A Matter of Death
The crack of a whip sounded in the air. The great grass plain ending on the great Mississippi river was littered with the brown shapes of a cattle herd rushing along on another cattle drive. Here and there the cowboys shouted and kicked their horses for speed. The sky above was a clear blue without a cloud visible but somewhere in the distant horizon. Finally the lead rider spotted their destination and called out. Two other men joined him at the front of the herd and leaned against the back of their horses.
"There it is fellas. Carlton Trading Post. and by the looks of it there's the riverboats ready as well" the lead rider said and glanced at the two others who smiled.
"Don't get too excited, Angelface. We still have to get the herd on the boats" the more rough and worn looking rider told the lead rider before flipping a lit cigar from one corner of his mouth to the other.
"Sure, but after that it's just a ride down to New Orleans and that's it for this ride" Angelface said with a sigh of relief before whistling and waving for the other riders to collect the herd and start moving for the trading post and the riverboats.
The three lead cowboys, Angelface first, entered the small walled trading post right off the shore of the Mississippi river. It was a regular stop for riverboats needing more firewood or small repairs and supplies. This time, however, something was wrong with the place. The gate was open but nobody was out to greet them. As the horses stepped inside the walls, Angelface unmounted and rushed inside the trading post main building. When he came back out, the man shook his head.
"Nobody's inside. It's like the place is deserted" he said before looking at the gate where one of the riverboat captains stumbled in, rather drunk apparently.
"Well that'd explain that" the rough rider said and took the cigar from his mouth.
"You got the trade post keeper on your boat too?" the rider asked while dismounting the horse. His spurs tingled as he walked towards the captain who had a severe case of hiccups.
"A-hic-aye" the captain answered, causing a long exchange of looks between the cowboys.
"You think you can get us down to New Orleans intact?" another question sounded and the captain nodded his head vigorously.
"S-shay, you d-don't have any whiskey with yous?" the captain continued and fell back, losing balance and hitting the ground rather harshly. The smoker man took hold of his horse's reins and walked it over to the captain before helping the drunkard on the back of the horse.
"Go make sure the cattle will be ready. I'll go announce to the riverboats we're getting ready to bring them on board"
It wasn't too long after that that the two riverboats, now loaded with cattle, began the arduous journey downstream to New Orleans where an unloading would take place. The rough rider once again was smoking his cigar, hat tilted slightly sideways and wearing a duster while leaning on a railing on the bow of the ship.
"Hey, I never got your name" a voice came from behind the man, who simply smirked and shook his head.
"You don't need my name" the gruff, deep voice of the man answered before he turned and looked at the cowboy nicknamed Angelface.
"Thats right. I don't" Angelface responded before drawing his six-shooter and cocking it.
"See, I already know. You're Jack Walshey, and I already have what I need from you" Angelface said with a grin as he picked up something from within his coat and opened a map showing the location of an old cache he was after.
"You can't take that" Jack said and lowered his hand for his gun. As he did that, several gunshots rang through the air and a light cloud of smoke rose up between Angelface and Jack. Several steps clacked against the wooden deck of the riverboat as Angelface approached Jack and stopped in front of the man. The much younger, but apparently much more ruthless, man pressed the revolver against a small silver star hidden within Jack's duster coat. Another gunshot and then a splash as Jack went overboard, more than probably dead by the time he hit the water.
Several footsteps came from behind Angelface. As the young man turned and holstered the gun, he smiled and looked at the second lead cowboy of the cattle drive.
"We've got it. Now we just have to get from New Orleans to Texas before the rest of these damn Marshals come searching"
"Our posturings, our imagined self-importance,
the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe,
are challenged by this point of pale light.
Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.
In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves."
- Carl Sagan
Last edited by Black Knight of Keno; 07-21-2008 at 07:00 PM.