(Lancer Writers Yahoo Group — March 2014 Challenge)
Pardee is an English name. Not many folks where Day grew up knew that. He only knew it because his momma told him a few hours before she died. “A body should know his roots,” she said.
Day’s momma called him ‘Day’ after the man who fathered him. She didn’t know no more, but he was very handsome and respectable-like. Just passing through. Paid her twice the normal fee, because she was good at her trade. “There are only two ways you get respect and power in this world, son,” she said. “Having money or being good at your trade.”
Day was aiming to achieve both.
The San Antonio Orphanage was all right: regular meals, schooling and folks in charge too pious to recognise what was going on. Day learned early who actually ruled the roost. He watched real close when he first arrived. Wasn’t the superintendent or matron but one of the bigger kids. Had everyone just where he wanted them. Tough bastard. Knew how to fight, but didn’t do it very often. Just enough to scare some of the lesser tough guys, the bullies, the ones with more brawn than brains. The top dog picked when and where he’d fight to his own advantage. He used his head more than his fists. Then got others to use their fists when needed. Better that way. They took the fall if things went wrong. Day liked that. Maximum power for minimum effort. Day stayed in the background. When the bigger kid left the orphanage, Day took over.
When Day turned twelve the orphanage indentured him to a farmer for four years. Mean son of a bitch, but a bully not a brain. Day didn’t take much to farming, but he learned to use a gun while he was there. Heard stories about shootists too. Met a couple. Watched the way people behaved when they were in town, respectful, fearful. Saw how the pistoleros always had money. Everyone gave them respect. The bigger the reputation, the bigger the respect. Day liked that. Maximum power for minimum effort. Day kept a low profile and practised using the farmer’s gun when the old man was too drunk to notice—pretty much most days. Then he shortened his indenture and established his reputation all at the same time—in self-defence of course.
Day helped himself to the farmer’s nag and rode south, criss-crossing the Mexican border. Got work using a gun. Learned his trade. Fought in range wars with skilled tradesmen, some real young like him: Mitch Weaver, Ned Travis and Madrid. Johnny Madrid—Whooee, now he could shoot. Better than Day maybe, but Day was too smart to test that out. Worked together down near Nogales, nasty work but good money.
Day would do anything if the price was right. Madrid wouldn’t. Unpredictable and dangerous, but Day had heard Madrid got himself killed helping peasants. The world was divided into predators and victims. Those that tried to defend victims went down with them. Day would never make that mistake. He would only ever defend Day Pardee. He was always on the alert for other shootists looking for him, but he only feared those who were as fast as he was. They were rare. Rarer still were predators that came back from the dead. Day Pardee had to be sure he was not in danger. “Madrid, are you looking for me?”