The scout and a solemn dog were the first to arrive.
They came trudging across the Hollow, the man with nary a care in the world.
The dog knew better.
The wind shifted as they approached, carrying my scent across the way and within moments, the dog lifted his head.
I raised my coffee cup in salute to the canine, and he trotted ahead of his master. The scout snapped a command at the dog, but it was ignored. In less than a minute, the dog scrambled up the steps and took a cautious step toward me. I reached out my left hand, and he took a cautious sniff.
“You’re a Duncan,” the dog observed.
“Aye,” I agreed, finishing my coffee and setting my cup down on the porch railing.
“Are they inside?” the dog asked. “Are they safe?”
I smiled and nodded.
“Good,” the dog sighed. “There were only so many times I could lead them down a false trail. I had hoped they would find refuge. I did not dare to dream that it might be here. With you.”
The scout had reached the boundary of Gordon Road and the Hollow. When he paused, the dog whispered, “There are eight of them. They do not realize their prey, nor who they have found for a protector.”
I grunted and motioned for the dog to go inside, which he did.
I stepped to the stairs, walked down and called for the man to halt.
He did so, tightening his grip on his rifle.
“Best go back the way you came,” I explained. “There’s nothing save death for you here, boy.”
He bristled at the statement and risked a glance over his shoulder. The man’s companions were leaving the tree line and heading toward us.
“No,” the scout replied. “I don’t think I will leave. We’re here for the girls and to eat the dog.”
“Either one of those marks you for killing,” I told him, hands on the butts of the Colts.
“Says who?” the scout chuckled, bringing the rifle up to his shoulder.
“Duncan Blood,” I replied, and the Colts cleared leather as his jaw dropped in surprise.
He died before he could pull the trigger, and by the time his corpse hit the road, I was moving past it.
His comrades were readying their weapons, unaware that they were all about to die.
I brought the Colts up, and their thunder filled the air.