We are close. So very close. It’s just a matter what stamina I have giving it a good read through so the typo monster doesn’t rear its ugly head with this one. Now I’m questioning the meaning of all words due to editing so much lately. Oh my…
The Legend of Little Sharpshooter– first chapter
“Randy!” Pa pounded on the bed with his foot. “Randy, that horse a’ yours is gonna break that door down again if you don’t get up and feed him. You’re fixin’ it this time if he breaks it.”
Randy sat bolt upright in her bed and pushed the brown mop of hair out of her eyes.
She could hear it. The Bang … Bang … Bang … of Al trying to kick down the door of his stall. There was very little wood left to reattach it to if he did it again.
Randy shoved her feet into her boots and didn’t have time to tie them. She ran through the hall then out the back door to the barn, running past the water pump. Water would have to wait until she told him good morning. He was more impatient than usual. No wonder. It was only morning and sweat beads were already forming on her forehead.
The barn door was already wide open. Pa had taken care of the other horses, Senora the cow, and the chickens. Pa would have nothing to do with Al because Al would have nothing to do with Pa.
“Good morning, Al-Hayibe!” Randy shouted as she grabbed an armful of hay.
Al stuck his head over the stall door and whinnied his morning greeting to her.
“Yes, I overslept and you’re one spoiled horse.” Randy rubbed the star in between his eyes, the only patch of white on the dappled grey Arabian. She was proud of her outstanding horse and his graceful look. With his perfect wedge-shaped head, dark grey mane, and long, delicate looking legs. Randy had never seen a horse that compared to him at the auctions in town. His breed wasn’t typically seen in the New Mexico territory.
Al-Hayibe meant “gift” in Arabian, and that was what Al was after Pa brought in the cattle rustlers that stole cattle from one of the biggest ranches in Texas. It was the last official job Pa did as a Texas Ranger. Part of his payment was the beautiful gelding. What they forgot to mention was Al-Hayibe had been gelded after he was deemed unfit for breeding because of his temperament. When Pa brought him home, he didn’t think the horse was a gift, more like the devil in a stunning horse disguise. Pa refused to call the horse by his full name. He was only called Al after that.
Randy brushed his sleek coat until it glistened, making his dappled coat look like sunlight reflecting off water. It had been three years since Al was brought home when Randy was thirteen. It had taken Randy months to earn Al’s trust behind her pa’s back. Al’s appearance definitely put the other horses and Randy’s pony to shame. Pa grumbled all the time that he hoped horse thieves might run off with such a useless horse. But no one would be able to steal him even if they wanted to that badly. Al only let Randy touch him, feed him, and lead him around. Sometimes that was only when Al felt like it. Randy had been sick the entire week and Al had broken the stall door down more than once.
“Let’s go find some carrots.” Randy opened the crooked stall door, and he followed her like a pup. She carried a bucket to the waterspout and pumped the handle until water gushed into the bucket. Al was already drawing in long drinks. That gave Randy a minute to run to the vegetable garden before he followed her in the fence to have his fill. She pulled up two carrots that were not very impressive, but they would have to do. After she ran them through the water, she teased Al with the greens so he would follow her back willingly into the barn. She wanted to go on a ride since she hadn’t been on one in almost a week.
In the barn, she dangled the carrots in front of his face so he would let her put the bridle on. He flung his head up in the air and whinnied.
“Easy,” Randy tried to bribe him again but he pushed her back with his muzzle until she backed into the wall “What is it?”
Randy jumped and so did Al when several gunshots went off. She instinctively knew what to do, but it didn’t stop her heart from racing. In fact it climbed into a place it didn’t belong and she had to swallow hard. She kicked off her boots, climbing up the slats on the wall of the stall to Al’s bare back.
She had played this game with Pa all the time. But with Al’s warning, it couldn’t be a game. It must be the real thing. Al knew the game too as he slowly stepped out of the barn. When she saw it was clear, she squeezed his sides with her heels. She didn’t need reins as he trotted up the side of the house. Randy held his mane to maneuver so she could stand. He shifted his weight slightly.
“Steady,” Randy whispered. She placed her bare feet on Al’s back and curled her toes to hold on while she stood. Using the wall for balance, she tried not to get splinters from the sun-baked wood. She had to crouch as she moved the piece of wood that covered the hole in the eave. She hated the attic with its spiders, mice, rats and their nests, not to mention it was dusty and dark. All the things she hated, but she heaved her body up onto the wood planks her pa had placed there for this game. She clicked her tongue to signal Al to run off. She heard men talking as they roamed around in the house. She froze.
“You think he’s alone out here?”
“I dunno. That’s what we’re doin’ is checkin.”
“Well, ya gonna let him suffer?”
“Until we figure out if he has family here. We’ll let him watch us kill ‘em and then we finish him off. Ha! And looky here. A bed for one. And are these some girly clothes lyin’ here?”
On her hands and knees on the wood plank across the beams, she didn’t move. The men were in the room right below her. Her room. Some light came through the wood slat ceiling. She could tell when they moved. She squeezed her eyes shut. That was the shirt she didn’t bother to put on. She ran out in a camisole and her long bloomers. Exhaling slowly, she tried to move to safety in the middle of the house. Strips of heavy metal made a bullet proof platform in the center, placed over a large closet they wouldn’t find access to. She moved her weight to one knee and the opposite hand. The board creaked and she froze. The two she heard below her laughed and snickered over something else they found.
“How old do ya think she is?” one of them said.
“Old enough. Let’s check the barn.” They left her room.
Randy moved up the board. It squeaked on the beam. She stopped. When she heard the click, she launched forward the rest of the way to safety as they fired through the roof. Searing pain shot through her leg before she made it to the metal. She bit down hard on her lip to stifle a cry of agony and held her leg.
The gunshots flushed out a couple large rats that scampered across the ceiling. The men kept firing until they had no shots left. Shafts of light appeared where bullets went through the roof. They reloaded and fired off several more times. Randy turned away when one of the rats was shot to pieces.
“What was that? Rats or a cat? I’m sure it ain’t the girl. Come on,” one said.
Randy had a stash of items on the steel around her. She felt around until she found her knife. Trembling uncontrollably, she cut the leg off of the bloomer above her gunshot wound. It was bleeding pretty heavily. She was lightheaded as she cut off the other bloomer leg. She used one to tie around her leg below the knee and the other was wrapped around the wound. Her calf was too bloody to tell if it went all the way through. The pain was worse than anything she had ever felt in her life.
Randy was frustrated that she couldn’t stop shaking, but she needed to scare the men off. Before she fell sick, she had been doing target practice from the attic through the little hinged doors her pa made in the roof. A double barrel shotgun, a Winchester rifle, and her Colt revolver with the Mother of Pearl grip rested on the metal beside her. Pa made her earn them by learning to shoot well and they were all hers. The revolver was her favorite. She named it Pearl. She loaded each one and listened for the location of the men. They were walking along the back side of the house.
“Should we burn the house?”
“No, fool. That would draw attention out here and could start a wildfire with all this sagebrush. No. He could be there for days before anyone finds him. Just leave it. That kid has to be here somewhere.”
“Ya think she’s at school?”
Randy knew right where they were, but bearing weight on her injured leg would be awful. They more than likely shot her pa and he was possibly dead. The fury boiled up inside her. That was why he played games with her. Pa knew the outlaws would find them. He made his share of enemies as a Texas Ranger and lawman for hire.
They wouldn’t win, though. Wiping tears from her eyes, Randy let the rage drown out her pain. She propped up the hinged door on the roof so she could see them clearly. They wouldn’t spot her right away. Placing Pearl in her waistband, she readied the shotgun. She breathed slowly and deeply to control her trembling hands to steady her gun. Before they knew she was aiming for them, she shot at the ground. Dirt flew up at their feet.
They reached for their gun holsters. With her revolver, she fired twice, shooting at their grips before they knew where she was firing from. Randy cringed as they both screamed in pain. She must have hit their hands. They scurried for the guns they dropped. She fired at the ground between them and their revolvers. They backed away before running around the corner. Randy crouched down to grab the rifle. She propped open the door in the roof on the front side of the house, pointing the rifle at the men. They scrambled onto their horses and rode off screaming curses as they went. She wasn’t going to play God and kill them. Randy didn’t have a sure shot and there was no way she was going to shoot and hit a horse by accident. The horse didn’t do anything wrong.
Her pa was on the ground in front of the wagon he’d spent the past two days fixing. Dark red pooled around him covering what had been dull yellow dirt. She was sick to her stomach until she saw him move.
“Pa!” Randy cried. She whistled before crouching to crawl painfully over to the opening in the eaves. Easing her body down, she dangled only a few moments until Al was below her. She couldn’t bear weight on her leg or land on just one foot on his back without possibly falling off. She had to let go, hoping that landing on his back wouldn’t spook him. It wasn’t an easy landing when she hit her calf. Randy didn’t hold back crying out from the pain. Al didn’t budge until she urged him to. He walked smoothly over to her pa.
Randy slid off the horse’s back and fell to her knees at her pa’s side.
He coughed then moaned. The front of his shirt stuck to his chest, damp with blood.
“What do I do? Who should I get?” Randy’s hands hovered over him, afraid to touch anywhere.
He coughed again and shook his head. “Don’t waste time.” He reached for her hand.
Randy shook her head vehemently. “No, Pa. You aren’t allowed to do that. That’s not part of the game.”
“Did they hurt you?” he wheezed.
“Just a little. Not like you.” Tears streamed down her cheeks. She opened his shirt. Pa had a bullet hole in his shoulder and another in his stomach. His breath was more labored and wheezy.
“Now listen to me.” He struggled to breathe in. “I’m dying. Go to old Miss Marla. She promised to take good care of you if something happened to me.” He rested his bloody hand on her cheek and tried to smile. “You’re almost grown now. When you’re old enough, and only when you’re grown, and maybe found a man to love you, you take my ashes, Mama’s, and baby Jonah’s and take us to the ocean. We’ve talked about seeing the ocean and the place that sounds like heaven on earth. There’s no rush though.” His eyes watered. “I don’t want to leave you. Not this way.” He held her hand in his. “I love you, baby girl. I know I’ve taught you well.” Each breath he took was shallower than the one before.
Randy sobbed. “No, Papa. There’s no one else I want to be with, not Miss Marla. She’s too fussy. I can’t live without you. I need you.”
“I didn’t think I could live without Mama but you and me, we’ve done just fine.” His grip weakened on her hand. “I will love you forever.” He wheezed, his eyes widened and met hers. His head eased to the side when his face turned white and still.
“Papa! No!” She sobbed into his shoulder and called for him until she had nothing left inside her.