“Don’t you be cheeky now boy,” the Sheriff drawled in his slow southern accent. “When you tried to rob that bank you knew the punishment. Now you walk twenty five paces when I say so and then you turn and draw. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, Sheriff,” the bumbling teenager replied nervously and swallowed what little saliva remained in his dry mouth.
The sheriff adjusted his belt with one hand and the front of his hat with the other as he glanced out of the corner of his left eye. He caught the eye of his deputy and they nodded slightly at each other. “How many paces are you going to walk boy?”
“Twe… Twenty five,” the boy mumbled incoherently as he continued to stare at the point of his boots.
“You best have said twenty five or my trusty deputies here will make sure you don’t take another step,” the sheriff stated as he pointed in a circle at the four deputies, including the one who was about to duel the boy.
There was nobody else was watching what was about to happen. This was the police’s show and they didn’t want anybody to see if they had to get a little creative. So the sheriff had ordered everyone to leave town for an hour.
The boy nodded violently and it almost threw his hat to the ground.
“Alright then, let’s get down to business,” the sheriff said and looped his thumbs over his belt as he took three paces backwards. He stopped in the shade of the awning overhanging the front of the police station and nodded.
The deputy and the boy turned around so they were facing opposite directions. The boy looked nervously over his shoulder towards the sheriff and then took a tentative step forward as the sheriff called, “One”.
As the sheriff counted the deputy strode forward with his back straight and his head held high. Unlike the deputy the boy ambled forwards cautiously watching the sheriff until the twentieth step. On twenty one the boy looked down at his feet, glancing at his belt before his eyes hit the ground. His right hand trembled at his thigh, his fingers twitching and his palm sweating. The last four numbers didn’t even reach the boy’s ears, but it didn’t matter because his body had fallen into the rhythm. The noise of his boots pounding into the dry earth echoed all around him and his pounding heart tried to explode from his chest.
When his boot hit the ground for the twenty fifth step Steely James – not a timid young boy at all but the baddest, fastest son of a gun in all of the west – spun to his left, pivoting on his toes. His right hand flashed upwards past his belt; his thumb popped the clasp from the holster and his bottom three fingers rested beneath the grip of his pistol. The speed of the motion seated the pistol into the palm of his hand and his index finger slotted onto the trigger. He was applying a steady squeeze onto the trigger before he had levelled the pistol. By the time the barrel was aimed fifty five paces down the street towards the deputy’s chest the trigger was fully depressed.
A smile spread across Steely James’ face as he slowly raised the pistol towards his mouth. He blew the wafting smoke from the the barrel and winked at the deputy.
The deputy’s head dropped and he looked at his chest and then at the pistol in his hand. There was a spreading pool of blood in the centre of his shirt and his pistol was aimed slightly below the horizontal. He hadn’t even managed to finish aiming before he had been hit. The pistol dropped from his hand as he looked towards the sheriff before he collapsed with a thud in the dirt.
The sheriff’s mouth fell open and he walked his gaze down the street until his eyes fell upon the boy. A broad smile was staring him right in the face as Steely James tipped his hat backwards and winked.
Steely James holstered his pistol, and keeping his fingers on the side of the pistol grip rested his thumb on the hammer. All around him the deputies moved their hands towards their holsters as the sheriff reached for his own.
“Don’t go doing anything rash now sheriff,” Steely James said assuredly. “I wouldn’t want that backwards step you took to be your last.”
The sheriff walked forward slowly, keeping his hand near his pistol and stopped in the middle of the road facing the boy. “You’re in no position to be threatening me boy.” He clenched and unclenched his left hand and all of the deputies drew their weapons and aimed at Steely James.
“This time I did not break the law sheriff. As a man of the law you know that I have earned my freedom. Move to touch your pistol and I have free right to protect myself.”
“You might have stopped my deputy boy, but you will not stop all of us. Now you turn around and walk out of my town and I will have no grievances with you.”
“I’m afraid sheriff that is just not possible,” Steely James stated frankly as he dropped his right knee to the ground. Before he even made contact his pistol was aimed straight at the sheriff’s head. He spun the chamber a click clockwise and cocked the hammer. He fired the first shot as he rolled to his right and took his eyes off the sheriff. Without even confirming if his bullet had hit he aimed at the deputy closest to the sheriff. He spun the chamber, cocked and fired three times in quick succession, dropping the deputies before they even had the chance to flinch.
Unseating the chamber he poured the brass into his gloved left hand. He holstered the pistol without reloading and placed the empty brass in his left pocket. Finally looking up he saw the bodies of the entire town’s police force lying in the dirt.
He strolled forward and kneeling down beside the sheriff unclasped the gold star from the man’s belt. After wiping it on his chest to remove the layer of dirt and grime he pushed it onto his own belt. Standing, he spun around in the middle of the street, surveying the quaint little town.
I’m going to enjoy this place, he thought, but they’re not going to enjoy me.