There Smelly Jack laid, face down in the dirt, defeated and humiliated, his hands and feet hogtied behind his back. His brothers, cousins, and brother-cousins were all arranged similarly in a line that stretched the entire length of the the road.
Slade and Gunther stood watch over the wanton criminal, ignoring his demands for clemency.
“Dammit Slade, ‘aint you an officer of the law?!” Jack asked. “You’re just going to let them damn dirty Injuns take me away?!”
He didn’t show it, but the Marshall enjoyed letting Smelly Jack sweat.
Standing Eagle approached.
“Let me do the talking,” Slade said to Gunther.
“Since when do you do any talking?” Gunther asked.
“Don’t do the fake Injun talk shit,” Slade said. “He hates that.”
The Chief embraced Slade, who in turn, just let his arms hang down at his sides. Slade’s machismo would not allow him to hug another man.
“I am glad I was able to save your skin, Slade,” Standing Eagle said.
“So am I,” the Marshall replied.
Gunther raised a flat palm in the air. “HOW!”
The Chief rolled his eyes and glared at Slade as if to ask, “Really?”
In turn, Slade shrugged his shoulders as if to reply, “Afraid so.”
“How what?” Standing Eagle asked Gunther.
Gunther doubled down on his ignorance and repeated “HOW!”
“How what?” Standing Eagle asked. “How do you chop wood? How do you skin a deer? What do you want to know how to do?”
Gunther was overcome by bewilderment.
“ME GUNTHER,” the old man shouted. “ME…WHITE…LAW…MAN. YOU…BIG WARRIOR BRAVE! ME GIVE YOU…MANY THANKS…FOR CAPTURING BAD MEN!!!”
Standing Eagle asked Slade, “Why is he doing the fake Indian talk shit? I hate it when white men do the fake Indian talk shit.”
“Tried to tell him,” Slade said.
“I can speak English, white man!” Standing Eagle said to Gunther. “I always study the ways of those who intend to do me harm.”
“Oh,” Gunther said. “Well, thanks just the same. I reckon we were up shit creek without a paddle until your canoe came along.”
“Don’t mention it,” Standing Eagle said. The Chief grabbed Jack’s carcass, hoisted it up into the air, and put it over his shoulder. “Time for this monster to get what’s coming to him.”
Jack wrenched his bound up body to and fro but it was no use. “SLADE!!!! YOU GOTTA DO SOMETHIN’!”
“Whoa,” Slade said.
“Whoa?” the Chief asked.
“He’s got to stay,” Slade replied.
Standing Eagle allowed Jack’s body to drop to the ground. The outlaw screamed like a little girl the entire way down until he landed with a magnificent thud.
Slade was a tall man in his own right, but most men looked like dwarves when compared to the mighty Standing Eagle. He looked down at the Marshall with great disdain.
“We had a deal, Slade,” Standing Eagle said. “This fiend and his family have burned our homes, murdered our people, kidnapped and raped our women. You promised me justice will be done!”
Slade nodded. “He’ll swing. I guarantee.”
“You guarantee?” Standing Eagle asked. “How many guarantees have my people received from YOUR people that we will not be harmed, that we will not be forced from our lands? Your guarantees mean nothing to me!”
“Chief,” Gunther said. “What I think the Marshall’s tryin’ to say is that we got our own rules and we got our own big chiefs back in Washington that want to see Smelly Jack and his boys dead for all the havoc they’ve caused all these years. We’ll be in big trouble if we let him go.”
“HANDSOME JACK!” Jack shouted. “I TOLD THAT NEWSMAN HE WAS SUPPOSED TO CALL ME HANDSOME JACK IN THE PAPER! I OUGHTA TRACK THAT SHIT HEAD DOWN AND…”
Slade pressed his boot down on the back of Jack’s head, not so hard as to pop his skull open, but just firmly enough to keep the prisoner quiet. After a second or two of compliance through silence, Slade returned his foot to the ground.
“I already wired Judge Sampson,” Slade said.
“Shit, there you go, Chief,” Gunther said. “Judge Sampsons’ a real stickler, let me tell you. That old cuss would hang his own mother for stealin’ a piece of candy. You got nothin’ to worry about. Smelly Jack’ll be twitchin’ at the end of a rope in a week, just as soon as the Judge gets to town and makes it all formal like.”
“HANDSOME JACK!!!” Jack yelled.
“SHUT UP!” Gunther and Standing Eagle yelled at the prisoner in unison.
Doc stuck a bottle in Standing Eagle’s face. “Chief, would it be possible for us to set aside our cultural differences over a drink of my Miracle Cure-All? Not that you need it, as you appear to be a specimen of perfect health and virility but one can never be too careful when it comes to preventative medicine.”
The bottle was instantly slapped out of Doc’s hand. It went sailing through the air then shattered on the ground, spraying its contents everywhere.
“I know your tricks,” Standing Eagle said. “You offer a gift as a gesture of friendship but then it ends up being laced with diseases from across the great ocean.”
“Not as such, no,” Doc said. “Its mostly just cocaine and spider eggs for texture.”
“Slade,” Standing Eagle said. “Out of all the white men I have ever met, I always believed you were the one without a forked tongue…”
The Chief grimaced. “…but now I am beginning to see the prongs…”
“I’m…” The man of few words struggled to speak but all he could come up with was, “I’m sorry.”
Standing Eagle turned his back on the lawmen and walked toward a group of warriors. Slade and Gunther followed behind.
“Chief, this is all just a big misunderstanding,” Gunther said. “The Marshall, he ‘aint much of a talker so I don’t know what happened, maybe something somehow got mixed up in whatever chat you two had before all this happened but I swear Ole Smelly Jack will get what’s comin’ to him.”
Jack rolled over on his side, only to yell out in pain as he shifted his body’s weight onto his elbow. “HANDSOME JACK!”
Slade drew his Colt and fired a round that landed in the ground just an inch away from Jack’s head, setting off a small explosion of dirt.
“Say it again,” Slade said.
“I’ll be good,” Jack replied.
Standing Eagle folded his arms and stared at Slade and Gunther with disgust, as if they were just a couple of lowly rats in the great warrior’s eyes.
“My name is Standing Eagle,” the Chief said.
“We know,” Gunther replied.
“No,” the Chief said. “You do not know. The mighty eagle has the power of flight. With his majestic wings, he can soar high above the clouds, look down upon the world in awe, and travel anywhere at any time.”
Doc missed out on this conversation. He chatted up a pair of ladies, attempting to impress them with his massive vocabulary.
“But I am not Soaring Eagle, nor am I Flying Eagle. I am Standing Eagle, for an eagle is at its strongest when it knows exactly where it wishes to be and refuses to use its wings to leave. This land is my home. It is where I was born and where I will die, of old age I hope but in battle if I must. I do not need to leave for the earth provides us with all that we need to survive. There is plenty for my people and there would be plenty for yours if you would live the way you were intended to. Instead, you take, and take and take to fill the bottomless pits of your empty souls. I fear one day the white man will take until the world becomes a rotten, spent husk. I do not envy anyone living when that day comes. But until it does, I will stand with brothers and my sisters, my elders and my children, in the place where the spirits decided I should be long ago. I will fly away for no man.”
“Chief…” Slade said.
“Slade,” Standing Eagle said, “We had a relationship of trust. You were a man of your word, more so than any other man who held your position in the past. Together, we’ve kept the peace between our people for a year, but now that you’ve destroyed our trust, I fear our peace will soon follow.”
Standing Eagle pointed to one of his men. He was shorter and skinnier. His face was covered with war paint. He and his leader exchanged words in their native tongue.
“This is Wandering Snake,” the Chief explained. “He is our most powerful shaman.”
“A what-man?” Gunther whispered out of the corner of his mouth.
“Some kind of holy magic man,” Slade answered.
“Silence, imbeciles!” Standing Eagle said. “He is the vessel through which the spirits make their will known and…HE WILL NOW SEAL YOUR DOOM!”
Gunther looked a little nervous. Slade was as nonchalant as ever.
Wandering Snake proceeded with an elaborate dance, during which he chanted in a steady rhythm.
Standing Eagle translated.
“Filthy, incompetent white men! You have angered the spirits. You have disrupted the slumber of our ancestors. Once again, you prove that your treachery and lies know no boundaries…”
“Chief,” Gunther interrupted. “Is this going to take long?”
“The man you call Jack Buchanan…and his kin…their vile misdeeds have caused much misery and suffering…”
“It’s just that I’m hungry as hell and need to get a steak in me,” Gunther complained.
“SHUT UP, DUMBASS!” Standing Eagle shouted. “I’M TRYING TO CURSE YOU, HERE!”
Slade nodded at Gunther, a sign that he wanted the old man to pipe down. As a good deputy, he did as instructed.
Wandering Snake pulled off a visually stunning twirl. He was very limber and spry.
“The spirits have decreed…that if the Buchanans do not pay for the lives they have taken with their own…then your farm lands will grow useless…your…yes, your lives will be filled with torment….”
Wandering Snake kept up with his performance, dancing and chanting away. However, Standing Eagle stopped translating and appeared to be deep in thought. He stroked his chin, looked up to the sky, then after a minute, looked at the two lawmen and declared…
“…and when your people die…they will not completely die. Their souls will move on but their bodies will remain in motion, shells of their former selves, wandering about aimlessly as they search for the flesh of the living to devour…your punishment will be to fend off their attacks until the end of time.”
Silence. Wandering Snake took a breather.
“Is that it?” Gunther asked.
“That’s it,” Standing Eagle said. “Why, do you want more?”
“Not especially,” Gunther said.
A warrior walked up leading the Chief’s horse, a white paint with brown spots. Standing Eagle mounted his noble steed. He didn’t bother with a saddle.
“Mark my words, Slade,” Standing Eagle said, pointing a finger toward Smelly Jack. “If he doesn’t die, you’ll wish you had.”
The warriors packed up and together they rode out of town, their noble chief leading the way.
“Damn,” Gunther said. “There goes some pissed off Injuns.”
“Yup,” Slade replied.
The law men looked at each other. Gunther budged first.
“You don’t think…”
Slade chomped on his cigar. “Nah.”
“I didn’t think so.”
Leaving Slade on watch, Gunther returned to the Bonnie Lass, where the patrons were hiding behind the bar, under tables, and so on.
“You can come out now, chicken shits,” Gunther said. “The desperadoes have been apprehended, relieved of their shootin’ irons, and there’s no more danger at all. Now we just need some folks to help us stand guard over ’em until the Judge arrives. Pays fifty cents a day and all you gotta do is point a gun at a bunch of tied up reprobates.”
Literally every hand in the bar shot up into the air.
“Yup,” Gunther said. “I figured as much.”