A Ten Pound Bag
Chapter 147: The Tree

Copyright© 2020 by Emmeran

Editor: nnpdad 20 May 2021

Coffee in hand, I considered what I would say to the men who waited for me. These were the men who had their weapons or gear stolen from them while they slept on watch. It was a very serious crime. Not long ago, Lewis and Clark had executed a man for this exact transgression, not far from here, as a matter of fact. This was tobacco-level consideration and my captains were looking to me for guidance. Leadership was fraught with unpleasant responsibilities.

I decided that the cat-o-nine was called for and hoped it was only a prop. The thought of using that on a living creature sickened me. I would destroy it before we ever got anywhere near Banshee. I didn’t even want to imagine what her fascination with that thing would be like. I looped the cat-o-nine and hung it from my belt then started the slow walk over, with heavy feet. I drank my coffee and smoked my cigarette as I thought. I ended up letting Matilda be my muse; justice was harsh and swift in untamed lands and that was what was needed here.

Cigarette done and cup empty, I secured both butt and cup in my bag, I mentally shook myself and strode up to the small gathering of men. This had to be about the greater purpose and the needs of the many. A few drops of blood are far outweighed by the lives of the innocent. I shook the cat loose and let it trail behind me. My mind and eyes were hardening with each step and thought. Who are these guys, to stomp on hopes, dreams, and lives, so casually? Brin whined a little and went straight to Amos.

The captains stepped off to the side and I stood alone in front of these lazy scoundrels. There was no entrapment or trickery. They had all been caught committing a capital crime. I had a full head of steam now and I simply let it flow. Anger poured out of every part of my being.

“You stand before me, accused of committing an unforgivable crime. More than that, it’s been proven! Your weapons and belongings are in a pile behind me. Those items were stolen from you while you were supposed to be watching and protecting us. Stolen, in some cases, from your very hands, while you slept. Not only did you allow this to happen, you did not bother to tell anyone afterwards!”

I was on the warpath and looking for blood. My anger was high and I wished for nothing but the opportunity to quench the bloodlust. Naturally, there had to be one idiot who gave me that opportunity. The idiot spoke out from the back of the group, of course, hoping to hide in the group. He was an idiot, facing a force of nature.

“That’s wrong. Everyone gets tired and needs to sleep. Sleep is our right!”

Apparently he was a bad arguer, as well as an idiot.

I didn’t bother to answer. I simply pulled my musket as I strode through the small crowd. They parted like the Red Sea. He was left standing alone, as if this were some sort of movie, and I placed my musket barrel directly in the center of his forehead. There was utter stillness and silence all around. Even Brin didn’t make a sound. Every living creature realized that this man’s life was hanging by a thread.

He met my eyes for only a moment and then he looked down in resignation.

I spoke.

“There’s a big tree behind me. Either face against the tree and accept the lashes, or face towards me and accept the bullet.” My voice was crystal clear and ice hard.

There was a moment of doubt and then he slowly shuffled past me and hugged the tree.

“Shirt off,” I ordered. As he did so, I turned back to the men around me.

“Sleeping or drunk on watch, is punishable by death. Allowing items to be stolen is the lash. We have enemies all around and I do not wish to wake up dead because a man fell asleep. I was on the same watch and I was awake!”

 
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