I think it’s a working title.


The Fall of the Kingdom of Coahuila

Chihuahuan Desert

Contested Lands, Kingdom of Coahuila/State of Houston

June, 1861 AD

It’s never colder in the desert than dawn. As the sun pulls itself over the mountains a man can fancy he can hear the frost puff away into the thirsty air. Everything’s thirsty, in the desert. Even the purples and golds you only see at daybreak and dusk look soft and crumbly, like a can of paint left out in the sun to half-dry. The desert craves water, and it doesn’t care how it gets it; and so it was with no real surprise that Hank Bailey saw how quickly Jimmy’s blood had sunk into the desert ground.

Jimmy Chestnut had been a bad man, with a full canteen. The first earned him a bullet from his killer; the second made sure Bailey had shot nice, and careful. He didn’t want the thirsty dirt drinking anything except Jimmy’s blood. He certainly hadn’t wanted the dirt drinking his blood, which was why Bailey hadn’t wasted time talking before shooting.

That traitorous son of a bitch was lucky I ain’t low enough to shoot a man in the back, Bailey thought as he reloaded his gun. Bailey’s shot had echoed through the lightening dawn, probably alarming nobody except the coyotes and vultures, but there was no reason to take chances. Maybe Jimmy had had a compadre. Or maybe just a minion. There must have been a reason Jimmy rode out here, after all.

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