“Well, this is a fine situation you’ve gotten us both into, isn’t it?” Milton said, his doughy face brimming with contempt. Beesen was tempted to smash the butt of his rifle into the ex-major’s jaw to try and roll out some of the lumps, but necessity stayed his hand.

“You hear me up there?” the calvaryman with stripes shouted again. “This is the 5th United States Cavalry ordering you to surrender the fugitive Isaac J. Milton. We won’t ask again!”

“That you, Ed Campbell?” cried Milton. “Quit your negotiating and shoot this son-of-a-bitch already!”

“You shut the hell up, sir,” the man–Campbell, apparently–cried. “Do you think we’re here to take you back to the stockade, Milton? Go before a judge and a jury of your peers and all that bullshit?”

Milton seemed suddenly aghast. “What?” he snapped.

“I’m gonna be square with you, on account of that’s the decent thing to do when a man’s about to die,” Campbell continued. “Me and then men here, we think that what you did was just fine. Saved us the trouble of clearing the territory of savages. Lots of people in town do too. But here’s the thing, Milton: those ornery boys back east, with their newspapers and their bleeding hearts, they got wind of what you did. It’s an embarrassment to the brass now.”

“Who gives a flying shit about the brass?” Milton cried, a hint of desperation in his voice.

“We do, when we’ve been promised a month’s pay a man to make sure that ‘the Butcher of Silt River’ eats a .45-70 breakfast.”

Milton had gone quite pale. “What are your terms, then?” Beesen shouted.

“You give us Milton, we let you go,” Campbell said. “With the promise that if you breathe so much a word of what happened here you’ll get the same vittles as Milton. Unless you’d rather wait for the Dog Soldiers, of course. They’ll kill you both, and they’ll do it like a slow roast, honey glazed.”

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