Bitter Creek's Redemption
Bitter Creek's Redemption copyright c. 2009 T.A. Chase
“Brother?” Travis asked.
“Yes, this is my brother, U.S. Marshall Josiah Burlington.” Eagle shook Josiah’s hand. “I wasn’t sure if you would come or not.”
Josiah laughed. “When my half-brother writes me and asks for my help, I have to come. You’ve never asked before, Eagle.”
“Never really needed your area of expertise before, Josiah.” Eagle gestured to Travis. “Josiah, this is Travis Ramsey. His brother’s death is what prompted me to write you.”
“Mr. Ramsey.” Josiah’s voice was cool.
“Marshall Burlington.” Travis turned to look at Eagle. “Your father was Nathaniel Burlington?”
“It was a great loss when he was killed.”
Eagle inclined his head slightly to acknowledge Travis’s comment, but didn’t say anything. His father had been a legendary lawman, yet the only side of him Eagle remembered was the loving father who didn’t see his wife and son as Indians, but as people. It was an unusual attitude in a world divided by so many issues.
“Have you been through the house?” Josiah kept his eyes on Travis, though his question was directed toward Eagle.
“No. Barking Dog and I gathered the horses and drove them to a canyon that night after I buried Ralph. We didn’t enter the house, but I don’t think there was anyone around. At least, no one has come to hassle me over taking the horses.”
“And we both know they would if they knew you had them.”
Travis pushed past Josiah to enter the house. Eagle started to follow him, but his brother grabbed his arm and stopped him. They waited until Travis disappeared inside before Josiah spoke again.
“What are you doing with him, Eagle?” Josiah nodded in the direction Travis took.
“Why? What do you know about him that has you so worked up?” Eagle pulled free and turned to face Josiah fully, his arms crossed over his chest. His older half-brother was a big man, but Eagle never allowed himself to be intimidated by Josiah.
“He’s a hired killer.”
Eagle couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing and Josiah frowned.
“Did you believe I didn’t know that? It’s so obvious even a blind dog would know what he is.” He shook his head. “Even a killer has the right to know what happened to his brother and it’s not like he’s going to harm me. I didn’t have anything to do with it.”
“He’s killed people, Eagle. How do you know he won’t blame you for not saving his brother?” Josiah’s stubbornness made him a great lawman, but could be annoying when he dug in his heels to try and protect those he cared for.
“You’ve killed people. Does that make you a terrible person or an ice-cold killer? How do you know, that in his judgment, those people didn’t deserve to die? You live in a very good and evil world, Josiah. The world I live in isn’t quite so perfect.” Eagle strolled toward the door. “Besides, he could have killed me at any time since he arrived in Bitter Creek. I don’t think he held out any hope that his brother was still alive.”
“Damn it, Eagle, you can’t trust him. Men who kill for money will turn on their friends if the money’s right.”
“Who said I killed for money?”
Eagle looked up to see Travis standing in the middle of the room, coolly assessing them with his narrowed eyes. Shaking his head, Eagle didn’t reply, figuring Travis knew it wasn’t him. Josiah, who once he got an idea in his head, was like a wild horse with the bit in its teeth.
“I did and you can deny it all you want, Ramsey. I’ve heard all the stories about you.” Josiah stood right behind Eagle and Eagle was sure his brother gave off the impression that he was protecting him.
Travis snarled and slid his hand toward the butt of his pistol. “I don’t hire my gun out to anyone.”
Tension built steam until it weighed on all of their shoulders. Eagle strolled around the two rooms, not really caring what was happening between Josiah and Travis.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Travis moved after him first.
“I wanted to see if they left anything behind. We have to find out where Ralph was shot. It might give us some idea who went after him.”
“But..” Josiah stayed near the door.
“I don’t have time to watch a pissing contest between the two of you. The longer I’m away, the more Irv is going to think I told you something I shouldn’t have, even though I don’t know anything.” He grinned at the two men.
“I’ve been all over the cabin. There’s nothing here besides dust and mice. If they did beat and shoot him here, they cleaned up after themselves.” Josiah waved a hand, encompassing the entire room.
“They had time to come back and clean up. No one came looking for Ralph when he disappeared. I heard they trailed his horse from the ranch to the edge of town, but once there, the hoof prints mixed with all the other mounts in the area and they lost them.” Eagle grimaced. “They weren’t the best trackers.”
“Would you have done a better job?” Travis wandered around the room, touching and moving things.
Eagle chuckled. “Of course. Barking Dog’s father would have blistered my hide if I couldn’t find one horse’s track in a mess of others, plus my father wasn’t too bad a tracker himself.”
“How are we going to find where they ambushed Ralph?” Travis sounded puzzled.
“We aren’t. It don’t matter where they got him anyway. He’s dead and they’ll reveal themselves soon enough. You are more than welcome to ride his land though. You might find something, but I don’t have time to do it.”
All three men swung toward the front of the cabin when Eagle’s mare snorted a warning. Three separate hoof beats sounded on the hard dirt leading to the porch.
“Hello, the house.” A deep gruff voice called out, giving Eagle the identity of one of the riders.
Josiah unpinned his badge and slid it in his front pocket. “Might as well go out and greet the man.”
“It’s Buffert. He’ll have Tuff Burns and Welton Jones with him. They’re dead cold shots and meaner than a snake, so watch them. Buffert’s not much of shot with his pistol, but I’ve seen him hit a rabbit in full flight with his rifle. Keep that in mind,” Eagle whispered before leading the way out of the cabin.