The Legend of Shane McLean – Curse of the Gun
Tupelo, Mississippi, June, 1862
Desperate Confederate soldiers packed trains and fled south during the Corinth Hoax. Frank “Shane” McLean and the Crawford Boys drove a herd of cattle along the tracks with a squadron of partisan legionnaires. Shane faced murder charges in Tennessee. Mack Dodd and the Ringo brothers helped him escape military tribunal. Captured by a patrol of Provost Guards, Shane gave a fake name during interrogation and looked to escape company arrest. Campfires flickered in a forest five miles north of Tupelo.
Mack steered alongside Shane’s horse. “Lieutenant C-r-e-w-s wants us to investigate those soldiers camped in the woods. I told him they rustled one of our cattle and we intend to get it back.”He turned off his lantern and leaned in his saddle. “Let’s high-tail it out of here while we still can. When the telegraph arrives to the war office in Tupelo that you’re wanted for killing Leonard, we’re all going to hang.”
“Tonight is as good as any to escape from these assholes.” Shane steadied his black stallion and stared into the stars. “Tell the Ringo brothers to join us.”
“C-r-e-w-s ain’t going to go for that.If we all leave, they’ll know we’re up to no good.” Mack turned in his saddle. “Just you and me ought to go tonight.” His voice softened. “You’re wanted for murder. Jerry and Jimmy can escape some other time.”
The Ringo brothers worked the south side of the herd. Shane knew military justice could be unfair and heavy handed. His childhood friends shouldn’t hang for what he did in Tennessee.
“Ride over and tell the Ringo’s to leave two minutes behind us.” Shane pointed at the brightest light in the sky. “Tell them to head north. We’ll meet up back in Gunn Town.”
Mack’s eyes widened. “That’s smart thinking, Frank. Desperate soldiers do desperate things to stay alive.”
Shane rode toward the rustler’s campfire and pulled out his ivory-handled Colt Special. As he waited for Mack, cows mooed in the distance. Four Tennessee troopers guarded an enemy prisoner wearing red leg gaiters.The Yankee Jayhawker had a black patch over his left eye.
A shooting star flashed across the heavens. Shane recognized the one-eyed Jayhawker as one of his father’s killers. An intense wave of hate came over him. Hisbreathing quickened and his heart raced like a quarter horse. He was going to make the bastard suffer for his role in Kirby’s killing. A rider approached from the rear.
“Frank, it could be a trick.” Mack slowed his horse to a walk. “Don’t ride up on their camp at night. They’ll shoot you dead.”
Shane rushed his finger to his lips. “Hush your mouth!”
Mack didn’t understand Shane’s quest for vengeance. He didn’t suffer the guilt of witnessing his father’s murder or endure the shame of getting beaten to within inches of his life. Only vengeance could restore what Sam Houston and his death squad had taken.
Shane dreamed about meeting his father’s killers and struggled to maintain composure. Since Kirby’s murder, he tried to smile and live life but felt dead on the inside. The vile squadron of Jayhawkers stole his innocence. Whiskey masked his pain and suppressed his demons. Death was too good of a punishment.
Shane rubbed his thumb across the Owl of Minerva engraved on his Colt Special. Seeking vengeance down the barrel of his father’s gun, he felt cursed and set his sights on the Yankee prisoner. The one-eyed bastard looked the same as he did sixteen months ago in Austin.
“Hold it!” A sergeant in a dingy Tennessee uniform stood from a fireside log. “Halt...who goes there?”
“Friendly forces.” Shane climbed off his horse and lied. “I’ve been sent by Colonel Wharton to interrogate this prisoner.”
“He’s a real smartass.” The sergeant cussed. “We killed two of his damn friends. Been trying to get him to talk but the mouthy little bastard keeps asking for our commander.”
“I know my rightsand demand to be treated fairly.”The smug Jayhawker sat up on his elbows. “How did you know we were out here in the woods? I insist on speaking with your superiors.”
“I don’t give a damn what you want.” Shane brandished his Colt. “You’re a Yankee spy who got yourself captured behind enemy lines.” Hecouldn’t stand to breathe the same airas his father’s murderer. “I know who you are. I know what you’ve done.”
“You don’t know me, Ranger.” The Jayhawker turned toward the Tennessee troopers. “Sergeant, are you going to let him come in here and threaten me? I surrendered to you. I’m under your protection.” He stood and pointed his finger. “Get this animal away from me.”
Shane endured enough insults and took aim at the prisoner’s ankle. “Ask permission to stand.”He squeezed the trigger. “Bastard!”
“Awe! Stop shooting me, Ranger!” The Jayhawker grabbed his boot and dropped to the ground. “I don’t know you.”
“Ask permission to speak.” Shane shot the Jayhawker’s knee and savored the glorious moment. “When you kill a man...you’d better kill his son.”
“What’s wrong with you, Ranger?” The Jayhawker cradled his knee. “I did not kill your father. I didn’t kill anybody.”
Shane feared the bastard would pass out from the pain. He wanted him to suffer like he made Kirby suffer in Austin. As he lowered his gun, the Tennessee troopers appeared restless.An eye for an eye is written in the Bible.
“Stand down, Ranger.” The sergeant raised his hands and slowly stepped away. “I’m not a part of this. I don’t know what colonel sent you to interrogate this prisoner but that’s not how you do it.”
“Ok, I’ll talk!” The Jayhawker cried out. “I’m scouting the Confederate rear for an attack on Corinth. General Grant wants to circle around and attack behind the gray lines. Please don’t kill me.” His voice softened. “For the last time, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know your father.”
Shane intended to set the record straight. “You violated my mother inside the Missouri House Saloon.You laughed while your friends beat me in the street.” He pulled down his black neckerchief to leave no doubt in the killer’s mind. “Sergeant Lauderdale put this scar around my neck and whipped my father to death in Austin.”
The Jayhawker’s eye widened. “Are you Kirby McLean’s boy?
“Yes, I am.Hell is waiting for you.” Shane watched the bastard tremble in his cross hairs. “I’m here to punch your one way ticket.”
“That’s enough, Ranger.” The Tennessee Sergeant stood his ground. “We don’t execute unarmed prisoners. This soldier will be taken alive to Tupelo for interrogation.”
Shane had no intention of allowing that to happen. “He’s a spy captured behind enemy lines. Spies die.” His eyes narrowed. “He’s a cold-blooded murderer.”
“Your father did things ten times worse than me.” The Jayhawker sat up and flashed his Masonic ring. “Kirby killed lots of men for the Illuminati. Lauderdale shot him in the back because nobody had the guts for a fair fight.”
Cocking the hammer on Kirby’s work gun, Shane took aim at the soldier’s groin. “After all my father did for The Order, why did they want to silence him?”
“I don’t know.” The Jayhawker covered his privates and cowered on the ground. “Sam Houston paid us to kill your father. If you got any questions...take it up with the Raven.”
A horse whinnied. Shane sensed movement in the rear and turned to shoot. As he aimed his Colt, Mack rode into the light with both pistols blazing. Three Tennessee troopers spiraled to the forest floor.
With a stern look, the dingy sergeant reached for his gun. Shane wheeled and fired a bullet through sergeant’s heart. As he surveyed the damage, the one-eyed Yankee Jayhawker played possum. Four Confederate soldiers lay dead on the ground.
“I’m sorry, Frank. Those troopers were aiming to shoot you in the back.” Mack steadied his horse. “Lieutenant C-r-e-w-s is going to be spitting fire.”
“I seen them try to shoot you, Kirby.” The Jayhawker cradled his gunshot knee. “If you let me live, I’ll tell your C.O. those four pulled guns on you.” He raised his bloody hand and gave the Masonic hailing sign. “We all are going to make it out of here alive.”
Shane forgot the bastard was still breathing. “Kirby was my father’s name...until you murdered him.” He moved into point blank range. “Go to Hell you murdering scum!”
Shane fired until the chamber clicked empty. Blood streamed from beneath the Jayhawker’s eye patch. He stood over the lifeless body and yearned for justice. Filled with hate, he pulled out his father’s Big Colt Walker and unloaded six bullets into the bastard’s heart.Damn it. Vengeance felt good.
“Holy Moly!You shot the Hell out of him.” Mack steered around the maze of bodies. “We ain’t ever going to make it back to Texas.”
Shane intended to punish everyone involved in Kirby’s murder. Sergeant Lauderdale, Red, the Ivey twins and the rest of the conspirators would never be safe. If it took a month, a year or a lifetime, he’d hunt them all down and seek justice.
“Sam Houston is only the first one on my list.” Shane got a taste of vengeance and lusted for more. “There’s plenty of others that need killing.”
“Real Texicans hate Houston. They ran that Yankee Lover out of Austin.” Mack sat high in his saddle and turned toward Texas. “First chance we get, let’s ride to Huntsville give him his just reward.”
Shane set his sights on a more urgent problem. Lieutenant Lee Cruz and three dozen Legionnaires rode through the woods in mass. Shane couldn’t kill everyoneand dumped his spent gunpowder on the ground. Looking to make peace, he mounted his horse and felt confident in his case. Any impartial jury would recognize his innocenceat tribunal.
“Let me do the talking.” Shane waited for the Legionnaires to arrive. “Stay calm. This is self-defense.”
Jerry and Jimmy Ringo rode in the rear of the squadron. Forty armed horsemen circled around. Shane had nothing to hide and displayed his revolvers with the chambers open. An acrid smell of gunpowder lingered in the night air.
“Helter Skelter! These rangers are hard cases.” Lieutent Cruz approached with his gun aimed at Shane’s chest. “You were supposed to interrogate those troopers not execute them.”
“Sir, they were rustling our cattle.” Shane extended his guns butt first. “I asked them to surrender their side arms…twice. They refused and went for their weapons.” He tried to reason with the Tejano Lieutenant. “Sir, there was nothing I could do. It was self defense.”
A Legionnaire examined the Jayhawker’s body. “Lieutenant, this prisoner has been shot six times in the heart, three times in the head, once in the eye and once in the knee.” His tone sharpened. “I think they shot him in the ankle too.”
Cruz cocked his head. “Ranger, that ain’tself defense. That’s downright murder.”
Shane didn’t have a good answer. He thought it best if he said nothing and escaped when the moment was right. The Ringo brothers reined up in front of the bodies.
Jerry shook his head at the carnage. “Oh my Lord!”
“Sir, that prisoner is a Yankee spy.” Mack handed over his pistol. “It’s war. They kill one of ours we’re going to kill ten of theirs.”
“You’re a bunch of heathen killers.” Cruz turned to his sergeant. “Arrest all four of these rangers. Military office in Tupelo can decide who they want to hang.”