There in the starless dark, with vast wings across the canceled skies; the sudden blackness of nothing at all.

rating: +70+x

Marshal Joanna Kirkland finished her long midnight walk to the schoolhouse. The sounds of revelry from the town were distant and constant. As she approached, the faint but rough sound of sawing caught her attention. The clear night sky gave way to darkness as she walked up the schoolhouse steps.

She put her ear up to the door. The sawing was clearer now. She used her left hand to pull the Carter Single Action from her holster and pulled the hammer back. She reached for the doorknob and turned it. No resistance. She leaned into the door and the wood made a scraping noise across the floor. The sound of sawing stopped.

Joanna winced to herself and pushed the door open. She leveled her pistol and steeled herself against the darkness.

"Bobby Farcer. I want to talk to you about the Jackson Twins. This'll go a lot easier if you-" A pale burly man leaned in from the darkness and raked a knife across her left forearm. Joanna pulled the gun from her other holster and fired. The pale man with the knife dropped to the floor clutching his stomach. Joanna pushed the door open further and looked down.

She could see now, the man on the floor was Bobby Farcer, the town's teacher. "Where are Mrs. Jackson's daughters?"

"You shot me! You crazy stupid bitch!"

Joanna put one of the pistols back into its holster and pointed the other at Bobby. "If you don't tell me where they are I'll give you one the doc can't fix."

The man squirmed on the floor and motioned behind him into the back of the schoolhouse. Joanna kept her gun trained on him and inched her way to the back. The smell of iron was strong in the air now. She pulled a match from her shirt pocket with a bloodied hand and struck it.

Joanna sighed to herself. She could still hear Bobby in the next room cursing and whimpering.

She walked back out into the center of the dark schoolhouse and to the man leaking out onto the floor. She stood off to the side, with her gun pointed at the man's head.

"Tell me why I shouldn't blow your fucking head off."

Bobby's voice hardened. "'Cause you're principled law. The kind that wears your-" Bobby stopped and fought through some pain. "You're the kind that wears your rules on your sleeve."

"Everyone has limits."

"You think I come to Wyoming for the climate? Do what your kind always does. Throw me in a cell and call me a doctor."

"I put you in a cell," Joanna said, "they're gonna hang you."

"You think you can find a jury that'll hang me for killing a couple of black girls?"

Joanna glanced over at the back room and cocked the hammer on her pistol. "You wanna die here?"

"No. If people wanna die they say it. Like those girls. Or the ones out back under the garden." Bobby pointed over his shoulder. "I just did what they asked me."

The two were silent for a time. The sounds of the town in the distance continued. With significant effort, Bobby crawled over the door and sat himself up beside it.

Joanna put the gun back into her holster. "Mrs. Jackson asked you to teach those children how to read."

Bobby smiled in the darkness. "I taught 'em how to do what they're good for, Marshal."

The doctor's shack was poorly conceived. It was a single floor high and leaned against the Western Union next door. Inside was the new town doctor, a woman from the east. Her porcelain face came from a box with an Anderson Prosthetics logo. Marshal Joanna Kirkland sat near the front window. The doctor was stitching Joanna's arm in the dawn's light.

Joanna winced as the thread dug through the skin on her arm. The doctor weaved the needle in and out twice more before stopping. "The laudanum would help you with the pain."

Joanna shook her head. "I'm fine."

"Are you?" the doctor said with a hint of sarcasm. "Because you can't keep pulling away."

Joanna gritted her teeth. "I'm fine. Just keep working."

"You should be thankful this wasn't deeper. There's no real muscle damage to speak of."

"Yeah. Real grateful for that."

The doctor worked in silence for several more minutes before cutting the end of the thread. "Be careful with this for a few weeks. The cut's mostly on the surface, but not entirely."

"Can I still shoot with that hand?" Joanna asked.

"You can."


Joanna stood up and pointed to her own face. "Your mask. You fought in the war?"

The doctor stopped and nodded. "I did."

"I saw some terrible things in the war. Did terrible things."

The doctor's tone shifted slightly. "It was for a good cause."

Joanna put her hand to her temple. "How do I get back to what I was before?"

"You can't." The doctor paused again and then tapped her mask. "You just get used to it being there."

Joanna grabbed her gun belt and put it on. As she finished two men burst into the shack carrying a large and very pale man. The doctor grabbed her bag immediately and rushed to his side. They tossed him on a table near the entrance and the doctor's hurried demeanor slowed.

"He's dead."

One of the men had already hurried out the door. The other, a man with broken teeth and a long brown beard, nodded to the doctor. "Heard you was payin' for bodies."

The doctor nodded and produced a dollar from her pocket. "This will do. Who is he?"

"That's Mr. Farcer, the school teacher. Someone shot him in the gut and left him to bleed out."

The marshal slipped out the door.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License