From REDEMPTION: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer
The next morning we were up, ate a cold breakfast and were on the trail before the sun made its way over the horizon.
Their tracks were easy to follow; there was only one trail up the mountain. About ten o’clock the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and did a little dance. They were bristling something awful. Jed was in the lead and I called for him to hold up. When I got up to him, I slid from my horse and told him to do the same.
We drank from our canteens and filled our hats so that the horses could have a drink. We were getting low on water, but there were many streams in the mountains so we had no fear on that count. But I did have a fear on another count; I felt someone was watching us.
Jed agreed and said that the trail we were on was the perfect place for an ambush. I asked him how they would do it. He said if it was him running things, he’d leave a man behind to get us on the trail and then meet up with the other two later.
“Well Jed, there’s nothing for it but to go on. We’re the law in Redemption. If we let these geezers get away with robbing our bank and killing our citizens, then every no-good saddle tramp in the territory will be comin’ there and tryin’ their hand at bank robbery or anything else they thought they could get away with.”
“Reckon that you’re right,” said Jed, “I’ll take point.”
“Sorry Jed, I’m marshal and that’s my job. But if they get me, you keep going. You don’t have to bring them back if they’re dead, only if they surrender. But either way, bring their guns and horses back, sell ‘em and give the money to Missus Baxter. I reckon she could use it now with her husband gone.”
With nothing else to say, we got back on our horses. Jed tied the mule’s lead-line to the horn of his saddle so as to keep his hands free. With our Winchesters out and lying across the bows of our saddles, we proceeded on.
We hadn’t gone far when a bullet smashed into a boulder I was riding by, splashing up bits of rock. A second later, I heard the sound of the shot. That meant that whoever shot at us was a ways off.
We both hit the ground at the same time and smacked our horse on their rumps to get them going and get them out of the line of fire. Seeing as how the mule was tethered to Jed’s horse, he wisely followed along.
We were lying among some boulders and Jed asked me where I reckoned the shooter was.
“He’s gotta be ‘bout two hundred yards up that slope,” I said pointing off to the left. “It’s a good thing the sun was to our backs. I think it must have got in his eyes, elsewise he’s a lousy shot.”
Jed was smiling as he checked his Colts to make sure they were loaded. They were always loaded. I think it was just a nervous habit with him. I had me a Smith and Wesson Schofield I had picked up a year back. Our guns, including the Winchesters, all took .45 cartridges, which made things a mite easier.
When Jed had his guns back in their holsters he said, “Alright Huck, how we gonna play this? You wanna charge up the hill at the sonavabitches or do it Indian style and come up from behind ‘em?”
“Well Jed, there was only the one shot, so I reckon you called it when you said they’d leave one man behind to finish us off. They must have seen there were only two of us around the fire last night. Probably figured one man in ambush could take care of a couple of jaspers like us. But I don’t like the idea of chargin’ up the hill. One of us is bound to take a bullet or two. No, instead you stay and keep him busy with your Winchester. I’ll circle round and get above him. I’m gonna stand now and draw his fire, you see where the muzzle flash comes from.”
Jed grabbed my arm and said, “That ain’t too smart Huck.”
“Don’t worry. We know he’s not a good shot and I’ll move fast and give him a very little target. You just see where the shot comes from.”
When I was back down among the rocks, Jed pointed out where our friend was. I nodded and told him that he should count to three hundred because that’s when I expected to be behind and above him. “Then hold your fire because it might be me you hit and that would be kinda embarrassin’ for both of us.”
I got up to where I wanted to be just before I hit three hundred, and I saw our man. His horse knew I was there before he did. When his horse whinnied, the man spun around in a panic. He didn’t see me, so I had the chance to take him alive. “Throw down your gun and put your hands up if you wanna see the sun come up tomorrow,” I yelled down to him.
But as Jed said, these weren’t the brightest boys in the choir. He did a half turn and fired where he thought my voice came from. I sighed and shot him just above the heart and a little to the center. I was aiming for his heart, but he moved on me. He was now on his knees and raising his gun for another shot. I knew he was as good as dead and I didn’t want to put another bullet into him if I didn’t have to. I wanted to let him say his last words, and maybe give him a little water.
“You’re shot bad partner and you’re gonna die, but do you wanna die alone? Throw down your gun and I’ll come to you.” He must have been hurting pretty bad because he dropped the gun and fell over backwards. I walked down and kicked his gun a little farther away from his hand. Then I called to Jed and told him to bring up a canteen.
While I waited for Jed, I knelt down on one knee and asked him his name. But he wasn’t talking; he turned his head away. I could tell he was in bad pain and he was breathing rough. It made me wish I had killed him outright to spare him that. He was young, about Jed’s age.
Jed walked up and handed me the canteen without saying anything. Losing blood makes you thirsty and when he saw the canteen, he ran his tongue over his lips. I uncorked it, raised his head a little and put it to his lips. After he drank his fill, I saw a red froth coming from his mouth. That meant he was shot in the lungs or at least one of them.
I eased his head back down and asked him his name.
“It’s Samuel,” he said.
“Well Samuel, you got any kin folk we can contact for you?”
He told me there was no one that cared a hoot if he lived or died. Then he tried to smile, but couldn’t quite make it and said, “Maybe a whore down Sonora way, if she’s still alive.”
I smiled at him and asked, “Who were the men with you, and where are they headed?”
“I cain’t peach on my friends mister.”
So I asked him if he was the one who shot Baxter.
“No, there was to be no shootin’. But that Frank, he’s a crazy one. When he shot that man, Ben and me couldn’t believe it.” Then Samuel asked if he could have some more water. But before I could get the cork out of the canteen, he died.