Seven days ago:
The sun reappeared once again from behind another cottony cloud that floated lazily across an early June Texas sky. On the earth below, William Shepherd paused and pulled the wide-brim of his worn, gray Stetson hat down over his eyes. So much for my shade, he thought casually as he reached for his hammer once again and resumed pounding a stubborn nail into a fencerow post. With another strand of fence wire secured, William walked to his waiting horse, Grillo. Patting his side, he lifted another pouch of nails from the saddle-bag then wiped his brow across his blue, work shirt sleeve.
Almost all gone, he thought as he looked toward the few head of longhorns grazing on a knoll in his pasture. They’re not wanted anymore, but I’ll keep a few of em’. They carry more than just memories for me, they’re a part of all our history. Patting Grillo’s shoulder, he took a casual sip of water from his canteen before pouring a little into his leather-gloved hand and offering it to his horse. Screwing the cap back on, he looped it over the saddle horn.
“Fence isn’t going to finish itself, Grillo,” he said, pulling his hammer from his belt, he began slowly walking back along the fencerow. Grillo ambled slowly after him, pausing to nibble a few blades of grass when William stopped to work.
Almost unnoticeable at first, an unexpected sound began overshadowing the gentle sound of the wind that was blowing relentlessly across the open planes. Finally, William paused in mid-stroke and looked around.
Far off in the distance, he saw two all-terrain vehicles, their riders driving erratically. As they were weaving and circling, a cloud of dry Texas dust went flying each time they zigzagged.
“Damn drunken college boys,” he said as their whooping and hollering became audible. “If they keep coming like this, they’ll be into my fence in no time,” he grumbled. An almost unconscious tickle in the back of his mind caused his brow to crease noticeably.
Drunk? It isn’t even noon yet. What gives?
A small alarm went off in his head as he realized how close they were now weaving toward the fencerow.
When they hit my barbwire fence they’ll—
He gave a shrill whistle and waved his hat high in the air.
“Hey! You damn drunken fools—watch where you’re going! Stop!” he shouted. “Hey—stop! You’re on my land! There’s a barbwire fence right in front of you!”
A shot rang out, striking the ground only inches from his feet. William did a double-take—his mind screaming ‘run’ as he turned swiftly on his heels. A second then a third shot—fired in rapid succession—caught him in the lower leg and hip sending him to the ground before he had taken a step. Another, then another, rang out, striking the ground near his hands as he scrambled on his all-fours back toward his nervous horse. Reaching Grillo’s side, he grabbed his front leg for support, steadied himself and clawed his way up the stirrup to his saddle scabbard. His hand gripped the stock of his Winchester just as the next shot hit Grillo’s shoulder, near William’s head. The horse whinnied and reared, throwing him off balance. Hitting the ground on his wounded hip, he quickly rolled away from the horse’s prancing hind legs. The wounded horse bolted off as the ATVs came barreling in. Arching up, he tried to take aim, but there wasn’t time. Hugging the rifle to his chest, he rolled away as a rear tire ripped over the spot where he had been an instant before. Another bullet grazed his shoulder before he stopped and his ears heard the tires skid. Biting into the dirt, the riders gunned their motors.
William flipped over on his belly, brought the gun sight up to his eye—fired—then flattened, covering his face with his arm. An instant before the first ATV reached him, it swung wildly to the side then rolled. The second rider sideswiped him moments later, rolling him across the earth. With his head spinning, William pointed the rifle’s barrel in the direction his ears told him to, let his gut-instincts take aim and fired. Before the report had died, he saw the ATV flip backward and skid. The sound of the motor quieted to a dull churning.
Several moments passed and nothing near the two ATVs moved. Finally, William sat up warily. Swiveling, he saw his horse in the distance and gave a sharp whistle. The animal’s unsteady gait told him what had happened.
“Come here, Grillo, whoa boy,” he said, calming the wounded horse as he got up—his own leg wounds nearly healed. An Immortal heals fast, he thought as he carefully examined his horse’s shoulder wound before turning his attention to the men who had just tried to kill him. Two bodies lay motionless in the dirt, both trapped under their still running ATV. Walking to the first then the second, he switched off the engines. Laying his rifle across his shoulder, he pondered the two dead men.
“What in hell was this all about?”
The fourth adventure of this series
is due in the summer of 2019
HIGHLANDER IMAGINE: THE EYE OF ODIN