Hello, all you awesome people of Internetland! I thought I'd take a break from what I've been working on to write something a little out of my usual wheelhouse.
I've been a fan of the Predator franchise since I managed to trick my parents into letting nine year old me watch it when the first movie hit cable. Strangely, I was not allowed to watch anything R rated or with monsters but it was perfectly alright for me to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stalone, Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson explode truckloads of generic goons all afternoon. Go figure.
I also grew up reading a steady diet of Louis L'Amour cowboy books my grandma would bring me every time she came to visit. I had always been sort of tempted to try a Western...then this idea came to me last night.
By the way, Fox and Dark Horse own the rights to Predator. This is only a work of fan fiction not meant for any profit...yada yada yada...
Enough of the boring stuff! On with the show!
Arizona Territory, 1878
Jeb Yates spat a gob of tobacco juice into the dirt and pulled the field glasses from his saddlebags. Little waves of heat danced in his field of vision as he adjusted the focus and scanned the handful of sandblasted buildings at the bottom of the hill. He worked the wad of tobacco in his cheek as he studied the town of Evan's Mill with a practiced eye. Why they called the place Evan's Mill was beyond him. He could not see anything that even looked like a mill. Somebody's probably feeling ambitious. Jeb thought wryly as he spat again.
The broad shouldered, powerfully built man got his start in the War between The States raiding Yankee supply depots and ambushing patrols. Now he was 'working freelance' as he liked to put it: robbing banks and stagecoaches, mostly. Sometimes a little ranching when somebody needed a gun hand. Jeb spat again, the dark brown liquid coagulating in the dust near his horse's hoof and looked at the handful of men waiting expectantly.
They were a sorry lot in Jeb's opinion though armed to the teeth. Bummers and dregs, mostly. Men not fit to shine the boots of the soldiers he had fought with in the War but... Beggars can't be choosers. Jeb told himself as he put the field glasses back and turned to face the men. He was fairly certain he had a shirt older than Tommy Driscoll. The sandy haired kid dressed like one of those 'famous gunfighters' in those silly dime novels with two Colt Thunderers strapped low on his thighs, calico shirt and bolo tie. 'Mad' Andy Perkins sat on his broken down nag, wearing his usual malicious little grin as he ran an oil rag over the blade of the saber across his lap. Nearest Jeb could figure something snapped in the man's head in the War. He barely ever seemed to bathe though he religiously honed and oiled his cavalry officer's saber. About the only one who actually was worth a damn was Billy.
“So...we on, boss?” Billy Hawkins asked, his icy blue eyes staring off into the distance. When Jeb nodded the wiry fellow spared a look at the other two men then seemed to shrug and pull up the red bandanna around his neck. The four men conversed briefly, Jeb making a few last minute changes to the plan before they started slowly down the hill toward the handful of faded wooden buildings. None of the outlaws seemed to notice the odd glimmer of heat that stayed remarkably still just a few hundred yards away...
They entered town from the west, riding in two pairs about ten or fifteen minutes apart so as to not arouse too much suspicion among the locals. Jeb let his eyes sort of slide over where Mad Andy and Billy where they stood leaning against a hitching post across the street.
Without a word Jeb and Tommy tied their horses in front of the Evan's Mill Savings and Loan. “Calm the fuck down, kid.” Jeb muttered under his breath as they climbed the boardwalk in front of the bank. Like every other building in town, Evan's Mill Savings and Loan was made of rip sawed planks so fresh they still practically oozed sap. In fact the air still had a hint of freshly cut wood intermingled with the horse shit and animal smells. Evan's Mill was one of a hundred other little boom towns that sprung up when some idiot wandering the desert found gold or silver or whatever the fuck. In six months or a year...two at most this place would be nothing but warped planks left to dry up and blow away in the wind.
So Jeb did not feel nearly so bad as he might when he pulled the sawed off shotgun out from under his duster and announced. “Hands up! Keep quiet and nobody moves nobody gets hurt!” Jeb leveled the massive ten gauge at the handful of people between the teller's desk and the front door. He covered the two cowpunchers and... The grizzled older man cocked an eyebrow at the third person. There was something off... Jeb muttered a curse under his breath when he realized what it was: what he had taken for a rancher about the same age as the kid was a girl in trousers and a man's shirt. “Well...I'll be damned...” he muttered under his breath.
Tommy gave Jeb a quizzical look as he reached through the iron grating and snatched up the burlap sack he had thrown at the teller, now full of cash. He followed Jeb's gaze and grinned, crossing the little room with the bag of money in one hand and one of his revolvers in the other. “Come on. You're coming with us.” Tommy snarled with an animal like glint in his eye letting the barrel of his revolver trail down the front of the woman's shirt. The way her red gold hair hung to her shoulders and the figure he traced out with the weapon's barrel reminded him that it had been months since he had even seen a woman...
Jeb was about to object when one of the cowpunchers started toward the kid while his back was turned. “Easy, fella.” he reminded him, leveling the shotgun at the man's middle. No time to fuckin' argue. Jeb thought with mild irritation as he motioned Tommy toward the door. They had a time table and this was a complication they most certainly did not fucking need right now. “Just take it easy and no funny business, alright? Nobody's gonna hurt you.” he whispered in the woman's ear as Tommy walked her out to the horses.
Tommy almost immediately proved Jeb a liar. As soon as the money was safe in Tommy's saddlebag he buffaloed the poor thing with the butt of his revolver then threw her over his horse's shoulders like a sack of potatoes. “Oh god damn it...” Jeb cursed as one of the cowpunchers, a burly fellow in a green shirt, burst out of the bank with a pistol in his hand. Jeb gave him one barrel in the chest making a terrific mess of things at that distance. The four of them rode hard out of town even as the sound of the gunshot stirred the townsfolk to action.
It was almost dark by the time Jeb called a halt, their horses' flanks foamy with sweat as he led the way down into a hollow. There was a small tinkling stream winding between the red brown rocks nursing a pitiful stand of willows which provided scanty shade. “The fuck was that?!” Billy demanded as Tommy hauled the girl down from his horse and flung her roughly to the ground. All four men seemed to pay her little mind as she sat up, almost absently touching the purple black welt on her forehead.
“Alright!” Jeb's voice was like thunder, cutting off the argument before it could get rolling. “We'll rest the horses for a few hours. Kid, get some coffee on.” he ordered, his dark eyes going from man to man. “Andy, get a fire going. Billy, keep an eye out up there.” Jeb waved absently at a crevice above where the little creek sort of meandered out of the rock face.
While the other two men busied themselves getting the camp together Jeb marched over, grabbed a coil of rope from his saddlebags and then snatched the woman up by the arm. The grizzled outlaw made a tiny grunt of something like respect when the woman did not scream or cry for help even as he bound her wrists behind her back around the nearest tree. She just stared at him with a look that seethed utter hatred. “Heh. Well you keep right on hating me, sweetie.” Jeb muttered as he finished his task then walked around the thin willow to face her. He studied her a moment then turned sharply on his heel,marching up to the group.
“Alright. Once it gets dark I'll take that one back a little ways, point her toward town.” He burned holes in Tommy with his eyes as he spoke. “There's bound to be a posse after us and they'll find her soon enough. Maybe buy us some time.” Jeb dug the wad of tobacco out of his cheek and flung it into the scrubby weeds a few yards away then got the cash out of Tommy's saddlebags. “Let's get this split up so we can get gone.”
Tommy scowled back at the older man. “What the hell? I thought I'd at least get to fuck her.” he muttered irritably, sounding like a spoiled kid that had just been told that he was not about to get dessert. “C'mon, man! Look at that! Maybe we all take a turn, huh?”
All four men stopped what they were doing when the horses started to stamp their feet and snort, tugging at their picket lines in their sudden distress. Guns whispered from holsters and hammers clicked back as the four outlaws scanned their surroundings. “...GONNA FUCK ER...” a rough, inhuman voice growled from somewhere nearby. Tommy raised his pistols and fired wildly in the direction the voice came from, filling the air with a clouds of black powder smoke as a short fusillade of .44 bullets ricocheted off the rocks.
The horses, already spooked, reared and scattered shrieking into the surrounding countryside. “You damn fool!” Billy roared over the ringing in his ears as he batted the kid's arms down. “The fuck was that?” he demanded though Jeb was not entirely certain if he meant whoever spoke, the kid's actions or what had spooked the horses. Billy gave him a look out of the corner of his eye as the echos of the gunshots faded into the distance.
“Probably a bear or something.” Jeb muttered under his breath as he surveyed the damage the horses had done stampeding off. “Tommy, since you're so hot on shooting up the damn countryside, you can go find the damn horses.” There was a brief moment where it almost looked like Tommy was going to say something then thought better of it. “Go on. That posse's likely already on the way because of you so get after it, boy.”
Mad Andy sat running a whetstone over the blade of his saber when Billy was clambering down from where he had been keeping watch. It had been hours and the kid was still not back yet... “What we going to do if he don't come back?” Billy asked as he sauntered up to where Jeb leaned against a tree near the piddling little stream. The horses had what little food and other supplies the four of them had though the money was still here. Helluva lot of good it would do them with the nearest town to spend it in was full of people that would happily see them all hang...
It would be dark in less than an hour and cold after the heat of the day once the sun went down. “We give the kid till sunrise.” Jeb muttered under his breath. “After that he's on his fuckin' own.” The older outlaw's eyes flitted toward the little redhead still tied to the tree not far away. “His fault anyway. Gettin' that posse after us. Damn fool kid. Should have shot him instead.”
“What the hell?”
The words sent a cold shock through Jeb. It sounded like Tommy...and damn close too... An object arced through the air and landed between the three of them with a wet squishy thump before it went rolling through the thin carpet of dead leaves on the ground. “The fuck!?” Billy ejaculated, stumbling back a step or two when the thing nearly rolled right up the toe of his boot. He let out a disgusted cry and kicked it away when he saw the pale face of Tommy Driscoll staring up at him, a look of surprised horror frozen on his features.
Jeb let loose with both barrels of his shotgun half blinding them with the billowing cloud of smoke. Billy raised his Winchester to his shoulder and added a half dozen shots to the noise and confusion while Mad Andy fired his Navy pattern Colt revolver at nothing in particular, the other hand clutching the hilt of his saber.
Something shimmered in the smoke and Mad Andy screamed like a wounded pig, staring at the spurting stump where the hand clutching his saber used to be. The man threw aside his empty pistol and fell to his knees clutching what was left of his arm to his chest. He looked up just in time to see the pair of jagged metallic blades whistle through the dusky smoke and crumpled, blood spraying from the pair of wounds that opened him from collar bone to belly.
“...jesus wept...” Billy whispered when he looked and thought he saw a blurry outline of a huge man shaped...thing... standing over the eviscerated, twitching body of Mad Andy. In two quick strides the thing came toward him and Billy raised the rifle to block the pair of knives attached to its wrist as it swung the dripping blades in a blow aimed at his head. The outlaw stared dumbfounded when he found himself holding the barrel of the rifle in one hand and the stock in the other. It was fast, impossibly fast, and something hot and wet boiled up out of Billy's stomach spilling out between his fingers.
A full throated Rebel Yell erupted from Jeb's chest as he sprang forward, swinging the empty shotgun like a club even as...whatever it was...gutted Billy like a fish. Nobody was more surprised than Jeb when the walnut stock connected with something solid, hard enough to splinter the hardwood instead of passing through what appeared to be a ghost or maybe one of those evil spirits the Indians were always prattling about. Whatever it was growled in surprise.
He backed away, clutching the barrel of the now useless weapon as he sensed more than saw it studying him. “JESUS WEPT.” the thing muttered in a deep, guttural approximation of Billy's voice though...Jeb was almost certain he was being mocked... There was a few quiet chirps and... The shifting outline melted away revealing a man shaped creature which towered over the man, its powerful musculature covered in a greenish yellow vaguely reptilian skin. A metallic birdlike thing crouched on its shoulder and long braids sprouted from its head spilling down past its immense shoulders. It was hard for Jeb to tell if it wore a mask of some sort or if the creature's face was actually a dull metallic gray color with impassive, vaguely almond shaped eyes. The long blades attached to its wrist glistened with gore in the dying sunlight...
The party of men deputized by Sheriff Roy Parker found the outlaw's campsite at dawn the next morning. “What in Jesus's name happened here?” Ike Donner muttered and promptly bent double, vomiting at the sight spread before them. They had heard the sporadic gunfire in the distance but decided to wait for first light. Sheriff Parker tried to ignore the three bodies strung up like sides of beef in a butcher's shop swaying from ropes in the sparse willows as he rushed over to where Ellie Donovan was still tied to the trunk of a tree not fifteen feet from the carnage. The Ortega brothers crossed themselves and started muttering prayers in Spanish.
The woman stared glassy eyed at him after he cut her loose and made a brief check for injuries. Aside from some purple hands and a nasty bump on the head...it looked like she was fine... “What happened here, Ellie?” Roy asked as he tried to lead her away from the carnage. “Are you okay?”
The young woman nodded dumbly, allowing herself to be led out of the little hollow as meekly as a lamb. They gave her water and washed her face with a dampened handkerchief while she absently rubbed feeling back into her hands. She was vaguely aware of the questions Sheriff Roy was trying to ask but it sounded like she was at the bottom of a well... Tomas Ortega came back with a horse he recognized as belonging to one of the bank robbers. “The devil came for them.” she finally managed after the sheriff helped her into the saddle.