Long days on the trail gave a man a lot of time to think. Wil Sunday thought about the events that put him on the vengeance trail.
He was a bounty hunter when he walked into the General Store in the town of Gunsight and Cassie Landis was the prettiest store clerk he had ever seen. It took some doing, but he finally persuaded her to have dinner with him. A whirlwind romance ensued and three months later they were married. But first, he had to promise to unstrap his guns. Putting his guns and clothes in a trunk, he buried them under the hay in the barn loft of their newly bought Kansas farm. That was where the trunk was when the four outlaws rode into his yard, gunned him down and had their way with Cassie before they killed her.
Buck’s deep-throated bark interrupted Wil’s thoughts. Ahead of them, six riders circled a tree under which a seventh rider sat mounted with his hands tied behind his back. A rope over the bottom branch of the tree was noosed around his neck.
“Looks like someone’s about to get his neck stretched,” Wil said to Buck. He pulled the Henry rifle from its boot and heeled Goldie, reining up outside the circle of riders.
“Keep ridin’, mister, this don’t concern you,” said the rider nearest to Wil.
Holding the Henry rifle across his lap, Wil raised it and rested its butt on his thigh. “I don’t have much of a stomach for lynchin’s,” he stated.
“Then, ride on, or you’ll take his place,” growled a rider from the middle of the circle. He walked his horse to the circle edge. Wil figured this was the leader. The man’s graying temples told him he was older than the rest.
“I’ll ride on when you release the kid,” countered Wil. He noticed the intended victim couldn’t have been more than eighteen years old.
The rider turned and looked at the tree, then back at Wil. “Looks to me like you ain’t in a position to make demands. You’re a little outnumbered, I’d say.”
“Maybe so. But, you’ll be the first one I drop when the shootin’ starts.”
The rider leaned forward, hands crossed on his saddle horn. “I don’t think you’ll get a shot off.”
Wil leveled his Henry at the rider, thumbing back the hammer. “You willin’ to take that chance, mister?”
“You know who I am?”
“Don’t matter. Turn the kid loose.”
The rider stared at Wil, but Wil’s eyes never left the circle of riders. The first sign of trouble would come from them, not the one in front of him.
“Turn ‘im loose and give him his guns back,” yelled the rider, not taking his eyes off of Wil.
The rider nearest the kid removed the noose from around his neck, untied his bound hands and handed him his gunbelt and rifle. The kid wheeled his horse and rode out of the circle.
“Now, unbuckle your gunbelts,” said Wil, when the kid rode out of his line of sight.
“I hope it was worth it, ‘cause you just made the biggest mistake of your life,” the leader warned, unbuckling his gunbelt and letting it fall.
Wil watched the gunbelts of the rest of the circle fall to the ground. “Maybe, maybe not. Now, the rifles.”
One by one, rifles clattered to the ground. “Now, ride out,” ordered Wil.
The rider gave Wil a look of pure hatred. If looks could kill, Wil would have dropped from his saddle.
“You ain’t seen the last of me, mister.” He wheeled his horse and rode away at a gallop with the rest of his riders falling in behind him.
When the dust settled and the band of riders were barely visible in the distance, Wil let the hammer down on his Henry rifle and slid it back into its saddle boot. He looked down at Buck.
“Think we can make it to Gunsight without getting in anymore trouble?”