by Ruth Draves
A brief tale of the old West
|Talbot's horse shuddered beneath him as the tree branch crashed to the ground. He murmured comfortingly to the beast as his human companion danced around the fallen limb, cursing and stamping.
Once the horse had calmed and Judd had stopped his blue streak, Talbot leaned forward and squinted at Judd. Judd took off his hat, wiped his generous forehead with his forearm, and met Talbot's gaze.
“You know there is an easier way to do this,” Talbot drawled.
Judd returned his hat to his head. “I know,” he sighed.“Sheriff wants to make an example, though, and there ain't another tree in sight of the road into town.”
Talbot nodded. This particular oak was more shrub than tree, but it was the only plant taller than a horse's knee for miles.
“Lucky for the that piece of scum that the Sheriff wanted the noose tested before we hang him,” Judd muttered, stealing a glance at the silent gagged and manacled man sitting against the tree trunk.
“A bullet makes 'em just as dead,” Talbot said, putting a gentle hand on the butt of his pistol.
“But shooting's too quick. The Sheriff wants a good show,” Judd shrugged as he turned back to the broken limb.
Talbot's horse jolted as the shot cracked the air. Judd fell to the ground, a pool of blood spreading from the hole in his back.
Talbot calmed his horse and dismounted. He stepped over Judd's body and knelt in front of the gagged man. In seconds the gag and cuffs were off.
Talbot handed the freed man his gun. “You'll need to knock me out and steal a horse to make this look right,” he said.
The former prisoner nodded. “I'll let Mama know you're all right,” he answered.
Word count: 297