"Stars had no power to change my fate, but I liked to think that little elements of superstition or belief to fall back on was beneficial to humans."
Finally, we neared Sheriff Toro’s small cabin.
“Hey,” I tried to get Frank’s attention. He looked over to me. “I haven’t introduced you to the sheriff yet. I’ll bring you in this time.” He faltered, and said,
“Uh… I’d rather not. I don’t feel comfortable with it. I’ll stay behind.” I couldn’t understand why Frank wouldn’t want to meet the sheriff, especially if he was my partner, but if he didn’t want to, that was fine with me. I shrugged, got off my horse, and asked Frank to feed the horses and give them a drink. He agreed and went around the back of the cabin to find the supplies where I told him he would find some. Inside the office, the sheriff was reading a print of the newspaper, but lowered it once I came in.
“Back already?” he said, taking his sunglasses off. I nodded and asked him to confirm the body for me; he agreed to, so I led him out the door. I found Frank holding out a handful of oats to Tony, and he looked over when the sound of the opening door reached him, and dropped the oats, an alarmed look on his face, and ran to the side of the cabin where I wasn’t able to see him. I was taken aback by this, and looked behind to see if Sheriff Toro was the cause for his ridiculous actions, but he looked completely normal and didn’t seem to notice Frank at all, so I led him to the body. Once he confirmed that it was, in fact, Roger Samson, he told me that I could leave the body there and go find my next target.
I stood in front of the board where all the wanted handbills were kept. Eyeing the dozens of papers over, I decided to pick another single criminal worth three thousand dollars, thanked the sheriff, and returned to the horses. Frank was nowhere to be seen, so I walked around the cabin to the side where I saw him disappear. Sure enough, he was crouched on the ground, fiddling with a loose string from his shirt.
“What are you doing?” I said, completely perplexed.
“Oh, nothing, I was just getting some more food.” It was a poor excuse at best, but he wasn’t doing anything wrong so I let it go. I had to admit, he was acting a little strange, but I decided to not allow it to bother me. Frank seemed like a nice enough person and had an ever better draw, and quite frankly, gained me a lot more money, too.
“So, we can stay at a hotel again and set out tomorrow, if that suits you.”
“Actually, can we start out right now? I really want to sleep out tonight,” he said.
“Yeah… sure, whatever you want.” I was completely fine with sleeping outside, but I just didn’t understand why someone would pick the rough ground over a nice, comfortable bed. I handed him the handbill I chose from the board at the sheriff’s. “Wanted. Dustin Calderwood. Dead or alive for three thousand dollars.” Frank read it over and looked at the picture of the man. “The sheriff said he was last found on a small farm a few miles up north. He shouldn’t be that hard to find.” I held my hand out for what it seemed like the hundredth time to help him get up off that ground.
This time, we took the carriage that belonged to the late Smitty Bacall gang. There was still plenty of supplies in it to last a while on the road, including food, water, and medical provisions. We set off to the north with three horses: two to pull the carriage and one to ride. Frank rode on his horse, Tony, while I steered the carriage. We were silent the entire time until the sun started to set and we decided to settle down until the sun rose. The area we were in was a little sparser than where we had stopped on the night we met and there were few trees, but enough to collect an adequate amount of wood to start a fire. Still, even after making the fire and eating dinner, we didn’t make conversation and tended to our own things, Frank picking at his bandages, even though I told him not to, and me sipping my usual hot water. There was coffee in the carriage, but I preferred my own little drink after so many years of drinking it. It was completely dark out now, the fire slowly dying, and I was restless and a little lonely. I had finally gotten someone to talk to, but he didn’t want to converse, leaving me just as abandoned as before. I was a little worried whether this was due to the events that occurred today when capturing our target. He hadn’t acted like that beforehand, so I assumed this. Frank stood up, and asked,
“Would you mind if I slept in the carriage?” I shook my head and said no. There was a sort of haunting menace to his voice, but I told myself that I misheard him and started to prepare a bedroll to sleep on. One thing I always appreciated about sleeping outside in the open was staring up at the sky. It was completely clear tonight and because the trees in this area were scattered and short, nothing covered the view of the stars and constellations. When I traveled by myself, I tried imagining that the stars kept me company and watched over me; that they were protecting me. Obviously, this was a ridiculous thought. Stars had no power to change my fate, but I liked to think that little elements of superstition or belief to fall back on was beneficial to humans. Slowly, the starlight faded as I closed my eyes, exhausted.
A stifled, painful yell reached my ears. It wasn’t very loud, like it was supposed to be obscured, but I heard it anyway and I tracked it to the carriage. It was extremely dark, but the starlight did help some, so I managed to grope around in my pocket to find a box of matches. A lantern was next to be, and I lit it after breaking a few matches in the process. I held it up and scanned the area, but everything was unmoving: the horses sleeping and no other human or animal in sight. Slowly and quietly, I stepped towards the carriage, my heart pumping, wondering if a lone robber had invaded our camp and taken Frank hostage. I rounded the back of the carriage and cautiously peeked around the corner of the wooden opening. I kept the lantern away just in case there was, in fact, an intruder and in the risky chance that they would see the light, but allowed a faint glow to aid my sight. I squinted through the darkness, and a single black silhouette moved around inside. I watched for a while, recognizing through his movements that this was Frank and there was no one in our campsite. I was relieved, but still watched, curious as to why he was yelling to himself and why he was awake at the hour. It made me nervous. His every move was shaky and unsure, and he was crouched on the ground, fiddling with something that was probably metal, based on the clinking sounds I heard. Finally, he stood up, and I saw his profile. He was holding something in his hand. I strained my eyes and tried to get better look, and once my eyes adjusted better to the dark, I saw with the little light that he was holding a gun. I inhaled quietly and wondered to myself why he would need a gun at this hour. Suddenly, thoughts of paranoia swept over me and I couldn’t help thinking that maybe I really couldn’t trust this man and made a mistake to take in a complete stranger just because I was desperate. I became panicked and put my hand on the gun in my holster with my thumb on the hammer. I decided to watch him a little while longer to see whether I was correct or not. He fiddled with the gun, and dropped it once, the noise making me jump, but finally, he seemed to be done with whatever he was doing with it. He turned, facing the opening of the carriage, raised the gun to his head, and cocked it. Oh, no, I thought to myself. He didn’t want to kill me; he wanted to kill himself. I disregarded any caution that I had taken into sneaking up on him and jumped in front of the opening, the lantern lighting up the whole inside of the carriage. Frank yelled in surprise and dropped the gun on the floor. It went off and shot a hole in the side of the cabin.
“What are you doing?!” he growled, his furious voice a poor cover for his obviously shaky one.
“No, what are you doing?” I said, utterly perplexed. I looked down at the gun he had dropped and back at him. He saw me do this, and we simultaneously dove for it. Thankfully, I was quicker, and grabbed it just before he got his fingers on it. I held it far from him and emptied the bullets from the cylinder so they fell on the ground. “Why would you do such a thing?” I asked. He looked down at me; his expressing more scared than furious now, his true emotion showing.
“I killed a man,” he said. I was at loss after hearing this statement. I made an involuntary scoff, immediately regretting it afterwards.
“… Yeah. I’m sorry. I seem to be missing something here. You did ruthlessly shoot that man in front of his family, correct?” I shook my head in confusion.
“Exactly,” he said blatantly.
“I don’t think I understand.”
“I didn’t expect you to. Can I please have my gun back?”
“No!” I said, holding it further away from him. “I’ll give it to you tomorrow.”
“That bullet was for me!” he said, pointing to the hole in the wall from when the gun was dropped and set off. I sighed, and said,
“You don’t deserve to die. Sure, it wasn’t very thoughtful to kill a man in front of his wife and child but you can learn from that. He was the one who committed the crime, and he had to pay for it. He knew that himself. You’re completely innocent and are far from deserving to die, Frank. Look, I’m not forcing you to do anything. I just though you might utilize the skills you have with a gun, and I don’t mean on yourself, I mean for the good of the law.” He slowly allowed himself to sit down on the ground, facing down the whole time, not wanting to look me in the eye. “We’ll start out tomorrow morning, and I can assure you that you’ll do better next time. This is your job now, if you choose, and I know how traumatizing your first kill is. I’ve been through it myself, but its no reason to feel guilty. The target is a criminal for a reason. They knew the danger and so they had it coming. It’s our duty to carry that out. Okay?” Still looking at the ground, he nodded, and said,
“Thank you.” I exhaled, my heart finally calming down.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” I walked away from the carriage shaking my head. I had said that I understood how he felt, but not nearly to the extent of feeling so much regret that I felt the need to take my own life. Of course, I thought to myself, every person is different. I put out the lantern, and the only light I was left in came from my friends in the sky.
A/N: Hullo!! I'm kind of doubtful about this chapter. It is important, like everything else, as I had said before, but tell me, do you think it's abrupt or unexpected? Like it took you out of the story? I'd just like to know to better my story writing techniques. Thank you!