He knew the direction the so-called posse was pushing him. It had been obvious from the start.
Their idea of justice was to corner and capture Medicine Joe, then after a few minutes of mock trial proceedings, string him up in the nearby tree. But Joe refused to let that happen – at least not without a fight.
After two-days of rugged chasing, he was finally in position to put them off his trail for good. He had the high ground and they were unwittingly entering a box canyon – all Joe needed to do was lay and wait.
As he waited, he reviewed the reason this was happening.
Joe had no idea that the man he’d slapped and eventually shot, killing in the darkened corner of the saloon was the sheriff. He took a disliking to Joe the instant he saw the smaller man.
“We don’t cotton to free-grazers, drifters or ‘breeds’ in these parts,” he’d sneered.
It didn’t matter that Joe had a roll of paper money and some jingle in his pocket, the bigger man refused to allow him even a sip of water before he started threatening him. Joe tried to ignore him, but then he pushed Joe to the floor, kicked him and smashed a chair across his back as he tried to get up.
With Joe cornered, his back literally against the wall, the sheriff, who had a four-inch longer reach and a good six inches in height and at least 30 pound more weight than Joe, began pounding him without mercy. Having had enough, Joe stuck him with the back of his opened hand.
The blow caught the sheriff off-guard and he tumbled backward, falling to the floor. Someone laughed in the small crowd that had gathered to watch Joe’s beating, and the sound set the sheriff off as he jumped to his feet and reached for his cannon.
Medicine Joe was slightly faster and watched as the surprised look on the sheriff’s face faded into a mask of death as he toppled forward, face first to the floor. It was both the deathly silence and the look of the spectators eye’s that told Joe that he needed to shake the dust of that little town off his boots – and he’d best be quick about it.
The first three of fifteen riders, who’ve been trailing Joe ever since, entered the narrow slot of the canyon’s mouth and soon they’ll either be dead or Joe would be. As for the hanging tree, no one will ever swing from it again as Joe chopped it down and it’s now a part of his defense, holding a few dozen large rocks that, with a single and well-placed shot, will cascade into the narrowed slot, block all escape by horse.
This would put these riders on the ground with Joe, who as a half-breed was comfortable fighting while on foot. And soon, Medicine Joe’s death-chant would echo along the rocky walls announcing his deadly intent and every man’s coming fate.