I opened my eyes. Little sparks were dancing around in front of me. A mule was tryin to kick its way out of my brainpan. I closed my eyes. Memories flooded in of where I was and what had happened. There was a commotion goin on somewhere….a lot of bangin and shoutin. Every sound reverberated through my head like a brass band in a box canyon. I decided to get movin. I tried to swing my feet around and get up, but they were tied together. Turns out, I was layin on top of a big box, and when I swung my feet my momentum carried me right off of it. I was off balance and, since my hands were also tied behind me, I just toppled over on my face. This didn’t improve my mood a bit. I was face down on a hard floor in a dark room, trussed like a calf for brandin. My head was ringin and it felt like I’d scraped half the skin off my face and WHAT WAS THAT NOISE??

  Right then a little voice in my head started talkin;
  “Quit yer whining and git up. You got better things to do than loaf around in here.?
  It dawned on me that the voice wasn’t commin from my head at all! There was someone in the room with me!

  I remembered my pocket knife. Rolling onto my left side, I twisted around till I could get my hand into my pocket. My side started cramping, so I had to make three tries, but I finally got it out and cut the rope. Once my feet were loose I got up and groped around till I found a light switch.
  “Alright,? I said, “let’s see who you are.?

  I turned on the light. I was in a storage closet about eight feet by ten. One door, no windows. I was alone. Above me it sounded like a rodeo was in full progress. People were hollerin and horses were stompin. I had to get out of there. The door was locked but, once again, my pocket knife came in handy. Easing the door open, I peeked out. I was still in the basement. The kerosene lantern was out, but a light bulb glowed from the ceiling. As I approached the stairs, the commotion above reached a new level. There was a scream and a loud crash, and the noise got farther away. I eased up the stairs. The trap door was still open, and I slowly peeked over the top. The room was empty. There was broken glass all over the floor, and a sizeable hole in one wall. On the street side of the building the entire window frame had been knocked out and, as I watched, a large man picked himself up off the sidewalk. It was full dark now, and the wind was blowin hard, but I could see him real good. As he put on his hat he said “I’ll kill that horse. I’ll shoot him dead, I swear I will.?

  Now, this I understood. It had to be Hammerhead, my old roan. There aint another critter alive that can make a man as crazy as that horse can. He’s what I like to call highly opinionated, and if he decides he don’t like you, you’d better give him plenty of room.
  As I stepped up out of the basement I realized they had knocked me out and tied me up and never even took the gun out of my belt. I checked my loads as I walked to the sidewalk. The storm was just about on us and lightning was almost constant. Lookin North up the street I saw Hammerhead disappear around a corner as the big man fired off a shot at him. I didn’t like that much, so I yelled “HEY,? and as he turned I let one fly at him.

  Folks, I aint much of a shooter, and I didn’t expect to hit someone thirty yards away in the dark, but he spun around and yelped pretty loud, so I figured I’d got lucky.

  Of course then he fired back at me, and he sure seemed to know what he was doin. His first shot creased my left sideburn, and as I pulled back into the building, two more followed me real close. I didn’t want to get trapped in there, so I backed up a bit and took a run at the street. I crossed the sidewalk at a good clip, firin a couple rounds at where that feller had been standin. Then I was in the street, figurin to stand and make a fight, but nobody was firin back!

  A bolt of lightning struck just then, knockin the top out of a tree about twenty yards from me. In the flash I saw that the street was empty. The big man had faded out somewhere, probably goin after my horse. My hat was gone and my hair was standin on end and my eyes felt three feet wide. As the top of that tree fell into the street, rain started fallin. The drops were big and cold and felt like hedge apples in that stiff wind. I heard a crackin sound behind me and a voice….the same voice I heard earlier…. said ?You better duck, cowboy.?

  I spun around just in time to catch a broken branch on the bridge of my nose. Man, I hate when that happens. It knocked me flat on my back. Little lights were dancing all around my head. I thought I’d laid there a few seconds, but I must’ve passed out ‘cause when I opened my eyes, everything was different!
  The storm was gone! The ground was dry! I sat up and twisted around to look down the street. What I saw was a group of men walkin toward me from the far end of town. The one in the middle had his head down and his hands were tied behind him. A couple of them wore badges, even though they didn’t look much like lawmen. One of them was carryin a long rope with a noose on the end!

END OF CHAPTER THREE

GHOST TOWN - CHAPTER THREEE
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