The Red Bandana – Hannah Collins

It was the first day this town had seen a woman marshal. On my way into town all the locals were givin’ me nasty looks, but it wasn’t gonna despair me. I was there to do a job and that’s what I was gonna do. I didn’t have time for those chuckleheads. I know I’m good at catchin’ outlaws; that’s how I became the first woman marshal back in Petersburg. I came to Oaks Ridge to help the local sheriff and if they tried to give me trouble, they had another thing comin’.

All I knew about the case I was workin’ was that there was a gang of men that had been thievin’ cattle. Now, the reason they called me wasn’t because I’m a cattle expert but because they were thinkin’ this might lead us to the Phantom Riders. I’d been workin’ their case for months and hadn’t been able to pin them down. I’d only seen them in the flesh once. Back in Scottsdale I saw the eyes of the Devil himself. He was wearin’ a bandana across his face and had eyes as black as coal. From that point on I knew I had to be the one to bring those evil men down.

Now, this gang, well they’re faster than a slicked up pig on a mudslide. They leave town so fast that nearly nobody sees them. That’s why they’re named the Phantom Riders. All we knew was that they wear a red skull on their coats and that every town they’ve gone through they leave a red trail behind them. I’ve been cleanin’ up that trail without no leads. Until now. I’m crossin’ every finger and toe I got that I finally catch those bastards.

I talked to the local sheriff and after a few scoffs he gave me all the details I needed. When the rancher saw his cows gettin’ thieved, he saw a red skull on the thieves’ coats. That sure seems like a dumb mistake to make for a gang of killers who have made it through six towns without being caught. The sheriff thinks they have a base set up in the hills behind the town.

“Evelyn, we gotta take it slow here,” the sheriff told me.

I disagreed. We needed to ambush them. I knew how they worked and yet this coot wasn’t believin’ me. Why did you ask for my help if you ain’t gonna use it?

“Sheriff, I’ve been followin’ this gang for months. I know how they operate. We need to act fast.”

After some struggle I finally got the sheriff to agree to my plan. I told him to get all his men, get all the gear and get as much whiskey as he can find. ‘Cause we were gonna be celebratin’.

The sheriff, his men, and I headed up to the Ashwood Hills on our horses. We tied them up to some trees ‘bout 100 yards from where the Phantom Riders were last seen. I saw a bit of smoke in the sky and told the sheriff to move in but don’t get seen. We had to be sneaky to ambush these fools. We were about to get to their camp when a shot was fired. We quickly fell back behind some logs.

More bullets flew by my head while I was thinkin’ up a plan. “We gotta go for it.” I looked out above the log and whipped out my pistol. A couple of my shots landed and I heard yowls. I saw five more men and their leader. He was wearin’ the same bandana as I had remembered. As red as the blood he was about to bleed. Right after the sheriff and his men took some shots, it was finally over. The whole gang was on the ground bleedin’. I walked up to the leader and tore off that goddamned bandana. I wanted to see his face before I shot him dead. What I saw shook me straight outta my boots. Starin’ back at me was my own brother. I took a step back.

“What? John? Is…is that you?” Those were the only words that could come out of my mouth.

“Hey sis. Long time no see.”

I hadn’t seen my brother in about a decade. I had always wondered where he ran off too after our Pa died. I had never thought he’d be in a gang killin’ innocent folks.

“Why? Why are you doin’ this? I’ve been followin’ you for months now, from town to town. Seein’ the deaths stack up. I can’t believe this.” I said.

“Well, believe it, Ev. After Pa died I didn’t care about my life or anyone else’s.” John looked down at his feet, almost shameful. “Sis, I’m tired. I’m tired of runnin’ and I’m tired of hidin’. I think I’m finally ready to call it quits. When I saw you in Scottsdale I knew what you were up to. It made me rethink a lot of my life decisions.” John chuckled. “So go ahead sis. I know why you’re here. Get it over with.”

A million thoughts ran through my head. I can’t shoot my own flesh and blood. But he’s killed so many poor folks. Then, out of nowhere, a shot rang through my ears. I saw the life in my brother’s eyes disappear. I turned around and saw the sheriff.

“You was hesitatin’.”

“He was my brother you son of a bitch!” I screamed at him.

“I don’t care if it was your brother or not. This is why we can’t have lady cops. You’re all too damned emotional.” The sheriff said to me.

I walked towards him and punched him in the face. “Fuck you.” I walked back to John and fell to my knees. “You bastard. I didn’t want you dead.” I pulled the bottle of whisky out from my bag and took a swig. Even though I wasn’t celebratin’, I’d be drinkin’ anyway.

Bookseller by moonlight, photographer and comic book reader by daylight. You can find her photos on Instagram @hellokittenface.

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