Growing up in an outlaw family brings its own unique heartaches. Part 3 of Blood Red
|That sun was blood red and goin down
That sun was blood red and goin down
As the blood streaked sky slid into the waiting night the heaven's above opened up and slow saturating rain bounced against the parched earth. The falling rain filled deepening ruts along the road, ruts that Bob Younger's horse plodded through kicking up the brackish water ahead loomed the town of Pine Grove. Bob blinked the droplets from his eyes as he lifted his head, his eyes narrowed on the only illumination in the small cow town. The Saloon. He kicked his mount into a faster gait. The rage that was so unfamiliar to him seethed and rolled in a caldron of hatred. He hated Marie for what she'd reduced him to, for what she made him feel. Always taunting him that he wasn't enough man to fulfill her desires, she flaunted herself in front of him daring him to claim what she so often refused to give willingly. Then there was Robin who had never really known the love of a mother, a mother that gave warm hugs, a mother that kissed away her tears, and that was the worst of his wife's betrayal.
A mile behind him, on the road and fighting the bone chilling rain, was a small shivering form. Her determination was unwavering, Robin was set on finding her father and nothing would stop her, not Tom, not Cole, and certainly not the rain. She rode on urging her horse faster, her thoughts a jumble of anxious fear. She knew this time was so much different than the times before, the times that her mother would disappear for months on end, and with the knowledge came the certainty that something bad was going to happen.
The saloon had long since cleared of its mass of patrons, only a few lingered, and they made hasty exits as Mad Bob Younger strode into the brightly lit room, his right hand resting on the butt of his revolver. There was an aura of danger about him, a menacing glint in his chocolaty brown eyes. His lanky frame adapted a threatening pose, legs spread, arms tensed and ready, fingers clenching and releasing.
Across the room, sitting on some gamblers lap was Marie, giggling and plying the man's face with kisses. She turned her head just in time to see him level his deadly gaze on her. She gasped, her hand flying to her lily white throat, as she cut her eyes to the man with who she was occupied.
"It's him.." She whispered, feigning a fear she didn't feel in the least. But Marie wasn't a woman not to put her all into a performance, to draw every little nuance of drama from a situation; it was a game to her.
The gambler turned his head in a slow carefree manner, his smile speaking volumes. He knew Marie was married and hadn't cared in the least, hadn't the morals to care about the family he ripped apart. Lifting her gently off his lap he cocked his head at Bob, preparing to stand.
"So, this I presume is the infamous Bob Younger.." His slow drawl pin pointed his deep southern roots. "Well, Mr. Younger you gonna shoot me dead?"
Bob's eyes traveled over the well dressed man, from the flat brimmed hat cocked on his head, to the silk shirt below a finely stitched vest, and finally down to the clean pressed trousers. He was just the sort of man Marie belonged with all along he realized, a man that threw money hand over fist at her and cared nothing for her. "You’re not the problem, Mr."
The almost yellow eyes of the gambler narrowed on Bob, a challenge issued in a brief malicious glance. "Oh, but son, I think it is...."
"Marie..." Bob began only to be cut off as the gambler pushed her behind him.
"I don't think I've made myself clear. She's my lady and if you wish to take issue with her you'll deal with me first." The other man's face twisted into a mask of fury.
"She's my wife..."
"Not anymore, Son.."
"Move.." Bob advanced, and the gambler pulled the navy colt at his side. Bob Younger was by no means one of the notorious fast guns of the day, no shootist. He didn't carry the reputation of such men as John Wesley Hardin, or William H. Bonney, but he was accurate and that counted for something. The report from the gambler's gun echoed loudly through the saloon, divesting anyone of the idea this was anything but a fight to the death.
Robin tied the tired bay mare to the hitching post just outside the saloon, having seen her father's horse standing in the drenching rain. A loud clap of thunder had her scrambling up onto the boardwalk outside the saloon.
"Oh Lord...." She hissed, wrapping her small arms around her. A pattern of speech he had taken from Frank James, her father's cousin and a man she greatly admired. Crouching near the bat wing doors she peered under them. A heavy gasp was trapped in her throat as her view was filled with her father's back.
The gambler slumped heavily to the floor, his eyes rolling back in his lifeless head as Marie screamed. The gambler's bullet had gone wide, missing Bob by a good mile, but he wasn't as lucky. Bob's aim was true and his bullet ripped through the other man's heart, ending his life instantly.
"You sonofabitch!" Marie continued to scream, as she dropped to her knee, the green satin of her dress pooling around her as she examined the gambler. "You bastard!"
Bob took another step towards her, reaching out to grab her arm. "I ain't got time for this, Marie. It's time we settled......"
She scrambled backwards, the long ringlets of her hair falling from the combs atop her head, her eyes red rimmed from useless tears. She pushed to her feet as her hand went behind her back. "Don't you touch me, Bob Younger! Don't you dare!" She spat, with all the venom of a cornered rattlesnake. "I hate you...You hear me? You hear that, Bob Younger, I hate you! I've hated you since the day I married you!" She continued, the years bitterness fueling her words. "I only married you to spite my father...An outlaw, a bad man, he despised that...." Behind her back she was reaching into the deepened emerald sash that molded tightly around her waist. "I never wanted a baby either...Never wanted to get fat and have some screaming little brat....You know, I would have smothered her as soon as she was born if you and Cole hadn't been right outside the door. I swear I would have!" Her last words were screamed as she jerked the small silver derringer from behind her.
She never got a chance to squeeze off that fatal shot. Cole stepped from behind the store room curtain. The black material swirling around his ankles as his bullet found its target, exploding into her side.
Bob's eyes went wide and all he could do was step away as she stumbled back against the bar, her hand dropping the derringer and reaching for him. "Oh God, Bob..." came her blood frothed words.
He couldn't be sorry, only grateful to his brother for not being the one to have to actually pull the trigger. He had that murderous intent in his heart but he knew now, watching her die, that he could have never been the one to end her life.
With an eternal gasping breath she slid to the floor, leaving a trail of gore against the smooth wood of the bar behind her.
"Bob, I'm sor....." Cole began, not really feeling the words only uttering them out of propriety.
His brother waved off his words, not caring now, not feeling anything but a deep sense of relief. But that changed the instant he heard the small voice behind him.
Bob swung to face his pale and trembling daughter. Her eyes pivoted between him and the bodies scattered upon the floor.
"I...I..." She stammered, wanting for all the world to release the pent up tears that choked her words.
"Robin..." He exhaled, stepping towards her only to have her back up. He stood his ground then and waited for her, waited for her to show him what she needed.
She took slow and deliberate steps around her father, eyes never leaving him in fear that he would try and stop her as she neared her mother. Standing above the woman who had given birth to her she tried with all her young might to find some love in her heart for Marie, but it just wasn't there. Her father was her family, was her heart and soul, and that was never more clear to her than in that moment.
"Bobin...I couldn't let her..." Cole began, his gut twisting in near shame as he watched her, watched his niece take in the destruction that yet again he was a part of.
Taking a deep breath Robin stepped over the cooling body and went to Cole, placing a gentled hand on his forearm she smiled, tears for him and her father finally falling. "It's okay, Uncle Cole, you had to. You had to and I'm not sorry, because my daddy's still here." She whispered.
There she stood in all her small youthfulness giving Cole Younger, a hardened outlaw, a man use to killing, the only absolution he would ever need. Over head both men exchanged looks of pride over this child, over a girl that held so many of their traits it was like a stitched quilt with her, another Younger to carry the name onward.