Warren Jackson got gunned down in Chihuahua Mexico last I heard.”

Tommy starts to laugh and scream with a wild smile on his face.

“Sheriff if you think my brother got gunned down in a Mexican shithole then you got another thing coming for you. You know my brother won’t let me hang for no $5 whore. You got a world of hurt coming for you sheriff. Say goodbye to that little town of yours sheriff, there ain’t gonna be much left when my brother finds out. You think tonight got bloody? You haven’t seen a goddamn thing yet sheriff.”

Charlie and Jack glance over at each other with a look of concern on their faces. William stops riding and hits Tommy in the head with the butt of his shotgun. Blood runs down his face and his unconscious body goes limp on the back of William’s horse.

That’s enough from you. Come on let’s get these back to the jail, I’ve heard more than enough of the empty threats.”

The men continue on to ride along into the night on their journey back to Clearwater.

2

William, Charlie, and Jack ride into Clearwater with four dead bodies and the three living criminals on horseback. They bring the bodies into the jail and lock up. Charlie says that he’s going to keep watch for the night. William goes across to the doctor’s house and gets him to come across to tend to Jack and his bullet wound. The doctor was a long-haired, moustache-wearing man who was more reminiscent of a wannabe vet than anything resembling a doctor. William had never found him to be the most effective doctor but in a small town, it was no doctor or one who was fairly generous with the opium, mainly for himself. The doc stumbled his way inside the back room of the sheriff’s office and took a look at Jack’s left arm.

“Alright now boys alright it’s not so bad we can keep the arm you’ll be glad to hear but it isn’t goanna be pretty.”

The doctor reaches into his medicine bag and takes out some opium and gives Jack a swig from the bottle before it begins. William goes over to his desk, takes out a bottle of whiskey and gives some more to Jack just to be sure.

“Alright now alright Charlie and William I need you over here to hold him down while I go in and find this little bullet we got here.”

Jack starts to breathe heavily, Charlie holds down Jacks leg and William goes to hold down his shoulders. Before William grabs onto Jack he asks for another shot of that whiskey.

 I don’t wanna feel a thing here and no offence doc, but I’ve seen your handy work before.”

The doc musters some energy to give a passing glance at the lawmen and gives a grunt. The doc reaches into his medical bag of tricks he rubs some cocaine on the wound as an anaesthetic, he takes out his forceps to start digging for the bullet lodged in Jack’s arm. The forceps metal hits against the bullet. Jack starts to shout and punch the table with his right arm. He screams in agony, the sweat pouring from his head, the blood from the wound now spraying the doctor as he reaches inside for the bullet. The doctor’s hand starts to shake and he loses his grip on the bullet. William looks at the doctor with a concerned look on his face for Jack’s life, he’s lost soldiers to lesser wounds during the war. Charlie keeps a hard grip on Jacks legs and tells him that he will we fine but his legs continue to jerk and twitch. 

Alright, alright, goddamn it, I got this, let’s get back in there I can see it now”

The doc said through his nerves. 

The forceps go back into Jack’s arm and the doctor wipes the sweat from his forehead and reaches in for the bullet again. This time he gets a solid grip on it but Jack is nearly unconscious from the agony. The doc holds on and takes it out, he throws the bloodied bullet onto a metal tray. The doc gives Jack another shot of whiskey and starts to stitch up the bullet wound.

William and Charlie go back out to the front of the sheriff’s office again and sit down. Charlie takes out a hip flask while William lights a cigar and takes a look around the town. Charlie hands William his flask and nods his head for him to have a drink.

What a goddamn mess this turned into Bill huh?  Makes me worried about what that sack of shit said in there about more of that gang coming into town.”

William takes another drink of whiskey and looks at Charlie.

Did you see that poor girls face Charlie?. I saw some terrible things in the war, we both did but that was war times and even then it was wrong. He may have more men coming or he may be a man fearful that his end is finally near. Some men would sell their mother if they knew the noose was all they had left to look forward to. I don’t know what’s coming but I know this Charlie, if we don’t at least try to keep some form of justice then we aren’t fit to wear this badge. I’m terrified of what might happen Charlie.”

William takes another shot of whiskey and inhales cigar smoke.

I’m scared of what might happen to my family, to you, Jack and this town of ours here. I’m scared of what might happen to me. I’ve been shot and stabbed before and that pain doesn’t leave your head Charlie, not that I need to tell you any of this. If we don’t stand up to these criminals then it’s all over, it’s all over for all of us. How can I stand back Charlie, that poor girl was beaten so badly she didn’t even look human anymore. I wouldn’t be able to look these people in the eyes if I let these folk worry that at any moment some wild sinister evil fuck could ride into my town to rape, murder and suffer no consequences.”

Charlie looks at William with a look of respect and empathy for the burden he carries with him as sheriff. Before he can say anything the doc bangs out through the door. He takes the flask off Charlie takes a swig and says 

Alright he’s gonna be fine, keep him bandaged up and for god’s sake don’t catch any more bullets.”

“It wasn’t exactly planned doc”

The doc takes another swig from the flask and shuffles home before he goes he says he’ll check in on Jack in the morning. Charlie says to William

“Alright William you head home okay, you head home to your family I’ve got things locked down here.”

William goes inside to check on Jack, he’s laid up in the back and passed out. William checks that the cell is locked up and goes back outside to Charlie. He says to Charlie that 

“It’s probably best we don’t go bothering the doc about that other bullet stuck inside that guy in the cell there.” 

Charlie chuckles and says 

Don’t worry about that guy he’s bandaged up, I’m pretty sure the bullet went through. He’s passed out there in the cell now get home to that family of yours were okay here boss.”

William puts his hand on Charlie’s shoulder and tells him he’s a good man before he heads home.

William walks through the quiet town to his house at the end of the street. He looks at his pocket watch before going inside, it’s 1:33 am so he enters quietly. William takes off his boots and heads to the cabinet in the kitchen. Before he can open it his wife comes around the corner and greets him with a hug. She says she was worried about him and that she had to do her best to keep their nine-year-old son calm. 

“He was ready to take a revolver and go help his daddy.”

 With a smirk on his face, he looks into his wife’s eyes and says 

“He gets that from his mother you know.”

They both share a kiss. Williams wife Violet has been with William long enough to know when he’s worried, she can see it in his eyes that he’s not himself. There’s a look of concern on his face that he’s only ever seen on him during both of her pregnancies. Violet takes his hand and asks 

“What’s got you so concerned? I know that look Bill.”

William says that 

“These guys they brought in are dangerous men, one guy Tommy Jackson is involved with a dangerous gang. I think we need more men here in case something happens.”

Listen to me William you can’t solve everything here tonight. You’ve kept us safe from a lot and you’re no good to anyone when you get too wrapped up in your head like this. Let’s go to bed and figure out everything in the morning.”

Violet takes William by the hand and leads him to their bedroom, before William goes in he stops outside his children’s bedroom.

I’ll be there in a second sweetheart, let me check on these little ones first.”

Violet goes into their bedroom and William opens the door he sees his two children sleeping in their beds. Susie is asleep with a book still in her hand, he kisses her on the forehead. He turns to Matthew to see his eyes flutter open. He jumps up and says

“Dad! I knew you’d be back, Mom didn’t want me to get your other gun and help you.”

William smiles at his son.

“You’re a good kid but we need a man around here and where I had to go is no place for a child.”

“But dad I can help, I can shoot a gun and …”

“Listen to me kiddo there’s nothing good to be found when you use violence instead of your head. You crack those books son and trust me you’ll do more good from a position of power. I’m always putting out fires and you can’t build anything when your time is spent constantly stopping men from destroying things”.

Matthew looks up at his father and says he just wanted to help keep his dad safe.

“I love you kiddo. Trust me the world needs lawmen… that’s true, but we need people who think more, plan and build a better world too, that’s how we get better. Now you gotta get some sleep okay kiddo”

Matthew hugs his dad and says he loves him. William tucks him in and heads to bed with Violet.

In the early hours of the morning, William is woken by his daughter Susie jumping on the bed. Daddy Daddy Daddy! she exclaims with glee and excitement. 

“It’s time to get up come on daddy, mommy made breakfast for us let go.”

William gets out of bed and picks Susie up, he puts her on his shoulder and carries her to the kitchen while spinning her around. Violet looks at this and starts laughing and through her laughter, she says 

“Just remember what happened last time Bill, there’s not enough sawdust in the world to cover up what our beautiful baby puked up.”

William has a look of horror on his face as he remembers the last spinning vomit incident. He puts Susie down at the table to eat her breakfast. Violet serves up breakfast and sits down with the family. she asks Susie what 4 X 7 is, Susie says 

“it’s 28 mom.”

“Excellent now tell me this my little sweet pea what’s 9 X 6.”

Susie takes a moment to think about it before she blurts out 

54!” 

William looks at his daughter with pride. Violet looks over at Matthew and asks him

 “who wrote Red men and white?

Matthew says “Owen Wister” within a split second after the question is asked. 

Very good she says. Okay, okay, let’s save something for school kiddos what do you think.”

The family sit together and finish their breakfast before starting out on their day.

Violet takes the kids to school where she teaches and Bill heads back down to the sheriff’s office. He stops off at the post office to send word for some extra bodies on the ground here in case things turn worse, preferably some Pinkertons just in case. 

William had never agreed with the Pinkertons completely but he believed that his back was up against the wall and when a man like William Black is up against a wall he will fight like a honey badger to get the better of his enemy.

3

Several days had passed since the criminals were brought into Clearwater. Time had continued to move as it had done the days prior, bread to be baked, whiskey to be poured and hills to be watched. William had kept watch on the horizon for his Pinkerton reinforcements or worse, the brother of the man they were soon to hang. William had not been sleeping since the first night he brought in Tommy and the remaining members to hang. He had wondered if Crazy Coons had survived long enough that night to warn Wild Warren Jackson of what was going on. William was familiar with the trail of horror left in the man’s path. Warren had kept his gang together for over 13 years, surpassing the Hole in the wall gang from Missouri. William had heard about Warren Jackson first during the war and the creativity and passion he had for killing was infamous. William remembered the stories he overheard in saloons and the words he read in newspapers about this outlaw. William spent his nights lately keeping watch on his family, he would sit and look on his children to make sure they rested. He would sit on his front porch, smoke his cigar and look out at the quiet town in front of him. Violet had remarked that he needed to sleep and rest before tomorrow. Tommy Jackson was set to hang at noon the following day. 

On the morning that Tommy Jackson was hanged with his two remaining gang members, there was a chill in the air. William had not been able to sleep that night so he spent it in the sheriff’s office, Charlie and Jack accompanied him. They were on edge but as the night rolled on William became calmer and his hands steadied. The night passed with little out of the ordinary, the lawmen waited and ignored the rambling insults from Tommy. The way William saw it was that the man had less than 24 hours left to live so if he wanted to waste his time running his mouth then so be it. Charlie didn’t exactly share the same ideas as William at times. When Tommy continued to shout and threaten he was met with the back of Charlie’s leather glove wearing hand. Tommy continued despite this so Charlie grabbed his hand through the bars and broke his index finger and another until Tommy finally relented. Jack tried to cover a laugh on his face in the back office and Charlie sat out the front of the sheriff’s office after this.

The night passed and the morning was moving along. William and his deputies began to walk the outlaws to the hangman in the town square. A large crowd was gathering around the spectacle of it all. William had told his wife Violet to take the kids and go home, he felt that they didn’t need to see anything so brutal at such a young age. The three men stand as the hangman puts the noose around their necks. Tommy looked down at William with a smirk still on his face, he still thought his brother was coming for him. Tommy looks out to the horizon hoping to see his brother on horseback riding into town with reinforcements. The gang members begin to sweat profusely, it’s beginning to sink in that this is their last moments. Tommy looks at the crowd in front of him, he sees cheering townsfolk, lawmen, children just looking on as he takes his last breaths. His breathing become louder and his vision becomes blurred on the edges almost as if the world is closing in on him. He looks over to the men beside him, to his left he smells piss and sees a man crying, to his right he sees a man praying to god for forgiveness. Tommy refuses to believe this is who he will die with. He looks into the crowd at William who doesn’t break eye contact with the outlaw. He then looks at Charlie who gives him a wink. Tommy looks at Charlie with rage in his eyes, he wants to kill him even more now. 

Tommy again looks to the horizon for his brother. He continues to look outwards for his salvation. The bottom drops from underneath the men as the hangman pulls his lever. They drop down suddenly and struggle to breathe. Tommy starts to turn blue in the face but his gaze is still on the horizon. His eyes start turn bloodshot and he begins to blink slower, his vision going darker and darker. Tommy sees men riding over the horizon, he can barely see who it is but they’re riding fast towards the town. Tommy thinks it’s his brother but with his last gasp at holding on he sees Pinkerton hats on the men and he knows his time has come. Tommy Jackson took his last breath in the town of Clearwater at 12:07 pm. This would not be the reason that this day would live in infamy for the town of Clearwater or the life of William Black. As the life left the eyes of Tommy Jackson, a shout of excitement came from a young boy in the crowd.

“The Pinkertons! The Pinkertons are here! Look, look !!”

4

16 hours earlier

There is a group of fifteen Pinkerton men sitting around their campsite. Two men are keeping watch while the others eat food and clean their firearms. They are a well-trained and serious group of armed men. When the letter from William Black came across the Pinkerton Detective Agency desk regarding Wild Warren Jackson, the threat was taken very seriously. This had been the only potential location for one of America’s most wanted outlaws in over one year, so they made their way to Clearwater in an attempt to potentially apprehend their suspect.

While the men eat their food and clean their firearms, they are blissfully unaware of the trouble that is surrounding them. Wild Warren Jackson is standing nearby watching through his binoculars. He sees one of his men move into position near one of the guards, another draws a knife and takes position near the other guard. Warren Jackson begins to walk down towards the campsite. He approaches the site without drawing his firearms. Warren approaches the men with confidence and whistles to get their attention. The men look around worried and they see a figure in the night illuminated by the campfire he is a looming silhouette facing towards them. The Pinkertons draw their firearms and aim at him, one of them yells out,

Identify yourself sir! Who are you trying to sneak up on Pinkerton agents?”

A few seconds go by without anything being said. Warren moves his eyes to the left then to the right as he scans the area.

You better state your business right now! Put your arms in the air or you’ll get your goddamn head blown off!”

Says the leader of the group of detectives.

Warren looks at the man who threatened to blow his head off, He keeps eye contact and begins to slowly and confidently respond to the agents aiming down guns on him.

“Gentlemen, come on now, you wouldn’t gun down an unarmed shepherd, would you? I got thrown from my horse and I’m walking back home to my family. I saw the fire and I thought I might depend on the kindness of you respectable lawmen, forgive me sincerely“.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a shepherd dressed like you are mister, why don’t you step closer here let me take a closer look at you,”

Says the lead Pinkertons as he holds a torch out to see him better. Warren begins to slowly step closer and closer to the agent. As he steps closer the agent starts to squint and try to focus on the figures face as he approaches. Warren keeps his head down so his face cannot be seen just yet, as the agent says

“Lift up your head now come on let me see you damn it!”

Warren lifts his head. The agent recognises the slight scar on the right cheek of the man and it’s undeniably Wild Warren Jackson. The agent drops the torch and aims his gun up but before he can get a shot off in the darkness. Warren removes a blade and sticks it in the agent’s neck. He then uses him as a human shield. The two men jump out behind the two soldiers keeping guard and cut their throats before they start firing into the other Pinkertons. Before the Pinkertons can figure out what’s happening twelve men ride in on horseback firing shotguns and rifles at the men, they aim for the head. Wild Warren tosses aside his shield and begins dual wielding his nickel plated Colt Paterson revolvers. He takes out three more men and they make short work of the agents. Warren makes his way over to the centre of the camp to an agent who’s been shot and bleeding out on the ground. He removes his flask from his jacket and takes a sip, he leans over and offers the agent a drink which he accepts.

So you guys are the best we have to offer huh? Makes me worry for the future of this country if I’m honest. I’ve always found it easier, to be honest with a man who’s about to die. I suppose that says something about me but that’s not your problem now is it”.

The agent coughs up blood on himself. He tries to speak but he cannot. Warren looks into the man’s eyes. He takes out his knife and holds it in his hand. He puts it to the agent’s throat and slices clean across. He keeps looking intently into his eyes until they rollover. He stands up immediately and speaks to his men as they gather around him.

“Alright, that’s a mighty good job you bunch of wild bastards. If  all the US government has to put against us is this pile of corpses then that little shit hole of Clearwater won’t know what hit it when you cutthroats and killers ride in there. Take the uniforms and set a light to the rest, we’ve got to keep moving if we intend on getting there by the morning, Let’s go!”

Crazy Coons moves through the site and approaches Warren to ask him.

Who knows, maybe Tommy has them three goddamn lawmen killed by now, hey Warren, huh!

Warren glares intensely at him with his unforgiving eyes.

“Well let’s not give him too much credit. After all, you already had them outgunned and look what happened. Why don’t you grab the goddamn uniforms and let’s get going now”

The Wild Warren Jackson gang take the Pinkertons uniforms and hats. They raid the ammunition and supplies at the camp before they move toward Clearwater. Warren watches his men as they prepare to head to town and get his brother back. Warren hadn’t ever particularly cared for anyone but he had always had a soft spot for his little brother, and that’s about as soft as it got with him. Despite his reputation as a ruthless cutthroat, when people met him he was disarming, and charming even, by many accounts. Warren calls his men together and leads them towards Clearwater.

5

As the Pinkerton agents got closer to town they could see that they were too late. Tommy had been hung along with the other two gang members. The fifteen men on horseback get close to town and as William looks closer at them he notices bloodstains on their uniforms, He looks at Charlie then to Jack, he yells out

“That’s not Pinkertons, everybody go go go! Get yourselves inside now!”

The crowd seems visibly confused as the horses continue to ride closer. The young boy who yelled out gets violently trampled by the horses. Unflinching at the child who he’s just trampled and killed Warren looks over at his brother’s lifeless body hanging at the end of a noose. His eyes widen with rage and he draws his revolvers. Warren starts blindly firing his guns into the crowd of innocent people to get to the lawmen. Bodies start to fall in the crowd with blood and bullets battering the townsfolk. The crowd of people begin to panic and trample over each other to find shelter from the hellfire. William looks around at the horror unfolding before his eyes and he jumps into action, he draws his handguns and fires a shot into one of the men on horseback. The man is thrown off of his horse with the impact from the gunshot and his bleeding body is flung into the mud. 

Warren aims his handguns and continues shooting into the crowd, he hits a man and a woman running away from the gang. He shoots his way through until a gap forms in the crowd leading down to the hangman’s noose. Warren aims his gun and fires a bullet straight through the rope around his brother’s neck. His body still with his hands tied behind his back falls to the ground and lays there unmoving. Warren rides towards his brother and stares down at his body. He looks around and sees William moving back towards a house near the top of the street.

The gang continue to shoot up the town, Charlie makes a run behind one of the saloons and climbs a ladder onto the roof to get cover. He aims his rifle, he looks through the sight and finds his man. He shoots him in the head from behind. Jack, who is now taking cover and firing from another rooftop, shoots a round and hits a man in the side of the neck, he falls off his horse but still fires a bullet before the life drains from him. While this is happening William takes a hold on the hill near his house overlooking the town. He aims down the barrel and shoots another gang member in Pinkerton attire square in the heart. 

Warren and two other men take aim at Jack at the bottom of the town. Jack gets hit in the arm again from the bullets ricocheting around him, he drops his gun and clambers for it in agony. Jack’s arm had barely healed and now he had a fresh bullet wound in it again. All this time Warren and his two men are moving up closer. Warren walks over to his horse and takes out the shotgun from the saddle. He moves up closer to the building that Jack is sitting on top of. The two men move up with Warren. Charlie is still being held down with gunfire from the men in town shooting constantly at him and William. Jack slowly loads a bullet into his chamber of his gun despite his arm growing numb with pain, then another and another before he finally loads it up. Warren and the two gang members begin to move inside the building. Jack is breathing heavy, his hands are shaking. Warren taps one of the men on the shoulder and tells him the man is wounded and to get up there and finish him off. One of the gang members bursts onto the roof and gets hit by Jack in the face. The blood sprays across the roof. At that moment Warren jumps out from behind the door frame and fired a shotgun blast right through the chest of Jack. He kneels down and gets closer to Jack for a better look at him. Jack is still breathing and struggling to look into the eyes of the man who’s fatally wounded him. Jack tries to struggles to breath but he still has enough energy to hold his gun in his blood soaked hand. Warren looks into the eyes of the dying young man before him. He looks at the young man’s hand as he holds his gun. Warren sees that the man is suffering and in pain, he stands up and reloads his shotgun. He looks around at Crazy Coons who’s left with him on the rooftop. With a sinister smile on his face Warren excitedly exclaims.

“Goddamn they got kids defending this town, how come you couldn’t kill this kid the other night Coons?. Come on, we’ve got some more left here, let’s get going”.

William is being held down by the men on the main street. He reloads his firearms and lays down covering fire. He sticks his head up and fires two bullets that hit one of the Jackson gang. As William returns to cover he glances up towards his house and sees Violet looking through the upstairs window of their home. They both share a glance into each other’s eyes, it was only momentarily but felt like an eternity. William looks at her and knows she will hide the children there and she knows to leave if anything happens to William.

Wild Warren comes down from having killed Jack in cold blood. He looks to where Charlie is being held down and fires some more shots to keep Charlie suppressed. Looking down the main street, he sees his men lighting buildings on fire and gunfire flies around the town. He is aware now of the full-scale massacre that he set in action. Warren looks over at his brother’s body again to fuel his urge to kill. Warren takes a rifle off one of his men and aims the sight down the main street at the sheriff who’s shooting his men. He catches the curtain move from the house behind him. He continues to aim down the sights of the gun,

“Now doesn’t it seem strange that our dear sheriff here is paying so much attention to that house there in particular?”

Crazy Coons takes note of Warren’s words and he looks down at the house

What you thinkin boss? “

Warren looks over and sees three of his gang firing on Charlie on the roof. He then looks at William who’s taken cover on the hill and being held down by his men.

“Coons you follow me, I think we’ve been shooting for long enough. Let’s go see if the back doors open, maybe we can take a break from all this gunfire and have a cup of coffee”

Warren tells his men to keep firing and cover him for five minutes. Before they head for the house Warren lights and tosses sticks of dynamite along the street to keep William and Charlie in cover and distracted. Warren takes a second stick of dynamite and lights it with a sinister sense of glee for the chaos that he’s causing. Warren tosses dynamite inside buildings and laughs as he runs for cover with Coons following him.

William is laying down suppressive fire for Charlie who he knows is a better shot with a rifle than him, he saw that during the war plenty of times. William fires another bullet that catches a Jackson gang member in the face with blood and skull now pouring onto the street. William counts three now that he’s killed himself. Charlie had by William’s taken out four but he can’t see Jack or hear anything from where he last saw him. The dynamite explosions, shotgun blasts and screams of the townsfolk echo through the streets and into the outskirts of town. The screams of horror and agony are haunting. William starts to think he saw about fifteen or sixteen men riding in and with about eight killed there should only be seven or eight left he thought to himself. Looking down the street William sees five men still terrorising the town. The saloon is now catching fire from the dynamite blast and Charlie is trapped up there. William takes a look back at his house, it seems calm so he bolts across and takes cover behind a nearby stable.

Charlie looks down from on top of the burning saloon to the ground below him. Around him are flames, screams and bullet fire. He looks to his right and sees William moving toward him through the chaos. Charlie jumps off the roof and lands on the ground. His leg is injured and he lets out a quiet grunt but he can limp along and still fire his gun so he carries on and readies himself. He looks over to William as he stays in cover. William shouts over

“Hey, Charlie lay down some cover fire I’m coming over !”.

Charlie nods to William and begins to lay down fire. William makes a run for Charlie to figure out the next move but before he can make it over there Charlie sees a spatter of blood fly through the left shoulder of William. As he drops to the ground he looks at Charlie with disbelief on his face. Warren Jackson can be seen aiming his rifle from William’s front porch. Warren shouts out,

“Goddamn I got the son of a bitch, Coons I got that goddamn sheriff”

With glee and a smile on his face Warren lowers his gun. He acted giddy from his shot. He was always very excitable when gunfire was involved, it was if he became an entirely new person.

William lay on the ground and grabbed his shoulder to keep pressure on the wound. He looks over to Charlie who can’t move with the bullets firing across him. Warren moves off of the porch, he yells over to his men

“Enough… enough goddamn it, stop your shooting! We got em boys we got em”

Charlie limps his way over to William with disregard for his own safety. He puts pressure on the gunshot wound.

“Bill, Bill stay with me, you’re gonna be okay it went right on through it went through.”

Charlie sees Warren walking towards him with Coons. The echo from the spurs on his boots grows closer and closer. The noise looming larger and larger as he approaches. Each step was more and more intimidating as he approaches a battlefield that was just an hour ago a peaceful town. Violet and both of William’s children are with him, being dragged along. Matthew breaks away and runs over to his father as he lays on the ground and starts hugging him. Warren stops briefly to look at what is unfolding before his eyes, he takes in the moment and continues on. Matthew goes to grab William’s gun but before he can grab it his father stops him.

Son no, stop! It’s me they’re after kiddo, you be a good boy and listen to me okay”.

Matthew looks at his father with tears in his eyes

“But Dad there’s so many bad guys”

Charlie watches with a strange feeling of evil overcoming him as Warren approaches, William whispers to his son

Go over to Charlie Matt, Now go!”

Matthew refuses to leaves his father’s side and clings to him. William embraces his son and holds him with an intense grip, he doesn’t want to let go of him. William looks at Charlie, their eyes meet and William looks down at his gun before he nods slowly to Charlie. Both men share a look of desperation and understanding. William knows that Charlie will die fighting beside him if it comes to it. Warren approaches but before he gets beside William he picks up William’s daughter and holds her in his arms. Violet screams out

“GET THE HELL AWAY FROM MY BABY YOU BASTARD !”

Violet breaks free of Crazy Coons and slaps Warren in the face, she scratches him and he begins to bleed. Warren laughs at her attempt and keeps a tight grasp of the girl. Crazy Coons slaps Violet hard in the side of the face, she looks up at him and spits right in his eye then kicks him in the balls. Coons falls to the ground and lets out a guttural scream from the pain. William uses this moment of distraction to draw his gun but before he can fire he is surrounded. Both him and Charlie are out gunned by the remaining members of the Jackson gang. Warren says,

“That’s it boys, you watch this fella, he’s a wild one but I think it’s the misses here that we need to worry about.  She’s got some fight in her don’t she sheriff? 

He looks down at Coons as he tries to stand back up, then looks at Violet and holds his handgun to Susie’s head before saying,

“Alright now Miss Sheriff, if you make one more move like that little pigtails or not, I will blow this little girls head clean off her little shoulders! you understand?”

When William hears this comment he stands up.

“Hey Jackson it’s me you want not my wife and children, let them go and take me with you, kill me!”

William looks at Warren with a helpless look in his eyes. Warren looks William up and down, then he stares right into his eyes. Warren stares so intensely it was as if he knew what you were thinking and feeling. He then laughed, as if an inside joke amongst friends was happening between the two.

William Black begging me, I didn’t think I’d see the day oh how the mighty army generals fall huh? Listen here Bill, what’s your friend’s name here?.

Charlie answers before William, he looks Warren right in the eyes and says,

“My name is Charles…”

Before he can finish his sentence Warren draws his handgun and shoots Charlie in his right eye. His body is blown backwards towards the ground, the blood pouring from him coats the ground and Warren says,

“How the fuck did this asshole take out so many of my men? Bill you gotta get some better deputies, my friend Come on this guy’s as bad as that other kid I had to blow up”.

Violet begins to scream. Matthew runs over to her, he’s covered in Charlie’s blood and terrified. Warren keeps hold of William’s daughter as she tries to reach for her mother, she has tears in her eyes. Warren finally throws her to her mother. William looks at the body of his fallen friend who lays before him, he looks down to the ground before he turns and looks at Warren with pure rage in his eyes. Warren sees this look and tilts his head while looking at William.

“So Mr William Black, the sheriff of this fine town”

Warren gestures to the town behind him as the buildings he once frequented burn before his very eyes. Bodies of the people he knows lay all over the street. Warren slaps William with his gun. Blood starts to pour over his eye. William has lost a lot of blood and he feels weak. William crumples to his knees but pushes himself back up and squares up to Warren. He ground his teeth to overcome the pain. William stares right into the eyes of Warren

“You and your gang are cowards. If you’re the big man you claim to be you’ll fight me in a duel”

Warren starts to laugh. The rest of his men join in as they look at the bloodied and beaten sheriff.

“What’s so funny you can’t draw quicker than a wounded man? I thought you were wild Warren Jackson”

This comment pisses off Warren. He clenches his fist and grits his teeth.

“Oh you haven’t seen me at my wildest yet sheriff”

Warren looks over to Coons and his men.

“Grab the wife and kids”

Crazy Coons and two other men take hold of them. Warren orders them to head down the main street. Violet is screaming and kicking as they are being manhandled through the town. Warren walks William down the street behind his family with his gun aimed at him at all times. William turns to Warren and pleads with him.

“Come on it’s me who killed your brother. He was a murderer and a rapist, just take me and leave my family here.”

Warren is only further sure of his violent actions when he hears his brother spoken about like this. 

“Unlike you, my brother was a war hero, we lost the war but we ran the best goddamn guerrilla unit in the south. Killed an awful lot of you and Lincoln’s boys”.

Warren leans closer to William

“The war ain’t over yet sheriff, it never ended, now keep fuckin moving”.

Warren asks for four lengths of rope. He tells his men to take the sheriff’s family and bring them up to where his brother last stood. Coons and the two other men drag them up the steps to the gallows. William screams and pleads the entire time but he’s unarmed, wounded and outmanned. Warren has William tied up to a chair in the centre of town.

Warren, STOP THIS, STOP ! STOP!”.

Warren looks forward at his men, He gives them a nod. The men tie up Violet, Matthew and Susie, ignoring their cries and screams for help. William shakes in his chair. His screams so full of rage, anger and desperation that even Warren takes a look back in surprise. William is shaking and struggling so much that he falls over and his face now in the mud and blood of the streets. One of the men says,

“Come on boss, you can’t really do this,”

Warren draws his weapon and shoots him before quickly holstering his gun.

“Anybody else here got a problem with the way this outfit is operated?”

Nobody says a thing, the men are silent and the screaming has stopped. Warren goes over to pick up William from the ground, he dusts him off and centres him. William keeps begging and pleading for his family.

“Don’t do this don’t do this! PLEASE PLEASE STOP THIS !”

Warren whispers into William’s ear

William there are forces out there that we cannot control, there are also actions in progress now that can’t be stopped. That’s cause and effect Bill. When you strung up my brother and hung him like a dog in these streets you set this in motion. That’s life Bill”

Tears roll down William’s face as Warren spoke to him. He looks at his wife Violet and his children. Their eyes full of fear and confusion as they look helplessly at William. Warren stands up and turns and faces forward, he looks over at Coons standing on the gallows and nods at him. Coons knocks them down one by one and they fall. William begins screaming even louder, he shakes and wriggles his way to try and get free to save his family. Warren grabs his head and holds it still so he has to watch his family struggle for their breath. With tears streaming down his face William screams so loud with such loss that he can’t understand what’s happening, his entire body begins to shake. He feels all of the breath leave his body and he is paralysed in a state of horror and intense pain courses through his body.

Warren looks around one final time 

“Alright boys, saddle up were getting out of here” 

William looks up at Warren 

“I’m going to cut your heart out of your chest and kill all of these animals”

Warren scoffs at this remark

“Sure ya will Bill sure ya will”

Then he winks at him. The Jackson gang get on their horses and prepare to leave Clearwater. Warren draws his handgun before he gets on his horse, he looks at William.

“You shouldn’t have killed my brother”

William looks at his family as they hang lifeless behind Warren. The fire burns behind Warren as if he was sent straight from hell itself. Warren glares at William before drawing his revolver. Warren shoots William in the head, his body falls forward from the chair, his bonds preventing the body from falling completely. Warren gets on his horse and they leave town with Tommy’s body on the back of his horse. They ride away with an inferno behind them as the town burns.

6

William opens his eyes. He stands alone in the desert. A pack of coyotes run past him and over the horizon. William looks around. He sees a cactus behind him, there’s a burnt out stagecoach to his right. William walks closer to the stagecoach. He looks up into the sky, there’s a bright light shining down on him but he can’t see a thing. The white light shines so brightly that he covers his eyes with his arms. He takes his hands down and sees Charlie dying before him on the ground. William runs to his friend but before he gets to him the ground disappears from beneath him and begins to free fall. He lands on the ground and stands up, he’s surrounded by fallen soldiers. William stands in the centre of hundreds of dead men, one of them looks up at him and tells him.

“you know you’re dead right? We all are”.

William steps back and trips over, he falls backwards to the ground. He looks down at what tripped him up and sees Jack’s dead body on the ground, the shotgun blast still in his chest. William looks at him, Jack’s eyes open up and stare at William.

“They got me, sheriff, they got me”.

William tries to speak but he cannot. A bright light starts to shine again and William looks around desperately.

William wakes up in the sheriff’s office. He takes in his environment surrounding him and outside the window to see who’s around. William hears the floorboard creaking, he turns around to see Charlie standing in front of him. Charlie covered in blood with his eye gone. He holds out his hand to give William something, William looks down at his blood soaked hands. Before he can see what Charlie is holding, William feels as if he’s falling from the sky. He opens his eyes, he’s in his bedroom. He gets out of bed and walks down the hall to the kitchen, he turns the corner and sees his family eating breakfast. William looks around at each of them, they are eating their food and seem very happy. William starts to feel the ground shake from under him, the walls and roof begin to crack and fall apart. The glass in the windows break and fire surrounds the house. William looks to the front door that gets kicked in, Wild Warren Jackson bursts in with his handguns drawn and fires on the family with fire burning in his eyes. William jolts awake and starts screaming as he opens his eyes. He looks around the room that he’s in, it’s an old room but he recognises it. He tries to stand up but he physically can’t. He hears a familiar voice behind him.

“God Dammit he’s awake, William can you hear me?”

William’s head begins to shake and his head lays back down on the table.

The doctor from Clearwater looks over William, he’s in a back room of the doctor’s house which was mostly unburnt during the massacre. The doctor has stitched up the wounds and removed any shrapnel he could find. William slightly opens his eyes again, still unable to speak he looks around the room. The doctor asks William can he hear him, to which William doesn’t respond. William raises his hand to grab the doctor by the wrist, his strength is almost entirely gone. William tries to speak but he cannot, his face has been stitched up where the bullet went through. The Doctor wipes sweat off his forehead and tells him that he was shot twice but he got the bullets out. William drops his hand back down onto the table.

“William I have no idea how you survived what happened, you had severe trauma and the bullet went straight through your cheek and it barely missed blowing the back of your head off. William you need to rest up, we already sent word to get help here”.

William closes his eyes and falls back into a deep sleep.

William opens his eyes again. He’s standing alone again in the middle of a crossroads. He sees nobody and nothing around him. He feels a hand on his shoulder and turns around. It’s Charlie standing there beside him with his hand held out. He takes William’s hand and puts something in his palm. William looks at Charlie but he can’t speak to him when he tries to. Charlie points at the ground behind William and tells him he has to bury these bullets in the ground. Charlie marks a spot on the ground in the centre of the crossroads. William looks at the ground, he gets on his hands and knees, he begins to dig. William puts the bullet in the ground and covers it up with the dirt he removed. William hears an eagle screech and fly past him on his right-hand side, he looks over at it. William turns back to look at Charlie but there’s nobody there. William hears the gallop of horses behind him, they get closer and louder but he cannot see anything. William jolts awake back in the doctor’s office. He breathes heavily and sweats profusely on the table, he sits up slowly. The doctor comes back into the room and looks at William with disbelief.

Jesus Christ William you’re awake. You’ve been out for the last 3 days I didn’t know if I’d see you again.

William signals the doctor over to him with his hand, the doctor leans in close to William. The doctor gets closer and William whispers to him,

“I’m dead right now Doc, right?“.

The doctor leans back and tells William

“You’re alive William, just about but you’re alive”.

William stumbles to his feet, the Doc helps to stabilize William.

“William, you need to rest!”

William pushes the doctor away and tries to stand on his own. He stands on his own for a few seconds before he gets weak at the knees and buckles. He grabs the table to support himself, The doctor helps William back onto the table.

William you need to rest up now, I’ll give you something to ease the pain now. Don’t worry we’ll have time to talk but you need to rest or you won’t make it”.

William lays back on the table and stares at a spot on the ceiling. The doctor gives William something to rest and he starts to fall back asleep. The doctor paces around the room until William is back asleep before he leaves the office and goes out the front of the building. The town is smouldering still. The doctor takes a drink from his hip flask and sits down. He had spent the last few days trying to help anyone wounded and alive but there were more dead bodies than injured civilians

7

7 months later

William had healed from most of his injuries. He had buried his family in the grave outside of town. Their home was burnt to the ground and nothing survived the flames. He only saw his family now in his memory. He walked through his burned home, only the charred remnants remained. All the goodness that was once there had been washed away by the flames. William still had a great deal of pain whenever he spoke so he didn’t speak much to anyone anymore. He felt he didn’t have anyone to speak to except for one man of course. The doctor helped to save William’s life but even he wasn’t entirely sure how a man could walk away from such an ordeal. William left Clearwater as soon as he felt capable of getting his vengeance. He had been riding now for over three weeks trying to find word on Wild Warren Jackson and his gang but had not been successful yet. There were stories of the Jackson gang all over as his carnage in Clearwater made the national news. Some said they were in Montana others swore they went back to Mexico while others had said he went to the mountains in Colorado. With every law enforcement agency searching for them, William knew they would go somewhere secluded. He heard of a man matching the description of Warren Jackson in Colorado but that could all be untrue. William would follow any lead now and with his name across the papers, his legend was rising too in the West. He was approached by a man who had heard of what they did to his family and tipped him off to the location of a gang member. William went on his way to a ranch where a member of the gang was believed to be holding up with his cousins. The man was called Mark Kincade and from the wanted photo going around William recognised him from Clearwater. He was one of the men who dragged his family through the streets. William had no choice but to see the faces of these men each night he slept, the few brief hours he slept at night. That was on the nights he slept at all now.

The ranch was situated on the foothills of the Mount Elbert mountain range in Colorado. William rides along dressed in black and approaches the ranch. He gets off of his horse and walks towards the front door. Before he reaches the door, a man steps onto the front porch with a shotgun in his hand. He yells out to William who stops walking when he sees the man. The man aims his shotgun at William before he yells out to him,

State your business stranger!”

“My name is William Black and I’m looking for a man by the name of Mark Kincade.”

The man keeps his gun aimed at William.

“There’s nobody by that name around here.”

William starts to walk closer to the man and looks around the ranch as he proceeds.

Mark Kincade was one of the men who killed my family, I was told that he was hiding out here because he heard I was coming for them”

The man starts to get nervous and his hands tremble as he aims the gun at the man dressed in black walking towards him. William stops before the step onto the porch.

“L..L…Listen here mister I think you better leave there’s nobody here”.

Your name is Joe, isn’t it? Well listen here Joe you can either put that gun down and stop aiming it at me or you can die right here and now on your front porch”

The man continues to shake, his sweat rolling into his eyes. The seconds since William spoke felt like an eternity. Before the man can even respond there is a shatter of glass from upstairs followed by gunfire. The man is sweating and shaking too much, he’s slow to pull the trigger. William draws his guns and shoots Joe on the porch and runs towards the front door. There’s someone else shooting from the kitchen at William, who is taking cover outside the front door. Joe lays bloodied on the porch and William fires his gun at the man in the kitchen, he misses and William ducks for cover under the window frame. The man in the kitchen continues to fire every bullet he has but he misses with all of them and now has to reload his weapon.

William stands up and walks in the front door to see the man loading his weapon, the man throws his hands in the air. William shoots the man three times in the chest faster than the man fired a single bullet. William begins to walk to the stairs with disregard for his own safety. William hears a man rustling around in an upstairs bedroom. Inside the room, Mark Kincade is sitting behind a bed and aiming his weapon at the closed door. Mark is sweating and visibly shaking all over, the seconds roll on like hours. Mark hears footsteps in the hall, along the stairs and downstairs as well. Mark begins to shout out

I..I..I wasn’t the one who killed your family sheriff, I ain’t even seen the gang since that day I lost em and left sheriff I did… I don’t wanna shoot you sheriff but I will if I..I have to”.

The silence continues as Mark aims his gun at the bedroom door. The door suddenly bursts open and Mark opens fire but to his surprise, he sees his cousin Joe’s face and the moment he stops firing. A bullet hits Mark in the arm and he falls to the ground. William drops Joe’s bullet riddled body to the floor and approaches Mark. He kicks the gun away from the screaming man and stands above him as he cries and begs for his life. William asks him,

Where are they, Mark?”

Mark begins to sob

“I…I I don’t know I don’t know”

William starts to kick the man and slap him

Where are they? Where the FUCK ARE THEY!”

William takes Mark by the hair and throws him against the window, he puts his gun to his head and says

You can be useful and tell me or I can blow your head off right here, right now!”

Mark starts to cry as he’s being beaten in the room, he shouts at him to STOP Through the pain and tears. William takes a step back and sits on the bed, looking at Mark.

Talk”

Mark tries to gather himself to speak.

“I … heard Coons saying that they were going to an old safe house near Elk Creek, we used to rest up there back in the day after the heat got to be too much.”

“Where exactly?”

“It’s about a day’s ride north of that town there I don’t know if you know it it’s called Durango. Listen sheriff it’s only a few days ride from here but I..I..I ain’t got nothin to do with them no more I’m a changed man after that day I swear it. That’s all I know really really it is, please just let me be”.

William stands up from the bed, walks over to Mark and puts his hand on his shoulder. Mark looks at him with fear in his eyes, tears still rolling down his face. He looks at his cousin laying on the floor, then he looks at the floor. William looks at the defeated man and says.

“Hey, look at me kid”

Mark slowly raises his head and looks sheepishly into William’s eyes

A dead man’s tears won’t work on me”

Mark winces in pain, he grabs his stomach and looks at his hand, it’s covered in blood. He sees William gripping a knife that’s splattered with blood. Mark falls to the floor as blood starts to pour out of him. William turns and walks out of the room. William walks out of the house with the first piece of first-hand information about the Jackson gang’s whereabouts in months. William gets onto his horse and rides towards the Jackson gang and face Warren Jackson down.

8

Warren walks around the camp that they have set up Southwest of the town of Durango. They have found a safe hideout that they have used in the past. It’s an old hunting cabin that’s just off the beaten track enough in the La Plata mountains to remain safe. Warren had always had a fondness for Colorado even though he was born and raised in Missouri. He walked over to the coffee pot in the cabin and took a cup for himself. It’s still early in the morning and nobody else has woken yet. Warren had always felt better when he ran off less sleep. He felt a sense of serenity and clarity being awake while others slept. Warren checked on their supplies, they had enough for a few weeks but he wanted to head up to Durango for more. Warren also wanted to visit a girl there that he hasn’t seen for a while, he had become very fond of her in the months they had recently spent there. She had a fascination and wonderment with Warren. He was unlike any other man she had ever met. He had travelled the world and she knew he was a criminal but he carries himself like a businessman. He wasn’t educated but he spoke in a way that drew you in and felt his wisdom. To say she was infatuated was an understatement and Warren was taking full advantage of this but he found her charming and interesting enough for his time. Warren finished off his coffee and kicked Coons in the leg to wake him up, he says to him.

C’mon now it’s time to get dressed and venture out into the world, we’re heading to town for supplies and I want to go early”.

Coons wipes the tiredness from his eyes and stumbles around to throw himself together. The two get onto their horses and ride away from the cabin. The snow is beginning to get heavy, in a few more weeks it will be another few feet higher and too heavy to pass through with a wagon. Warren and Coons arrive in Durango at midday, they get all of their supplies from a fence they know. The pair hitch up the horses and stow the wagon and they head into the saloon. They have some drinks and Warren speaks to some locals. He decides to leave and Coons follows him outside. They walk next door to get some drinks and girls, they’re treated as regulars here and generous with their cash. Warren’s girl sees him when he enters and she runs over to him, she jumps onto him and tries to kiss him but Warren pulls away and puts her down.

Hey can a man get a drink first and take his time? how have you been? I’m sure you’ve got lots to share with me”. Warren says to her while walking over to the bar.

They sit and they talk. Warren sips his whiskey and enjoys a cigar before lighting another one. He smokes them right down past the band before he puts them out. Warren glances over and sees Coons drinking from a bottle and grabbing at some of the girls. Warren stands up and takes Abigail by the hand.

Come on it’s getting too crowded down here, your room still has that balcony doesn’t it?”

Abigail nods and smiles in agreement. They head upstairs and into Abigail’s room. Shortly after, Coons stumbles his way upstairs with one of the girls. Hours pass and the night air is blowing in through from the balcony onto Warren and Abigail lying in bed together. Abigail asks Warren how long he’s staying in town for

“Oh a couple of nights is all, I don’t want to stick around here with so many people around”. 

Warren says. Abigail looks at him and asks,

“Let’s take a ride out away from town tomorrow, just take off for the day… or we can just take off?”

Warren exhales cigar smoke and slowly sits up, he puts his hand on her thigh and says

Now that’s the most tempting offer I think I’ve … well I think ever gotten, at least recently anyway that’s for sure my darling”.

Warren gets up and pours himself a drink, he walks onto the balcony and looks at the city with the mountains in the background.

I’ve been fighting and murdering for so long, this gang… this gang of mine whatever’s left of it anyway, whoever isn’t dead or in jail by now. They never got me anyway and I’ve kept us together longer than any other gang out there. I’m not sure that’s really an accomplishment to be proud of”.

Abigail sits up and looks over at Warren who’s taking a drink and looking at the mountains. Warren starts speaking again.

“The thing about all this is of course after all this time and all this murder, it has to come to an end. For better or worse everyone in the country knows who I am, they see me all over the goddamn place on my lovely bounty photos. Some fuckin kid shot Jesse in the end of it all … So I gotta think and ask myself. Warren you’ve written the story now how do you want it to end? probably tuberculosis. Trust me Abigail I’d rather stand in front of the line of bullets than go out like that.”

Abigail speaks up finally and says.

“Warren ! Don’t you talk like that! We can leave right now and Never come back and you can write more chapters it’s not the end. It could be a new beginning”.

Warren smiles over to Abigail. He goes back over to the bed and lays down beside her. He kissed Abigail and looks at her

It’s a feeling you know… I can’t even really explain it myself… to be honest with you like the end is coming soon. I see it coming but I don’t know what it is exactly. I’ve killed too many people, crossed too many folk you know. I know it’s not a happy ending I’ve got coming I don’t deserve it, shit …. people who do deserve it don’t even get those. They’re a hopeful delusion.. a fairy-tale we tell each other so we sleep better at night”.

Abigail seemed taken by the fact that he was so open about murdering people

Warren, why did you kill so many people… Was it in the war?”

Before Warren can answer he is interrupted by a scream and loud crashing noises from a few rooms down. Warren jumps up and gets dressed and grabs his gun before he opens the door. Warren walks down the hallway and past the crowd of girls outside the room where the noises were coming from. Warren pushes his way to the door and opens it enough to slide in and shuts it closed. Warren looks around the room and sees the bed is a mess. The dresser is pulled apart and items are flung across the room with glass everywhere. Warren looks over to see Coons drinking from a bottle in a corner covered in blood. Warren holsters his gun and asks Coons,

What the fuck are you after doing? “ARE YOU TRYING TO GET ME FUCKING KILLED !”

Warren looks at Coons, who stares at him with his face covered in blood.

“I didn’t mean to do it but she .. she fuckin started laughing at me and at … and … I fuckin fell over and.. well fuck I don’t know, next thing I remember I’m bashing her around the room and then well then she’s not movin here and .. oh I fucked up really bad this time boss, I got too drunk”

Warren rubs his hands against his face a few times and grunts. He looks at the window. Warren gets up and walks over to the window, he looks around and at the ground. He goes over to Coons and stands him up

“Alright you fucking lunatic we’re going out that window there, we’ll turn to the right around the back of the saloon and the drunkards next door won’t know a damn thing. We’ll move quickly Coons and we’ll make it back to the wagon. We’ll go back to camp and not come back here again, now okay let’s go!”

Warren locks the door and pushes a wardrobe against it to slow anybody getting in down. Warren goes out the window and Coons follows, they go down the street and behind the saloon to get away to their wagon. The drunks in the saloon next door sing songs and fall over each other, their drunken joy hasn’t turned to a gunfight just yet. Warren leads the way out the back of the saloon. He puts his hand out to stop Coons. A sheriff is walking along the street and heading towards the brothel. The sheriff keeps walking so Warren and Coons move along quickly to their wagon and supplies. Warren gets the horses and Coons attaches them to the wagon, they ride out of town in the cover of the night before anyone can follow them. When they’ve left town Warren lights a cigar, Coons looks over at him.

So did you get to say bye to your woman?”

Warren looks right ahead and continues to smoke his cigar. He laughs and turns to Coons

Looks like the only person with worse look in a whorehouse than me is you it looks like.”

Coons laughs loudly at this as does Warren. The pair continue to laugh for a few seconds. Warren suddenly stops laughing and looks back ahead to the path. Warren inhales his cigar again, he exhales and after a tense and uncomfortable few seconds for Coons he begins to speak again.

“Crazy Coons and the Jackson gang huh. I remember the time was oh about what now 3 or 4 years ago. You’ve come a long way from the scrawny kid Joe Connors haha you remember that?

Coons chuckles slightly but seems concerned at the way Warren’s demeaner seemingly turned on him in a split second.

” Never considered Crazy Joe? No, I guess Crazy Coons worked too. Seems unfortunate that you’d happen to be around for some girl acting up and getting killed. I guess my brother did the same thing that night in Clearwater I suppose, that’s the story at least anyway isn’t it.

Coons looks at Warren and says to him

What ya want me to tell ya, you of all people know how some of these women get in the way and forget who they are…. and and you know you know that temper Tommy had”.

Warren rubs his tongue across his teeth and nods in agreement. He says

You should probably lie down you’re still drunk we’ll be back in about an hour”.

Coons looks around a bit first before he nods along at Warren. As he looked around he saw nothing but the vast emptiness of the mountains and not a soul in sight. Coons lays down in the back of the wagon, he pulls a blanket over him and underneath he clenches a handgun the entire time. He won’t rest now. His heart is pounding in his chest. The time eventually passes and Warren rides along to the cabin. Before they get there Warren slows down and says

Get on up here Joe we’re nearly back”

Coons gets out from under the blanket and gets back up in the front with Warren.

Joe I don’t think we’ll go back to Durango for a while huh, maybe head south somewhere warmer after the winter… What ya think?”

Joe Connors nods along in agreement, he seems more at ease now that Warren appears more relaxed.

The pair arrive at the camp and the rest of the gang help to unload the wagon with Coons while Warren walks around the back of the cabin. Warren takes a look around the area and slightly nods his head. He watched as the men in his gang unloaded the supplies. Coons keeps glancing over at Warren but tries in his small minded way to attempt to be subtle about it. 

Warren knew Coons to be as subtle as a kick from a mule. He looks around once again and walks along the edge of the camp for a while before heading back to his room. Warren was spending less and less time around his guys the past few weeks. He was wary of every glance, every word which was said was analysed by him. Warren spent the night alone in his room, he would drink and usually write or draw something in a leather journal he kept over the years. Tonight he just drank and stared out the window at the sea of white all around. The Snowfall was starting to rise all around him and his men now. 

9

William has been riding now for several days and was finally approaching the town of Durango. At long last he reached the town and went to the general store to get some supplies for the next stage of his journey. William bought his items and left the store. He brought them back to his horse and looked over to the saloon. He hitched his horse and walks in the front door. He keeps his hat on and his head lowered , he walks over to the bar and says 

Whiskey” to the bartender. 

He sits and finishes his drink before tapping the glass for another one, he throws a dollar onto the counter. William has another drink and he can overhear two men talking at the end of the counter. An old dishevelled looking prospector says to the other old man sipping his drink.

I saw the fellas leaving town last night when I was coming into town, they went out of here in a real hurry so they did. They didn’t look like friendly fellas either now I can tell ya that much for certain and I had a little gold on me so I thought I’d stay outta sight”

“You think it’s the ones who killed that girl last night”. The old man asked the prospector 

Well, who the hell else would I be talking about now it had to be them two fellas ya see. Who else would be sneaking around that late at night.”

William thinks about the girl that Tommy Jackson had killed starting this whole thing. He thinks about how similar it sounded here and the more he listened to the old men talking the more certain he was that Wild Warren Jackson and his gang were nearby.

William downs the end of his drink and leaves the bar, he heads over to his horse and leaves town. He heads Southwest to try and find the cabin near Elk Creek. He headed towards the mountains, which looked covered in snow. William rides along and sees some freshly made tracks that he follows up the mountains. He follows them until the snow is too heavy and a fresh layer of snow has covered all the remaining trail from the wagon. William stops his horse here and puts on a warmer jacket off the back of his horse. William rides along further and removes his binoculars, he can see smoke from further along the mountains. It seemed to be a short ride but he was tired and decided to rest for a couple of hours. William set up a camp for the night, he sat under the stars on a cold night and looked up. It was on these nights he missed his family most. Holding his wife and children. He felt alone in the world and cast out as a wandering soul with unfinished business. William felt empty without his family. Violet had seen pieces inside of William that were broken and beaten, he didn’t expect her to fix him but he just wanted her to see them. She did and she loved him all the more for it, without that in his world anymore he felt there wasn’t much left. William had considered taking his own life over the past few months. The only thing that fueled him to keep going was the fact that the man who destroyed his world was roaming free and William had to right that wrong before he could see his family again.

When the sun was just about to come up William took off on his horse again. He could still see some smoke coming from the mountain in front of him. He knew he was close to something. William continued along until he was overlooking a cabin with a lot of horses and men moving around. William hitched his horse and moved closer with his binoculars. He scanned the area before he moved around and checked through the windows looking for Warren. William continued to look down at the area until he eventually saw the cabin door open up and a man walk out, he is drinking something and he sits down to light a cigar. William looks at the man, it is clearly Warren Jackson he sees sipping coffee and smoking a cigar on the porch. William cannot believe he has found the man and seeing him out here as he smokes a cigar overlooking a frozen lake and a mountain range without a care in the world. William only sees a man who is oblivious to what’s coming for him. He had thought about this day for months and he knew exactly what he wanted to do.

William had spent the day watching the gang members as they drank and sat around, they didn’t seem to go very far which didn’t surprise William. Ever since Clearwater Warren and his gang carried a hefty bounty on their heads, but William didn’t intend on bringing them to the law. He hadn’t planned on that at all. The snow was heavy and as the day rolled into the evening it became difficult to see much of anything at all. William knew this would help him get closer without drawing attention to himself but he knew that he had to get close to them, he knew it was harder to kill what you can’t see. William had seen them light torches inside and the campfire at the side of the cabin kept them all in his sight. William began moving towards the cabin, he went over to the stables and began to plant dynamite along the side, he moved forward towards the back of the cabin and he planted more dynamite there. He brought the wire connecting these explosives and dragged it along to the treeline behind the cabin, where he connected it to a detonator. William was able to avoid the guard out the front, they didn’t expect to see anyone up this far into the mountains so patrolling wasn’t a high priority. William loaded his shotgun, rifle and his pistols before taking out his knife. He looked over to the guard as he stands around the fire. William begins to move towards him, he has his knife drawn and sees an opportunity to take him down. William looks over to the cabin and checks that nobody is at the window, there’s nobody there and William jumps out. William stabs the man in the neck and tosses his body onto the fire. William moves back to the stables and lets the horses loose and shouts at them to leave. The horses begin to run and William fires his gun to scare them even more. William runs back over to the treeline, he sees men running out the front of the cabin but he doesn’t see Warren yet. The fire beside the cabin is burning up and the body is engulfed in flames.

The gang is looking around, they see their horses running away but nobody around. Warren sits up from inside his room after all of the commotion outside. He gets his weapons and leaves his room. Coons starts firing his gun in different directions. William aims down the sight of his rifle, slows his breathing, his hands are steady. William takes aim and fires a bullet that hits one of the men in the face which sends blood spraying over Coons face. Bullets come flying to where the shot came from but nobody can see with the snow that’s falling. William runs behind the trees and makes it over to the detonator while bullets are flying and men are screaming that they’re under attack. William draws a match and tries to light it but the wind and snow extinguish the flame. Bullets fire all around and confusion is all around as the gang members struggle to make sense of what’s going on. William tries to light a match and another until finally he lights one. William ignites the fuse and the stables explode in a fiery hellish explosion that lights up the dark snowy mountain. The explosion echoes through the mountain range. Shortly after the first explosion the cabin follows. The back of the cabin is blown off and the stables are completely destroyed and on fire. Some of the men have been knocked to the ground and they’re rolling around in agony. They’re shell shocked and can barely hear anything other than the violently intense ringing in their ears. They start screaming and try putting out the fires on their clothes. They roll in the snow to quench the flames, there’s a silence after the explosion. William takes a look out front behind a tree that he’s taking cover behind. William had counted seven men left remaining and one of them died in the explosion. William steps out from behind the trees he fires a shotgun blast into the chest of one of the men and hits another before diving for cover, now he counts five men left. William reloads his shotgun, there’s bullets being fired at him and he’s trapped in cover behind a tree stump. William is being fired on by the five remaining members of the Jackson gang and he can’t get a shot off just yet. Warren stumbles to his feet after being knocked to the ground during the blast but aside from some cuts and bruises he was alright, he yells out from inside the remains of the cabin.

Who the hell is that out there! Is that you Dylan Jones you sneaky rat bastard? You never could let anything go could you, I didn’t make your wife run off with me you damn fool”

Warren looks at Coons who’s in cover beside the front door. He sees him clench onto his handgun and trying to catch a glance of the shooter while firing some wishful shots that might clip him. William hears a man moving to his left, he takes a look through one of the bullet holes in the stump. He sees a man with a rifle slowly approaching. William sticks the barrel of his shotgun around the side and pulls the trigger hitting the man in his right knee and blowing off the leg from his body. The man falls to the ground screaming in agony while the four remaining men shoot at William. as the men fire down on William he waits for his moment to shoot, he grabs his rifle and fires down at the men. He misses five of his shots but with the last bullet, he manages to take another one down with a shot to the heart. William says to himself there’s only two men standing between me and that scum up there in that house.

Inside the cabin Warren and Coons can hear the man screaming, Warren jumps and reloads his gun with a wild smile on his face, he starts to laugh and says to Coons

What the fuck haha whoever this guy is he’s pissed, Hey Joe what the fuck did you do to this guy…. Jesus Christ he got Mike bad huh poor bastard out there screaming like a pig.. Who the hell is this guy here, I want to talk to him before I put a bullet in his head.”

William has one bullet left in his shotgun, he still has both of his handguns with him. He stops and takes a breath, there’s no bullets being fired now and he hears a voice shout out. William knows this voice and he’s heard it before. He knows for sure that it’s Wild Warren Jackson behind that wall in the cabin. The voice shouts out

Alright now hold your fire hold your fire here let me say something!”

Coons and the other remaining gang members hold their weapons down but they’re still ready. Warren starts talking again

Alright well since you aren’t firing again I’ll assume you can hear me and want to listen to me here for a second. First of all who the hell are you sir? you’ve done something here this evening that I ain’t seen anyone but myself accomplish, if you hadn’t killed so many of my guys I’d take you on with us, now tell me your name”

William looks around him before grabbing his throat as he shouts out

“What’s the matter Warren, too many enemies?”

Warren looks around in confusion, he shrugs his shoulders to Coons and asks him quietly

I have never heard that voice before in my life, who the fuck is that Joe?”

Coons shrugs and doesn’t recognise the voice either. Warren looks up for a second and yells out again

Okay now what’s your name out there, why can’t the rest of us walk away from here tonight… but let’s start with a name first, how’s that.”

William grips his shotgun and decides to respond.

Don’t recognise my voice Warren? You know me and I certainly know all of you too. William Black ! remember that name Warren?”

Warren leans against the wall and doesn’t believe the name he’s just heard. Coons looks over at him with a look of disbelief and Warren tilts his head before he shouts out.

Bullshit I put a bullet in that man’s head about a year ago now, who the hell are you?”

William takes a quick look around and grabs his guns, he grabs a shotgun and gets ready to move but before he does despite the pain when he spoke. He yells out to Warren

NOBODY IS LEAVING THIS MOUNTAIN ALIVE! you can believe that or not but it’s true. You’ve seen what I’ve already done now why don’t you two assholes drop your guns and I’ll deal with Warren myself. You got ten seconds to decide or I’ll decide for you.”

Coons grips his gun and looks over at Johnny who looks back at Coons with a concerned look on his face, the sweat is pouring from his forehead. Warren sees the two men share a glance and knows they’re considering the proposition. Warren moves his eyes from Johnny and back to Coons, he draws his guns and shoots Johnny in the head and hits Coons in the stomach. Johnny lays on the ground lifeless. Warren walks over to Coons and looks at him, Coons grabs his stomach and looks at Warren. Coons lays on the ground, the flames are still high but the snow is already beginning to cover him. Coons looks up at Warren who’s towering above him still gripping his nickel plated revolvers.

Warren please … please, stop what the hell did you shoot me for? You shot me oh Jesus”

Warren looks down at Coons who’s grabbing his stomach, blood is pouring out through his fingers and Warren and says to him

You started all this Joe”

Warren bends down and grabs Joe by the collar and puts a gun in his mouth then pulls the trigger and blows Joe Connors brains all over the cabin floor. Warren doesn’t wipe the blood off of his face and stands up. He reloads his handguns and steadies himself. Warren shouts out to William.

“If that really is you out there sheriff then we best handle this just the two of us, I’ve never had to kill a man twice before”

William heard the gunshots and he heard Warren call out to him. He looks around and sees bodies all over the place. There’s blood and fire surrounding the place. William stands up and shouts out to Warren

Why don’t you step out from behind that cabin and face me like a man, I brought hell to your doorstep now come and face me, I got a knife here with your name on it.”

Warren starts to laugh and throws his two guns out onto the ground in front of the cabin. Before he walks out he draws his knife and takes Coons gun from his bloodied body, he spits on him as he takes it from him. Warren shouts out

“Alright Mr Black I’ll face you”

William tosses out his shotgun and rifle before he throws out his handgun. William draws his knife and steps out from behind his cover, Warren stands out at the same time. The two men see each other for the first time since Clearwater. Between them is a river of bloodied snow, bodies and a fire still blazing in the cold winter’s night.

10

The cold snow continued to fall on this wintery night. William and Warren stand staring at each other. The fire is surrounding them and they begin to slowly move closer to each other. Warren looks closely as he gets closer to William. He sees a man whose eyes were dark and piercing, his face looked worn and he appeared exhausted but with nothing inside only a fiery rage and burning desire for revenge. Warren had never exactly seen a man look at him with such intensity in his eyes, he thought that this was actually the same William Black from Clearwater. Warren had known that the end of his reign was coming for a while now and he thought this man if any could be the one to finally succeed in what so many men have failed at in the past.

William walked closer to Wild Warren Jackson, the man he had spent months looking for. He had an overwhelming desire to inflict a fraction of the pain he was made feel by this man. William had seen this man in his nightmares for months now. William gripped his knife with his cold hands, he hadn’t taken his eyes off of Warren since he saw him and when he saw him move his lips to speak he was stopped in his tracks. William had to hear what this man had to say, what did the destroyer of his world feel he should say. Warren looks at William and says to him

William Black, the honourable military General come to bring justice to his family, come to bring an end to the Wild Warren Jackson gang. I thought I put a bullet in your head Bill, did you come back from beyond the grave to seek your revenge on me?”

William looks at Warren through the flames between them, he says to Warren through the pain.

Wild Warren Jackson, I’ve come a long way to kill you, to send you back to the hell you came crawling out of. You took every single thing from me and for what?… Because your piece of shit baby brother got caught for what he did. You’ve been dodging death for a long time now. You ain’t got nowhere left to run to”

Warren looks at William and begins to laugh. He starts to pace around the fire and begins speaking to William.

William I can see that you’ve become a broken man and it brings me no pleasure to see you like this. We fought on opposite sides of the same battlefield and you killed my brother but I take no joy in your presence here tonight and I mean that sir. But let me tell you something Mr Black, a lot of men have said they’d be the one to take down the one and only Wild Warren Jackson but let me tell you sir it ain’t happening tonight. Not here in the cold snow and not by a broken-down old sheriff who couldn’t even save his own family. You’re no better than me Bill.”

William grips his knife even harder. He looks into this man’s eyes as the fire burns between them. William runs through the flames and tackles Warren to the ground. William begins to punch and hit Warren with the end of the knife. William grabs Warren by the collar of his jacket and begins to headbutt him. He hits him over and over his forehead now bloodied. William screams out that he is going to cut his heart out of his chest. William punches Warren again in the face. Warren now lies on the ground with a bloodied face. William leans back and looks to his right, he picks up his knife and turns back to Warren who spits blood into William’s face. William shouts at Warren

MY WIFE!, MY CHILDREN! you hung them like animals for nothing, YOU took EVERYTHING from me !!”

William Pulls his knife back and takes a look at Warren lying bloodied in front of him. William draws his knife above his head with both of his hands clenching the knife but before he can reach Warren he feels an intense stabbing pain in his stomach. Warren pulls the knife out and punches William in the face and he falls to the ground grabbing the wound in his stomach. The pain is intense and agonising. William lets out a guttural scream. He grabs snow on the ground in pain and reaches for his knife. Warren begins to stagger to his feet but he falls to his knees again. He puts his hand down on the ground in front of him to stabilise himself but within a few seconds, he feels a knife being slammed through his hand by William. Warren lets out a scream and William holds his stomach and falls back on the cold ground. Warren curses at William and grabs the knife, he grips it and pulls it out and falls back to the ground. The two men lay bloodied and beaten on the ground. The snow is beginning to fall on them both. William begins to drag himself over to the edge of the cabin to pull himself to his feet. Warren sits by the fire, he grips his knife and attempts to stand on his feet. The two men now stand facing each other on the opposite sides of the fire, blood is pouring from both men and bloodying the snow around them. William starts to slowly shuffle himself over to Warren to finish the job, his knife and his guns are too far away from him to reach but he does not care and William marches towards the man who is evil incarnate but he faces him down and is willing to face him to the bitter end. Warren laughs a little as he sees this man coming towards him.

That’s my better-shooting hand you put a hole in there sheriff, goddamn I could’ve used you years ago Bill”

William gathers the energy to make a run at Warren. William hits Warren in the cheek but Warren sticks his knife into Williams right hand. William screams in agony from the pain. He hits Warren in the face with his left hand. He pulls the knife out of his hand and sticks it into Warren’s leg. William stands up, stumbles and falls to the ground, but he’s landed beside one of the dead gang members near him. He reaches into his boot and draws his knife. He staggers to his feet and holds the knife in his bloodied and shaking hand. William has lost a lot of blood, but he sees Warren still moving on the ground. Warren looks up at the sheriff standing above him, he sees a bloodied man who’s been shot in the head, stabbed, beaten and gripping a knife still in front of his eyes. Warren says to William

Not a bad place to die I suppose is it Bill? Always did like the cold, the heat was never suited to a man like me, should’ve came here a year ago. You’d still have your family then huh”.

William lowers his knife and looks down on the infamous outlaw before him. William says to him,

You made me pay everything for what was already mine, I know you got a lot of enemies but those men weren’t me. I always do what I say and I promised my family I’d put you down before I see them again.”

Warren turns away and begins to cough up blood and laughs.

Your family’s dead sheriff. Why don’t you shut the fuck up about it…. A man’s entire life chopped apart in a single morning by what? BY WHAT!?!? some damn fools with guns and some explosives. I ain’t no unstoppable being and your world being so fragile isn’t my fucking fault. Now you do what you gotta do Bill, I know who I am and what I did.”

William looks down at Warren with rage in his eyes. He takes his knife and slowly plunges it into Warren’s chest. He takes it out and forces it in, again and again, his face now bloodied with splashes of Warren’s blood but he continues to stab at his chest. William drops the knife and looks at the bloodied face of Warren. William takes his hand now shaking and covered in blood, he plunges it into Warren’s chest to remove his heart. Warren tries to shout out in agony but he can’t do anything except lay there and watch this enraged man destroy him. William moves his hand around inside Warren’s chest and grabs hold of his heart before he pulls it out. Warren’s eyes roll over with the final image he sees on this earth being William Black holding his heart surrounded by snow and fire on a cold winter’s night in Colorado. 

William throws Warren’s heart into the fire. He grabs his body and drags it outside of the dimming glow of the fire that’s now slowly getting smaller and smaller. William drags Warren’s beaten body and tosses it on the edge of the camp for the wolves. He can already hear them howling and getting closer to him. William turns without looking back and slowly brings himself to the camp, grabbing his rifle along the way. William goes over to the fire and sits by the flames. He takes his rifle and begins to load his five rounds into the gun. William lays down beside the fire and stares up at the night sky. He can see bright colourful stars all above him. He looks at his stomach and sees that he is losing a lot of blood still. William looks at the trail from where he had left Warren, he sees the blood trail leading back to him at the fire. As the embers from the fire rise up into the night sky, William can see the wolves now starting to pull Warren apart and fight over who’s getting which part. William grabs his rifle and looks back up at the sky. It’s getting darker and the fire is being overcome by the snow that’s falling heavily. William keeps his gun beside him but he loosens his grip on the weapon. He’s done enough killing he thought to himself. As he sat by the dwindling fire William thought about his family and seeing them again, he wanted to hold them as tight as he could. William didn’t cry after his ordeal was over with, he felt he had no tears left to cry anymore. The chaos of the night is now overwhelmed by the sound of the wind, the snow and the howling of the wolves. The quiet that surrounded the burned out cabin and stables was deafening. William looked to the sky and thought of his family. He thought about closing his eyes and holding his wife and babies one last time. It won’t be too much longer now til the snow covers what remains……

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s