A Six Gun and the Queen of Light

Part 7

Story Break Barbed

Suddenly, the sky was bathed in blood. Gorman sat on the cold, hard ground – dust in his mouth and blood in his eyes. How many were still alive, Gorman didn’t know. He felt woozy and weak every time he tried to get up. A bullet had caught him in the scalp earlier, and the blood dripped into his eyes. Gorman didn’t stop shooting, though. Windom’s men were going to meet their maker, come hell or high water.

Gorman had come to Bedlam to get away from the killings: robbing stagecoaches and a bank in Freefalls, Idaho. That was the job that turned his stomach. He had been there with a friend, just to ride around with, and was sucked into keeping a posse’s horses ready for when the job was done. Freefalls had been robbed too many times. They were barely inside the bank when someone on the roof with a rifle started shooting at them. Gorman’s friend lay in the doorway of the bank, the top of his head missing. Gorman began to ride off when a woman took a Colt from under her skirts and shot Gorman in the shoulder.

Gorman shot her out of instinct.

At nights, he either ended his sleep with her image or began it. Either way, the nightmare made it hard to fall back to sleep. Now… here he was, sitting in the middle of town – no more bullets in his Colt, blinded by a bullet or his own blood, hoping his ordeal was over.

“Get up.” Gorman heard a soft, low voice – a woman’s voice that was as smooth as silk.

Two hands helped him up.

“Nancy?” Gorman said to the darkness.

No answer.

“Let’s get you somewhere,” she said.

Gorman coughed, trying to get the dust out from his throat.

“You did miss me, Nancy,” he told her.

Gorman kept hold of her tightly as they walked back to the wagon that was waiting on them. She helped him inside – as did another pair of hands. He lay down, trying hard to get his eyes to focus. He felt the wagon jerk after a male voice called out for the horse to go.

“Of course I missed you,” she said, lying beside Gorman. She held his cold, clammy hands.

“I’m sorry I left you.” Gorman sighed. A ray of sunlight invaded the darkness, cutting through his brain like a pinch from a crochet needle. “I wish I had never heard the name Peter Windom.”

Windom had hired Gorman to off a sheep herder out of the valley. Nancy had been friends with the sheep herder’s family. Their family name was Dobbs. When Nancy found out what Gorman was up to, she broke off their engagement.

“I only did this job for us.” Gorman coughed up more dust. “So we could have money to live in that little ranch I bought out by the edge of town.”

“I know,” she said. “Let’s not talk the rest of the ride.”

Gorman didn’t like that. He felt they had a lot to talk about, but he did as he was told. The ride to her house was nothing more than an echo of bottled-up thoughts. Gorman wept. He couldn’t help himself. It was too much for him: the loss of promised love, the gunfight with a former employer over morality, and money owed for previous jobs. A hand touched his cheeks. The tears were wiped away.

“Here,” she said. “Let’s not have any more of that.”

The bed Gorman was laid on was hard as a rock and just as cold. He tried to put it out of his mind. For the longest time, he heard nothing but voices – a few footsteps. He thought he heard a clock striking the time. Gorman couldn’t keep track of the hours. He kept losing consciousness. The last time it happened, a warm hand woke him. He then felt a warm rag wash over him.

“Nancy?” Gorman could barely manage to speak. He reached for her hand. It was warm and soft. It smelled like Nancy: like honeysuckle – like spring. He felt a strand of hair touch his cheek. Gorman remembered those few nights they spent together, and he remembered he was the only man she’d been with. He felt the warmth of her lips upon his. He began to speak. A hand shushed him. For a while longer, those lips caressed his.

There was more silence. His eyesight was still blurred. More hours passed. He was left with nothing more than his thoughts. Those thoughts turned to the last big mistake he made.

Especially how the gunfight broke out with Windom, he couldn’t quite recall. Gorman didn’t call Windom out to the street. The argument was in the saloon. A room full of people stopped their commotion to hear their words. Gorman had failed to remove the sheep-farmer from the valley, even though he’d killed the head of the Dobbs family. Windom had demanded Gorman finish the job. Gorman wanted to be paid, no matter what. He didn’t want to do anything else to that family. He’d watched the youngest daughter weep over her father’s dead body. He said he would do another job to repay the money. Windom called him yellow.

Gorman shot him in the chest – at close range. No thought to it. No regret. Gorman left the saloon, his boots hitting the dusty street. The first shot came from his right, a doorway of the general store. Two of Windom’s men were firing at him. The other came from the horse trough. Gorman fired twice at the man in the general store – catching him both times in the neck. He fired at the man at the trough – barely missing him. The man dropped his gun and ran. Just then, three more bullets sailed past him from the saloon. He turned, fired again. He didn’t know if he hit anything. A bullet pressed deep into his skull. Blood dripped into his eyes. Gorman felt himself fall to the cold, hard ground.

“Nina!” Gorman heard a man’s voice. “I told you to leave those cadavers alone!”

A blond-haired woman in a dirty dress, barefoot, jumped off Gorman’s lap and ran out of the mortuary.

A small, mustached man in an apron called out to her. “All I want you and your brother to do is collect the dead bodies and the payment! Now get!”

I’m sorry, Nancy, were Gorman’s final thoughts as he slipped under a blanket of darkness.