Again, the leader spoke. “Last time. With your son’s life in the balance, do you confess to being the notorious murdering scoundrel, Butcher Bryant?”
Pa looked at me again. He bowed his head, not in defeat but rather in prayer. After a few moments, he again raised his eyes to meet mine. “Son, I am sorry you have to hear this. But you must remember I will always love you and your ma.” He sat up tall and proud in the saddle, and said to the leader, “Sir, I am indeed…”
A shotgun blast broke the tension, and everyone jumped. Sophie started forward but settled as she felt the tension from Pa’s noose. Ma strode out of the barn. She cracked open the double barrel shotgun, kicked out the spent shell with her index finger, grabbed a new shell from her dress pocket and reloaded. She snapped the gun back together and aimed it right at the leader’s chest. Ma walked within ten feet of him. “Let them go and get out of here.”
She turned to me being held by the bearded man. “You okay, son?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I answered.
“You,” she said to the scraggly man. “Untie that noose and get my husband down from there.”
The scraggly man looked to his leader, who nodded for him to do it.
“What are you going to do, shoot us all?” mocked the leader.
“No. Just you,” Ma answered.
The leader took a step toward Ma. “You ain’t got the nerve, lady.”
Another step… “Shooting people at this close of range.”
Another step… “Especially with a shotgun…”
One more step closer… “Ain’t a very pretty sight or a very easy thing to do.”
Ma toughened her resolve, but the man took one slow step after another toward her. She leaned her weight into the shouldered shotgun, ready to pull the trigger.
“Don’t, Mary,” yelled Pa. “It’s not worth it!”
The leader stopped in his tracks about two steps from the barrel of the shotgun, which began to tremble in Ma’s hands.
“They’ll lynch you for sure, Bill.” Ma said. “God forbid I stand around and watch them without a fight.”
She turned her head toward Pa. With her attention momentarily down, the leader sprang forward. He grabbed the barrel of the shotgun and pushed it toward the night sky. Ma pulled the trigger. Confusion broke. The bearded man, with me still trapped in the crook of his arm, backed up until he was within arms reach of Sophie. The scraggly man sprang into action and grabbed Ma’s arms from behind. The leader jerked the shotgun from her grasp. He held the shotgun by the barrel, and with an evil grin on his face, he stared at Pa. Then, the leader, apparently in full control of the situation again, made the most horrific mistake of his life. He wound up and swung the shotgun by the barrel in an arc upward toward Ma. The stock caught Ma across the side of the face. She immediately went limp and crumpled to the dirt.
AUTHOR: Mike Hays
BOOK TITLE: THE YOUNGER DAYS
PUBLISHER: MuseItUp Publishing