This is a work of fiction and not intended to be historically accurate but merely a representation of the times. The names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental and unintentional. Historical characters used are strictly for dramatic purposes. This story contains some violence.
The American West of the 1860’s was a sparsely populated destination for all manner of men. Women were relatively rare but still covered the full gambit of humanity. The West attracted men of good character along with men whose nature turned in other directions – the two primary types of men were present in proportions of a rough equality. It is perhaps true that men of a rawer kind were in greater numbers. That does not say all of these coarser hewn types were bad men. Not all desperate, hard men were criminals. There were many kinds of rowdy fellows in the old west. The man who did unscrupulous things for the right reasons – to right a wrong in a time when laws and lawmen were few. In that particular time, in certain places, some men of a hardy nature made their own justice when the only real law was the gun. Men who could be called desperados, perhaps; in spite of that, you could not say they were actual outlaws, not bad men. Nevertheless, they did not operate wholly within the limits of the law.
However, there were those who were true outlaws. The man who did what he wanted and had the courage to face the consequences whatever they may be. Truly these men were outlaws, brigands with pluck. Criminals with the grit to kill or be killed, living outside the law, who realized their lives would not end well. Captain Edward Powers was such a man – he spat in the face of the Judge, who sentenced him to die.
Below that is the malcontent who did bad things but lacked the pluck to stand and fight. The kind that would shoot a man in the back and think nothing of it, but would never meet someone face to face. Weak men with indecisive natures who would only act when the odds favored them. This was the most common of the atrocious miscreants of the day. What they lacked in courage they compensated for with deceit. You can call them gutless hooligans. The pair of bandits at Colby, Jack ‘Red’ Wilson and Jebediah ‘Slim’ Bryce, were perfect pictures of this type of spineless villain.
The West had another malcontent, a rarefied outcast with a vicious nature. To refer to them as a ‘bad man’ does not do justice to this type of individual. Those despicable few who thought they were a law unto themselves, who acted above the law while holding all of society in contempt. Foul despoilers, who did not only as they pleased, but felt a special right to do so. Viewing themselves as a type of godlike creature, who, owing nothing to anyone, had rights granted them by virtue of their perceived, inherent superiority. They took anything, even everything from whom they pleased. In bygone days before the 1860’s they were kings, emperors, dictators or leaders of vast hordes of barbarians. By the 1860’s in the American West, they were a pitiful, spiteful, cruel breed of men – a few wretched pariahs who today would be called sociopaths and psychotics. They were the quintessential American outlaws.
Such was Daniel ‘Two Tongues’ Hannover. Evil in no way describes how wretched the man was. Murderer, cannibal, thief, a hired assassin and the son of a blue-blooded titled English Lord, Hannover possessed hidden wealth that helped him protect himself. Money placed in the right hands at the right time can buy almost anything, including official forgiveness and unmerited clemency. It can procure shortened prison sentences and outright pardons for crimes. The trick to it was knowing exactly when to make payments, and whom to pay. In consideration for financial recompense, a pardon for any offense that Hannover ‘might’ have committed was at hand. With the appropriate palms greased, a deal struck in the dark of night, the funds having moved from one hand to another’s ensured the federal warrant for ‘Two Tongues’ soon would be no more. All Hannover had to do was – wait.
But ‘Two Tongues’ Hannover could not abide waiting. Daniel Hannover wanted retribution for the constant throbbing agony in his right shoulder courtesy of the living legend Joseph Nathan Meeker. A man as talented in the art of death as he, Meeker sought Hannover for his own vengeance. The change of passage that Meeker took to Colby threw Hannover’s scheme awry. Yet upon consideration, it was better this way. He would kill Meeker himself and know the task was carried out to his satisfaction.
The clouds rolled over the land, blown east from the mountains. They were dark clouds that hung heavy with rain, yet with stubborn refusal held their moisture as if the parched dry lands of the Colorado plains had offended the god of rain. Further east, the land hadn’t received a single drop of rain in over eighteen months. Perched atop their horses, the two men watched the town in the pale predawn light. A lantern burned in a window here or outside a door there. A few people moved about in preparation for the day. A giant of a man and a young girl walked together, their way lit by a lantern in her hand as the twosome perused the community. They rattled doors, checked alleyways and made their way from one end of the town to the other, then retraced their steps. The girl’s whitish hair made the offbeat couple easy to follow.
Two Tongues sat on his saddle in a lazy fashion, his right leg thrown over the horn as though he rode sidesaddle. The brigand listened to the battle in his head. His mythical companions were unable to come to an agreement on a course of action. Too many voices bombarded him with too many conflicting courses of action for him to make a rational decision. The sun peaked over the flat, featureless prairie as its light painted the underside of the clouds with hues of pinks, reds, blues, and purples. Still, Daniel Hannover could only concentrate on the quarrelsome voices in his head, locked in their boisterous argument.
“The Bard wrote, Like a red morn that ever yet betokened, Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field, Sorrow to the shepherds, woe unto the birds, Gusts and foul flaws to herdsmen and to herds. I would add our late and lamented seafaring friend we knew only as ‘Commodore’ always insisted, Red sky at morning, sailor take warning. You know, I now regret killing the bastard, but he shouldn’t have cheated me,” he broke his long silence, having not spoken for hours, not uttering a word since they assumed their surveillance at midnight.
“Going to be a cloud buster soon, you can smell her in the wind,” Hannover observed, adding in an angry voice, “Shut up,” to no one at all. The tranquil beauty of the dawn which calmed most men’s souls served only as a backdrop to the calamity in Hannover’s mind.
The dreadful quarrel of Hannover’s apparitional companions inside his brain wore on him. His head throbbed, aching from the constant bickering. He yearned for the pipe and the relief afforded by its poisonous vapors. He could not remember a time when there was not a baying of the predators in his brain. This voice compelling him to do that thing or another nonexistent colleague barking for him to turn this way. An angry voice telling him to kill this person or that individual. At times, he could manage little more than to hang on to a thread of who he was. Then again, at times, he did not know who he was, only that he was better than everyone else.
Closing his eyes, he strained to quiet the invisible companions, to make them stifle their voices to let him think. Placing a hand on his forehead, Hannover yelled out, “Shut the damn hell up,” as his rough hand rubbed his pained head. Richards looked around, but there was no one there to hear his bosses’ outburst. Turning from the man he looked west, where he observed a long procession of people walking, along with riders on horseback. People dressed in colorful garb, some sporting feathers in their hair, a massive tribe of Indians marched on a direct path toward the pair.
“Sir,” Richards blurted out in a nervous, fearful tone, “Indians, hundreds of them.” All those eccentric passengers in his mind yelled a unified course of action to Hannover.
“You told me of an empty building on this side of town?”
“Yeah, that first one that says Boots and Saddles on the sign,” Richards answered pointing to the building nearest them. The broken-down structure sat across from a massive Conestoga wagon at a small pond. They motioned their horses forward to descend to the town, heading for the building. On arrival, Richards concealed their horses behind the building in a small corral. With practiced ease, Two Tongues jimmied the lock, and the two men watched through a part in the makeshift burlap curtains. Once again, the voices began their incessant bickering while the men lay in wait. Hannover was well aware that if the voices did not come to an agreement, he would just have to act when the first opportunity arose.
Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains
The warrior dug the grave, scooping out one shovel full of dirt at a time. The woman and small girl stood by, watching as he dug into the soft, moist soil. She was a tall woman with dark hair and eyes, the child likewise had similar features. Both were feminine and soft, their skin a pale shade of pinkish white.
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