“Hey! I know you!”
The new hand recognized me. His voice wasn’t excited, he was angry. I knew who he was, too. It’s why he got the job. I’m the only man in Texas who’ll give the poor bastard a chance.
We served together in The Revolution. He was branded a coward because when Travis asked for a volunteer to run to Houston for reinforcements he eagerly accepted. Most of The Republic thinks he should have died there with the rest of us.
The story goes that once Travis realized he wasn’t getting reinforcements that he drew a line in the sand with his saber and said anyone who crossed was free to go. Nobody crossed it.
Nice story- but there wasn’t a line. Travis wasn’t that agreeable. And I left. I saw no virtue in dying for a church that some jackass had defiled into a fort just so Travis could say his prick was bigger than Santa Ana’s.
Of course being branded a coward is no great thing out here, so I had to take a new name. But what’s in a name?- some fancy Englishman once said. Lost a name, but I got the biggest ranch in Texas. A lot of hard work and a little blood shed always pays off.
“Yusunuvabitch!” The new hand yelled as he reached for his revolver. And I was mightily grieved at being obliged to do the same.
The lead ball slammed into me and knocked me flat on my ass. I laid there for a moment and watched the black smoke dissipate. I focused on the smell of the black powder. The warmth of the revolver in my hand. Anything to ignore the pain and to delay inspecting the wound.
That’s when I heard him groaning.
I sat up. I took me a few seconds and I started to feel that my left shoulder burned like Hell. And I didn’t need no doctor to tell me I wouldn’t use that arm again. But the fact that I could sit up was a good sign. Next I stood. José, the Tejano top hand, ran over to try and help me, but I waved him off.
I walked over to where the other man laid, he was moving his arms but his legs were still as death. That and the smell of shit mixed with blood told me I had gut-shot him and severed his spine.
Most people would say his was the better shot. He did hit me closer to my heart than I hit him. But those people would be overlooking one very important fact- I hit what I aimed for and he didn’t.
He raised his arm to take a second shot at me, but his revolver wasn’t cocked.
Mine was, and my second shot dug a trench through his forehead and scalp. A mercy, really.
“Enterrar con otros,” I said to José.
The damn fool went to his maker thinking that death was more virtuous than life. I’m sad that I was the one who obliged him.
On the other hand- he was the only man on Earth who could claim I had once deserted Texas in her darkest hour.