Here’s the opening sequence to the third book in the Vultures’ Moon series, currently out with my beta-readers. I await their verdict.
Jed and his Horse watched the fireworks soar high above the rooftops of Tarnation. Bursts of colourful sparks painted the early evening sky with fleeting, fiery flowers. From this distance, you couldn’t hear them but the gunslinger was sure the townsfolk were all a-whooping and a-hollering at each and every whizz-bang and folderol.
Pioneers’ Day. A public holiday that was a welcome respite from the toil and hard labour of eking out a life for yourself on the frontier world of Vultures’ Moon. Jed didn’t begrudge anybody a day off but, inevitably, once night fell and the fireworks were done, the menfolk would adjourn to the saloons and instead of rockets, fists would fly and Jed would be hard pressed to keep the peace. Yup, come morning, Sheriff Dawson would have standing room only in the Tarnation jail.
“That reminds me,” said Horse, tracking the explosion of a rocket, “That shooting star we saw the other night.”
Jed scratched the stubble on his chin. “I remember,” he said, although he did not need to utter a word; Horse seemed always to know what Jed was thinking. “It was green.”
“And I said it wasn’t a shooting star,” his steed continued, “and you said it most likely was, and I pointed out it couldn’t be, and you tried to account for the green hue –”
“I remember!” Jed interrupted Horse’s monologue before it could develop into a one-act play. “I said it was on account of atmospherics or some such.”
“You’re a scientific genius,” said Horse. “I say we should go and check it out.”
Jed grunted. His old friend Doc Brandy would have known exactly what had fallen from the sky – but the doc was dead and buried and no longer in a position to divulge any information.
Horse’s eyes flashed as he conducted computations. “Judging by the parabola… I should say it landed due west of here. Twenty miles, give or take.”
“Yes. It wasn’t a shooting star. I thought we had established that.”
Jed couldn’t be bothered to argue. He tugged on the reins – something he rarely ever did or had to do.
“Ow!” Horse complained – but it was a complaint born of annoyance rather than physical discomfort.
“Let’s get to town,” Jed said flatly. “See if we cain’t head off a good deal of the trouble afore it kicks off.”
Horse rose into the air and swooped down into the valley, a little too sharply for his rider’s liking. The gunslinger had to hold onto his white hat as they made the descent but his face remained impassive and his square jaw remained set. There was no way Jed was going to betray his own annoyance.
“We could go tomorrow,” Horse suggested. “Your diary is clear.”
“To find our shooting star.”
“I thought you said it wasn’t no –” Jed stopped himself. He didn’t want to give Horse the satisfaction of knowing he was irritated. “Maybe,” he said in such a way to indicate it was his final word on the matter.
For now, thought Horse.
He trotted toward the town, coming to a halt at the end of Tarnation’s Main (and only) Street.
“What the – ?” Jed dismounted.
The bangs and flashes were still going on but they were no longer decorating the sky.
“These ain’t no fireworks…” the gunslinger drew a pistol. “Scan ahead.”
“Well?” said Jed. People were running in all directions. Running and screaming.
“Let me run it again,” said Horse. “Some kind of gunfire – I’ve never encountered this type before.”
“Analysis can wait,” Jed urged as a man in a plaid shirt fell face down in front of him. “Who’s doing the shooting and how many?”
“Well, that’s just it, Jed,” said Horse. “Apart from the fleeing and the dead, I can’t detect anyone at all.”