Lone Wolf - Series
Pain in the Butt
Thanks again Mitzi!
The rustic cabin was anything but flash. Timbers
were held together though sheer will and a strong breeze was bound to
cause the structure to shake on its aging foundations. Shingles
were scattered around the ground and made one wonder just how many were
actually still attached to the roof. Three steps led to the porch,
and the rail that edged the perimeter of the landing was wearily
protecting the home. Thick smoke rose from the chimney and chimes
rang melodiously from the corner of the porch.
There was an old neglected garden
that rested against the front. A few long stalks of long-forgotten
lavender were curled and dead, surrounded by clumps of grass and weeds
that had crept into the garden and now held the upper hand. The
soil was hard and crusted on top and nothing had been grown successfully
for a while.
There was no barn, only a chicken
coop, with wire that enclosed the fowl. It appeared to only house
one or two birds at best. They scratched in the dirt, content to
forage the feed that had not long ago been tossed inside the pen.
A broken bicycle lay abandoned
beyond the house and other toys littered the yard. A wooden swing
hung from a sturdy oak and it still twisted freely on its ropes as
though someone had only just left it. The same tree sported a
crude ladder that snaked a path up into the branches, ending at a
landing, made from several planks of wood. It served as an
observation tower and would have a clear view of the track that led to
Chris Larabee gently brought the
black gelding to a stop. He leisurely checked the surrounds.
“Is this it?”
Tanner paused his mount alongside,
dismounting and nodding his head at the same time. “Yep.”
Larabee remained seated on his
mount, still scanning the area. “Seems pretty quiet.”
Tanner agreed. “Hello!”
he called toward the dilapidated house. “Anybody home?”
He waited a few minutes, his eyes flicking from the door to the windows
on both sides, and back again. He glanced up to Chris and the
gunslinger shrugged. “Reckon they’re inside?”
Chris straightened in the saddle.
He glanced over at the swing; it had stopped moving. “That’d
be my guess.” The small building was smack in the middle of a
clearing; they would have seen if anyone had tried to make a break for
Tanner handed Peso’s reins to
Chris and carefully approached the house. “Name’s Vin
Tanner,” he stated cordially. “Ain’t about to cause you no
harm. Just want to talk is all.” The tracker kept a steady
pace toward the building, until he heard the low warning from Larabee
that stilled his movements.
Tanner lifted his hands away from
his side. He’d seen the shadow that flanked the window, a
pistol following his movements. He sucked in a breath as the door
flew open and Widow Barker’s portly frame filled the space,
brandishing a double barrel shotgun. He noticed the shadowy form
holding the pistol had abruptly disappeared from view.
“Ma’am,” Tanner greeted cautiously. He held his hands out,
palms up, attempting to give the elderly woman the impression that he
didn’t pose a threat.
The grey-headed woman scowled in
return, showing stained and yellowed teeth. “State yer
business!” she ordered brusquely.
“Heard you had a youngun’ out
here livin’ with you.”
The widow snarled and spat
contemptuously, raising the weapon a fraction higher. “You sayin’
I can’t?” she asked defensively.
“Nope. Just some folks
thought you might need some help is all.” The widow was in her
seventies, after all. He glanced past her to the building that was
all but falling down around her ears.
“Boy’s my daughter’s son.
She done got herself kilt; hit by a wagon.”
“I’m real sorry ta hear that
Ma’am,” Tanner sympathised.
“Ain’t askin’ fer yer
pity,” she growled, and took a step out onto the porch. She let
one hand drop from the shotgun and scratched at her hip. The
weapon temporarily sagged without direction. “He’s my
kin, and I damn well plan ta look after him.”
Vin retreated back a step and held
his hands up in front of his chest. He wasn’t scared of the
woman, but he didn’t want to risk giving her the notion that she
needed to defend herself against him. He noted that the shadow had
once more appeared at the window. “We ain’t here to take him
away,” Vin soothed.
“Damn right you ain’t!” she
“We’ll be on our way then,
Ma’am.” He took another backwards step toward the horses and
where Larabee waited.
The mounts snorted, and the elderly
woman snapped up her head. She startled, causing her to stumble
over the long brown skirt.
Vin instinctively darted forward to
help, but instead had to dive to the ground as a gunshot from the house
knocked off his hat. “Hell,” he muttered the curse, rolling in
the dirt to cover his head with his arms. He heard Chris’ own
guns clear leather. “No!” That kid inside could only be
six or seven. One hell of a damn shot for someone his age, Vin
mused. Or else it was pure luck.
The widow steadied herself and
stood her ground. “Hold yer fire, boy, unless I give the
word,” she spoke to the unseen child. “Who else you got with
you?” She pointed the shotgun at Tanner, but searched the grounds for
Vin glanced over his shoulder to
Chris and smiled as the older man was already returning his gun to his
holster. Vin remained sprawled on the ground. “Ma’am,
Chris Larabee,” he introduced.
“Mornin’ Ma’am,” Chris
Widow Barker squinted at the dark
speck beyond her aged vision. “You better come closer so I can
see you, Mister.”
Larabee dismounted and strolled
over to where Vin now stood. “Yes, Ma’am,” he grinned.
“You got horses, too?”
The widow looked past the two lawmen, a speculative look crossed her
Tanner answered for them both.
“We just wanted to check that the
boy was okay. Didn’t intend causing you no grief,” Chris
“Well he’s fine, so you can
best be on yer way,” she added tartly. “You can tell those
busybodies in town to stay outta my affairs, if they know what’s good
“We’ll be goin’ then,
Ma’am.” Larabee and Vin turned to find their horses.
They’d done all they could do - this time.
The older woman sighed, glancing
through the open door to the cubby face of her only grandchild.
She smiled at the boy and whispered that he was safe now. She
fired a warning shot to the right and over their heads. It
collected in the branches of the oak tree and a shower of leaves
fluttered to the ground. It was always a good point to prove that
she’d not been afraid to use the weapon. “The other barrel’s
still loaded,” she hollered after the departing horses. “And
don’t come back!”
Larabee couldn’t remove the grin
that came to his lips. “She was a bit of a hellfire…”
Tanner snorted. “Hey,
thanks for helping out, cowboy,” he drawled sarcastically.
Larabee burst with laughter.
“You seemed to be doing fine.”
“Next time, you can be the one to
talk to her.” And he knew there were going to be other occasions
where they’d have to visit the elderly widow. She would be in
desperate need once the cooler weather claimed the land. The house
aside could do with some repairs, and someone had to do it. He
wondered how she intended supporting the child. He was a growing
boy and would require clothing as he grew. Not to mention his
“Reckon we can send one of the
others, next time,” Chris winked. He turned in his saddle and
wondered why Tanner had stopped. “Something wrong?” his smile
thinned to a line as he saw the grimace that flashed across Vin’s
face. “What the hell…how…you okay?”
Vin chuckled lightly and climbed
from his horse. He looked over his shoulder, lifting the corner of
his coat and down at the smallish patch of blood. “Yeah,” he
groaned. “Hell, she’s practically blind as a bat, but she
somehow winds up slugging my ass with buckshot,” he grossed, pushing a
cloth against the wound.
Larabee dismounted and circled
behind the tracker, barely restraining the laughter.
Chris rubbed at his jaw.
“Is it only the one?”
Tanner nodded. One was
“Reckon Nathan’ll be able to
dig it out.”
“Hell, Nate’s as likely
to want ta look at it ‘afore I even make it to the clinic…and I
ain’t baring my ass in the middle of the street! ‘Sides I
ain’t going back into town, ‘til it’s out,” he squawked.
It was awkward enough riding with a piece of lead in his backside
without going the whole distance.
Chris folded his arms and leaned
back against the trunk of a tree. “You plannin’ on walkin’
“Nope. You’re gonna
Chris raised a sceptical eyebrow.
“It’s gonna hurt like hell…” He’d dug a few bullets out
before, but that certainly didn’t encourage him to seek it out,
especially when Nathan was more adept at it.
“Already does,” Tanner winced.
And riding certainly didn’t help the tender area.
They prepared a fire and set
Chris’ blade in the blaze. “You might want to expose the
area,” he chuckled.
Vin rolled his eyes, but did as he
was told; unbuckling his belt he let the holster fall to the ground.
“You need something to bite down
“Just get on with it,” Vin
growled impatient to have the procedure finished and to have his
britches back covering his backside.
Larabee cooled the blade with a
little water from his canteen and poured the remainder over the wound.
“Hold still, it won’t hurt…”
Tanner screamed, kicking out his
heels. He buried his head in the dirt for a minute to catch his
breath. “Says it won’t hurt,” Vin mimicked. “Hell,
Larabee,” Vin tugged his trousers back up around his waist. The
firm fit of his pants enough to hold the wadded cloth in place over the
Chris wiped the blade in the grass;
he’d clean it when they returned. “Didn’t let me finish,”
he laughed. “Was gonna say that it won’t hurt much.”
Vin groaned, walking stiffly over
to his horse. “You ain’t gonna tell Nathan are you?”
“Depends,” the gunslinger
smirked as he threw his leg over the saddle.
“On what?” Vin followed
Chris clicked his tongue and
spurred his mount into action. “Whether I have to explain why
you can’t sit in yer saddle or why you can’t get down from Peso,”
he called over his back.
Tanner cautiously planted his
backside into the shaped seat, wincing as it rubbed the new wound.
“Ain’t gonna happen,” he hissed, and urged Peso into a steady gait
intent on catching up with Larabee.
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