Love at First Sight
“Hold it right there, Cobb!”
Jayne froze. How in the hell did someone sneak up on him? He was usually very careful, especially when he was in an unfamiliar place.
“Now turn around real slow like.”
Jayne didn't even recognize the voice. He started to turn around slowly, with his hands in the air; but was already working on a plan.
Jayne Cobb wasn't what someone would call “smart”. Not in the usual sense anyways. His Daddy always said, “If I'da wanted you to be educated, I'da sent ya t' school. Ain't got time for that now. S'more important things for you ta know.” With that, James Cobb started Jayne's education in the real world. Petty thieving mostly but also some cattle rustlin' or bank robbin' or even killin' if it was necessary. Anything to get by and get out alive. “Don't worry about the fight bein' fair,” his Daddy told him. “Even if you think something's gonna start, you just kill 'em and get out. That's how you survive this ol' 'verse.”
So Jayne wasn't too smart but he knew how to survive.
He turned around and saw six men – three with weapons drawn. One had a big ol' gun. Is that a Callahan, Jayne thought? Never thought I'd get to see one of them.
“Now hold on fellas,” Jayne said. “If them was your cattle I didn't see no brand on 'em. I can tell you where I got 'em hid.” Two of the three unarmed men weren't paying much attention and one looked downright stupid. Surprised he gots his boots on the right feet, Jayne thought. Jayne thought the one that'd give him the most trouble was the one with the Callahan rifle. Looks like his has full-bore auto lock too. Gorram!
“Naw, this ain't about no cattle,” the one with the rifle said. “This is about how you went and took some off the top of that job you did for Granton out in Newhall. He don't like it when people skim off him. 'Taint honest.”
“My horse broke her leg an' I had to shoot her,” Jayne explained. “I was just makin' sure I got fair payment for my best horse.” Jayne rested his hands on top of his head, ready to reach for the knife he had hanging from his neck on his back. He had it set on a thin string that would hold if he was moving around but would break quickly when he needed it to.
“Don't matter none if you had it comin' to ya. It was me, I'da paid you for the horse. Granton don't think like that though. He put a big enough ree-ward out on your head that we just had to come lookin'. Guess we'll be eatin and whorin' good tonight, eh boys?”
The man with the rifle turned to look at his men and they all started laughing. Jayne acted quickly. He reached his knife at his back, broke the string and flung it at one of the guys holding a gun. It stuck in his throat and he went down. Jayne ducked down as he heard gunfire, reached the pistol in his boots and fired three quick shots. Suddenly it was a 2-on-1 fight instead of a 6-on-1. Much more kosherized this way.
Jayne dived to his right, rolled and got up – sprinting towards the treeline up ahead. He was zigzagging around so the guy with the Callahan couldn't get a good lock on him. Hell, he wouldn't have to do much. Gun like that'd do it for you. He reached the treeline quickly and ran another 50 yards to the biggest tree and hid behind it. Had to keep moving, but he also had to come up with more of a plan. Jayne was never much for sneaking around. Usually just met his fights head-on and relied on strength more than tricks.
“Come on out, Cobb! No use hidin'. You ain't gonna get far.”
“Well, now,” Jayne called back, “I seem to have things more even-like. You shoulda taken the cattle. Mighta made some money. Now there's only two of ya. So hows 'bout you give me the money ol' Granton gave you ta kill me, since that ain't workin' out too good, and I'll let you go. Let's do the math here.”
“You ain't gettin' nothin' Cobb! Nothin'!” Jayne heard the man fire random shots into the forest. Gorram, that gun had a sound like a cannon, only not as loud. It was like music. “Fritz, run in an' flush him out, then I'll shoot him.”
Jayne heard some arguing but couldn't make out the words. Seemed like “Fritz” didn't quite want to go in the woods alone after a man could kill four others so easy. The yelling got a bit louder and Jayne heard, “Lousy coward!” a gunshot and a soft thud. Really? He kilt his own man?
Jayne bent down and undid his boots and took off his belt, making the laces and belt into a crude bit of rope. He looked and saw that the lowest branch wouldn't give much cover, so climbing the tree probably was out. He'd get shot outta that tree in a hurry. Jayne looked around and saw a couple of big chunks of a tree trunk laying about 20 feet from where he was. It meant going out into the open to get them, but maybe it would draw his attacker to him a bit more. He closed his eyes, counted to 3 and dove out.
He cut left and cut right, hearing another shot hit the tree behind him. Can't give that auto lock time to get a bead on him. He reached the two bits of the trunk and lay down behind a small knoll, quickly tying each of them to two ends of his “rope”. They were a good 5 or 10 pounds each. A little awkward to handle, but it was a weapon of sorts now.
“You're gonna haffta come in and get me if you want me!” Jayne called out. “How's that ree-ward look now?”
There was tromping and scuffling and sounds of tree branches breaking. So much for the quiet approach. Just when Jayne thought he was close enough, he stood up with his makeshift weapon. Shit! He didn't wait long enough. The man with the gun was still pretty far away. Too far to throw good and too late to do anything else. Have to go for it now.
Jayne sprinted towards his attacker. He saw the man level the big gun at him, waited two seconds and then dove to the right. BLAM! NINE-HELLS!!! That hurt. A searing pain tore through Jayne's left shoulder. It's now or never!
Jayne threw the tree trunks, bolo-like, at his attacker. He thought it might miss but the man ducked the wrong way and it flew around his head, wrapped around once and hit him in the head while throwing him against a small sapling. Way too lucky, but he'll take it.
Jayne ran up, took the rifle and looked at his would-be killer. “Shoulda taken the deal,” and then shot him.
Gorram, this thing is heavy but at the same time it feels like it has no weight, Jayne thought.
Jayne Cobb looked down lovingly at his new rifle. “Well now, ain't you a purty thing? We's gonna get along just fine. How 'bout I call you Vera?”
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