(With thanks to my betas, Terri Derr and Suzanne Lyte.)
He’d nearly wet himself. Pa would’ve been so ashamed. And the others would’ve laughed and called him a coward. At least he’d been strong enough to avoid that humiliation.
They didn’t know what it felt like though: a bullet throbbing in your shoulder and the gun barrel still warm from firing pressed up against your throat.
They didn’t know what it felt like to be used as a human shield: Lancer’s breath fanning the sweat on your neck and not knowing for sure if one of your gang would try a lucky shot and get you killed.
And his eyes—Davy only risked one glance. That was enough. He knew what Lancer saw: a dog turd he’d been forced to pick up.
No, Pa and the others didn’t know what it was like then, and they wouldn’t have the faintest idea what it was like later when the bartender told him the truth.
“Johnny Lancer was the pistolero Johnny Madrid. Didn’t you know?”
Davy nearly wet himself.
He hadn’t seen what happened. He knew Eli drew first, but from what Pa said, Lancer had been lucky. Davy hadn’t relied on luck. He’d gone with gun in hand, prepared to avenge his brother. But he’d gone to face a cowboy not a gunfighter.
“Only a fool would pull a gun on Johnny Madrid.” The fucking bartender thought it was a huge joke. He even bought Davy a drink. “To celebrate your narrow escape, boy.”
Everyone laughed—except Pa. He downed his whisky and left.
But Davy laughed. Gotta laugh or you’d cry, Davy boy.
His innards lasted long enough to get out back of the saloon and undo his fly. Then he threw up where he pissed and thanked God he hadn’t ended up like Eli.
He sauntered back inside.
He hid his fear like a man.
But you ain’t got the same control when you’re asleep.
No one saw him when he left camp. His pa and the other men would never know.
He got up out of the stream, pants drenched, and returned to camp. He’d gone down to fetch water and slipped—right?
Davy Stryker knew he was a coward—but maybe he wasn’t a fool anymore.