SHADOWS ON THE HORIZON
by Bobby Nash
Doc Brand felt the rocks bite into his knees as he hit the ground.
Dust billowed around him as slumped over onto his back. Eyes shut against the punishing bright glare of the sun, he lay there, contemplating whether or not it was even worth the effort to try and get back on his wobbly feet or if he should just keep his eyes closed and wait for the inevitable. He was bruised, battered, and the last coughing fit that racked his beaten body had brought up blood.
Doc had worked the county of Rock Creek for just a little under twenty years. There wasn’t a man, woman, or child within a day’s ride that he hadn’t tended to in some fashion or another in all that time. He had always believed that his patients respected him for his years of devoted service.
At best, he weighed a buck fifty on a good day. Of late, he’d been losing weight, despite continuing to eat normally. He had also noticed a slight tremor in his right hand that had not been there before. He wasn’t sure when the shaking had started, but he found it disconcerting, to say the least.
After a while, he found the strength to pull himself to his feet yet again. Every time he fell or simply stopped, swaying under the weight of his torment, he became disoriented.
Once the world stopped spinning wildly around him, he eyed the sun and the shadows of cactus and reckoned where he needed to go. On unsteady legs, he made his way across the hard land, the sun beating down on him and burning the back of his neck.
Despite his bruised knees and aching bloody body, Doc Brand set his chin and started walking again while through cracked lips he cursed the vultures who circled above as well as the men who had left him in this predicament.
* * *
It started like any other day: he’d woken early. As was his routine, he walked up onto the hill at the edge of his property and watched the sun rise. Since he had been a young boy he got a thrill out of watching the sun burn away the shadows on the horizon as the darkness retreated before the coming day. He never considered himself the literary type, but he found something about mornings to be almost poetic.
While the sun climbed, Doc fed the horses, checked the coop for a fresh collection of eggs, and filled the trough for the fat, lazy pig the Leonard’s had given him as payment for looking after old Pa Leonard when he fell ill last winter. After a breakfast of runny fried eggs, a fresh apple from the tree out back, and a couple cups of black, steamy coffee, he felt ready for his final chore, sweeping the morning dust off the front porch. He’d only half completed this task, however, when he heard the unmistakable thundering echo of hoofs on dry earth that announced the approach of visitors. And from the sound of it, they were riding in fast.
It was rare that anyone stopped by to see him for any reason other than a medical emergency. Even those were fewer and far between since his semi-retirement. His replacement had a handle on things in town, but a few of his more stubborn patients didn’t like being treated by someone as young as Doctor Thomas Porter so they still came to him on occasion. By the time two of the three riders dismounted by his front gate, he had already grabbed his medical bag from the bedroom closet. He was waiting on the top step off the porch.
“Doc!” a familiar voice shouted.
“Everett,” he called back. “What’s the matter?”
A young man, barely a day over eighteen, ran to the porch, kicking up a trail of dust in his wake. Doc knew the lad well. He had been there when the boy had been born and had helped him through colds and a couple broken bones over the years. “Doc! It’s my cousin Billy,” Everett Gordon shouted. “He’s been hurt!”
“Get him up here!”
Everett whistled and motioned toward the two young men to come closer. One man stayed on the horse while his friend walked the animal to the edge of the porch, using one hand to keep the horse reined in and the other to steady the swaying man in the saddle.
“This is Billy, Doc,” Everett said as he helped the injured man off the horse. “An’ this here is Jess Taylor.”
Doc nodded a quick greeting while Billy’s arms were supported on the shoulders of his two friends. As Doc checked Billy’s belly wound, blood pooled on the porch and spilt on the ground.
“Everett, this boy’s been shot!”
Want to find out what happens next?
Get the rest of the story in A Fistful Of Legends from Express Westerns.
|A Fistful Of Legends cover painting by David McAllister|
Ride into the Wild West with A Fistful of Legends
After the success of the Where Legends Ride anthology, Express Westerns returns with A Fistful Of Legends. Discover what it’s like to ride with damaged men and sinister night stalkers, tragic doves, plucky homemakers and gun-toting belles. Experience for yourself the harsh reality of birth and death, love and hate, revenge, retribution and robbery. You'll find it all here, penned by a whole posse-full of Western writers old and new.
So what are you waiting for? Saddle up for action and adventure... and grab yourself A Fistful of Legends! Available from the Express Westerns store at http://stores.lulu.com/expresswesterns. Where Legends Ride is also still available.
Express Westerns’ latest anthology of western short stories A Fistful of Legends is available to buy from the Express Westerns Store and all on-line retailers in paperback and downloadable eBook editions.
Edited by Nik Morton and co-edited by Charles Whipple, A Fistful Of Legends features an introduction by James Reasoner along with a front and back page cover illustration designed by Jennifer Smith-Mayo based on an original painting by David McAllister. A Fistful Of Legends is a title all western fans (and anyone who enjoys a good yarn) will want to buy. The 21 stories in this bumper size book are:
DEAD MAN TALKING by Derek Rutherford
BILLY by Lance Howard
LONIGAN MUST DIE! By Ben Bridges
THE MAN WHO SHOT GARFIELD DELANY by I J Parnham
HALF A PIG by Matthew P Mayo
BLOODHOUND by C. Courtney Joyner
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE by Gillian F Taylor
BIG ENOUGH by Chuck Tyrell
ONE DAY IN LIBERTY by Jack Giles
SHADOWS ON THE HORIZON by Bobby Nash
ON THE RUN by Alfred Wallon
THE GIMP by Jack Martin
VISITORS by Ross Morton
THE NIGHTHAWK by Michael D George
THE PRIDE OF THE CROCKETTS by Evan Lewis
DARKE JUSTICE by Peter Avarillo
ANGELO AND THE STRONGBOX by Cody Wells
CRIB GIRLS by Kit Churchill
MAN OF IRON by Chuck Tyrell
CASH LARAMIE AND THE MASKED DEVIL by Edward A Grainger
DEAD MAN WALKING by Lee Walker
Pick up your copy today.