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Daring Tales of the Frontier

A Collection of Short Stories in the American West

Andrew Roberts

When Johnny Came Marching Home
Based on the adventure for Sidewinder: Recoiled by Dog House Rules
Missouri, 1865
The foothills of the Ozarks invoked a feeling of familiar ground. Some battles had been
fought in the area and the region had seen violence perpetrated by Quantrills Raiders and
other notorious partisan groups, but many farms and homesteads remained tucked away
between the rolling hills. Johnny Franklin was taking it in as he walked along the rustic
trail. The green pastures, flowering shrubs and tall copses brought a sense of serenity he
thought had been lost for good. He and his companions had spent the past four years
marching, fighting, and taking cover in muddy ditches. They had made a bad decision to
don the grey uniforms of the Confederacy. Not a day went by when a friend they had lost
their lives, whether to the Yankees or to the camp fevers. But it was over, and they could
go home.
Johnny was still wearing his greatcoat, which was as torn and threadbare as his grey kepi.
He hoped soon he would never have to wear them again. Clutched in his hands was a
rifled musket he had held onto, intending to mount it above his mantelpiece. He was only
sixteen years old when hed left to fight and never thought hed see the day hed be
returning. If it was for the timely intervention of Garrett Hayes, a mysterious stranger whod
joined the company. Wanting to repay the man for his actions, Johnny offered the man a
place on his family farm. The two were accompanied by the farmhand Lars Raymond, a
man Johnny had known since adolescence, and had fought alongside him since they were
both drafted. As they made their way home, they had seen desolation which continued to
put lumps in their throats. The path had been strewn with ransacked towns, scorched
pastures, and trees ravaged by wildfire. Even in this portion of the hills, the fertile pastures
and tall-standing trees were occasionally broken up by the remains of a torched barn, a
ransacked corn crib, or a cross marking the shallow grave of another nameless casualty.
The harsh reminders of the war were made harsher by being so close to home, but Johnny
and Lars both felt that their territory didnt fare too poorly.

How much further is it? Garrett asked.
Well, the trail is becoming increasingly familiar. Johnny replied, I figure well be seeing
the outer edges of the homestead in another day.
Thats good to know. Lars commented, Were low on rations. Boy, Id like the sound of
Mrs Amelia Franklin waiting on the porch with some of her freshly-baked biscuits.
Garrett said nothing. As the sun was setting, the trio came across a large clearing near a
That theres a nice place to camp down. He remarked.
He set his backpack down and unveiled his bedroll. Johnny and Lars set themselves to
work building a campfire. Before long, the three were watching the dusk.
As the night rolled in, the trio were preparing to turn in for the night when the sound of
gunfire echoed through the hills. Johnny was scrambling to his feet reaching for the paper
cartridges in his jacket, his battle-trained reflexes taking over. Two thunderous booms sent
chills up his spine, spurring the memories he wanted to forget.
That sounds like its quite a ways off. Lars commented. He had also sprung up, while
Garrett was laid out on his back, staring into the sky.
Several reports followed. The trio began to see a few flashes of coloured light in the sky.
More reports and flashes followed in rapid succession, accompanied by a big boom.
Its just fireworks, kid. Garrett deduced, Take it easy.
I guess the other folks arrived home. Lars commented, The wars over. Family reunions
come next.

The next day, the group continued to walk down the trail. By mid-day, it was getting harder
for Johnny and Lars to contain their excitement as they plodded along the dirt road they
had picked up. Johnny could see the lake where he used to swim and fish, or perhaps
court a young lady near. Over yonder was the neighbouring farms orchard where some
the sweetest apples on their side of the Mississippi would beckon every harvest.
Landmarks which he feared he would never see again brought a kindness to Johnnys
eyes. Finally, he could see the boundaries of his familys homestead; the split-rail fence he
helped to build, closing in the pastures on the west side of his property. At the edge of the
fence was the narrow road which meandered through the woods to the farmhouse. While
the house couldnt be seen from where they were, it never could. The road was very
unkempt, with the brush growing alongside it pushing in to make it more narrow than
Lars noticed a large but crude sign nailed to one of the fence posts:
Trespassers Shot on Site
I dont recall that being there. He muttered.
Another sign was nailed to a nearby tree:
Private Property
It looks like the pasture hasnt been cleared of brush in a few months. Garrett remarked.
Well, the only people one the farm would be Ma, Grandpa, and my kid brother Willie.
Johnny told him, I doubt theyd be working the fields much.
So, your father didnt make it then? Garrett asked.
My father died nearly ten years ago. Johnny replied, He fell off the roof of the barn just
before the harvest. My Grandpa moved in shortly afterwards, and he hired Lars and his
cousin Oscar as farmhands.
Lars reacted to the mention of Oscars name.
There seems to be a large hole up the main road there. He pointed out, desperate to
change the subject.
Surely Grandpa would have filled it. Johnny replied, He always did. We need to get

Quickening their pace, the trio approached the gate in the rail fence and finally laid their
eyes on the old homestead. Their eager step was rudely interrupted by realisation that the
place was not the same as it was before: A long ditch stood between them and the house;
a ruined wagon, stacks of wooden crates and piles of unrecognisable junk were scattered
around the front yard near the porch, forming a barricade. Garrett drew his revolver as he
noticed the front windows partially boarded up, with narrow slits the occupants to aim their
longarms through them.
Before Johnny could take a step closer, a shot rang out. He felt the buckshot skimming
past his head. The three scattered and took cover behind the trees. A big, ugly scoundrel
peered around the barricade. He had a gigantic head covered by a burlap cap, with a
mess of curly hair spilling out along with an arm the width of a tree branch holding a
shotgun. Another shot from the first floor window reminded Johnny of the cover.
The big man moved out from behind his cover, partially revealing his massive frame, along
with a bushy beard covering his face.
Get off my land and stay off, unless you intend to sleep here forever! He hollered in a
raspy baritone.
Johnny and Lars both paused, but their concentration was broken by the man firing his
second shot. Johnny raised his musket and fired back. The round embedded in the wall
behind the giant.
The wars over! Johnny yelled, Give us back our farm!
Fire in the hole! The giant shouted back, hurling an Excelsior grenade at the group.
Johnny ran away from the tree to avoid the impact of the grenade.
Dont be a hero, kid! Garrett shouted to him, Well fare no better!
Johnny realised that discretion was the better part of valour. He turned and ran after
Garrett and Lars.

When the dust had settled, Johnny and his companions were catching their breath in a
secluded area of the property. As Garrett lit up a cigar, he noticed a makeshift cross
hidden behind the scrub.
Here lies Hiram Smoot. He read aloud, A real tough son of a bitch.
Johnnys face fell as he heard it. So, they killed Grandpa? He asked.
Thats what it looks like. Lars said, trying to be as gentle as possible.
So, are you figuring on payback? Garrett asked.
Are you planning on backing out? Lars retorted.
Thatll be the day. Garrett said, I say we kick those bastards out of the farm and back to
where they came from.
Except they fortified the place, and its likely that Ma and Willie are still in there. Johnny
reminded him.
You dont know that for sure. Garrett returned, Pick your shots carefully and theyll be
You wont drive out them bad men unless you come up with a better plan than that one.
A mocking high pitched voice behind them stated.
Garrett spun around and drew his revolver aiming at a fat, split-grown tree trunk. A figure
emerged, a person no older than fifteen, with a face concealed behind an oversized burlap
hunting cap.
Who are you? Garrett asked, uncocking the revolver.
Im a friend of Johnnys. The watcher answered, And Im no friend of those sorry sacks
that took over your daddys place.
Put it away Garrett. Johnny instructed, Her names Hattie Ferguson. Shes from one of
the neighbouring farms.
Im sorry about your Grandpa. Hattie said to him, holding her cap to her chest, He put up
one hell of a fight when those squatters came a few months ago.
What about the others? Johnny asked, tones of urgency prevalent in his voice, Are they
I dont know about your ma. They imprisoned the family when they took over. I havent
seen her lately, but I did her crying in the first few weeks those people arrived.
What about my brother?
Willies still alive. Ive seen him outdoors gutting the barn, washing clothes, or collecting
firewood as recently as a week ago.
Johnny breathed a sigh of relief.
Who exactly are these people? Lars asked.
I dont know. Hattie informed him, All I know is that their leader calls himself Big Tate. It
sounds like he was some kind of military man. Hes got at least six people with him,
possibly seven or eight.
Theyre probably guerrillas. Garrett deduced, I figured you got a couple of those in the
Why didnt someone call the sheriff? Lars asked, Surely he would help us out.
Hattie shook her head. My grandfather already did that. She revealed, He got a posse
down to the farm and tried to talk to the squatters, but it turned sour. There was a shootout
and Big Tate ended up throttling the sheriff while a three-fingered man shot his deputy.
Everyone else backed down.
OK, so we cant have the law on side. Garrett remarked, Do you have any bright ideas?

A few minutes later, the group had drawn a crude map of the farm in the dirt.
So, we reckon that theres probably eight people holed up in my house. Johnny
reiterated, Theyve boarded up the windows and have made a barricade outside the front
door. Not to mention they dug that ditch as well.
Ive not seen the ditch up close, but I have the feeling its some kind of trap. Hattie
contributed, I watched them digging it, but I didnt get very close. Speaking of which, you
could use the barricade against them, to take cover against the people in the windows.
Yes, but wed have to get to it first. Garrett argued.
What about the barn? Lars suggested.
The barns empty. Hattie reported, At least, I havent seen anyone in there for a while.
If we could get inside the barn, we could hole up in there. Johnny theorised.
So, you want to besiege them? Garrett asked, We wont have enough food to last a
There are other farms around. Johnny argued.
Big Tates thugs are collecting supplies from the farms. Hattie countered, They took
everything from my grandfathers place, from our chickens to the last milk cow and our
preserves. Theyve killed off most of the livestock, not that there was much remaining
anyway. A few weeks ago they slaughtered the draft horse.
We could bushwhack them when they collect again. Garrett said, That should even the
odds a bit.
A frontal assault is out of the question. Johnny pondered, But we could sneak in at night,
and get Willie and Ma out of there.
That could work. Hattie commented, Theres a grain still in the back garden, so at night
those boys are likely to be roistered. Big Tates not fond of it. Ive heard his bellowing.
At least two of you fools ought to stay sober dammit! She quoted, trying to mimic Big
Then I say we go with the bushwhacking plan. Garrett repeated, If Big Tate sends more
people to extort the farmers, well dry gulch them.
There is a squatter who likes to go hunting on his own. Hattie remembered, Ive followed
him twice. He almost caught me once, but Ive got a feeling he let me escape.
Johnny, we still need to consider supplies. Lars reminded, Weve probably got enough
food to last another day.
We can get water from the streams. Johnny answered, Im sure there are some berries
That wont last. Lars argued, Not to mention that its gonna get us caught sooner or
Well plan our attack in the morning.

As night fell, Johnnys companions were settling in to get some sleep. An approaching
ruckus pierced the quiet night, stirring them from their much-needed rest. It only took
Johnny a few moments to clear his head and recognise the sound for what it was the
sound of the drunken fools parading through the woods.
Nows our chance. Garrett whispered.
Lets disarm them. Johnny instructed, I want to find out what they know.
As the boisterous singing grew louder, Johnny sat by the campfire with his empty rifle,
while Hattie, Lars and Garrett stood against the larger trees.
Three men approached the camp, singing bawdy songs. They noticed Johnny, still
wearing his Confederate greatcoat.
Wars over, soldier boy! One of the squatters jeered as Johnny stood up.
One of his wingmen advanced on Johnny. The moment he got close, Garrett emerged
from his hiding place and grabbed the revolver from the squatters belt while aiming his
own revolver. The other wingman was grabbed by Lars and held in a chokehold while
Hattie disarmed him. The leader reached for his own revolver, only for Johnny to strike him
across the face with the butt of his rifle.
Now, well sit by the fire and tell stories. Garrett said to the three prisoners, his revolver
trained on them. How many of you are there?
Theres three of us. One of the squatters answered, amid sniggers from his companions.
Yeah, cant you count? One of the others quipped.
How many back at the farm? Johnny asked.
A few.
If you want information, you ask me.
Johnny and Lars turned to see man dressed in an overcoat and boots approaching them,
a large rifle carried over his shoulder.
Hes one of the squatters! Hattie observed, The one who sets off on his own.
Thats right. The newcomer said, speaking with a German accent. My name is Ludwig
Metzger. Im one of Tates boys, or at least I was.
He dropped the rifle to the ground.
Well, Im Johnny Franklin, and those boys are in my farm. Johnny began, I believe that
you are holding my kid brother Willie and my Ma back there.
The boy is okay, but Im afraid your mother is dead. Metzger informed him, One Tates
boys got drunk and hit on the head.
Right now, I want those rips off my land. Johnny demanded.
Tie those drunks up and leave them there. Metzger instructed, Ill lead the way. Im sure
those guns of theirs will be of use.

As the group made their way back to the farm, Metzger was explaining the defences.
The leader of the group is Bertram Tate. He explained, He used to lead a Confederate
partisan band during the war, disrupting Union activities.
How many men are with him? Garrett asked.
Theres Tate himself, along with his second in command Three-Finger Ladd. Hes some
petty thief from Tennessee. Theres an Irishman called Shane Foley, and that pretty much
rounds out the notables. With those three you subdued back in the woods, Id say there
are another two in there.
So, whats the best point of attack? Lars asked.
Your best chance is to attack during the day. The boards on the windows provide enough
protection, but it does make the place very stuffy. Most of the boys will be outside and the
doors will be open.
If we could get to the barn, wed have some cover. Hattie suggested.
I wouldnt recommend the barn. Tate sends two of his boys there every once in a while to
check it. If he finds us in there, hell shut us in and burn it down.
Well, what are we waiting for? Garrett asked, Lets evict them!
Johnny looked down at his rifle. It was an English-made Enfield 1853 Pattern Rifled
Musket. It was muzzle-loaded, like the weapons his father and grandfather were used to,
but there was no flintlock mechanism. Instead, the weapon used a percussion cap to ignite
the powder. It produced less smoke and was much more water-resistant than a flintlock.
The ammunition was different too; rather than traditional round balls, the rifle was loaded
with a conical round which travelled down the barrels rifling easier.
It had seen enough action during the war, and would see action again.

The following morning, Metzger had led Johnny and his friends to the back of the house,
bypassing the ditch and the barricade. The squatters had gathered in the back yard.
Metzger walked towards them while Johnny loaded a round in his rifle and took aim.
Youd better make that shot count kid. Garrett warned.
I know just how. Johnny replied.
Yippee-yay, yippee-yay! One of the squatters shouted, prompting the others to prepare
their weapons in response to their recognised alert.
God damn it! Big Tate yelled as he realised it was Metzger returning. The squatters
promptly relaxed and lowered their weapons. This wasnt the first time Metzger had
accidentally prompted an alert.

Johnny took careful aim at the grain still they had set up. Taking a deep breath, he pulled
the trigger.
The shot ignited the alcohol in the still, causing a massive explosion. The group ran to the
farmhouse, using the smoke generated as cover. The squatters retreated into the house.
One of them prepared to close the doors when Johnny had closed the distance, stabbing
him with the bayonet hed affixed to his rifle. Garrett and Lars followed him inside. A
squatter fired his rifle at them from the staircase, hitting Lars in the back. Garrett turned
and returned fire with his revolver. The squatter clutched his torso and lost his balance,
tumbling down the stairs.
You bastards will pay!
Shane Foley emerged from the dining room with a shotgun. Garrett quickly turned to face
him. He fired another shot, sending the Irishman sprawling back into the table. At the same
time, Johnny had pulled the revolver from his belt and was making his way upstairs.
Willie! He cried, Are you alright?
Johnny! A voice cried back from the other bedroom. Johnny recognised it as his brothers
and went to try the door. Seeing it locked, he kicked it down. Inside, Willie was taking
cover underneath one of the beds.
Come on! Johnny said, Lets get some payback.
Hold it! Big Tate ordered, emerging from the master bedroom. He carried a large horse
pistol, which he had trained on Johnny. Three-Finger Ladd was stood behind him, his rifle
clutched in his hand.
Johnny! Garrett yelled as he advanced up the stairs. Three-Finger Ladd turned to fire,
but Garrett was too quick for him, shooting the thief through the head. At the same time,
Johnny fired his revolver and hit Big Tate in the chest. As he fell backwards, his pistol
discharged, hitting Johnny in the arm. Crying out in pain, Johnny raised his revolver and
fired four more shots into Big Tate. The giant slumped against the wall, for good.
Time had passed. The neighbouring farmers had gathered to the Franklin Homestead.
Johnnys arm was in a bandage, but he did his best to help rebuild the place. Garrett and
Ludwig had managed to fill the ditch in, while Hatties grandfather and his hired hands
were providing assistance while Lars recovered.
Do you not have anywhere else to go? He asked Garrett as the work progressed.
Not really. Garrett replied, Farming isnt for me. Im heading out elsewhere. You could
tag along if you want.
No thanks. Johnny replied, Im home now and Im here to stay. I need to rebuild my life
here without Ma. Plus Willies too young to be managing things on his own. No sir, my
battle is over.

Garrett nodded in understanding, watching as the Franklins stepped inside the farmhouse.
Willie stood in the doorway, watching as Garrett walked away into the distance. He paused
for a moment before closing the door.

The Hidden Canyon
Based on the adventure for Sidewinder: Recoiled by Dog House Rules
Utah, 1872
There was nothing that would beat a stiff drink or a savoury meal after a long cattle drive.
Garrett Hayes and his friend Rusty had settled into the only eatery in the town of Grafton,
the Prickly Pear. Although not impressed with the weak beer that was the only alcoholic
drink available, they found that the surprisingly tasty food made up for it.
While they were finishing up, a man appeared in the open doorway, casting a shadow into
the place with the setting sun behind him. Dressed like a ranch hand, or possibly a
craftsman, he lingered in the entrance, surveying the crowd with a frown. Garrett noticed a
woman pacing several steps beyond the doorway. His eyes met the mans, whose frown
changed to a look of recognition as he nodded at him before backing out of the restaurant.
The couple moved away from the entrance, but remained in plain sight through the
As Garrett and Rusty left the restaurant, they couldnt help but notice the couple resting on
a hitching post underneath a nearby kerosene street lamp. They faced Garrett and perked
up as he and Rusty stepped onto the porch. The man held his hat in one hand, his other
hand in his pocket.
We hear youre honest men. The woman spoke, Weve been praying for help and were
hoping you might have a word with us.
Garrett said nothing.
My name is Jacob Knight. The man introduced, This is my wife Miriam. Were
acquainted with David Preston. He mentioned you and that you might be able to help us.
Garrett nodded. David Preston was the trail boss they were working for, driving cattle from
a Texas ranch.
In the past few months, this area has served as a stomping ground for a band of outlaws
led by a man who calls himself El Presidente. Jacob explained, Theyve been stealing
cattle, horses, and anything of value from ranchers, travellers, and townsfolk alike. We
believe them to be responsible for the disappearance of our daughter Elizabeth.
If you want help, why dont you ask the sheriff? Rusty asked.
We did. But the posse came back defeated. Jacob explained, And that was those who
came back at all.
These men are a sign of Providence! Miriam chipped on, only for Jacob to look at her, as
if to say hush.
Ill offer $500 if you bring her back. Jacob promised.
Alright. Garrett said, Ill see what I can do.
Thank you. Jacob said, shaking his hand, Tomorrow morning Ill give you the opportunity
to stock up on anything you need at the trading post in Grafton. Ill arrange a line of credit
with the owner for you. Meet me at the Four Oclock Ranch at midday, and Ill well discuss
He left with Miriam. Garrett turned to see Rusty looking somewhat gobsmacked.
Always playing the hero, arent you Garrett? He sneered.
Well, I figured youd be eager on $25 a month. Garrett replied, We should get back to
the herd.

The drive Garrett had been riding with had camped outside Grafton, where the herd was
able to drink near the Virgin River. The other drovers were either riding the edges of the
herd or sitting around the campfire. David Preston was perched on a rock close to the fire,
strumming his guitar. Garrett had been hired by Preston back in Lubbock to help drive his
herd to the growing markets in Arizona and Utah, but was somewhat impressed by his
My favourite pair, He said as they approached, Have you found some wrongs to right?
As a matter of fact, I have. Garrett said, without cracking a smile, That Mr Knight youve
been dealing with is hiring to get is daughter back.
A few of the drovers around the campfire laughed.
Well, were gonna be here at least couple weeks. Preston replied, Im gonna try and
make sales at a few other farms before heading back to Texas. Hell, I might even write a
song about the fearless Garrett Hayes and his loyal sidekick Rusty.
The campfire circle laughed again.
Well, as long as youre fine with us taking the extra work. Rusty commented as Garrett
turned in for the night.

The following morning, Garrett and Rusty rode back into Grafton, hitching their horses and
walking into the local trading post. The proprietor was an old man known as Taylor, who
tried to touch their shoulders at every opportunity.
Youre those boys Mr Knight has hired, aint ya? He asked them.
Thats right. Garrett replied.
Just tell me what you need. Taylor offered, Mr Knight said hell take care of your bill.
Id say at least a weeks worth of trail rations: dried fruit, jerky, hard tack, whatever you
got. Rusty listed, Wed better get some more feed too. Also, do you stock ammunition?
What kind of irons do you have? Taylor asked.
I use a Colt. Garrett answered, A handful of paper cartridges in naval calibre will do me.
Ive got a Remington that uses a .44 calibre. Rusty added, Are the caps included in
Taylor handed him a small tin of percussion caps. Sorry son, but I sell the caps separately
to the cartridges.
Thatll be fine, partner. Rusty assured.

After collecting what they needed, Garrett and Rusty mounted up to meet Jacob Knight. A
mile down the road from Grafton, the pair approached a modest but expansive ranch. A
young ranch hand, about fifteen, was seated on the wooden rail fence near the entry gate.
As the pair approached, he jumped to his feet and tipped his hat.
Ill just fetch Mr Knight. He said, running off towards the farmhouse.
A few minutes passed before the boy returned with Jacob.
Im so glad you folks could make it. He said, shaking their hands, If youd like to follow

Garrett and Rusty followed Jacob and the boy. He led them along a dirt road and past a
whitewashed bunkhouse amid a field of desert flowers. Rounding the bend around the
bunkhouse, Rusty glimpsed a group of horses tethered to the outer rails of the corral
fence. Beyond the corral lay the front porch of the main house, where Miriam Knight and a
young woman were pouring drinks from metal pitchers. A Paiute man in a red shirt worn
under a buckskin jacket and knee-high moccasins was sitting on the porch step with a tin
mug in his hand. He had long, braided, black hair and deep, reddish-brown skin.
Get yourselves a mug and gather round. Jacob said, handing Garrett and Rusty two
mugs. Miriam served them both the contents of her pitcher, a spiced fruit juice. Garrett and
Rusty leaned against the porch rail as they drank.
This gentleman is Red Shirt. Jacob introduced, gesturing to the Paiute, Hell be your
guide for this job. Right now Ill give you the chance to ask any questions.
Who exactly are we looking for? Rusty asked.
I need you to find my daughter, Elizabeth Knight. Jacob explained, Shes fourteen years
old, blonde hair, green eyes, disappeared three days ago while riding in the pasture.
You talked about someone called El Presidente. Garrett mentioned, How do figure his
involvement in this?
I dont know. Jacob replied, slumping back in his chair, Elizabeth had been seen in town
listening to a well-dressed man telling stories about Zion Canyon. On the same day,
several ranchers reported sightings of bandits riding along the Virgin River with yellow
bandanas. Thats where Elizabeths bonnet was found, so I dont believe in coincidence.
Elizabeth would have set off for home around two oclock after listening to this storyteller.
You mentioned you went to the sheriff. Rusty added, What exactly happened?
When she didnt come back, I went off to find her with my son Daniel. Jacob explained,
The sheriff later raised a posse and found the bonnet. They rode for three nights and two
days before returning. All they suspect is that the bandits are holed up somewhere within
Zion Canyon.
Ok, lets change the subject. Garrett said, What do you know about the bandits?
Theyre the worst kind. Red Shirt stated.
Theyve been operating around here for several months. Jacob elaborated, They rob
travellers and wagon trains, steal goods from the townsfolk and ranchers, as well as rustle
cattle and horses.
One time, they killed a drover at a nearby ranch when he caught them stealing food
stores in the dead of the night. The young ranch hand contributed.
Theyre also believed to use agents to buy supplies from towns. Jacob mentioned, I
have the feeling the dude who told the stories could be one of their agents.
Well, wed best get to it. Garrett remarked, standing up and finishing his drink.
Jacob raised his hand to stop him. Before you go, he said, Id like to state another
requirement; my son is to go with you.
Garrett and Rusty turned their heads to the trail hand who had led them to the ranch.
Im Daniel Knight. He said, Are we mounting up?
Were about to face some dangerous outlaws, and you want us to bring a kid? Rusty
queried in disbelief.
Im fifteen and a half. Daniel argued, Im not a kid.
Well, Id say youre between hay and grass. Garrett retorted as he looked over at Red
Hes okay. The Paiute replied, shrugging.
If were gonna get shot at, I dont want no kid seeing that. Rusty protested.
I insist. Jacob stated, Either Daniel goes with you, or Ill withdraw the offer and ask you
return the goods you picked up from Taylor. Besides, if you do find my daughter, Im sure
shell feel better if she knows the people who find her.
We need to leave soon. Red Shirt interjected, gazing towards the canyon.

Time had passed. The ranch hands had prepared the groups horses. The Knights bid the
group farewell, with several hugs for Daniel and handshakes for everyone else.
Good luck, Jacob said as they rode out, Well be praying for you.

Garrett and Rusty said nothing as they followed Red Shirt down the trail.
This trail will be taking us Springdale. Daniel informed them, breaking the silence, Its
the closest town to the south rim of Zion Canyon, so therell be clues about the more
recent activities of those rips.
Why does your daddy want you to come with us? Rusty asked, I still dont get it.
I dont want to see my sister get hurt. Daniel replied, Im pretty sound on the goose, I
can read people, patch up those in a bad shape, I can shoot
Shooting isnt everything. Garrett disturbed, Have you ever killed a man? Or are you
afraid your bible will say you cant?
I dont want to fight if I dont have to. Nonetheless, its an eye for an eye.
What kind of smokewagon do you carry? Rusty queried.
Daniel pointed to his saddle-holster, where he kept an old sporting-model revolving rifle.

By the early evening, the group saw two steady, drifting plumes of smoke. The dirt road
was becoming a bit more worn and easy to follow, and several buildings were coming into
view. The place appeared to be larger than Grafton, though not by much. Red Shirt began
to deviate from the path.
You can ask around in Springdale. He said, Dont worry about me; Ill wait on the mesa.
Are you not coming into town? Rusty asked.
No. I dont visit Springdale these days.
Im up for visit though. Daniel piped in, sounding eager.
Sure whatever, Garrett dismissed as he led his horse on. Rusty and Daniel followed suit.
Theres a girl he likes in town. Red Shirt commented. Garrett and Rusty looked at each
other and shrugged. The marshals an honest man. You can approach him.

As the trio approached the town, the first building they saw was marked by a sign with a
bed and basin possibly a boarding house. Up the road was a livery and long buildings on
two sides of the road leading to the edge of the canyon.
Whats up with Red Shirt? Rusty asked Daniel, Whys he reluctant to accompany us?
He had a public run-in with the tinsmith a while back. Daniel explained, He wont come
back to town unless he has to.
They hitched their horses outside a public house called Jonesies. As they entered,
everybody stared at the trio. One man stood up to confront them, showing them a
marshals badge.
Sorry folks, but Ill need to have those guns. He told them. There was no point in arguing.
Do you know much about El Presidente? Rusty asked. Everybody fell silent at the
mention of the name.
The group sat down at the marshals table and ordered a meal. Overall, the venue was not
too different from the Prickly Pear back in Grafton, but the food wasnt as memorable.
Once again, the only beverage available was a very weak beer.
Ive had reports of horses and cattle being stolen from the nearby ranches. The marshal
explained as they ate. Unfortunately, theres been no solid evidence or clues as to their
whereabouts. Why are you interested?
The gang has kidnapped a young woman from a ranch outside Grafton. Garrett
explained, Were trying to see if anybody in Springdale knows anything.
About a week ago, we were visited by a storyteller. He was talking about El Presidente,
and claimed to have seen him beef a guy in Yuma. The marshal revealed.
What did this fellow look like? Rusty inquired.
His name was George Combs. He was a fancy-dressed dude with mutton chops. As for
the subject of his stories, he described him as an average-sized man who always wore a
backwards preachers hat and dressed like a vaquero. You know, one of those Mexican
Do you know where they went? Daniel asked.
I have a feeling theyre somewhere close to Zion Canyon, but I dont know whether or not
its the east or west side.

When morning had broken, the group returned to where Red Shirt was.
I suggest we take the far western route around the canyon towards the north rim. He told
them, leading his horse on.
Why not the eastern route? Garrett asked.
I like this side better. Red Shirt deadpanned in response, And its too dangerous to go
directly into the canyon. Dont worry, the trail will loop around.
It took the greater part of the day to follow the route, even on horseback. A day into the
search, Garrett caught sight of three peaks rising above the landscape. It was as if three
giants of yore met to gaze into the canyon, turning into stone and remaining there for
eternity. As they passed them, Red Shirt spotted an old wagon trail.
Id say there were at least two hand carts and several horses. He analysed, Theyre
probably two weeks old.
Could they be rustlers? Daniel asked.
No. It looks like they came from the southwest and veered towards where we are, before
they turned away and went northwest. They probably went to view the Three Giants.
He indicated towards the peaks. I reckon that the bandits are camped closer to the
canyon. He added.
The party followed him without questioning him. Daniel knew Red Shirt as a
knowledgeable guide, and there was no reason to question his judgement.

The very next day, the party continued to ride, idly watching the birds overhead as they
travelled across the mesa. Their attention was immediately demanded by several black
dots in the distance, circling in a slow and purposeful manner before descending towards
the horizon. It looked like it was half a mile to the east of their position.
Buzzards, Garrett whispered to Rusty.
As they approached, it became obvious that the buzzards were dining on something. They
had got close enough to see that it was a man on his back when a shot rang out, sending
one of the birds plummeting to the ground. The mans hand fell to the earth. Garrett
dismounted to examine the body. A search unveiled little more than eight paper cartridges
in his gun belt and a handful of loose coins in his vest pocket.
How much does he have? Rusty asked.
Four dollars, Garrett replied as he counted the coins, And the ammunition is .44 Colt.
Thats fine, my Remingtons a .44.
Garrett scooped up the cartridges and handed them over. As he looked over the body, he
noticed a yellow bandana hanging around the neck.
He looks like one of the rustlers. He reported, showing the bandana to his companions.
Daniel promptly crossed himself, while Rusty noticed his paling complexion.
The kids green around the edges. He informed Garrett.
I figured as much. Garrett replied as he mounted his horse. Lets go.
Are we just leaving the body? Daniel asked.
We cant bury it, the grounds too hard. Rusty explained, And this aint the time to be
administering last rites. Besides, he kidnapped your sister.

The party continued to follow Red Shirt until they arrived at a small sandstone formation
near the northern rim of the canyon.
Weve reached the Narrows. He said as he dismounted. Near the formation was a
rugged trail leading down towards the canyon. We cant take the horses here. Ive
traversed this place before. Its a place of great beauty.
Hey, look at this! Daniel called to them. He had found the charred, tattered remains of a
sweat-stained yellow bandana wedged between the rocks. Garrett examined the area.
There were no signs of a campfire, but a recent set of tracks was leading down the trail
close by.
We should follow that, but not right now. Red Shirt advised, Wed better get some rest
What did you do before you came here? Daniel asked Garrett as they tried to find wood
for a fire.
Kid, the first rule of thumb out here is to never inquire about another mans past. Garrett
stated with a stern expression.
Sorry, Daniel replied, I figured you and Rusty as wandering gunslingers.
Im just a trail hand with Prestons crew. Rusty mentioned, I have a family back in
Youre doing better than me. Garrett commented.
Ive heard a lot of stories about the wandering gunslingers. Daniel said, Usually from
campfire tales.
Garrett sat back and stared into the distance.
Its not all its cracked up to be. He said, Im on first-name terms with at least two
hundred bartenders and faro dealers, Ive slept in five hundred rented rooms, and eaten a
thousand meals in saloons or hash houses. I have no home, no wife, no kids, and no
prospects. Theres no place Im tied down to, nobody with a hold on me, and no man I step
aside for. Is that that what you really want to grow up to do?
Everybody fell silent as they contemplated his words.

The following morning, Red Shirt woke the group at the crack of dawn and led them down
the trail, a Spencer carbine in his hand.
What about the horses? Daniel queried, We cant just leave them here!
Save your breath. Red Shirt warned, Youll need it.
The trail began to take a rapid and perilous descent. Before long, Garrett and his
companions found themselves picking their way over rocky terrain and sandstone walls
that would narrow and widen with very little warning. Red Shirt seemed to know this path
well, navigating the twists and turns as if hed traversed it many times. The sun would
disappear overhead and reappear in unexpected slim rays which illuminated the
sandstone formations and cast wondrous shadow patterns everywhere. Rumbling sounds
from down below rebounded like a cricket song in the night.
Red Shirt said nothing as he navigated the winding route. Garrett was beginning to feel
uneasy as he clambered after him. He gestured to Rusty.
Look at him go. He whispered, Hes moving like a spider, and he wont speak. Plus he
had led us here after finding that bandana.
So? Rusty queried, Is that a bad thing?
I have a feeling he might be in league with these people were looking for.
As they continued their secret discussion, they could see the Virgin River bubbling away
no more than fifty yards beneath them, cutting through the walls to the south as if drilling to
centre of the earth. The group fell silent when they realised they were on a ledge just
above the mouth of the Narrows, with the canyon walls rising above them and cupping the
sky like a pair of giant hands. The vastness of the canyon beyond defied Garretts
sensibilities and filled him with awe and wonder, but he had little time to dwell on it as
gunshots rang out from nearby.

The group pressed themselves against the outcroppings around the ledge. Two figures
were shooting at them from a similar ledge, slightly lower than the partys. Garrett drew his
revolver and took aim. He could see one of the men crouched behind the brush. The other
was behind the rocks with a Spencer in his hands. Red Shirt was preparing to move back.
One of the men spotted him and fired, but was unable to make his mark due to the range,
combined with the cover provided by the outcroppings. Garrett fired a shot in response,
only to hit the rocks. Red Shirt tapped him on the shoulder and gestured to move. At the
same time, Rusty moved into Garretts position and continued to fire on them, while Daniel
huddled against the outcropping with his revolving rifle gripped tightly in his hands.
Garrett followed Red Shirt back along the route they had taken, back towards where their
horses were. He promptly stopped and took an alternate fork along the trail. It didnt take
long before they were coming up behind their opponents. Garrett whistled to get their
attention. One of the men turned to face him, only to be dispatched with a well-placed shot
to the torso. He slumped against the rocks, while his friend stood up to engage them.
Garrett thumbed back the hammer on his Colt and fired again. The man fell backwards off
the ledge into the river.
Rusty peered from his cover to see them. Garrett waved to signal it was clear. He
searched the body slumped against the rocks, finding another yellow bandana along with
another revolver, a handful of cartridges for the Spencer, and small purse containing a
large number of silver coins.
Rusty had joined the pair, dragging a pale-faced Daniel along with him.
This kid was crying through the fight. He grumbled, Hes gonna get us killed sooner or
later. I have a good mind to throw him into the river.
The kid stays with us! Garrett snapped, Hes only here to make sure we do the job.
It looks like those two were camped here. Red Shirt observed, viewing the remains of
their campsite.
And they were about to leave too. Garrett added, We should get back to the trail. They
might be nearby.

More time passed, and the party had left the narrows and were circling around to the
eastern route around the canyon. They promptly caught sight of new tracks.
Those look like at least two score heads of cattle and at least half a dozen horses. Red
Shirt deduced, And theyre a couple days old. We should follow them.
Yeah, I hear you. Garrett answered. The tracks meandered in a wide swath across the
plateau, generally approaching the canyon. Most drives would have stayed far afield of the
broken mesa. He led his horse on to follow the tracks along the twisty path.
As they followed the trail, the party realised that the cattle were being grazed in the valleys
while being driven closer to the canyon.
Im surprised that theres a route that can accommodate the horses. Red Shirt

The cattle and horse tracks began to veer west towards Zion Canyon. An enormous chunk
of pale sandstone towered above the landscape, seeming to beckon all who saw it. As the
group continued westward, the chunk appeared more and more like a huge throne and
Garrett couldnt help but think it was drawing him closer and closer. Meanwhile, it felt like
the plateau was receding beneath the riding formations looming around them, the tracks
began to meander less and less before they finally led down into a valley between the
sandstone elevations. Before long, they became disorganised again, as if the cattle had
been corralled in the valley for more than a short spell.
Garrett surveyed the area. He could see more tracks going deeper into the valley, horse
manure which looked at least a day old, and the remains of a fire which was carefully
extinguished but not eradicated. He primed the Spencer hed taken from the rustlers in the
Theyre close. He said with intent.
They followed the tracks, which continued onward in a narrower swath down a trail that ran
alongside a smaller canyon. The path continued to narrow and descend but remained
passable. Signs of livestock trampling the bush were evident.

Red Shirt slowed down to negotiate a wide, steep turn around a sandstone outcropping to
see another span of flat land stretching out between the canyon walls on the left and a
precipitous drop on the right. A small herd of cattle and several horses were grazing near a
cul-de-sac of rising sandstone toward the far end of the flat, more than a hundred yards
away. At the southern edge of the herd, Garrett could see about a half dozen figures
resting around a small campfire, along with a single guard near the eastern edge of the
Daniel, guard the horses. Garrett whispered, surveying the figures again. The lone guard
looked like he had fallen asleep, while the guards around the campfire were preoccupied
with cooking a meal or lounging around.
The trio advanced on the campers gathered around the fire, sidling past the sleeping
guard. Garrett and Red Shirt had their Spencer carbines primed and ready, while Rusty
drew and cocked his revolver. As they closed in, one of the rustlers noticed them.
Weve got company boys! he shouted as he sprang to his feet, attempting to raise a
shotgun. Rusty swung his arm into position and fired, sending the outlaw reeling back.
Garrett and Red Shirt fired their carbines as quickly as they could. The other rustlers
attempted to fire back, only to be gunned down. At the same time, a shot rang out behind
them. Rusty was clutching his torso as he caught a bullet from the posted sentry who
responded to the commotion. He made an effort to raise his revolver and fire back. The
sentry dropped to the ground. Garrett ran to help Rusty lie down while Daniel ran towards
them with his knife.
Jesus Christ! Rusty hissed through his teeth, Youre letting the kid do surgery?
Hold him down! Daniel shouted to Garrett. He obliged, watching as Daniel used his knife
to cut a hole around the wound, allowing him to dig out the bullet. He pressed a bandana
on the wound as he heated the knife on the fire, allowing him to cauterise the incision.
Rusty gritted his teeth as the searing blade pressed against his skin. A few minutes later,
he was sitting on one of the rocks wearing makeshift bandages.
I thought I was goner there for second. He remarked, Thanks, kid. I never believed it
when you said you could patch me up.
Well, this is first time Ive issued first aid to a man. Daniel replied, Im normally patching
up animals.
Is that true? Rusty inquired.
Yeah, animals are easy. Daniel cited, They dont argue.
As they laughed, they noticed one of the other rustlers stand up and make a break for it.
He must have played dead. Daniel suggested, raising his carbine. Garrett yanked the
barrel sideways.
Let him go. He instructed, Lets follow him.
Ill have to take things easy. Rusty warned, Ill take care of the horses.

Garrett, Red Shirt, and Daniel followed the survivor as ran past where the stolen herd was
grazing towards an out-of-sight passage. The trio followed, finding themselves in a narrow,
worn path leading towards the larger rock formation. Squeezing through the twisting, rocky
passage, they came to a dead end a wide, almost circular open space at least twenty
yards in diameter. The canyon walls rose high around them, except for straight ahead
where a sizeable gap opened above a small rockslide about fifty or sixty feet up. The
survivor from the camp was scrambling up the rockslide.
Saying nothing, Garrett began to climb up. The rockslide was stable enough to take his
weight, and there was a variety of handholds, footholds, and places to stand. As Daniel
followed suit, he noticed several pitons embedded in the wall. It didnt take long for the
party to traverse the rockslide.

Peering over the top of the incline, Garrett could see what appeared to be a footpath
extending to the north and south. It looked easy enough to drop on down just a few feet
below, but with the various rock formations along the winding path, he couldnt see much
further than ten yards in either direction. The trio advanced down the footpath, which was
well-worn but strewn with forks and alternative routes. Red Shirt took the lead, trying to
discern the route El Presidentes men took. It wasnt difficult to navigate the meandering
path, despite the occasional part which required a brief climb up or a quick dip down. It
was a tight route, with very few places where three people could walk abreast.
In an instant, the wall they had been using as a guide just ended, like it was chopped off
by a giant axe. A brief feeling of vertigo passed Daniel and out of his peripheral vision he
could see a vast chasm around him. Most of the time, there had been some kind of barrier
on both sides and at least one side. Now, the trio found themselves crossing a stone
bridge. It was wide enough for easy navigation, but it left the trio thinking it was best to
take it slow as they continued on the trail.
The second part of the trail ended at a field of boulders, with a massive stone blocking
further travel. Red Shirt could see a narrow ledge on the eastern side of the boulder, about
five feet high. Moving closer, he could see a foot-sized notch carved into the boulder.
Using it to step up, he reached the ledge with no difficulty. Garrett and Daniel followed suit.

Once Garrett had hoisted himself up from the boulder to the ledge, he found himself in a
precarious position. He back was against the wall and there nothing in front of him.
Looking down, he could see a long drop with few, if any, foliage or sandstone buffers to
break any falls. The trio inched their way over the ledge.
I dont see that guy we chased. Daniel whispered as he pressed his body against the
Either he slipped and fell in his rush or he got back. Garrett replied.
After several long and tense minutes shuffling down the constricted trail, the ledge
widened and wrapped around the canyon wall to the south. Peeking around a corner, Red
Shirt could see a gap in the ledge that separated them from a long, flat rock outcropping
nestled within the canyon. Numerous tents and lean-tos dotted the space and there were
most definitely people living there. It looked like the gap could be jumped without much
difficulty, but as the group bridged it, the shots rang out. Garrett drew his revolver and hid
behind one of the inlets that dotted the edge. He could see four rustlers taking cover
behind a large boulder in the middle of the field, taking turns to fire and reload. Others had
positioned themselves alongside their canvas or hide tents.
A short distance away from the boulder, there was a fire pit with a large cauldron and two
wooden tables with benches. Daniel could see a man with a colourful poncho and a
backwards-worn preachers hat tipping one of the tables over. Next to him was a man in a
fancy suit, trying to keep hold of a young woman in her teens.
Elizabeth! He cried, trying to run forwards with the revolving rifle in his hands. Garrett
followed him, trying to take cover behind the rocks while shooting a rustler peering behind
one of the tents. Red Shirt moved to his position, dispatching two of the outlaws behind the
boulder with his own revolver.

As the shootout continued, Daniel was still hiding behind another rock, but with a view of
the fire pit. The man in the suit noticed him and raised his revolver. Daniel held his breath
and fired his carbine. The storyteller fell backwards into the fire pit. El Presidente emerged
from behind the overturned table, firing off several rounds from a Henry repeater. Daniel
cowered again while Garrett and Red Shirt advanced. Garrett had picked up a second
revolver and was firing both, taking out more rustlers hidden behind the lean-tos along with
the remaining two behind the boulder. Elizabeth tried to run, but El Presidente hurled a
lasso and roped her like a calf, dragging her into a cave at the far end of the camp. She
screamed and struggled, but soon disappeared into the canyon wall.
Red Shirt had seen the cave entrance and ran forwards. A man in a sombrero emerged
from a niche close to the cave, shooting the Paiute with his revolver. Daniel snapped
around and returned fire with his carbine. The man dropped out from behind the niche.
See to him! Garrett yelled, Ill get your sister back!
He ran to the cave.

While the entrance to the cave was relatively narrow, it quickly widened and expanded
deeper into the canyon wall. Garrett saw a variety of rock formations in the irregular space,
as well as outcroppings and fallen rocks. A variety of lumber, crates, and barrels lined one
wall and several cots were pressed close to the other wall, separated by natural formations
to afford a little privacy. El Presidente was stood in the middle of the cave, holding his
revolver to a terrified Elizabeths head.
Thats far enough! He warned, Ive got the bargaining chip, and I saw Isaac beef your
Injun friend. Youre on your own!
So are you. Garrett replied, Let the girl go, and well negotiate. You must be El
My names Owen Jackson. El Presidente was a nickname bestowed upon me by that
flannel mouth George Combs.
Well, I think you need some replacements. Garrett taunted, but making sound like he
was willing to volunteer.
I agree. Jackson replied, So lets make some kind of deal.
Theres a drive of cattle from Lubbock thats an easy mark. Garrett told him, The trail
boss is a guy called Preston. Theyd make an impressive haul for whatever men you have
It would be if you hadnt killed them. Jackson reminded, Perhaps youd like to volunteer.
Im not here to join up, or claim any bounty on your head. Im just here for the girl. But
Prestons drovers arent the toughest around. You could coerce them into driving the herd
to your humble abode, and you could do it yourself.
Youre bluffing. Jackson decided, But I should kill you first. Theres no hope in this world,
and the girl should learn that hands on.
He tossed Elizabeth aside and brought his revolver to bear, but Garrett was too quick for
him and shot first. Jackson span around as he was hit in the chest, his gun discharging
into the cavern wall behind him. Elizabeth stared at the scene in disbelief as Garrett went
over to here.
Come on Elizabeth, lets go home. He said. She ran past him to the cave entrance, only
to run into Daniel. He threw his arms around his sister and led her outside. Red Shirt was
following close behind, clutching his wound tightly. Garrett gestured to a physicians bag
on one of the crates, containing bandages, laudanum, and numerous chemicals.
These should help you out. He commented, as he noticed another passageway near the
back of the cave.

I never thought Id see the day.
Garrett and his companions had returned to the Four Oclock Ranch, with Elizabeth in tow.
They had found a hidden service entrance at the back of the cave with a pulley system.
Following, they were able find their way back to Rusty and the horses.
For the heroes of the hour, I have the promised $500. Jacob proclaimed, And Ill throw in
an extra $500 for bringing my daughter home.
Garrett took the reward, and split it between himself and his three companions.
If you want, you can rest here for a few days. Jacob offered, Mr Preston says hell be
leading the drive home, but hell come for you. It will give Rusty a chance for his wounds to
Thank you for your hospitality Mr Knight. Garrett replied, Its been a while since Ive
experienced home cooking anywhere.

For Whom the Bugle Blows
Based on the adventure for Sidewinder: Recoiled by Dog House Rules
Texas, 1874
Boredom seemed to rule the days and nights as the stagecoach followed a well-worn trail
through the plains. Garrett Hayes was riding shotgun, staring into the horizon while his co-
worker Rusty had been taking the reins. The blistering Texas sun gave them a hankering
for a shady spot to rest a spell, water the horses, and gnaw on a piece of jerky. As the sun
started its descent toward the horizon, Garrett noticed a small grove of oaks at the edge of
a hill.
Rusty, we should stop here. Garrett said, Im sure most folks could use a breather.
Weve still got enough daylight to travel for a couple more hours. Rusty argued, but
realised that the horses were starting to flounder. He yanked the reins hard to stop them.
Garrett stepped down with the shotgun in his hands and opened the door to the passenger
Were having a breather here. He informed the four passengers, You might want to
stretch your legs for a while.
Garretts charges slowly got to their feet and stepped outside. The first to disembark was a
gambler and self-styled Southern gentleman known as Meriwether. Dressed in a sharp
white suit and Inverness cape, he extended his hand to help the lady behind him step off.
She was a seamstress who went by the name of Maria, travelling to Fort Griffin with her
new husband Dr Otto Volker. The good doctor was an obvious tenderfoot, dressed in a
grey three-piece business suit and matching bowler hat. He had come to Texas from
Hamburg to practice dentistry. Rounding them out was Mr Roebuck, a travelling salesman
who, like Dr Volker, bore the appearance of a city slicker.

Drawing near to the grove, they could see that others before them had the same idea. In
fact, it looked like they had left in a hurry. Rusty could see a beat-up cooking pot hanging
over a small fire pit, an axe left in a hunk of wood, and two tin plates upside down in the
dirt. The tin plates and the cooking pot had a few ants crawling around them, but it looked
like they had already cleaned away any remnants of a meal. Rusty picked up the axe and
showed it to Garrett.
Its nearly brand new. He observed.
Garrett didnt respond, his attention caught by the numerous foot and hoof prints in and
around the area. In the grove, they seemed chaotic, going every which way, but closer to
the trail they indicated a rapid galloping. He was walking back when something metallic
caught his eye. Stooping down, he noticed a brass shotgun shell lying there, with six more
scattered around. He scooped them up and pocketed them, noticing a box lying nearby.
More shells were being kept inside. Examining it, Garrett noticed that the box was partially
torn, as if someone had ripped it in a hurry to get it open.
Guard! Dr Volker called, Come and look at this!
Garrett walked over to where the doctor was. He had stepped on what he had initially
thought to be brambles, but happened to be arrows. A few of them were broken, and one
was embedded in a nearby tree trunk.
Indians He muttered. Rusty, wed better get back on the trail.
You were the one who suggested we stop. Rusty countered, Besides, the horses
I know what I said. Garrett hissed, We can go at a slower pace to help the horses.
Rusty spat out a wad of tobacco and climbed back onto his seat. Garrett directed
everybody back to the stagecoach and joined his driver as he lashed the horses on.

As they continued their travels, Garrett noticed an unmistakeable sight in the sky; the lazy
and deliberate circling of buzzards. Further along the trail, he noticed several of them
perched atop the remains of a dead horse. More of them were landing upon something
else lying about a hundred yards off the beaten path. Halting the coach again, Rusty
jumped off to have a closer look. Garrett jumped off after him.
Upon closer inspection, they discovered the remains of three human corpses. The vultures
immediately flew off; their grand meal was interrupted by two gate-crashers, but continued
to circle overhead. As the vultures left the premises, it became clear that the three bodies
were peppered with arrows and stripped to the waist. Even their hats were gone, showing
that they had been scalped. They still wore spurs, chaps, and other riding gear, indicating
that they all had horses.
What do you think? Rusty asked.
Garrett was poking around with his foot, treading on a shell casing. It came from a large-
calibre weapon, most likely a Sharps rifle.
They were probably buffalo hunters. He said as he showed Rusty the casing, Most of
them tend to favour Sharps.
I meant, who you think did it?
Isnt it obvious? They were hit by the Comanches. That gelding over there must have bit
the dust in the fight. I guess the other two were stolen.

They both ran back to the stagecoach and continued to ride into the dusk.

It had eventually become too dark to travel any further, forcing Garrett and Rusty to make
a camp. While Rusty was rapidly succumbing to sleep, Garrett was trying to keep watch.
Most of the passengers remained in the stagecoach, trying to sleep in their seats under
coats or shawls. From time to time, far off noises disturbed everybodys sleep. Sometimes
it would the hoot of an owl or the occasional wolf, but there was something else. Garrett
strained to discern the sound as much as possible. His best guess was that it was some
kind of yelling or singing, but it was too far away to know for sure.
Near daybreak, the travellers heard what sounded like the calls of a faraway cavalry bugle
accompanied by a number of horses pounding the plains. Like the noises from last night,
they seemed to be miles away and were moving farther.

Once everybody was ready, the stagecoach was moving again. Following the trail again,
Rusty stopped again out of instinct when he saw an obstruction ahead. Negotiating the
horses around it, he realised that it was a sizeable wagon. As Garrett watched it go past
him, he could see that it was burnt out and leaning to one side. Two of the wheels were
half crumbled ashes and most of the wood was charred and blackened.
What do you think? Rusty asked Garrett.
It looked like that wagon had been there for a few days. Garrett answered, Maybe a
couple weeks. It probably ran into a war party. The cavalrys in the area though, so we can
sleep a little better tonight.

The rest of the day was uneventful. As the sun dipped behind the hills ahead of them,
Garrett and Rusty were thinking about finding a good spot to stop, but the stretch of trail
was fairly wide open. They pushed ahead a little further, trying to make the most out of the
remaining daylight when they noticed the unmistakeable outline of a body lying in the gully.
The stagecoach continued to move, but Garrett looked closer as they passed. They
realised there were two dead bodies in the gully. Both were unmistakably Indian.

The next night was uneventful, but Garrett was still on his toes. The stagecoach company
had loaned him the scattergun, while he had recently purchased a state-of-the-art revolver.
His weapon of choice had been Colts Revolving Belt Pistol of Naval Calibre, known by
most as the Colt Navy. It was cutting edge when he first used it, bridging the gap between
their line of smaller pocket pistols and the larger saddle pistols, such as the Walker or the
Dragoon. All those weapons utilised powder and shot in the chambers, ignited by a
percussion cap, but Colts new model replaced this with metal cartridges.

Continuing along the trail, the stagecoach was about to have another encounter. From a
distance, everybody could hear the sounds of a battle; gunshots, shouting, and blood-
curdling war cries. While intense, it sounded like a small skirmish. Not long after the
sounds were heard, Garrett and Rusty could see a plume of black smoke rising above a
rocky hill. Upon cresting the hill, they could see a single horse-drawn wagon under attack
by a small band of Comanche riders. Several dead bodies littered the area, mostly settlers
and hired guns, while the Comanches were rounding up their captured horses.
Rusty could see a young woman braced against again the wagon, struggling to aim a
shotgun. A younger woman and an older man were with her. Surveying the area, he could
count at least eight Comanches.
Are you ready to save the day again? He asked Garrett.
Garrett couldnt help but snigger at Rusty. Sure, He replied, Lets do it!
Rusty lashed the horses, whooping and jeering. The Comanches noticed them appearing.
Garrett raised his shotgun and fired. One of the Comanches dropped off his horse.
Another rode forwards to engage them. As he raised his rifle, Garrett turned the shotgun to
face him and fired again. It was another direct hit. Rusty brought the stagecoach to a halt
near the wagon, jumping off to see to the trapped settlers. Meanwhile, Garrett was firing at
the remaining Comanches with his revolver. Another slumped down in his saddle while the
rest were riding in the opposite direction with the prizes they had already acquired.

When the dust had settled, Garrett and Rusty were making their way to the wagon. The
three settlers stood to greet them. The man who greeted them had the look of an aging
frontiersman; with a grizzled beard, skeletal physique, leathery skin, and hunched over
gait, he could have been a hundred years old. He was carrying a Winchester rifle over his
Thanks for coming. The man panted, extending his hand. Im Theodore Winters. These
are my granddaughters, Lorelei and Johanna.
Lorelei was the elder of the two, at least seventeen years old. She looked as rugged as the
land, dressed in a tattered skirt and plain shirt, along with a bandana and sombrero. In one
hand, she was resting a shotgun against the wagon, while clutching her left shoulder with
the other hand.
The younger sibling, Johanna, was almost a contrast to her sister. She looked more
elegant, with a fancy dress and shoes along with a feathered hat. Additionally, she looked
very pale.
Garrett Hayes. And this is my partner, Rusty.
You saved our skins back there. Theodore said. He spoke with a gruff, tobacco-marked
voice that had a very faint German accent. Its just a shame for the rest of the Trautman
Are any of you hurt? Dr Volker called to them from the stagecoach.
Lorelei caught an arrow through her shoulder. Theodore called back, Dont worry, shell
be alright. Ill see to her.

Rusty was examining the casualties of the battle. Aside from the Comanches, there were
six men and two women strewn about.
The first woman is my daughter Wilma. Theodore told him, The man lying next to her
was her husband, Ralph Trautman. They were relocating from Missouri to Arizona. Lorelei
and Johanna are their kin.
Do you need a ride to Fort Griffin? Garrett asked, We should be leaving before more
Comanches find us.
We shouldnt leave without burying the bodies first. Theodore replied.

It took the greater portion of the day to dig graves. The first were given to Wilma and
Ralph, followed by a boy who couldnt have been older than nineteen. Lorelei took a silver
locket from her neck and placed it in his hand.
Its my brother Horst. Lorelei explained, He was a man of the trail, whod been on cattle
drives. He handled the wagon quite well.
Im sorry for your loss. Garrett replied.

As the graves were filled, Garrett noticed that Lorelei resembled her father, while Johanna
looked more like her mother.
The other couple there is Ralphs brother Herman and his wife Deirdre. Theodore pointed
out as the next couple was buried, Theyd never left Missouri before this trip.
Who were the others? Rusty asked. The last three bodies were two rugged-looking men
in their thirties, along with another boy in his late teens.
The older folks are Alan Sharpe and Jim Greene. Lorelei answered, They were just
gunhands wed recruited who knew the trail better than us. The other one is Will Shran. He
was one of Horsts friends who tagged along. There was another friend as well; Jacob
Wheres he then? Garrett asked.
I sent him to find the cavalry. Theodore answered, I met a few soldiers in the last town
we stopped at.

After the graves were dug, Garrett was ushering the three survivors into the stagecoach.
Johanna was still as pale as snow.
Is the girl okay? Dr Volker asked as she was helped into the seat by Meriwether.
She was never accepting of the trail life. Theodore told him, That, combined with the
loss of her parents.
I couldnt help but notice your accent. Volker observed, Is your family German?
I was born in Frankfurt, but went to America with my parents when I was four.

Garrett watched as the passengers got comfortable. Rusty tapped him on the shoulder.
I dont like this. He said, Do you think we should be charging the fare?
Well worry about that when we get to Fort Griffin. Garrett told him.

Another day had passed. Garrett and Rusty were still on the trail. Loreleis injury was
slowly healing, but Johanna had not said anything for the duration of the trip. The other
passengers were doing their best to comfort her.
A bugle call echoed throughout the nearby hills. Before long, another call sounded closer
this time the crisp, precision notes raising the spirits of all. From the distance, everybody
could make out the buglers clothing; a Union cavalry uniform, including a blue garrison
issue kepi and field jacket.
Thats a change in formation. Garrett explained to Rusty as they heard the notes.
I knew them bluecoats would find us sooner or later! Theodore laughed.
Garrett broke open his shotgun and chambered two shells. If the cavalry were forming,
they might be getting ready to pursue a fleeing war party. They would run right into them.

A lone bugler appeared on the northwest ridge. He stopped and continued his stirring
calls. Moments after the bugler appeared on the ridge, the thunder of horses resounded
from the south, accompanied by a chorus of war cries. Everyone looked to see the cloud
of dust arising from the plains, from which appeared to emerge a mounted Comanche war
party. They were at least three hundred feet away, but were slowly gaining ground.
Id count more than a dozen of them! Garrett yelled.
He glanced quickly back at the bugler. Flapping in the breeze behind him was a large flag,
the stars and stripes. The stagecoach thundered towards the ridge. Garrett was watching
the bugler again. As they got closer, he noticed that the buglers uniform looked somewhat
ragged and his riding boots looked non-standard. Something in his head was convincing
him there was something wrong.
Rusty! He yelled, Turn us away from the ridge!
You mean turn towards the war party? Rusty exclaimed in shock.
Just do it! Were walking into a trap!

Too late to react, the stagecoach was about to crest the ridge. The bugler was blowing a
new command, this time for a charge. More Comanches were positioned behind the
bugler, with bows and carbines levelled at the stagecoach. Closing in, Garrett spotted the
war paint on the buglers jacket and face. Anger burning at their deceit, he raised his
shotgun and fired off both barrels. The buglers tunes ceased as he went off his horse and
tumbled down the ridge. As the horses froze in terror, Garrett and Rusty leapt down and
ducked behind the stagecoach to avoid the first volley from the Comanches on the ridge.
Garrett drew his revolver and fired back, while Rusty opened the stagecoach doors.
Mr Roebucks been hurt! Dr Volker yelled.
While Maria led the catatonic Johanna outside, Rusty stepped in to move the salesman to
a lower position. Theodore and Lorelei remained inside the coach, firing at the Comanches
who were beginning to scatter.
Here they come! Rusty yelled as he looked back towards the pursuing war party. There
were at least fourteen riders, plus a number of loose mounts. Leading the charge was a
rider with a blue jacket and horned war bonnet, carrying a lance.
Theodore span to face the charging Comanches. He opened fire with his rifle. It was wild
shooting, aimed at the charging mass. He could spot two riders coming off their horses,
and one of the spare mounts rearing after taking a round in the side. Garrett reloaded his
pistol and fired at them, joined by Rusty and Meriwether.

The Comanche riders began to circle the coach, as those on foot were mounting the spare
horses. Those already mounted were firing on the passengers to keep them down while
the rest mounted, allowing them to escape. Meriwether continued to fire at those who
circled them, only to fall as a wild shot hit him in the stomach.
Dr Volker ran over to Meriwether as Garrett and Rusty laid him down. Theodore examined
the wound.
Can you help him? Dr Volker asked, Im just a dentist.
The bullets pretty deep. Theodore stated, I need a better environment than this.
Ill be dead before we get to Fort Griffin. Meriwether lamented, Just leave me. I wont be
of any use to you.
Get him to the stage. Garrett ordered, Were not far now.

The sun was setting by the time the stagecoach reached The Flat, a small frontier town
near Fort Griffin. The townspeople flocked to see them as they came to a halt outside the
post office.
Weve got a couple casualties in here! Rusty called to the crowd. Garrett stepped of the
coach and opened the doors, allowing the people to get Meriwether and Roebuck outside.
A loud shot rang out as someone fired a scattergun in the air. Garrett turned to see three
men approaching. All of them wore tin stars.
Everybody get clear! The man with the shotgun ordered. Take those men to Dr
Some of the townspeople obliged, helping Meriwether and Roebuck onto a buckboard and
carting them away.
What are you doing here? Rusty asked the men.
Im Marshal Billy Kruger. The man with the shotgun introduced, You two must be Garrett
and Rusty. We were expecting you a few days ago. What happened?
We got attacked by a Comanche war party. Garrett explained.
We came across the remains of a pioneer group. Rusty added, We brought along three
survivors. One of them hasnt said anything since we found them.
Thanks. Kruger said, Well take it from here.

Once the furore of their arrival had died down, Garrett and Rusty were hunched over
tankards of beer in the Hunters Retreat Saloon across the road from the post office.
Theodore joined them, ordering a whiskey.
How is everybody? Garrett asked.
Johanna still hasnt said anything. Theodore reported, Loreleis staying with her.
Roebuck seems to be pulling through, but Meriwether didnt make it.
He was a descent guy. Rusty commented, A true Southern gentleman.
Have you ever been through anything like this before? Garrett asked.
Mister, Ive been pioneering for almost forty years. Theodore narrated, The Midwest,
Canada, California, you name it. Ive been hired on expeditions as a trail cook, a guide,
even a quartermaster on military excursions. Ive seen plenty of scrapes. I once took a
bullet in the gut while taking a trail through Wyoming. Wed got robbed and I was trying to
recover some supplies.

The pair listened to Theodores story with intent. It was obvious to them that he told this
story a lot. Rusty was about to speak when Garrett tapped his shoulder. A group of
cavalrymen were entering the saloon.
Sounds like someone else is taking interest in our arrival. Garrett whispered.
An officer marched up to them.
Did you arrive in town on the stage? He asked.
Thats right. Rusty answered.
Im Captain Greenhill. The officer stated, Id like to ask the three of you some questions.
Are you taking us in? Garrett asked, wary of the captains officious tone.
Lets not worry about that. Greenhill reassured as the bartender approached them. Ill
have four whiskeys please.

Greenhill directed the trio to sit at one of the tables.
So, I didnt get your names. He reminded.
Im Garrett Hayes, the shotgun messenger. Garrett responded, This is my driver, Rusty.
The other guy is Theodore Winters.
You said you encountered a Comanche war party on the trail. Can you tell me exactly
what happened?
We came across a band of Comanches attacking a band of pioneers.
Were there any casualties?
The entire party had been almost wiped out, save for Mr Winters and his
How many Comanches were there?
At that point, there were only eight or so. They scattered and ran as we came rolling in.
We were attacked again a day later.
Could you describe the attack?
About a dozen of them came down the hill after us. Most of them seemed to be wearing
blue clothing. There was one man; I guess the war leader, who had a large cavalry jacket
and a horned bonnet. Does he match anyone you know?
Yes. He goes by the name of Blood on His Lance. Greenhill reported, Anyway, what
happened next?
We saw a bugler on the ridge ahead. Rusty explained, We figured the cavalry was there
so thats where we went.
Im guessing you found out too late that it was an ambush. Is that correct? Greenhill
You got that right. Garrett remarked.
Youre lucky to be alive. Ive heard reports of the Lone Bugler. Hes been cooperating with
the war parties for some time now.
Well, its gonna stop now. Garrett stated, I put two slugs in his chest as soon as I
realised he wasnt genuine.

Greenhill pondered Garretts words.
I want to hire you two as scouts. He said, My orders are to locate and neutralise this war
party. Im willing to offer $5 a day and Ill throw in $100 for the capture of Blood on His
Lance, dead or alive.
Garrett downed his whiskey and turned to face Captain Greenhill.
Forget it. He said, Im not a bounty hunter, and Im not interested in taking part in a
Greenhill opened his mouth to argue, but nothing came out. As Garrett stared him down,
he knew that he was dealing with a man who could not be ordered or coerced. He turned
to Rusty, who refused to look at him.

Im busy. Were all busy.