Sorry about yesterday. I was writing and then got called to eat. Called to eat my breakfast by my boss. Yeah…a 6-year old. The rest of the day was pretty hectic. Let me continue where I left off. But, I am going to try and tell it more like a story in real-time…
From behind a mesquite bush shadow this guy jumps out about twenty feet in front of me, his rifle pointed right in my face. I was a half second behind him, but he was staring into the barrel of my AR all the same. By the time he spoke I had already taken up half of the slack in the trigger. One or both of us was less than a micro-second from dying. Then this fool standing in front of me hollered “Halt!” like he was some soldier or something.
Real softly I heard someone to our right moving very quietly, probably trying to get in a better location flanking us. Ashley was curled around my ankles laying in a ball on the ground, knife out, facing to our rear. Good child!! She was doing exactly as we practiced. She was the smallest possible target she could be, she was our “eyes” to the rear, she had her knife ready to stab anyone who tried to attack her, and I knew exactly where she was because I could feel her against my legs. I love that kid!
The idiot pointing his rifle at me couldn’t have been more than twenty probably considerably younger. It was dark, maybe I was wrong. I didn’t feel like killing him right then, he might still be able to pull his trigger if I didn’t get a perfect orbital hit to his brain.
“Kid, you can live if you drop that rifle. Otherwise, you are going to be dead in three seconds.” That was my tough guy speech for him. Unfortunately, I heard a safety click off no more than maybe thirty feet to my right, his partner had flanked us. But, we aren’t without a card or two of our own to play. Mostly a bluff but what the heck…something had to work.
“Last warning before I kill you and then kill your partner off to my right. You will both be dead in less than two seconds.”
“Pretty tough talk for an old man with two rifles pointing at you.” Ah, he had just given up some vital intelligence…there were only two of them. Strangely I didn’t find much comfort in that new found knowledge, I was still outnumbered and out-flanked.
“Buddy, I will kill both of you before I let you two get your hands on this little girl. Now, lower your gun and tell your partner to do the same and he has to come out where I can see him.”
“Nathan, let me just kill him! I have a clean shot, he’s too old and slow to get both of us,” coming from his partner to my right.
I simple told the kid in front of me, “Yeah kid, but I’m pointing at you and the slightest movement puts a round into your head. My time in Delta Force taught me that.” Man, I was a BS artist like I never thought I could be.
“Grrrrrrrrr…” The cavalry had arrived. I heard Beans growling off to my right as well. She sounded close to the second gunman. The odds were even, I was ready to shoot…Ashley is not dying or getting into the hands of some creeps tonight…or ever!
“Dip wad, that is 120 pounds of the meanest German Sheppard you’ve ever seen. She’s going to crush your windpipe and then eat your intestines while you are still alive.” Then to the kid in front of me I whispered, “lower your rifle, walk away, and we all live to see the sunrise.”
“Mister, you aren’t living to see anything. You are dying right here and that girl is ours,” came his reply.
I was taking up the last of the trigger slack ready to send 62gr of 5.56 M855 into the kid’s brain when the flashlight lit up Ashley. “Ashley? Ashley Tanner is that you?”
“Nathan, I think that is Ashley, Uncle Billy’s girl.”
“Mister, you have five seconds to explain why our cousin is with you instead of her parents!” That came from the one called Nathan who now sounded full of confidence and seriousness.
My head was spinning now, I was confused beyond belief right then, my brain just couldn’t process anything that was going on. All I could think of was putting a bullet in this kid’s face and then spinning to my right and laying down enough fire to get the second outlaw that was ambushing us. And now they were calling Ashley by her name. My world is never sane anymore…ever.
“Nathan, or whatever your name is, I have no clue what you are talking about. But, I do know I am going to kill you if you don’t lower that rifle. My dog will take down your buddy and then I will let her eat the both of you. Now lower your gun!”
The light was still on Ashley, she had one hand up trying to shield her eyes, and I could hear Beans was moving closer to the unseen second gunman. People were about to start dying. I knew I would be one, Ashley couldn’t be another…she just couldn’t…I can’t fail that kid…I simply can’t.
“Eldon, you better be dang sure that’s Ashley, you haven’t seen her in over a year.”
“Nathan, that’s her alright. What’s this guy doing with her? And where is Aunt Helen and Uncle Billy?”
“Mister, I’m giving you one more chance…why do you have that girl?” This kid was serious, very serious. The situation had changed and I felt on the losing end of it all.
Nothing else was sane right then, I figured talking might work for me to get a better edge on them. “I was walking home, I found her. Her parents were killed by some bad guys near Lordsburg. She’s been with me ever since.” Trying to press my luck, “Get that light out of her face, shine it on yours and see if she recognizes you. Then we can peacefully settle this.” I knew he would go for it, he sounded young and naive. With the light on his face that would be the edge I could use to get a shot off before he could. And he did it!
But, then it got even more bizarre.
“Nathan!” You gotta be kidding me! Ashley called out this guy’s name while I’m squeezing the trigger. Luck for all of us I was able to pull up and not send this kid to heaven…or hell.
“Ashley, you OK? Has he hurt you?” Now it was the one called Eldon yelling out and moving. Beans stopped that real quick and the kid’s voice turned terrified. “Mister, call off your dog! I can’t see her but he sounds like she is going to kill me.”
“Not a he, it’s a she…and she will kill you! Now stand still, don’t move, and lower your rifle.”
“Same for you kid,” as I gestured to the kid in front of me that was looking even younger than he did a couple of minutes ago. He lowered his rifle. I asked Ashley if she knew him. She relied that she thought she did but she couldn’t be sure, it might be her cousin.
“Both of you move slow, set your rifles down on the ground, get around here in front of me, and let her get a look at both of you. If she recognizes you then you live. If not, then my dog eats well tonight.”
Ten minutes later the two of them were talking with Ashley like long lost friends. Well, technically like long lost cousins. Another ten minutes and I learned they were from the Three Fingers Ranch not far from where we were. The ranch was owned by the Merrill and Tanner families who were originally from Canada. Ashley was from the Tanner side of the family, the boys were as well. Sounded like there was a bunch of folks holed up at the ranch, all of them related to these two families.
Now what did I get myself into? This is an episode of the Twilight Zone.
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