He blamed the town. Tonight, the town would pay.
It was a dark moonless night. A storm had settled in for the evening. Dell Perry sat easy in his saddle on the far edge of town. The clouds had come out of nowhere at the end of a hot summer day. "It's not letting up," he thought. "Better get this done with."
The storm didn't really matter to Dell. Nothing mattered these days. The world no longer made sense. Life had lost its meaning. In his mind, tonight was no different than any other night. It had been that way ever since the lynching.
Dell Perry had brought his wife and young son to Crystal Springs when the town was still in its infancy. They had traveled close to a thousand miles across grassy plains, high desert sage, and tall mountain passes.
As others kept moving in search of elusive buried treasure, Dell marveled at the abundant tall timber in plain view. He bought it cheap and set to building a mill. If this town was going to grow, it would do it with his lumber.
For ten years, he struggled. He built his mill along with a name and reputation. He built a fine house for his wife and son. His lumber did build this town. It was his lifeblood, and now the town had betrayed him.
It started with the fire at his mill. It was clear that someone was unhappy with the way Dell ran his business. He was bullheaded when it came to making deals. He always got the upper hand, even if it meant being a little underhanded. It was a tough business, and only the strong survived.
When the flames died down, nothing remained but smoldering ashes. Two weeks after the fire, his wife took to her bed. She was a frail thing and had become distraught over the loss of the mill. She never recovered. Her passing was unexpected.
Dell's son, Frank, was sixteen. He was a hotheaded kid not unlike his father. He figured the Mayor had set the fire. He had recently become Dell's competitor, and it only made sense in his mind that he was the culprit.
Frank confronted him one afternoon and ended up shooting him dead in front of several others. The Mayor was well-liked, and the townsfolk took offense to young Frank shooting him. They grabbed the boy and lynched him from a tree just outside of town.
Dell was beside himself. In less than two months, he had lost everything that gave his life meaning. He blamed it on the town. The town had turned against him. Now he turned against the town.
The sun had set, and most of the towns' businesses were shuttered for the night. The time had come for retribution. He pulled the torches from his saddlebags and lit them. He slowly rode down the street, tossing them through the front windows of several businesses, including the town hall.
He was surprised to have made it all the way through town before the commotion started. He rode out a distance and turned his horse to face the town. He sat easy in his saddle, satisfied with what he had achieved.
The rain had let up. The thick clouds made the night extra dark. Nothing could be seen... except for the flames. Dell headed East. Back from where he once came.
Copyright © 2023 by Scott A. Gese. All rights reserved.
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