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Liberty McDonald rode Eastward at the age of
eighteen. He was a fine, strong young man, but he
couldn't help but wonder where he fit in. His
mother had died early in his young life, and his
father had time for work, and work only. They
managed to get along, but Liberty knew there
must be more to life than what he had seen on the
farm. So he forked a bareback bronc and headed
out to find his answers. What he found, was
bloody Civil war.
Four years later, he rode west, a bloody,
battle hardened man. In those four years of hell,
he had seen it all... Shilo, Vicksburg, Lookout
Mountain, and the bloody battle in the
It was after the war though, that he truly
discovered himself. He had seen the killing, the
senseless slaughter of old and young alike. The
raping of the innocent and the destruction of the
Why? He asked himself. What in Gods name
justified so many deaths, so much misery?
"We are preserving a Nation." Was the
answer he received time and time again, but it
was not enough for Liberty. To make matters
worse, his mind was tortured with self-doubt,
with guilt... for he was a part of the killing, the
waste of human life. Yes, he told himself after the
war ended, we saved the union, but what is left?
Bitterness, anger, and hatred of one another, was
his only answer.
It was not enough for Liberty. He needed
reason, a justification, yet more so, he needed
forgiveness for himself. The good book told him,
"Thou shalt not kill" and he had killed. Still,
other words came to him... "An eye for an eye, a
tooth for a tooth" "Justice is mine saith the Lord."
Liberty McDonald was not a deeply religious
man, but he had faith of a sort and it brought no
comfort to him, nor did it have answers for him.
And for that reason, Liberty forked his saddle
and started westward to lose himself, and yet he
hoped to find his answers in the wild land of the
buffalo and the red man.
Texas was a mean and dangerous place to be
in the years following the wars end. What with
the Johnny Rebís coming back home to take up
where they had left off, the Carpetbaggers and
Re-constructionist moving in, trying to steal all
that they could... the drifters and movers coming
up and down the trails, and the lost souls like
It was a plumb, touchy, and explosive place
to be, but there he was, an ex-yank sergeant,
riding that long lonesome country, working his
way westward. Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, the
Indian lands that would one day become
Oklahoma, and finally Texas.
Liberty wasn't looking for trouble, and for a
good long time, there wasn't any except for a few
minor altercations with his fists. He won most,
lost a couple, but like most things bad in his life,
trouble found him.
In Texas, Liberty rode a lonely, lonely trail.
Some might have called it the outlaw trail, but
for Liberty, it was a trail of thoughts, and it was
there, that he began to come to grips with the war
and with himself. And it was there, that he met
up with the man called Cullen Baker.
"The laws of the land," Baker told him. "are
not always the laws of man or God. The laws,
mans law... Gods law too for that matter, they
are not always fair. It's up to you and men like
myself to make them fair for everybody, and
sometimes in order to do that, we have to cross
those laws ourselves."
They were strange words from a strange and
quiet man, but they had a meaning to Liberty. He
had heard of Cullen Baker, by word passed from
one mouth to the next while sitting over a camp
fire. Baker was a bad man to mess with, or so the
story went. Not bad in the sense of a criminal,
like some folks said he was. He was just a bad
man to mess with.
Liberty had never seen a man handle a pistol
like Baker could... fast and accurate, that's what
he was, and mean too.
Cullen Baker had fists like a sledge hammer.
Liberty knew that first hand, for he had mouthed
off one night and Baker had returned the grief by
putting lumps on his head, but after that, they
got on as friends should.
For Liberty, it was a learning time, and
Baker taught him a thing or two when it came to
fighting... fists, knives, guns, and a good deal
more. It was a good thing too, for when Liberty
rode away from him, he rode straight into
"Buenos diaz, Senor," A man said stepping
from the brush and brambles along side the trail
he rode. Two other men stood with the first, their
wolfish eyes laughing at Liberty, their guns held
loosely in their hands. "Tis a grand and beautiful
day to ride, but one must be careful and always
alert, for there are bandito's in this country just
waiting for some poor fool to wander into their
Well, he had one thing right, Liberty told
himself. He had been a fool, but sometimes fools
get lucky. Those three had him cold turkey and
they knew it, but they wanted to see him squirm
before they killed him.
"Si, Senor," Another of them laughed. "it is
very dangerous... these bandito's..." The speaker
added, throwing up his hands in a mock shrug
before continuing. "most times they kill you
outright, but sometimes if you are honest and
hold nothing back from them, they sometimes
take pity on the poor souls they steal from."
"Si, Miguel!" The last of the three said, his
gun hand waving his pistol as he talked. "but it
very rare." He added, a broad grin coming to his
fat face, revealing two missing teeth.
Liberty McDonald sat his horse quietly, his
eyes watching and waiting. They had caught him
by surprise and their confidence was such that
they didn't even bother to disarm him. What
could one man do against three men with drawn
guns ready to blow him out of the saddle? They
must have thought.
"Now, Senor, if you are ready" The first
"You know," Liberty's voice was calm when
he spoke at last. "I have heard of these Bandito's,
but they have never heard of me, and that works
to my advantage." He added and watched the
surprise flood over their faces.
By rights, he should have been scared and
should have been begging for his life, but he
wasn't, and it took the men aback a little.
Oh, Liberty was scared, his stomach churned
with his fear, but then only a fool is unafraid.
Death can happen to anyone, at anytime.
"Ho ho!" The man in the center laughed.
"The Gringo makes a funny one."
The other two joined the firsts laughter, but
it vanished in a flash of Liberty's hands. On his
right hip Liberty carried an old Colt dragoon
pistol, and still another was tucked into his waist
band, butt extended to the left where his hand
could easily grasp it.
Cullen Baker had taught him well, and to
his teaching, Liberty added a natural gift for
hand eye coordination and the speed and
accuracy that was needed to face the men before
him. Yet, it was more so the fact that he had
reaction time on his side that kept him alive.
Liberty knew what and when he was going to act,
the three Bandito's on the other hand had to
react and it cost them their lives.
As the man in the center stopped his mocking
laughter, Liberty's right hand pistol cleared
leather and spit death into his heart. The left
hand gun spat once, twice, at the fat faced man,
the bullets driving him backward into the brush
where he lay dead starring blankly up into the
"Son of a..." The last man hissed as Liberty's
right hand pistol swung level on him. Each of
them fired in the same instant. Perhaps Liberty's
was a whisper faster, he didn't know, nor did it
really matter. Maybe the Bandito lost his nerve in
that split second of life and death, and pulled his
shot, but it was he, the last of the three who took
the tiny piece of lead, and it was he who died
along side his friends.
Liberty McDonald had killed men before,
men who had fought and died for what they
believed in, but never had he faced men like the
three he had just killed. They had been so eager
to kill him for what little he had, for the fun of it.
It angered Liberty, and right then and there, he
made a pledge to himself that he would stamp
out men of that stripe whenever and wherever he
These kind of men, they were not men, they
were animals, rouges preying off the weak and
those they could render defenseless through
trickery and surprise attack. Perhaps, Liberty
told himself, looking at the three lifeless bodies,
this is why so many men fought in that bloody,
A man, a woman, or a child should have the
freedom to travel or walk amongst the forest
without having animals trying to prey on their
In his heart, Liberty, felt he that he should
have left their lifeless bodies where they fell, left
them to the coyotes, the buzzards and other
scavengers, but he wanted people to see that there
was a brutal price to pay for breaking the laws of
man, and the laws of God.
"An eye for an eye," He breathed, as he
finished tying the last of the three bodies to their
saddles. "An vengeance will be mine!"
Two days later, he rode into Bentwood. A
crowd gathered as he rode up the dusty street,
angling toward what he believed to be the sheriffs
office. At first it was just kids fascinated by the
grim sight, but then the curious, the ghouls, and
the rabble who craned their necks to see if the
faces of the dead were men they knew, began to
"What you got there?" One man called as he
passed by. "What happened?" Another ventured,
falling in behind the rest of the lookers.
At the sheriff's office, Liberty drew rein and
was about to step from the saddle when the door
opened, and a tall man of middle age walked out
onto the boardwalk. The mans eyes were alert,
and of a blue green that took Liberty in, and
measured him in a quick, but knowing glance, yet
the eyes lacked strength, and could not meet
Liberty's steady gaze.
On his hip, the sheriff wore a pistol much
like Liberty's, yet it didn't belong there. "What's
this?" The man asked in a voice that left no doubt
as to who and what he was. He was a weak man.
Maybe once, he had been different, but now...
"Skunks!" Liberty started, but was cut off by
the sheriff's next question.
"You shoot them?" At the nod of Liberty's
head, the sheriff looked hard at him once again
before speaking. "Then bury them."
It was not how Liberty had envisioned it. He
wanted people to know... wanted people to see
him, and to know that it was he who had killed
the three... to say to them, that any man who
broke the law, could expect the same from him.
Liberty McDonald's mouth began to form
words of protest, yet once again he was
interrupted. This time by one of the men who had
gathered around the horses of the three dead
"God, Almighty, it's Benito's kid brother."
The sheriff had turned and started back into
his office, but when the words were spoken, and
the murmur went through the crowd, he stopped
and turned back to Liberty and there was fear in
"Get down and come inside." They were soft
spoken words, worried words, and Liberty knew
not what to think of them. "Burt, take those three
over to Michael's place, then go tell Grant and
Wheeler, I want to see them. Let's move it now.
The rest of you, you know what this means... best
get off the street."
Men and women began to scatter even before
Liberty's foot touched the ground. What all of this
meant, he had no idea, but he could feel the
tension and fear filling the air around him.
Once inside the sheriff's off, he started to
speak, but the sheriff's big hands caught him by
the front of his shirt and slammed him back
against the wall. Air gushed from Liberty's
lungs, and for a moment, he stood stunned by the
sudden turn of event.
"You Dumb Assed Son of a Bitch!" The
sheriff hissed at him. "Do you know what you've
The Sheriff's eyes were boring into Liberty's
soul as his hands twisted the material of his shirt
until it began to choke him, yet Liberty could see
and smell the sheriff's fear.
"Do you?" The words were almost shouted in
This man, once seemingly so composed, now
seemed on the brink of insanity. Liberty
McDonald could read the anger, but there was
also a sense of terror about the man. Sweat was
beginning to bead on the sheriff's forehead, and a
little tremor went through his body as he let go of
Liberty's shirt and stepped back.
"Sit down." He said meekly to Liberty, his
hand indicating a chair over near his desk. "I
ought to kill you myself, but I don't have the
nerve I once had, and I doubt I could beat you
even if I did. I could let the town lynch you, but
that wouldn't satisfy Benito. It's too late for that,
the damage has already been done, and he'll
blame us. He'll burn this town and kill everybody
he can lay his hands on now."
The sheriff's words shocked and stunned
Liberty and he felt the mans agony, felt sorry for
him, yet Liberty failed to understand what
exactly the man was talking about. "What the
hell are you talking about?" He asked. "Those
three men tried to rob and murder me... they got
what they deserved. And who is this Benito that
you and everybody else seem so damned afraid
The sheriff's eyes touched Liberty's, but they
could not maintain contact. To most men,
Liberty's words would have been an insult, an
affront to a mans pride, but the sheriff let them
pass without a comment.
"Benito is the leader of fifty tough men, and
you just killed his brother..." The sheriff began.
"God! What have you done to us, Mister? Benito
and his men used to leave us alone when they
rode in here. Now..."
"Left you alone? How? By making you all
afraid of him, by making you prisoners in your
own town?" Liberty snapped at the man.
"That's not fair. We have women folk to think
about here. We got..."
"You make me sick! When you first stepped
out onto that boardwalk, I thought you were a
man, but I was wrong!" Liberty McDonald fought
to control his anger, but he could not. Getting to
his feet, he looked hard at the sheriff. "Now if
there's nothing else, I'll be moving on to where
the air is better."
He turned then and walked outside. A small
crowd still waited there, and he let his eyes pass
over them. Eight men and a half dozen women,
all of them looking lost and scared, looking for
someone to tell them that everything would work
"What are you doing out here?" One of the
men asked, running his tongue over suddenly dry
lips. "Why aren't you locked up?"
"For what?" Liberty asked, turning to stare
at the man. "For defending myself?"
"But Benito..." Another man began
nervously. "he'll burn the town, Mister..."
"You had no right doing what you done, then
coming here." Another bemoaned. "They'll kill us
and... God! I have a wife and a daughter. What
do you think will happen to them when he and
his cut-throats get hold of them?"
"Nothing, unless you let it happen." Liberty
spoke quietly. He was sick of it all... the
cowardice of the men folk standing before him,
sick of hearing about Benito, whoever the hell the
man was, but mostly, he was sick of the town
"Nothing changed because of me." He told
them. "Sooner or later Benito and his crowd
would have grown tired of the dance hall girls,
and then they would have come looking for one of
your wives or daughters... What would you have
done then? Let Benito take them and have his fun
Pushing his way through the small crowd,
Liberty stepped off the boardwalk and into the
street. It was time to be moving along, he told
himself, moving to toward his horse. The sound
of a trigger being pulled back, however, checked
his movement, and he turned to face the crowd
"Can't let you get on that horse, Mister." The
man holding the gun on him said in a shaking
voice. "You're gonna be here when Benito comes...
we aim to let him have you. Maybe then, he'll
leave us alone."
"You go on, Mister, he's got a gun, but I got
me a scatter-gun, and I'll blow him into two if his
finger even twitches on that trigger." The voice
was that of woman's off to his left and Liberty's
eyes moved toward her. She was young and
pretty, a girl of eighteen perhaps, and the
shotgun she held, was held in steady hands.
"I got one too, Lem," Another woman spoke
up as she stepped from a building near the first
woman. "I don't expect Missy to miss, so I'll use
mine for anyone else whose suddenly found his
nerve... The mans right! What were you planning
on doing if Benito and his scum decided to take
one of us? Phhh! I can tell ya, you wouldn't have
done a thing except crawl into your corners and
cower like the gutless cowards you are."
The second woman's words cracked like a
whip against the men's faces. It shamed them, yet
they had caved in for so long, that they could do
little but hang their heads. "Go on, Mister, get out
of here." She told Liberty, her eyes briefly meeting
Liberty McDonald took a step toward his
horse, but his feet faltered. Turning around again
to look at the young woman, he nodded and
started to form the words of a question, yet they
"My father tried to stand up for the law...
Benito killed him, and no one raised a hand to
stop it." The young woman said. "That's why.
Now go on, get out of here. Whatever happens to
this town, we deserve it."
Further talk was choked off by the sound of
horses coming up the single, dusty town street.
All eyes turned to look at the six mounted
horsemen, and Liberty heard the startled gasps.
Benito, or some of his crowd, he thought to
himself, as his eyes swung back to the young
woman. By rights, he should have been mounting
up and riding hell bent for leather, but his eyes
held on the woman's eyes.
Instinct warned him to leave it alone, that it
wasn't his battle, nor was it his duty to fight for
cowards, yet the young woman's words, the words
of his father, and those of Cullen Baker, rang
loudly in his ears.
"Never let your enemy get set, meet them
head on, but do it on your terms and on ground of
your own choosing." They were good words, his
fathers words, Cullen's words, and they were
words that often made the difference between life
Stepping into the street further, Liberty
waited, his feet set, his hands hanging loosely at
Why? He asked himself. This wasn't his
fight, yet in his heart, he knew that evil only
grows more vile if it is left unchecked by the
hands of righteousness. Was it for the woman?
She who would let him ride away and suffer
what came her way?
"That's far enough!" Liberty McDonald's
voice sounded loud in the silence, yet he spoke
without raising his voice. Six men, all heavily
armed, and he alone to face them. The odds were
long, he told himself, but it was better to die
facing up to evil, than to run before it. "You can
turn around and ride back out of here." He said,
stepping into the path of the six horsemen. "Your
kind is no longer welcome in this town."
"What's this? Get out of the way Gringo!
What are you El Stupido?" The man, obviously
the leader of the group spoke, and his words were
filled with contempt. "We have come to roust
Benito's little brother from the house of the
Senorita's, when that is done... then we will come
back and finish this."
The six horsemen started forward again, but
Liberty held his ground. "He isn't with the
Senorita's up the street. He's over at Michaels
place being fitted for a pine box." Liberty said.
"You can join him, if like."
The leader of the six men dragged on his
reins so hard that his horse stumbled and almost
went down. Anger, mixed with wonder, showed in
the mans dark eyes as he took a better look at the
man standing before him.
"You?" He said. It was a simple question,
and it deserved an even simpler answer.
"You are a fool then, and a dead one at
that." The man said, yet he made no move to grab
the big gun that he wore.
"Get out of town, and tell Benito, and the rest
of your murders and cut-throats to stay out, or
the furniture maker is going to be awful busy
making pine boxes."
"You talk loud for being one small man
against so many." The Bandito leader of the six
said, and he let a smile cross his lips, and he let
his eyes turn to those of his men.
"One is often enough to make the difference."
Liberty said, and though he spoke to the Bandito
leader, he was not fool enough to direct all his
attention to just him. When the man furthest to
the right of him slid his hand to his pistol,
Liberty drew and fired. It was a swift draw, and
his aim sure, the bullet finding it's mark in the
center of the mans chest. Then before any of the
others could move, his pistol was leveled on the
leader. "You call it, but remember you'll be the
next to die."
"You hold the cards for now, Senor, but we
will be back, and we will be fifty strong." The
Bandito leader said, his lips curled up into a
sneer. "And you!" His hand waved over those who
had gathered with the others having heard the
shot. "You too, will pay for what has happened
here today, and for what this man did to Benito's
brother... kill him before we return and perhaps
Benito will have mercy."
"Why wait!" Liberty spoke up, his voice crisp
in the quiet of the street. "I am here now, and
there are still five of you... kill me if you got the
guts to try."
"No, Senor, I do not buck the stacked deck. I
will wait until I have the full house, then we will
see." With that, he turned his horse and kicked
his heels to its side, the others following suit.
When they had ridden away, Liberty turned
to look at the crowd. It had grown and grew still
larger with each passing moment. He could hear
their worried talk, see the fear on their faces. He
was the cause of it, yet it wasn't just his fight, it
was theirs as well, but he didn't bother wasting
his breath trying to tell them that. Instead, he
moved away from them, never fully turning his
back on them. He doubted that any of them
would have the guts to shoot him, but he told
himself there was no sense in tempting the fates.
"Either you are completely stupid, or you are
the bravest man I have ever seen." It was the
young woman speaking to him. Somehow she had
gotten around in front of him, and now she stood
in his path. "Who are you?"
"A fool perhaps, but I don't think so.
Sometimes a man or a woman just has to stand
up for what is right..."
"I agree, but that doesn't answer my
question." She said, and a smile touched her lips
for a moment.
Liberty McDonald let a smile play across his
lips, then he took his hat off and gave a slight
bow, before answering her. "My folks were poets
of a sort, and therefore they named me Liberty.
That is what my forefathers fought for, freedom...
Freedom to live as they chose, freedom to chose
their own religion, to speak what they thought
and felt, to..."
"It's a good name, I think," The young
woman interrupted. "A name to be proud of." She
added, and this time her eyes took in his ruggedly
handsome face, the six foot frame with it's
rippling waves of iron strong muscles, and they
took in the eyes of slate. "What will happen
now?" She asked suddenly. She knew the answer
already, but she wanted him to tell her.
"Well," Liberty began. "I reckon now one of
your brave townsmen will have to try and kill me,
and if that fails, Benito and his crowd will come
and I will go out to face them."
"You said your father tried to stand up to
them... He died for what he believed in. It's the
same way with me. I'll get some of them, but in
the end, they'll get me... the rest will be up to the
"Why?" She asked. "You can ride out of here
if you want to. No one..."
"I could, but I won't. A man, a woman for
that matter, can't run out every time someone
comes along and starts bullying them. You have
to stand up and push back... maybe that's the
real reason. I might die, but in doing so, maybe
the others will see that they don't have to live in
fear, that by standing up against the likes of
Benito, they can have peace and law and..."
The young woman turned and ran from him,
leaving him standing alone and wondering. He
had never known many women, his mother had
died when he was very young, and growing up
with his father, Liberty only saw town rarely. To
him, women were foreign, pretty, yet distant and
Twice over the course of the next day, Liberty
was shot at by unseen marksmen. It was only the
beginning. He knew he should have hunted the
shooter down, but that was not his aim. He had
no intention of hurting one of the townspeople
unless they gave him no choice in the matter. The
man he wanted was out there, just beyond the
towns end, and along with him rode fifty or more
battle hardened men.
"You got no right to do this to us!" A man
shouted at him, as he dashed and dodge his way
across the street to where the livery barn stood.
"No right at all to endanger my wife and young
It took Liberty only a matter of minutes to
saddle his horse, and then he was riding away.
He wasn't leaving, he just wanted his back to a
good solid tree trunk, a place from where he could
watch the approaches of the town without having
to worry about being shot in the back.
A few might have thought he was running,
but they soon realized his intentions and a few
came to stand in the street and gaze up the long
slope to where he sat beneath the shade of the
An hour later, movement in the street drew
Liberty's attention. It was the sheriff riding his
way, yet his eyes turned away from the lone rider
and beyond the limits of the town. Further in the
distance, Liberty's keen eyes had picked up an
even larger group of men moving along the
twisting trails that led to town and the destiny
that awaited them all.
"Better tell the women folk to get inside,"
Liberty said to the sheriff when he finally arrived
and had stepped from his horse. "company's
Turning to look where Liberty was pointing,
the sheriff's eyes picked up the fast moving dust
cloud before he spoke. "I think they already
know." He said, and pointed back toward the
town where a dozen women moved along the
street with rifles in their hands.
"What the hell are they doing?" Liberty
asked, coming to his feet.
"They're doing what we men folk should
have done long ago." Came the sheriff's shamed
reply. "They're gonna help you. Mister, and so are
the others... surprising how much a man will
take from another man. You called me a coward
and I was prepared to take it, but when that
Missy Gray called me yellow, then my wife and
my own daughter..."
Reaching his hand up to his shirt front, the
sheriff unpinned the badge that he had worn for
the last three years, and handed it to Liberty.
"It's your show now. How do you want to play it?"
Liberty McDonald stood still for several
seconds, shocked by what he saw down in the
town and by the words of the sheriff, then he
moved into action. "First of all, get those women
undercover somewhere. Then get everybody whose
taking part in this shindig together over at the
saloon. We ain't got much time to put together
our little welcoming party, so tell them to move
The sheriff spoke even as he and Liberty
moved toward their horse's. "You got the time
part right, but you ain't gonna move or leave out
them women down there."
"Damn it! We ain't got time to argue."
"Got that right too!" The sheriff said
mounting and riding beside Liberty. "You ought
to know once a woman makes up her mind to do
something, you're not going to change it come hell
or high water. You'd be wasting your breath
trying to talk to them, so's ya might as well
include them in your plans."
"Don't go bad mouthin him now... Those
women down there, they started this thing about
helping you out, so they are going to want to be in
on the ending, so you better accept the idea, and
whoa be you, if you try to cross them."
Ten minutes later, Liberty stood in the center
of the saloon. Good women included, everyone
who could shoot a gun was present. He didn't like
the idea about the women folk, but he knew how
Missy Gray and the others felt, this was their
fight as well, and they had as much to lose as any
of the men folk had.
His plan was simple. He and the sheriff were
going out to stand in the middle of the street and
wait. The rest of them were to spread out, find
spots along the street where they wouldn't be seen
until it was time to do the shooting, then they
were to stand up and let fly with all the lead they
could and as fast as they could.
"But, you can't go out there like that, it's
suicide." Missy Gray protested, her hand
reaching up and taking hold of his before he
"Somebody has too, or they'll know it's a
trap." Liberty said, his voice soft, his eyes
searching hers. "I'm the one they want so that's
it... the sheriff here, he's just coming along to
keep me company and steady my nerve."
"But..." Missy tried one last time.
"That's it!" Liberty called, his voice lifting to
everyone. "Times getting short, so let's get to it
while we still can."
The men moved with purpose, the women
following with their heads held high. Outside,
Liberty paused to watch them take up their
positions, then he turned his attention fully to the
ever nearing dust cloud.
"Son, you'd better get yourself plugged by one
of Benito's bullets or you're going to have a life
time of troubles." The sheriff grinned at him
when they stood in the center of the street.
"It can happen, but I ain't planning on it."
Liberty replied, not understanding the sheriff's
"Then you best start planning on settling
"I seen it before, so I can tell ya true," The
sheriff replied sadly. "you got women problems,
Son... That Missy Gray is head over heels in love
with you, and if you haven't seen it yet, God help
you, Boy, when she gets her claws into you. She'll
claw you up one side and down the other for
being so dang blasted stupid as not to have seen
it, then she'll make sweet love to you to make
everything all right again."
It was news to Liberty and it gave him a
momentary shock. Aside from the first day, he
had only spent but a short time with the woman,
and they had talked of the little things. How
could she be in love with him? He wondered.
"This is it." Liberty said, his ears picking up
the sound of many hooves coming near the town.
"Looks like it." The sheriff replied, his feet
shuffling with nerves, his big hands hitching his
gun belt to a better position. "I want you to know
one thing... I'm not a coward, neither are the
rest... when you got women folk, kids and such,
you start thinking about how they would get on if
somethin happened to you. Who would take care
of them? Then after awhile, you just stop doing
the things that might put your life in danger and
ya tell yourself you're doing it for their sake."
The band of horsemen showed at the far end
of the town. Fifty hard me, their faces grim, their
intentions clear. Benito had come to Bentwood to
kill the man who had killed his baby brother. To
kill the man, and to show the townspeople the
errors of their ways in harboring the killer.
"I know how it is," Liberty spoke, his eyes
going to the sheriff's. "sometimes though, a man
has to stand up and be counted even if it means
dying, else-wise, he isn't much of a man... not to
himself or the people he loves."
"That's far enough, Benito!" Liberty
McDonald's words rang sharply in the mid-
"I have come to kill you, Gringo!" Benito
called back, and his horse moved a few paces
"Do you need so many to kill one man?"
"Fool! I need no one else to kill you. I'll do it
myself, and it will be a slow death for you."
Benito sneered and started to dismount. "Miguel!
Do what needs to be done with the rest of these
sheep. I want them all dead, and this sorry town
burned down around their worthless carcasses."
Liberty McDonald stepped forward, his steps
even and measured. "I don't think so, Benito.
You're through here, you're through pushing
these people around, and you're through living."
His draw was smooth and sudden. His pistol
flamed once, twice, then the whole length of the
town erupted into a deadly barrage of gunfire.
Horses screamed and milled in terror as the
guns blazed all around. Two bright spots of
crimson showed on Benito's shirt front as Liberty
McDonald's bullets found a home deep with in
his chest, then the Bandito leader was falling
face first into the dust of the street. All was a
scene of violence... violence and death.
The sheriff was down on one knee in the
center of the street, his left arm hanging useless
at his side, yet he still fired his pistol until it
clicked on dead cylinders. Then he was knocked
down by a bullet that took his life.
Liberty McDonald stepped forward and into
the hell of the deadly fire. His two pistols fired in
unison as he moved. Burnt powder smoke fogged
his vision, stinging his eyes, yet he continued
onward until a wicked blow knocked his right leg
out from under him.
A second blow, like the kick
of a stubborn mule, hit him hard in the left
shoulder, and yet another, sent burning shock
waves coursing through his right side. Then all
became quiet, a long bitter silence...
So this is how it ends, Liberty thought as he
lay looking up at the high puffy clouds that
drifted lazily overhead... this is what it feels like
"Oh! Oh my God, you're hurt!" The words
reached his ears, but his numb brain failed to
register the voice. It was only days later, when he
awoke from his unconsciousness, that he smelled
the sweet scent of flowers, perfume, and the soft
summer rain, that he remembered the voice.
She was there, sitting beside the bed where
he lay, and Liberty turned his head ever so
slightly so that he might look at her. "Beautiful,"
He breathed, startling her from her knitting. "If
this is what heaven looks like, I should have come
"Liberty! Oh, Liberty, you're awake... you're
going to live now." Missy Gray cried out, her lips
finding his cheek. "I thought I lost you. I though I
would never get the chance to tell you that I love
you... I do, I felt it the first time I saw you, but
now I know it's true."
"He was right." Liberty said, taking her hand
and softly squeezing it.
"The sheriff. He told me I'd better plan on
settling down with a wife, that is, if you'll..."
"Yes, Liberty, yes!
"You cannot worry about that which you cannot control."