“If it talks, it tastes better.”
The voices brought my Colts into my hands. I eased the triggers back, and I waited.
It didn’t take long before I spotted a pair of men moving at a slow, methodical pace along a narrow game trail. They carried a pole between them, and from it hung a small bear. As I watched, I saw blood drip from the animal.
The bear was still alive.
“Should have killed it out in the field,” the man at the front stated.
“You know how it is,” the man at the back said, “the ones that talk if we field dress ‘em, the meat gets too tough. Best way is to bleed and dress ‘em right at camp.”
The man at the front glanced over his shoulder at the bear. “He’s young. Won’t be too gamey.”
“That’s a fact,” his companion nodded.
I’d seen and heard enough. Without showing myself, I called out, “Best to put the bear down and get on your way.”
The men came to a stop, and from where I was, I could see their knuckles tighten on their weapons.
“Don’t think so,” the man in the back asked. “We got ‘em fair and square. We’ll eat ‘em too. We’re willing to share. T’ain’t like we got ourselves a human.”
They were headhunters.
They were armed.
And they’d injured a talking bear.
All good reasons for them to die.
I stood up and kept my Colts leveled on them.
The men seemed surprised at the sight of the pistols.
“You’ll set the bear down nice and slow,” I told them, the guns unwavering in my hands. “Then you’ll drop your weapons and head back the way you came.”
The men grinned at me. The man at the fore called to his companion, “Looks like we’ll be eating better than we thought. And we’ll have a new head for the collection.”
The men were quick, dumping the bear and bringing their guns up in the space of a heartbeat.
But my Colts were drawn, and the hammers cocked.
The trees shook with the thunder of the revolvers, and the men staggered back, their own shots going wild as they went down.
I went to the bear and cut him loose, checking his wound as I did so. It was a bleeder, but nothing too serious. I bound the wound, took my scalps and went on my way.
When the bear woke, he’d be hungry.
At least there was fresh meat for him.