Our fortieth day chasing promised ocean views of gold-filled hills, the gunman walked his horse straight up to the wagons, towing a bareback mule behind. His hat was wide and flat, not curved like cowboys’ up in these territories, and his coat was light, like he wasn’t meaning to stay.
“Evening, folks,” he said, touching his brim. He wore thin, calfskin gloves. I wondered if his hands were as delicate as their coverings, but the fact that he didn’t touch it said he knew how to sling that shiny revolver. “Bad news, I’m afraid. The man leading your little party is wanted down Laredo way.” Mama gasped and many joined her.
“I don’t reckon you know where that is, so let that tell you I come a long way. On accountta that, there ain’t but two ways this here’ll go: either he leaves on the back of that there mule, or somebody shoots me dead.”
“We don’t aim to kill nobody,” said Pa, one hand on his shotgun. “But who’s gonna take us west if this fella goes with you?”
“Afraid that’s your puzzle to ponder, sir,” said the gunman, eyes cold as the stars. “But go north about a day, you come upon a Mormon town I figure’ll be sorry enough for your plight. They’ll point you on.”
Before I could see it, the gunman had his pistol out and his hand over the hammer. A crack of thunder, and all the horses except his jumped nearly a mile outta their skins. His gun was trained on the weasely man what led us this far, who was staring at the bloody ball in his shoulder, terrified that his limp arm would not rise with his pistol in its grip.
The gunman clubbed him round his head and dragged him by his neck. Weasel shouted: “Kill him! Shoot him!” The gunman replied: “I can sooner abide the stench of your corpse than the noise of your mouth, so choose between.”
Without further protest, the gunman tied up Weasel and slung him over the mule, trotting away from the camp with a wave of those calfskin hands. Come morning, we were on our way again.