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  • The Winner

    The Winner

    By: D.E Hague

    Part One: The Bar

    It was mid-day and Walt was sitting at the bar inside of the Red Stag Saloon. Gus, the owner, was on the other side of the bar. Gus was pouring a glass of Gin.

    “What you mean, they don’t want me sitting no more?” Walt asked Gus.

    “We…well Walt like I said,” sighed Gus as he slid the drink over to Walt. “Th…they just said they don’t want ya to.”

    “Gus, don’t have me airin’n my lungs out in here.” Walt smacked his hand on the bar top. “What’s the reason?”

    Gus scratched the back of his head as he looked down at the bar.

    “W..Walt it’s that you don’t really…” Gus tugged on his suspenders. “Le…let anyone be done until your done.”

    “What? Is Johnny calling me a bully again?”

    “No…now, he didn’t say that Walt.”

    “Gus, it is poker. They can get up and scamper home whenever they like.”

    “I…I tell them that. Bu…but guys are in…timidated by you.”

    Walt leaned back and held his hands up in surrender. “I am who I am.”

    “I…I tell them that.”

    “The boys know me.” Walt held his drink up to his lips then pulled it away. “I do something I’m all in. What made me the best lawman, the best bounty hunter, the best coachman, not just in these parts but anywhere.”

    “Wa…was.. only after you retired, ba…bank in Castle county got robbed?”

    Walt took a big swig of his drink.

    “Hell yes Gus. First of many times I was begged to come back.”

    “Pa…past six months most I ever seen ya in one place,” said Gus.

    “I know. Have been getting itchy about that. I’m use to someone needing a gun hand.”

    “We…well Walt ain’t much trouble in these parts anymore.”

    “True, about killed them all I suppose.” Walt held up his right hand and formed it into the shape of a pistol. Using his left hand, he cocked back his right thumb then raised his pistol hand as if it had been fired. “Never did miss a shot.”

    “Ne…never?”

    “That is fact.

    “Li…like even far off?”

    “Long range is a different beast. But close-in dust ups, never.”

    “H..how’d you know?”

     “Always count my shots.”

    “Co…count em?”

    “I’m so fast, most times the bullet holes still be smoking.”

    “Y..you a bit older now Walt,” Gus said with a chuckle.

    Walt smiled. “May have been some time Gus. But I still got a steady hand. Promise you that.”

    “Le…let me talk to the boys for you about the game tonight.”

    “That mean a lot to me Gus, but I ain’t changing how I play.”

    “N…no shit Walt,” Gus replied with a smile.

    Gus went back to cleaning glasses and Walt to sipping his gin. When his glass was empty, Walt tapped the bar with his right pointer finger. Gus poured him another drink. As Walt sat and drank he watched the entrance to the saloon; a set of batwing doors. He kept his right hand, his gun hand, palm down and relaxed on top of the bar. As he shifted in his seat, he subconsciously tracked the weight of his 1851 Colt Navy converted revolver. The revolver was chambered in .38 short Colt.

    Cling, cling, cling

    There was the sound of spurred boots approaching.

    The double doors of the saloon sprung open. A slender young man with bright silver spurred boots entered. The man had a black Derby hat on top of his head and wore a freshly tailored suit. A holstered Remington revolver hung from the right side of his shiny belt.

    Cling, cling, cling.

    The young man walked to the far end of the bar and sat at a high top table.

    “Wha…what ya have’n?”  Gus asked the young man.

    The young man smirked at Gus’s stutter before answering.

    “A ginger beer if you don’t mind.”  

    “On…one ginger beer on its way.”

    “Actually, wait one second there,” said the young man to Gus.

    Gus turned around and nodded at the young man. 

    “May I ask what types of ginger beer you have?” asked the young man as his gazed shifted over to Walt.

    Gus cocked an eye brow and looked the young man over. “It…its ginger.”

    “No, I know that. I mean do you have different makes,” said the young man looking back at Gus. “I prefer Dunkles Ginger Beer. Do you have Dunkles?”

    “I…I told you. Got…ginger beer.”

    “Alright ginger beer it is. Rather happy I am only passing through these parts.” Replied the young man.

    Walt turned his attention away from the young man and back to the entrance. Walt’s eyes shifted from the doors to the windows. The windows faced Market Street. Walt’s eyes narrowed.

    “Hey Gus,” said Walt as he quickly looked at Gus then back out the window. “Gus come over here.”

     “On…one second Walt.” answered Gus.

    “Jimmy?” Walt asked himself.

    Walt grabbed his tan Stetson hat from the seat to his left and leapt off his bar stool. “Gus is that Jimmy McClain?”

    “Wa…Walt let me just get this gi…ginger…di…did you say Jimmy McClain?” asked Gus as he spun on his heels and saw Walt’s empty bar stool.

    Gus caught a glimpse of Walt as he walked at a fast stride out of the saloons doors; Walt’s right hand reaching down towards his Colt.

    The Winner

    Part Two: The Street

    Walt stood in the middle of Market Street and was staring at the body of Jimmy McClain. The body lay twenty paces away from where Walt stood. Jimmy’s boot prints traced an uneven path to where he had fallen backwards over a water trough. A smoking revolver laid on top of Jimmy’s still chest. Walt was still pointing his empty revolver at the body. Slowly the towns folk emerged from their hasty hiding spots. In silence, a crowd gathered around Walt and the body of Jimmy McClain.

     “He…he’s dead Walt,” said Gus who was standing several yards behind Walt.

    Walt spit into the dirt as he holstered his Colt.   

    “Gus, it took too long.”

    “It…it was just an eye blink. Walt?”

    Walt tapped the wooden butt of his Colt with the palm of his right hand and slowly mouthed the numbers one through six.

    “You…you say’n sumth’n Walt?” asked Gus.

    “What?” asked Walt.

    “You…you ok?”

    “Where’s my hat?” replied Walt turning to face Gus.

    “Wa…Walt…you’re bleeding,” Gus said, pointing at Walt’s stomach.

    Walt looked down at his stomach. Fresh blood was running out from a small hole in his white button shirt. He placed his right hand over the hole as he looked down at the ground around him.

    “Hey Gus,” said Walt with a smile.

    “Ye…yeah Walt?”

    “I’m hurting a bit, mind picking up my Stetson?” asked Walt, as he motioned with his head.

    Gus walked over and picked up Walt’s hat. He dusted it off and handed it to Walt.

    “Y…you like me fetch the Doc?” Gus asked Walt.

    Walt looked down at his blood covered hand then up at Gus.

    “No, no thank you, think I’m missing that card game.”

    “Want…me to do anyth’n? You…you need sumth’n?”

    Walt put on his hat and reached his left hand into his pant pocket. He pulled out two one dollar bills.

    “Here,” said Walt as he held the money out towards Gus. “This should cover my tab, a bottle of whiskey and a cigar if you don’t mind fetching them.”

    “Sure…sure thing Walt,” answered Gus as he took the bills and carefully folded them.

    As Gus went to turn away Walt reached out with his left hand grabbing Gus by the shoulder.

    “If it isn’t too much trouble, you mined hurrying?”

    “Of…of course Walt,” answered Gus as he turned and started jogging towards his saloon.

    The crowd standing around Jimmy’s body parted way as Walt walked towards it. Walt looked down at the wounds in Jimmy’s body. He shook his head as he counted the bullet holes. Two in the center of Jimmy’s chest, the third in the left side of his ribs. Walt searched for the other three but could not find them.

    Cling, cling, cling

    Walt heard the jingle of spurs behind him.

    “Geewiz, you are Walt. T. Taylor. Aren’t you?” asked a male voice from behind Walt.

    “Who’s asking?” sighed Walt as he turned and faced the voice.

    About a foot away from Walt stood the young slender man from the saloon.

    “I’m Owen Davis,” said Owen holding out his right hand for Walt to shake.

    Walt looked at Owen’s hand then down at his own blood covered right hand.

    “Forgive me if I don’t shake.”

    Yeah, hell.” Owen slowly lowered his hand. “Sorry, I just never met anyone famous like you before.” Owen tipped his hat back. “Well I did meet a bounty hunter in…”

    Walt held up his left hand silencing Owen as he saw Gus running back from his saloon. Gus had a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a large stogie cigar in the other.

    “Excuse me,” Walt said to Owen as he stepped around him and walked towards Gus.

    “You just shot that man. Did not let him square off or anything,” Owen said to Walt as he stepped back in front of him.

     “You saying something?” Walt asked as his eyes focused on Owens grinning face.

    “Well, no I mean.” Owen stepped out of Walt’s way. “He was just walking across the street and all.”

    “Kid, this fight started fifteen years ago in Merida Mexico.” Walt looked away from Owen. “Just took a bit to finish.”

    “Yeah, yeah that’s right. They call it the Shootout at Crooked river,” said Owen.

    “What?” asked Walt as he stepped past Owen.

    “Read about it.” answered Owen.

    “Read about it?” asked Walt.

    “In the dime novels back home, whole reason I came out here.”

    “You read some dime novel, now you’re out here going heels?”

    “Well, I’m going to be famous just like yourself.”

    “Good luck kid,” chuckled Walt as he walked away.

    Owen stood there and watched as Gus handed Walt the bottle of whiskey and the cigar.

    “I’m going to go up to the hill Gus,” said Walt.

    “Gonna…gonna miss you Walt.”

     Walt looked towards the south end of town. His eye’s peered past the newly built roof tops and towards a high round hill just outside of town. The crest of the hill was dotted with grave stones.

     “You know Gus, it’s not that I regret any of it.”

    “Ain’t noth…nothe’n to regret. Were…were always the winner,” replied Gus.

    “Yeah, just a few minutes ago always winning still mattered.”

    “What you mean?” Asked Gus.

    Walt held out his bloody hand and stared down at his trigger finger. “Having to be the best and all that, suddenly seems silly.”

    Walt pulled the cork of the whiskey bottle out with his teeth and spit it into the air.

     “Goo…goodbye Walt.”

    “Goodbye Gus.”

    Walt slowly walked down Market Street towards the hill dotted with grave stones. Gus, giving Walt one last wave goodbye, walked back to his saloon. As the crowd dispersed, no one noticed as Owen trailed behind Walt from a distance.

    The Winner

    Part Three: The Hill

    Walt was on the hill outside of town that was dotted with grave stones. He was sitting on his butt with his legs stretched out in front of him; his back resting against a grave stone. An unlit cigar and a half drunk bottle of whiskey lay to his left side. He still kept his right hand tight against his bullet wound. A tombstone with a simple inscription stood in front of him.

    Rose Turner 1832-1867

    “Well, Rose. Perhaps your up there waiting for me,” Walt said to Rose’s tombstone.

    “And if your waiting for someone else,” Walt punched the dirt twice with his left hand, “I understand.”

    Walt looked upwards at the white rolling clouds then back down at Rose’s tombstone.

    “You know Rose, you’re the nearest thing I ever had to well…I’d say a wife but I never let it get that far.”

    Walt picked up the bottle of whiskey and read the label.

    Mabel’s Kiss Rye Whiskey

     Walt took a small sip from the bottle then gave it a kiss.

     “Looks like it is just me and you Mabel.”

     As the whiskey reached into Walt’s head, his eyes became fixed on Rose’s tombstone.

    “Might as well be honest,” started Walt. “Wasn’t until I heard you were to be married that I felt some way about riding off. By then I had been gone so long. Off exploring, soldiering, fighting, killing, just wasn’t any way for me to come back.”

    A thin smile crossed Walt’s face.

    “Hell it was what? Not even three weeks we were together. Maybe us was just some dream I made up? Made up to help me stay warm at night.”

    Walt started to chuckle.

    “Took me finally getting shot to see it all.”

    Walt looked down at his wound and pulled away his right hand. The flow of blood had slackened but was still constant.

    “Rose. It is all coming back. Remember when Minnie introduced…”

    Cling, cling, cling

    Walt cut his words short as he heard the sound of spurred boots approaching.

     “There you are Walt,” said a young male voice; Owen’s voice.

    “Kid?” asked Walt.

    “Yes sir,” answered Owen.

    Walt first saw the top of Owen’s derby hat as it broke the crest of a small rise on the hill.  

    “You got ahead of me by a bit there Walt,” said Owen as he came into full view.

    “Kid, I am done talking.”

    Owen came up to the opposite side of Rose’s tombstone.

    “Walt, I came all the way from New York City just to meet you.” Owen tipped his hat back. “Well you and a few others.”

    Walt sat up a bit straighter. “What you getting at?”

    “Well, to repeat myself. I plan on being famous, a famous gunman.”

    “You fancy yourself a killer.”

    “Yes Walt, I do fancy myself a killer.”

    “That so?”

    Owen’s lips curled into a sharp smile.

    “You ever meet a large smelly bounty hunter that goes by the name Coon Skin Chuck?” Owen tapped the top of his hat. “Wore a ratty old raccoon skin cap all the time.”

    “What about old Chuck?”

    “I met up with Chuck in Tensaw City,” said Owen as he raised his left leg and placed his boot on top of Rose’s tombstone.  “Had some words.”

    “You got the jump on old Chuck?” asked Walt.

    Owen lowered his foot and reached into his left pant pocket. He pulled out a tattered raccoon tail. The hair on the tail was matted down with dried blood.

    “I was the winner,” said Owen as he tossed the raccoon tail at Walt’s feet.

    “You bushwacked him,” Said Walt, his eyes narrowing.

    “Bushwacked? I am not going to become famous shooting from the shadows.” Owen reached out his hands as if he was conducting an orchestra. “I need an audience.” 

    Walt reached his left hand up over his head and grabbed the top of the tombstone he was leaning against. Grunting he pulled himself to his feet and squared up to Owen.

    “Nah, you’re a bushwacker.”

    “Well, you call it what you want Walt.”

    “So your gonna finish me off?”

    “Shortly,” answered Owen as he nodded his head.

    “How you fixing not to get hanged?”

    “Hanged?” Owen laughed. “You just shot a man in cold blood, I am simply trying to be a good citizen and bring a murderer to justice.”

    Walt looked down at the butt of his Colt revolver.

    “I may be dying kid, but I bet I am still faster.”

    “You can be as fast as you want with that empty gun,” Owen said as he slowly lowered his right hand down towards his Remington Revolver. 

    “Yeah, you noticed that.” Walt looked down at his boots and shook his head. “Seemed kind of fitting at the time.” He looked back up at Owen. “Like my gun fighting days are over so why reload it.”

    “Well Walt, it seems you had one more fight.”

    “Hey kid. Before you get to killing me and all can I ask you a question?”

    “Sure Walt,” said Owen as he drew his revolver from his holster with his right hand.

    “Them dime novels, they say what pistols I use?”

    “They talked about that empty Colt on your hip,” Owen answered as he half cocked his revolver’s hammer and opened the cylinder gate. This allowed the revolver’s cylinder to rotate freely.

    “Yup, on my hip is my Colt. My empty colt.”

    Owen slowly rotated his revolver’s cylinder with his left hand.

    Click, click , click. 

    “Yes Walt, your converted 1851.”

    “That’s it?” asked Walt.

    “That is it Walt,” answered Owen.

    Walt balled his hands into fists and placed them against his hip bones.

    “Pistols,” said Walt.

    “Excuse me?” asked Owen as he closed the cylinder gate and de cocked his revolver’s hammer.

    “I asked what pistols them rags talked about.”

    Owen’s faced tensed and his eyes grew wide. His right hand became tight around the grip of his Remington revolver.

    “Shit,” said Owen.

    Owen watched Walt slide his left hand to the small of his back. Walt side stepped to his right as he drew and cocked a small .41 caliber Rimfire Derringer two shot pistol.

    Boom, boom

    Walt fired the two rounds from his derringer into Owen’s chest.

    A long hot breath crept from Owen’s mouth. Owen stared at his right hand as his grip on the butt of his revolver weakened.

    “It’s over boy,” Walt said to Owen.

    Thud

    Owen’s revolver fell from his hand.

    Walt tucked his derringer into his left pant pocket as he watched Owen slump to the ground.

    “So your it?” Walt asked Owen.

    Owen lay on the ground gasping for air.

    Walt picked up his bottle of whiskey and walked over to Owen.

    “This is what’s gonna replace me,” Walt said to himself as he watched Owen’s final breath.

    Walt looked down at his bullet wound then towards the town.

    “I ain’t gonna die here next to you,” said Walt as he poured some whiskey over his wound.

    Walt tucked the bottle of whiskey under his left arm. He un-holstered his empty Colt revolver and opened the cylinder gate.

    “Hell, we can have that poker game at the Doc’s,” Walt said with a grin.

    Walt started reloading his pistol.

    “Some other time Rose,” said Walt as he staggered back towards town.

  • Next story will be up by the weekend.

  • Got back the hard copy from my editor. Back to work.

  • Rainy day in West Virginia

  • Next story is on my editor’s desk.

  • Still working.

  • Working title for next story.

    Walt Was a Winner