This is a continuation of my Revenge of the Strong story.
John Strongburg grunted in frustration as he went through the empty town. The shiny star pinned to his chest, gleaming in the light.
It had taken almost a year to return to this place, a place eviler than most he'd been in. An evil that clawed at him and justice as he tried to destroy it.
He had the name of the main money man, though so far, that hadn't panned out. John could see the hole in the wall that had been left when a fool thought to test him, unsuccessfully. There were of course more than a few more, proof that the man Tom Greely had done a few more transactions.
Growling a bit, John knew that this man's brand of business was going to more than prosper in the badlands. Turning the tall, hard, blonde man pushed through the doors. With a quick survey of what was left of the town, John mounted up. He turned toward deeper into the badlands, John had no news of a man with Greely's description leaving the badlands, so deeper he'd go.
There were tracks everywhere, though none that even appeared to be recent. He could still hear the conversation he'd had with Captain Harry Ransom when he'd barged into the Ranger office.
"Who in the hell are you?" John asked staring at the man behind the desk. "Where in the hell is "coffee" Hays?"
The man behind the desk raised a hand to stay the guns of the men in the office.
"E'fore I answer that, mind telling me just who in the hell you are son?" Ransom asked.
"John Strongburg, former Texas Ranger, retired." John stated, his hands never leaving the butts of his pistols as he eyed the other rangers in the office.
There were several gasps as ALL the men in the room slowly removed their hands from their revolvers.
"So, what can the Ranger service do for you?" Ransom said though he sensed he already knew the answer.
"I've a human varmint to go after, I'd like to with the law on my side, though as a private citizen, I could also. If I go as a citizen, it could get, VERY messy." John hissed.
Ransom breathed a sigh of relief, good thing all the men here were so well trained. John could have decimated the room quite easily.
"I see," Ransom responded, "got a name?"
"Tom Greely, real piece of work, enslaving free citizens, selling good wives to prostitution. In general, breaking a hell of a lot of laws, some of humanity." John replied.
Ransom's eyes were wide at the list of charges John stated. "OH? What proof?"
Never taking a hand off his colt revolvers, John slowly lowered the kerchief around his neck. This of course had a few of the men gagging the others gasping.
"This was the first, attempted murder when they failed to hang me." Though it had been almost year, there was still a highly distinctive thick line around John's neck. "As for the others," here John produced more than a dozen affidavits sworn and signed by several judges. "As you can see one of them is my wife. THOSE bastards have already met justice."
Damn Ransom thought, this man is more than prepared. Reaching behind him, Ransom opened a safe, removing a small case. Opening the case, Ransom removed a five-pointed star surrounded by a circle. Ransom turned it over seeing the initials JS on the back.
"I was advised, when I assumed this position, by "coffee" Hays, that you might return. I was also advised that you wouldn't need to take an oath again. Takes a hell o' a lot to earn respect like that. I have read the case, seemed pretty clear to me." Ransom said as he handed John his old Ranger star.
John nodded with a grimace knowing what was next. "I know, I am to uphold the law, unless that means blasting the shit out of them." John peered close at Ransom, "I got no problem with it."
That had been more than a few months ago. John didn't have the resources that the Rangers did. If the main money man was out there they could narrow down a hell of a lot more than he could.
So here he was heading even deeper into the badlands. It was the only logical thing John could see. Smirking John thought yeah right, he'd done the only logical thing he could see to do with his wife. She of course had quickly corrected him of his mistake. Then again hers was wasn't the worst way.
It was a few hours later that John, came upon the box canyon where everything had reached a head. Slowing John looked for all the signs he could, though he saw nothing, it still didn't feel right. Changing direction, John went around to the place he'd climbed the walls before.
Reaching the top he quickly surveyed the area, again he saw nothing, still it felt wrong, all too quiet. Keeping low John decided to wait for dark, perhaps by then he'd have better of an idea.
John crept slowly down the face of the slanting cliff. All this time he'd still not seen nor heard anyone or thing. They were there John could feel them, it almost felt like the games he and several children of the Kiowa, Apache, hell even a few Comanchee had played with him.
Actually, John cocked his head to the side, it WAS EXACTLY like it had been all those years ago. Thinking a moment, John whispered, "hite! dekee! pabi!"
He waited a moment before there was slight movement towards him. Repeating the three words, all three were returned, then several warriors appeared before John. Standing John greeted them all, which astonished them.
Three broke to sit with John asking his story which John quickly gave. Then he asked why they were there. They told him that a large oily, large white man had gave them much of the white man's money to wait and kill another white man who would come hunting. They all laughed when they saw that John was as good as they were.
After they told John where the man had headed, John sent them home thanking them for what they had done.
John then resumed his journey even deeper into the badlands. The last few miles he guessed were too close to the border for the criminals to feel safe.
A small, cruel smile came to John's lips, they would never be safe, not as long as he had a say in it. Though he pretty much knew where he was going, John still kept his eyes on the trail. There wasn't much spoor, though the non-human kind wasn't of interest at the moment.
He'd put out feelers, trying to get any inkling as to where the man Greely had moved his operation. What he'd done to the man's organization obviously had a great many scared. Then again, they couldn't have known that he was an ex-Ranger, a small smile again crossed John's lips. He had made sure they suffered before they died, after all he hadn't killed them, just helped.
It was going to be a while before he got close, slowing his pace he settled in for the next few hours.
It was another 3 days later when John, came across a man staked out in the middle of a field. Riding closer John could see that the man had been dead for quite some time. Getting as close as he could John could see that the vultures and insects had already stripped away most of the flesh.
John was about to try and cut what was left loose when he saw the telltale signs from the execution. Yeah, he thought, they had tried pretty hard to make this look like it had been one of the tribes. John shook his head; they were good though to a trained eye? They were rank amateurs.
John stood then slowly withdrew, this wasn't that fresh though, he had a feeling that, it was still being watched.
As calmly as he could, John mounted up riding in the opposite direction, as to what he'd been riding in. They would probably follow him. actually, he hoped so, this getting nothing done was starting to grate on his nerves. Looking around John was glad as soon as he hit the forest, though not thick it would do.
It was starting to grow dark when John finally stopped to make camp. A small smile came to his lips, he could feel no less than three out there, though John suspected more.
A few hours later the fire was low when three men crept into the camp. A wicked smile on each man's mouth as they drew closer to the apparent sleeping figure by the fire. The lead man grinned evilly when, he put his pistol to what appeared to be the sleeping figure's head. Without hesitation he pulled the trigger.
All three men whooped and hollered, then they all stopped to search the figures clothes and saddle bags.
They were 'til, they heard the double click of two revolver hammers being drawn back.
"Ain't nice to ambush a man when, he's not given you a problem that you had to. Now, afore I plug all three of ya, I suggest you lower them holsters real easy like." The lead man his back to the voice, dropped while spinning and drawing. His eyes were wide in surprise when the pistol was shot from his hand. The tall, blonde, hard looking man's hand tightened on his colt. "Again, an' you're dead."
This had both of the men on the other side of the camp, immediately dropping their gun belts. "Ah! I see that all of us here ain't completely stupid." The blonde man said as he fired another shot at the leader. Reaching behind him the man threw a rope to the other two men. "Tie 'em up afore he's dead, though he keeps this up? I just might assist him."
As soon as the leader was tied, the man knocked both of the other men out. Stripping all three naked the man sat waiting.
All three jerked awake a few hours later, thing was something wasn't right. All three started to yell finding that they had gags over their mouths.
"Ah good! Now I'm going to ask you questions, answer, things will go good for you. Refuse? Well, I've never been known for my patience." Removing all their gags he asked, "who sent you? Was I your target or were you just after all that came there?"
The leader opened his mouth, "go to hell ya bastard! Ya ain't gonna get shit from..." A loud howl of pain erupted from his mouth as a shot sounded. The other two could only stare, the blonde man had shot a toe off the leader.
"Now then, I am going to ask nicely, as I said before I was rudely interrupted. Were you sent or just there to keep all away?" The blonde man asked.
Both of the other two men had started to talk when the leader started to shout. "Shut the hell up I'll kill..." Again, a shot rang out as this time a finger was blown off the leader's hand.
The man tsked as he got in the leader's face, "my, my too stupid to realize that you are a dead man."
"Yeah? If I am a dead man how come I's still breathing, you're all..." the leader said before there were two more shots that caused the leader to scream continually for a few moments.
The man turned to the other two, "now then, I am looking for a rather large man. Lots o' money had an operation a few days east of here. I was told he's now operating not far from here. The man owes me quite a bit, so I've come ta collect."
The blonde man just nodded as both men started to babble about what little they knew. The blonde man knew almost all of what they had to tell. When they finished the leader started to laugh.
"Told ya, no one knows much, only a few do, an' we're no talking." The leader said somewhat weakly. Though he wasn't bleeding bad the pain was making it hard to stay conscious.
The blonde man nodded as he drew close to the leader, "you know there are a lot of VERY unpleasant ways to die. Though in the case of the previous leader of the whore operation, I made sure."
"Ha! What do you know of it? When they found him, there were no tracks or anything. Had a been we'd have recovered them whores with no problem." The leader said.
"I know, I cut his sex off him, stuffed it in his sick mouth. Had I time, I might have tied him for the stallions to mount, though there wasn't." Looking at their leader, the blonde man continued, "I might if there is time, to you, got no bones 'bout it. I saw that you were happy to kill me, think I ought to return the favor, don't you?"
This of course had the leader struggling even harder, "you smell of law man, you wouldn't dare."
The blonde man smiled wickedly as he slowly removed the bandana from around his neck. "I owe that THING and all associated with him. Since you obviously work for him, then YOU have a problem. They tried to hang me, then left, their first and last mistake. So, law man or not I will finish this, 'sides I am well within rights to kill all 'o you."
The leader's eyes were wide a moment, then they narrowed looking hard at the blonde man. "Heard a story 'bout a hick farmer, they taught 'em a lesson, took his whore to train. So, they were sloppy, so what! Let me loose I'll make sure you're..." This was the last that the leader spoke, the tall blonde man had removed a rather large, wicked looking skinning knife. With one quick slice, the leader's genitals were removed then stuffed in his mouth.
"So, since you were cooperative, I'm going to let you go." Pulling his other revolver, the blonde man shot the first of the two between the eyes.
"I thought you were going to let us go!" The second man cried.
"I am," the blonde man said, then shot the second between the eyes. Spitting on the both of the bodies he said, "there you're free now."
Mounting up, the man left all three as they were, no sense depriving the varmints he thought. Riding out, the man looked at the other three bodies that he'd left, dispatched when they had followed behind the first three.
He figured it was at least another two days to the place, where they had said that the new operation was. A wicked smile on his lips he was itching to find the rest of them. Perhaps, after they were finished, he could finally really retire.
He set an easy pace as he rode far deeper into the badlands than he ever had. With hardly a glance at the staked-out man, the blonde man rode leisurely on.
Though the man appeared to be calm as he rode, every nerve and muscle was on edge. He knew that the closer he got the more chance he had in encountering more, hired help.
Toward the end of the second day, the man topped a rise seeing a rather seedy, ram shackle town. Looking it over, the man was trying to decide if this was the place or not. The shouts of several women garnered his attention.
With a nod of his head, the man rode on, well aware of more than ten pairs of eyes that were watching him. Dismounting in front of the saloon, the man took a deep breath as he slowly stepped inside.
A quick look around revealed that this place was on par with the last, though he had to admit the stink in here was far worse than the last. A table near the door had him sitting, observing all that were in the room.
Yup, at least twenty men, all with quick draw holsters. They had all the low scum they could get; problem was some of them really were that fast. No, this was going to take all of his reserve to stomach this place and all the lowlifes here.
A glass of rot-gut whiskey appeared before him, "compliments of the house." The bartender stated. Leaning closer he whispered, "drink up then leave, got a better chance of living 'ifen' ya do."
The man thumbed the glass with a small smile, "I'll take my chances, looking for work any here?"
This made the bartender's head snap back, "I warned ya."
"So," came a loud man's voice. "Ya be lookin' fo work. Might as ride on, nothin here stranger. Sides," here the blonde man heard the hammer of a revolver being cocked. "We no like strangers here, 'specially when they go askin' a lot o' question. So why don' ya be a good boy, finish your drink an' go?"
"Well," the blonde man started as his hand tightened on his own revolver. "Didn't see harm in looking fo work."
"See?" The man, who the blonde man could see, now he was turned that way said. "That there is two questions, a hell of a lot more than we allow."
The blonde man had already sized up the six men that seemed to backing the first man up. Moving his other hand near the edge of the table slowly, the man felt ready. This fool was going to draw, the two closest to him would also, the other four appeared to be shaking far harder than he thought they would.
"Hey I gots a good idea," the first man said leering at the blonde man. How 'bout you ease them peace makers out nice and ..." It was at that moment that three shots rang out.
The blonde man moved far faster than anyone thought he could, the first man was on the floor, screaming holding his hand. The other two, were close to him also holding their hands, their pistols shot out of them.
More than a few of the men at the bar moved toward the door. The blonde man had hardly moved, though there was smoke coming from his revolver under the table.
"I suggest that anyone else wants to try, get it over with. Ain't got time to waste on small fry." The blond man said. The first man started to say something, then quickly quieted when the blonde man placed a barrel against his head. "Thought we knew you weren't to talk anymore."
The blonde heard several phrases like holy shit, did you see him move though his favorite was I ain't taking him on.
"Now then," the blonde man said low and menacing, " I think it is you who should be a good boy and leave. Otherwise I am afraid you're just another corpse." The blonde man watched as the first man wet the floor and his pants.
"Mister, the head man ain't gonna like his top men being put out." The bartender stated from behind the bar where he'd moved.
The blonde man turned toward him with a sneer. "They shouldn't 'ave been so mouthy. I ought to kill them, instead I'll let their boss take care of them."
The bartender looked at the three men then back to the blonde man. "That's an idea though, he might come after you more for not finishing them. He's like that, they failed, then you failed, double trouble."
The blonde man thought a moment, looked at the bartender, nodded then shot all three men. Tossing the bartender, a silver dollar, the man re-took his seat. Most of the patrons returned though kept their distance from the blonde man near the double doors.
It was another hour before four hard looking, dusty men came through the door. Looking at the three bodies the obvious leader shook his head. Turning toward the blonde man at the table, the leader asked, "heard you needed a job." The blonde man nodded, "as it is now, we have a few positions open. You appear to be far smarter than these three, though around here? That ain't too hard."
The blonde looked at the bodies then nodded. "I just hope that there ain't too many more at the job. I'd hate to deplete too many men 'efore we got going good."
The leader was nodding as he looked the blonde man over. The man was far smarter than he let on, they'd have to watch him that was for sure.
"Alright, we move out in an hour, need to rest our mounts 'efore we head back." The leader said as he continued to watch the blonde man.
The three men then turned going back outside. The blonde man sat there sizing up the rest of the men in the saloon. Wouldn't do to have them gun him down as he was leaving.
It was almost an exact hour later when; the blonde man arose heading out to where the other four were.
As he approached the men, he saw that the other two from the saloon had already joined them. "Let's get saddled up, got a job tomorrow. Head man don't like to be kept waiting."
The blonde man only nodded as he settled into his saddle, a small smile on his lips. Now we might be able to get something done.