Chapter 12 – I Will Leave Nothing....
And a few minutes later I stood where I had months before. Yet now I wore a different face and another man's guns, and I faced the brother of a man I had killed: a man who had beaten me to within an inch of my life and left me for the vultures.
The ever-present prairie wind twisted the tortured and bullet damaged wind vane on the stables, the faint screeching sound of grinding metal sending a shiver down my spine as we looked into each other's eyes over the short distance of packed earth.
Dust devils twirled in a gleeful imitation of the dance macabre, playing idly with the clothes of the people who lined the street or ruffling hair, the pale sunlight seeming to leach all colour from the surroundings.
If Tennant left me for dead, he was entitled to walk away as a free man from the street. It wasn't the law of the country, but it was the law of the gun. A law that had grown in the wilds of the western settlements as man tried to find a way to establish some semblance of order in the ungoverned chaos that had existed since gold had caused the rush of '49.
And now that unspoken law brought us to the same place once more.
My breath slowed as the adrenalin peaked in my body. Tennant was still high on anger and bloodlust, his eyes boring into mine along the length of the street as he stood between Anton's shop and the Saloon. A horse snorted in the stables, and the slight sound seemed to galvanise him into action.
As always, time seemed to slow. He was fast but not as fast as I was, and my first slug caught him in the flesh above his hip and he staggered back a few paces before sinking to the ground in pain, his gun hand dropping to his side. His slug had buzzed past my ear like an angry bee, but he was beaten.
"He he, good shot son!" cackled Henry and I saw Tennant's head whip over to look at the old man, anger suddenly overtaking the pain. His right hand lifted, he stood and turned and the pistol was raised once more to deliver death to the old man who mocked him.
Once again my reactions kicked in and I pulled the trigger on my Rimfire which I had kept unholstered after the initial exchange. This time however my gun misfired, the sharp sickening click of a dud cartridge replaced the expected roar, in vain I pulled the trigger trying to chamber another round but the gun had jammed. Henry, standing off to one side by the saloon door, was blown back off his feet by Tennant's bullet with a look of enduring surprise pasted across his burnt and tar stained face, a half-full glass of whisky dropping to the dust at his feet as he hit the wooden boards by the saloon doors.
Tennant, noticing the misfire from my pistol swung his gun back towards me, but as the click of the dud registered, I dropped my jammed gun and swung my hand behind my back for my spare. As he began to re-aim, anger and loss spurred me to even faster action than normal and I fanned the trigger, bullet after bullet ripping its way into his dancing body, my scream of rage and impotent fury echoing in my ears as he dropped his gun to the bloody dust by his feet.
I watched him fall, almost in slow motion. The roar of the guns had left me slightly stunned as it always did; the smell of cordite rank in my nostrils. There was a distant thud as he hit the ground and then, utter silence. I retrieved my dropped weapon and slipped my guns back in their holsters.
The show was over.
But the ending was wrong.
I made my way to where Henry was laid out on the boards, Anton already leaning over to close his eyes as the spilt whisky dried in the pale sun.
"I'm sorry son," said Anton. "He was dead before he hit the floor."
There was a groan from behind me followed by a gurgling cough.
I walked over to the barely moving Tennant, and knelt in the dust next to him.
"Why did you kill him?"
"He..." Tennant drew in a rattling breath, "...he took my guns. They were my guns that I gave to my brother. No-one takes my guns..."
"That old man gave me those guns, and now they've taken your life," I said quietly, speaking softly so that none of the townsfolk behind me could hear my words.
"I came back you bastard, and that old man saved me from where you left me buried for the vultures. You will die knowing you sealed your own doom. I hope you rot in hell..."
His eyes opened wide in brief recognition and I watched him without a further word as his life seeped slowly into the dust of the street. As a last rattling breath left his body and the light of life drained from his eyes, I stood and looked down on him. All the anger drained out of me then, and I walked back to Henry, kneeling down next to his body and placing a hand on his chest.
My last whispered words to him were lost in new pain, the loss of an irascible old man who had become a father to me leaving me hollow once more. Hollow and alone.
"I will leave nothing but blood in the sand..."
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Windblown SaviourHistorical Fiction
(Historical Fiction / Action) - Gunslinger: I may be feared and admired, but I call nowhere home. My gun and my skill define my existence. I was born fast, and endless practice has made me the best. For now. A brief rush of adrenaline. Noise, the s...