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Episode 53

The Riders Strike

It was chaos blowing in out of the night without warning.

The riders struck from every direction at once.

Mexicans on high-cantle saddles. White men on branded-over US army mounts. Breeds riding river-broke paints and dappled grays. Negro vaqueros in tooled chaps and broad sombreros. The kind of men found in the rough country either side of the border. The only unifying feature visible on the riders were the sashes of white cloth tied about their waists under their gun belts.

Riding at their head was a man in black. A rider dressed in a preacher’s garb. A long coat with a white sash bound beneath an unusual left-hand rig with a cross-draw holster athwart the buckle.

Whooping and shrieking they raced along the main drag to raise a cloud of dust that wreathed the storefronts in a pale fog. Anyone in the street or on the boardwalks fell in a rain of lead fired wild from the army of mounted men. Some of the riders ducked low in the saddle to ride directly into saloons and tents, opening up with their guns on patrons dazed by drink or sluggish following intercourse. More fell to rounds fired blind through glass and canvas. Men and women fled from a bordello tent only to be crushed under the hooves of the mounted invaders.

The real work of slaughter began when the marauding army dismounted. They invaded every standing structure. The blast of guns competed with the screams of the inhabitants now at the mercy of men who knew no mercy.

It was late in the night when the raid fell upon the town and the Majestic was already shuttered for the night. The pounding of rifle butts on the barred front door was answered by gun fire from within. Raiders fell dead on the boardwalk while others retreated to the street under fire from the second-floor windows. A horse dropped with a bullet through the skull. A pitched battle began as more raiders converged to take cover and lay a fusillade on the building.

Despite round after round peppering the walls of the saloon, the answering rifle and shotgun fire continued from within. A Comanchero tumbled to the street with his spine severed by a big buffalo round. A Mex knelt by a trough and bubbled wordless sounds between the fingers that held what was left of a face ruined by a load of buck.

A wild Texican spurred his roan close enough to the front of the Majestic to send a lit oil lamp through a window on an overhand throw. He was trapped under his kicking mount when the horse fell with a pair of hot rounds through its belly. A rifle round took off the top of his skull as he fought to free his trapped leg from beneath the panicked animal.

The thrown lamp found a home within, shattering along a carpeted floor. The hungry flames spread up the papered walls to find dry wood beams and framework. The second floor was an inferno inside of seconds. Thick black smoke bled from every window and seam. Guttural screams of men resonated from inside along with the piercing keen of whores trapped in the blazing building. Men clambered out onto the roof of the porch to be pitched backwards by concentrated rifle and pistol fire from the street below. The screams of the women died away as the embers rose into the night sky.

Marcelle DeGeaux himself exploded from a back door, his clothes smoldering from the furnace heat he’d escaped. He fired blind into the surrounding shadows only to be brought down by men laughing as they took aim. They pumped rounds into his trembling body as they stepped closer in a half circle. He was still in his dying throes as they began stripping him of valuables. A half-Wichita breed grew frustrated with the Frenchman’s struggles and took to biting the ring fingers from each palsied hand.

The on-duty constables spilled from the jailhouse only to fall to a storm of bullets. One of them survived the barrage to stumble back inside and bar the door. He dropped to the floor holding his hand pressed to a rent made in the flesh of his gut. The lawman could feel his failing pulse through the hand he held to a slippery section of bowel trying to spill from the tear. His hand fell away as his strength ebbed, releasing a greasy cascade of innards to the dirty floor. The constable died there, his only witness the solitary prisoner locked away in one of the cells. It was a drunken blind man who saw him to the next world.

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The Sidewinders series cover
The Riders Strike episode cover
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The Sidewinders

The Legend Chuck Dixon explores the Wild West, with epic tales of gunfighters, frontier justice, savage Indian tribes, and even more savage outlaws.
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