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.

Benny was Only Good at Cards

By: D.E.Hague

Benny was alone in the store room of the Red Stag Saloon. There was a door that lead into a back alley.Benny walked up to the door and grabbed the brass handle. He started to turn the knob then stopped. He looked over his shoulder towards the empty saloon. He saw Carl was still passed out drunk on top of the bar. Carl’s large stomach rising and falling as he snored.Shaking his head, Benny let go of the door knob. With his left hand, he traced his fingers along the cracked leather of his belt. He stopped when he felt the wood grip of a rusty .32-30 Colt Single Action Army revolver.

“Oh boy I’ve done it now,” Benny said to himself as he pulled the pistol out from his belt.

Benny stared down at the old pistol as he wiped sweat from his forehead. Backing away from the door he looked around the store room and spotted a whiskey barrel in the corner.  

“Well, hello Jasper,” Benny said to the barrel. He stuck the pistol back into his belt. He did so that when he went to draw the Colt it would be done in a cross draw motion with his left hand.    

“Hey Jasper, sorry I’m late,” Benny said as he squared up to the whiskey barrel.

“Jasper, I need to tell you something,” Benny again said to the barrel, this time reaching down for his revolver.

Benny went to draw the pistol. However, the barrel’s front sight got caught on his belt. It took him two tries to pull the gun clear.

“Dang it!” Benny huffed as he stomped his left foot. He stuck the pistol back into his belt line. This time he turned the gun so the front sight pressed into his skin.

“Jasper, look, change of plans,” Benny said as he raced his left hand down to the butt of the Colt. This time he pulled the gun clear and pointed it at the barrel. Focusing on the front sight he reached his left thumb up to the hammer. But his thumb was sweaty and slipped off.

“Dammit.”

Benny wiped his left hand on his pants. Taking his time, he dug the skin of his thumb into the revolver’s serrated hammer before pulling it backwards.

Click, click, click.

Snap. Benny’s left pointer finger had been resting on the trigger causing the hammer to fall.

“Oh Jesus!” Benny shouted as he dropped the revolver.

Benny stared down at the revolver then looked over at the whiskey barrel then back to the revolver.

Bending over, Benny picked up the pistol. Slowly he set the hammer to half cock and opened the cylinder gate. Spinning the cylinder, he saw six empty chambers.

“I forgot…”

Benny again looked at the empty chambers.

“I couldn’t teach a hen to cluck, I swear.”

Benny looked around the room.

“Where the dang hell?”

Benny walked over to the whiskey barrel and placed the Colt on top. He reached his hands into his front two pockets. In the right pocket he found a packet of matches, in the left a folded envelope. He opened the envelope and ran his fingers over the ten Fifty-dollar Green Back notes inside.

Tossing the envelope and matches next to the Colt, he checked his back pockets. In his right pocket he found two .32-30 caliber bullets and in his left pocket he found one more.

“Thought Tubby gave me six,” said Benny as he again checked his now empty pockets.

Benny loaded the three rounds into the revolver’s cylinder. He ensured that when he cocked the hammer it would fall on a loaded chamber. He again placed the pistol in his belt in a cross draw position. He practiced twice grabbing the butt of the Colt and tripled checked that the front sight was digging into his skin.

Benny walked up to the door that led into the back alley. He grabbed the brass handle then looked back at the whiskey barrel. He saw the envelope of green backs on top of the barrel.

 “Rule one, of being an assassin, don’t forget the money,” Benny chuckled to himself.

Benny walked back over to the barrel and picked up the envelope. As he refolded the envelope he heard the sound of brass slowly grinding against brass.Dropping the envelope, he spun around on his heels and faced the back alley door.

The wooden door swung open and slammed against the wall. Light from the mid-day sun flooded into the room.

Benny raised his left hand to his eye brows and squinted.

 “You talk loud Benny.”

“Ja…Jasper….”

Boom

Benny’s words were cut short as a lead slug punched into his stomach.

Benny’s knees buckled and he doubled over, his hands reaching down to his belly.

Click, click, click.

Benny heard the fast re cocking of a revolver. He went to reach for his Colt. But his bloody fingers slipped off of the wood grips.

  Boom

“First rule of gun fight’n Benny, shut up and shoot.”

Boom

“Shoulda stuck to Faro, huh Benny?”

Benny’s vision became blurry and his breathing choked with blood.

Boom.

-The End

The Peacock Claim: Part 2

The Peacock Claim

By: D.E.Hague

Part: 2

“You dead Jon?” Minnie asked Jon’s corpse as she pointed her revolver at the back of his lifeless head. She watched the flies fight for the best spots around the bullet wounds.

Minnie uncocked her revolver and holstered it.

“You weren’t that bad of a kisser,” Minnie said as she nudged her boot into his ribs.

Taking a knee, Minnie grabbed Jon’s body at the shoulders and rolled it over to its back.

Minnie ripped open Jon’s silk buttoned shirt.

A gold chain was looped around Jon’s neck. The chain ran through an eyelet which was connected to a blood covered golden medallion.

Minnie grasped the gold chain and yanked it and the medallion from around Jon’s neck. She held the medallion up to the sun and studied its inscription.

Minnie looked over at the boy, “Hey kid.”

The boy looked at Minnie.  His teeth were biting hard into the red handkerchief gag.

With the medallion dangling from her fingertips, Minnie walked over to the boy. She held it in front of the boy’s face, letting it sway back and forth in front of his nose.

“Now listen. I know we have our differences,” Minnie said as she spun the medallion around her wrist. “But, we each are currently plagued with several problems.”

The boy yelled muffled curses into the gag.

Minnie stepped back and put her fists on her hips.

“That temper of yours is yet to aid you.”

The boy stamped his heels into the dirt as he yelled louder into the gag.

Minnie threw up her hands and shook her head. “Ok.”

Smack.

Minnie slapped the boy across the face.

“You’ll die here, tied to a dam dead tree stump.”

Smack.

“Your judge Daddy was too busy hanging folk to grow you up.”

The boy looked away from Minnie.

“You tried, but it’s just you and me now.” Minnie pointed with her thumb over her shoulder. “Out here burning to death.”

Minnie watched the boy’s eyes as they rose to her gaze then shifted to the medallion twisted tight around her wrist.

Minnie started circling her wrist unraveling the medallion.

“Now you are the only one that can read the gibberish on this here thing,” Minnie said as she put the medallion around her neck. “And you are holding an empty deck.”

The boy shrugged his shoulders and looked away.

“Really?” Minnie said kicking dirt at the boy. “I ain’t got time, there is a slug lodged in my ribs and I got to tend to it.”

Minnie nudged the boy with her boot.

“Hey, you must really want to die or something.”

The boy looked back at Minnie. He mumbled calmly into the gag and shrugged his shoulders.

“So, you are going to help me?”

The boy shook his head yes.

“Help me to the Peacock?”

Again, the boy shook his head yes.

Minnie walked behind the boy and took out her folding knife. She pressed the flat of her blade to his cheek.

“Nothing funny.”

Minnie cut away the ropes that were holding the boy to the tree stump and then the bindings from around his legs.

The boy pulled the gag out of his mouth and let it hang from his neck.

“Water?”

Minnie motioned for the boy to follow her. Together they walked over to her saddle bags which she had left at the edge of the lakebed.

“Here,” Minnie said handing the boy a canteen. “Just sip at it.”

Minnie took a swig from her whiskey bottle as she watched the boy chug from the canteen.

“Hey! Kid!”

Minnie snatched the canteen away from the boy.

“What the hell,” Protested the boy.

“We need to save that.”

“What’s it matter?” The boy wiped water from his chin. “We die tomorrow or two days from now?”

“I don’t intend on dying out here.” Minnie said pointing towards the horizon. “Your bringing me to it.”

“What? You gonna shit out that slug in your ribs?”

“Dammit, that’s my concern,” Minnie said as she raised a fist towards the boy.

“This is what it does to people.”

“What’s that?” Minnie asked lowering her fist.

“You have a bullet in your ribs and all you can think about is the Peacock.”

Minnie stared at the boy.

“Me and my Pa got to see many men stare fortunes straight in the face. Of course they get all crazy about it.” The boy spit at the ground. “But this gold, it’s etchings, it’s shine. Drives men..” The boy looked up at Minnie. “And women, just drives them all mad.”

Minnie looked down at her ribs. “Well I don’t take bullets for nothing.”

“That Jon fella got us all in bit of a spot, didn’t he?”

“No shit kid.”

“Names Austin.”

“Austin?”

Austin shook his head yes as he motioned for the bottle of whiskey.

Minnie chuckled as she handed the bottle to Austin.

“Alright, Aus…tin. What do you have to say other than the obvious?

Austin sipped from the bottle then passed it back to Minnie.

“Well, Jon managed to do one thing right.” Austin looked around the lake bed. “Got us forced into one direction.”

“What is that?”

“It’s best we don’t go to the Peacock claim.”

“Wait, you saying we are near it?”

“It’s a cursed place.”

“Well don’t you worry; we’re already plenty cursed.”

“Sadly.”

“We need to get going,” Minnie said looking over at her saddle bags then down at her bloody hands. “How far?”

Austin squinted towards the west. “Rest of today. Bit tomorrow.”

“And your good on getting there?”

Austin started laughing.

“I thought you were the smart one.”

Minnie jammed her fist on her hips. “What you getting at?”

“You all been after me for days. Shooting up the territory to get at me.” Austin was laughing so hard he was hugging his waist. “But you are the only one to have asked me if I can still get back to the Peacock.”

“Hey, I was busy ducking bullets.”

“You lot are a bunch of Shanies,” Austin said before he began laughing uncontrollably.

Minnie watched as the boy sank to his knees and his laughter turned into sobs.

“Hey, kid?”

Austin punched the ground.

“My Daddy is dead cause that dam claim.”

“I’m…sorry.” Minnie stepped towards the kid. “I had nothing to do with that…after we broke out I was… on a horse…riding away.”

Austin wiped his eyes and stood up.

“Just leave it,” Said Austin as he walked over to the saddles bags and picked them up. After two tries he slung them over his right shoulder and turned towards the west. “We got some walking to do.”

Minnie walked over to Austin. “Here.” she said as she took the saddle bags.

“We keep a good pace, bout two hours be at some fresh water.” Austin looked at Minnie’s wound. “Be a good place to tend that.”

“Well, lead the way.”

Minnie followed the boy as they headed West into the desert.

The Peacock Claim: Part 1

The Peacock Claim

By: D.E.Hague

Part:1

The second bullet struck the woman’s horse in its front right shoulder. She held tight to the reins as her horse screamed and raised up on its hind legs. The horse’s front legs gave out as it crashed down to the dry ground. The woman was flung forward out of her saddle and smacked into the dirt to the right of the trail. Her horse rolled end over end before sliding to a stop on the other side of the trail.

The woman laid still, face down in the dirt. Only her chest moving up and down as her lungs breathed in the brown dust.

Cough…cough.

Dust choked the back of the woman’s throat.

Cough…cough. The woman rolled her head to the side and spit out bits of rocks.

She opened her eyes and blinked them several times. Inching her fingers forward, her nails scrapping against crumbling rock. The woman again blinked her eyes this time until they watered. Looking up she saw a light grey boulder pointing towards the sky. The boulder had a rounded point at the top and sloped slowly down on each side. 

“Shit.”

The woman grunted as she dug the points of her boots into the dirt. She stretched out her arms and gripped what she could of the boulder. Her chest strained against her corset as she dragged herself up to the large rock. Resting her face against its hot surface she caught her breath.

The woman kept her body pressed to the boulder as she adjusted her position so her back was against it. She sank to her butt and used the skirt of her dress to wipe her face. She looked out in front of her and across the thin dirt trail.Her horse on the other side had blood oozing out of its wounds. The horses left flank was slowly rising and falling as air wheezed out its nostrils.

“I told you to gallop girl.”

The woman looked to her left. She saw the cracked rim of a dried lake bed. The rim rose slightly then dropped down into the old lake. The ground of the lakebed was dotted with petrified tree trunks.

The woman reached into her dress pocket and pulled out a snuff tin. She took a pinch of snuff and held it up to her right nostril. Snorting the tobacco, she looked to her right. Several feet away she spotted her 45-70 trap door rifle in the dirt. Its wood stock was chipped, but the peep sight was still folded down and seemed unbent. Past the rifle lay another large boulder roughly the same size as the one she leaned against.

The woman reached down to the buckle of her gun belt. She ran her hands along its length feeling the spare cylinders and the butt of her Colt 1851 revolver. Across her chest was a leather bandolier which held 45-70 cartridges. The woman counted the rounds and then made sure the bandoliers buckle was secured. 

The woman looked over the ground between herself and her rifle. The soil was loose and littered with bits of stone. She looked down at her boots as she grabbed a handful of her dresses hem. Hiking up her skirt, the woman brought her knees to her chest and leaned to the right.

The woman let out several sharp breathes before extending her fingers tips just past the boulder.

“Do it.”

The woman pushed off with her feet and lunged for her rifle. 

The heel of the woman’s right boot caught the bottom of her dress. The woman’s skirt went tight and she stumbled forward breaking her fall with her arms.

Zing, crack.

A bullet whizzed over her head and hit a near boulder.

Crack.

Bits of sharp rock splattered across the woman’s face. Spitting blood from her mouth she crawled back behind the boulder.

Crack, crack.

More shattered rock rained down on the woman.

“Dammit!” cursed the woman as she reached with her left hand down to her gun belt.  Her fingers slid to the butt of her revolver.  She drew out her Colt and cocked the hammer.

Keeping her head low, the woman stuck the pistol above the rock.

Boom. The woman fired blindly. She re cocked the hammer. Boom.

“Well now, come on Minnie!” shouted a man’s voice from below. “Settle.”

Boom.

“Minnie, shoot’n all crazy. Coulda hit the boy.”

Minnie re cocked her revolver’s hammer. “Jonathan McCoy, you shot my horse!” she shouted as she went to her knees and faced the boulder.

“If it makes ya less bitter, I was aim’n for you Minnie.”

Minnie gripped the boulder with her right hand as she popped out from behind it. Briefly aiming her revolver, she spotted Jonathan McCoy standing in the open. His shiny Winchester rifle was in his hands and aimed in her direction. Several paces to Jon’s right was the boy. The boy was sat on his butt with his back to Minnie. He was tied to a dead tree stump and a cloth gag was knotted around the back of his head.

Boom. Minnie fired at Jon and ducked back behind the boulder.

“Seriously? Bit far for a handgun.”

Boom. Minnie again fired blindly.

“Jonathan McCoy,” spit Minnie

“Yeah?”

“You are an asshole.”

“And?” Jon shouted back.

Minnie half-cocked her revolver’s hammer and pulled out the barrel wedge. She removed the barrel then the nearly spent cylinder. Tucking the cylinder into a dress pocket she reached down to her belt and removed a loaded cylinder. She slid on the fresh cylinder and then the barrel. After reinserting the barrel wedge Minnie worked the action several times.

 “Did I hit the Boy?” Minnie shouted as she crouched and faced the boulder.

“Who?”

“Dodgasted Jonathan dam Q McCoy.”

“Little high strung there Minnie.”

“Jon?”

“Seems fine, probably bitter about your shoot’n.”

“Let me hear him. Let me know he’s alive.”

“Come now, he makes an awful scream.”

“Let me know he is alive, on account my shooting and all.”

“If he was dead, you think I’d be so congenial?”

“After the past three days you owe me this at least.”

“Owe you?” Jon chuckled.

Minnie wiped blood from her lips, “Dammit Jonathan.”

“Fine ok. Only cause you kiss nice.”

There was a long silence. All Minnie could hear was the slow wheezing of her dyeing horse; then muffled threats.

“Bastards. The both of you. Lucky my father got robbed of hanging you….”

There was the sound of a gloved fist hitting flesh then lungs gasping for air.

“Jonathan!” yelled Minnie.

“Ha, what is your plan Minnie? You walk’n him to Newton?”

Minnie looked again to her rifle laying in the dirt and then down at her dress.

“You ain’t got no horse either Jon. We’re both dead out here.”

Sinking again to her butt, Minnie crossed her legs and holstered her revolver. Shaking her head, she took out a folding knife from her dress pocket and opened it.

“Well, it seems I’m just going for the prize of you turn’n dead meat first.” said Jon.

With her right-hand Minnie grabbed of handful of her skirt. She carefully slid the blade into the fabric. Keeping a quick pace, she began cutting her skirt away at the knees.

“Hey Minnie.”

What?” asked Minnie as she tore away part of fabric.

“What you plott’n up there?”

“Nothing.” Minnie reached with the blade behind her legs “Just enjoying the sun.” She answered as she finished cutting away the dress and her exposing her white bloomers.

“It’s awfully hot, how we end’n this?”

“Go sit on a cactus.”

“Well, whatever your plannen do hurry, I want at that water ya got on your horse.”

“You never were patient.”

Crack. A lead bullet smacked into the front of Minnie’s boulder.

“Wasting ammo aren’t you?”

Crack, crack, crack.

Bits of rock flew through the air.

“Water I have not.”

Crack, crack.

“Bullets I have plenty.”

Minnie shuffled around on her hands and knees and faced her rifle.

“Minnie?”

Minnie dug her fingers into the dirt and leaned back on her feet.

“Now come on, I can feel it in the air!” shouted Jon.

“What would that be Jon?” Minnie asked as she watched beads of sweet drip from her nose down into the dirt.

“The climax of our affair.”

“About time you caused a climax Jon.”

“Come now Minnie, that was …”

Jon cut his words short as Minnie lunged for her rifle.

Zing. A bullet soared above Minnie’s head.

With both hands out stretched Minnie grabbed her rifle and rolled through the dirt. She came up to a crouch and ran for the next boulder.

Crack.

A bullet hit the boulder directly in front of Minnie stopping her mid stride. Pivoting on her heals she faced Jon and shouldered her rifle.

Thwack

Minnie only got a brief glimpse of Jon and his shiny rifle as the feeling of a bull hitting her head on shuttered through her ribs.

“Uggh.” Minnie grunted as she fell back on her butt and dropped her rifle.

Zing. Another shot soared over head.

Minnie grabbed her shins and pulled her legs into a cross legged position. Re shouldering her rifle, she rested her right elbow into the pocket of her right knee. She let out a slow breath then rested her left elbow in the pocket of her left knee. Closing her left eye, she flipped up the rear peep site and focused her right eye through its small opening. Minnie centered the front sight on the glint from Jon’s rifle. She exhaled then pressed the trigger.

Boom

Minnie watched as a piece of Jon’s left knee was torn away. Jon staggered back as his bloodied leg gave out. He jammed the butt of his rifle into the ground to keep himself from falling.

“God dammit!” shouted Jon.

Minnie stumbled over to the boulder and leaned against it. She drew a 45-70 cartridge from her bandolier.

“We’re both doomed now Jon!” shouted Minnie as she opened up her rifles action. She tipped her barrel upwards so the spent casing fell out of the chamber. Sliding the new round into the chamber she closed the action.

“Shit,” grunted Jon as he un-holstered a stub nosed colt revolver from the small of his back. Staggering around on his makeshift crutch he looked at the boy.

“Yeah, we’re doomed,” Jon whispered as he cocked his pistol.

The boy’s eyes grew wide as he watched Jon aim the pistol at him.

Boom, zing.

Jon’s first shot missed and ricocheted off the stump the boy was tied to.

“Shoulda just told us where the Peacock is,” Jon said re cocking his revolver.

Boom.

A 45-70 slug burst through Jon’s chest. He fell face first in the dirt, his pistol firing off as he hit the ground.

Jon raised his face and stared at the boy as he gurgled up blood.

Boom.

Another slug ripped into his back. 

“Bye Jon.” Minnie said with a smile before reloading her rifle.

Going down to one knee she sighted in on Jon’s body and steadied her breathing.

“One,…two,…three,…four…”

Minnie held her aim on Jon’s breathless body until she had counted to sixty. Only then did Minnie relax her and let her rifle hang low in her hands. Leaning against the boulder she slid down to the dirt and rested.

Minnie placed her rifle at her side and looked down at where Jon’s bullet had struck her. There was a quarter sized bloody hole in her dress. Minnie softly pressed her hand against it.

“Ahh, shit,” Minnie winced.

Minnie looked at the ground. She spotted a short stick and picked it up. Splitting the stick in half she stuck one half into her mouth and bit down on it.

“Ahh hell, Jesus!” Minnie screamed as she pushed her finger through the hole in her dress and into the wound. She pulled out her finger and spit out the stick.

“Dammit Jon,” said Minnie, wiping her bloody finger on her white bloomers.

Minnie looked over at her horse, then down into the dry lakebed.

“Hey kid, I’ll be down in a minute!” Minnie shouted.

Minnie picked up her rifle and staggered to her feet. She stamped her left boot, then her right. She looked down at Jon then turned towards her horse.

 “Oh Ladybug,” sighed Minnie as she walked up to her horse.

Knelling, Minnie ran her fingers along the horse’s brow and down its nose. Ladybug’s wheezing had all but stopped. Her glazed over eyes searching for the Minnie’s face.

“Good bye honey,” said Minnie as she un-holstered her revolver and cocked the hammer.

Boom.

Minnie said nothing as she watched the life behind Ladybug’s eyes fade away.

“Back to work,” Minnie said as she re-holstered her revolver.

Removing her saddles bags from Ladybug’s body, Minnie took out a bottle of whiskey. She pulled the cork out with her teeth and spit it into the air. After taking a long swig from the bottle, she poured some of the whiskey over her wound.

Minnie slung the saddle bags over her right shoulder. “All right kid, your turn.” Minnie said to herself as she staggered towards the lakebed.

We’ll Bury Him Then

We’ll Bury Him Then

by Daniel Hague

New Mexico Territory

1883

Harrison walked back inside the ranch house, he had Ramos’s saddle bags slung over his shoulder. A single lantern lit the darkening insides. The wife had finished bandaging Ramos’s thigh. She was pregnant and wearing her gun belt across her chest. She was standing at the wood stove and putting on a pot of coffee. The brother was seated in a corner and pulling on the finger lever of his Model 1876 lever action rifle; the lever was not moving. The old man had his muzzle loader slung across his back. He was using a hammer and chisel to cut shooting loops into the outside walls.

Ramos was on top of the large dinner table with his legs out stretched. Harrison and the old man had drug the table over to a beam so he could rest his back. A Spencer rifle lay on the table to his right along with a half-smoked cigar. Harrison walked over to Ramos and laid the saddle bags in his lap. Ramos took out a canteen, small flask and a box of bullets.

Harrison studied Ramos’s thigh.

“You did good work, knew to boil the horse hair.”

Harrison looked down at the drying blood on the floor. He picked up a small piece of bloodied cloth. “Found that bit of pants.”

The wife looked up from the coffee pot, “Helped the bullet went straight through.”

“Sorry if my friend’s cigar smoke bothered you much.”

“I was surprised how steady he kept his hand.”

“Not as steady as your needle.”

The wife gave a weak smile then went back to staring at the coffee pot.

Harrison patted Ramos on the back.

“We’re heading out.”

Ramos smiled at Harrison with his yellow teeth and nodded towards the brother.

“Really?” Harrison asked.

Ramos nodded his head, “Sí.”

“Hell, you’re right.”

Broken glass crunched under Harrison’s boots as he walked over to the brother.

“Need help?”

The brother looked up.

“Here,” Harrison said as he snatched the rifle from the brother’s hands.

Harrison looked into the rifle’s action, “Got two going the same way.”

Harrison moved the right flap of his duster to the side and unsheathed a knife. Using the blunt top of the blade’s point he slowly pushed one of the rounds back into the rifle’s magazine tube. This freed up the finger lever allowing him to fully open the action. Shaking out the other round Harrison worked the rifle’s action reloading the chamber. He ran his fingers along the rim of the other cartridge before reinserting it into the rifle’s magazine.

“Still getten use to her,” the brother said reaching out with his hands.

Harrison turned his back to the brother and looked at the wife. “You ever shoot a forty five-seventy five?”

“Me?” the wife asked pointing at herself.

“Yes, you.”

“Just his.”

“Here,” Harrison held out the rifle. “Take it.”

The steady rhythm of the old man’s hammer and chisel stopped.

The wife’s eyes drifted over to her brother then back to Harrison.

“Take it, you handled yourself fine with the colt.” Harrison said.

The wife held out her hands. Harrison lowered the rifle down into her open palms.

“So, you can work it?”

The wife nodded as she hugged the rifle to her breast.

“Get a glove for your lever hand.”

Harrison turned back to the brother.

“Give me your ammo belt.”

“What for?”

“Reloading.”

Harrison gestured with his hand, “Come on, ain’t got time.”

The brother stood and grabbed the buckle of his leather ammunition belt.

“You tryen to say somethen Mr. Harrison?”

“No, I ain’t saying anything.”

“Then why you snatch my rifle and hand it to my sister?”

“You really want to discuss all that?”

The brother looked away from Harrison.

“Was gonna give it to her anyway.”

The brother undid his belt and tossed it to Harrison. Harrison adjusted its length and rebuckled it. He helped the wife put it on. Her gun belt and ammunition belt formed an “X” across her chest.

“Know it’s heavy but best to leave it on,” Harrison told her.

The wife turned back towards the wood stove as the sound of the hammer and chisel again filled the room.

The front door opened. A tall man with a long red beard stepped in. He grinned at Ramos then looked at Harrison.

“Boys are all saddled up Harry.”

“You put the shotgun with my kit?”

“Spare shells in your right bag.”

“Good.”

The bearded man looked at Ramos, “How’s our Mexican?”

Ramos waved at the bearded man, “¿Cómo es tu madre?”

“He’s improving,” Harrison answered.

“Seems like it.”

“Alright, have Douglas ride ahead.”

“You got it.”

“And remind him he ain’t a one-man army.”

“Will do Harry.”

“Good, I’ll be right out.”

The bearded man tipped his hat towards Ramos before going back outside.

“That wasn’t my scattergun was it?” the brother asked.

“Just borrowing it,” Harrison answered.

“Leaven me with just my pistol?”

Harrison scratched his stubbled chin, “We’re fixing for some close work, ain’t gonna have time to reload mine.”

The brother put his hand on the butt of his Colt Army Revolver and stepped towards Harrison.

“You saying I’m lily-livered?”

“Do you want me to?”

“What? No.”

“What is it you want then?”

“I want to ride with ya all.”

“No.”

“Mr. Harrison, you are an employee of this ranch.”

“Well you ain’t the owner and I ain’t got time for this.”

“Mr. Harrison, I insist.”

Harrison smirked.

“Be nice having five guns.” Harrison looked around the dark room, “But only got four that are able to saddle up.”

“See, that’s callen me lily-livered.”

“Enough.”

With two long steps Harrison covered the distance between himself and the brother. He jabbed the brother in the chest with his pointer finger.

“I will say that during the dust up all you managed to do was muck up your rifle.”

“But . . . “

“Just sat crossed legged staring at the dirt.”

“I was startled is all, I ain’t scared.”

“Maybe, I’ve seen men pull it together the second time around and Lord knows in these parts you’ll get another try. But tonight, we can’t afford to have you figuring out where your balls are.”

The brother’s hand fell away from the butt of his revolver. His head sunk low into his chest as he looked down at his boots. He stepped backwards until his back pressed against the far wall.

Harrison walked over to Ramos and whispered into his ear. Ramos looked at the brother and smiled.

“Alright, we’re heading out.” Harrison took out a pair of gloves from his back pocket.

“Don’t forget,” he shook his gloves at Ramos as he walked towards the door. “Want to live you’ll listen to him.”

Still clutching the rifle to her breast, the wife followed Harrison to the door.

“My husband?” she asked.

“Had the boys put him up in the barn.”

“But we need to . . . “

Harrison held up his hands.

“Should be back by mid-day. We’ll bury him then. We ain’t back, you’ll have other problems.”

“They just shot him down.”

“I know it’s hard, but we can’t change any of this.”

“His gun was in the house.”

“That don’t matter to this sort.”

The wife nodded her head as she lowered the forearm of the rifle into her left hand and wrapped her right hand around the serrated grip of the rifle’s wood stock.

Harrison opened the ranch’s door.

“All right then, don’t forget to sleep in shifts, and keep that coffee going.”

Harrison walked out of the ranch house. Moments later there was the sound of galloping horses which quickly faded from ear shot. The four were left with only the steady rhythm of the old man and his chisel.

Ramos unscrewed the top of his flask. He raised the flask high towards the ceiling before bringing it down to his lips. He took a drink, rubbed his belly and then took another. He held the flask out to the brother.

“Aquí.”

The brother raised his head.

“No, thank you.”

“Aquí, bebe ahora.”

The brother stared at the dented flask. Smacking the heel of his revolver he walked over to Ramos. He took the flask, tipped it towards Ramos then drank. His body tensed as the whiskey burned down his throat before warming his stomach.

“Gracias.”

The brother handed the flask back to Ramos and walked over to the old man.

“Sis, pour me some coffee, won’t you?”

The brother patted the old man on the shoulder.

“Here,” the brother said holding out his hands.

“Thank you,” the old man said as he handed his hammer and chisel to the brother.

Ramos held out his flask to the old man. The old man took the flask and drank long from it.

“Thank you,” the old man handed back the flask and unslung his muzzle loader. He walked over to a chair, sat and shut his eyes.

The brother held the chisel in his left and the hammer in his right. He resumed the old man’s work, only pausing to sip at his coffee.

Ramos watched this and smiled.

The End