Matthias – One

Matthias – One
~ Quick & Easy Job ~
Pulling out of Shade Cross was something I did not want to do. I had a nice job going here and it would have brought in some nice cash to the gang. I was even going to go solo with it and keep the bigger stake; maybe roll in Grace to help keep the attention of the local lawman that passed through the store.
Easy job. All down the drain thanks to Levi and Clyde’s antics. I’d watched them in the middle of town and reported back to Gideon on the outcome. Now the entire town was against us and we had to leave.
Sneaking back into Shade Cross was hard but I had to grab a few things before the camp rolled out. That meant sneaking past the local lawmen, or what was left of them. Clyde and Levi’s rampage through the town had killed quite a number of them and I wasn’t going to be dealing with their aftermath.
I managed to sneak along the back roads of the town and into the yards of the local farmers. Leaving my horse out by the pastures I made a low hunch through the crops and got to the store. An old wood store ran by a rather kind old gentleman. It had been an observation point for watching the general store on the corner.
Old Man Jackson was kind enough to give me a job working there and to say something about the grafting work, I loved it. I never thought wood could be used to do so much; sure I knew you made things out of wood but to see the wood shift and form to my hand and tools.
I felt my calling.
When I leave the gang and retire from our hard life of crime I might take up woodwork in some village or settlement.
I had to tell Old Man Jackson I was leaving, he was kind hearted and even though he knew I was part of the gang he knew that I wasn’t like the other two cunts.
Saying my goodbyes was hard, especially to his eldest daughter, she was as kind hearted as her father and quite the looker. I knew she fancied me and we’d sat and talked when she’d brought drinks over during the heated days.
As I was about to leave, Old Man Jackson stopped me.
“Here son, you left these.” He held out a bundle of leather in his hands and with gentle reverence I took them and unfolded the wrap.
There were woodworking tools. Pristine and new.
And expensive.
“Sir, I can’t take these.” I replied back, my heart in my throat.
“You can and you will son. You’ve got one of the best hands for wood I’ve seen in all my years. I know your gang ain’t all at fault for what happened but you’re a good soul. I can see it in your work. A kind heart. I was going to give you these when I asked you to be my apprentice but now you’re going. You should take them.”
It brought a tear to my eye the trust Old Man Jackson gave me. I had used this place as a stakeout but found myself growing to love it.
I hugged the man and thanked him. “I’ll make you proud.” I told him and turned to leave.
I was almost out of town when I saw it, the armoured stage coach setting up in the back yard of the bank. I knelt in the dirt and watched them load up the coach.
“Alright, make North for Farbank and don’t stop for anyone. This gotta get there without any trouble. After what happened here, the boss man ain’t happy.” I heard a shorter and stout man ordering his men, they all nodded and continued to load up the coach with a trunk. I spied the driver, the shotgun rider and another man stepping into the coach. There might be more but I got out of there as fast as I could.
If we were leaving here, we might as well as take a prize.
The ride back to camp wasn’t long at a full gallop, I slowed as I reached the perimeter guard and waved to Obadiah and John as I passed them.
I slowed just as I entered camp, seeing the shit shoveller Clyde coming over. I did not care for him and was only interested when I saw Solo heading over and Filly nearby. Felicity ‘Filly’ Ramsey, the hot headed red head was one of the best damn shots I’d seen in years. I think only Solomon and I were better. She was a good thief, had a good head on her and very pretty too. All the boys were after her.
Well, not all. Solomon tended to keep to himself after what happened between him and…
This wasn’t the time to think or talk about that.
“There… there’s a… stage… coach…” I panted, my heart racing from the ride. I stepped over to the water trough and dunked my head into the freezing water. It was like being hit by a log.
“What’s you saying ‘thais.” Solomon asked, he always called me that. Everyone like to call me Matt or Matty but Solomon and I had known each other since I was a brat. He always called me ‘thias.
“A stage coach… it’s coming out of Shade Cross. Heading North to Farbank.” I managed to get my words out straight.
“What’s so important about a stage coach?”
“Well, it’s got at least three armed guards with shotguns and rifles and caged doors.”
“A payroll coach?”
“Not just any payroll coach. The Banking Guild’s payroll coach.”
“What’s the Banking Guilds coach doing coming out of Shade Cross? Did it come in first?”
“Nah, this one went out from their yard, I think its carrying.”
“How much?”
“Probably enough to get us by for a while. Even so, we’re leaving and they won’t track us down while the gang is on the move. Even if they suspect us, they would see them leaving and suspect some local colour or some of the out of town gangs moving in.”
“Us? You mean just us two?”
“I’ll come!” Clyde called out from the hitching post. Like that was ever going to happen. I was glad when Solomon cut in and got Clyde back to work.
“Unless we want a lawman gunned down again, I think we’ll pass Clyde. Now get back to shovelling. Gideon wants the horse shit ready to sell on at the next town. They pay good money for that on the farms”.
“We won’t be able to do it, just us two. We’ll need someone else, two at most.” I thought about it, looking around and then grinned as I saw Filly was stood listening. “We’ll take Filly, she’s a good arm and knows her stuff.”
The red haired girl grinned and stepped forward, laughing as she wiped her face with her shirt, flashing the muscled arms of hers.
“Yea I’ll do it. If it means you two don’t get me riddled.”
“Yea alright, Filly you’re in. Who else?” Solomon turned around and looked back at me.
This was Filly’s chance to step in. “What about Franny?”
“Franny? You sure bout her?” I asked. “I mean, two girls on the road with…” Suddenly realising what I was saying, I knew I had to back step before I ended up with a broken nose.“I mean, two pretty ladies on the road with two gunmen might look a little suspicious.”
“Not if we hold them up at Coyote’s Gulch. Have the horse lay down, as if with a bad foot. Stepped in a rabbit hole or some’thin’. Then when the Waggon pulls up, you two lovely gentleman remove them from their valuables. If any of them decide they want to get funny.” Filly drew her Darrington revolver with the speed of a Imperial Gunslinger and with a nice over the top flourishing spin, aimed it away from us. “We incentivise.”
“I’m not sure about that.” I liked a plan, a good steady plan; its why I spent two months working in Old Man Jackson’s wood shop and not just busting in through the door of the General Store like Clyde and Levi. Going half arsed into this would be bad and someone could get killed.
However Solomon was the cleanest head I knew and when he cut in, I shut right up. “I like it. I like it a lot. I’ll go tell Gideon, ‘thias you grab Mrs Wheeler and Fil…” Solomon turned to look at Filly before putting his hand on her shoulder. “Get us some rifles from my waggon. Two Darrington’s and grab my Vanderbilt from my trunk; the one wrapped up in a leather wrap.”
“Will do boss man.” Filly grinned like a maiden asked out to the county ball and ran off in a rushed stride to go get the weapons while I turned to go get Francisca.
I found Francisca Wheeler packing the food waggon with Wilburn and Rose.
“Hey Fran. We got a job, you in?” I asked as I approached.
The blonde girl turned and grinned, she hefted the crate on her shoulder up into the waggon with ease before wiping her brow with the back of her glove. “Sure, what job.”
“Stage Coach.” I told her. Rose let out a soft whistle and looked to Francisca.
“That would be fun.”
“Yea it might be.” Rose laughed and winked. “Alright, who else?”
“Just me, you, Solo and Filly. Nice easy snatch and grab down at Coyote’s Gulch.”
“Sounds perfect. Sure I’m in.” Fran turned to the two others and gave Rose a hug before shrugging at Wilburn. “Sorry King, duty calls.”
“Mrs Wheeler, if you’re going to just run off instead of helping me with this, you got another thing coming.” The old cook Wilburn King groaned. He was about to give another one of his long lectures but I raised my hand to silence him.
“I think a big strong man like you can handle a job better than a woman Willy.”
Rose let out a small chuckle and Wilburn turned with a gruff sigh and got back to work.
“Ready.” Fran grinned as she came over to me.
We waited for Filly and Solo before setting off on our horses. It wasn’t far to get to Coyote’s Gulch and when we finally arrived, we all split up. The girls would pull off the basic ‘lost girl’ pull. It wouldn’t be long before the stage coach turned up so I took my position at the back. Solo would pull them up while I covered the rear.
Not long into waiting, the sounds of the stage coach began to rattle along the plane. I hid behind an outcropping of rocks and tree’s while the stage coach drove by. I could already hear the girls fighting it out like a pair of strumpets.
I waited a minute and then heard Solomon begin his elegant speech. The man could always put on a good show.
My eyes then caught something, not far behind and gaining quickly.
Riders, outriders. Must have been tailing the stage coach or something.
This was my time.
Resting my rifle onto the shoulder of a tree branch, I levelled my sight and watched the riders race down the track towards me. One, two… three. Now there were four. Two more behind them.
Six in total.
With a slow breath I settled my heart and readied my mind. Time seemed to slow down and come to a thumping halt. I could see the flexing of the horses muscles as they galloped along, I could see the panting of the horses, the sweat on the brow of the riders.
I pulled the trigger.
The first man flew from his saddle and his horse galloped on non the wiser. The second man was hit cleanly before they realised what was going on. The third had managed to yell something before I put a bullet into his head, ripping his lower jaw off.
The other three parted out, they spread through the valley and hid in the small gatherings of tree’s and rocks. All three were armed with pistols, I could not see any rifles among them. Looks like I out ranged them.
Some or all of the three I took out first must have had the rifles.
I did not need any help, this was like shooting fish in a barrel.
I put the fourth shot into the chest of the fourth man as he dashed from cover of a rock to another.
They knew where I was but if any of the two would put their head up I could have them before they had me.
A lucky shot could still get me though.
The fifth had made a peek from behind the wide tree and I clipped his shoulder. From here I could hear him screaming in pain, he would bleed out soon enough.
The sixth and final man began to run. He turned and ran through the field, shoulders hunched and his head low.
It did not matter.
The sixth shot rang through the valley and a second after I fired the hunched runner fell into the ditch.
Clean and easy.
Racking the lever of my rifle, I turned and heard the whistle from inside the gulch. Solomon and the girls had done it.
Pay day for us!