Fuck, winning is good. Gotta admit it’s a far sight better than losin’. Just ask Whitey Smith.
Oh yah, ya can’t, on account he’s dead. Shit, I’m good, taking down the second fastest gun in these here parts. Course, it’s only by reputation. There ain’t really no such thing as a second fastest, not in this business. Not like it’s a God damn race or somthin’. Ya only really find out you’re number two when you’re dead, or dyin’ and the other guy’s still standing with a shit eating grin on his face.
Being the one with that grin means ya could be the best. But, just when you get that whore bouncing on your lap and ya start sucking on the mouth of that whiskey bottle there’s always one name that slips past everyone’s lips. It gets whispered behind your back, held above your head, just out of reach, like the fuckin’ game your big brother used ta play. Too bad ol’ Hank didn’t learn his lesson a little sooner, kind a miss the asshole. Shit, no matter, I always got what I wanted then, and still do. And what I want now it to be that name. Sure as shit, it won’t be long before it’s my name whispered after a gunfight not Madrid.
Heard stories of John Madrid. Don’t put much stock in most. Two down in Nogales another two in Denver, Sexton Joe, Isham, Colie, Pardee, ain’t no way one man did all that, ain’t no fuckin’ way. But some things are certain. He’s got a mean streak that slices right through his heart. They say he’d rather shoot a man than listen to him fart and I believe it. Mean, ugly, Mex half-breed. He’s good and he knows it, paradin’ ‘round in those flashy clothes, not carin’ if people know who he is. Fuckin’ bold if ya ask me. ‘Specially since he’s been around a long time, since before I started out. He must be getting old by now, slowin’ down.
Word is it’s his fuckin’ eyes that do ya in, blue eyes, peering out of dark skin. Here tell that’s why he always wins, ice cold eyes that strip a man of his courage and make ‘em piss in their God damn boot. Well, not me. When I meet that son of a bitch – He’s goin’ down. You won’t catch me looking in ta the eyes of the devil – nope – not me.
Kinda like this here new paint. “Think I’ll call ya Whitey. Least I can do. He took real good care of ya, damn sight better’n I will.” Winnin’ is good, that’s for sure. Ain’t many things beat it.
That busty little whore last night sure came close. Where did she learn to fuck like that? Damn. Should just turn this mount around and head straight back there, get me some more of that fine piece of ass. No. Won’t do. I’d put heavy money on there bein’ another one even better in this here town. After the day, no, week, no, whole fuckin’ month I’ve had… there’ll probly be two waitin’ for me.
Life is good. Two weeks, to get to that job in Denver, plenty a time to enjoy the scenery, blondes, brunettes, redheads. Wouldn’t mind me a redhead tonight. If my luck holds out I’ll be bedin’ myself a little fire-crotch tonight.
Looks like there ain’t much happenin’ around this town, but a gun can’t be too careful. Eyes need ta stay sharp, body relaxed but ready for anything. Can never tell when the next up-and-comer will want your reputation, Yup, always best to be mindful. It makes me smile, that cat meet mouse grin, just knowin’ there aren’t many men left who can beat me.
The dance is always the same, swing my leg over the horse’s back and plant my feet firmly on dusty earth. Takin’ my time, I adjust the worn and softened gun belt, then, with my hat, whip the dust from my pants. Pushing the hat back on I settle it low, over my eyes. Sure as hell don’t want people knowing where I’m looking and sure don’t want them recognizing me right off.
Grabbing hold of my saddle bags I move to the saloon doors. Smells of sawdust, beer, sweat and tobacco greet me. Satisfied, I push the doors open and saunter in seeking my favored spot in the corner, back to the wall, eyes taking in every detail.
Still bein’ early, the place is quiet. The bartender’s an overweight fuck with a thin mustache and thinner hair. “Whiskey” is all that needs sayin’ and it’s immediately set before me with a clean glass. “Don’t need the fuckin’ glass.” He looks at me all nervous like and I can’t help but smile. He has this annoying habit of licking his lips; his tongue slips out then slides across his top lip before slippin’ back into its dark hole, again and a-fuckin’-gain . Shit, if I weren’t in such a good mood, that right there, would be enough reason to shoot the poor bastard. Be doing the world a favor, for Christ’s sake, savin’ ‘em from havin’ ta watch that thing.
The jangle of spurs draws my attention. Odd how little you actually hear that sound. Shitload a men wear ‘em but it takes a certain kind of walk to make them sing. A walk I don’t have, though God knows I tried. I like it.
It stops and the owner of that singsong walk peers into the saloon, scanning the scene, then, with confidence steps in. His hat sits low and he wears just about the brightest fuckin’ shirt I ever did see. Shit, who the hell does this cowboy think he is? Sizing him up, as is my custom, can’t say I’m impressed by much besides that musical walk. He isn’t big, he’s young, just a kid really, and kinda’ skinny, but would bet the women fancy him on account of that walk. ‘Plus that gun he wears, slung low. Shit, didn’t notice that fuckin’ piece before. This poor young sucker’s tryin’ hard to look like Madrid. Damn fool. He’s gonna be a dead fool if he ain’t careful. Madrid’s bigger, meaner, older and colder, nothing like this young buck. Shit. I’ll push back my hat. Maybe he’ll recognize me. Maybe this ‘would be Madrid’ will call me out. An easy victory and another notch.
Damn this is one hell of a lucky month. And there’s a little fire-head just like I wanted. I eye the ‘young lady’ as she walks down the stairs. ‘Spurs’ watches her too then tips his hat. She smiles. Well she sure as hell ain’t gonna be wrinkling the sheets with the likes of ‘Spurs’, not tonight. Fire red hair, lily white skin exactly what the doc ordered – a nice change of pace from last night’s Mex-whore.
She responds to my stare with a nod of her head, smiles, grabs a glass from the bar and then snuggles up real close to ‘Spurs’. He pushes back, all friendly like, then whispers in her ear. I feel myself start to rise, itchin’ for a fight but then she spins on her heels and smiles, a big ‘glad ta see ya boy’ grin, straight at me. She settles in the chair beside me. I fill her glass as she places her hand firmly on my leg and starts moving it north, till she reaches that fuckin’ north pole. Yup this wench is gonna do just fine.
‘Spurs’ is belly up to the bar carryin’ on a conversation with ‘Lips’ and his fuckin’ tongue. Almost seems like he likes him – go figure. Laughter rises from the two as ‘Spurs’ finishes up a story. His voice is quiet; the words don’t reach my ears. But ‘Lips’, he slams his open palm on the bar howlin’ in laughter. “You tell a fine story, Johnny, a fine story. That one gets you a drink on the house, yeseree.” ‘Lips’ keeps right on laughin’, wipin’ at his eyes and shakin’ his head as he pours ‘Spurs’ a beer.
Shit, wish this young puke would get a look at me. A quick win would make my night with ‘Fire’ all the better. How the hell does he get away with that getup? Conchos, bright shirt, low slung gun. Even goes by the name Johnny, Madrid would never use Johnny only John. Not too smart, nope, pretty damn stupid if ya ask me. Surprised this damn fool is still jinglin’ those spurs.
The doors swing open. In walks another cowboy, tall, blond and straight as a fuckin’ arrow. He’s tuggin’ off some worn yellow gloves, tucks ‘em in his belt and walks right up to “Spurs” plantin a hand real solid on his back. “Sorry I’m late, Brother.”
I hear ‘Spurs’ this time, a soft drawl like he don’t have a fuckin care in the world. “That’s ok, Scott, me and Zeke here been havin a good time. Ain’t we Zeke?”
‘Lips’ is still snickerin’ “We sure have Johnny. Beer, Scott?”
“Tastes better when it’s free there, Brother.” ‘Spurs’ taunts as he holds up his half empty mug.
“Want a little more there, Johnny?” ‘Lips’ asks.
“Don’t mind if I do,” he says as he drains the mug dry and passes it to ‘Lips’.
Can’t believe I’m watchin’ these two when I got ‘Fire’ right here with her fuckin’ tongue in my ear, but I can’t look away. There’s sumthin’ about ‘em, the way they settle in ta this nice easy conversation. Sure don‘t look much like brothers, one blond one dark, one tall the other not so much. Kinda makes me jealous, makes me miss Hank, the dumb fuck.
The saloon’s gettin’ busier now as more and more folk walk in. Each one stops and chats up ‘Spurs’ and ‘Arrow’ like they’re some kinda fuckin’ heros. Jesus fuckin’ Christ, it ain’t possible to have that many people like ya. What the hell did they do, buy everyone a god damn whore? It ain’t normal, these two smilin’ and laughin’ like that without no fightin’ or shootin’ or women hangin’ on ‘em. Damn, there goes that jealous niggle again. I’m lookin’ at two good men, men that mattered, made a difference, a rare sight in these here parts. Men you’d be proud to call friend, trust at your back. I shake my head at the foolishness. Thoughts like that’ll get ya killed. No self respectin’ gunfighter would ever be that damn stupid. Yup, that ‘Spurs’ sure as hell ain’t no Madrid. Someone of those fine upstandin’ folk should tell him not to dress like that unless, they ain’t watchin his back as much as I think.
‘Fire’ starts to pout. “Aint ya gonna pay attention to me?”
“Sure, ‘Fire’ I’ll pay you plenty of attention,” I say grabbin’ hold of one those lily white teats. “Ya know, someone ota tell that young fella at the bar not ta dress like he’s some fuckin’ pistolero. The kid’ll get himself killed one of these days.” Had no idea why I cared, guess I’m gettin soft, but he seemed kinda likable.
‘Fire’s’ voice gets real quiet. Her lips press against my ear, her breath is warm and inviting. “He is, mister. Ever hear of Johnny Madrid?”
“Madrid?” How the fuck can that be? Madrid’s the devil himself. He isn’t liked – not like this- he’s feared. He’s a loner not part of a fuckin’ family. I’m never wrong; I take pride in sizing a man up.
Reflexes take control. As long as I can remember I’ve wanted my chance against his gun. Glad it didn’t come when I was first startin out. But now, I’ve got more than a few notches on my belt and damn if he hasn’t gone soft.
“Madrid.” I say louder. I stand.
‘Fire’ starts to speak, gettin’ all bitchy. I shove her aside, send her tumbling to the floor.
‘Spurs’ pushes himself off the bar real slow and turns ‘round. Everyone gets quiet. “You ok Liz?” He asks but looks at me or at least I think he’s lookin’ at me. Still can’t see those fuckin’ eyes hidin’ under the brim of his hat.
‘Fire’ gets to her feet. “Ya, Johnny.” Then softer she’s tells him she’s sorry. Shit, even she knows he’s gone soft.
I feel my anger rise. Kick the chair. “What the fuck do you care? You’re John Fuckin’ Madrid. Meanest gunhawk ta ever walk from the fires of hell. Or you were.”
“Now take it easy, Mister, I got no beef with you.” He sounds all polite like he was at some fine dinner, meetin’ his sweetheart’s pa.
“Well, I got one with you, Madrid. Have as long as I can remember.”
He is real still, then smooth as silk reachs up and pushes his hat back and there they are, the room suddenly gets colder, but me, I’m sweatin’ like a pig on a spit. Shit.
‘Arrow’ puts a hand on ‘Spur’s’ shoulder, tries to say somethin’ but it’s waved away. He takes a step closer. “It’s not too late to just walk away, Mister. No one gets hurt. Hell, I’ll even buy ya a beer. Ain’t that right, Zeke?”
The corners of his eyes crinkle a bit, does he think this is funny? “This ain’t no joke Madrid. I’m callin’ ya out. Now!”
“I know, I know, it no joke.” His shoulders slump just a little, the cold hardness of his eyes slips, for a split second. Then it’s back. “Believe me kid, I know.”
“Ain’t no kid. Let’s do this.” I turn, walk out to the street, pick my spot, back to the sun. Shit I ain’t no fool.
He takes his position. He looks so relaxed, fingers movin’, twitchin’, dancin’.
“Whenever you’re ready.” There was no emotion in those words, no fear, no pleasure, they was just words. Words spoken too many times before and for one second, one brief second, I knew the weight of bein’ that name, the name everyone whispers.
I move fast. Lightin’ fast. There’s no one could out draw me. The shots ring out. One then another, so close they almost sound like one.
I feel no pain, but I see pain, pain in the blue eyes of the man with the sing-song walk. Confused, I tilt my head as he starts to walk toward me. I’m on my knees as ‘Spurs’ reaches out. Touches my shoulder, eases me to the ground. He kneels beside me, one knee supportin’ my back. Those eyes aren’t cold now; they’re filled with the warmth of sorrow. He looks away for a moment, says somethin’ to ‘Arrow’, then’s back. Holdin’ me. Lookin’ at me. His hands are covered in blood, my blood. He won. He fuckin’ won. I look in those eyes, those blue eyes peering out of dark skin – devil’s eyes. No, there’s no devil there, only pain and regret and the knowledge that there was no winner here today. But then, he knew that from the start, didn’t he.