The aftermath of a hanging—-of the fifteen-year-old brother of a hired killer.
Charlie Cross vows vengeance on the posse that lynched his brother, but he never figured on a drifter who would risk his life to avenge a friend.
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Pillared Roses - Amanda Brenner
The aftermath of a hanging—of the fifteen year old brother of a hired killer—is a wild and wicked tale of revenge and bloody retribution.
Charlie Cross vows vengeance on the posse that lynched his brother, who had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But Cross never figured a drifter would risk his life to avenge a friend.
The morning sun, orange and ominous and rising slowly like a menacing omen, was beginning to clear the rim, making its way down the opposing wall of the canyon. The predawn chill promised to give way to another scorcher. Crouching low and unobserved among the pines dotting the steep hillside, Lem Stimson scouted the scene below. Well, I’ll be…! There they are! Right where that detective fella said they’d be! Don’t look like they’re fixin’ to move out any time soon neither.
The canyon was small and formed a natural corral. A narrow trail zigged and zagged into a meadow a quarter mile from the entrance, forcing anyone approaching to do so single file. Cattle milled about a makeshift pen of weathered logs. Probably sixty head, I reckon. He counted six figures on the canyon floor between himself and the cattle. Two were standing near the herd; one of them was testing the saddle on a tethered horse. The other men huddled low around a smoking campfire, no one making any move to rekindle it. Lem watched as one figure finally rose to douse the smoking remnants—the signal to break camp. They had been unconcerned about the fire giving away their presence in the canyon, assured that both its glow and its rising column of ash would dissipate well before clearing the steep walls that encircled the herd. They had been right—until now. But they had remained unaware of the shadow that had dogged their movements over the past month, for the man had been clever; but then, it was his business to be clever and he was very good at it. As usual, he had managed to remain silent and unseen until there was no doubt he had found what he had been hired to find—no doubt at all.
Figuring he had seen all he had to, Lem carefully made his way through the protective cover of the pines to his waiting horse. Untying the reins he had looped over the branch of a supple Ponderosa sapling; he spurred the animal toward the cottonwood grove where the others waited impatiently for word. “They’re there, all right, boys,” he announced as he swung down from his still moving mount, “just like the detective fella said they’d be. Cattle, too. I figure close to sixty head. Not for long, though. Just doused their fire; I’d say they was fixin’ to cut out right soon. Didn’t see no guard neither.”
The group was on foot, their horses tied nearby. Slim Silverton spoke first. “This is it, boys. If anyone wants to clear out, now’s the time.” No one moved. They had all lost cattle and men to the rustlers in the canyon ahead or knew of a neighbor who did, and now they were mad–mad enough to fight back. Silverton looked over at his friends and neighbors, all of whom were now watching him, waiting for his signal. Good men, all of them, he thought. And some might die today. But there was no going back, not now, and they all knew it. Before the day was out, they would finish what they had come to do. “All right, then,” he commanded, “mount up and let’s ride!”