Chapter 1

God ... Damn ... It! Where am I this time? Ever since I put on that damned ring, I keep getting bounced from adventure to adventure. After eight years in the military, most of it as a SEAL, and a promising career as an accountant when I got out, I have bounced through time from one era to another, not knowing what will happen to me next.

It all started out when I got that funny looking envelope in the mail one day. Inside was nothing but a short note and a very simple ring, a white gold band that looked a lot like a man's wedding ring. The note said, "Slip this ring on the little finger of your left hand and enjoy an adventure like you have never before experienced." That was all.

Hell, I don't know why I didn't just pitch the whole thing in the trash and go on about my life. Well, yes, I do know why—I was bored to death. I had been at the accounting business for several years and had gotten my CPA. I was making a fair living in a small town, but life had settled into a deep rut. I was not married and had no immediate prospects. I didn't even have a steady girlfriend. Here I was in my mid-thirties and had hit a dead end.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I slipped the ring on my finger. It was way too big for my finger when it went on, but, unaccountably, it immediately shrank to be a proper fit. The problem, now, was that there was no way for me to get it off.

A few moments after the ring settled into place on my finger, the whole world seemed to disappear in a cloud of smoke and a flash of bright light. The next thing I knew, I was stark naked and standing in a line of people, also naked, up on a platform. Other people in a crowd below me were bidding for my services as a slave. I was bought by a man to be trained as a gladiator. I went through that for a while, and, from there, I went through 12 other adventures of an equally exciting and dangerous sort until this last transfer.

This time, I was naked and lying under three other men, all dead. I seemed to be under a covered wagon, and I could hear a lot of noise all about me. The noise was coming from a bunch of shouting men and in a language I couldn't understand. Suddenly, I heard a woman scream, but that was cut off in mid note. At the moment, I could not tell why.

I wiggled around a bit until I could see what was going on. Uh-oh, this was real trouble! I found myself in a wagon train that had been attacked by Indians. The Indians had won the battle, and they were now enjoying the fruits of their labors.

From what I could see, the scalping of the dead and the rape of the living women was still going on. As usual, I was naked and weaponless, so all I could do was to lay low and let the drama play itself out. It was about two hours later before the last woman had died under the relentless raping and all of the people (except me) had been scalped. I had managed to stay well hidden under the bodies so that the Indians didn't even know that I was there.

I know, if I had been Superman, I would have burst from concealment and killed every one of the marauding Indians and stopped the raping and scalping. However, as it was, the only way I could keep from dying, myself, was to remain hidden and not attract attention. I didn't like it, but there was nothing else that I could do.

The Indians finally left, taking the horses and a few other trophies of their successful raid. That's when I finally dragged my way out from under those dead men and looked around. I don't know why, but the Indians did not burn or otherwise destroy the wagons or their contents, so I had a ready source for the things I needed for survival.

I found pants, shirt, boots, and hat that would fit me after a diligent search. Fortunately, I also found a Winchester rifle and a Smith & Wesson revolver in good condition. Both were in .44-40 caliber, and I found ammunition to go with them. I can't imagine why the Indians didn't take them, but I was happy with whatever reason they didn't. I also managed to find almost $300 in gold coins, mostly Double Eagles, so I had a lot of money to help me to get by.

There was food and water in plenty, so I ate a meal, as much as I could hold, and prepared a pack of food to take with me. I was going to have to walk since the Indians had taken all of the horses. Fortunately, I had been able to find boots with normal heels, so walking was not going to be the chore it would have been if I had been wearing the high-heel cowboy boots.

Of course, I had no idea where I was. From the looks of the grass covered plains, I had to be somewhere in the American West, and the weapons told me that I was in the mid to late 1870s. There was a good chance that it was in 1876-77 at the height of the Indian Wars, since that was the sort of time that the ring usually transported me to.

At least, I was not completely lost. There was a well marked trail left by the wagon train, so I decided to follow it, hoping to find a town or another wagon train before I ran out of supplies. I was in excellent physical condition. My body was virtually exactly as it had been when I had been an active SEAL, and I was physically about 22 years old. I was 6' tall and weighed 178 pounds, at least when I was a SEAL. As a side note, I thought of myself as being 217 years old with all of the time I had spent adventuring, and I had no idea how much longer I had to go.

In truth, I had enjoyed almost every minute of my life to date, and I was in no hurry for it to end. Every time I jumped to a new adventure, my body was reset to the way it was now, and I had aged along with the rest of the population as time went on. I had been a subjective 57 years old at the time of my most recent transfer, so I had no idea what to expect for my new life span. All I knew was that it would be exciting!

As I walked along the trail left by the wagon train, I kept an eye out for Indians and anything else that might affect my good health. I could be injured just like anybody else, so I had to take the usual precautions.

I had been walking for about three hours when I caught a glimpse of a town on the horizon. I figured that another three hours would get me there if I had no major distractions or interruptions. My time estimate had been pretty close to correct, and I ambled into town only moderately tired from my long walk. While I was making my trek, I had decided not to say anything about the attack on the wagon train unless someone asked a direct question. No sane person would have believed my true story, so it was best if I did not mention it. I would just say that my horse had broken its leg and I had to shoot it.

I was ready for a break, so I stopped in at the nearest saloon. No only could I get a beer, I could find out where and when I was and what the local gossip had to tell me. My first information came when I walked through the butterfly doors into the dim interior. My eyes had hardly adjusted when I saw a calendar turned to May of 1877. I couldn't see the date, but that was a relatively unimportant detail.

I walked up to the bar and ordered a beer. Fortunately, I had the loose change to pay the 7¢ charge. There were very few customers in the saloon this early before supper time, so the bartender had time to gossip. I found out that I was in LaFoil, Texas, and very near to Comancheria.

The latter note would explain where the hostile Indians came from. The Comanche Tribes were especially active during the Indian wars of this time, so they definitely fell into the realm of the "usual suspects." The bartender was unusually entertaining to talk to, so I ordered another beer and continued the conversation. Incidentally, the beer was so much better than it had been in my most recent previous life that I did not complain about its taste.

I heard a lot about local life, but it didn't mean much of anything to me. As the ultimate outsider, I could listen to gossip without ever becoming involved. The main thing of immediate interest to me was that there were no jobs available locally that I was interested in. I cared nothing for becoming a run-of-the-mill cowboy, so I figured that I would have to move on to find work. With no railroad running through town, and a stage coach service that even the bartender would not recommend, I had no choice but to buy a horse at a local livery stable and move on in the morning.

The bartender did recommend a restaurant, so I headed there to eat supper. I arrived in time to be the first patron of the evening. I had the choice of beef and beans or a stew with vegetables. I chose the stew and was pleasantly surprised. The waitress was a very pleasant young lady and we started up a conversation until more customers showed up.

She was sitting at my table when a young man came in and excitedly ran to us. He shouted at the girl something about two-timing him by being too friendly with me. She objected to his remark, and the man drew back his hand to slap her. Now, that was too much for me. I grabbed the man's arm and kept him from swinging. I have become exceptionally strong over the years, and I had no problem in stopping his swing.

He swung around to me and snarled, "Ya son of a bitch, turn me loose!"

I released his arm, but, before I could say anything, the fool tried to draw on me. Somehow, whenever I made a transition, I automatically acquired the skills necessary to survive. I was wearing my pistol in my belt in a crossdraw position, and I had no trouble beating him to the draw. I thumbed back the hammer and fired one shot into his chest. I don't know if it was luck or skill, but, judging from the amount of blood that ran out of the wound, I must have hit his heart and killed him immediately.

The woman gasped as the man fell to the floor. To my surprise, she wrapped her arms around me and hugged me tightly. "Thank ya so much, Sir. That there bully just would not leave me alone, even though I told him I was not interested in his advances. Now, at last, I will be able ta select the man I am really interested in!"

I asked her to have somebody to contact the marshal so that we could get the formalities out of the way. I knew that she would vouch for my claim of self defense, so I was not worried. The kitchen helper was sent to fetch the marshal, and that was cleared up very quickly. The undertaker said that the man's father would pay for the burial, so I did not even have to worry about that.

I was finished with my meal, so I went to the hotel to get a room for the night. The next morning I had breakfast at the same restaurant before I bought a horse and left town. Staying in LaFoil, Texas, just did not interest me.

Most of what I consciously knew about life in the Wild West was garnered from TV and movies in my youth. Therefore, I was anxious to visit the fabled Laredo. Getting there did involve crossing a small segment of Comancheria, but I was sufficiently confident of my skill at self preservation that I decided to take the chance.

Before leaving LaFoil, I did purchase a holster for my pistol. It was for crossdraw and fastened to the belt of my pants. I was carrying a small pouch on my belt full of extra ammunition. I thought that this would be more convenient than a regular gunbelt.

I was carrying the usual canteen of water and a small supply of jerky. These I would use for lunch, but I planned to stop off at hotels and restaurants for my other needs. Along about noon, I was riding along and munching on a piece of jerky when a rifle shot rang out. I didn't fool around, but assumed immediately that I was the one being shot at. I urged my horse into a run for some nearby rocks and dismounted as soon as I got there. I pulled my rifle from its scabbard with one hand and grabbed up my canteen of water with the other.

I dove behind the largest of the convenient rocks and looked around to try to spot my assailant. No luck. There was enough of a breeze to dissipate the powder smoke from the sniper's shot, so that I only had a vague idea of where he was hiding. There was a line of low hills running off to my right, and the sound had seemed to come from there, so I was sure that was where he had to be.

Unfortunately, that was too vague to do me much good, so I was going to have to draw him out if I was going to get a shot at him. For lack of anything better to do, I stuck my hat on the muzzle of my rifle and slowly raised it as if I still had it on my head and was trying to see over the rock I was hiding behind. Sure enough, the sniper fired at my hat and I yelled as if I had been hit. In fact, the bullet had not come close enough to be a serious concern.

There it was! There was a puff of powder smoke at a small notch in the skyline. That explained the two misses. Assuming that there was only one sniper, I could see that the shooter was too far away for a really accurate shot with the iron sights found on a '73 Winchester. That provided another bit of useful information; namely, that the sniper was not experienced enough to be fully aware of the problem with the range.

Well, there was really only one solution to the problem. I was going to have to hunt down the sniper to put an end to the stand off. There was very little cover between me and the hills, but I was sure that my years of experience would stand me in good stead. I set out on a crawl toward the hill, but not directly at it. I planned to flank the sniper, both because that was the best strategy and because the cover was a little better to one side of the hill.

I spent an hour making the 500-yard trip, but I didn't want the sniper to know that he was being stalked. At last, I reached the side of the hill that I was interested in, and was better concealed. My hope now was that the sniper had not moved. If he had, I could be in trouble!

I finally was able to get to my feet and move much more freely and easily. I still had to bend over at the waist, but I could use my feet for walking, and that was a great relief after all of that crawling. I circled around behind the hill and looked up to try to find the sniper.

There he was, still in the dip in the hill. He had not moved from his original position, so it would not surprise me if he was a bit stiff from holding that one position for so long. I hoped so, since that made things a lot easier for me.

I stayed off the hill as I moved toward the sniper. I managed to get so close that I switched from my rifle to my pistol. The fact that the revolver was easier to move and to aim made it a much better weapon for this close range. I was about to announce my presence when the sniper caught sight of me. He shifted around much more quickly than I would have thought possible and tried to bring his rifle to bear on me. This was no time to dawdle, because a hit from a rifle bullet at this range would immediately put me out of action, even if the wound was not fatal.

I had been correct in my judgment about the relative ease of movement of a pistol versus a rifle. I didn't have to take time to think. My revolver was already cocked, so I only had to squeeze the trigger to send a bullet flying at the sniper before he had fully gotten his rifle pointed in my direction. Nevertheless, he did fire off a shot, though it missed me by at least 15 feet.

My bullet caught him in the ribs and was surely a fatal wound, though he was not yet dead. He continued to try to shoot me as he said, "Ya bastard, ya murdered my brother, an' I aim ta git ya fer that!" This time, I put a bullet into his chest about where I judged his heart to be, and I must have been correct because he dropped his rifle and stopped moving.

I went closer and discovered that the sniper had been a boy of around 12-14. That explained the judgment error in range, but I still hated to have killed what I considered a child. Oh, well, he was old enough to use a gun, so I was justified in killing him.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Time Travel / Historical / Humor / Violent /