Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: A MIGHTY FORTRESS (don't write about the song) (04/23/15)
TITLE: Showdown at Redemption Canyon
By Rachel Barrett
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A rifle shot boomed over his hideout, spraying bark chips that stung his face and hands. Adrenaline surged, and he let fly two hasty bullets in answer. He was well nested up here in this hilltop maze of boulders. They couldn't rush him.
Through the brush he glimpsed a hat bobbing. “Give it up, kid!” The shout reached him as he sighted on the gray Stetson. “You ain't got enough slugs in that peashooter to last long!”
“Yeah? C'mon out and see!” Chet squeezed and the Colt bucked in his hand. His shot ricocheted, and the hat dove out of sight.
“You're just makin' things worse!” The wearer hollered from safe concealment. “Crawl out peaceable, an' you'll save yourself a heap of trouble. You'll get a fair trial.”
“That what you brung them ropes for?”
“All right, you dug your own grave!” A shot pinged off the rocks. “Leavin' our buddy back there with a bullet in his lung was a mighty bad call!”
“He palmed that ace!” Chet scrabbled in his pocket for more cartridges. One left. He jammed it in.
“And you yanked that hogleg first, sonny!”
Chet's hands trembled around his gun. “I didn't mean to shoot him!”
“Well, that's a real blasted comfort.” Bushes rustled, coming closer. “We're takin' you back, and I don't much give a rip if you're still breathin' or not!”
Chet darted a wild glance upslope. Those rocks offered better cover. He scrambled up, dashing across the open space. Bullets kicked dirt near his feet, cutting close, as he tumbled into safety. Shouts echoed below, but he'd be long gone before they busted into this fortress. He started down the other side.
“Hold it, Chet!”
He wheeled, snatching for his gun—and skidded in his tracks. Trying to outdraw the double barrels of that shotgun trained on him wouldn't be the brightest idea. Especially with Sheriff Jacobs behind them.
He let the pistol slip back in its holster. “You turned vigilante too, lawman? Come to hang me?”
Jacobs kept his finger off the trigger. “Now wait, son—”
“You'll have to shoot me first!” Chet broke and ditched around him, running for the treeline. But Jacobs was faster. Something heavy crashed down on Chet's back, knocking his breath out. He sprawled headlong in the dirt. When he squirmed free and rolled faceup, Jacobs stood over him, shotgun prodding Chet's belt buckle.
“I didn't come here for no lynchin', boy!” Jacobs frowned. “You shouldn't've lit out. Jory ain't dead.”
Chet stared. “I—I didn't kill him?”
“He'll live.” Jacobs let the hammer down. “So'll you, if you quit runnin'.”
“But them others . . .” Chet inched backwards. “They wanna string me up.”
“None of those cowboys are loco enough to buck the business end of this coach gun.” Jacobs hefted the big ten-gauge. “I'll get you to jail in one piece.”
“But you said—” Chet froze as the shotgun leveled again.
Jacobs shook his head. “No, he didn't die. But you got some payback comin', son.” He backed off. “Come over here.”
Wary, Chet rose, and sat on the rock Jacobs pointed to. The burly sheriff regarded him with something like pity. “I been watchin' you around town. One day you'll crack your lid and light a fire you can't douse. Lucky it didn't happen today.”
Chet raked his fingers through his hair. “I didn't mean to!”
“You don't turn yourself around, someday you will mean to.”
The words struck to the quick. Chet slumped his head in his hands. “I never learned no better. I can't do nothin' about it. I get mad, an' then . . .”
“Son, that temper a'yours is like this rock pile you're stuck in.” Jacobs lowered the shotgun. “It ain't no mighty fortress, like you think. You don't get out, it'll trap you.” He propped one boot on the rock, elbow braced across his knee. “Maybe you did have a sorry excuse for a bringin' up. But you can start over.”
Chet hesitated. I can still run.
He sighed. Then, slowly . . . slowly he held out his gun, butt first.
Jacobs stuck it in his belt. “Let's go home, son.” He put his arm around Chet's shoulders, and together they started down the hill.
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