By Damian Black A tale of Shadowfist

The trail had gone cold long ago, but Texas Jack Cody was a determined man. He had never let anyone slip from his grasp before, and he wasn’t about to start now. He raked dirt over what remained of his smoldering fire and set a glance to the west. The sun was setting and it was time to continue the chase.

The bloodstain on the cuff of his shirt had set. The scuffle in that rats nest they called a bar the night before was still on his mind. The stare of every man and woman lingered in his memory. It only took a single question to set the room ablaze with rage. He was used to this, as it's hard to pull information out of someone who doesn’t want to give it to you. All it took was a bit of spilled blood, and everything he needed to know was given. His target left there a week ago; he remained close behind her trail. He could almost smell her perfume in the air. He set some money on the counter and shot a wink and a nod at the bartender.

"My sincere apologies," he said. "That should cover repairs."

A wave of his hand and Cody left the bar with an eerily white smile and his shrinking back as he calmly exited. No one would get in his way but a fool.

He wouldn’t have been put so far off the trail if his prey hadn’t played him like she did. It wasn't like him to go soft on a woman, but this one was crafty enough to give him the slip. Her name was Katie Kincaid, and she was a trick shot both in arms and in life. She went from place to place cajoling men out of their hard-earned money. He almost had her pinned at a carnival. He caught her glance across a crowd of kids and darted toward the smell of beer and sweat typical of carnie air. He burst through the canvas of the tent into which she had just run.

"Hey cowboy... lost something?" he heard her shout from the other side of the grounds.

She winked at him as the crowd swallowed her. He turned around to see who he'd been tailing: a man in drag dressed in what he had seen her wearing not but thirty minutes earlier. Livid, he rushed toward where he saw her last. It was too late; she was long gone. She wasn’t the only thing missing though. He gritted his teeth as a gruff whisper escaped his lips.

"Damn bitch stole my horse!"

This would only strengthen his resolve. He tossed his ruck-sack over his shoulder and commenced to trudge along the trail of dust his horse had left behind. A week and a day gone, he was closing in and it was time to move. He cracked a smile as he thought of what he would do when she was finally within striking distance.

"This'll be fun," he grunted as he set off on her trail, the moon and the stars guiding him from above as the sun bid goodnight to the reddening sky.

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