The Cowboys on Dinosaurs

Sheriff Buck Houston kicked a burnt and charred piece of wood, the remains of a small campfire, from a ring of stones with his booted foot.  He knelt down next to the ring of stones and picked up a small piece of cloth, the edges burnt away by the fire.   The centrosauruses tethered to the side bellowed, sensing the anxiousness of the posse.  Buck stood and looked over to the five others in the posse, five of the toughest men and women Cave Gulch could muster.  “Let’s mount up! Colonel Rauff was here last night.  He can’t have gotten far since day break.”

Jane Drummond grabbed the saddle strap of her centrosaurus and climbed the rope ladder up the side of the large dinosaur to reach the saddle.  The reins trailed down the thick neck of the centrosaurus below the large fanlike skull structure and connected to a sturdy leather harness wrapping around the centrosaurus’s jaw.  Jane tugged on the reins and her centrosaurus grunted but responded to her direction.  The others in the posse also guided their centrosauruses to fall in behind Sheriff Houston.  When the sheriff called for volunteers to join the posse to hunt down Colonel Rauff, Jane stepped forward before anyone else.  Her hatred of the Grimmtroopers stretched back years into her youth, when the Grimmtroopers killed her parents.  She never thought she’d get a chance to see justice for that crime.  When Colonel Rauff and his crew were captured by Sheriff Houston, relief washed over her.  When Colonel Rauff escaped Cave Gulch’s jail, rage overcame her.  She could not allow justice to be denied.  Not again, not ever again.

The six beasts and their riders thundered along the open plains.  “We have to catch him before he reaches the Grimmtrooper stronghold at Castle Reinhardt,” Buck shouted as he spurred his centrosaurus to speed up.  The sheriff rode with purpose. Seven holes were dug in the Cave Gulch cemetery because of Colonel Rauff and his Grimmtrooper troopers.  Twenty-two good men and women suffered injuries.  Purpose was one of those words that troubled Buck, normally.  To claim a purpose in life seemed like an act of hubris.  Did he know God’s will, God’s plan for him?  This has nothing to do with God and everything to do with the oath he swore when he took the badge of his office.  The people of Cave Gulch expected their Sheriff to fulfill that oath.  The purpose was clear, bring Colonel Rauff to justice.  Heinous crimes, even crimes that were acts of war require justice.

Big John Harding reached down and pulled out his double barreled breach loading shotgun slung to the saddle.  He cracked it, balancing the powerful weapon in the crook of his arm.  He rocked with the rhythm of the stomping dinosaur, carefully loading two shells into the gun.  Three days earlier Big John tended to his cows on his ranch when the Grimmtrooper airship glided overhead.  The gatlin guns mounted on the airship made short work of Big John’s cattle.  If that was the only crime, Big John wouldn’t be hell bent on revenge.  The Grimmtrooper airship firebombed his ranch house, killing his wife and his son.  Never in his life had Big John felt so helpless. He took the oath Sheriff Buck issued to him and openly grimaced when he had to promise to bring Colonel Rauff back alive so the villain could face justice through the courts.  If he got a chance, Big John wouldn’t let a simple thing like an oath stop him from extracting a more biblical justice.

Sheriff Houston raised his arm in a signal to stop.  The centrosauruses were not nimble beasts and took some distance to stop galloping.  Jane pulled up alongside Buck, pulling off her hat and shaking out her blonde tresses. “What’s the hold up?” Jane asked.

“Over there, see?” Buck pointed off towards the horizon.  Jane shaded her eyes with her gloved hand and saw the problem.  A tyrannosaur nesting ground stretched out in front of them.  “Colonel Rauff couldn’t have come this way,” Buck growled.  The foliage and tall trees covered the ground.  A few tyrannosaurs moved slowly through the brush in the distance, their heads rising above the cover occasionally.  It was a nesting ground, not a hunting ground, so they weren’t aggressive and wouldn’t be unless their nests were threatened.

Jane scanned the horizon. “No, there!” she shouted.  Her hand pointed to the right.  Buck squinted and finally saw the tiny figure of a man hurriedly hiking along the fringe of the nesting ground.

“He’s got quite a lead on us,” Sheriff Houston observed.

Big John called out from behind them, “We can catch up to him by riding through the nesting ground.”

Dancing Dotty Joe O’Brien sitting astride her centosaurus next to Big John audibly sucked in a big gulp of air as she gasped.  Dotty Joe didn’t know cowardice, and her skill with six shooters was talked about all the way to the Red River county seat.  No man or woman was a quicker draw or a better marksman.  While other showmen flipped half dollars into the air to shoot a hole in them, Dotty would take those holed half dollars and shoot her bullet through the hole.  On her own she had faced down the Branson Gang when they tried to rob the Cave Gulch Bank.  Four brothers laid low by four perfect shots, two from each of Dotty’s guns.  All shots fired in a face off.  Dotty got off four perfect shots, even though the brothers already had their pistols drawn and aimed at her.  Vern Branson nicked Dotty’s left arm.  Wasn’t the first bullet the proud stern woman had taken and it wouldn’t be the last, she was sure of that.  The thought of being shot didn’t frighten her.  Riding through the Tyrannosaur nesting ground did.

“That’s the most dim brained idea I’ve heard!” Dotty finally said.

Big John spit on the ground.  “What do you mean?”

“Those are Tyrannosaurs!  We can’t ride through their nesting ground without being killed! If we are killed, Rauff does get away.”  Dotty argued.

Sheriff Buck pushed his hat up on his head and turned to look at his posse.  Jane sat quietly to his side, Dotty and Big John argued, Deputy Ben and his brother Travis Carter shook their heads silently.

“I reckon I can’t just ride this posse through the Rex nests but I can’t let Rauff get away.  Y’all volunteered now I’m giving you a chance to go back,” Buck said.  “No one will think differently of you.  This is a danger no man or woman should face.”

“You aren’t going to do it, are you?” Dotty asked in disbelief.

“We’ll never catch Rauff before he reaches Reinhardt if we follow his path.  I need to ride through, straight to the river and cut him off on the other side.  I can’t do it alone, but I can’t ask any of you to go with me.  I’m counting twelve nests from here.  That’s over twenty mated pairs plus any juveniles who may be in the area.  Now I see a path cutting through off to the north there.  It must be a game trail.  The trees there will provide some cover.  Not a lot.  Our centrosauruses can’t outrun a rex.  The way I see it, combined we may be able to take down one rex, if we have enough notice.”

Dotty shook her head and said, “You’re crazier than a raptor on a full moon.”

“That may be, Dotty, that may be.  But I swore an oath when I put this badge on,” Sheriff Buck said.  Everything always came back to that oath.  Duty and purpose.  Four Sundays ago, he sat in church with his friends and neighbors and listened to the sermon.  “God is love,” the pastor said in his sermon.  Such a simple statement, spoken so many times before in so many other sermons but Buck heard it, felt it, understood it for the first time that Sunday.  What is love to a man who takes an oath to mete out justice?  Where is love in bringing a man to the gallows?  Doctor Brown cures the sick.  That seems like a properly righteous path in life.  Miss Daisy Lee teaches the children to read, write, and figure.  Big John provides food for the people.  Buck administers the laws of man, sometimes the petty laws of man.  He swore an oath.  He was bound by his word.  When Rauff and his Grimmtrooper soldiers attacked Cave Gulch, the people turned to Sheriff Buck Houston to embody their rage and wrath and find justice.  Not divine justice.  There was no stomach to let God provide judgment for these actions in the afterlife.  The justice of God had an eternity to be enacted.  Divine justice was slow. The justice of man required immediate action.

“I’m with you,” Big John said, interrupting Sheriff Buck’s thoughts.

“You can count on me and Travis,” Deputy Carter said.  Sheriff Buck knew he could count on Ben.  Ben was a loyal deputy, a stalwart citizen of Cave Gulch.  Travis, Sheriff Buck had doubts about, but it was good to have an extra hand when out in the wilderness like this.

“I’m in,” Jane added proudly.  In a different world, Sheriff Buck felt he and Jane might have been something more than friends.  But not in this world.  He had his duty.  She showed no interest in anything more.  Having her along did make Buck feel better.  For someone who had seen the tragedy she had, she was a well grounded person.  Buck appreciated people with levelheaded thinking.

Dotty on the other hand,while the best shot Buck had ever seen, a woman of intense courage, she always seemed a bit self absorbed.  Buck needed her though.

There was an awkward pause.  “Dotty? I’d sure feel better with your guns and aim with us,” Sheriff Buck said.

Dotty looked out over the plain ahead of them.  The river seemed so far away.  And crossing the river didn’t guarantee safety from those tyrannosaurs.  She pulled a six shooter from her holster and spun it on her finger.  The gun floated in her hand. With a crisp practiced move, she slipped the pistol back into its holster.  “Let’s ride,” Dotty said, giving her centrosaurus a kick and flicking the reins.

Ben Carter shouted, “Yee Haw! Giddyup!”

The posse led by Dotty thundered down the trail leading from the bluff to the nesting ground.

The stampede of centrosauruses shook the ground.  Every creature within a mile felt the tremble in the ground.  To a tyrannosaur, a tremble in the ground was nothing.  Not only was their tactile response incredibly slow, but also every time they took a step, the ground shook.  The centrosauruses weren’t giving away their position; they were masking the approach of any nearby tyrannosaur: a necessary risk.

Deputy Ben Carter saw the first tyrannosaur.  He and his brother took the rear of posse and strained their necks looking for threats.  The large looming head of a tyrannosaur rose above the tree line.  Its eyes fixated quickly on the centrosauruses.  It opened its toothy maw and bellowed.  The noise deafened the posse momentarily and triggered a fear response in the centrosauruses.  The poor creatures had thousands of years of instinct bred into them and their instinct when confronted by a powerful predator was to run as fast and haphazardly as their thick but powerful legs could go.  For those perched on top of these mighty reptilian beasts, the ride transformed from a smooth loping to a jarring frenzied gallop.

The tyrannosaur pushed through the foliage, snapping the trunks of several trees as if they were nothing more than tall grass.  Boom! Boom! Boom! The footfalls of the tyrannosaur echoed in the skulls of the posse as they tried to come to grips with their fear.  The sound was so loud that it muffled the blast coming from Big John’s shotgun.  Both barrels fired solid slugs at the predatory.  They miraculously found their mark against the thick hide of the beast, but it didn’t react.  The rest of the posse opened fired the best they could while twisting in their saddles and trying to stay atop the stampeding centrosauruses.   Instinct served the centrosauruses and their riders well.  Run fast, run forward, and keep going until you can’t run no more or until the weak and injured fall behind.

The mentality of herd animals sacrificed a few to save the many.  The mentality of predatory animals focused on success, the one who killed first fed and bred.  Humans couldn’t adapt to either standard.  Humans stood out like sore thumbs in the animal kingdom.

Sheriff Buck Houston took aim with his rifle, trying to anticipate the jerky movements of his centrosaurus fired off a round and ejected the hot shell.  Patches of red appeared on the tyrannosaur where the collective firepower of the posse began to do some real damage.

Dancing Dotty Joe’s shots hit consistently as though guided by a mysterious force.  She knew better than to aim for the large skull, even though it seemed like an easy target.  Each of her shots hit the left foot.  The others tried their best to hit the same spot.  Big John fired another double barreled blast and scored a lucky hit with one of his slugs.  Soon the creature was doing more damage to itself as it chased them than they were doing to it.  Bones, broken by the bullets, tore and ground at the surrounding flesh.  The tyrannosaur closed in and then suddenly its foot no longer could support its massive bulk.  The large beast tumbled to the ground, its full weight crashing down causing a very localized earthquake.

The posse reloaded and Jane spotted the second tyrannosaur just off to the left of them.  It was already coming at them at top speed, knocking trees and lunging forward in the full fury of a hell creature.  Jane took a bead on the creature and fired off several shots.  The others quickly turned their attention to the new threat and followed suit.  The trees protected the tyrannosaur’s feet and legs.  The only viably target was its huge head.  The bones of its skull were far too thick to be penetrated by any of their weapons at this range.  Dotty was able to get a shot at one of its eyes and partially blinded it.  The tyrannosaur didn’t even hesitate.  Its mate had been killed and this band of interlopers was perilously close to its nesting young.  Humans would interpret this as vengeance.  Animals didn’t act out of a sense of vengeance.  Vengeance wasted energy.  Animals focused on survival.  Humans would waste all their energy to get vengeance.  Just like Cave Gulch sending out six of its most skilled and robust citizens to ‘bring justice’ to Rauff for his crimes.   That is the other difference.  Only humans committed crimes that required justice.  The Grimmtroopers attacked and killed those in the villages not out of some quarrel over territory and resources but out of a sense of ideology.  People killed because they hold a different sense of beliefs.

This raging dinosaur was too close.  The posse couldn’t do enough damage.  The tyrannosaur merged onto the path right behind Ben and Travis Carter.  Travis fired off six shots in rapid succession.  All six missed the target.  His aim disrupted out of fear and the herky-jerky motion of his centrosaurus.  Ben had a bit more luck with his shots, shattering one of the daggerlike teeth in its mouth.  Lucky, but not helpful.

“The river!” Dotty shouted as the ribbon of wet blue water shimmered into view.

Ben could reach out and touch the nose of the tyrannosaur if he felt the inclination.  He did not.  He loaded his pistol as quickly as he could, bullets bouncing off the saddle of the centrosaurus and onto the ground below.  “Get in front of me!” Ben shouted to his brother.

Travis looked confused but followed Ben’s command.  Ben clicked the cylinder of his .45 revolver into place and took a deep breath.  He only had one chance.  He fired the gun until the hammer clicked.  Suddenly he flew forward, tumbling into the muck and dirt, his centrosaurus tumbled after him.  The six shots fired into the back of the centrosaurus’s neck wounded it badly enough that it couldn’t continue to run.  Its front legs gave out, sending Ben soaring over its protective plate.  The tyrannosaur was so close that it couldn’t react to the sudden change in pace of the centrosaurus and it took several steps over the mewling beast before cutting back around.  Its one good eye caught sight of Ben, bloodied and scrambling on the ground and with a quick snap, Ben disappeared into its mouth.  Twisting back with the grace of a serpent, the Tyrannosaur took a bite at the wounded centrosaurus, breaking its sturdy back.  The centrosaurus thrashed with all its might in its final fight for survival, but the outcome was clear.

The other five posse members looked back in absolute horror.  Ben sacrificed himself in an effort to save them.  The centrosauruses crashed into the river at a full run, sending white geysers of water high into the air and knocking the riders off the saddles.

Buck splashed about until he latched onto the rope ladder floating to the side of his centrosaurus and held on as his centrosaurus pulled him to the other side.  He heard screaming and looked to find the rest of his posse.  It was Jane who was crying out as she floated swiftly down the river.  When her centrosaurus hit the water, she fell from her saddle like the others but she fell into a fast current.  Disoriented she didn’t have time to catch hold of anything and the current was strong.  Big John tried to toss a rope after her but it fell far too short of the target and Jane disappeared into the wide wet blue ribbon of water.

Sheriff Buck, Big John, Dotty, and Travis regrouped on the bank of the river.

“I can’t believe this,” Travis finally broke the silence.  “Ben was right next to me.  Why did he do it?”

Buck rested his hand on Travis’s shoulder.  “He saved our lives.  He knew we wouldn’t be able to out run the tyrannosaur.”

“And Jane?” Travis asked knowing there was no answer.

“We still have a duty.  We can’t let Jane and Ben’s deaths stop us.  We are now in front of Rauff.  He will have to come back to the path to get to Reinhardt.  We can ride up the trail and lay in wait,” Buck said to the three remaining members of his posse.  “Gather your things; shake the water from your boots.  We will mourn our fallen after we’ve fulfilled our oaths.”

Dotty looked truly crestfallen.  “I don’t think I can go on,” she said.

Buck felt naked without his hat now on its way to some ocean.  Without it, he couldn’t properly punctuate his sentiment.  “Dotty.  Dancing Dotty Joe O’Brien.  I know this is difficult.  When I rode out of Cave Gulch I had no intention of losing two of my closest friends.  I did come out here to enact justice.  When you joined this posse, you also agreed to be an instrument of that justice.”

Dotty steeled her nerves and stood up.

Big John shook water from the barrel of his shotgun.

Buck turned to Travis, “Are you ready to go?”

“No,” Travis said softly before throwing up.  “I’m ready now.”

Buck took the lead of Jane’s centrosaurus.  The others climbed onto their mounts and spurred them forward.  Sheriff Buck kept an eye out for a suitable spot to set up an ambush for Rauff.  A clearing off the trail presented the best opportunity.  The posse staked their centrosauruses and took up position.

Colonel Rauff took extra care to steer clear of the nesting ground, even though the path led to a more dangerous part of the river.  He knew the simple minded Yankees of Cave Gulch would send a posse after him and they wouldn’t be too far behind him.  The extra care he took in going around the nesting grounds would be made up for the vantage point he’d have against his pursuers once he crossed the river.  He’d be able to get a good view at who was chasing him as they came around the nesting ground.  He cleared the river and climbed a tree.  No one followed.  He couldn’t see anyone.  Rauff was surprised that the Yankee Sheriff wasn’t behind him.  He seemed like the tenacious type.

After an hour in the tree, Rauff was confused.  The only explanation was the posse rode through the nesting ground.  Three outcomes were possible from the bold and stupid move: the posse would be killed; the posse would be waiting for him, or a combination of the two.  Rauff had no choice but to go forward, but he no longer had to watch his back.  His hunters were in front of him.  He had the real advantage, though.  The Yankees have no knowledge of this territory and the Grimmtroopers often send out long distance patrols.   Colonel Rauff knew he just needed to proceed cautiously.

The mission was to be a simple raid against Cave Gulch to determine its strategic value.  Colonel Rauff commanded the War Zeppelin Rottod with a crew of eight Grimmtroopers.  When they came across the undefended farms and ranches the temptation to take action was too great.  Colonel Rauff was certain he’d be able to lay waste to all of Cave Gulch, breaking them down to a point that the Grimmtroopers would be able to move in and capture the town.  The prisoners would augment the slave labor in the mines.  There was always a need for more labor in the mines.

When the War Zeppelin flew over the main part of town, the citizens of Cave Gulch had begun to muster a defense.  Small arms fire mainly, no match for the Rottod’s gatlin guns and rockets.  The cannon fired from the town square blasted the airframe.  The zeppelin descended rapidly.  The cannoneers readied another shot and fired again, shredding the crew compartment.  The Grimmtroopers piled out of the War Zeppelin with their automatic rifles, but the Yankees had them covered.  The firefight was short. The eight Grimmtrooper soldiers were killed quickly.  Colonel Rauff expected his death to come quickly, but the Sheriff of this town didn’t put a bullet in his brain.  Colonel Rauff was put into cuffs, led to a tiny jail.  It was laughable.  He was certain he had killed dozens upon dozens of these Yankees, and yet they treated him as if he had stolen a centrosaurus.  Colonel Rauff broke out of the jail with ease. His training prepared him for much worse.  The deputy slept through the entire breakout.  Rauff got a full night’s head start on any pursuers.

Now his pursuers laid in wait ahead of him.  The sounds of multiple guns cocking sent a chill through Colonel Rauff’s body.  He counted four Yankees and five centrosauruses.

“You aren’t armed, Rauff.  Get on the ground!” Sheriff Buck shouted.

Rauff grimaced for a moment and then twisted his mouth into a cruel smile.

“I want to blast him,” Big John said quietly, but the voice carried across the clearing.

“Hold your shot, John, just hold,” Sheriff Buck ordered the rancher.

“It seems like one of your group has proper sense.  You should have killed me when you first had the chance.  It would have saved the life of your friend.” Rauff nodded to the centrosauruses.

“Dotty,” Buck said.

Without a pause, Dotty fired two shots, one from each of her silver guns. The first bullet clipped Rauff’s left shoulder.  A hot streak of blood seeped through his uniform shirt.  The second bullet traced a similar path an inch below the first.

“Get on the ground!” Sheriff Buck repeated.

Colonel Rauff eased himself to the ground.  As he got on his knees he crooked his head.  Travis Carter heard it too.  A rhythmic rapid whooshing sound seemed to come from all directions.  Rauff remained on his knees, craning his neck.  The rest of the posse also took note of the odd sound.  Never had any of them heard such a noise.

A Grimmtrooper gyrocopter, a two manned machine with large fanlike blades spinning above a metal frame driven by a powerful engine, appeared over the tree line.  A large gatlin gun was mounted on the front of the machine.  The pilot of the machine guided it towards the clearing as the other trooper aimed the gatlin gun.  The cylinder composed of eight barrels began to spin and a stream of hot lead rained down from above.  Rauff chortled with glee as he rolled to the side and took cover behind a log.

Big John didn’t hesitate and unleashed both barrels of his shotgun on the flying machine.  Travis was dumbfounded and Sheriff Buck had to tackle him to the ground to prevent his head from being vaporized by the intense spray of bullets.  Dancing Dotty Joe O’Brien leapt to the side, rolled in the air so both guns pointed to the sky and fired three shots in rapid succession.  The first shot bounced off one of the spinning blades, ricocheting back down into the gear work of the gyrocopter while the second and third bullets bounced off the metal frame.  She landed on her back but luckily the foliage broke her fall.  She rolled into the thicker grasses.  The copter was damaged and was now making a grinding noise as it hovered over the clearing.  The gunner opened fired once again.  A burst of orange flame spewed from the gun mowing down the tall plants it pointed at.  The copter wobbled and lost altitude.

Sheriff Buck crawled off Travis and took two shots before scrambling to the edge of the clearing.  Travis got one shot off before covering his head to protect against flying dirt the copter kicked up.

The gunner on the gyrocopter still gripped the gatlin gun firmly and fired it at the spread out posse.  The pilot pulled a long slender pistol from a holster under his shoulder and fired two shots at Buck as Buck took cover behind an old log.  Tiny explosions of splinters erupted next to him.

Dotty Joe found herself pinned by the gatlin gun.  Whenever she moved to shoot, the gunner peppered the ground near her with hot lead.  Big John was able to use both barrels of his shotgun but the range made it ineffective.  Travis jumped up and sprinted across the field with gunfire following his every step.  He ducked behind a tree and grimaced as bullets thudded violently against the trunk.  Only Buck was able to get any shots off.   Rauff crouched near the side of the gyrocopter and took a pistol from the gunner.

“Sheriff?  You should reconsider your purpose,” Rauff taunted.

Buck responded by firing off several shots, emptying his revolver.  Rauff and the Pilot returned fire.  The gunner sprayed bullets from Dotty Joe’s position to Big John’s, keeping both of them pinned.  Travis leaned out from behind his tree and fired off a round the pinged harmlessly off the frame of the copter.

“Now Sheriff, you aren’t being realistic.  You are outgunned and scattered.  We have enough ammunition to cut down every tree you choose to hide behind,” Rauff shouted.  To punctuate his statement, the gatlin gun began to chew away at the old rotted log Buck laid behind.  Dotty took the opportunity to get off a few shots.  Even with her skilled hand and eye, the Grimmtroopers were too protected by their contraption.  Her bullets hit the glass window next to the pilot’s head but it was too thick to break.  It shattered but remained in place.

Sheriff Buck shouted, “I’m not ever going to stop until you’ve paid for the crimes you’ve committed!”

“Crimes? You have a weird sense of humor, Yankee.  I didn’t commit any crimes.  I engaged in an act of warfare.  You don’t want justice, you want revenge.  This is a strategic battle we are engaged in, not a matter of law and order.”

Buck couldn’t get a sense of where his posse had positioned themselves but he knew everyone was pinned down.  He couldn’t signal any of them and hoped Travis had sense to try to circle around.  Their only hope was getting behind their defensive position and getting the drop on them.  The gatlin gun only covered an arc in front of the machine.  The protective windscreen was set on the front as well, with the sides and rear open so rifles could be fired from the machine.  The centrosaurs grunted and pulled at their tethers, not really bothered by the noise of the gunfire.

Suddenly a loud crack, almost like thunder, echoed through the clearing, disrupting the eerie calm that fell over it as both sides assessed their options and reloaded their guns.  A second loud crack followed seconds later.  Buck heard the sounds of a scuffle and lifted his head.  Colonel Rauff swung his fist at a figure but received a faceful of the butt of a rifle.  Jane Drummond brought the rifle back and plowed into Rauff with her shoulder.  Buck sprang to his feet and ran across the field.  Big John was on his feet as was Dotty.  Travis slipped from behind the tree and moved cautiously towards the gyrocopter.  Rauff fell to the ground and Jane put her boot on his chest, the barrel of her rifle aimed at his face.

“Jane! Jane!” Buck shouted, so happy to see her alive.

“She shot the pilot and gunner,” Big John said casually looking at the blood splattered windscreen.

“And now I’m going to kill this piece of filth,” Jane growled.

“No, Jane, no,” Buck said.

Colonel Rauff laughed.  “Even now, you still show your weakness.”

Big John grimaced.  “He’s right, ya know, just kill him here.  Let the dinosaurs eat his bones.”

The posse all seemed to agree.  Travis shook his head vehemently, “Ben would still be alive if this dog had just been killed when we first had him.”

Buck looked at the faces of his deputized posse.  “You all feel that way?”

“Absolutely,” Dotty chimed in.

“How would you feel if Rauff was killed by a tyrannosaur before we got to him?  The only way we knew was finding his Grimmtrooper boots in a pile of crap.  Would you feel justice was done then?”

“What are you saying, Buck,” asked Jane.

“I’m asking you if we discovered him dead by the hands of someone else, would you feel justice had been done?”

“Well, no,” Travis answered.

Buck understood his purpose.  He understood that his job was a job of love.  Bringing justice was an act of love.  “Think of the people back at Cave Gulch.  Sure, we will have the satisfaction of seeing justice carried out, but they will not.  The process of justice, the process of fulfilling the oaths we take, is more than serving the laws; it is about helping people heal.  Rauff needs to be brought to justice, not because there is doubt about his guilt, but because the process will help our friends and family begin to heal and put this tragedy behind them.”

Rauff laughed meekly, “More tragedy will be coming, Yankee.”

Buck stared down at Rauff and shook his head slowly, “Mister, life is tragedy.  The best we can do is prepare for it.”  Buck looked back at his posse, “See there is evil and there is us.  We ain’t evil and we sure as hell ain’t good, but we try.  We try to be good because we value it.  We only understand the good that keeps us whole because we have a process.  Killing Rauff here, now, without process, with only revenge as our motive is an act of evil.  Pure, simple evil.”

The four members of Sheriff Buck’s posse stared at him with stone faces. It was Big John who cracked first.  Tears rolled down his face.  “He killed my wife and son!”

“I know Big John, I know.  And he will pay.  When he is pronounced guilty and he is put upon the gallows for his crimes, you and everyone else who suffered losses at this devil’s hands will see him pay and will know justice has been done.”

No one moved.  Not even Rauff struggled.  The earnest voice Buck used froze him.  There was something terrifying about how the Yankee found solace in the laws of his town.  There was something terrifying by the lack of self righteousness.  The quiet certitude, the humble belief in what was right stood in opposition of the Grimmtrooper belief in the few ruling over the many.  Rauff realized fighting against this Yankee ideology would be more difficult than he could imagine.  He spent the long ride tied up with rope riding on the back of a centrosaurus contemplating.  He found his solace in the fact that soon, he wouldn’t have to worry about waging any sort of war against the Yankee ideology.

The ride back took several days.  They grieved the passing of Deputy Ben.  Sheriff Buck realized that his job was based in love and maybe, just maybe, there was room for other love, real love in his life.  With Rauff tied up and riding on Big John’s centrosaurus, Sheriff Buck took the long ride back to Cave Gulch as an opportunity to learn more about Jane Drummond.

Published by Sean D. Francis

Sean D. Francis is a technologist, writer, and geek. He podcasts, makes video, and dabbles in all the geeky genres including horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.