Forget My Name

Forget My Name

A Story by TheTragicOffense
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Another town, another legend written in blood

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  Flash. Silence. Roar.

  The man rode into town, just ahead of the storm clouds crossing the plain. Bearing down on the small town of Greensville angrily, darkening the sky and announcing its descent with the roar of thunder and flash of lightning.

  The man, his black trench coat billowing out behind him, sped across the plain. He had spent the past two days since his flight from Morose City riding ahead of the rain, but now it had caught him. Or nearly had, looking behind he could see a wall of raindrops closing in on him.

  He guided his horse into the stable of the town, hopping off with practiced ease. He paid the keeper a golden coin and left the steed in the big man’s care. “Will you feed her for me?” He asked of the Stable owner, his voice gravely and worn.

  The man nodded, a look of wariness in his eyes, unsure of the intentions of this man in black. “Surely sir,” he croaked out from beneath his gentleman’s mustache. “Thank ye sir.”

  The man in black did not acknowledge the man further; instead he turned and walked out of the building and into the windy streets. He walked quickly to the saloon he’d spied as he rode through. It was a small, dingy place with the stereotypical swinging doors.

  He pushed through them to see a room full of people. He looked down as he walked to the bar and ordered a bottle of whiskey, taking it and a shot glass to a table in the corner of the room near a window.

  Usually, he was only comfortable if he had his back to a wall, but today he wanted to watch the clouds roll in and this window offered a perfect view of the looming behemoth.

  He poured a shot of the whiskey and drank it in a single go as the shadow loomed over the town and the downpour began. The rain, plowing into the roof made a loud crackling sound. Outside the darkness grew even deeper as the sun began setting and the clouds thickened.

  The sounds of the saloon around him went on as usual. At the bar a drunkard was trying to talk up a bar girl, but she wasn’t having any of it. Along the wall opposite the bar were four round tables, the one nearest the door was empty, the next one down provided a home to a lively poker game with five players, and the third, the one closest to him was filled four with old men talking with an accent so thick that it was a chore to understand what they were saying to each other, though they didn’t seem to notice at all.

  The bartender was moving along the bar pouring shots to the five customers including the drunkard and the bar girl. At the end of the bar there was a wall; on the other side of the wall was a staircase that sat directly across from the man in black.

  Along the space between the bar and the tables were three evenly spaced support beams, each with a lantern attached. The lanterns now provided more light for the inside of the saloon than the sun did.

  He took another shot of his drink as he took in his surroundings; the liquid burned his throat and sent a sharp spike of pain through his brain. The damn headaches wouldn’t leave him be, it felt as if someone were sticking their thumb into his left eye all the way through to the back of his skull. He’d had the pain periodically since he was a child but they were worse now as an adult, especially when he was tired, as he was now. He’d ridden hard, and slept little. He hoped to get a room somewhere in town for the night. He could leave tomorrow afternoon, after he and his horse had rested. He had nowhere to be in a hurry, and doubted the storm could last much longer.

  He closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair, rubbing his temples with either hand. Maybe he would get the room sooner rather than later.

  Lightning flashed outside the window, lighting up the room, the succeeding thunder shook the floor and rattled the walls as the sound waves moved through the town. It was practically night already, there was very little light outside now, only a bluish half-light that gave the streets an eerie quality.

  The room grew quieter, as if the thunder was some god, demanding a more solemn crowd. He could hear the poker game continuing, and the old men still chattered, but now it was all in hushed whispers instead of the raucous volume of before.

  Then, breaking the muted solemnity of the room came a loud, half drunken voice, “Well! I’ll be damned. Fellows, we got ourselves an outsider.” The man was standing right behind him.

  His gut clenched, Just ignore him, he thought. He could feel the tension in the room mounting, people were unsure what this man would do, which meant he was liable to do something stupid, and if he did they would probably side with a friend rather than a stranger who brought storm clouds on his heels.

  “Hey, you o’er there! How about you turn around and face the rest of us,” the man yelled, closer now then he had been moments ago.

  He tensed as he heard the footsteps closing in, and prayed his instincts were wrong and that this wasn’t about to go very badly. His instincts, however, were never wrong.

  “I don’t want no trouble friend,” he said slowly, not looking at the man. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d like to just watch the storm until it passes.”

  “I aint your friend!” The drunk replied callously, if he had to guess from the voice, the man in black would bet that this was the bigger patron who’d been sitting at the bar. “Now turn aroun’ so I can see yer face.”

  The man in black laughed halfheartedly, “Forget my face, you wouldn’t be impressed.”

  The drunk was standing right behind him now, and he was prepared for what was coming next. A big, meaty hand landed on his shoulder, pulling him out of his chair and spinning him around. Bad move, the man in black thought, as he grabbed the big guy’s wrist in one hand and elbow in the other and twisted, hard. Hard enough to create a loud popping sound, and before the sound had finished echoing through the room he had placed a pistol in the man’s gut. “I don’t want no-“ The rest of his sentence was drown out by the man’s wailing. Apparently the booze had turned the giant into a little girl.

  Bad move, he thought to himself, holstering his gun and letting the big guy fall to the floor. He looked around the room at the other patrons. All eyes were locked on him now, and half of the people in the room had a finger or more on their steel. “I don’t want any trouble folks,” he said, raising his hands above his head in a display of surrender.

  Then, the worst thing that could happen happened. One of the men at the bar, who had his whole hand wrapped around his pistol said, “Hey, aint that Jack the Whip?” A stupid name, one he would never have chosen for himself. But no one had asked him.

  Before he could deny the claim one of the poker players replied, “He’s got the scar.” Referring to the scar running down the man in black’s face, starting above the eye brow and running all the way down his face, an unfortunately hard to hide identifier.

  A third man, another poker player added, “That poster down at the sheriff’s place says he’s worth five thousand dead.” The poker player’s hand moved beneath the table for a moment before he realized what he was doing and stopped, turning his head to avoid Jack’s gaze.

  Hands still raised in the air, Jack corrected, “No, no, no my friend. You’re mistaken, I’m not THAT wanted. It’s only four thousand, and it’s alive. Not dead.” He hoped that bit of news would keep anyone from firing prematurely.

  Jack was sure he could outdraw any of them, in fact, given enough ammo he was sure he could kill half of them before a single one cleared leather, and kill the rest before more than one or two pulled a trigger. However, he only had two six shooters, and he counted thirteen dangerous targets. So even if he killed a man with each shot he would still have one armed man, a broken armed drunk, and a bar girl who may or may not have a gun to deal with.

  A fourth man piped in, this one from the bar, “He’s right, it’s four thousand alive and three thousand dead.”

  Jack had left that part out on purpose, because to backwater folks like these, the difference between three and four thousand just didn’t compute. They both fell under the category of ‘A lot of money.’

  As he looked from eyes to eyes of the men around the room he got a sinking feeling that this was going to end badly for someone. He stepped backwards a step keeping his hands raised, still hoping for a peaceful solution. “Let me warn you folks, I’m fast.”

  A man at the bar raised his glass in a salute, “He is fast.”

  Well, no worries about that one, Jack thought. “I don’t want to kill anyone tonight,” he continued, as his mind spun around in circles, trying to find a way out of this particular situation. He looked out the window at the darkened world, and then had an idea. “See, because before my ma died, God rest her soul, she asked that I never kill a man on Sunday, y’know, to honor the Lord’s Day an’ all. And I promised that I wouldn’t.”

  This brought a thicker silence to the room, as each of the men looked at each other. Then the drunk who’d saluted him a moment ago began counting on his fingers. Then, looking up he said in a slurred voice, “But sir, today is Tuesday.”

  “Is it?” Jack asked with a grin. “Well, then you’re already dead.” Instantly, his hands were no longer raised and they instead were stretched outright with a pistol in each, and before a single man could begin pulling on his own weapon four shots rang out, and the sound of shattering glass followed as the room fell into darkness.

  Jack pounded up the stairs as several shots rang out in the room below. He heard someone cry out in pain as if they’d been hit, as well as the general sounds of crashing drunkards and shouts of anger and confusion. He threw his whole weight against the first door on his right, breaking the lock off and pushing through. It was empty, so he ran across the room and pulled the window up, slipping through and sliding down the shingles of the roof. Landing in a well-practiced roll on the wet sand outside as the rain pounded down on his head.

 It took only moments for the rain to soak through all his clothing and reach his skin as he headed towards the stables. The falling rain was thick; he could only see a few feet ahead as he ran down the empty streets. It would be hell riding out of town in this weather.

  He reached the stable door and began to pull it open, just as he heard someone shout over the rain, “Hold it there Whip!”

  He had half a mind to ignore the voice and take a chance on whoever it belonged to missing their shot. The other side of his mind prevailed and he slowly turned to face the man. Or, as it turned out, boy would be a more accurate description. The kid standing only a dozen feet away couldn’t have been more than sixteen or seventeen, even through the rain Jack could see this.

  The boy with his wide brim hat and his holster at his hip, hand just above the butt of the pistol in it. “You aint goin nowhere.”

  Jack frowned at the kid, he was tired of killing people who didn’t need to die, sick of killing people just because they wanted to know if they were the best at killing. It was a vicious circle Jack had entered into when he was not much older than the child who stood before him. Once you entered the contest, there was no turning back, it was kill or be killed for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, Jack had discovered that he was, in fact, the best at this game, and that that was more costly than being bad at it. “You don’t want to do this kid, this life aint worth it.”

  The boy was smiling, “I hear yer pretty fast.”

  Jack’s frown deepened and his shoulders slumped, “That’s what they say. What’s your name kid?”

  “My mama called me Paul, but you can call me the Viper,” the boy said, all the fingers on his right hand twitching as he held them above his iron.

  “The Viper huh?” Jack asked, looking around at the crowd that had gathered on the porches and covered walk ways all around. These bloodbaths were always a spectator’s event.

  “So why don’ you an’ me see which is faster, the viper or the whip?”

  “Son, you don’t want to die in the rain, and I don’t want your mama’s tears on my conscience. So how about you let me go, and I’ll let you say you won huh? I’ll even spread the word everywhere I go that Paul the Viper is the fastest gun in the whole world. How does that sound?”

  The kid laughed, “Nah, you aint gettin’ outa this that easy. I’m callin’ you out. So come on and face me like a man, or I’ll just shoot you down anyway.”

  Jack the Whip felt the weight of the world on his shoulders. This boy would be ninety one. The ninety-first man he’d killed in this game. “I see. Well then, I guess this ends one of two ways huh kid?”

  There was no response other than the kid’s hovering hand.

  The night was dark, and cold, it was hard to see through the rain, so Jack closed his eyes, using them would only slow him down. Instead he listened hard. There was a very distinct sound that Jack had learned to hate during duels, it was that sound of leather on iron, and it was distinct. Odds were, the kid would draw first, he was scared and inexperienced, and when he did Jack would hear. All Jack had to do was wait for the sound, then draw, aim, and fire before the kid got him.

  Easy.

  His heart rate slowed as he listened, his breathing became deeper, helping him concentrate, helping him to stay calm. Death had become a real entity at these events, standing just off to the side, waiting to see which man he would get to claim.

  He heard sand crunch to the boy’s left, so he took a step to the right, keeping them on equal footing. He could hear the boy’s nervous breathing even through the hard rainfall, could hear the anticipation of the draw in the way it hitched and caught before returning to normal. The boy was panicky, he’d draw very soon.

  Then, the sound. Elongated, Paul was slow.

  Before the Viper’s six-shooter had cleared its holster, Jack had opened his eyes, drawn his gun and fired once. A bullet slammed through the kid, throwing him backwards onto the wet sand, blood emitting from the hole where the slug had entered through flesh. It was a tragic way for a young life to end, and that thought was not lost on the Whip.

  Jack stood, gun in hand and stared as the boy writhed on the wet sand, slowly dying as his blood gushed, mixing with the rain. The boy was moaning, sobbing, scared of the next few seconds, and scared because he knew what would come after those few seconds were up.

  The man in black watched until the boy stopped moving, then he slowly turned and opened the door into the stable. He walked to his horse and placed the saddle on her back, “Hope you got enough to eat sweetheart.”

  He drew his knife from the sheath on his belt and pulled up his sleeve past his bicep. His entire left arm was covered in scars shaped like hash marks, where he’d cut into himself for every man he’d killed. One for each life he’d ended, for each tragedy he’d caused.

  He sliced a new line just above his bicep, flinching as he did so. The blood began running instantly, but he did not stop to stifle it. Instead, he pulled his sleeve down and climbed onto his horse. “Come on, let’s go,” he whispered, as he guided the horse out of the stable and down the road. By now the boy’s loved ones had been called and were now weeping and wailing over his corpse. A mother and a girl around the same age, maybe a sister, or a friend.

  Jack could not look at either of them, instead he just looked straight ahead, praying one of those women were armed and would take vengeance by placing a bullet in his back.

  The townspeople who had gathered to watch stared at him reverently, as if some demigod were passing by. Another town, another legend written in blood.

  There was no sunset to ride off into, but that was for heroes anyway. So Jack the Whip just kicked his horse into a gallop and rode on through the storm.

  Tomorrow he’d arrive at another town, and there’d be another man to kill. Because that was the price you paid out here in the old west. That was the price of being remembered.

  The rain continued to fall obliviously.

© 2012 TheTragicOffense


Author's Note

TheTragicOffense
Any criticism is appreciated.

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mI just reviewed two of your newer stories and didn't even know who wrote them. You must be pretty good to attract my attention twice.

Posted 7 Years Ago


TheTragicOffense

7 Years Ago

Thanks for the compliment.
This hasn't been reviewed because it's long, and people like shorter pieces. But it's very good. I read it because of something else you wrote, which i didn't review, but which impressed me.

Posted 8 Years Ago



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Added on March 28, 2012
Last Updated on March 28, 2012
Tags: old west western shoot out six s

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TheTragicOffense
TheTragicOffense

Jacksonville, AR



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