By Joshua Scribner
Copyright 2016 Joshua Scribner
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This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Dan had seen other bounty hunters along the way. They were all after the same man. They were all headed in the wrong direction.
He alone knew where Limping Gerald would be. Dan needed only travel there and wait. He was deep into the new land, when he entered the woods. He moved due west until he came to a waterfall. There was the huge white boulder there that he’d expected to see. He’d never been here before, but he knew it was the right place.
It wasn’t time yet. He’d arrived early. He camped there for two nights. During the day, he caught trout from the stream and ate greedily. Then the right day came, and he stayed behind the boulder and waited.
Then night came. He gripped his shotgun tight. He knew Limping Gerald would walk right up to him.
He finally saw the outlaw. Like the medium had said he would, Limping Gerald had come visible in the moonlight.
The bounty on Limping Gerald was the biggest they’d ever put out. The tall black man, formally a slave, with his trademark limp, had shot and killed over a hundred people, men, women, even children, every last one of them white. And now a white man was going to kill him.
Dan lifted his gun and squeezed the trigger.
The blast was deafening.
Limping Gerald looked like he just crumbled to the ground.
Dan had him. He wasn’t worried about taking another shot. No one could survive a shotgun blast from that range.
He took his knife from his belt. There was no need to take in all of Limping Gerald. He need only bring the head.
He walked up and stood over the man. He took off Limping Gerald’s hat and cast it aside. He had just a second to wonder why the hat hadn’t flown off with the force of the blast.
Then the body that was supposed to be dead turned to its back. Limping Gerald drew. He fired.
A fiery pain in his right thigh caused Dan to scream.
Dan was a survivor. Instinct said to dive and roll, and he did. He rolled back to the rock and crawled behind it.
Limping Gerald’s boisterous laugh filled the air.
“Shotgun Dan. You’ve collected as many bounties as I’ve escaped bounty hunters. Very impressive. But I know your secret.”
Dan now had his pistol drawn. His mobility was extremely limited. He’d have to keep the other man talking so he’d know his location. “Oh yeah, you murderous piece of shit. What’s my secret?”
“Oh. You want to test me now. All right. That’s fine. Your secret is you visit a medium. That medium tells you your destiny. She says you’re destined to kill this or that outlaw at this time and place.”
Dan was shocked that Limping Gerald knew this. But he still wasn’t flustered. He knew what was to happen here.
“There’s something you didn’t reckon on, though. You see, I don’t use a medium. But I have other ways of seeing my destiny. And what you don’t seem to understand is that destiny is not inevitable. No, destiny is a fickle bitch.”
It wasn’t hard to keep this man talking. Gerald pretty much did it on his own. Dan wouldn’t have heard him over the waterfall had the man not had a loud, echoing voice.
“And I know your medium is good, real good.”
He was right about that. She was 57 for 57 so far.
Limping Gerald continued. “But destiny is nothing but a place at the end of the track your on. Most people are drawn to that track. They unknowingly follow it right to their destiny, whether that be good or that be bad. Your medium can see those tracks. That’s why you haven’t failed yet.”
From the sound of it, Limping Gerald was moving closer. As soon as he moved past the edge of that boulder, Dan would shoot him again. This time, the gun would work. He had no idea what had gone wrong with his shotgun.
“The thing you didn’t plan on was that I’m not like the rest of your quarry. I knew what track I was on. I was to be killed by you tonight, by a waterfall with a huge white boulder nearby. Knowing this, seeing my track that is, I showed up a few days early. I could have just shot you in your sleep, but what fun would that have been. Instead, I just replaced your shotgun load with a blank shot. All it did was make a lot of noise.”
Dan hated to think that was right. It seemed like it could be right, though. His shotgun had never misfired.
“I didn’t mess with the pistol, though. I thought it would be more fun to give you a fighting chance.”
It sounded like Limping Gerald was right on the other side of the bolder. That was where Dan had the pistol aimed.
“As soon as I come around the corner of the rock, I’m going to fire. If I’m faster than you, I’ll win. If you’re faster, you’ll win. I’m going to shut up now. You’ll have to be ready.”
The pain in his leg was searing. But Dan had trained himself to perform with intense pain. He knew he could do this.
He waited. He kept his eyes trained ahead, made it his whole world. He knew he could win. He didn’t only rely on his medium. He was also a really good gunfighter.
He saw the silhouette of the man come around the boulder. He fired and got three shots off.
This time, Limping Gerald didn’t bother falling down. “You stupid cowboy. Do you really think I’d come all this way to engage in a fight I could lose. I put blanks in your pistol too. We can only leap so far from the track we’re on. My new track said a man would die here tonight. It would be a man with a hurt leg and no real weapons. We both have a hurt leg now.”
He could make out the silhouette of Limping Gerald’s raised pistol.
“But my weapon still works just fine,” Gerald said.
There was a flash and a crack. Dan couldn’t feel his leg anymore. He couldn’t feel anything.
About the Author
Joshua Scribner is the author of 18 published novels and five 50-story collections. He currently lives in Michigan.