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 The Night of the Cenotaph
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SS 1st assignment - desk job

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Posted - 09/25/2007 :  19:47:07  Show Profile
The Night of the Cenotaph
by Penstroker

Jim West solemnly knelt down by the plain wooden marker. Thankfully, the onlookers had dispersed, giving the grieving agent some privacy. He ran his fingers lightly over the newly carved name, dates and the inscription ‘Faithful Friend’.

How ironic that a precious life was lost in this small backwater town. The duo had been ordered to escort a recaptured fugitive from the local jail back to the Montana Territorial Prison in Deer Lodge. How were they to know that the convict’s three brothers would pick that very same day to break him out?

The townspeople believed he was holding up well. Little did they know that Jim’s air of detachment was all a façade. He had been in a perpetual state of shock since the bullet meant to end his life had been intercepted by his companion, leaving him without a scratch. His life had been spared in exchange for the life of one so special to him.

Lost in his memories, Jim replayed scenes from all the years they had traveled the country together. A bond of trust and dependence had been forged as they intuitively worked together for the good of the country. He mentally relived the horrible firefight. He physically flinched as each gunshot reverberated in his mind, starting with the one that had struck home. He recalled the cold hard anger he felt when he comprehended his loss. Channeling his rage into disarming the remaining shooters, he left two dead and two maimed in his wake.

Jim West realized that even now his superiors were arranging for a replacement. He knew that this transition was inevitable if he were to remain in the Service. It was going to be difficult to have a new presence living aboard the Wanderer. Even now he could still hear that distinctive voice and see those soulful eyes staring back at him.

He sighed deeply as he continued his reflections, this time addressing the marker verbally, “You were still so young and full of life. I knew our partnership would one day end, but I always thought you would make it to retirement. You should have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for your sacrifice, but the price was losing you, and to me, that was too high to pay.”

As he rose to his feet to pay his last respects, Jim West whispered, “Thank you and goodbye,” knowing it might be years before he would return to this area, if ever.

The agent spun on his heel and composing himself, began his walk back towards town. He knew the Wanderer was waiting on a nearby track to speed him to his next mission, away from the piece of his heart that he had left behind, buried in the hard clay soil.
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