Four riders were approaching. Sadie first recognized Isaiah. He could have only gone a couple miles when he met up with the others and turned back to the homestead. Two she did not recognize at all. Big men on big horses. But the fourth was eerily familiar. Thin, riding tall, but with only one arm. An audible gasp escaped from both Sadie and Billy Ray when they recognized their father, Jeremiah Meriwether, in the group. The riders trotted through the gap in the back fencing and circled the house to confront the posse in the front. Brother and sister slowly came out the front door but remained close for protection.
Hooker and his posse quickly quieted down and turned their mounts to face the newly arrived men in the yard. Upon recognizing Meriwether, Hooker urged his horse forward a few paces.
“Meriwether,” Hooker acknowledged, “Looks like you came back from the dead, more or less.” A couple guffaws issued from behind Hooker.
Meriwether shot a glance down to the empty left sleeve of his shirt. “No thanks to your foreman,” he answered coldly. “But don’t worry, he’s in the capital jail right now, more or less.”
Hooker’s eyes narrowed precipitously. He had wondered why his foreman never returned after being ordered to make sure Meriwether never made it to the capital with his request for the governor.
Meriwether continued. “This here is Marcus Walker, legal counsel for Governor Ross,” he nodded to the man directly to his right. “And that’s U.S. Marshall Benjamin Cooper,” referring to the largest of the men at the end.
Marcus Walker brought his horse up alongside Hooker’s. “Seems there’s been some question as to the proper ownership of this property that we are now on. After fully reviewing all pertinent documents, let me assure you, Mr. Hooker, that the Meriwether’s do have legal claim to this land. In fact, they have been on this land since before David Meriwether was governor of the territory. Any claim you think you have is now null and void.”
Walker attempted to hand Hooker papers, but Hooker abruptly turned his horse away and rejoined his group. The legal counsel returned the papers to his saddlebag and likewise returned to his group.
“As this matter is now settled,” Marshall Cooper began, “I trust we will have no more need to bring the Marshall’s Service out here.” His eyes drilled into Hooker’s.
After what seemed like several minutes, Hooker looked away from Cooper and back to Meriwether. “Seems you came out on top this time. Enjoy the view for now.”
Hooker lifted his right arm into the air and signaled his riders to follow him. Just as the group was turned around, Marshall Cooper piped up again. “Not so fast Hooker. There’s still the matter of your involvement in a conspiracy to murder Mr. Meriwether. You’re going to have to accompany me back to the capital.”
The entire posse stopped and turned back again to face the four riders. With his hand on his pistol, Hooker snarled, “I ain’t goin’ nowhere with you, Marshall. And you’re outnumbered if you aim to force the matter.”
Every rider had his hand on his gun. Even Billy Ray and Sadie, who had been watching the entire scene from the porch, leveled their weapons on the posse.
“You might have us outnumbered, but I guarantee there won’t be a man left standing if this course of action continues. Do you men want to give your lives up to a man like Hooker?”
The dozen men looked nervously at each other and at Hooker. They had signed on to relieve a teenage girl and her younger brother of their property, not engage in a shootout with a U.S. Marshall. Guns lowered, then by ones and twos the men who rode in with Hooker left the Meriwether homestead. Hooker was left alone.
“Now it seems you’re outnumbered, Hooker,” Cooper smiled. “Are you still itching to throw down with a Marshall?”
Cooper rode up next to Hooker and confiscated his side arm and a rifle in the saddle scabbard. He then cuffed Hooker’s hands and took the reins of his horse.
Before leaving the homestead, Cooper rode up to Meriwether. “I’ll need you to return to the capital to resolve this matter. Take your time though. I’ll keep Hooker here safe and secure.”
The two men shook hands. “I’m much ablidged to you Marshall.”
“Seeins as Hooker might try to give me trouble, I’m deputizing this young man,” Cooper pointed to Isaiah. “Mind telling his kin so they don’t worry?”
“Be my pleasure.”
The U.S. Marshall, legal counsel Walker, newly deputized Isaiah Merkel, and Hooker rode out of the yard and headed towards the capital. Only after they left the fenced area did Jeremiah Meriwether dismount from his horse. At once, Sadie and Billy Ray rushed to their father and wrapped their arms around him. Tears flowed freely from all three.
“I’m real proud of you two,” the father said to his children after a few moments. “I knew you wouldn’t never let this place go. Everything’s gonna be alright.”
Arms wrapped together, the small family returned to their home.
– – – – –
This story is in response to The Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge.
For this week’s challenge, write a post that will leave readers waiting for more. Breathless with anticipation. On the edges of the seats. Obsessively clicking “refresh,” waiting impatiently for the end of the story. We want to hear audible groans when readers reach the end of your post and see “To be continued…”
You’ll need to think through the story you want to tell, and then figure out where to split it in half for greatest dramatic effect.
Does this mean we’re asking you to write fiction? Not at all — any kind of post can get the season finale treatment:
- Tell a personal story, but withhold the unexpected ending.
- Write a forceful opinion piece, but don’t reveal your point of view.
- Share a photo essay, but hold back the final, perfect image that ties the rest together.
- Get our mouths watering with a description of your favorite dish, but make us wait for the recipe.
- Show us the steps in your last DIY project, but wait on sharing how it turned out.
Blogging is about sharing our stories, and a good story keeps readers hooked. This week, figure out how to turn your story into a nail-biter.
Publish the two posts whenever you’d like; on the same day, a day apart, or a week apart, depending on how tense you want to leave your readers.