A slight breeze waved the long, yellowing grass. The midsummer sun shone down, baking the brown Kansas dirt. A solitary figure watched this all, he was old, clothed in faded overalls and a large hat, but what drew people to him were his eyes. His eyes were a dark, electric, green. He sat on the front porch of his two room wood cabin, He sat on his front porch surrounded by a sea of waving grass that reached up to a man's shin.
Five horsemen appeared over the horizon, that someone was coming was in itself odd. Sensing it might be danger the man picked up a Winchester rifle leaning against the wall and loaded it. He laid it across his lap, his hand resting on the wooden grain of the rifle's butt, now whatever was going to happen, would happen. The soft breeze wafted the grass as the hot sun baked the brown Kansas dirt.
Sweat poured down the weathered face of Steve Dirk. His black steed pounded the earth, a colt peacemaker hung at his waist. His ten gallon hat shaded his face, but it was still hot. Four others rode beside him. Their horses pounded the earth, heading toward the lone cabin in the distance. The scent of dust filled his nostrils. They stopped a little short of the cabin, keeping their eyes on the Winchester the old man held in his lap.
Steve Dirk tipped his hat to the old man, he stared back at him with his piercing green eyes. "Mr. Noon, I'm Steve Dirk, and I've been authorized to make you a deal for this ere land. You see, the Ohio railroad company wants to make line right through here. I'm offering $1,000. Now that's more then this land is worth." Steve was lying, he knew it.
"We wouldn't want to get in an argument now would we?" Steve said, toying with his gun. He was going to have fun scaring this old buzzer.
"Git off my land, I ain't going to sell this here land. Not for any price. Huh, you sure are brave, scaring an old man with four friends." said the old man.
Steve felt his anger rising. "Why I'll..." he started, drawing his heavy six-shooter. There was a shot, the smell of powder filled his nostrils, and his arm hung limply at his side. There was a small bloody hole in his arm. Waves of nausea swept over him as he fell out of his saddle.
"Git off my land ," the old man said again.
Noon turned the Winchester on another rider trying to draw his pistol and fired, "Boom," another saddle stood empty. He fired once more and a third horse stood riderless. Then he heard a shot as his rifle clicked empty. He didn't feel any pain, he just felt really, really cold. Then everything turned black.
Jake heard the rifle shot, and started to draw his pistol. By the time his pistol cleared the leather three of the others were down. The old man was fast, very fast. He fired a shot and saw the old man crumple up under the impact. Beside him Ross fired a needless second shot. A puddle of blood covered the porch.
He checked the others, two were dead but Steve was still alive. Steve's face was drawn white from blood loss, but he would live. Ross slid Steve onto a horse after bandaging the arm.
"Lets get out of here Jake," he called.
Shane rode into the sleepy little town just as the sun was setting. Around his trim waist was a pistol a rolled up ground sheet was behind his saddle. A saloon, restaurant and general store bordered one side of the broad, unpaved street along the other side was a hotel, newspaper office and a sheriff's office. The wind and sand had worn away the paint on most of the buildings, still it was a well kept, clean little town. The occasional buggy rode past but no one paid him any attention. He nudged his small gray pinto towards the hotel.
He tied up the horse and walked inside. The boards creaked under his feet. He walked inside, three men at a card game looked up, but then they noticed the slim, dangerous figure of Shane and noticed the worn holster and they quickly turned back around. A swinging lantern illuminated the room. He rented a room, and then climbed the steps up to his room, where he fell asleep on top of the rough Indian blanket.
Shane woke early and slipped on his gun belt. Already the blacksmith was up, he could tell from the clanging, as his hammer struck the superheated steel. Shane turned his horse west towards the open countryside. The hot earth radiated its heat upwards. Far in the distance rose a little cabin. He rode and the sound of the horse's hoofs striking the earth came to match the beat of the pounding of his own blood. Memories of the old cabin swelled up inside of him as he recalled Old Man Noon, the old miner who had raised him after his own parents were killed by an Indian raid when he was ten. He rode in silence, recognizing landmarks from his childhood, the boulder that he used to climb, the old clay pit where he made marbles.
When he got close to the cabin he thought something was wrong. He quietly dismounted, slipping the reins over the saddle's pommel. The horse knew what it meant and stood still. Slipping his pistol from its holster he ducked low. Approaching the cabin on foot he noticed two bundles lying in front of the cabin. He realized they were bodies, dead for several days by the look of it. Where was Noon? he wondered. Then he spotted the third bundle lying on the porch in a pool of blood, and his heart sank. The electricity from the old man's eyes had gone out. They remained a faded green, like a light that had been blown out. The foot prints around him showed what had happened. There had been four or five of them on horses. One of them had evidently fallen on the ground, staining the ground red. But what made the wounded man noticeable was that he had been riding a huge steed that had a worn left front horseshoe.
Shane picked up the frail old man who had been a father to him. Tears wound their way down his cheeks.
"No, one deserves to die like this," he muttered. He carried him over to a boulder, and covered him with his blanket. Grabbing a piece of shale he began to dig, sweat poured down, the salt stung his eye, and mixed with tears. All day long he dug. All day he dug, until he was exhausted and had cried himself out. Gently, he laid him in the grave. A emptiness remained inside of him, an emptiness replaced by a longing for revenge. He rode back into town as the sun was setting; the crescent moon above him guided him.
A question bounced around in his head, "Who would want to kill the old man? Shane was a hunter, he loved the chase, and if he found who had killed Noon, he himself would not hesitate to shoot. Shane headed to the hotel. He paused near the door. A large black quarter horse was tied up outside, the horse had been ridden hard. Shane bent down and checked his hoofs, the front one was worn and cracked, causing the horse to walk with a slight limp. He turned to the young lad nearby, who held horses on crowded nights for lack of enough hitching posts.
"You there lad. Whose horse is this?"
"Steve Dirk's." came the reply. Changing his mind, Shane headed toward the sheriff's office, the sheriff, a weather-beaten old hombre, started up when Shane walked in.
"Howdy mister. I here to report a murder."
"Murder! Who's been killed?" asked the sheriff, staring up at the stranger in front of him.
"Old man Noon. Found him dead on his porch this morning. He was drygulched, though two others went down with him. I found tracks belonging to Steve Dirk's horse around there."
"Steve Dirk! Stranger, Steve Dirk is a hired hand for the railroad company, he's the fastest gun around these parts, already suspected in three other killings. Since there's not enough evidence to prove it was him, I can't arrest him. Take some advice from me mister, git out of town while you can. If Steve Dirk hears you call him a liar, he'll try and kill you, and make it look like it was in self-defense. But I can tell you this, the railroad planned to build the railroad right over that land. But of course old man Noon refused their earlier offers, now he turns up dead."
"Sheriff, I ain't a real tough guy. But when trouble comes my way, I can handle it. You spread the word around." And the sheriff believed every word he heard.
Walking onto the boardwalk he headed toward the saloon. The night was cool crisp, but the saloon was noisy even at this hour.
Inside a smoky haze hung near the ceiling. The tables were full men were lounging near the bar, and against the back wall. Sliding up to the bar he ordered a beer, speaking to no one in particular he said in a voice loud enough to be heard by all. "I found old man Noon dead this morning." The chatter stopped. A silence filled the room. The silence was more impressive then the noise. The men in the bar gazed upon this man, dangerous in his catlike stance, cool, and confident in himself and his abilities. Continuing to speak he want on.
"He was bushwhacked. Heard the railroad wanted his land, seems like they hired a couple of thugs to do it."
His eyes searched the room, stopping on a man in the back, his arm in a sling. Ignoring the other men he strode the length of the room, his eyes frozen on the man in the corner, his left arm in a sling. Speaking to him he said, "Noon is dead, found him dead this morning. You wouldn't know any thing about it, now would you stranger?"
"What you talking about?"
"I'm saying I think you killed Noon, Mister."
"Mister," said Shane calmly, "is that your black quarter horse?"
"Yes. But that ain't got not to do with it. I don't want a quarrel with you," his eyes glinted dangerously.
"What you want and what you'll get are two different things Mr.
"Looks like you don't who your messing with."
"I know this Steve. The railroad wanted that piece of land, but Noon wouldn't sell, but I inherit that piece of land, so now you've got to kill me to." This quiet man was pushing him hard. Jake measured the man, and it was not quite to his liking...
"Do I have to crowd you into slapping leather Steve?" asked Shane. Downing his beer in a single gulp, Steve stood up. Men along the bar shuffled to get out of the way. Steve leaned toward Shane so that just Shane could here him. "You're right I did kill Noon. Now I'm going to kill you to, and enjoy doing it." The two men stared at each other for an eternity; a deadly silence filled the room. A sneer curled Steve's lip, and then the room shook, as their shots became one single blast. The small town changed its standard of fast that day. Steve slid to the ground, his eyes rolling back in his head. Shane began to holster his weapon, then he stumbled as another shot filled the room, on the balcony Jake stared down the barrel of his rifle. Shane thumbed the trigger twice and the man went down.
Shane stood up as a wet patch began to spread on his chest,
"I gave Steve a chance..." he let his pistol drop into the holster on its own weight. A dark patch was beginning to spread on his chest. He almost stumbled. Yet he found some inner reserve of strength and watched by the silent crowd he straightened his shoulders, a glint returning to his eyes. Thumbing three more shells into his pistol, he seemed to become a giant among the other men. Although short in stature he seemed to rise above others that night. Turning he pointed at the door.
"Anyone that comes out of that door before I'm gone, will be shot." He vanished into the night. Long after the men had heard him ride away, they finally poked their heads outside.