They tried to kill the dogs.
I heard the gunshots as young Agatha and Princess were headed off to school. Both the child and the dog were well familiar with the sound, and each paused and turned to me. I waved them on, loosened the Colts in their holsters and went in search of the sound.
I’d no sooner gone half along the path toward the younger orchard when a pair of bird dogs came barreling toward me. One was wounded in the right shoulder, the other in the left flank. They skidded to a stop when they saw me; ears flattened against their skulls and tails tucked low.
“You’ve no need to fear me,” I told them, moving my hands away from the butts of the pistols. “Who’s harmed you?”
“Our masters,” the dog with the flank wound answered. “We’re too old. They wanted the two other members of our pack to hunt us, but our brothers refused.”
“Where are they?” I asked.
“You’ll not harm our brothers?” the dog asked, blood dripping to the ground.
I smiled and shook my head. “No, just the fools who would treat dogs this way.”
The dogs nodded, and the shoulder-wounded one said, “Not half a mile back. An open field after an orchard.”
“Good. Follow this to the house and barn. Eat and drink in the barn. Wait for me; I’ll be back soon enough to tend to your wounds.”
The dogs seemed doubtful of my assurance, but they went away willingly enough.
I picked up my pace and soon was traveling down the center aisle of the orchard. The apple trees were, for the most part, frustrated with having been awakened. I brushed off their angry comments and disgruntled remarks.
As I neared the end of the orchard, I saw the men and dogs. The men were berating and beating them.
The Colts cleared their holsters, and the hammers fell.
I cut both men down from behind, the slugs tearing through their stomachs.
Shotguns fell from shocked hands, and screams erupted from terrified mouths.
The dogs backed away, surprised and confused.
Fury boiled within me as I holstered the Colts. A glance around the field revealed a large, fist-sized rock. Bending down, I picked it up.
With the dogs watching, I beat their masters to death.