The Odd Boy
Dawn came as we were searching Buckman's camp for signs of the fight and for any scattered personal effects. We saw nothing other than his bedroll and his
saddlebags. Even Buckman's horse had disappeared. Either the wolves that killed Buckman had tracked the horse down, or it had escaped.
"We'll bury him here, Mister Dillon?"
"I don't see any reason not to. I want to find those two before we head back to Dodge, I don't want to take Buckman with us, and we can't leave Buckman here like
"Yes sir. I'm sure no one in Dodge would mind--perhaps only that fool O'Toole kid."
Chester and I dug a shallow grave, and we wrapped him in his old blanket and laid him in. I said a few words over the body, and Chester filled in the grave. I put up a small marker, and we headed south in the direction those two had gone.
A couple of hours later, we hit the southbound trail toward Limestone Creek, and I had a funny feeling that we might see the place the first man had been killed.
"Mister Dillon, there's something mighty peculiar about all this."
"I know, Chester. Has anyone seen any wolves yet?"
"Mister Dillon, we haven't heard any wolves. Not a one."
"You're right, Chester. But no other animal kills like that."
"No man kills like that either."
"Yes, Chester. We may never know."
We rode for a few more hours, and I wondered why I didn't have us turn and go back to Dodge. The O'Briens couldn't have had anything to do with Buckman's death. I did want to see them, though--they might know something.
High noon had come and gone. I was about to turn us back, but then I saw the O'Briens standing by the side of the road. Their horses were tied to a couple of
trees. They were looking down at the ground, pointing out things to each other, and then the younger one turned and stared at me.
"Hello Marshal," Gene squeaked out. He tapped his uncle on the shoulder, and Graham looked up at us.
"Hello son, Mr. O'Brien." Chester greeted them too,
and we dismounted.
"Hullo Marshal," said Graham O'Brien. "You may find this interesting; this is where the wolf attack happened."
Chester nearly jumped back, and I asked him how he
He pointed at an area on the ground next to an old campfire. "See that--that's where the body lay. Those blood spots are about three days old. Here's a scrap of cloth that was torn off during the fight."
I looked at the cloth he gave me. Chester looked over my shoulder. "That's the right color, Mister Dillon."
"Have you tracked down any wolves yet?" I asked.
"No, Marshal. But we will," said the kid.
"Well, they killed another man this morning. Scott Buckman from the Long Branch, was chasing after you, and the wolves got him just before dawn."
"Where was this?" asked Mr. O'Brien?
"A few hours north of here. We buried him and came after you."
"You just buried him?" asked the kid.
"What else could we do? We weren't going to take him with us."
"Graham, they just buried him," the kid said to his
"They couldn't know, Gene."
"They just buried him." The kid shook his head as if we were fools.
"What do you expect us to do with a dead body? Burn it in the campfire?" I was really annoyed, but the kid paid me no mind. He looked up at the sky.
"It's getting late. We have to get back there. I hope we make it there in time," he said to his uncle.
"I know, Gene." Suddenly, Gene broke from us and ran to his horse. He leaped onto its back, landing perfectly in his saddle. He grabbed the rope tie and jerked; it whipped off the branch, and he cried "Hai!" The horse galloped north, as we ran to our horses.
The three of us followed Gene; after a few minutes, he slowed down to a slow trot. We could have caught up with him, but Mr. O'Brien said, "Let's let him lead."
Gene was an expert horseman; we went at exactly the right pace for sustained travel. A couple of hours later, he turned off the trail exactly where we got onto it.
"Either he knows where we're going, or he's the best tracker I've ever seen."
"He's the best tracker you've ever seen, Marshal. He can tell exactly where we need to go."
We rode further, as the sun began to set in the west. We were still an hour away from where Buckman had been killed, and Gene brought his horse to a gallop in the fading twilight. "Hurry!" he called out. Mr. O'Brien sped his horse to join his nephew.
Dusk came, and we were still a half-hour away from the grave. We had to slow for our horses' safety, and Gene fell back and joined us.
"Are you ready, Gene?"
"Yes, Uncle." I didn't understand what they needed to be ready for. We kept going; Chester and I were saddle-sore and nearly exhausted.
Finally, we saw Buckman's grave in the moonlight. To our horror, someone had dug up the body and taken it with him.