|Photo courtesy Boaz Yiftach|
Jackson sat up and trimmed his thumb nail with the blade of his hunting knife, the sound etching into the night closer to his ears than the crickets. A snap. He glanced across the open desert. No one else knew he was out here. Well, no human. As he scanned the rocky landscape, distinguishing cactus silhouettes from straggled trees, he caught sight of it—a coyote.
Continuing to drag the blade over his thumb, his eyes stayed on the animal. Jackson’s horse grunted and shifted her feet behind him.
“Be cool,” Jackson said, his voice loaded with the same grit which filled Nevada.
He whistled a sharp note. The coyote dodged in the darkness, it’s back humping up as it jumped. Must have startled.
Any fearful animal can be handled. Man or beast. Jackson reached to his left, eyes never leaving the pointed snout of the creature, and raked a few rocks into his hand. Chucking the stones as hard as he could, the coyote turned tail and ran under the sound of the pebbles crashing to the hard packed floor.
Jackson leaned back, rested on his elbow. Easy enough.
The horse grumbled again, her halter clanking as she tossed her head.
“Said be cool,” Jackson repeated himself, louder this time. His voice darted off the far canyon wall and came back to him.
He drew a canister of dip from his pocket and tucked a bitter wad of tobacco into the bottom of his cheek. The juice came quick to his tongue.
In another hour the sun would be rising. He didn’t bother stoking the smoldering fire. No point now. Paunch Showalter slept just over the ridge. Two, three hours away. Tops. By noon Jackson’d be riding back to the sheriff’s office, one bullet lighter, one body heavier. It was simpler than most believed—to kill a man. Spot him, aim. Ka-blewie. A fresh jingle in his pocket.
The best part was the money. The more he took them out, the more the Badges gave him. So long as he ain’t worried about sin or redemption, a man can make a good living out West. That’s what he loved about the game; how easy it was to play. So very easy.
Jackson spit onto the ground a few feet ahead of him and the brown sludge absorbed into the environment. Sure he could get killed, but the element of surprise was always in his favor. Every attack an ambush on someone else. Easy enough.