Monday, June 20, 2011

Traildust PART NINE

Sweat poured into Bennet's eyes as the sun burned down over them. Rifle cracks echoed over the landscape, small tufts of sand exploding upwards with each missed bullet, each avoided death. On the other side of the dead fire was Xavo, swearing loudly to himself and to the sky in his native tongue, reloading shot after shot. Most of his bullets went wide or high, but Bennet didn't judge. His shots weren't hitting home either. A seething buzz past his ear and was gone - a shot meant for the head.
"Holy Mary, mother of god," Bennet said to himself. "I ain't never asked for nothin' afore, but if you will let me survive this here gunfight, I'll try and be a better Catholic," a sandy explosion by his other ear, "ah, to hell with it."
He reached over the top of the sandbank and fired all six shots from his six-shooter. Then, silence. No shots, nothing. A voice came sailing to them on the wind.
"How about we put down our guns?" it said. "I done waylaid your friends, sure, but I'm sure we can come to some kind of arrangement."
Xavo and Bennet exchanged a glance.
"I'm thinkin', friend," Bennet said, "that you have us figured for fools."
"Not at all, but for smart men who want to live."
"That we do. I'd like to continue living for many years ahead, if it is possible and within the realm of things likely."
A pause. "It can be arranged for you to live."
"Basta!" Xavo said and jumped up from his hiding spot. "Morirás por su fechorías a mis amigos!"
He fired his two loaded pistols at the voice, loud cracks bursting the air around them like glass. When he was done, clouds of smoke hung low over the open desert, clinging to everything like cotton. The wind cleared it amidst a stunned silence and when it did a final crack sounded and Xavo dropped to the sand, a red hole in his forehead.
"Jesus Christ!" Bennet dug himself deeper into his sandy dugout.
"Your friend has broken our accord," the voice carried on. "And now you must die."
"He didn't speak for the both of us!" Bennet yelled back. His heart thudded against his ribs, a beast trying to escape his bonds.
"I'm afraid he did."
Rifle cracks. Thuds and sany eruptions. Bennet looked around for a way to flee. His horse was not five paces away. He knew he could make it to the horse, and figured if he rode by cluthing to the side of the horse, using it as a shield, that he ought to be able to escape. He crawled through the sand on his belly like a snake, bullets whizzing overhead, until he reached his and Xavo's horses. But before jumping up and out, he thought for a moment. He turned, digging himself into the sand, and took aim with his rifle and checked the magazine. Two shots left.
"Better make 'em count," he said aloud to himself and stared down the site.
He could see his enemy's horse, standing by the way where the shots were coming from, digging its hooves idly into the sand. Looking down the barrel of the gun, Bennet remembered the shooting advice he'd first gotten from his father.
"Breathe in," he's said, "and squeeze the trigger back tight halfway through your breath out."
Bennet breathed in slowly and fired as he breathed out. The shot went far wide and went off into the distance, probably to land in some cactus or rock.
"Come on, damnit," he said to himself. "Shoot that damn horse or yer a dead man!"
He breathed in slowly and as he breathed out - crack! In the distance, the horse went down, its limbs flailing around until it crashed to the sand in a cloud.
Now was his chance.
Out loud, he counted to three before jumping up and thrusting forward. He landed in between his and Xavo's horse and climbed up against the side of his own horse. Grabbing the reigns of Xavo's horse, he smacked the horses into motion and they whinnied and sped off into the desert. A rifle crack felled Xavo's horse. The horse fell in an explosion of sand and blood. By the time the man realised that Bennet was on the other horse, he was too far out of range. A Winchester repeater can only shoot so far, and five hundred feet is out of that distance. Not to mention while moving.
Bennet urged the horse on, looking over his shoulder for a bullet that would turn his life to darkness.

The man crept from his dugout and went over to the camp where he'd lain his trap. There was a new body now, the man he'd just shot. He looked in the distance at the dust trail of the escaping man but did not care. Bending low, he examined the dead Mexican's face.
"You must be Xavo," the man said and spat on Xavo's face. "No mas, no mas."
By Xavo's hands, the man saw that he had two pistols with blade attachements to the barrel. He took these up and smiled.
"Well, I'll be," he said and pocketed them both. Collecting the money and gold teeth from the dead around him, he turend around and took his saddle and bags from his dead horse. He made for the town from which he'd come. Whether they liked it or not, they were selling him a new horse and by morning he would be riding after the American who'd escaped. Soon, the vultures would come and the only evidence of the fight would be bones, blood and stories.

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