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Paul Layton trained his rifle on the horizon, same as he had been doing since dawn. Nothing much had moved all through the long Kansas summer day.

A deer picking among the seeds in the dewy morning grass.

A couple of dogs running along the ridge at high noon.

Otherwise, the only sign of life had been the shadows of buzzards circling overhead in the dead of mid-afternoon. They always made Paul uncomfortable.

Now, though, with the sun sinking fast behind the distant rise he’d been left to guard, he was sure something was about to happen. His gut was churning and the hair on his neck stood at attention.

The gun shook in his hands and he pulled his face away from the sight, rubbed his eyes. He looked back to the sunset just in time to see three horse muzzles break the horizon — a brown mustang on either side of a gleaming black stallion.

Paul grinned and stood from his post behind the knoll. That black beauty had to belong to Stanley Crow.

Carter and Roberts had got their man and took his horse, to boot!

Paul broke into a trot and waved to the returning heroes of the Fletcher gang, not bothering to retrieve his rifle. There would be some first-class celebrating around the campfire that night.

He was a hundred feet into the meadow before he understood what he was seeing.

Three horses loped toward him.

Crumpled figures were slumped in the saddles of the two brown animals on the outside.

A single rider sat tall on the magnificent beast of midnight in the middle.

A wind as hot as hellfire blasted Paul in the face, and the chill of impending death shook his body as Stanley Crow dug his spurs into the stallion’s sides.

Published inFlash Fiction

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