Word Count 670
An episode tag for the High Riders
It was nearing sunset when I looked out the great room window and saw him there, to the north of the hacienda, wandering in the grass. I thought it odd he’d be about, twelve hours ago he was lying in that same grass, presumed dead. He wasn’t really moving aound much, and because I want to know him as more than just –what? This man who would be my brother?–I crossed the veranda and went cautiously out to join him in the far yard, where so much of the battle had taken place. He looks up and quirks a smile as I approach, but does not speak. The smile could be friendly, or it could just as easily be deadly, as I have found in the brief few days I have known him.
When our eyes meet the smile becomes friendly and he holds up a forearm to ward me off and away–
“I can make it.”
I nod and smile in return. He seems to be looking for something in the grass.
“A medallion. I had it around my neck, I thought maybe–”
“It’s in the house. It was in your shirt when Cipriano cleaned your wound. Ask him or Teresa.” He was shot off his horse, but the wound was glancing and I suspect in another day or so he will much more regret hitting the ground than the furrow across his shoulder.
“Good.” Johnny nods again. “Wouldn’t have wanted to lose it. Was it a good fall?”
“Spectacular. Very impressive.”
He is barefoot, his white shirt, untucked, billows out in the gentle breeze, and I cannot help noticing his revolver is tucked into the back of his pants. He looks out to the east.
He looks down again. “Thought so. “
He’s . . . sorry? “He nearly killed you.” He nods. “You were friends.” It was meant to be a question, but I comes out more accusatory than I had planned.
He lifts his head to look at me, narrows his eyes but shakes his head. His hands flutter uselessly.
“We were . . . Business associates.” He seems proud of the words when he finally speaks. “We worked together. I hoped it would end differently.”
He grins again at my obvious distaste for Day Pardee.
“It’s a gunfighter curse, I guess. A job well done. Pride in your trade. Day was good at what he did. He was only doing a job.”
“You think I was only doing a job?”
I’ve raised his ire now, he is hot and defensive. “No. Just asking. So you think someone else was paying Pardee.”
“Of course. Day wouldn’t care one whit for this ranch. He isn’t one to own land, or cattle, or” he swept his hand out across the dying sun, “any of this.”
“What about you?”
He shrugged. All this, and he doesn’t care? “I’ve never owned anything before. Well, not much. A good horse, a good gun. I’m willing to give it a shot.” He smiled again. “You’re not getting’ it all that easy, you know.”
“Didn’t expect to.”
“So, how we gonna do this?”
All I can do is shrug. What does he want from me? “You know anything about cattle ranching?”
He smiles again, and I am not sure what that means. He nods.
“Done a little. Well, been a drover anyway. You?”
He already knows my knowledge of cattle is lacking. Now it’s my turn to get defensive. “No. I’ve been a scholar and a soldier. A *tin* soldier.” I mock him.
He waves me back with his hands, conceding? “All right, all right. I said, good shootin’.”
“A drink?” I offer.
“Tequila?” He counters.
I doubt the old man has tequila in his liquor cupboard, and tell him so.
“You know, I only drink when I know who I’m drinkin’ with,” he reminds me.
Is he asking? For what? He is smiling again. “Your brother.”
And he nods. It’s a start.
~ end ~
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