Chapter 1: THE SIX RIDERS
It was a beautiful valley, a mile wide with mountains that seemed to go straight up to the sky on the west side. The other side of the valley was a series of hills that went up but not as steep. In the middle of the valley was a creek that ran like a snake with all its twists and turns. The valley was green with life.
At the edge of the creek, a young cowboy was making a fire to heat up some coffee. He heard his horse getting restless.
“Easy Beauty.” He said. With the fire started and coffee water getting warm he went over to his horse, a gray dappled mare.
He reached out and rubbed her face. “Thirsty Girl?” He asked as he untied the rope and led her to the creek. As she drank the young cowboy looked at the dark and dreary day. “Nothing but clouds, it sure is going to rain. Still, it is a beautiful place.”
He led his horse back and tied her, then turned to tend to the fire. The gray was still acting restless so the young cowboy took a long look up the valley. He saw the riders and started counting how many.
“Six,” he said out loud. “Looks like we may have some company, Beauty.”
The six riders were wearing rain slickers. Five were black and one was a lighter color.
The cowboy said, “this is not good.” He saddled Beauty and started to pick up his gear. The riders were getting close. “If I try to run now, they would want to know why I am running.” The young cowboy was getting a little nervous. This did not look like a welcoming committee. He put on his black hat and decided to stand his ground.
The riders rode into camp, crowding the young cowboy.
“Good morning,” the young cowboy said.
“Temple, is he one of them?” Asked Ed, the one in charge of the riders.
“He has a gray horse and a black hat,” said the one called Joe.
“Could be, Joe, sort of looks like the same horse.” Said the man, with an odd colored slicker, they called Temple.
“One of what?” The young cowboy asked.
The man, that Temple called Joe climbed off his horse and in one fast and brutal move, swung his rifle butt up into the cowboy’s jaw. The young cowboy went to the ground in obvious pain. He never saw it coming.
“I think you broke his jaw, Joe.” Said another rider called Slim.
Joe then started kicking and beating the cowboy with the rifle butt. Joe was merciless, beating and kicking the young cowboy.
“Stop Joe,” Mr. Temple cried. “Make him stop, Ed.”
Temple was a thin man with glasses and dressed in a suit under his brown slicker. He stood out from the others because he wore a Bowler Hat.
The gray mare started making noises and stomping around.
“Gary, grab the horse,” yelled Joe.
The man called Gary dismounted and reined in the gray horse.
Mr. Temple jumped off his horse and tried to stop Joe, but Joe ignored him. Joe finally turned and knocked Mr. Temple on the ground. Joe out weighted Temple by 40 ponds, Joe then went back to beating the young cowboy. Mr. Temple got up and went from rider to rider.
“Slim, Gary, Ed, stop this! Joe’s gonna kill him. Manny do something” Mr. Temple pleaded.
“I work for Bar Seven. It is up to Ed.” Said the one called Slim, a tall thin man.
“Me too,” said the one called Gary, a short stocky man with an obvious talent with horses.
“Won’t be no hanging if he dies, Ed. Besides he could lead us to the rest of the gang.” Said the one called Manny, a Mexican that dressed like he had just crossed the border, big sombrero and all.
“Stop it, Joe. (pause) Joe, I said to stop it, now.” Ed said raising his voice. Ed Sloan was Joe’s older brother and the man in charge of this unauthorized posse. Ed agreed to this because Joe was angry and could be a wild man sometimes. He hoped to protect Joe from himself.
Joe stopped, and said, “Slim, Gary tie him up.”
“Manny, you see what’s in his saddle bags” Ed ordered.
Everyone was dismounted now. Slim and Gary started talking between themselves. “Joe is really mad.”
“Yeah, well, Rachel, that girl that was killed, was Joe’s girlfriend,” Slim replied.
“Oh, the saloon girl, killed by that stray bullet. That was just bad luck,” Gary said.
Slim and Gary tied the young cowboy. “Ed, he is hurting badly.” Said Gary.
They could hear his moans.
“I don’t care if I have to drag him back to Stone Creek,” Joe said in a huff.
“We got something” declared Manny. “Yeah, $200.”
“I’ll bet it's part of the hold-up money” Gary suggested.
”Looks like we got one of them,” said Ed. “Let’s head back to town.”