Last Chance Saloon

Entry by: Corone

25th November 2015
Last Chance Saloon

The stranger was sitting at the bar, just as Garrick had been told. He even had his back to the door. Garrick could shoot him right there and then. But there’d be another one sooner or later. There was always another.

He tipped his hat to Jed and Frank as he walked towards the stranger. They were playing cards with some of the hands from the Camberson ranch. Jed tapped his gun as Garrick walked past, but Garrick shook his head. He didn’t want any more bloodshed than there had to be today. He knew the names and the families of everyone in this dusty saloon. He didn’t want to be telling anyone’s mother why their son wasn’t coming home tonight.

The stranger barely looked up as Garrick took a seat on the bar stool next to him.

“Whisky,” said Garrick to the bartender, who slid a dusty bottle and a cloudy glass towards him along the bar. He met the gaze of the stranger in the mirror behind the bar as he poured himself a drink. “So you’re the one who’s come to kill me?”

“I don’t have to be,” replied the stranger. “You come quietly you’re worth as much to me alive as dead.”

“They’ll hang me anyway so what’s the difference?”

“I won’t have to carry you.”

“Well son, I’m sorry to tell you I’ve got no intension of ending my days at the end of a rope.”

The stranger allowed his hand to slide towards his gun.

“Oh hush yourself son,” said Garrick. “I’m an old man. If I was going to make a fuss I’d have shot you already. How did you find me anyway?”

“Luck mostly,” answered the stranger. “Not many folks would trail you this far out into the frontier. Why did you pick this place?”

“I liked the name, ‘Redemption’ sounded like a good place to start again.”

“Just about every other town out here is called Redemption, and the rest are called Paradise. I ain’t seen nothing worthy of the name in any of them.”

“Then I’m thinking bounty huntin’ has made you a pessimist son.”

“I don’t get to keep company with the best folks old man, that’s true.”

The stranger finished his drink and turned to face Garrick. He was a young man, but with a face weathered by experience. The gun at his side was clean and well kept, the holster worn with use. A long time ago Garrick would have cut a similar figure, albeit one on the other side of the law.

“So old man, how is this going to go down? I’d rather take you in alive, but I’m taking you in either way. I’m giving you one last chance to come quietly.”

“I used up my last chances a long time ago boy. Been running on last chances most of my life. I take it as a kindness that it took someone like you so long to find me. There’s always been a bullet with my name on it out there somewhere. I ain’t gonna cheat it by hanging from a rope.”

The stranger stood up and put his hand by his gun. Garrick finished his whisky and got up from his stool too.

“Outside though son. I don’t want to see anyone else get hurt.”

As Garrick and the stranger walked outside, Jed and Frank stood up, along with some of the other men in the bar. With a smile, Garrick noticed even Peggy May had picked up a shotgun and stood ready at the back.

“Easy boys,” said Garrick. “Man’s got a warrant.”

The stranger gently pulled out a piece of weathered paper from his jacket. It fell open to show a picture of Garrick as a young man. But it was a wave of Garrick’s hand that got the patrons in the saloon to take their hands from their weapons. Garrick nodded to the stranger to follow and they stepped out through the swing doors into the sunlight. The crowd in the bar followed them out, like a small stream flooding into the dusty street.

Garrick and the stranger took up their positions facing each other a few paces apart in the centre of the street. The crowd from the saloon along with a few passers-by carefully lined the wooden porches of the shops and houses that made up the long main street. A few hurried away, eager to avoid the imminent gun fight.

Garrick looked up to feel the sun on his face and smiled. The stranger stood facing him, tense and focused, his hand close to his gun. Garrick noticed how tense he looked and remembered that feeling, but then the stranger had more to lose. Garrick gently pulled back his long coat to clear it from his own gun and saw the stranger shift his stance in anticipation. The whole town fell silent as their eyes met.

It was Garrick who went for his gun first, but at the last moment he paused for the briefest of moments. He wondered in that moment if he wanted to carry on, if he had any right to kill another young man so he could remain alive until the next one came to find him. The split second pause was all the stranger needed.

Before Garrick’s gun had cleared the holster he felt three bullets hammer into his chest. He tottered backwards and sank to his knees. He went to tip his hat to the stranger, but fell dead to the ground before he could raise his hand.
Jed was already running up to the stranger before Garrick hit the ground. But he paused when the stranger levelled his gun at him.

“You’d better give me a look at that gorram warrant bill or you’ll not be walking out of here,” said Jed.

The stranger said nothing but handed him the bill. It clearly pictured Garrick, with a reward posted under the picture and a list of his crimes. Murder was the least of them. Jed stood there amazed; it was nothing like the man he knew.
The stranger reached into Garrick’s coat and plucked off the tin star that was pinned to his waistcoat. He tossed it to Jed.

“Looks like your town needs a new Sheriff,” he said.

“He was a good man,” said Jed.

“Maybe he was. But the past always catches you, and he had his last chance a long time ago.”