Western Promises

Our Reimagining of the events of History. Our game paused December 30,1890. We will resume the game timeline June 28, 1914
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 The Ballad of Jack Plisskin

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Join date : 2017-11-24

PostSubject: The Ballad of Jack Plisskin   Mon Nov 27, 2017 5:53 pm

What recourse should be given to those who gave everything, only to have even more taken from them? What is left for those who stood their ground only to have cowards sell that ground from under neath their feet? What do you do when destiny, the people, the government and even the God in heaven takes from you again and again and again… until you have nothing left? 

For me, the answer was simple. You start taking back. 

The West was a nation of hope and promise. It was a land of new beginnings. It was the land of the individual. A group of men fought tooth and nail to see it born, to see it rise from the ashes of the old world, like a phoenix streaming forth from the dawn’s horizon. But every nation that is born from fire will inevitably see itself plunged into the flames again. Like steel tempered in the furnace, nations and individuals are strengthened by fire. 

And sooner or later, they are tested by it as well. 

For my father, that test was the civil war. For me, the test was to carry on where my father fell, when he walked into the war a man and walked back out a broken shell. The Union asked for his freedom. The Confederacy demanded his life. He gave both willingly and in the end, lost his soul. It was swallowed up the raging flames that forged this country. Now it’s up to me to reclaim it. For his sake and for mine, I won’t let myself become nothing but a killing tool of the government. I’ll find a way to live in the fires that test me, that test the West.

For my name is Jack Plisskin. My father was Sergeant Robert Plisskin, Yager’s Mounted Rifles, and his story deserves to be known, his life deserves acknowledgement, his death deserves some meaning. 

Course robbing a train wasn’t what I had in mind, but a man’s gotta eat. Boarding it outside of Charleston was easy enough. The train was slow to pull out the station as Wilson pounded his hooves alongside one of the rear box cars. Like running along cattle. I was on the boxcar and in the cabin in a matter of moments, my father’s rifle at my back, a colt single action army in my hand and a single purpose on my mind. 

Get on the train. Grab what you’re looking for and any bit of precious as could help you in the coming days. Get off and be gone. 

I tumble into the first cabin and see a man. I barely take notice of him or his stunned expression. He looks like he just woke up. The butt of my colt on his temple sends him right back to sleep. I turn out his pockets, noticing a tag on his coat kindly informing me I’ve just robbed Reginald Jennings. 

“Vaya con dios, Reggie” I say to him as I see him out of the cabin the same way I had come it. Less than a heart beat latter and Reginald Jennings is gone into the night. He didn’t have much anyway. 

My boot hits the door to the passenger car and a single shot from my colt sends a wave of panic through the occupants of the car. “Y’all be wanting to look real hard at your belly buttons!” I warn the passengers. “I don’t know who y’all are or from whence you came, but you’ll make matters much easier on yourselves if you empty your pockets on the ground and start praying to the good lord.” 

They all think it’s a robbery. Well, they’re half right. But there’s something here that’s the cause of their predicament. A thick brown envelope, carried by some official courier type with the president’s personal seal fixed to it. That’s what the man wanted. Why didn’t matter at the moment. The money he was offering was too good to let such an easy job go.

Plus, pocketing some extra bit of coin wasn’t all that bad a bonus. I spit in the face of the forces that swallowed my father and spat him out under the hot sun. I earn enough coin to keep me going and then some. And I get to rob a train.

Life can be good sometimes-

“Drop your gun and put your hands in the air!”

-but now ain’t one of those times.

The boy is young, barely a man, but he wears the uniform of a confederate, the uniform of a man sold out by a coward. He has a rifle of his own and maybe a colt. And hells bells, if there isn’t another one behind him. The train’s starting to pick up speed. I’ll loose Wilson if I waste too much time.

I flip my colt so the barrel points to the ground and raise both hands, taking a steady pace towards the youngster. He can’t be older than 16. “Easy, there, friend. I’m just looking for something.” The one behind the youngster sneers. There’s a mix of pride and assuredness in his eyes. He’s never had to face death but he’s already a corporal.

“Well, friend,” says the corporal. “I’d wager you’re came looking on the wrong train. Drop that gun and the rifle on your back. You’ll be coming with us.”

I smile. I’m close enough to the both of them now that I look dead into their young eyes and they can see straight into mine. Mine’ll be the last they ever see. Pity… I ain’t that good looking.

“Now gentlemen, I assure you, I am completely… harmless!” My leg shoots up like a snake striking its prey, the toe of my boot contacting the barrel of the rifle and sending it up. A half step in and I have the boy’s arm in mine as I force the rifle in his hand down onto his shoulder and have his finger pull the trigger. The shot tears through the corporal’s chest, ending his life in an instant.

I kick the lad in front. He stumbles over the corpse of his partner, lands flat on his back. My colt sings once more and the boy is dead. “Anyone else feel like being buried a hero like these two?” I ask the car. Silence meets my ears and I continue my work.

The courier sticks out like a blister on a hot day. I glance above him to the satchel over his head and see the corner of a brown envelope sticking out. It’s in my hands in an instant, the seal of Benjamin Harrison holding it closed.

“Those were good men you killed” the courier says to me.

“Those were good men the government sent to their deaths. Them and thousands more,” I tell him as I pass, letter in hand. “But we’re all just tools to the men in power. Best you keep that in mind next time they ask you to do something for your country.”

I spare one more glance to the faces of the two I’ve killed. Young, shocked. I kneel and close their eyes and something catches mine. There’s a silver pocket watch half in one of their jackets. It must have slipped out. I pick it up and run my hands over the both of them. $100. A cigarette case and a gold wedding ban. I add all of it to what I took from Reginald and pocket up some stray bits of treasure before standing and walking to the door of the cabin.

“I take my leave, gentlemen,” I say to the two as they rest in peace. “I’ll say a prayer of thanks to you as I enjoy a smoke after a good meal… To you and Reggie too.”

I turn and face the night. I can still hear Wilson in the distance. With a grin a I jump and roll away, the dust flying up from my landing, the clatter of coin and treasure in my pockets, my father’s rifle still at my back.

By the time I get to my feet, Wilson has caught up to me, his main looking as disheveled as I feel. The train is already speeding away.

I pat myself down. My pockets are full of money. There’s half a dozen cigarettes just waiting to be enjoyed. And there’s an envelope with the promise of a good payment in my hand. I pat Wilson’s neck as I hoist myself back into the saddle. “We will eat good tonight,” I tell him as he carries me off to the rendezvous.

Something catches my fingers in my coat pocket and I pull out the watch. The light of the moon makes it glow in the night. I flick it open. Works like a charm. I turn it over.

To Indi, love Wendy.

“Nice watch,” I say to the night before Wilson picks up speed.

Another night behind me as the dust from my boots falls away. Another job done. Another day as a free man. Another day my soul is mine. But it’s still just another day amid the countless hundreds of thousands that this land sees. It’s still just another moment in history. Two lives gone and more to follow er this land at last knows peace.

The fires of the West still rage, tempering the hearts of freemen and patriots alike. The day and the job may be done, but the true tests never end.
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General Sterling Steele

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Age : 25
Location : Atlanta Georgia rural area

PostSubject: crossing threads...   Thu Nov 30, 2017 2:31 am


there is a plot thread cross-over here; Jack Plisskin robbed Reginald Jennings and threw him from the train.
For anyone concerned with rules lawyering; this isn't auto-writing anybody Else's character. truth is Reginald came to me with "this is how i want to start, do you know anything that would work?" and jack came to me with "these are the things i want to do" so i told jack what Reginald wanted to help him start the game. Razz the whole thing was overseen by the moderators.

also, i gave Indiana and Oregon to jack's player and told him they are on the same train as you; do what you want with them. if you kill them make them decent, honorable, upstanding people; these were the things in their pockets.

once more, to reiterate the point of this post; http://western-promise.board-directory.net/t8-reginald-jennings-aka-jenny there is a plot cross over. these messages help to keep in order the time-line of events, and make it easier to read back on.
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General Sterling Steele

Posts : 52
Join date : 2017-11-06
Age : 25
Location : Atlanta Georgia rural area

PostSubject: Re: The Ballad of Jack Plisskin   Thu Dec 07, 2017 2:00 pm

The train clattered along the track. chunk, chunk, click, click, thunk, thunk, chunk, chunk, click, click, thunk, thunk. It’s whistle pierced the dark, loud and shrill as the iron horse screamed through the night towards Louisiana. It picked up speed entering Georgia, headed to Atlanta to drop a presidential messenger and his escort on their way to fort Oglethorpe.
The iron pounded and clashed as the train charged on. Its progress has always been measured in the lives lost per mile. Some stretches claimed as many as ten souls for a single mile of track, and other stretches of track are still claiming souls. That train is dead on time, and with a hundred souls on the line, there are more to collect.
The sun is down but deep in the furnace belly of the iron beast, a heart of fire burns. It exhales smoke as it thunders along its route. As the smoke clears, the whiney of a horse answers the challenge of the iron horse. A rider moves to intercept the train. It’s now or never, the train’s speed is increasing. Wilson the horse had the stronger will, but the iron horse’s power and speed had no equal. Not from any mortal flesh and blood horse.
They say that there is no such thing as happy endings; because nothing ever ends. This was no new fire of the west; these are the burned and smoldering embers of the old world. All it takes is for someone to come breathe new life into them to start a wildfire that will tear across the nation once more. The founding fathers expected as much. From time to time, the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants alike. It was time to water the tree.

“I’ve a bad feeling about this.” The 18 year old corporal half muttered, looking out the train window and watching the rolling darkness of the land blur by into the darkness of the horizon.
“Think he brought it back home with him?” the younger private sitting next to him asked. Brothers, going home to welcome back their elder brother who had been deployed overseas. With their father’s passing, their eldest brother was now head of the family. They were all a little nervous that their eldest brother had inherited the family curse as well as the reins of the family from their father.
Corporal Indiana Steele just nodded. Their brother Texas should have gotten home yesterday evening, they would be home to see him by lunch tomorrow. As much as he was looking forward to seeing his brother, sister-in-law and nephew, he was worried. His brother Texas had always been a bit of a loose cannon. He was sure being a prisoner of war for four years would have only eroded what little was left of their brother’s psyche. If he could, he was going to try to talk to his sister-in-law Victoria about coaxing Texas into retirement. Besides, couldn’t let that old warhorse have all the glory.
The door of their passenger car was kicked in and a .45 shot rang out. “winner, winner, chicken dinner.” Private Oregon Steele snickered.
“Don’t do anything stupid, Private.” Corporal Indiana Steele warned listening to this idiot rambling about praying to the good lord and emptying their pockets.
“Drop your gun and put your hands in the air!” Private Oregon shouted springing to his feet with his rifle drawn.
“Stupid Private. Real stupid.” Corporal Indiana muttered and stood up behind his brother, readying his side arm. Wasn’t how he would have dealt with it; this was how it would get dealt with though. It’d be just like every other encounter his brother Texas dragged them through. This was just another regular trip to visit the family, thanks to that stupid curse.
When the robber says he’s looking for something, Corporal Indiana’s heart sinks. He’s here for the document. Of course he’s here for the document. Well, friend,” says the corporal. “I’d wager you’re came looking on the wrong train. Drop that gun and the rifle on your back. You’ll be coming with us.”
Harmless. That was it, the last thing Indiana heard except for the shot that left his ribcage as a massive gaping hole. His lungs were in full view gasping their last breath trying to inflate even as they had been torn to pieces by the close range shot. The last thing Private Oregon heard was his brother’s last spiteful word. “stupid.”
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General Sterling Steele

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Join date : 2017-11-06
Age : 25
Location : Atlanta Georgia rural area

PostSubject: Re: The Ballad of Jack Plisskin   Thu Dec 07, 2017 2:01 pm

Having taken the envelope from the messenger and leaped from the train, Jack was supposed to meet his customer at the crooked table in the poker room of the saloon in Atlanta called the Copper Kettle. In his tumble from the train the president’s seal had broken, allowing Jack to see what was so important that two young men had to die.
More precious than gold, it was information in the envelope. Hidden within the standard government folder in the standard government envelope with the president’s seal, was a file with the confederate republic stamped all over it, notarized and officiated by at least a dozen high ranking officers in the Union Army and stamped with at least four different intelligence offices.
Inside the folder was a single sheet of paper, on top of another envelope.

Notice to all active agents;
Agent Texas has become compromised.
Destroy all records of this agent you may possess.
Distrust all intelligence originating from Agent Texas.
Final destruction of all official records of Agent Texas will be conducted by Agent Clementine.

Written on the envelope was “for Agent Clementine’s eyes only.”
On the first sheet inside the envelope it said “Agent Clementine, the union army has sent a psychologist to assess agent Texas and to determine how best to treat his trauma. Included in this envelope are all remaining medical and personnel files; we trust your judgement what is and is not pertinent to his treatment
To be destroyed in the event that agent Texas is determined to be fully compromised. All other records of agent Texas’ involvement have been destroyed.
On the top of the stack were a marriage licence; Texas Steele and Clementine Everweather. Under that was a birth certificate July 4, 1868 Texas Jesus Steele. Annabella Steele was listed as the mother; Bradley Steele was listed as the father. Under that was another birth certificate, October 20, 1878 Sterling Texas Steele. Cassandra Steele was listed as the mother; Texas Steele was listed as the father.
There were death certificates for; Annabelle Steele, cause of death, died in childbirth to twins. Bradley Steele, cause of death, pneumonia. Cassandra Steele, cause of death, complications in childbirth. There was also a note on hers that the infant did not a live birth.
There were almost a dozen, 11 in fact, adoption application forms from this government agency, offering to take Texas and Kentucky off Governor Bradley Steele’s hands. They mostly cited complaints from the children that they hated military boarding schools and just wanted to go home, be kids. They didn’t choose to be soldiers; they didn’t want to be soldiers. There were a few complaints from Cassandra Steele about how she didn’t really want to take care of Bradley’s children. She was only doing it until she had her own. There were lots and lots of write-ups from the schools, basically bouncing the kids all along the eastern seaboard because they kept getting kicked out for acting out. Military academies said that these boys were impossible to discipline.
There was a police report after all that. It was a gold nugget under all those gems. 1878, January 1. Cassandra Steele had gone to the sheriff in Atlanta to report that the previous night she had been raped by her nephew, Texas Steele. She returned a day later to change and withdraw her report, stating that she had been too drunk after a New Years Eve party and upset over being an old maid she threw herself at the first man who would have her, her nephew going through puberty who didn’t know any better. Since Texas had already been arrested by the time she changed her story, it had to stay as an official report, but the boy slipped the noose.
After that, Texas’ acting out became much worse. Problems with authority, anger issues, after being expelled from every private school on the eastern seaboard and one in California, he was home schooled.
There were copies of three land title deeds all bought between Texas’ twelfth birthday, and his son Sterling’s first birthday. According to the piece of map with each copy of the deed two of the pieces of land were right next to his father’s plantation in Georgia. He seemed to be renting the land to the neighbours who would have had their homes repossessed by the banks. The third piece of land was a beauty of a beach house in Mexico just off of Acapulco.
Shortly after his son was born there was a patient intake report; from Dr. Sigmund Freud on behalf of the united states union army. He had anger and authority problems, but they decided because they couldn’t break him he was excellent officer material, except he also has issues with women. Accused of sexually assaulting his aunt, consensual or not, he was now deeply involved in an incestuous relationship with his aunt Cassandra Steele. After the initial patient intake interview, Dr. Freud concluded that Texas was suffering from prolonged sexual assault as well as emotional manipulation and physical abuse. His anger seemed to be rooted in a deep depression. When asked why he was dating his aunt instead of a nice girl down the road, Texas responded during the interview “’cus’ I’m a freak. No decent woman be caught dead with me. I’m lucky my aunt don’t judge or bare me any resentment fer bein’ a freak.”
Wanting to observe Texas interact with a “normal” woman dr. Freud put him in an observation room to play chess with a female patient, miss Jolene McAlister, who was there to be treated for nymphomania. As expected, Texas found it difficult to process emotionally when Jolene did not immediately reject him. Quite the contrary, by the fifth turn she had sat herself in his lap and was stroking his ego as well as his penis. The exam was ended prematurely because was far too well receiving of her affection and tried to return the favor, successfully unlocking Jolene’s chastity belt. They tried to keep the two of them separated after that, however, found Texas to be elusive more frequently than they preferred. When attempts were made to exclude Texas from the group sessions, he became increasingly more violent until he killed two orderlies and earned himself a stay in solitary confinement. It was a known hazard of the job that it was possible working for Dr. Freud. Even Dr. Freud admitted that perhaps the dosages of medications that Texas was being given were too high for a boy his age. Curiously enough was how Jolene managed to break into his solitary confinement room for a little conjugal visit. Dr. Freud still suspected somebody let her in. Efforts were made to reintroduce Texas to the group therapy sessions, but on reintegration, Texas found the means to acquire a revolver and six bullets. When he was out of shots he threw up six more bullets and reloaded while evading capture and killed six more people. That was when Dr. Freud decided that Texas was a prime candidate for the electroshock therapy. When Texas was basically back to the point he was before Dr. Freud messed him up, they sent him home with the recommendation he be institutionalized or lobotomized for public safety if he was to remain in the general public. Bradley appealed to the army that they could just as easily medicate Texas until he wasn’t violent anymore.
Texas was never charged with murder while he was in Dr. Freud’s hospital because it was accepted that it wouldn’t have happened had the dosage been right. Six months later though, they wanted to use him as a witness in a malpractice suit against Dr. Freud, but couldn’t because Texas didn’t know anything about it, or the girl who apparently was pregnant with his child. He didn’t remember that. He remembered nothing of what happened at the hospital. This also meant that Texas himself couldn’t legally be accountable for his actions. Bradley also didn’t believe that Jolene was pregnant with Texas’ kid. Especially the way she threw herself at quite literally every man she met. He wanted proof after the child was born that Texas was the father.
Under all of this was a document handing over parental custody of Texas Jesus Steele to the Junior Agent Department of Homeland Security, on the condition that Texas remains unaware that he was being given away to the government by his family.
Following that was a transcript from a private academy where they trained Texas, and experimented with a multitude of drugs to control his behaviour. He was apparently very successful after that, and his anger problems almost entirely disappeared once he was put on a vegetarian diet. He was their model soldier by the age of fifteen, and by age seventeen he had been promoted to Captain.
Charolette Steele – dead (smoke inhalation)
Virginia Steele- dead (smoke inhalation)
Carolina Steele – dead (smoke inhalation)
Nebraska Steele- dead (smoke inhalation)
Nevada Steele – dead (smoke inhalation)
Vermont Steele - dead (smoke inhalation)
There were six more death certificates. Five listed Bradley Steele as the father, and those same five listed Charolette Steele as the mother. There was an insurance report for a fire that destroyed a homestead up in Canada that Bradley owned. Now that Bradley was dead that land belonged to Texas too. Texas was deployed with the Union Cavalry gathering intelligence about the engagement with the Spanish because he spoke the language and was half Spanish. Because of the nature of the situation, and the number of people involved, Texas was sent home under the pretense of going home for the funeral, but also to gather intelligence on what was going on with his family.
There was a document at the bottom of the stack in the envelope of another agent being sent to observe the Steele family covertly without the Steele family or Texas knowing that they were an active agent in play; Agent Clementine. It was a case of if Agent Clementine couldn’t plug the leak; the agency was fully prepared to Black List the entire Steele family forever.
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PostSubject: Secrets Read Under the Moon   Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:53 pm

Jack Plisskin’s hand fumbled against the hard grain of the thick, enveloped stashed in a pocket close to his chest. It was the forth time in an hour his hand had found its way back to it, but this time, he didn’t chide himself for lingering on the thoughts that currently swirled in his mind.

What was so damn important that someone would hire me to rob a train for nothing more than a few pieces of paper? 

He blamed the hard ride to catch up to the train. He blamed the long ride to meet the man who would pay him for the job. He blamed the odd way life takes you were you don’t want to go but often need to be. But try as he might, there was no turning away from it, no hiding from it, no looking away from it. 

Someone, somewhere had gone through a lot of trouble to put this package in the hands of the currier and put that currier on that train with two armed officers to protect it… whether they realized it or not. 

Those boys died for a reason Jack heard his father say to him. Folk don’t die for no reason and good men don’t kill for no reason either.

“Cept when the government orders you to,” Jack said to the approaching night and the memory of his father’s words. “Like they did you. Like they did those boys.” Yet despite his words, Jack pulled out the envelope. It felt heavy for paper. The weight of two lives in his hands. No matter who they were, it didn't sit well with Jack that two men should die and no one have an answer as to why. 

Jack had killed before. Was part of life when you found yourself on the wrong side of the law as often as he did. But every time he had to kill someone, he could always answer why. Sometimes it was a case of them or Jack and Jack was just the faster draw. Twice Jack had seen men in power use it grind others under their heels. There was a coyotaje who had promised good men from Mexico work at a decent wage, only to drag them to a old mine and see them worked to death. Jack had ended that life without a moment’s hesitation, freeing the slaves. They had been grateful but Jack barely remembered their faces. There had been a message that needed to be sent. Free men will not be bought, not even from Mexico.

No matter the death, no matter the shot, there always needs to be a reason. No life should be wasted. And no death should be without a grave meaning. Without either, killing became far too easy. 

And there had always been both with Jack, until today. And the reason of “they were in my way” was not sitting well with Jack Plisskin. 

If I am to end men’s lives, I need to know why…

That had been one of the few promises Jack had sworn he would never break. The moment he did, then he would be naught but a killing tool for someone else to use. And hell would freeze over like North Dakota before Jack ever allowed himself to be used like that. 

He pulled out the letter. “For Agent Clementine’s eyes only” was scrawled across the front. He sliced the top open with his pocket knife but left the seal intact.

“Aw shucks, Wilson, looks like the letter got torn open. Must have happened while I tumbled from the train.”

Wilson snorted his thoughts out into the night as Jack patted his neck. “Now don’t give me that. Our man said to make sure the seal remained unbroken and so it is… So what’s so important that only Agent Clementine gets to read it?”

The moon was high enough in the sky and the light reflected off of it was enough for Jack to make out the neatly typed words.

Agent Clementine, the union army has sent a psychologist to assess agent Texas and to determine how best to treat his trauma. Included in this envelope are all remaining medical and personnel files; we trust your judgement what is and is not pertinent to his treatment
To be destroyed in the event that agent Texas is determined to be fully compromised. All other records of agent Texas’ involvement have been destroyed.

Jack read the note carefully. Orders for someone. Important ones too if they bore ol’ Benjy’s seal. He reined up Wilson and dismounted by a babbling brook. As Wilson drank, Jack tore off a strip of dried meat and chewed it slowly as he continued to read. 

Under neath the note was a handful of documents, all baring official notifications of office and station. The first to catch his eye was a birth certificate to one Texas Jesus Steele.

“That name sounds awful familiar…” he muttered to the crickets that offered their chirps to aid in his musings. “There’s only one man I can think of would have the audacity and arrogance to name their son after the biggest state in the union and the son of god.”

Sure enough, listed as the father was Bradley Steele. Jack had never met the man, but his father had. When Robert Plisskin wrote to his wife and son, he mentioned an individual who was more snake than man. “If ever a person could smell like a turncoat, turncoat would smell like Bradley Steele,” Jack recalled his father writing. “And if there was ever anyone who would put a price on honour, Bradley Steele would be the first to haggle over that price.”

The Steele’s were powerful and well respected, but more than a few words whispered when they were out of earshot that their wealth was not earned through merit. Jack had never paid much mind to the Steeles, till now. 

“It looks like one of old man Steele’s children has gotten himself into a heap of trouble. So what did Texas do that was worth the government killing him?” he asked Wilson. The horse snorted again and munched on a bush that was growing near the banks of the brook. “That’s what I like about you Wilson, you’re as pragmatic as they come.”

The life of Texas Jesus Steele made for compelling reading. He had raped his own aunt but the charges were mysteriously dropped only a day later. Expelled from every private school along the Eastern Seaboard, problems with the law, his father buying land from folk who had lost their homes… if there was something rotten in the heart of the union, it seemed that the Steeles were likely to have had a hand in it. 

But the improprieties of the Steeles weren’t consolidated just to America. Some big wig Psychologist named Frued had penned a report concerning young Texas. The name Frued sounded German…

What was it papa always said? Look behind every word spoken by a tyrant and you will find a smiling German…

The report from the German read like a saucy French erotic love story, a feeling that only brought Jack a sour taste in his when he realized they had stuck a boy who had raped his aunt and fallen in love with her in a room with an equally sick young girl just to see what would pan out. 

Jack had never had the pleasure of knowing a woman like most men of the world would have by his age. That he was a virgin never brought him shame tho he didn’t much care to talk about it with folk either. But even despite his lack of knowledge concerning all things that a man and a woman know under the eyes of god, he knew that what Texas had done was wrong by every definition of the word. 

So what does that say of the men who let him commit these acts?

The line about smiling Germans returned to Jack’s mind as he read on. This smiling German had concluded that Texas was the kind of rabid dog you had to shoot lest he hurt someone. By the time he had been let out of the good doctor’s care, six men were dead and thanks to Bradley Steele and who so ever had written these orders, Texas was once again free from the hangman’s noose.

The report went on to detail how they turned this rabid dog into a model soldier. A madman who didn’t question orders as long as he got to kill. A monster made by men who shrouded themselves in shadows so they didn’t have to face justice. Any incident or indiscretion, any mess that happened to be made, any and all of it could be swept under the rug.

Jack’s thoughts turned to the six men Texas had killed as they poked, prodded and drugged him. They had even given him a whore to have fun with. Six men died so the government of good ol’ Benjy could have a monster that would do their dirty work for him. And dealing with that monster would be easy enough. 

Enough money and you could make men and all they’d done disappear. And if the Steeles had one thing, it was money. They didn’t have honour, they didn’t have loyalty but they had money. 

And meanwhile six families would have to find a way to live with the cold hard truth that one of their number would never be coming home. Had any thought been spared to the men that Texas had killed? Had any prayer been said to them? No. Because the life of one rabid dog was worth more than six good men because that dog could be trained to kill and not ask why. 

Folk don’t die for no reason and good men don’t kill for no reason either….

But Bradley Steele? His son Texas? The men from the shadows who denied justice and the truth to those who needed it the most? 

Jack swallowed the rage that was building in his chest and throat as he gazed at the report penned from the good, smiling, German doctor.

“And there but for the grace of god would be you, dad, if things had been but a little different,” he muttered.

The last page listed five death certificates. The remnants of the Steele family having died in a fire up north. The lands that had once belonged to Bradley Steele now belonged to Texas who was back home, presumably to come to terms with the fact that he and whatever children he had were the last of the Steele line. 

The whole thing stank. Jack wagered that the only reason the Steeles were dead was because they had out lived their usefulness and now the same judgement was being considered of Texas and if it was not, perhaps, time to send this monster of their own creation back to the hell from whence it had come. 

His suspicions were all but confirmed as he read the final pages. Orders for Agent Clementine to observe Texas Steele and decide if the entire family tree was to be yanked out by the roots and burned to nothing but ash. 

The realization of what he held in his hand crept over Jack Plisskin.

Signed, sealed, notarized by over a dozen heads of state and the union. No deniability and no doubt… and explicit orders for everything contained here in to be destroyed as soon as the judgement had been rendered. The darkest secret ever kept from the populace by the US government. Their dirtiest little secret that had cost the lives of who knows how many people by the time all was said and done. 

Texas Steele. Rapist, murderer, arsonist, vandal and Captain of the Union Army, with a wealth amassed by fraud and theft. A breach of justice the likes of which rivalled what Cain did to Abel. 

Jack sat down heavily, the true weight of what he felt in his hands at long last reaching him. If this got out to the public, no elected official could ever be trusted again. This conspiracy stretched all the way up to the mother fucking president. Between the Steele’s suspect means of acquiring wealth and land and the means by which their wayward son had not only escaped every law of the land (and a few from over seas by the looks of it) but also had been made a decorated officer, the state would have no choice but to relinquish every Steele holding, dissolve the upper echelons of their standing forcing…

“…Hell’s bells, even the president would be forced to step down…” Jack muttered. “And with the public unwilling to trust anyone connected to the office that allowed this or anyone connected to the Steele’s… Wilson, in the right hands a man could chart the course of history for this nation for at least a generation with this.”

In the right hands…

But who decided whose hands were right? Surely the men who were behind this thought they were doing the right thing. Hell, even Bradley Steele must have thought he was doing right by his family… even if that meant the rape of at least two women and the death of six men go unpunished…

“Is it really my place to hold judgement?” Jack asked himself. 

Folk don’t die for no reason and good men don’t kill for no reason either….

Jack shook his head. Hell’s road was paved with good intentions. Even if the men that were behind this thought they served a greater good, that was no excuse. Men were dead when they didn’t need to be. Lives were ruined for no purpose. Voices that pleaded for help were ignored… all so Texas Steele wouldn’t have to face the law.

Someone had speak for those people who had everything taken from them. 

Jack folded the papers back up and placed them back in his pocket. “Come on, Wilson,” he said to his horse. “If I’m doing this, we’ve gotta move fast.” 

He rubbed his chin as he untethered Wilson, he sharp bristled main and long hair had the caked on dust of the trails rubbing off on his fingers. First, he would need a shave and a hair cut. It would make him look younger and different from the man who had just robbed a train. Hopefully, between that and the fact that the only two who had gotten a clear look at him were dead, it would be enough to let him slip about. 

And he needed to find two people. Texas Steele and the woman who had been sent after him. As Wilson sped off into the night, Jack’s thoughts and plans swirled in his mind. A message needed to be sent. A message to any and all in the shadows… that free men would not stand for their intentions. That free men knew it was their blood and not the blood of monsters that fed the tree of liberty. Jack would send that message.

And he would send it through Texas Steele and one Clementine Everweather.

The crickets and the coyotes and the various other critters of the night watched him go and heard him sing


Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine….
Thou art lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry Clementine.
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General Sterling Steele

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PostSubject: Flash Back to San Francisco   Fri Dec 15, 2017 1:12 am

this is a quickfire flashback post between Jack Plisskin and Texas Steele that takes place in a saloon in San Francisco.

Jack would likely ride in for a quick drink and maybe get a sense of the lay of the land. See what people are talking about. Find out what he can about the train.

Round san fran folk are talking about the flood of soldiers coming home from the war in japan. They are greatful it ended in peace talks. There were no compromises or surrenders, both sides just agreed it wasnt worth it. Partly because some cavalry asshole they had captured talked them into it. Convinced them there were greater enemies than eachother. Maybe we'll say these cavalry guys were there before jack, guess they've been waiting for the train for a while

The war with Japan isn't high on Jack's thoughts, Japan being so far away, but he gets a sense of what was happening and notes the outcome. He walks into the saloon, ignoring the calls from the girls. All he wants is a quiet drink before he has to go to work.

The boys got sick of their colonel being a stress bucket and bought him a whore. See if that would calm him down. After about ten minutes he comes back. Different attitude, doesnt seem to recognize his army friends though. Doesnt seem to think hes with them because he sits at the bar and buys a bottle of wiskey, 2 glasses. One for him and one for his new friend. Because your lucky ass is sitting next to him at the bar.
Hes not wearing most of his uniform anymore either. Shirt and pants and boots.
Dunno what he did with the hat and jacket.

"Thanks, friend," Jack takes the shot but keeps his hat brim obscuring his face. He knows not to turn away generosity but he's also not here to make friends. Keeps his response courteous but brief. Notes the absence of uniform but side steps it with talk of the weather and the soldiers. "Fine men, they are."

He looks over at the soldiers and lights a cigarette before taking the shot and refilling the glasses. "Fuckin traitors." He speaks with a heavy texas drawl. "Hope it was all worth it for their 'union'." He snarls bitterly taking another shot.

Jack chuckles grimly. That speaks to him. "Nothing ever is worth it. We just have to move on."

He laughes at you " that's pussy talk friend. Take the fight back to those boys every day." Takes another shot "yes sir, johnny reb's here to fuck them up, an fuck their wives. No sir."

Jack chuckles. "You keep talking like that, friend, as this nation will never heal. Sooner or later, you gotta set down the gun. When you times comes, you gotta hang it up and live in peace... well, most of us have to..."
"They'll keep using you other wise... and you'll never no peace."
Thoughts of his father begin crowding his thoughts.

"Peace" he mutters "thats the biggest lie they told us all." He reaches for the pistol at his hip but hes surprised its not there. He pats himself down and get a bit of a im fucked look when he realizes he hasnt got any of his guns. Then the shake starts to creep in again. It had been gone till now but he cant hold his glass steady anymore.

Jack's worried. He saw him reach for a gun. He knows that shake from his dad. "Easy friend. If you don't walk away from that war, you'll start another one."

He laughs nervously and refills their glasses holding his breath the way a marksman does to steady themself before a shot. Taking a deep breath he holds out his hand "folks call me Tex."

"Jack... Nice to meet you, Tex."

By this point the soldiers are curious who their commander is talking to but, given this is the calmest he's seemed they leave him alone but supervised. "Did you fight?"

Jack pauses a bit. He shrugs. What's the harm in telling the stranger? "No... but my father did."

Tex nods "same. When the war was over daddy passed the torch to my brothers and I..." he shakes his head and takes a shot "shit. Cant remember. Remember fightin just...the who's a little fucked up. Cant remember."

"No one's asking you to remember friend... Just to enjoy a quiet drink." Jack's fairly certain if Tex remembers too much, there might be trouble.

He nods though his expression says hes still trying to figure it out. He keeps repeating the word remember like it half sparked a memory but hes struggling. "Fuck. Fuck fuck. Fuck." He takes the shot and refills their glasses. He keeps looking at his left hand like it should remind him but it doesnt. Only thing odd about his hand is a slightly lighter band of skin on his finger where a wedding band used to be. But its not clicking. There are gaps in more than just his battles and its frustrating him.

Jack's a little worried. Change the subject. The lack of a wedding band. He notices a passing couple of young ladies. "Well don't they look fine, aye?" he says, trying to call Tex's attention to the girls outside.

His head snaps hard and his spine pops. He lets out a satisfied sigh like some great pain had been lifted. He eyes up the ladies and smirks. "Yep, some real beauties, dunno if id wanna keep em for more than one night though."

"What's that old saying about the brightest fires often burning the shortest lives?" Jack gives a half smile to mask his relief and thinking, it might be time to get out of here.

Tex shrugs "i dunno. Never put much stock in that sort of thing. I do know that one wont survive child birth." He points to the slimmer of the two who has narrow hips.

Jack bows his head. "Aye. Some don't. But that's the risk we always take, now isn't it?"

He laughs "nah thats a risk stupid men with no eye for genetics take. The risk we always take is when we go away to war that our home is still waiting when we get back."

"I suppose life is equal measures of risk and roulette..." Jack replies.

At the mention of roulette, tex flinches. "One bullet, 6 chambers, bullet makes a full rotation once every thirtieth of a second. One in 180 chance shooting yourself."

Jack arches an eyebrow. Crap. Had to go and say roulette, didn't I?

"One in 180 chance theres a bullet. Thousands of rounds misfire every year. Millions of rounds made every year. One in five hundred thousand the bullet in the chamber is a dud"

Jack's looking around for Tex's companions.Motions them over."Easy now Tex... let's not get too caught up on the details of matters.

The captain throws down his cards and comes over "everything alright?" They know better than to start something by spooking him with a second guy. Tex is rattling off numbers about guns and bullets misfiring. He sounds crazy. Brilliant but crazy. "Easy tex. I'm sure victoria wouldnt want you scaring people with what you saw."

Jack starts edging away. Backing off very slowly and carefully. No sudden movements. Picked a bad Saloon for a drink.

The captain and another soldier start arguing about the whole thing. "I told you letting him out in public was a bad idea." The private shouts "hes a god damn war hero. He deserves a little dignity and a fucking drink not to be locked up in some room like an animal." The captain snaps back and there is chaos among the four of them as they argue. Meanwhile tex took his exit because the screaming spooked him. Out of ear shot of the yelling he forgot why he was scared and stops to pet a horse.

Jack shakes his head. Grateful to be outside. He looks up at the sun. It's almost time to be getting to work. "Well, I guess this is good-bye, war hero," he says as untethers Wilson.

He looks at you funny for calling him a war hero but shrugs "adios amigo. Adios wilson." He says petting the horse's face again

Jack mounts Wilson. "Vaya con dios."

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PostSubject: Re: The Ballad of Jack Plisskin   Tue Jan 23, 2018 12:45 am

A man Jack had known only by reputation once opined that life was a tale told by an idiot, full of sound of fury yet signified nothing. As he rubbed his now marble smooth cheeks, Jack was starting to wonder if that idiot wasn’t him.

He had been riding since the previous afternoon after seeing to it that a barber had turned his dust caked crop of hair and spotty beard into something infinitely more respectable. He grimaced and heaved a sigh of resignation. The loss of what could be laughably called a beard made him look several years younger. Jack hoped he wouldn’t be mistaken for an east coast tender foot when he rolled into the ranch. It would be hard enough telling his story without the Steele household thinking he was nothing more than a greenhorn and asking if his mother knew where he was.

In truth, the long ride was giving doubt and apprehension ample opportunity to seep into his thoughts. His sigh turned into a stream of curses as he reigned up Wilson and took stock of his surroundings. That’s when an old, gnarled birch tree caught his eye. It was withered and bleached from the sun, and barely provided any shade. All in all it was as ugly as a one eyed whore.

But there was a reason Jack remembered it. He steered Wilson off the path and up a gentle slope to a hill that over looked a valley. Jack scanned the lands and let his eyes rest on an old abandoned farm house. “Can’t believe it’s still there…” he muttered as he turned and started up another hill. As he reached the crest, a familiar sight. “Still here… how long has it been Wilson?”

A sharp bbppllllshhhh! reminded Jack that he was far too young to be wistful and reminiscent.

Four graves stood and kept a silent vigil over the valley. Jack jumped off Wilson and addressed the graves. “Afternoon gentlemen,” he said calmly. “It’s been a while…”

The first time Jack came to this valley it was certainly a lot more crowded. Jack remembered riding into the valley on Wilson a couple of years back and seeing a crowd of twenty odd men milling about as a old and somewhat distinguished looking gentleman barked orders. “I don’t care who they are! I want them gone, y’all hear me!”

He was tall and slim. Some would have even called him handsome. Slicked back hair that was jet black with spots of white and grey, well trimmed moustache, expensive looking clothes, craggy face. He caught Jack’s attention with his powerful demeanour. Whoever this guy was, he was used to giving orders and having people follow them.

If that was the last of it, Jack might have been on his ways, but one of the men spoke up, saying something that caught his attention. “I am sorry, Mr. Bishop, but it’s those four from Yaeger’s Mounted Rifles. They’re holding up something fierce and ain’t going anywhere any time soon.”

“I’ll not be ruined by some damned left overs from the war!” Mr. Bishop bellowed. “In case the rest of you are all as stupid as you look, the war is over, so send these gentlemen on their way.”

Yaeger’s Mounted Rifles? Jack grinned. That was his father’s old unit. He rode up amid the grumbling and complaints of the gathered men. “Scuse me, Mr. Bishop?” he addressed the man in the nice suit.

Mr. Bishop turned and eyed Jack. His impatience dissolved when he noticed the scoped rifle and single action army within Jack’s reach. “Good afternoon, sir,” he said with a smile. “But I am afraid you have me at an disadvantage.”

“Jack Pliskin,” he answered. “Seems to me you’ve netted yourself a heap of trouble.”

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” he jerked his head to the valley. “See that river down there? She flows down through those mountains and brings a little bit of gold with her.”

Jack whistled. “That right?”

“I bought this land fair and honest and at quiet a bargain I might add,” Bishop added with a wink. “I’d have doubled my fortune by now mining the gold in the hills but I have hit a bit of a snag.”

Jack nodded. “So I heard. Something about Yaeger’s Mounted Rifles?”

“Four of them…” Bishop turned rolled his head. A southern sounding gentlemen, the Bishop didn’t seem quiet as old as his steady voice and calm manner betrayed. There was a french word for men like Bishop. Entrepeneur. “They are dead set against me starting up mining operations here.”

“Odd thing for them to do,” Jack nodded.

Bishop eyed Jack up and down. “Young man, how would you like to make a good pile of money?”

Bishop’s intent was easy to read. “My good sir… ain’t this a matter best left to the local authorities?”

“It would be, but the local authorities are slower than a half drunk bear. I’d be bogged down in so much litigation just to have my taxes put to use. And I really need this matter resolved rather quickly. Besides,” he added with a wink. “You strike me as the kind of man who’s life has a tendency to run a foul of the law. These men are committing crimes by attacking me and my workers and preventing me from starting up my operation.”

Jack made a show of mulling over Bishop’s offer, but his heart and mind already told him that there was no way he would be walking away from this. He gave it moment before nodding silently. Bishop told him of a farm house in the valley that was abandoned. Apparently, Yaeger’s Four were making it their residence. Jack grinned and promised that he would see to them before setting off.

Yeager’s Mounted Rifles were good at what they did in the war. At the crest of the hill, Jack unslung the rifle and pulled the scope up as he crouched in the cover of a thorn bush.

There’s only one way in or out of this valley, which makes it pretty easy to defend. If I was set up with only four soldiers and limited supplies, I’d set a choke point right around… He traced the path with the scope of his rifle and, sure enough, in the cover of a cluster of rocks was a man, perhaps in his mid thirties, clutching a single action of his own.

Jack grinned even as the barrel of another six shooter pressed into the small of his back. “Easy friend, I was just taking a look.”

A gruff voice barked back. “With a rifle scope?”

“If I wanted you men dead,” Jack replied “your friend down there would be riddled with holes by now. And you wouldn’t know were they had come from.”

“Cocky asshole, ain’t ya?”

Jack turned over, his hands up. “Not as cocky as Yaeger’s Mounted Rifles, the best damned force in the Union.”

“Damn, don’t you look like the spitting image of man I once knew,” the soldier was around Jack’s father age.. or at least how old his father would have been. “Alright, son, why are you here?”

Jack stood up. “A man named Bishop has a powerful urge to see you gone.”

The soldier spat and motioned Jack to follow him into the valley. “And I reckon Bishop told you we were stopping a legit business venture?”

“He did say something along those lines…” Jack picked his way into the valley, following the soldier. They made their way down into the valley and across the river to the farm house, which, for supposedly being abandoned, looked in remarkably good shape.

As if to send another thorn into the foot of Bishop’s story, the soldier raised his fingers to his lips and blew a sharp whistle. “Marge! We got a guest!”

A young woman with fair skin and red hair stepped out into the sun light. Her face was smudged and her hands were those of one who was accustomed to working in fields. Jack eyed a strong looking fenced and guessed it was likely Marge’s handiwork. “Well then tell this one he’d better be willing to work for his supper!” She arched an eyebrow at him.

Jack tipped his hat. “Miss,” he greeted her.

“So Sam, who’s this one?” she asked the soldier.

Sam smiled. “Looks like Bishop hired him to convince you to leave.”

Marge’s face twisted in rage and disgust. Jack nodded her head. “I take it that Bishop’s claim over this land isn’t entirely legitimate?”

“That’s one way of putting it,” Sam answered.

Marge stepped off the porch of the farm house. “That cock sucking bastard says he bought this land from the bank, but what he fails to tell everyone is that the will clearly states the land belongs to me! And I have that will to prove it.” She arched her arm and swept around her. “My grand father owned this entire valley. He purchased it after a life time of work and raised seven children here, my father being one of them. And the land around here came to me three years ago.”

The full story finally fell into place. Marge had no ring on her finger and Jack wondered if she had turned down an offer from Bishop and in turn Bishop had bribed some official to cook up a fake deed or if even the southern business man’s story of buying the land was a complete lie. It would explain why Bishop wasn’t interested in talking to the authorities.

“Well, that explains why Miss Marge is here, but what about the four of you?” Jack asked Sam.

The old soldier smiled. “I owed Marge’s dad a favour. When the war ended, it seemed like there wasn’t a place for me and my boys. So we came here. Sure enough, trouble came along too…”

“So aside from the one up on the ridge…” Jack counted on his fingers.

“Jim,” Sam said.

“There’s you and?”

“Oh Henry and Luke are making rounds through the valley. You aren’t the first son of a bitch Bishop hired to deal with us.”

“But I might be the last,” Jack replied. “Mr. Bishop is getting impatient. He’s got at least twenty men over that ridge and it don’t look like they’re going to ask you to leave politely.”

Sam whistled again. “Twenty, huh.”

Marge cracked her knuckles. “I’ll chop of each and every one of their balls before I let them set foot in my house. My family was born and raised here. I ain’t leavin’”

Jack scowled. “Then that puts you on a fool’s errand. What’s so important about a house and a stretch of land.”

His father once told Jack that it was better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt. As Marge nearly pulled him off his feet by the collar of his jacket, Jack understood why. “I don’t think you understand my position, sir…” she said through gritted teeth. 

“I believe I am starting to…” Jack replied.

Sam raised both his hands. “Now, Miss Marge, you can’t expect this wondering soul to give so much. This ain’t his fight.”

Jack shook his head. “It ain’t that I am unwilling to help, I’m just saying, you’ve got the odds stacked against you.”

“That just makes it more interesting,” Sam grinned. “So you sticking around?”

“I suppose I am.”

The soldier laughed. “So how about you set him down, Marge and fix him some supper?”

It was night fall by the time Jack had met Henry, Luke and Jim and heard their stories. Four soldiers who, like his father, found life outside the war a heavier burden than they could have imagined. The rest of the West had thrown these men to the winds, discarded and abandoned. But here, they found a home and the desire to protect it.

Jack and Sam drew up the plan. Simple enough, make it look like the four were being driven out and into Bishop’s waiting men, only to flank and ambush them. Jack had taken a good look at the men Bishop had hired. Not one of them was a trained soldier. Most of them probably had never heard a gun shot and, with any luck, they would rabbit after a few shots had been fired. But just in case they weren’t so easily scared, the four were armed and ready.

Sam gave a quick prayer before they set off. Sam, Henry, Luke and Jim all started up the path while Jack and Marge stole through the hills. Jack had leant Marge his single action. “It’s only got six shots, so make them count.”

Marge narrowed her eyes. “Don’t you worry. I’ve had to fight every inch for my home. I’m not about to give only half measures now.”

Jack nodded. “I believe I owe you an apology, Miss Marge,” he said to her. “I know what it’s like to have to fight tooth and nail for family and home… and what it’s like to loose a father.”

She gave him a long look. “You know Yeager’s Mounted Rifles, don’t you?”

“I do… My father fought in that very same company during the war. He gave everything he had to this country… only for men like Bishop to spit on him and forget everything that was sacrificed. I guess you could say I’m looking to make sense of everything that’s happened…”

Marge nodded. “I was thinking the same thing when my father died. Then I saw that he had left me the home stead. I figured, if I could keep that home standing, maybe some kind of meaning would come of it,” she laughed. “But instead, I got four soldiers, a crook and you… Jack Plisskin.”

Jack peered through his scope when they reached the top of the hill. Bishop’s men were gathered around camp fires, looking bored and trading curses. Sam and the boys were close at hand, being lead by one of men Bishop had hired. “Mr. Bishop certainly is a skin flint. I doubt any his men have seen a decent pay day by the looks of them.”

“Doesn’t surprise me,” Marge hissed. “He’s the living, breathing word ‘miser.’”

The soldiers were eventually lead to the middle of the camp. Jack could see a grin through the scope and in one swift movement, an ear splitting whistle breached the quiet of the night. Jack open fired and Marge sent a couple of shots of her own into the camp.

Three shots and three men fell dead. Sam and his soldiers drew their guns and fired into the men. As several more fell, the rest began to run into the night. Jack grinned as Marge sent a few more shots and shouted that if they ever came back, they’d get a lot worse.

Jack and Marge joined Sam and the rest but while Marge and the boys were in high spirits, Jack noticed Sam’s grim set expression. “I don’t suppose you saw Mr. Bishop in all that?” Jack asked him.

“Nope,” Sam shook his head. “And that bothers me. One of those men said that is was good we came out when we did. Mr. Bishop apparently had something in store for us.”

Jack was about to ask what when a roar tore asunder the night sky, lighting it up with flashes of light and a hail of bullets. Jack and the rest hit the dirt, Sam covering Marge with his body. Mr. Bishop stood at the end of the path. “Well, sirs! I wasn’t expecting you to come out willingly but, now that you have, you have saved me the trouble of hunting you down!”

Jack looked up and caught his breath. He had heard about them but this was the first time he saw one. A long barrel mounted on two wheels. Belt fed. Crank shaft.

A gatling gun.

“Where the hell did you find a gatling gun, Bishop!” Sam demanded.

“I’ll have you know I procured it through honest channels… well, MY honest channels! How on earth did you imagined I got my wealth? I am no mere prospector, boy!”

Jack hissed out a curse. Bishop wasn’t after the valley for the gold or even the farm land. That valley connected to a highway but it was seldom trafficked by the local authorities. It was secluded and easy to defend. The perfect hiding place for an arms dealer.

The gatling gun roared again and tore up the earth around them. Sam turned his head. “Hey, Jack. Do you reckon you sneak up on that bastard and put a bullet in him?”

Amid the cacophony of the gatling gun, Jack nodded. He locked eyes with Sam and saw the look of a man who knew he was in a battle he wasn’t going to walk away from. The look said everything.

Bishop laughed. “I honestly do not know why you boys didn’t take me up on my offer! I think it be clear that money is the real equalizer in the world, not a six shooter!”

Sam looked up and smiled. “Yeager’s Mounted Rifles! CHARGE!”

Jack fired two shots from his rifles as Sam lead the last charge of Yeager’s Mounted Rifles, guns blazing and wild whoops on their lips. Bishop turned the gatling gun on them the full fury of mechanized weaponry bore down on them, cutting them down.

First Luke and Henry fell…

…then Jim.

Sam ducked, dodged and weaved, firing his pistol. But it wasn’t long before he was shot down, Bishop laughing, giddy as a boy at a birthday party. “See boys?” he barked into the night. “One gatling gun is worth far more than a bunch of old, worn out soldiers who forgot to die in the war!”

Bishop whirled the gatling gun around, ready to meet the same fate to Jack…

But the gatling gun fell silent. Bishop paled as he looked down. The crank shaft was broken, shattered in several places. Jack snarled. “You really are an idiot, Bishop. Sam made his shots count and destroyed your precious gatling gun while you were busy wasting ammo in the dirt.”

Jack took his steps, slow and deliberate, toward Bishop, his single action in his hand. “Four soldiers beat your gatling gun, Bishop,” he growled, levelling the single action army square between Bishop’s eyes. “If you’re going to beg, Bishop, why don’t you pray to that gatling gun you worship?!”

Jack pulled the trigger only to be met with a soft click. He cursed into the night sky. Marge had used up all the shots. “Fuck my life!” He twirled the gun in his hand and brought it down hard across Bishop’s temple.

By the time the sun rose over the valley, four graves stood on the hill that over looked the valley. Jack leaned heavily on the shovel as he finished a prayer. It wasn’t anything specific, and to be honest, Jack wasn’t sure if anyone was listening. But, he was wrong.

Marge walked up behind him, slow and purposeful, leading Wilson and a horse of her own, laden with a few bags. Jack glanced over his shoulder. “You sure you want to leave?”

She nodded. “I wanted to get away from the madness of this country… but it followed me even out here… And I can’t look at this place without being reminded of Sam and Henry and….” she shook, tears welling in her eyes.

Marge stood next to him. Jack wanted to ask what she had down with Bishop, but he kept his tongue still. “Hey, Jack?” she asked. “Is there any sense to be made in all this?” She turned to him, her face red. “They didn’t die for nothing, right?”

Jack bowed his head. The last time he had heard that very question, he was asking it as his father died a slow death in his home. And so he spoke the words he needed to hear. “No. They didn’t die for nothing. They knew what they were doing. And I know they had no regrets. So remember them. And remember that, as long as there are men like them, to be an example… and as long as there are folk like you, who are grateful for the sacrifices men like them make, there will be some sense made of this world.”

“Men like Bishop are poison to this country… but folk like Sam, Henry, Jim and Luke… and you are the antidote,” Jack finished, leading her to her horse and helping her into the saddle.

Marge nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Pliskin… for everything.” She turned and took one last look into the valley. “Guess I best say good-bye.”

“We parted ways after we got back to the road,” Jack said to the four graves. “It’s been a while, but I got myself right back into a mess of trouble.” Jack looked up into the sky, the words he had said to Marge ringing in his head.

Jack turned around and jumped up on Wilson. “And if I am to live with myself… if I am to make your deaths mean anything, I had best get a move on sorting out that mess.” He turned. “Thank you, sirs. I needed a good talk.”

With a flick of Wilson’s reigns, Jack rode off.

The antidote to the tyranny of men like Bishop and those behind the mess that was the Texas Steele affair was the courage of men like Sam, Henry, Jim and Luke. The conviction and honesty of people like Marge was what made this world worth living in.

But all of that could undone if the wrong kind of man got too much power, or if atrocities and wrongs darker than death or night went unpunished. And Jack was not going to let that happen. He owed it to Sam and Marge, his father and mother Henry, Jim and Luke and the people who died so Texas could walk free.

Maybe he was a fool who had not but sound and fury that signified nothing. Or maybe there was something far more important to all of this. Something that couldn’t be allowed to just disappear.
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