history of us

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In a nest of rattle snakes he was a king cobra.

By the time he was twelve he was killing and stealing. An orphan from the start was Charlie Prince. Kicking around, getting beat, biting back. He had a good bite too. Nice and strong, but abysmally young. His demeanor was of an itchy sort, always tense and ready, always wanting for some action, task, or play; hungry for chance, a risk, despair. He rarely rested, and for it he was as skinny as a broom handle. He did show patience however, and he did eat well. It was a sure thing. Saw to it every day.

A new battle come every sunrise, every hour. Been so all his life.

Things didn't change even after meeting Ben.

No. They rightly stayed the same, then grew the more complicated.

Right up to Charlie's very final day.

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Ben was a boy of resolve and vision.

He had some things figured out his elders were still working on. In his clarity of mind he picked up a few tactics and schemes. He could play a good hand of poker, jest with the best of them, and drink his weight gracefully. He had a word for everything and a sly sort of smile, a piercing sort of stare. He read people very well. You wouldn't want to cross Ben Wade in a bad way, but all the same he was a gentlemanly enough sort. He might have loved his momma, but he learned something about people the day she left.

They're all out for themselves, aren't they?

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Ben found him kicking a dog in an alley one morning.

Charlie wasn't a good boy. From the get go.

He left some anger when he hit (something like) fifteen, but he found a new sort, a sticky and dangerous sort. Started calling Ben boss early on, ever since Ben used it arbitrarily in a hold up. Started hanging on his every word, giving him lasting looks, being the go-to-guy, seeing to his every want. An evil sort of thing grew between them.

Just a little blonde kid with no direction, control, or relief.

He'd kicked that dog until it started squealing. Ben had to grab him back, pull him away.

His eyes had been wild, wide and watery.

He'd swung on him. Ben knocked him to his ass first.

They were a pair after that.

They shared many candid moments, true bonding experiences.

They robbed banks, coaches, riders, camps, estates.

Drank to the good times, held strong in the bad.

Until that today, they'd never been at odds.

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Been in many a towns like this one, in many a similar situations.

Charlie wasn't scared. He never did get scared.

He got ready.

He got even.

And he did.

He shot the rancher down.

Caught 'em just in time.

Got trampled by some beef for it, but he got him.

It was all well and good until Wade got his gun back.

By that time, men were dropping like flies all around Charlie.

He stood though.

By his gritty, stubborn nature, or the placement of the shot, he stood.

Had known it by the look he gave him.

Wade came in good and close, grabbed him by his jacket, held him up.

He liked the look just fine from his usual bystander's point of view.

Always gave him good chills.

Never thought he'd be on the receiving end.

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Those watery, wild eyes again.

Grief, surprise, every shade of hurt, every note of wonder.

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Why?

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Ben shot him again, up close and personal, with his own gun, and let him drop to the dusty ground.

The boy become a man, now a corpse, an old-time friend.

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