Seth was dragging his feet going home from school. He knew that his mother would be upset if he was late for dinner, but he didn't want to get there too soon. He knew what kind of reaction he would get from his father.
It had been another typical day at school. Seth was quite a bit smaller than the other boys his age and he got pushed around a lot. He preferred to play with the girls at recess and was called all sorts of names because of it. There were many days that he went without a lunch because one of the other kids would steal it from him. Seth never fought back and on many occasions he went home from school with a black eye or a fat lip. Trying to explain that to his father was never pleasant. This day wasn't going to be any different.
Seth could hear his mother call to his father to come in from the barn for dinner just as he reached the crest of the hill. He was right on time. He stopped at the pump to wash up, making sure to get the dried-up blood off, that trickled from the corner of his mouth. Nathaniel McAllister, the biggest kid at school, had punched him in the face, cutting the inside of his mouth.
Walking through the doorway into the cabin, the smells from the fire let him know that Mother had prepared his favorite for dinner, beef stew and biscuits. She made the best biscuits in the world.
Once again his lunch had been taken from him and he was on the verge of starvation. Seth winced as he tore into his dinner. The cut in his mouth stung from the heat of the stew.
"What's the matter with you?" his father snapped at him.
"Nothing." He answered back.
"Open your mouth up, let me see." Seth did just as he was told. It was clear that his father could see the cut. "Someone hit you again?"
Seth looked into his bowl, not wanting to make eye contact and nodded his head yes.
"When are you ever going to learn how to stand up for yourself? You're such a momma's boy."
"You let him be Frank, he's just a boy. He don't need to do no fightin'" his mother chimed in.
* * *
Seth often joined his father in the barn after he helped his mother cleanup the dinner dishes. Frank Owens was a very respected machinist back in Boston but moved the family to Kansas to escape the rat race of the big city. There were too many people to his liking in the old neighborhood, everybody needed to know everybody else's business and he plain grew tired of it. Free lands became available in Kansas under the Homestead Act after the war's end and he had saved up enough money to start a new life.
One thing that Frank brought west with him was his love of making things. At his job he was involved in producing weapons for the war effort. It kept him out of combat. He never liked the design of the rifles that were being supplied to the army and he always believed that he could come up with a better idea. When Frank settled into his new home he set up a small shop in the loft of the barn. He built a false wall around the area to keep it hidden. Seth was the only one who knew about it, and he was sworn to secrecy.
Running the farm left Frank little time for his hobby and it took him years to perfect his idea. He made it difficult on himself by not having the sophisticated machinery at his disposal that he had in Boston, as a result, his design changed many times. His attempt to make the ultimate fighting weapon turned into trying to produce a single-shot rifle that could shoot farther and more accurate than any other.
Life demanded more than book learning and even though Seth was unhappy in the way he was controlled by his father and forced to be his farmhand and shop-assistant, he had great respect for what he had learned from Frank.
Like most boys, Seth loved guns. Shooting gave him a sense of power that he wasn't able to experience in any other part of his life. Frank was an excellent rifleman and taught Seth everything that he needed to know about guns. Target practice began at age seven and by the time he was twelve, Seth was a real marksman. Frank also taught Seth the art of being humble about his abilities, boasting was not allowed.
"One day," he always said, "it will pay that no one knows how good you are."
* * *
"Time to test my new rifle, Seth, you up to the task?"
"You bet." Seth answered, excitedly.
"Something's getting at the chickens, we lost another one last night. I want you to hide over in the woods and keep an eye out. If you see a fox or something, pick him off."
"The woods is a long way from the chicken coop."
"This new one has a longer barrel, and I improvised a riflescope on it. I need to know how effective it will be before I mount it permanently."
"Okay, Father, I'll do my best."
That night, Seth went to the edge of the woods and settled in. Luck was on his side. It was close to a full moon, shining so brightly in the cloudless sky that it cast shadows upon the fields. There wasn't even enough time to get bored before a rustling noise could be heard coming from the henhouse. A moment later, sure enough, a little old fox emerged from the coop with a chicken in its mouth. Seth raised the long barrel and took aim. Peering through the scope, the fox looked like it was right in front of him. He pulled back on the hammer and gently squeezed the trigger. Just like that, the fox collapsed to the ground, releasing the cackling hen.
The shot awoke Frank. As he opened the cabin door he yelled out, "You alright Seth?"
"How'd the scope work?"
"Like that little sucker was sittin' on my lap." Said Seth. "You can tell Mother to cook up some fox meat for the dog in the morning."
* * *
Another fine day at school; typical in many ways. Nathaniel was up to his old tricks, "accidently" bumping into Seth and making him drop his books, spewing his papers all over the school yard, while the others looked on and laughed at him. Today was different in one respect, it was Seth's sixteenth birthday and he made up his mind that he wasn't going to take it anymore. He'd had enough. He had grown a considerable amount recently. Working on the farm had bulked him up and he felt confident that even if he were to lose a fight, he certainly was strong enough now to let the other guy know that he was no pushover.
The bell rang for lunch recess. Seth sat under the shade tree to eat his bread and apple. He suspected that something was up when a group of guys were all sitting and staring at him. Nathaniel walked over, picked up Seth's uneaten apple, took a bite out of it, set it back down and turned and walked away. Seth could feel the anger building inside. His head was about to explode. He picked up the apple and threw it as hard as he could and planted it right in the back of Nathaniel's noggin. Oohs and aahs erupted from the other kids who were watching. Nathaniel, of course, felt the need to uphold his bully reputation, and turned and charged at Seth. Seth did not get to his feet, but waited till just the right moment and lunged at Nathaniel, tackling him around the knees. The two of them wrestled on the ground until they were broken up by the teacher. There was no clear winner, but Seth felt great that he finally stood up for himself.
Nathaniel, who still had the upper-hand in size, was waiting for Seth after school let out, and they got into it again. While Nathaniel was getting the best of him, Seth landed a lucky uppercut to the nose which immediately splattered blood everywhere including their clothes. There would be no hiding this from his parents.
Seth walked through the door looking like he just left the battlefield. His mother screamed at the sight of the blood. Seth quickly explained that it wasn't his.
"You'd better explain yourself." Yelled his father.
Seth told his father about the years of teasing and bullying that he had endured at school and then offered an apology for losing his temper.
"No need for an apology, I'm glad that you finally found the guts to stand up to him. I think you deserve an extra piece of birthday cake tonight for that."
Later that evening, the sound of horses could be heard approaching from a distance. Seth and his father went outside to greet their visitors. It was Nathaniel and his father.
"My name is McAllister, your name Owens?" he said, sitting high up on his horse.
"Yes it is, Frank Owens. What can I do for you?"
"Your boy done this to my boy." Nathaniel's nose was bandaged between two black eyes. "He's gotta pay for what he done."
Frank relayed the story that Seth told him to McAllister, of course Nathaniel denied all of it, saying that Seth had jumped him.
McAllister looked at Seth and Frank and said, "There'll be hell to pay, you just wait and see." And rode off, the horses kicking up a trail of dust as they went.
"What are we going to do?" Seth asked his father.
"Nothing, he's all hot air and had to show off in front of his son. Everything will be alright, you'll see."
* * *
The next day at school, before the bell rang, Nathaniel approached Seth, "You are dead meat."
Before another word was said, Seth hauled off and clobbered Nathaniel right in the snout that he broke the day before. Nathaniel fell to the ground in a heap. Seth stood gazing down upon him, "Every time you talk to me, I'm going to hit you, just like that. Right in the nose."
* * *
Mr. McAllister showed up after supper again that night. This time he was alone, racing in on his big gray mare. Frank told Seth to stay inside when he went out to greet their visitor.
"If your boy ever lays a hand on my boy again, you will answer to me. Is that understood?" said McAllister.
Frank raised the rifle that he carried out with him and told McAllister to get off his property.
"If you ever point that gun at me again, you'd better be prepared to pull the trigger."
Frank pointed the rifle towards the sky and squeezed off one round. "I told you to leave, I mean now. The next one will be in your breast pocket."
"You'll regret this. I'll see you again." And McAllister galloped away.
* * *
After seeing Seth stand up to Nathaniel, other kids got up the nerve to fight back too. Seth always ended up being blamed for any of the retaliations against Nathaniel by Mr. McAllister. One day while in town, Seth was cornered by three of McAllister's ranch hands. They never said a word, but dragged him into an ally and beat him into unconsciousness. It was dark before Seth came to. His horse was nowhere to be seen, and he had to make his way home on foot.
Frank was sitting on the porch waiting as Seth staggered up to the house. He couldn't hide the fact that his clothes were torn and dirty and his face was swollen and bloody. Frank rose to his feet yelling to his wife, "Nora, come help!"
Nora Owens boiled some hot water and cleaned the cuts and bruises from her son's face and hands as he told them about what happened.
"What are you going to do Frank? You need to put a stop to this, now." She said to her husband as he strapped his gun belt around his waist. "Where are you goin'?"
"You just never mind. I'm going to put an end to this once and for all." And Frank rode off into town. It was almost midnight but he figured that he would find everyone he was looking for at the saloon.
The louvered saloon doors swung open; Frank took a step inside. Through the thick cloud of cigar smoke, he could see McAllister and two of his comrades standing shoulder to shoulder at the bar. Frank butted in next to McAllister.
"If any of your men lays a hand on my boy again, I will shoot you dead where you're standing. Is that understood?"
"Who do you think you are to come in here and threaten me?"
"It's not a threat. It's a promise."
McAllister turned toward Frank with his fingers wrapped around the grip of his pistol. In a flash, Frank had his gun drawn and pressed against McAllister's midsection.
"Gut shots are the worst. Release your grip or I pull the trigger."
"You'll never leave here alive."
"If that's the price I have to pay so be it, but stops here, now. Comprende?"
"Go home Owens, I'm done talkin' to you." and McAllister turned back to the bar and slammed back another drink, ignoring the fact that Frank was still standing there.
Frank did an about face with his gun still drawn and looked at McAllister's ranch hands and said, "Either of you come near my boy or my ranch again, the same goes for you."
* * *
Planting season was about to begin. Seth was elated because it meant the end of the school year. He actually was double elated because he had completed his studies, this was the end of his LAST school year. He couldn't wait to get home; his mother had promised him something special as a reward.
Something didn't seem right, the sky looked weird. The clouds were awful dark for a spring day. As he approached the crest of the hill, he realized he was seeing smoke. Seth took off on a dead run. The cabin was fully ingulfed in flames, his mother and father laid on the ground outside, motionless. He rushed to his mother, she'd been shot and wasn't breathing. He crawled over to his father. He too had been shot and was dead. Seth sat crying hysterically while the cabin burned, consuming all of their belongings.
* * *
The rays of sun shining through the barn wall beat down on his face as the rooster crowed. The smell of the smoldering ruins permeated the air. Seth had to tend to the animals just like any other day. He swung the barn door open to see the plumes of smoke still rising off the charred logs. His eyes were drawn to the mounds of dirt that formed his parent's graves.
In the distance, he could see a rider approaching from the west, which was strange because the town was to the east of their ranch.
Sitting atop a mule was a grizzled old man, with hair as white as snow, long enough to hide his shoulders. His beard was just as white and just as long, extending to his chest. His face was weathered and heavily creased with lines of age. His clothes were all made from animal skins and he had an old muzzle loader laying across his lap.
"Don't mean to intrude, but may I water my horse young man?"
Seth wiped the tears away that continued to stream down his face and dragged his sleeve across his nose. "That ain't no horse, mister."
The old man put a finger to his lips and said, "Shhh, don't tell him that, he'll get upset."
Seth pointed to the well pump, "Water's over there, help yourself."
"Looks like you have a problem. What happened?"
"It's none of your business. Get your water and move on."
"Willing to help if I can." He said.
Seth had no idea who this stranger was but the pressure he was feeling inside burst wide open and he collapsed in a heap on the ground. Seth was crying hysterically. The old man cautiously approached Seth and sat on the ground along side him. He patted Seth's back, saying, "That's right boy, let it out."
Seth eventually calmed down, and feeling slightly embarrassed, looked at the old man and said, "Who are you, and where'd you come from?"
"They call me Old Joe. I live up in the mountains."
"There ain't no mountains in Kansas."
"Don't recollect saying I was from Kansas. I live in the mountains west of here. Talk is they want to make it a state and call it Colorado."
"What'ya doing here?"
"Passin' through for supplies. Wanna tell me what happened? Those your folks?" he asked nodding in the direction of the fresh dug graves.
Seth opened up to Old Joe, telling him the whole story of Nathaniel and his father and the fact that he suspected that McAllister was behind the killing of his parents.
"What you plan on doin' about it?"
"Kill 'em all." Said Seth, "I won't let them get away with this."
"You can't go start a gunfight with McAllister. You'll get yourself killed. If you want your revenge, you have to be smart about it."
"What do you mean by that?"
"If you can oblige me with some grub, I'll tell you."
Seth went to the cold cellar his father had built into the floor of the barn and gathered some food.
Old Joe convinced Seth to wait at the farm while he went into town. After loading down his mule with several months-worth of supplies, he stopped into the local watering hole. He hadn't had a stiff drink in quite awhile and needed to wash down some road dust.
He overheard a conversation coming from a poker table behind him. The guys were talking about the fire at the Owens' place and they were all laughing about it. If there had been any doubt in his mind about how much truth there was in what Seth had told him, that doubt had now disappeared. There was only one thing left to do.
Old Joe and Seth bedded down in the barn for the night, only to be woke up by the cracklin' sound of the barn being on fire. They scurried around unlatching the stall doors and chasing all the animals out. In the distance the sound of horses could be heard racing away. All of a sudden, Seth ran back into the burning barn, emerging moments later carrying a long horse blanket.
There was nothing they could do but watch the barn burn to the ground. When day broke, all that was left was the darkened ash left were the barn once stood, matching the outline of the cabin nearby.
"You could've been killed last night, boy. Why'd you run back inside?"
"I had to get these." And he unrolled the blanket to expose three of his father's rifles.
Old Joe picked one of the rifles up giving it a good once over. "What do you have here?"
Seth told him his father's story behind the guns and about how long it had taken him to perfect them. Old Joe found the story hard to believe.
Seth said, "See that woodchuck over there by the trees?"
Seth handed him the rifle with the scope. "Look through the riflescope at the base of the birch tree."
Old Joe looked through the scope, lowered the rifle to look with his naked eye, then looked through the scope again. "Oh, my, my. May I?" he asked. Seth smiled and nodded yes. Old Joe gently squeezed the trigger, the woodchuck leaped into the air with the impact of the bullet and fell dead on the spot. "That's almost five-hundred yards."
"Yup, and it'll do more."
"You really set on revenge? Come with me and let me teach you the proper way to hunt."
"I don't want to hunt. I want McAllister and his men to pay for doing this."
"Then let me help. I'll show you how to hunt them down in a way that nobody will ever know it was you doin' it. Come to the mountains with me. When I tell you you're ready, you come back and do whatever it is you think you need to do."
"What's in it for you, old man?"
"When you return, you leave that fine scoped rifle with me."
Seth made arrangements for his neighbor to come and gather the chickens and find old Betsy and take them to his place until he could return home. He and Old Joe took his father's horses with them to the mountains. Seth's hound dog, Blue, ran circles around them as they rode west, away from the farm.
* * *
Almost a year passed. Old Joe taught Seth how to live off the land. He had learned how to become one with nature, blending into his surroundings so well, that at times the deer that he was hunting would literally step over him. He only killed for sustenance and he had become so astute with his father's rifles that Old Joe called him 'One Shot'.
Seth opened his eyes, Blue was staring at him, almost willing him to wake up. The smell of coffee filtered through the air. Old Joe was tending to the fire.
"You know what day it is?" Joe asked.
"I don't know, Tuesday?"
"No, it's been a year since you came up here with me. It's time for you to go. I'm going to catch my dinner, don't be here when I get back." And Old Joe walked into the woods.
* * *
The ruins of the barn and cabin were left unchanged from when he last laid eyes on them. The fields however were overrun with cattle. He recognized the brand. They belonged to McAllister, but he couldn't be bothered by that right now, he needed to begin rebuilding the cabin. The bottom row of logs was pretty much intact. He could build off them. Borrowed tools from his old neighbor helped him fell the few trees left in the side yard. Seth had no sooner trimmed the upper branches off the first two trees when a wagon rolled down the laneway. It was Mr. Miller who lived two ranches over.
"Heard you came back. What are ya plannin' on doin'?"
"Gonna rebuild, replant and grow old."
"Mrs. Miller sent me. She wants you to come stay with us till you get settled."
"You tell her, thank you, but I'll be fine."
"Seth, I'll make you a deal. You come to our place like my wife wants and help me plant this year's crops. Once that's done, me and the boys will come back here and help you build your cabin and the barn."
"Okay, but Blue comes too."
"Dinner's at dusk. See you then." And Mr. Miller and his wagon rolled away.
Seth tied his horse to the hitchin' post in front of the Miller's house. The family met him at the door. Mr. Miller looked out at the steer tied next to the horse.
"What's that?" he questioned.
"I thought I'd contribute to tomorrow's dinner."
"That's McAllister's brand on it."
"Yeah, but they are all in my field. That makes them mine."
Mrs. Miller, wiping her hands on her apron, looked at her sons, "Boys, take that old steer out behind the barn and slaughter it. Make sure you get rid of the branded part of the hide, then come in for dinner."
"Yes, ma'am." And they ran off, doing as they were told.
* * *
Seth, with the help from Mr. Miller and his two sons, was making great headway on the cabin. The walls were complete and they were framing the roof when a dozen wagons, loaded with supplies, paraded down the lane, headed by Rev. Gould.
"Missed y'all at Sunday Service this morning." The minister said. " But, your Mrs. told us why you weren't there. We thought maybe you could use some help."
By mid-week, the cabin and barn were both complete. Several of the farmers donated hay for Seth's horse and the church ladies came up with an old table and chair and bed frame for the cabin. Seth was so grateful to everyone. He didn't know how he would repay them for their help.
"We were so sorry that we stood by and did nothing when your parents were killed. This was our very small way to welcome you back." Rev. Gould and the town folk packed up the rest of their belongings and went back to town.
Mr. and Mrs. Miller stayed behind. "Seth, we feel like you're kinfolk now, and we want to help you. It's too late for you to plant any crops for this year. You come work with me on my farm for the rest of this season and we'll put you up with enough food to hold you for the winter. You can plant your own crops next spring, what do you say?"
"I don't know what to say, I'm so grateful to you. Yes, I will be happy to work for you. You will not regret this, I promise. Thank you." Seth had to wipe a small tear from his cheek as Mrs. Miller wrapped her arms around him and gave him a hug that only a mother could give.
* * *
Early mornings were spent hunting small game, for Mrs. Miller's meals. He had become a great hunter, thanks to what he learned from Old Joe. Not many days passed that he wasn't able to take her something when he reported to work on the farm.
At night, when it was just him and Blue alone in the cabin, his thoughts could not escape what happened to his parents. It was time to avenge their deaths. He could no longer live with himself if he did nothing. His mind was made up. Words of his father bounced around his head, 'Be humble, don't boast.' Seth had to come up with a plan to take out McAllister and his band of bullies in a way that no one could know it was him.
Seth had rescued three of his father's rifles from the fire. As promised, he left one with Old Joe before he came back home. He took one of the two that he kept for himself into town one day and hid it behind Mr. Hopkins' stables. No one would ever find it back there by the manure pile. That way he could always be unarmed when he went to town. No one would suspect him of anything, if something were to happen.
Seth made a few trips into town late in the evenings, and as expected, found that McAlister's men frequented the saloon. He spotted several rooftops that he could shoot from and drop out of site until it was safe to escape. He was too good of a hunter; it was going to be too easy to just kill them. Seth decided to make a game of it and toy with them for a while.
It was a full moon. Seth climbed up on the roof of the general store. He could hide behind the façade of the storefront and see far down the road leading towards McAllister's ranch. Three of them left the bar together. When they got about a hundred yards down the road, Seth took aim and shot the hat off the head of the middle rider. With their guns drawn, and their horses nervously dancing around in circles, the men had no clue as to where the shot came from. The hat remained on the ground as they raced away.
* * *
Mr. Miller sent Seth to town with his wagon for supplies. When he pulled up to the general store, one of the men from McAllister's was inside buying cartridges. Seth went in and gave his list to Mr. Tolliver, the proprietor, and told him that he'd be back later for them.
Seth snuck around behind the stable to retrieve his gun, and hid in an alleyway. He couldn't have planned this any better. He couldn't believe his eyes when the ranch hand stopped at the end of the alley, in clear view, to add some of the cartridges to his pistol. Seth took notice that there was nobody else in view behind the guy and put a slug through his right hand as he was inserting a bullet.
Like a flash, Seth re-hid his rifle and returned to the walkway out front that led back to the store. Several people were tending to the victim of the random shooting. Seth stopped and inquired as to what happened. Mr. Tolliver said that the guy, he called him Burke, had been shot in the hand and he was taking him to the Doc's and that he'd be back shortly.
It wasn't long before McAllister and two more of his men came into town like gangbusters, upset about what they had heard. Seth was in the store when they came in to question Mr. Tolliver.
McAllister took one look at Seth, walked right up to him, grabbed him by the shirt and said, "You have anything to do with this?"
Mr. Tolliver rushed over and said, "Leave him alone, he's here getting supplies for Miller."
Noticing that Seth wasn't carrying a weapon, he said, "You two, go check his wagon for a gun." His men came back a minute later and said that they didn't find one.
Riding back to the Miller ranch, Seth found it hard to contain his laughter. His plan had worked, even in daylight. It was time to get serious and put this behind him. The game plan was one man a week, on different days, at different times and in different ways.
Seth learned the names of McAllister's men from Mr. Tolliver on his next visit to town. Burke was the one who received the bullet in the hand. The other two were named Garrity and Washburn. Seth figured he could wait and make Burke his last one; he couldn't shoot anyway.
* * *
Saturday night they were in town like usual. Seth waited by the roadside, about a mile out of town. He camouflaged himself from head to toe with brush. He blended right into the other shrubs nearby. The one difference was that his shrub was equipped with a rifle.
Once again he got help with his plan. The boys were really drunk, hootin' and hollerin' and firing their guns into the air while they galloped back to the ranch. They wouldn't even hear his shot. Moving targets were his specialty and with one pull on the trigger, Seth put a hole right through Washburn's gut. He was so well balanced on his horse, he only slumped forward a bit. His partners didn't even notice until he finally fell off after several hundred feet. When they both realized that Washburn had been shot, they argued with each other about which one of them did it to him. Seth waited until they slung Washburn's body over his horse and continued on before he left.
* * *
Garrity was in Hopkins' stable the next time that Seth got to town. He hadn't planned a hunting trip so soon, but when Seth tied up his horse out front, he heard a commotion coming from inside. Garrity was in one of the stalls harassing a young woman. Seth recognized her from his school days. She was Victoria Smythe, the daughter of the local barber. He highly suspected that she wasn't there willingly. Sneaking around back, he grabbed his gun and looking through the tiny window on the back wall saw that he had a clear shot. Seth knew he didn't have much time before the girl might be hurt, so he took careful aim and introduced a bullet to Garrity's forehead.
Seth took the long way back around the building and joining men from the street, ran into the stable to see what was going on. Victoria was crying. She told her rescuers that she was being attacked by Garrity when he suddenly fell dead. Mr. Tolliver noticed the bullet hole in Garrity's head and asked her if she heard where the gunshot came from, she said no, she was too scared. This definitely wasn't in Seth's game plan, but the end result was acceptable.
A couple of weeks went by. Seth thought it would be wise to lay low for a while. It was a lucky morning; he was able to bag two rabbits at sunrise for Mrs. Miller. As he approached the Miller's house, the inside door was open so he let himself in. Mr. Miller was at the kitchen table having coffee. He and Mrs. Miller were talking about what a coincidence it was that McAllister's men were all getting killed. Of course, Seth knew about Washburn and Garrity, but Mr. Miller had said 'all'.
"What happened?" Seth asked.
"I went into town last evening and stopped by Sullivan's Saloon for a bit. McAllister's ranch hand, Burke, got into an argument over a poker game with some guy and he drew his gun. Whoever this stranger was, shot him dead. Burke never would have been able to pull the trigger after getting his hand shot, but the stranger didn't know that."
"Anybody know who this guy is?"
"No. they just said that he's been hanging around town for a while. He just kind of disappeared after the shooting."
Seth sure didn't plan on getting help from a stranger, but that meant just one piece of the puzzle was left: McAllister himself. The easiest way to get McAllister was to go right to his ranch, but there wasn't a sure-fire escape route. He would have to wait until they were both in town at the same time. Word had it that McAllister was out for blood. That meant that he would most likely be in town on Saturday night when most everyone else was there too.
Seth snuck into town wearing the darkest clothes he had and muddied up his face and hands so he couldn't be seen. He positioned himself behind two buildings across from McAllister's favorite saloon. Seth had a clear line of sight between the buildings straight through the front doorway of the bar. He could see everyone entering and leaving the establishment.
There was McAllister. He walked to the back of the place, getting the attention of everyone who was there. He was obviously giving some kind of speech, but Seth couldn't hear what was being said. McAllister couldn't have positioned himself any better for Seth. There he was, big as life, looking right in Seth's direction. His heart began to pound so loud, that it was all he could hear. He needed to calm down. He could hear Old Joe telling him, 'take a deep breath, hold it, and let it out real slow, concentrate'. Seth put his eye to the scope, he could focus on the narrow patch of skin between the eyebrows on McAllister's face. One gentle squeeze of the trigger and McAllister instantly fell in a heap. Nobody moved. They just stood there in disbelief.
* * *
"News travels fast in these here parts. The U. S. Marshal is coming in from Dodge City about the killings of McAllister and his men. We should be there." Mr. Miller said.
"For what reason?"
"Well for one, you were in town the day that Garrity was shot in the stable with that girl. You should tell him what you saw."
"But I didn't see anything. I ran in with the others, after the shot."
"Well, I'm going. You will go with me."
* * *
The marshal held a town meeting at noon on Friday in front of the saloon where McAllister was killed. He asked for any information that could help him catch whoever was doing the killings.
Mr. Smythe, Victoria's father suggested that possibly McAllister had a lot of enemies and one of them paid a hired gun to take him out.
Mr. Tolliver spoke up about the stranger who had been in town and killed Burke. He suggested that maybe he had killed all four of them in some vendetta.
Mr. Hopkins, the stable owner said that he saw the guy who killed Garrity. He described him as being six feet tall with dark hair and clean-shaven riding a buckskin mare west out of town. Tolliver said no, he was taller, with blonde hair and rode east.
Mr. Wilson said that he caught a glimpse of someone standing in the doorway of the saloon the night that McAllister was shot. He was short with a gray beard and had a long barrel pistol. He rode off to the east after the shot was fired.
Frustrated and knowing he was going to get no help from the town people, the marshal left.
The crowd split up and went their separate ways. Mr. Hopkins walked up to Mr. Miller and Seth. "Afternoon Mr. Miller, you going to be in town for a while? I'd like to talk to Seth before you leave, if I may."
"Of course. Seth, come get me when you're done, I'll be inside." And he went inside the saloon.
"Come to the stable with me. Will you, Seth?"
Seth followed Hopkins to the stables where he was handed a horse blanket. Seth looked at Mr. Hopkins and took the blanket, he could feel his rifle in side it. Hopkins took the blanket back and s laid it behind a bale of hay.
"The next time you come to town alone, come see me."
"Who knows?" asked Seth.
Mr. Hopkins put a hand on Seth's shoulder, and with a hint of a smile forming on his face, looked Seth straight in the eye, and said, "It doesn't matter."