By John Kilgallon
Gunfire! I hear it coming from the canyon up ahead. Spurring Montana, I rein him up the ridge so I can get a good look into the canyon from above.
Jumping off my appaloosa as we near the ridge, I slide my rifle out of its scabbard and crouch walk to the edge. Below I see a single cowboy using a boulder for cover and trading pistol shots with three other men. They are under cover of scruff shrubs and boulders at the base of the opposite canyon wall.
I have clear shots from my overhead position at everyone, but I’m conflicted. Which is the injured party? Do I support the lone gun man against the three or should I lend my fire against the lone gunman? Before I can decide, the shooting stops. One of the three men yells, “Ranger! Ranger, if you want your friend back you need to let us clear out of this box canyon.”
“And if I don’t let you go?” shouted the Ranger.
“We’ll kill your friend and, eventually, you too.”
I watched as the men pulled a fourth figure from behind the boulder and started walking him out into the open. One man, the speaker for the group, had a Bowie knife across the Indian’s throat.
“Okay, I’m coming out.” The Ranger shouted as he holstered his sixguns. Standing with raised arms, he stepped out from behind his cover. That’s when Hell broke loose.
“No, Kemo–” The man holding the Indian slashed the knife across his captive’s throat. He let the body drop.
“No!” cried the Ranger, but then he was gunned down by the other two. I couldn’t stand by any longer. I opened up on them with my Winchester and got one in the chest. I hit the leader in the leg, but he and the other one still managed to mount up and slap reins. Galloping out of the canyon in a dust cloud.
I rode Montana around the lip of the canyon until I could enter it. Dismounting, I let the reins drop as I walked over to the Ranger’s body. Turning him over, I saw the mask.
It took me the rest of the day to bury the masked man and the Indian in the shade of a rock outcropping. I looked at the gunbelt with dual holsters and silver bullets. I picked them up and replaced mine with these new silver Colts. I took the buckskin sheathed knife the Indian had and tucked it in my right boot. Finally, I took the mask and tied it around my head with reverence.
These men had killed the Ranger and his Indian companion, but they would not escape justice. I had entered that canyon, but the Masked Rider exited alone. The Masked Rider would see the killers punished.