The following short story was previously posted to my old blog. It was a writing prompt story (though I forget the exact prompt) and I proudly present it, unedited, again here.
It had been four days since Robert Bray last caught wind of his brother, George. It was in a small town back near the border of Colorado, but now Robert was well into the New Mexico territory, and that little town seemed ages ago. He had thought that the trail had gone cold, the few people that he had come across not knowing anything about George. The sun was hot and the nights were frigid, just Robert and his horse making their way south trying to find his outlaw kin. He was almost ready to give up and head back north to start over, so imagine Robert’s surprise as he crested a small hill to find his little brother in front of him, britches around his ankles at the bottom of the hill, pissing into a stream.
George had always been the more rambunctious one of their siblings, always getting into fights with other boys and trying to peek under girls’ skirts. Robert had tried to teach him to be more proper, but it never did take. George wouldn’t have any of it, no matter how Robert pleaded with him to behave. Even when their father would try and teach him with his fists, the lesson never took for George.
It wasn’t long after George had become a man that he had his first real run-in with the law. George, more than a little hard up for cash, and even more than a little too proud to ask for help, attempted to relieve a wealthier man from his money. He knocked the man over and snatched his wallet, but wasn’t quick enough to get away from the local constables. Having recovered the money, and with their father’s good standing in their hometown, George was let go with little more than a stern lecture from the authorities. From their father, however, he wasn’t so lucky. Robert had tried to dissuade their father from the vicious beating, but was woefully unsuccessful. George left home the next morning.
It was several years before Robert decided to try and bring George home, and had left to find him. Having become a member of the constabulary himself in that time, he felt more than capable of tracking down his missing brother and bringing him back to their family. It was a couple hundred miles west that he regretted his decision. In a town named Trinidad, he discovered that George was a wanted man, having shot dead two men when they tried to stop him from stealing a horse. The sheriff had informed Robert of this, and when Robert questioned the validity of the accusations, also assured him that it was true, having witnessed it himself along with several others. Robert had hoped to find his brother living well, having made something of himself, and instead was destroyed by this news. He promised the sheriff that he would bring in his brother, though the sheriff informed him that marshals were on his trail, as well.
There were no sign of the marshals now, though, as Robert heard his brother George whistling a jaunty melody as he relieved himself into the small river. The sun was hot behind his head and Robert wondered how to approach his wayward brother. He had pondered this extensively while he had ridden through the land, but now that he actually was confronted with their meeting, Robert had no idea how in the world to handle his brother. On the one hand, George was an outlaw. A murderer in the eyes of God and the law, and he must be taken in. Furthermore, he was more dangerous than Robert had ever known him to be. But on the other hand, George was still his brother, whom he had protected and tried to teach right all his years. He still saw the young boy that he had laughed and grown up with, and it was difficult to see him as a killer. And now he could see his own failings as an older brother.
Robert wasn’t given much time to think on the matter, however, as he saw George give a small shake and pull up his pants. Robert knew he no longer had any element of surprise and would have to talk to his brother, as George carried a six-shooter on his hip now. George turned toward his stolen horse, which was drinking from the water that George had been utilizing. It was then that George saw Robert sitting on his horse, surveying him.
Robert sat back as George saw him, resigned to talking, but what happened next, Robert was not expecting. George reached for his gun and drew on Robert, firing before Robert could get a word out. Robert felt a searing heat in his shoulder and he shouted.
“George!” he yelled, but two more shots rang out. Robert heard the bullets whizzing past his ear as his brother shot at him. Robert cursed himself, realizing that George couldn’t tell who he was with the sun behind his head. He turned his horse and retreated down the hill he had come over. He then got off and crept towards the top, daring a look. His brother was crouched behind a large rock, his gun still in hand. “George, damn it! It’s Robert!” yelled Robert, clutching his grazed and bleeding shoulder.
“You’ll never take me!” George yelled. “You think I won’t kill you just cuz you’re my kin?!” Another shot rang out. Robert’s heart dropped into his boots. George did recognize him, and was trying to kill him. His own brother, willing to kill him, not even wanting to know why he was there. Was his brother that far gone? Was he still his brother?
Robert surprised himself as he felt his hand draw his own gun. “George! Let’s talk!” he called, but another shot rang out. It appeared that George was not in the mood for conversation. He had to get close to George. If he could subdue him then maybe he could talk some sense into him. Then Robert had an idea, and shot into the air. Another shot answered. Robert exhaled slowly and began walking over the hill.
As he crested it and slid down the other side slowly, George stood from behind the rock and pulled the trigger again. The gun clicked in his hand and Robert smiled. Six shots and he was out, so now all Robert had to do was get him talking.
“George, it’s ok, everything’s ok,” he said, reaching the bottom and striding towards his brother. “Why don’t you talk to me?”
“We ain’t got nothing to talk about,” George responded, stepping backwards as he fumbled in his pocket.
“Sure we do,” replied Robert. But then he saw George pull out a fistful of metal, and Robert knew what he was trying to do. “Don’t, George. Let’s talk,” he said.
“What, so you can take me in? Not today, I ain’t going in,” George said, emptying his gun. Metal casings fell to the ground at his feet.
“George, I want to help you,” Robert said, still walking towards his erratic brother. George slipped a bullet into his gun, then another. “It’s me, it’s Robert. Your brother.”
“Shut up!” shouted George, as he fumbled another bullet into his gun. “You don’t know what I been through!” He slipped another in.
“I want to, I want to know. Tell me,” replied Robert. George filled another slot.
“No! Just leave! I’m not going back and I will kill you!” George shouted as he finished loading his gun. He snapped the bullets in and leveled the pistol at Robert, his eyes wild and angry. Robert looked into them and saw his brother’s anger, his desperation. Robert didn’t know what to say, so he simply looked at his brother, feeling tears welling in his eyes. There was no saving George. He was a murderer, an outlaw. He might kill again. Robert knew that he needed to take George in.
But instead he watched George mount his stolen horse and ride away. Robert knew that it was the wrong thing to do, the weak thing to do, but he also knew that he couldn’t bring himself to take his brother down. The man was lost, and it would be up to someone else to bring him in. More than likely news will reach home about George’s death at the hands of the marshals before Robert even made it back, himself. But Robert tried not to think about that. Instead he thought about a nice girl back in Trinidad named Mary who had asked him about where he was from. He hadn’t had the time to tell her then, but he hoped that she would still be curious when he got back.