Running Dog (A Chuck Wendig Challenge)

Posted: January 30, 2015 in Fiction
Tags: , , ,

This week’s CWC was a random item challenge. My three items? A horse, a found dog, and a pocketwatch. It’s a bit of a Western, I suppose, and could probably stand to get fleshed out way more than I did here.

Gerard fished his pocketwatch out of his faded grey waistcoat. William was late. Again. Nothing new about that to be sure, but on a day like today even things going reliably awry was going to get under Gerard’s skin. He glanced up at the corn flower blue sky, shielding his eyes from the summer sun. Not a cloud to be seen, so at least there was that. Things were going to be tough enough without having to face the weather as well.

“You carry that with you wherever you go?” Samuel asked. Gerard didn’t like him with his weaselly face and penchant for getting over rough with women, but there was no finer hand with a knife, and Gerard figured he’d need that hand before long.

Gerard tried smiling, but he knew the scar that carved out part of his lips wouldn’t make it look nice at all. “A gift from my momma, before I left for the war.” The smile disappeared. “Fever took her before I got back.”

Samuel shook his head. “Didn’t figure you for a momma’s boy, Gerry.”

Gerard tapped his finger against the side of what was left of his nose. “Figure there’s a lot you don’t know about me, Samuel. And don’t call me Gerry, all right?”

“Sure, sure, whatever you say. You’re the boss.”

Gerard slipped the watch back into his waistcoat, looked up and down the street. There wasn’t much there to look at. A telegraph office, a tavern, and a boarding house. This speck of dirt didn’t even rate a brothel.

“Is that him?” Samuel asked, pointing to a dust cloud in the distance.

“Now how should I know? Could be anyone.”

“But it could be him, right?”

Gerard spat into the dirt. “Yeah, could be him. Tell the boys to get ready.”

Samuel’s smile split his face like a knife wound. “Sure thing, boss.”

As the dust cloud drew closer, Gerard could start making out more details. A single man, riding a horse. Looked like there was something small following along behind, but he couldn’t make out what it was. Too small for another horse, but could be a person walking. Could be any of a number of things. Behind him, in the old abandoned house, the rest of Gerard’s gang, all five of them, were getting woken up, getting their gear stowed, getting ready to move.

Gerard strode out into the middle of the street as the rider came up. He rode a yellow horse, and a dog, thin and lousy with mange, followed at his heels

“You’re late, William. And what’s with the dog?”

William leaned over his saddle and spat into the dirt. “Ran into a spot of trouble back on the trail. Now, it’s nothing to concern yourself with,” he added, seeing Gerard turn down what was left of his mouth. “All taken care of.”

“And the dog? That part of the trouble you were mentioning?”

“Well I wasn’t going to leave it there, was I? That’d be an act of cruelty.”

“Hm. Did you spot the folk we’re looking for?”

William nodded.”I saw them all right, and they’re headed this way. Should be here by nightfall, way they’re riding. We’re going to be ready for them?”

Gerard smiled as he tapped his fingers against the pistol he wore at his side. “Oh, we’ll be ready for them. I’ve got five hired killers sitting inside, and they all know what’s at stake.”

“Mind if I go get some shut eye then? I’ve been on the road an awful long while.”

“Don’t mind at all. Just be ready come nightfall, understand?”

“Don’t have to worry about me,” William replied. He dismounted and slipped into the house, the dog deciding to lay down by Gerard’s feet. Gerard heard the muttered greetings between the men as they settled in. Sure, the risk was high for what they were getting involved in, but then so was the reward. Night couldn’t come quick enough.

***

“I think they’re coming boss,” Samuel said, leaning out of the second story window. The setting sun had thrown up a dazzling display of pinks, yellows, and oranges, and already the sky to the east was settling in for a bruised purple kind of look. It was still too early for the stars to be out, but a crescent moon was making an appearance.

Gerard gazed out across the landscape. Sure enough, a dust cloud was out there and coming closer. “All right boys, look alive.” He heard movement in the house. The dog picked his head up and gave a low whine before slinking around to the back of the house.

Gerard flipped back his duster, his hand resting on the polished wood of his pistol.

The group of four riders reined in about a hundred feet away from the house. All were travel worn and rode slumped down in their saddles. Four more horses, their saddles empty, rode with them.

“Are you Gerard Pauldron?” the lead rider called out.

Gerard felt his mouth go dry and his stomach curl up into an icy ball. “Can’t say that I am,” he replied. “You boys looking for a place to bunk for the night?”

Gerard felt the barrel of a pistol press against his neck.

“Sorry, boss,” William said.

“Get a better offer?” Gerard asked. The riders dismounted, all of them carrying rifles.

“Full pardon in exchange for you. They want you to stand trial.”

“Mind if I ask why?”

Gerard heard William sigh. “War’s been over for five years, boss. None of us are getting any younger, and we’re running out of space. Won’t be long now before everything gets civilized. I’m tired of having to sleep with one eye open.”

“What about the boys? What’s going to happen to them?”

“If they surrender, they go to trial, same as you. The don’t… well, there’s another ten riders coming up behind the house. How do you think that’s going to go?”

Gerard’s lips curled up in a half smile. “I’m thinking I won’t make it to trial.” He spun and dropped down, trying to get clear of William’s pistol.

William’s second pistol, the one in his left hand, boomed across the landscape, and Gerard fell dead, last of the sunlight painting his face.

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Comments
  1. Cameron says:

    Matt,

    I really liked this one. I can agree with you on fleshing it out, but I feel like this one captured your skills pretty well. On Jan 30, 2015 8:13 AM, “Dark Perceptions” wrote: > > Matthew X. Gomez posted: “This week’s CWC was a random item challenge. My three items? A horse, a found dog, and a pocketwatch. It’s a bit of a Western, I suppose, and could probably stand to get fleshed out way more than I did here. Gerard fished his pocketwatch out of his” >

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