A Six Gun and the Queen of Light

Part 3

A Six Gun and the Queen of Light

By Mark Slade

Story Break Barbed

Nat had just emerged from the ‘Ladies of the Night’ tavern smelling of whiskey. He stumbled across the street humming to himself. The street was dark and near deserted – save for a few strolling or the occasional horse and buggy. He was just at the corner of the ‘Lonesome Hotel’ when he felt something jab him in the back.

“Don’t move, dunderhead,” Nat heard a voice.

“What the hell?” Nat raised his arms slowly, turned to find its source.

He saw the Howard brothers pointing guns at him. The tall one, Quinn, held a ‘Winchester’, aiming for Nat’s head. Harley (the smaller brother) held a ‘Colt’ at Nat’s chest.

“What’s all this about, boys?” Nat slurred his words, clucked his tongue.

“Two hundred dollars, dunderhead. That’s what it’s about,” Harley said, his top lip curled.

“Yeah, dunderhead!” Quinn moved behind Nat.

“Don’t keep repeating after me, Quinn!”

“Sorry, Harley.” Quinn lowered his head as he spoke.

“Oh… you holding me responsible for that bet? I was drunk when I made that.” Nat had trouble keeping his balance.

“You bet on that rooster, boy – knowing all that time that rat was gonna win that fight. You ain’t too bright.” Harley laughed.

Nat shrugged. “That rooster had metal spurs on… sharp as knives! I didn’t know that rat would sprout wings and use bird-like flight abilities to attack.”

“Pay up, dunderhead, or we fill you full of lead.” Harley cocked the hammer on his ‘Colt’.

“Oh… boys… there’s no need to threaten – ”

There was a clicking noise behind the three men. Quinn turned first, dropped the ‘Winchester’. He ran as fast as he could, kicking up dust behind him. Harley turned too fast and his ‘Colt’ went off, pointed at his left foot. The bullet exploded inside Harley’s boot. A hole the size of a silver dollar exposed a bloody mess that was the top of his foot. Harley went down, clutching at it, screaming like a jackass caught in a briar patch. Nat backed away, started to sprint from the incident.

Logan stepped out of the shadows, sheathed his six-gun. “Nat!” he called out. “It’s just me! Logan!”

Nat stopped in his tracks, tried to catch his breath. He walked slowly to Logan, a hand across his heaving chest. “Damn you, Logan,” Nat croaked.

“I just got Abrams more business.” Logan bent down, examining Harley.

“You bastard! Lookit what you made me do,” Harley started to sob loudly.

“Help me get him to Doc Abrams,” Logan barked.

Nat shook his head. “No way. He was gonna shoot me.”

“And you were gonna welch on a bet. I wouldn’t blame him, except I couldn’t let him.” Logan put a hand under Harley’s arm, helped him to his feet.

Harley, still crying, held the injured foot up.

Nat puckered his lips up, blew out air. He helped balance Harley by lending a shoulder for him to lean on. “Why couldn’t you let him shoot me?”

“You are a dunderhead. You saved my life earlier. I owed you. Now we’re even.”

Nat smiled. Maybe he had made a friend other than Abrams. Life might not be as empty. Voices other than a horse’s whinny would be nice.

“You’re a bastard… both of you – ” Harley sobbed.

“Did he cry this much as a kid?” Logan winced with every sob that came from Harley.

“I only saw him cry once – last week. That was when his father whipped him with his horse’s reins,” Nat said, struggling to keep pace. “He wrote dirty words on the outside of the church.”

“Lucky preacher didn’t get him,” Logan said.

Nat turned to Logan. “Harley’s father is the preacher.”