WARNING: The following story contains violence, coarse language and mature subject matter. Readers discretion is advised.

Disclaimer: Roses are red, violets are blue. I don't own Twilight, so please don't sue!


NEBRASKA (WYOMING) TERRITORY, 1862

The distant sun setting in the west cast a warm glow across the wilderness. The craggy hills lit up with the orange light and stood out against the pale sky with its soft purple clouds floating high above. In the valley below were sparse green and yellow shrubs against multicolored sand, dark in the shadows of the hills surrounding the area. The wind blew gently from the east sending the smells and sounds of the nearby river to where I was sitting atop my horse, high on one of the hills.

The horse snorted, pawing the ground anxiously. I patted the geldings' neck, keeping him calm as I searched the landscape for any sign of what I was sent to find. The criminal was supposed to be on the run after an attempted train robbery that had left him without his gang. The cowards had supposedly deserted him well over a week ago but the sheriff was unable to get a description or name from them as they were suspiciously murdered before we found them. Now we were on the look out for any man who we thought was suspicious including new comers to the town.

Our community was a very close knit place. I had known that since I'd been born about nineteen years ago. We all stuck together against the ever-changing east, the continual reorganization of the territories and the villains that believed they could live their lives by stealing. It was my job to punish these deadbeats or at least bring them back to the sheriff to punish.

I was eager to please Sheriff Swan after he had given me the position of deputy, a very sought after job in the town. But I also wanted to make him proud of me. He was my second father after my real parents suffered in a bank robbery gone wrong. They never came home that night, leaving Charles responsible for a seventeen-year-old orphan. He didn't have to take me under his wing. I was all ready to leave for The Old States after he told me about my parents' death. Of course I didn't want to leave the west but where else would I go and what would I do? My parents hadn't enough money for me to make a living and no one would hire an uneducated kid. But Charles was there, offering me his home and his knowledge on policing the town. He taught me everything a sheriff had to know including tracking, handling a horse and especially about guns. I had never held one before but then he gave me one and told me to practice on old pieces of wood. I did so and got better everyday until the town folks started to call me the best gun handler in the territory.

Now they called me Deputy Masen and I couldn't hide the pride I felt every time someone greeted me in the street. I was second only to Charles himself and I had never been happier. My life was finally looking up, pointing in all the good directions.

I turned when the sound of another horses' hooves invaded the silence around me. My partner, Harrison, cantered up beside me out of breath and sweating bullets. Pulling off his hat, he wiped his brow and combed his fingers through his blonde hair before putting it back on his head. Harry was a little younger than I was and had moved up from the south with his parents some month's back. The fighting between the south and the north was escalating making Harry's parents flee to the Nebraska Territory. It was obvious they wanted to protect their son and they hoped putting him in a small town would save him.

Harry had just been accepted as my partner a few days ago. I had to admit that I enjoyed the kid's company and he was useful as a look out and such. He had a good future ahead of him.

I watched in concern as he hung his head while gasping for air.

"My word boy," I said. "You look dragged out."

He took a deep breath before speaking. "I've chased him…this way, suh. Real bad lookin' deadbeat runnin' like Hell."

Surprised, I looked out at the area. "Which way did you chase him, Harry?"

"He should be a comin' right through that there valley, suh," he replied. "Don't think he could've gone no where else."

"Well then we best pony up," I told him. "He should be along soon and I want a closer spot." Clicking my tongue and tapping my heel against the horse's belly, I turned the beast around and headed down the hill at a fast canter. Harrison kept up with me as we slowly descended to the valley below, only the horses' hooves and snorts accompanying us. When we reached the bottom I saw who Harry was talking about. There was a man running wildly across the valley, at quite a distance from us, and headed towards the river.

"That's him, suh!" Harry cried. He pointed frantically to the running man.

The rest of his words were drowned out as I gave the horse a few taps on his belly making him realize the speed needed to pick up. Immediately, he went into a gallop and we were flying across the sandy valley, his hooves pounding rhythmically on to the ground and the wind almost blowing my hat clean off. I could see the man disappear into the trees that ran alongside the river but I knew this territory better than anyone did. He was headed straight for a cliff that overlooked the rushing water. He'd be trapped. Excitement pulsed through me along with adrenaline as I spurred the horse to go even faster. I'd arrest the man and bring him back to the Sheriff, who would proudly give me a pat on the back and praise me for my work. What an honor it would be!

We neared the thick trees and I urged my horse forward, ducking under the lower branches while reaching into my holster to pull out my pistol. I had to be ready if this man turned out to be armed. One of the first things Charles taught me: always be ready for anything. I had to look at this situation from every angle. But he was trapped and outnumbered so what could possibly go wrong?

The horse finally managed to trudge through to the clearing on the cliff, the sound of the rushing river below loud in my ears. Standing at the very edge of the cliff was the man we were chasing, his shadow outlined by the setting sun. I aimed my gun at him, pulling my horse to a stop. "Don't you move," I called to him. My voice was almost lost in the crashing sound coming from the water below. The light mist given from the river traveled upwards, settling on my skin in a refreshing way. The heat of the sun had made me sweat before but now I was cool and calm. "Turn around slowly."

The man held his hands in the air before beginning to turn towards me. Harrison finally reached my side, fumbling for his own pistol when he realized the one we were looking for was right in front of us. The kid had a lot to learn.

Finally the criminal was facing us and I squinted against the sunlight to see his face. He wasn't wearing a hat so his long blonde hair tied behind his head was easy to see and made me frown in recognition. When his eyes met mine I lowered my weapon and sighed with a slight chuckle. "My good God, James Hunter! You made me chase you right across this valley for nothing! What in the Hell were you running from?"

With a humorless laugh, I put my pistol back into my holster and slipped off my horse to give James a slap up the head. The man really didn't have brains sometimes. Charles was worried about him becoming apart of the thieving gangs so he gave James a job as an officer in the sheriff's office. He had been all right until he started to boss other folks around, including me. The man had no handle on his temper and would explode like some useless piece of dynamite at random times. I caught him beating one of our prisoners who had been put in the drunk tank after causing a disturbance on the streets. The man didn't deserve the thrashing James had given him and I'd been weary of him ever since.

Walking towards him, I waited for his answer but he said nothing. Odd, the man was usually full of snarky comments. His dark eyes watched my every step as I came towards him but he didn't move a muscle. Raising a brow, I looked at him questioningly. "Are you going to speak?"

"Yes," he said suddenly. His voice was low and almost impossible to hear over the river. I stepped closer to listen to what else he was saying. "You didn't have to bring any damned kid along, Masen," he snarled. Turning his head, he spat on the ground and I watched in disgust as he wiped his mouth. He was really a dirty deadbeat who needed to be taught a lesson.

"Come on back to town," I said, waving my hand. "Sheriff'll want a word with you."

"I ain't going nowhere!" he yelled. "And neither are you."

Suddenly, he pulled out his pistol and shot Harrison right in the chest. The bang of the gun was loud and spooked the horses. Both of them reared up and whinnied in fright as Harry tried to hold on. But he had no strength and went tumbling to the ground before my eyes. The red blood seeped through his white shirt, staining the place right over his heart as he lay there at an awkward angle, his blue eyes wide with fright. The kid didn't move again.

My throat closed up and I gasped for breath, shocked at what I had just witnessed. Innocent Harry had been shot by another officer who was supposed to work side by side with him. That kid had just moved to the town. He had a bright future in law enforcement ahead of him and everything had just ended like that. God damn it, I was supposed to keep him safe! I'd failed and a pure life had been lost because of my stupidity. I should have never trusted James. He had always been a sketchy fellow but I'd ignored it all. Here I thought I could be a great sheriff but I was nothing of the sort. I was useless. I was a murderer.

James turned his gun on me. "Hands in the air, Deputy. Way up so I can see 'em." I did as he asked my mind and body numb with shock. It didn't matter what happened to me now. I was a murderer who deserved the death that was sure to come. I had let everyone down and I just couldn't face the town again. To see the grieving faces of Harry's parents who had counted on me to keep him safe. That would be more torture than death.

James pressed his pistol to my chest, forcing me to turn and back up so that I was standing at the very edge of the cliff, the river rushing down below. He took a few steps back, staring me right in the eyes as he held his weapon. "You ruined my life, Masen," he stated. "I was supposed to be deputy! But you just ran in here like some fancy talking easterner and took it all away. You deserve what's coming to you!" The click of the gun was loud, even louder than my thumping heart or the rushing river. I closed my eyes and remembered all the happy times in my life, including my parents. Maybe they would be there in heaven waiting for me or would I go to Hell for murdering Harry?

Either way, I would never see the majestic wilderness of the Nebraska Territory again. I would never see Charles' proud smile or the grinning faces of my fellow town's people. I would never see the sweet face of my best friend from childhood. She was gone and she took my whole life with her. I would never go to San Francisco to find her and we could never see one another again. My chest ached at the thought and I knew it would cause me more pain than that bullet.

I heard the bang and felt the piercing pain in my left arm before stumbling backward in surprise and feeling nothing but air at my feet. Then I was falling, the wind whistling in my ears and blowing at my hair as the river's rushing came closer. The pain of the gunshot wound and the breaking of my heart made me numb and I barely felt the impact as I hit the water. As the current jostled me I realized that I had never learned to swim a few seconds before figuring out that I was close to drowning. My head broke the surface a few times as my body gasped for air before tumbling back into the blue depths. My arms and legs kicked fiercely but they were no match for the strength of nature as the current propelled me down, spinning and smashing my body against hard rocks along the sides of the river. My mind knew that there was no way for me to escape this death trap but my body refused to give up as it fought harder to keep my head above water. But all was lost when my head cracked against one of those large rocks sending me into a darkness that I blissfully accepted.

The sound of a songbird's tune made me waken. My eyes blinked open but I squeezed them shut when the piercing light made my head throb. Instead I used my other senses to find out where I was. The soft sound of water splashing came from behind me and I realized how wet my body was. Coughing, I spat up water and breathed easier, trying to keep my head still as I gasped for breath. The wind teased my wet hair, giving me a sort of chill before the sun shone brighter and warmed my back. Underneath me I felt a gritty feeling and tasted dirt in my mouth as well as blood.

It took me a moment before I realized I had washed up on the bank of the river still alive. But my head began to hurt again as I remembered what had happened. I remembered my part in the murder of my partner and I remembered James shooting me right off the cliff. Everything hurt and I groaned aloud, wishing I could open my eyes and survey my surroundings.

The sound of crunching footsteps made my heart thump in fear. I was so vulnerable. What if James had found me? What if an outlaw had found me and realized who I was? Squeezing my eyes shut, I hoped he wouldn't see me. But I was wrong to hope because the footsteps stopped right beside me. The person bent down, pressing their cold fingers against my heated neck as if they were searching for a pulse. Splitting pain sliced through my skull and I let out a whimper as the person pressed their palm to my head.

"What did you get yourself into?" It was definitely a man with a low, calming voice and it sounded as if he were talking to himself. He spoke louder. "Can you hear me, son?" I moaned as his voice made my head ache. He chuckled lightly. "Not to worry boy. You're in good hands now."

I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out. He must have noticed my effort because I felt him lean closer. "Who…are you?" I managed to whisper. My throat my dry and I coughed again.

I could almost hear the smile in his voice as he answered. "My name is Carlisle. I'm the leader of outlaw group called the Cullen Clan and you are Deputy Edward Masen. Welcome to the band, son." I felt him pat my back and realized what I had got myself into. I was what I had been chasing for years with Charles. I was now a criminal.


DICTIONARY:
DEADBEATS - Useless person
THE OLD STATES - Back east
DRAGGED OUT - Worn out
PONY UP - Hurry up

FACTS:
THE WYOMING TERRITORY
wasn't created until 1868. In 1862 Cheyenne (which is close to the made up town where this story is set) was apart of the Nebraska Territory. Wyoming was admitted into the Union as the 44th state in 1890.
THE CIVIL WAR lasted from 1861 to 1865.

NOTES:
Break out your Spaghetti Westerns, ladies! It's time to saddle up with Cowboyward. To get you more in the mood for this story I'll suggest some songs to listen to and some movies to watch:
SONGS:
Theme Song from The Magnificiant Seven
Theme Song from The Cowboys
Theme Song from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Soundtrack from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron
Soundtrack from Red Dead Redemption
MOVIES:
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Hombre
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron
VIDEO GAMES:
Red Dead Redemption (I watch my brother play this on his PS3 all the time. It's like Grand Theft Auto only its back in the Old West.)