They thought it a fine place for an ambush.
They approached the battered and disassembled locomotive with an abundance of caution. I’d done the same but a few hours earlier.
It didn’t do them any good.
I had a clear field of fire and steel all around me.
I counted fifteen of them, all armed with Berdans, and a few wore sabers as well. I didn’t have to worry about the sabers, not from where I was hunkered down, and I’d see how well the locomotive’s old bones held up under fire.
I let the first man get within spitting distance, and then I gut-shot him.
His comrades scattered, and I gunned down the last man standing.
The gut-shot man screamed and cursed in Russian, calling for his friends to come and save him. They yelled back for him to shut up.
The wounded man ignored his comrades and continued to let them know of his pain.
I listened as they talked to one another, and while I couldn’t hear what they were saying, I knew what it was they were discussing. Crouching lower in the train, I sighted in on the wounded man and waited.
From all around, gunfire erupted, and one man crawled out towards his wounded fellow.
He died for it, the top of his head exploding as a .44 round entered through his mouth at an angle.
The gunfire stopped.
The gut-shot man kept screaming.
I waited for the next step, and they carried it out true to form.
With a war cry, the men stood up and charged me. But I’d taken the time to reload, and I had both Colts drawn.
When the gunfire trailed off, I had a bullet in my right breast, and I was shaking the spent casings out of the Colts. In the small field in front of my position, the men were dead.
All save the man I’d gut shot.
Standing up, I walked out to the wounded man, holstered my Colts, and squatted down next to him. For the first time in days, I took out my pipe, loaded and lit it, and nodded hello.
“Who’s in charge here?” I asked.
The man remained silent.
I took my knife out and cut away the clothing around his wound. It was ugly, as most gut shots are.
He sneered at me, and I shrugged as I tapped a few burning embers of tobacco into the fresh wound.
It didn’t take him long to tell me.