Women of the West

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(Note: This is for a gentleman who loves Louis L’Amour books.  This is as far outside of my normal genre as it can get. To Donnie, Hope you enjoy this, I see it as four “Brands”  {Chapters}, I have no idea where it’s going.)

Women of the West.

 

First Brand: Texas Tracking

The sky was cloudless while Texas Ranger James Austin, whose great-uncle was Stephen Austin, the Father of Texas, looked out over the skyline, hunting a man accused of murder.

His wanted poster rode in his saddlebag, he had studied it until he knew every descriptive detail.

Jorge de Lobo de la Montana was playing poker with several gents in Rusty’s Saloon in Galveston. With Moody Sweetwater, his half-Comanche tracker, they rode swiftly through the hot Texas sunlight, following where his partner of so many battles said that de la Montana’s horse went.

“Jim.” Moody pointed to drifting black smoke. “Trouble.”

The appearance was not like a wildfire, this was a column with a mushroom-shaped head on it, a cloud of dust rose just above the crest of the next hill.

“Reconnoiter the left, I’ll go to the right.” Jim ordered.

Moody nodded and rode off, pulling his rifle from the scabbard on the side of his mount.

Jim rode to the right, a east-northeast direction that allowed him a view from an ancient rockfall.

Moody tied his horse a hundred-paces from the top of the hill and walked, carefully with his Henry rifle, always worried about the rifle firing a round by accident, he kept the chamber empty until he needed it.

This was no exception, although he knew in his heart, after long years of tracking, this was an ongoing fight.

His wisdom, once again proven when he got closer and could hear screams and sounds of battle going on below. Crawling on his knees, he plucked an old branch up and held it in front of him and looked down at the base of the smoke.

What he saw made his eyes go wide.

Moody looked at Jim, a quarter-mile off, the Ranger had his Spencer out and was picking his way near the crest.

Jim, now on a rock, crawled forward and saw what made Moody’s jaw drop.

A stagecoach, and it looked like the Shotgun fighting with, what Jim assumed was empty, his scattergun, using it as a club against another man wearing rawhide pants and a linen shirt. With a headband, it looked like an Indian raiding party had found easy prey.

The reinsman hung upside-down from the front of the stage, tangled in the lines attached to one dead horse, the other three animals, missing and he presumed, bolted from the mêlée.

And two women, one taller with raven-colored hair, the other, smaller with blood-red.

Around them, four bodies lay, two burning like candles, putting up the black smoke, the other two unmoving in the dust. They were in pitched battle with four men with clubs and, it appeared, sabers.

And doing rather well, too.

Two women, one man who was badly hurt, were gaining the upper hand against five road-agents.

Signaling Moody, the two lawmen made their way down, carefully to the tableau on the meadow.

Moody and Jim entered the clearing in different directions, each with a line of sight to cover the other.

“Stop right there.” Jim said. Stretching up to his full five-foot four-inch height. Despite his diminutive height, his voice was more akin to a giant.

The sight of the two Ranger’s standing with their rifles pointed in the general direction, the men put their hands up.

“Thank god you’re here!” One of the men, bloodied from a dozen cuts.

“You will see god before we are through!” The taller woman said.

Jim could see that she was quite young, no more than nineteen or twenty.

The other was little more than a girl, perhaps three years younger, but a definite resemblance, the two were closely related.

As if they came from the same stock, sisters or a mother and daughter.

The younger girl had what looked like a Bowie knife, but greatly ground down, thinning the blade from back to cutting-edge, but still slightly longer than her forearm.

Even if she was a tiny slip of a girl, the weapon was effective if the chunks of flesh that lay in the dirt were witness to.

The other girl, Jim recognized the edged weapons she carried, an ax in her left hand, looking like a slightly oversized tomahawk and, he had spent time down on the waterfronts in Galveston and seen such edged weapons before, a falchion.

A seafarers weapon. Shorter than a cutlass, but just as effective. A glorified meat cleaver.

Face down in the bloody mud, long black hair with a headband, the body of one of the raiders did not move.

Rolling him over, the handle of a knife jutted out of his throat.

An old scar along his face identified him.

Jim pulled out a poster and read off the description.

“Who stuck the knife in this man?” Jim looked at the Coach Guard as he reloaded his shotgun who pointed at the older girl.

“That bastaird cac sicín tried to kiss my girl.” She spoke as if discussing what she was cooking for dinner. “We rode with another wagon coming from .”

“Well, I’m Jim Austin, that there is my deputy, Moody. And you are? Miss…” Jim paused.

“I am Mel O’Danu Smite, this is my daughter Enya.”

“Well, this body here, he was a killer and there were  witnesses that saw him throw the daughter of the President of Mexico off a bridge while getting away. She used his own saber against him and cut his face. I have not seen the scar before, but it looks like she cut it down to the bone before it healed. That is hideous.” Jim looked the body over. “A scar on his chest the shape of a wolf. There! Look, it’s been branded in. This is him. The President of Mexico put a bounty on his head, dead or alive, you get ten-thousand Peso’s.”

“Is that a lot? For killing him?”

“Yes, a lot. A Peso is about eight-reales.”

“How much is a Reale?” Mel’s intense dark eyes made Jim back up a step.

“Uh.” He stammered, she did not threaten him, but her sideways turn of her head and smoldering eyes made him dream. “About ten-dollars.”

“She speaks the truth, there are two sets of wagon-tracks. The Concord Coach is much lighter than the other. Eight horses, long wheelbase. Strange wagon, heavy.” Moody stood up. “Extra-wide wheel. Like a pay wagon.”

“That explains why they didn’t stop.” Jim nodded to Moody, then turned back to the girls. “What are you two doing on a stagecoach alone?”

“We are going to my husband’s house outside of Galveston.” The dark-haired one said. “He is a retired Texas Ranger.”

“Retired?” Moody looked up. “A Ranger?”

“What is his name?” Jim asked carefully.

She sized him up for a minute. Close enough that made him uncomfortable while they tied the men up and put them on the coach.

“Donal Smite, he and I married in the old country and had to leave or starve about ten seasons ago. We bought a boat and took our chances with merchant business.”

With the reinsman dead, Moody would drive while the surviving coachline employee rode shotgun. The men would walk behind the stagecoach for the three-hour trip back to where they started.

“I don’t know a Donal Smite.” Moody tightend up the straps on the hands of the dead he slung over a horse to keep them from falling off. “Jim, there is Donnie Smith, he is just outside of Galveston. Has a good spread, even a river that flows to the sea.”

“Ayuh, he keeps talking about sailing to Darien in the east. That may be who you are talking about ma’am. A redheaded Scotsman, a little darker than yours.” Jim nodded to Enya. “Big fisted, I saw him punch a horse so hard, he unseated the rider.”

“Aye, he learnt that on board of our ship.”

“Well, you have a surprise for your man, if it’s indeed him” Jim nodded. “You have a ship?”

“We had three. But there was a storm, nigh on two-months ago. Wiped out the fleet and the house is unfit to live in.” Enya said.

Mel nodded.

“Donal sent a letter, saying he had a place to start again. I told him he would put back to sea, he retired of you Rangers as the moment I arrive.” Mel said matter of factly. “I will not have my mo chéile being shot at. He knows Samuel Colt and will work there if I say anything about it.”

“Well, ma’am. You might want to know, Donnie is something special with us.” Moody said. “In the tribes around, he tells them to not trust any agents. He works hard to get them more of anything they ask.”

Enya nodded at the news of her father, clearly proud of the work he did here.

“As captain of ships, he did the same thing to get the crew well paid for the cargo they would transport. Sometimes they brought back treasures.”

“Enya, enough.” The Irish accent thickening, but the fire in her eyes even made Jim and Moody back their horses away a bit.

“We, ah, we can go now.” The shotgun said. “I can drive, but you gents can keep an eye out for road agents?”

“Make it so.” Jim ordered. “Ladies, you can ride in the coach.”

“Nae. No.” Mel said. “There is blood inside. We will ride on teh empty horses you have there and there.”

“We can’t wait for you to figure out how to ride…” Jim trailed off as Mel and Enya both climbed into saddles and rode up to them.

“Say your words.” Enya said, her eyes flashing like her mom’s.

“That would be a dare, Mister Jim.” Mel laughed, her raven hair blowing in the breeze. “Now we go see if your Donnie Smith is my spouse.”

Looking over at Moody, the two Rangers shrugged. Both of them wanting to see the look on the face of the big Scotsman when these two firebrands walked up to him.