Jeff Tsuruoka: The Long Arm Of The Dead

June 26, 2012 in Guest Post, Short Story

By Jeff Tsuruoka 

   

            “I don't want to die,” said Grevis.  “But I deserve to.”

            Mackinaw finished his glass of whiskey and put it down on the bar.  “If you're lookin' for an argument from me you're gonna be lookin' a long, long time.”

            Grevis laughed and signaled the proprietor for another round.

            The proprietor, a bearded fellow who was the relative size and shape of an outhouse, lumbered down to the end of the bar with a bottle in tow.

            Mackinaw sized up his drinking companion in the light from a handful of stinking tallow candles. 

            He and Grevis had the same slate gray eyes and the same level stare.  Each grew up around the same kind of people, worked the same kind of land.  Their faces carried same lines and crags.  Hard miles.  Rough usage.

            They carried the same kind of guns.  Peacemakers.  Two of 'em apiece.

            They both wore black hats.

            The bar they were in was some unnamed saloon in a town that sprouted up around an outpost at the ass-end of civilization.

            There'd been a deputizing ceremony and then a chase and it ended in that bar.

            Most of the other patrons were watching them, trying hard to look like they weren't.  Conversations had become hushed and the piano player just flat out quit while the two strangers talked and drank.

            Neither Grevis nor Mackinaw gave a rat's ass.  Each man was well-used to being stared at, and shot at, by locals in towns much like this one.

            “You never asked if I did it,” said Grevis.  “If I killed the man.”

            “Don't care,” replied Mackinaw.  “Ain't my job to find out either.  All I gotta do is bring you back.”

            “But you think it was me?”

            Mackinaw sipped his whiskey and eyeballed Grevis over the top of his glass.  “Your reputation precedes you, John.”

            “As does yours, Charlie.  As does yours.”

            The two men drank in silence.  Mackinaw rolled himself a cigarette while Grevis made eyes at a pretty red-haired woman at the other end of the bar.

            “No time for that, Slick,” said Mackinaw.  “I wanna be on the road before sundown.”

            He was thinking about the veiled warning the saloon's proprietor let out when they sat down at the bar.

            You don't want to be hangin' 'round the street much after dark.

            Grevis smiled at the redhead and downed the rest of his whiskey.  She smiled back and then walked out of the bar.  All of the other patrons followed her out.

            “You askin' me to come in with you, Charlie?  Peaceably and all?”

            “Not askin', John.  You're comin'.”

            Grevis' hand dropped to his side.  It hung by his holster.

            Mackinaw turned to face him on his barstool.  “You want it like that we can do it like that.  But we both know how it ends.”

            “With a rope around my neck.”

            “Or a bullet in your heart.”

            Grevis just grinned.

            “Either way,” said Mackinaw, “the choice is yours.”

            A bell tolled.  Twelve long tolls.

            The proprietor waddled down to the end of the bar.

            “I think it's time for you boys to be movin' on,” he said.

            Mackinaw met the man's eyes.  “I do believe you're right.”

            He dropped a couple of silver coins on the bar and slid off his stool.

            Grevis leaned close in to Mackinaw as he stood.

            “It's after dark,” he said in a soft voice.

            “I know.  That's what happens at night.  It gets dark.”

            “You heard what he said.  Before.”

            “I did.”

            “And?”

            Mackinaw took a step back and shook his head at Grevis.

            “I hear you're a tough guy,” he drawled.  “You still got those Peacemakers on your hips.  I've got mine.  Nothing's gonna happen to us other than what we do to each other.  Either you leave me dead in the dirt or I leave town with your corpse draped over your horse.  One or the other.  And that's all.  After all you've done you're spooked?”

            “Ain't you I'm afraid of, Charlie,” spat Grevis.

            Mackinaw waited for him to continue.

            “It's this town, man.  Can't you feel it?”

            “No, John.  The only thing I'm feeling right now is disgust at the amount of yellow I see in front of me.”

            Grevis seethed.

            Mackinaw continued to stare.

            “Weren't you boys about to leave?” interjected the proprietor.  “Don't make me get testy about it.”

            The barrel of a shotgun rested on the bar.

            Mackinaw chuckled at the big man.

            So did Grevis.

            The proprietor's face was unreadable.

            “Fair enough,” said Grevis.  He walked over to the door and stepped outside.

            Mackinaw followed him out.

            The town's citizens were assembled in the street.  They had the saloon boxed in.  Nowhere to go.

            The proprietor bolted the saloon door shut from the inside.

            “I guess we're gonna find out how good you really are,” said Grevis.  He unsnapped his holsters.  “I'm gonna be pretty sore if it turns out you're all talk.”

            “Likewise,” replied Mackinaw.

            The assembled citizenry did not move.  They just stood there staring at the two men in front of the saloon.

            They looked like regular townsfolk, except for their large, green, glowing eyes.  And their gray, rotting skin.

            A wind kicked up, blowing dust and dirt around in the air.

            “Strange,” muttered Grevis.

            “What's that?”

            “No tumbleweeds.”

            “That is strange.”

            A fresh gust of wind stirred up the dust again.

            It also brought in a thick carrion stench.

            The townspeople began to groan as one.

            Mackinaw and Grevis drew their Peacemakers and if their hands shook a little neither man was going to mention it.

            “Straight ahead and don't look back?” asked Mackinaw.

            “As good a plan as any,” replied Grevis.

            The roars of four Peacemakers firing bounced up and down the street as the two men charged into the front rank of the dead.

 

 

 

          

 (Author's Note: This is part of a longer piece)


Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career.  He has found a home in the Flash Fiction circuit and is grateful to the blog hosts that give him the opportunity to get his work out there.

You can follow him on Twitter @JTsuruoka and be sure to keep tabs on his weekly contributions to Daily Picspiration.