Chris Scott Wilson Writer
she heard the crunching of his boots in the frozen snow as he moved away from the cabin.
Jack hadn’t come back.
At dawn Sophie was still awake, the baby kicking in her womb as she sat over the coffee-pot, feeding cordwood into the stove to warm Jack when he came in. Instead of Jack, it had been her sister, Mary, who opened the door. Grim-faced, Mary had told of the man being hung down at Soda Creek.
A man with ginger hair.
And the man hanging him was dressed in black.
Now Sophie was here, crouching frozen in the snow, the old Colt heavy in her hands, listening to the man in black’s voice as he read from the worn Bible. When he finished she would kill him. Only the words of the Lord stopped her from doing it now. Herself, she was unable to read or write and for what it was worth, there was nobody else to read the Lord’s words over poor dead Jack.
“Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord…”
Mary was crouched in the bushes behind her sister. She could share the anguish Sophie felt, but this was crazy. Huddling here in the freezing cold, and Sophie almost at her time. If she wasn’t careful she would kill the baby and then she would have nothing at all. The man in black needed killing, but this was surely the wrong way.
“The son of a bitch,” Sophie whispered, blinking away the tears that blurred her vision and left two icy trails down her winter-numbed cheeks. The man in black fell quiet then turned some pages before his voice reached her again.
“The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away…”
“You’re damn right He does,” Sophie spat, using both thumbs to lever back the Colt’s hammer. As the spring cocked she raised the long barrel.
The man in black heard the click. He whirled, Bible still in his left hand. His right snaked inside his coat, seeking his pistol. The two women saw his face clearly for the first time. A long angular jaw, hollow cheeks with prominent cheekbones. Eyes steely grey below bushy eyebrows. There was the coldness of death about him. He side-stepped with unexpected speed.
Sophie’s hands shook as she tried to steady the foresight on him. Tears swam in her eyes and the gun wouldn’t go where she aimed. Absurdly, she recalled Jack’s voice when he taught her to shoot : “Just point it, like you would a finger”. Her lips twitched with the memory, knowing he was dead, hanging on the tree. Hatred pulled the trigger. The Colt thundered.
The bullet went wild.
Panic raced through her mind like a herd of stampeding mustangs. Then she was falling sideways, an image of the man in black in her mind’s eye. There was a long barreled Colt in his hand. It roared. An orange muzzle flash, bright against the snow. An explosion of pain.
I’m dead, she thought as she fell sideways into the cold snow. Ice pressed against her cheek. It was so cold it almost burned. She felt a tiny kick in her womb which nearly raised a smile. Then the baby moved again, more powerfully this time. Nausea began to climb her throat. Too late now, she thought, but she couldn’t be sure if she cared any more. Jack was dead and she would rather die and take the baby with her so she could be with him. Better than to stay here, alone. Her strength was all gone, draining into the snow as surely as her life. And it was just so damn cold…
Mary glanced down. She had pushed Sophie over when she saw her sister’s bullet had missed. And now the gun was gone. When Sophie dropped it, its weight had carried it through the hard crust and now the barrel would be full of snow, useless. The man in black hadn’t missed. Sophie was still, her blood painting the snow crimson. Mary glanced from her sister to the man. His cruel face, the expression of alertness and capability fixed there as he came to
'Another first class tale of the 'Old West' by Chris Scott Wilson. This is the fifth western that I have read by this author and they never fail to grip the reader from the first page. Another 'can't put down' book from beginning to end.
I am waiting, in hope, for the next western by this author. ' Mike Eastwood.