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Longshot
September 27th, 2010, 10:04 PM
Ok here goes. First fic posts, do be kind.............
this is the prologue (expanded to be a standalone story) of a novel I have written






Pinned Down




The big red headed sergeant chanced a look at his unconscious partner. The wound on the side of his head continued to ooze blood, only the steady rhythmic rise and fall of his chest assured him that the young man was still alive. His own wound, though troublesome had quit bleeding and his arm throbbed numbly. He turned from the wounded man and scanned the rim of the small canyon, they were still out there, waiting for him to present a target.

The floor of the canyon was covered with huge basalt and lava boulders. The black rocks soaking up the high desert heat, making their hiding place like an oven. Rafe scarcely believed that this was the “north”. How could a territory a thousand miles north of Texas be so bloody hot and dry, they were even north of the captain’s home in Colorado. This was his first trip into the northwest and he now figured it to be his last.

“Bloody bad place to die, but it looks and feels like Hell’s waitin room, oughta make for a short trip boyo.” He croaked. How quickly had the hunters become the hunted? Of the five men that took the trail two months ago, two were dead, one was badly wounded, and the sergeant himself had what was little more than a flesh wound. Captain Oslow was the only question mark. Had he made it through?

They had taken Clell Roberts, the leader of the outlaw gang, quickly and without trouble, right from around the campfire, as his friends slept drunkenly. Corporal Drake however stumbled into the fire and kicked the coffee pot. The outlaws, though thoroughly drunk, were still hard men, and accustomed to sleeping lightly. Three of them came up shooting and Corporal Drake paid for his misstep with his life, dropping right down in the coals of the fire. The Sergeant had received his arm wound in the same exchange, and Private Hollings had died moments later when he tried to mount his spooked horse. It shied away from him and he fell catching a boot in the stirrup. The horse jumped pulling the boot from his foot. He stumbled to his feet and was cut down by rifle fire from the camp. The only thing that saved the remaining three was the fast thinking kid, he threw a small stick of dynamite into the camp stunning all and killing three. This allowed what was left of the squad to beat a hasty retreat. They had however gotten the leader of the bunch and had him bound to the saddle.

Several hours after the night raid on the outlaw camp, the remaining gunmen caught up with the bedraggled posse. The first hint that they’d been found was when the kid fell from his saddle without a word. A brief second later they heard the report of the big sharps rifle. The Sergeant wheeled his horse and dove off. He caught up the reins of the kid’s horse and his own. The captain had made a dash with the prisoner. The time it took for Rafe to get mounted with the kid draped over the saddle in front of him, was enough for the outlaws to close the gap. It was now a race for life with his horse carrying double and leading another. Wounded and tired though he was, the sergeant was a tough man. Ignoring the pain in his arm he knotted the reigns and dropped the loop over the saddle horn, using his wounded arm he held onto the unconscious man. With his good right arm, he drew one of the big Remington revolvers on his hip. He rode for all he was worth knowing he was steadily losing ground. He turned and saw the first of the outlaws come into range. With a skill that defied logic he fired one shot and watched the dead man fall over the running horse’s rump.

Ahead he spotted a small canyon, hoping the captain had gone in and set an ambush, he steered the big roan he was on with his knees toward the mouth of the canyon. With a second shot that came nowhere near hitting, he was safely into the shelter of the rock walls. The sergeant frantically searched the canyon floor for the captain and some cover. Finding a series of three boulders he reigned up behind them. He jumped from the saddle and pulled the kid from the horse and threw him behind the largest of the boulders. He turned back to the horses and grabbed Winchesters out of both saddle boots, and quickly snatched the canteens from each saddle horn. The first shot rang out as he was fishing for shells in the saddle bags. He turned and ducked behind another of the boulders as a volley of shots screamed his way, ricocheting off the rocks in a hail of stone chips and an angry whine. He sensed a lull and stood quickly, throwing the Winchester to his shoulder. A hastily aimed shot sent one of his attackers hopping for cover with a wounded leg. Things then settled into a waiting game. The sort of game the sergeant knew he couldn’t win. He turned again to the horse’s saddlebags and brought out all the shells, a bandage and food in the form of jerked beef and raw bacon. He grabbed the bandage and turned back to his wounded friend. The kid was hard hit, the wound on his head still bled freely. He attempted to staunch the flow with the bandage, a shot then came from the canyon rim. The chips from the near miss and subsequent ricochet started blood trickling from the side of his craggy sun burned face. Tending the wounded would have to wait.

Where was the captain?

Clell Roberts, bound though he was, saw an opportunity and tried to throw himself from the back of the horse. This caused the horse to stumble and nearly go down, but the tough little mustang righted himself and kept running. The distraction however was enough that the captain missed seeing the canyon, and he kept racing until he heard the shots. He reigned up and turned around.

The bound man on the mustang laughed, “Looks like they got the rest of your little posse there lawdog”.

The captain backhanded the man and blood flowed from his split lips. “If they did, I’ll tie you to a rock and let the heat, coyotes, and buzzards take care of you”.

The outlaw tried to stare the captain down, but as he looked into the lawman’s eyes he found nothing but his own death. With a grunt he cast his eyes away from the flinty stare of his captor.

The captain now agonized over his duty and his desire. His duty was to take the outlaw boss to the Salt Lake Valley where he would board a train for Federal court in Denver. In 1871 the U.S. Government took a dim view of impersonating an Army officer, especially to rob and kill an entire wagon train. There, Clell Roberts would, barring a miracle escape, or presidential pardon, dangle at the end of a hangman’s rope. The captain’s desire however, was to gut shoot his captive and ride back to rescue his friends. Subordinates they were, friends they had become, they had ridden together for years through some of the worst that war and peace could throw at them. They were a family and duty or not you don’t abandon family.

The next shot from the rim burned the rump of the sergeant’s horse, both beasts spooked and bolted for the mouth of the canyon.

From above he heard a cruel gravelly voice shout, “Well, well, well lawdog, looks like you are wounded, alone, and afoot. Yer hosses is runned off and so has yer buddy. Don’t look good a’tall.” He then laughed.

The Sergeant looked again at the kid and told the unconscious man, “Well boyo, looks like the Cap’n made it and we be here to make sure they be few that follows”. The kid stirred and groaned, the sergeant whispered hoarsely, “Boyo! Wake up!” The kid blinked and looked over. He tried to turn and rise but the sergeant stopped him with a command, “At Ease!”

The confused kid now looked over at him, “What? What happened?”

“Ye took a bullet to the head boyo, good thing it dasn’t be a vital area!”

The kid grinned, then looked around and asked, “We pinned down?”

“Thas’ bout de size of it”.

“I’m weak and dizzy but I can see straight, hand me a rifle.”

As the sergeant handed the kid his rifle, a bullet kicked dust and sand between the boulders narrowly missing both men. They lay there a moment contemplating options for survival, coming up with no workable plan they nodded to one another wordlessly agreeing to stand and empty their rifles, to keep as many of the outlaws from taking the trail after Roberts and their captain as possible, effectively trading their lives for their leader’s.

What no one saw were the twelve pairs of dark eyes, watching from beneath the hidden overhang at the back of the canyon.

As the two wounded men prepared to rise for their sacrificial stand they heard hoof beats coming their way. It sounded to them like a stampede, the outlaws on the canyon rim rose as they heard it too. Out of the scrub and sage rode the captain, a colt in each hand both belching smoke as he rode headlong into the canyon. The kid and the sergeant watched as four of the outlaws fell under his fusillade. They then eagerly joined the fight. The outlaws found themselves stopped first by surprise, then by the face of their boss tied to the horse behind the attacker. They were reluctant to fire on the likelihood they would hit him. Then as the other two Winchesters started up the outlaws found themselves on the receiving end again and pulled back.

The captain raced in and spun his horse, releasing the other two horses he shouted, “Mount up!”

The sergeant fairly flung the wounded kid into his saddle and leapt to the back of his own roan, together they raced out of the canyon under renewed fire from above. Rafe thought he saw the captain flinch but in the madness of the moment he couldn’t be sure.

They rode hard for a half hour. Over the pounding of hooves the sergeant thought he heard gun shots but couldn’t be sure. The lathered hoses were beginning to falter when the kid spotted the rocks. There was a small pool nearby and it appeared to be a much used campsite.

The sergeant watched his commander dismount and saw that he was struggling. He rushed to his side just as the captain stumbled.

The captain looked at his subordinate and smiled, “Well Rafe looks like I messed this one up.”

The sergeant grinned, “Aye Cap’n, but ye can’t win them all. Let me get ye bedded down and ye wound looked at b’fore them others get here.” Corporal Reston had chosen their spot very well. The circle of rocks gave almost complete cover and with the water nearby they could just stand them off.

Rafe gently laid his Captain in the soft sand near a boulder and turned to check on the kid.

Handy was dabbing at the crease on his scalp with a dampened cloth and wincing at the pain.

Rafe asked, “Well boyo, ye head still attached?

Handy looked up, “Yep, hurts like fire and is complaining that my stomach is empty, I’d say it still works.”

“When ye get that scratch tended to, drag that cur dog off his horse and tie him to one of these sage. I’m gonna see to the Cap’n.”

“What if he falls when I get him down?”

“Put him back on ‘till ye get it right boyo!” With that Rafe turned back to his saddlebag and the meager first aid supplies that were left. When He returned to the Captain’s side, he saw that the man had removed his gunbelt.
Captain Oslow was scrubing the blood from the twin holstered belt with a bandana. His breathing was labored and his brow creased in pain and concentration. He turned to the Sergeant at his approach and said, “I want you to get these to my boy. There is a letter and I want you to get him this gunbelt, my badge, and this key.” He dug in his shirt pocket and produced a small key.

Rafe answered him, “Cap’n, you can give him these things yeself, just let me tend to that wound on ye back.”

Bob Oslow looked at his Sergeant and said, “Rafe, there aint nuthin to tend, I can feel what’s happening. I can no longer feel my legs, and they won’t move. I am cold and it’s getting harder to breathe. Why don’t we drop the pretense and you listen to my instructions.”

Rafe’s face fell, “Yessir, what is it ye be wantin done?”

“Take all this and package it for my son.” He drew a labored breath, “clean this belt a bit more, I can’t seem to get all the blood off it.” His eyes bore into the sergeant’s, “Rafe, look after my family. Jake is a good boy, but he’s hotheaded. He needs someone to help him grow up. Make sure that Sara and Ruth-Ann get all they need. I have saved up a bit of money and there is some beef on the ranch that is ready to go. Jake is on the account and the grant deed for the ranch and he knows how the place runs.” He paused and coughed up some blood. His voice dropped in volume, “Rafe, please tell me you’ll look after them!”

Rafe nodded, “Aye Cap’n I’ll be lookin out for ye family. I got nuthin to go back to in Virginia. I’ll pack it up an’ settle in Ft. Collins.”

“Don’t tell Sara I asked you to do this, I know her, she’ll throw you out. Just kind of wind up there.” He coughed again, “Rafe, you are the best sergeant I ever had.” His eyes closed for a moment. “Rafe, you tell Dexler to leave my boy alone till he grows up. He may follow in my footsteps, it seems to be a family curse, but keep him away till Jake is ready.”

“Aye, Cap’n.”

“Keep them Blakes away from the ranch, Rod has his eye on that spread and may try to push Jake off, don’t let him.”

“Aye, them Blakes be getting nowhere close to ye ranch while I be livin.”

Captain Robert Oslow’s voice began to weaken, and his face twisted in pain. “He’s a good boy Rafe, he’s a real good b…….” His voice trailed off in a long sigh and his face relaxed.

Rafe, stunned motionless, couldn’t believe the captain he had served for years was gone. Gone and left him to see to his family and ranch. As the shock of watching his commanding officer and best friend die began to wane, he heard a horse blow. His gaze slowly rose to see a band of ten Blackfeet warriors ride up to the circle of rocks.

Handy was lying down due to dizziness, and didn’t see their approach. Clell Roberts was busy trying to free his bound hands. As soon as he noticed them he began to shout, “Hey Lawdog! It’s yer job to take me to Denver, so that makes it yer job to keep them injuns away from me.”

That he was scared was plain to see, Rafe studied the warriors a moment and turned to the outlaw. “Shut ye mouth boyo, if them Indians wanted ye scalp they would na have rode in so slow.” He stood and turned to the leading Indian in line, “any o ye speak white man?”

The Chief looked the big sergeant in the eye, pointed at the dead captain, and said. “Chief?” in a questioning tone.

Rafe nodded his head in the affirmative and replied. “Aye, that be Cap’n Oslow.”

Red Thunder nodded his head only once, “Chief Capin, ride through fire, ver brave, big med’cine.” He shook his lance, the fresh scalps waved still limber and bloody. “Men who shoot Chief Capin.”

Rafe was nervous, afraid that these warriors wanted to add a red scalp to their lances, but he stood his ground bravely. Handy rose on unsteady legs and moved to Rafe’s side

Red Thunder continued, “Chief Capin great warrior, no bury without song.” Wordlessly he pointed at two of his warriors and at the fallen man again. The two slid from their ponies and gently carried his body to the water hole, there they stripped and washed the Captain’s body. Red Thunder asked for new clothes which Rafe took from Captain Oslow’s saddlebags. The two warriors dressed the Captains body in the clean clothing. As Rafe and Handy watched the cleansing ceremony three other warriors dug out a grave. The two warriors carried the body to the grave and gently laid it in. All of the warriors passed by, dropping small trinkets in with the fallen man. Four scalps were also laid next to his body, these were taken from the men Captain Oslow had killed as he rescued his men.

Rafe had put the items that the Captain told him to give to his son in his own saddlebags, thereby protecting them from being buried with his body.

Red Thunder stripped the saddle and gear from the captain’s tall grey gelding and led it over to the graveside. Here he held its reins close and using an old pistol killed the horse and let it fall next to the grave. He then removed the bridle.

The warriors began a low wailing song as they covered Captain Oslow’s body with dirt and rocks. This went on for over two hours, during which time Clell Roberts managed to escape his bonds and slip away into the desert. With the funeral completed Red Thunder divided the remainder of the Captain’s gear amongst the warriors, reserving the big knife for his own. With a silent nod they remounted their ponies and rode away.

Rafe turned to Handy and just shook his head. Handy said, “no matter how long I live I won’t never understand Indians, or women.”

The two men gathered their gear and made their camp over near the water hole. The circle of rocks now a solemn monument, they couldn’t bring themselves to camp there. They also looked around and liked being out where they could move, no chance of being pinned down.

Bruno Spatola
September 27th, 2010, 10:08 PM
Can you space this so it's friendlier on the eyes please? It can deter some people from reviewing a piece if it's in a big chunk. I'll be as in-depth as I can but, it's difficult like this :)

Edit: I know, I did the exact same thing with my first piece :P

Longshot
September 27th, 2010, 10:10 PM
Sorry, it was properly formatted when I copy/pasted it...LOL something lost in translation.

I'll fix it

Doesn't like indent does it......

Marley
September 28th, 2010, 03:44 AM
I'm a bit of a tenderfoot myself when it comes to writing and this is my first review, so I guess well just see if I can help at all. ;)


The big red headed sergeant chanced a look at his unconscious partner. The boy's wound on the side of his head continued to ooze blood, only the steady rhythmic rise and fall of his chest assured him that the young man was still alive. His own wound, though troublesome, had quit bleeding and his arm throbbed numbly. He turned from the wounded man and scanned the rim of the small canyon, they were still out there, waiting for him to present a target.

I like your opening because it throws the reader right into the scene, but at the same time the first couple of sentences seem a bit clunky. "The big red headed sergeant" is descriptive, but I feel like the sentence could have been handed better. Show, don't tell. He's in an interesting position right now so I feel like the description could be a bit more vivid and a lot more action based as in, instead of "The big read headed sergeant chanced...", "The sergeant wiped a gnarled hand over his face, streaking his auburn beard with dried sweat and blood. Some of it was his own blood, but most of it was the boy's. Shifting his massive frame to rest uncomfortably on a throbbing arm, he took a moment to survey the boy's injuries" Now, granted I'm a bit long winded by nature, and that kind of pace isn't needed through the whole story but, in my opinon, the action helps us get into Rafe's skin a lot better. In the second sentence I added "boy's" after the just for clarification. I read it the first time and thought we were still talking about the sergeant.8-[ I also think you should expand on the last "they" just a little bit. Whose out there? "His group","The enemy","those rotten curs?". I know you expand upon it in the next paragraph but that just stood out to me. I don't really like the word they.



The floor of the canyon was covered with huge basalt and lava boulders. The black rocks soaking up the high desert heat, making their hiding place like an oven. Rafe scarcely believed that this was the “north”. How could a territory a thousand miles north of Texas be so bloody hot and dry, they were even north of the captain’s home in Colorado. This was his first trip into the northwest and he now figured it to be his last.

Love the description and especially Rafe's voice coming through in the 3rd and 4th sentences. I'd love to see just a little expansion on this but its pretty good as is.


“Bloody bad place to die, but it looks and feels like Hell’s waitin room, oughta make for a short trip boyo.” He croaked. How quickly had the hunters become the hunted? Of the five men that took the trail two months ago, two were dead, one was badly wounded, and the sergeant himself had what was little more than a flesh wound. Captain Oslow was the only question mark. Had he made it through?

Love Rafe's quotes, the only thing I would comment on is the list of injuries, it just doesn't flow right. You just can't lump "little more than a flesh wound" in with dead and badly wounded.


They had taken Clell Roberts, the leader of the outlaw gang, quickly and without trouble, right from around the campfire, as his friends slept drunkenly. Corporal Drake however stumbled into the fire and kicked the coffee pot. The outlaws, though thoroughly drunk, were still hard men, and accustomed to sleeping lightly. Three of them came up shooting and Corporal Drake paid for his misstep with his life, dropping right down in the coals of the fire. The Sergeant had received his arm wound in the same exchange, and Private Hollings had died moments later when he tried to mount his spooked horse. It shied away from him and he fell catching a boot in the stirrup. The horse jumped pulling the boot from his foot. He stumbled to his feet and was cut down by rifle fire from the camp. The only thing that saved the remaining three was the fast thinking kid, he threw a small stick of dynamite into the camp stunning all and killing three. This allowed what was left of the squad to beat a hasty retreat. They had however gotten the leader of the bunch and had him bound to the saddle.
Right down the list.

You use drunk and drunkenly in close proximity to one another, not sure why this bugs me but you might consider replacing one. Inebriated is a fun word.

I think should use the had. Though I'm not totally sure about the grammar.

This guy gets a lot more description than the other man who died, the scene plays out awkwardly. You use boot twice (again don't know why it bugs me, maybe substitute ankle?) and a lot of unspecific hims and hes. Also as a horse person myself, I can't visualize the situation working out that way, but then that really is getting a bit too nit picky.


And I'm going to stop here for now but I plan on finishing tomorrow afternoon. (This is a long piece and I have a Statistics test at 11) You've got a good story here and I can tell that it plays out beautifully in your head but the style your conveying it in just needs a little polishing. Try reading your piece out loud, slowly, (or better yet have someone read it too you) and see how it sounds.

Good luck! And I'll be back!

~Marley

Bruno Spatola
September 28th, 2010, 05:50 AM
Hey Longshot, these are just suggestions, you don't have to take on board any advice or criticism I give.

His own wound, though troublesome had quit bleeding and his arm throbbed numbly. -- Comma after troublesome.

He turned from the wounded man and scanned the rim of the small canyon, they were still out there, waiting for him to present a target. Full stop after canyon me thinks.

The black rocks soaking up the high desert heat, making their hiding place like an oven. Do you mean The black rocks soaked up the high desert heat, making their hiding place feel like an oven ?

How could a territory a thousand miles north of Texas be so bloody hot and dry -- I'd personally make this a thought. Like this, How could could a territory a thousand miles north of Texas be so bloody hot and dry, he thought. It feels wrong that the narrator would say this, to me. I assumed he was British as well. . .I didn't think the word bloody was used this way in America.

"Bloody bad place to die, but it looks and feels like Hell's waitin room, oughta make for a short trip boyo." He croaked. -- Apostrophe after waitin . That's how I do accents any way. . .happenin', spyin', mac n' cheese, top o' the mornin' etc. Just looks better I think. Also, you put a comma at the end of speech if it is followed by a dialogue tag. "Hey," he said not "Hey." He said. You put a full stop if the character performs an action, like "Hey." John rubbed his eyes.

Three of them came up shooting and Corporal Drake paid for his misstep with his life, -- I'd say and Corporal Drake paid for this mis-step with his life.

It shied away from him and he fell catching a boot in the stirrup. The horse jumped pulling the boot from his foot. He stumbled to his feet and was cut down by rifle fire from the camp. -- Comma after fell and jumped. To be honest with you, your descriptions can be dull. It sounds like they're just being listed rather than told, you know? It's a story, not an article; there's no immersion.

The only thing that saved the remaining three was the fast thinking kid, he threw a small stick of dynamite into the camp stunning all and killing three. This allowed what was left of the squad to beat a hasty retreat. They had however gotten the leader of the bunch and had him bound to the saddle. -- Same thing here, do you see what I mean? It's like you're just saying this happened, then this happened, give it some oomph.

A brief second later they heard the report of the big sharps rifle. -- A second is brief anyway, no need to say a brief second.

Wounded and tired though he was, the sergeant was a tough man. Ignoring the pain in his arm he knotted the reigns and dropped the loop over the saddle horn, using his wounded arm he held onto the unconscious man. -- Comma after arm, full stop after horn. You keep saying wounded and never elaborate. If you describe the wound, I'll automatically assign it to my mental image of a character. Saves you having to repeat yourself. "He had been shot. Toby could make out a coin-sized hole beneath his thinning hair, still oozing hot ruby liquid." That's a crap example, but you know what I'm getting at.

With a skill that defied logic he fired one shot and watched the dead man fall over the running horse's rump. I'd make that with skill, not with a skill and he fired a single shot, not one shot. With skill that defied logic, he fired a single shot and watched the dead man fall over the running horse's rump.

With a second shot that came nowhere near hitting, he was safely into the shelter of the rock walls. -- Into the shelter of the rock walls doesn't sound right to me for some reason.

Finding a series of three boulders he reigned up behind them. He jumped from the saddle and pulled the kid from the horse and threw him behind the largest of the boulders. He turned back to the horses and grabbed Winchesters out of both saddle boots, and quickly snatched the canteens from each saddle horn. The first shot rang out as he was fishing for shells in the saddle bags. -- Again, I don't feel the intensity, I don't feel the sense of danger. I'm finding it really hard to picture anything clearly.

He turned and ducked behind another of the boulders as a volley of shots screamed his way, ricocheting off the rocks in a hail of stone chips and an angry whine. -- Better.


A hastily aimed shot sent one of his attackers hopping for cover with a wounded leg. -- You don't describe it, you just say hopping for cover with a wounded leg. This doesn't help me. Did the bullet smash straight through a bone? did it just graze him? did it miss altogether but frighten him into cover? It's all too vague so far. You don't have to write half a page describing it, just enough to paint the picture at least clearly and move on. We all describe things differently, but here it's tough to imagine, for me any way.

He grabbed the bandage and turned back to his wounded friend. The kid was hard hit, the wound on his head still bled freely. He attempted to staunch the flow with the bandage, a shot then came from the canyon rim. The chips from the near miss and subsequent ricochet started blood trickling from the side of his craggy sun burned face. Tending the wounded would have to wait. -- Try and use more variety, your word choices seem too familiar after a while. Full stop after bandage, and a shot then came sounded awkward when I read it. A shot came is good enough.

but as he looked into the lawman's eyes he found nothing but his own death. -- Found sounds odd to me.

"Yer hosses is runned off and so has yer buddy. Don't look good at tall" He then laughed. -- His accent seems off here, hard to read smoothly. He laughed is fine, don't need then.

I'm weak and dizzy but I can see straight, hand me a rifle." -- He's dizzy, but can still see straight? Everything spins when you're dizzy, that doesn't make sense to me.

What no one saw were the twelve pairs of dark eyes, watching from beneath the hidden overhang at the back of the canyon. -- Quite a sinister tone to this. Simple but effective.

Out of the scrub and sage rode the captain, a colt in each hand both belching smoke as he rode headlong into the canyon. -- Nice. How big/small is this canyon though? I'm finding it tough to size everything up. If too much is left for the reader to fill in, it can feel like a task. That just breaks the flow, and you want it to read smoothly.

The captain raced in and spun his horse, releasing the other two horses he shouted "Mount up!" -- Full stop after horse me thinks.

They rode hard for a half hour. Over the pounding of hooves the sergeant thought he heard gun shots but couldn't be sure. The lathered hoses were beginning to falter when the kid spotted the rocks. There was a small pool nearby and it appeared to be a much used campsite. -- You say couldn't be sure twice, quite closely to each other. This thirty minute ride went quite quickly, was there nothing of interest between mounting and dismounting the horses? It feels like a cheap way of getting from point A to point B, that's all.

Handy looked up. "Yep, hurts like fire and is complaining that my stomach is empty, I'd say it still works." -- I liked that, felt quite natural and realistic, but I'd change it slightly, taking off yep and putting a full stop. Hurts like fire and is complainin' that my stomach is empty. I'd say it still works. Small gripe.

Rafe, stunned motionless, couldn't believe the captain he had served for years was gone. Gone and left him to see to his family and ranch. As the shock of watching his commanding officer and best friend die began to wane, he heard a horse blow. His gaze slowly rose to see a band of ten Blackfeet warriors ride up to the circle of rocks. -- I didn't get the emotional response you may have expected here. The bond between Rafe and the Captain is never really clear, so it was a bit if an anti-climax when he died. That can be forgiven if their relationship is made clear earlier in the book, but I wasn't saddened by his death is all.

The two slid from their ponies and gently carried his body to the water hole, there they stripped and washed the Captain’s body. Red Thunder asked for new clothes which Rafe took from Captain Oslow's saddlebags. The two warriors dressed the Captains body in the clean clothing. As Rafe and Handy watched the cleansing ceremony three other warriors dug out a grave. The two warriors carried the body to the grave and gently laid it in. All of the warriors passed by, dropping small trinkets in with the fallen man. -- This all happened too quickly in my opinion, I just couldn't picture it. This is his best friend, I should care about what's happening here, but I don't have time to. The burial is over before I get the chance.

I found it difficult to connect with anyone throughout this piece. It felt like a chore to read to be blunt. I didn't care why they were in this situation, how they ended up there, who they were. They seem like heartless mercenaries, which is okay sometimes, but they lack personality. I realize you aren't exactly going to be the life and soul of the party in this bleak setting, but that doesn't mean they have to be so two-dimensional and stilted.

I couldn't get a clear vision in my head of where they were. You describe rocks and canyons, but it's very vague compared to other things I've read. I want to absorb it, soak up every little detail. Even if it's bland and ugly, I want to know it's bland and ugly, I want to know what the characters are thinking as they struggle through the intense heat. Maybe I'm just missing something, but there's very little depth.

Your dialogue is better than your description, but it felt sloppy at times. There were parts where I couldn't really understand what some characters were saying and had to be read more than once, but in other places it was quite believable. I think you need to be more consistent there, because every word is important.

These are all just suggestions, this is how I personally felt about it so, I hope you aren't too disheartened by my comments. Clean it up, expand it. Attention to detail needs to be cranked up I think. When it's beefier and easier to follow, I can see myself liking it

Good luck :)

Longshot
September 28th, 2010, 03:24 PM
While writing is a very personal thing, I don't take the critique personally. I appreciate the effort that went into these two very well thought out responses. I actually like most of the changes that were suggested and will implement them. As is easy to see I didn't pay the greatest of attention in Grammar class and my writing shows it. I like to tell stories, it is the tedium of writing I am trying to gain a love for.
I thank you two very much
Keith

Longshot
September 28th, 2010, 06:42 PM
ok rewritten, thanks!!



Pinned Down




The big red headed sergeant chanced a look at his unconscious partner. The bloody furrow on the side of the kid’s head continued to ooze crimson, only the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest assured him that the young man was still alive. His own wound, though troublesome, had quit bleeding and his arm now throbbed numbly. He turned from the unconscious kid and scanned the rim of the small canyon. Their tormentors were still out there, waiting for him to present a target.

The canyon was all of a hundred yards wide and less than seventy feet deep. The floor stretched back a mere quarter mile before ending abruptly in a sheer rock wall. There was a smear of emerald moss drawing a vertical line in the black wall. It was dampened by a trickle of alkali tainted water forming a small pool that drained into the sand and disappeared. The floor of the canyon was scattered with sage, scrub, and huge basalt and lava boulders. The black rocks soaked up the high desert heat, making their hiding place feel like an oven.

Rafe pulled a dirty bandanna across his knotted brow, wiping away the salty sweat that stung his red rimmed green eyes. He rubbed the formerly red and white cloth across the back of his neck, scarcely believing that this was the “north”. He wondered how a territory a thousand miles north of Texas could be so damnable hot and dry. What the hell is an Idaho anyway? He croaked to the kid and nobody in particular. “Bloody bad place to die, but it looks and feels like Hell’s waitin’ room, so it oughta make for a short trip boyo.”

How quickly had the hunters become the hunted? Of the five men that took the trail two months ago, two were dead, one was badly wounded, and the sergeant himself had what was little more than an irritating opportunity for infection. Captain Oslow was the only question mark. Had he made it through?

They had taken Clell Roberts, the leader of the outlaw gang, quickly and without trouble, right from around the campfire, as his pie-eyed friends slept off the effects. Corporal Drake blew a perfect snatch and grab by stumbling into the fire and kicking the coffee pot. The outlaws, though thoroughly drunk, were still hard men, and accustomed to sleeping lightly. Three of them came up shooting and Corporal Drake paid for this mis-step with his life, dropping right down in the coals of the fire. The sergeant had received a bullet through the tricep in the same exchange. Private Hollings died moments later when he tried to mount his spooked horse. It shied away from him and he fell catching a boot in the stirrup. The horse hopped dragging the thrashing man a few feet. He struggled wildly to free himself, grappling madly at his trapped leg. He gave a mighty jerk and his foot slid from the entangled boot. He stumbled to his feet, relieved to be freed of a death by dragging, and was cut down mercilessly by rifle fire from the camp.

The fast thinking kid threw a small stick of dynamite into the camp. The ensuing blast scattered the campfire in a maelstrom of sparks and debris. The flash and roar stunned all of the aggressors, killing two with jagged shrapnel of rock chips and flaming wood. This act of mass destruction allowed what was left of the squad to beat a hasty retreat. The men had accomplished the hardest part of the mission, they apprehended the leader of the bunch and had him bound to the saddle.

Several hours after the night raid on the outlaw camp, the remaining gunmen caught up with the bedraggled posse. The first hint that they’d been found was when the kid fell from his saddle without a word. A second later they heard the report of the big sharps rifle. The sergeant wheeled his horse and dove off. He caught up the reins of the kid’s horse and his own. The captain put the spurs to his tired horse at the sound, and made a run for it. The time it took for Rafe to get mounted with the kid draped over the saddle in front of him, was enough for the outlaws to close the gap. It was now a race for life with his horse carrying double and leading another. Wounded and tired though he was, the sergeant was a tough man. Ignoring the pain in his arm, he knotted the reigns and dropped the loop over the saddle horn. Using his bad arm he held onto the unconscious man. With the other, he drew one of the big Remington revolvers on his hip. He rode for all he was worth knowing he was steadily losing ground. He turned and saw the first of the outlaws come into range. With skill that defied logic, and a healthy dose of luck, he fired a single shot and watched the dead outlaw tumble backward over his galloping mount’s rump.

Ahead he spotted a small canyon, hoping the captain had gone in and set an ambush, he steered the big roan with his knees toward the illusion of safety the canyon was. With a second shot that came nowhere near hitting, he raced into their only hope for survival. The sergeant frantically searched the canyon floor for the captain and some cover. Finding a series of three boulders he reigned up behind them. He leapt from the saddle and yanked the kid from his horse. He unceremoniously dropped the kid in the shade of the largest boulder, and turned back to the horses. Searching shots began to whistle past his head as he grabbed Winchesters out of both saddle boots, and quickly snatched the canteens from each saddle horn. The fire became more directed as he dug for supplies in the saddlebag. He turned and ducked behind another of the boulders as a volley of shots screamed his way, ricocheting off the rocks in a hail of stone chips and an angry whine. He sensed a lull and stood quickly, throwing the Winchester to his shoulder. A hastily aimed shot sent one of his attackers hopping for cover, cursing and dragging a leg that flopped unnaturally. Things then settled into a waiting game. This was just the sort of game the sergeant knew he couldn’t win. He turned again to the horse’s saddlebags and brought out all the shells, a bandage and food in the form of jerked beef and raw bacon. He grabbed the bandage and turned back to his wounded friend. The kid was hard hit, the wound on his head still bled freely. He attempted to staunch the flow with the bandage, a shot then came from the canyon rim. The chips from the near miss and subsequent ricochet started blood trickling from the side of his craggy sun burned face. Tending the wounded would have to wait.

Where was the captain?

Clell Roberts, bound though he was, saw an opportunity and tried to throw himself from the back of the horse, but the ropes held him firm. His weight, being so violently shifted, caused the horse to stumble and nearly go down. This was a tough mountain bred mustang though, and the surefooted animal righted himself and kept running. The distraction however was enough that the captain missed seeing the canyon, and he kept racing until he heard the shots. He reigned up and turned around.

The bound man on the mustang laughed, “Looks like they got the rest of your little posse there lawdog”.

The captain backhanded the man and blood flowed from his split lips. “If they did, I’ll tie you to a rock and let the heat, coyotes, and buzzards take care of you”.

The outlaw tried to stare the captain down, but as he looked into the lawman’s eyes he saw nothing but his own death. With a grunt he cast his eyes away from the flinty stare of his captor.

The captain now agonized over his duty and his desire. His duty was to take the outlaw boss to the Salt Lake Valley where he would board a train for Federal court in Denver. In 1871 the U.S. Government took a dim view of impersonating an Army officer, especially to rob and kill an entire wagon train. There, Clell Roberts would, barring a miracle escape, or presidential pardon, dangle at the end of a hangman’s rope. The captain’s desire however, was to gut shoot his captive and ride back to rescue his friends. Subordinates they were, friends they had become, they had ridden together for years through some of the worst that war and peace could throw at them. They were a family and duty or not you don’t abandon family.

The next shot from the rim burned the rump of the sergeant’s horse, both beasts spooked and bolted out of the canyon.

From above Rafe heard a cruel gravelly voice shout, “Well, well, well lawdog, looks like you are wounded, alone, and afoot. Yer hosses is runned off and so has yer buddy. Don’t look good a’tall.” The antagonist spit a stream of tobacco juice through a beard stained by the foul liquid and laughed.

The Sergeant looked again at the unconscious kid and said, “Well boyo, looks like the Cap’n made it and we be here to make sure they be few that follows”. The kid stirred and groaned, the sergeant whispered hoarsely, “Boyo! Wake up!” The kid blinked and looked over. He tried to turn and rise but the sergeant stopped him with a command, “At Ease!”

The confused kid now looked over at him, “What? What happened?”

“Ye took a bullet to the head boyo, good thing it dasn’t be a vital area!”

The kid grinned, then looked around and asked, “We pinned down?”

“Thas’ bout de size of it”.

“I’m weak and dizzy but I think I can shoot, hand me a rifle.”

As the sergeant handed the kid his rifle, a bullet kicked dust and sand between the boulders narrowly missing both men. They lay there a moment contemplating options for survival, coming up with no workable plan they nodded to one another wordlessly agreeing to stand and empty their rifles, to keep as many of the outlaws from taking the trail after Roberts and their captain as possible, effectively trading their lives for their leader’s.

What no one saw were the twelve pairs of dark eyes, watching from beneath the hidden overhang at the back of the canyon.

As the two men prepared to rise for their sacrificial stand they heard hoof beats coming their way. It sounded to them like a stampede, the outlaws on the canyon rim rose as they heard it too. Out of the scrub and sage rode the captain, a Colt in each hand both belching smoke as he rode headlong into the canyon. The kid and the sergeant watched as four of the outlaws fell under his fusillade. They then eagerly joined the fight. The outlaws found themselves stopped first by surprise, then by the face of their boss tied to the horse behind the attacker. They were reluctant to fire on the likelihood they would hit him. Then as the other two Winchesters started up the outlaws found themselves on the receiving end again and pulled back.

The captain raced in and spun his horse. He released the other two horses and shouted, “Mount up!”

The sergeant fairly flung the shaky legged kid into his saddle and leapt to the back of his own roan, together they raced out of the canyon under renewed fire from above. Rafe thought he saw the captain flinch but in the madness of the moment he couldn’t be sure.
They rode hard, over the pounding of hooves the sergeant thought he heard gun shots but they seemed far off and not an immediate threat. For a half hour they charged through the rocks and sage of the Idaho desert. They used every trick they could to confuse anyone following. Rafe and Handy would split from the group, appearing to go in other directions, then return to the trail with the captain and their prisoner. The lathered horses were beginning to falter when the kid spotted the rocks. There was a small pool nearby and it appeared to be a much used campsite.

The sergeant watched his commander dismount and saw that he was struggling. He rushed to his side just as the captain stumbled. The captain looked at his subordinate and smiled, “Well Rafe looks like I messed this one up.”

The sergeant grinned, “Aye Cap’n, but ye can’t win them all. Let me get ye bedded down and ye wound looked at b’fore them others get here.” Corporal Reston had chosen their spot very well. The circle of rocks gave almost complete cover and with the water nearby they could just stand them off.

Rafe gently laid his freind in the soft sand near a boulder and turned to check on the kid.

Handy was dabbing at the crease on his scalp with a dampened cloth and wincing at the pain.

Rafe asked, “Well boyo, ye head still attached?

Handy looked up, “Yep, hurts like fire and is complainin’ that my stomach is empty, I’d say it still works.”

“When ye get that scratch tended to, drag that cur dog off his horse and tie him to one of these sage. I’m gonna see to the Cap’n.”

“What if he falls when I get him down?”

“Put him back on ‘till ye get it right boyo!” With that Rafe turned back to his saddlebag and the meager first aid supplies that were left. Their departure from the canyon left him no time to gather the supplies he unloaded there.When He returned to the Captain’s side, he saw that the man had removed his gunbelt.

Captain Oslow was scrubing the blood from the twin holstered belt with a bandana. His breathing was labored and his brow creased in pain and concentration. He turned to the second in command and best friend at his approach and said, “I want you to get these to my boy. There is a letter and I want you to get him this gunbelt, my badge, and this key.” He dug in his shirt pocket and produced a small key.

Rafe answered him, “Cap’n, you can give him these things yeself, just let me tend to that wound on ye back.”

Bob Oslow looked at his Sergeant and said, “Rafe, there aint nuthin to tend, I can feel what’s happening. I can no longer feel my legs, and they won’t move. I am cold and it’s getting harder to breathe. Why don’t we drop the pretense and you listen to my instructions.”

Rafe’s face fell, and he sighed resignedly “Yessir, what is it ye be wantin done?” He knelt and gently placed a folded bandage under the dying man.

“Take all this and package it for my son.” He drew a labored breath, “clean this belt a bit more, I can’t seem to get all the blood off it.” His eyes bore into the sergeant’s, “Rafe, look after my family. Jake is a good boy, but he’s hotheaded. He needs someone to help him grow up. Make sure that Sara and Ruth-Ann get all they need. I have saved up a bit of money and there is some beef on the ranch that is ready to go. Jake is on the account and the grant deed for the ranch and he knows how the place runs.” He paused and coughed up some blood. His voice dropped in volume, “Rafe, please tell me you’ll look after them!”

Rafe nodded, “Aye Cap’n I’ll be lookin out for ye family. I got nuthin to go back to in Virginia. I’ll pack it up an’ settle in Ft. Collins.”

“Don’t tell Sara I asked you to do this, I know her, she’ll throw you out. Just kind of wind up there.” He coughed again, “Rafe, you are the best friend I ever had.” His eyes closed for a moment. “Rafe, you tell Dexler to leave my boy alone till he grows up. He may follow in my footsteps, it seems to be a family curse, but keep him away till Jake is ready. These teams are important, but not so much that they kill my boy young.”

“Aye, Cap’n.”

“Keep them Blakes away from the ranch, Rod is a neighbor, he has his eye on that spread and may try to push Jake off, don’t let him.”

“Aye, Blake be getting nowhere close to ye ranch while I be livin.”

Handy stepped over to see how Rafe was doing treating the captain. Captain Oslow was the closest thing to a father Handy had ever known. This man had made him all he was. He had taken him in while in the army. Handy had lied to get in and the captain had known it. He trained him and taught him to be wise not just tough. Now he saw the captain was dying and it shook Handy’s world.

The captain looked up at Handy and said, “Don’t fret Handy, I don’t have no more to teach. You come a long way son, a mighty long way from that scrawny street urchin who was just too fast with a gun for his own good” He coughed again, “Handy, you watch ole Rafe’s back there. He’s smart but not near quick enough to take care of hisself.” He grinned and turned back to Rafe, “Rafe, you boys gotta get that skunk over there back to Denver. He needs to swing, but if he don’t make it all the way, make sure it hurts. Captain Robert Oslow’s voice began to weaken, and his face twisted in pain. “Jake’s a good boy Rafe, he’s a real good boy. See to him, he’s gonna need you, he’s gonna need you both…….” His voice trailed off in a long sigh and his face relaxed.

Rafe, stunned motionless, couldn’t believe the captain he had served for years was dead. A pain and emptiness opened within him as he watched him die. Bob had been indestructible, now he was gone and he had left a poor Irish sergeant to see to his family and ranch. As the shock of watching his commanding officer and best friend die waned, he heard a horse blow. His gaze slowly rose to see a band of ten Blackfeet warriors ride up to the circle of rocks.

Handy was still trying to gather his thoughts, and didn’t notice their approach. Clell Roberts was busy trying to free his bound hands. As soon as he noticed them he began to shout, “Hey Lawdog! It’s yer job to take me to Denver, so that makes it yer job to keep them injuns away from me.”

That he was scared was plain to see, Rafe studied the warriors a moment and turned to the outlaw. “Shut ye mouth boyo, if them Indians wanted ye scalp they would na have rode in so slow.” He stood and turned to the leading Indian in line, “any o ye speak white man?”

The Chief looked the big sergeant in the eye, pointed at the dead captain, and said. “Chief?” in a questioning tone.

Rafe nodded his head in the affirmative and replied. “Aye, that be Cap’n Oslow.”

Red Thunder nodded his head only once, “Chief Capin, ride through fire, ver brave, big med’cine.” He shook his lance, the fresh scalps waved still limber and bloody. “Men who shoot Chief Capin.”

Rafe was nervous, afraid that these warriors wanted to add a red scalp to their lances, but he stood his ground bravely. Handy stood on unsteady legs and moved to Rafe’s side

Red Thunder continued, “Chief Capin great warrior, must have song.” Wordlessly he pointed at two of his warriors and at the fallen man again. The two slid from their ponies and moved toward the captain’s body. Rafe and Handy stepped in to block their approach. Red thunder commanded, “NO!, let pass, honor Chief Capin.”

The two men stepped aside and allowed the two warriors to gently gather his body and carry it to the water hole. Once there they stripped and washed the Captain’s body.

Red Thunder asked for new clothes which Rafe took from Captain Oslow’s saddlebags. The two warriors dressed the Captains body in the clean clothing. As Rafe and Handy watched the cleansing ceremony three other warriors dug out a grave. The two warriors carried the captain to the grave and gently laid it in.

This simple act of finality tore the last vestiges of hardness from the two white men. They allowed themselves to feel the loss and took part in this foreign yet easily familiar ceremony. All of the warriors, including Rafe and Handy, passed by the open grave, each dropped small trinkets in with the fallen man. Rafe removed the badge from his chest and sullenly dropped it into the grave. Handy went to his saddlebag and returned with a hard covered reader. The one Captain Oslow had used to teach him to read. This he gently tucked under the captain’s arm. Red Thunder placed four scalps next to his body, these were taken from the men Captain Oslow had killed as he rescued his men.

Rafe had protected the items meant for Captain Oslow’s son by putting them in his own saddlebag. He didn’t want them to end up in the grave or divided with the Indians.
Red Thunder stripped the saddle and gear from the captain’s tall grey gelding and led it over to the graveside. Here he held its reins close and using an old pistol, killed the horse and let it fall next to the grave. He then removed the bridle.

The warriors gathered around the grave and began a low wailing song as they covered Captain Oslow’s body with dirt and rocks. The songs went on for over two hours, during which time Clell Roberts managed to escape his bonds and slip away into the desert.

With the funeral completed Red Thunder divided the remainder of the Captain’s gear amongst the warriors, reserving the big knife for his own. With a silent nod they solemnly remounted their ponies and rode away.

Rafe turned to Handy and just shook his head. Handy said, “no matter how long I live I won’t never understand Indians, or women.”

The two men gathered their gear and made their camp over near the water hole. The circle of rocks was now a sacred monument to their fallen friend and leader. They couldn’t bring themselves to camp within its borders. Looking around, the two liked being out where they could move, no chance of being pinned down.