Ulysses’ canteen ran dry yesterday at noon. Both he and his horse had suffered ever since. Finding the town was a Godsend. Another day and he would have had to give up tracking Blane. But even from a mile away, Ulysses could see the wooden shells and dust that made more of an outpost than real city.
A half hour later, the bounty hunter drug into the city as the sun began its fall into the western horizon. Its decent offered only the slightest relief. What really refreshed Ulysses’ spirit was the idea of a bath and a meal.
Ulysses brought his horse to a halt in front of a small saloon. His horse went straight to the shallow trough as the older man pulled his heavy boots up the steps. It wasn’t cool inside but it was out of the sun. Ulysses pulled out a silver quarter and set it on the bar.
“Water. As cool and clean as I can get it.”
The barkeep offered him a glass as well as a pitcher.
A moment later, the door opened. Only a few even bothered to look up as Blane stepped into the tavern. He had his revolver holstered and set so he could draw it quickly.
Ulysses took in the water as if he was discovering it for the first time. He didn’t care that he stunk of sweat and the filth that clings to the human body. All that mattered was the relief he felt with each swallow.
Then he looked into the filmy mirror set along the wall behind the bottles of whisky. Blane was almost on top of him! Ulysses spun and had his gun out instantly. Two shots were fired in quick succession. Both bullets stuck Blane in the chest just below the left shoulder. They were fatal shots for a normal man.
Patrons jumped up; the backs of the chairs hitting the floor. Shouts and curses came from most. A few drew weapons but weren’t fired. No one recognized either man.
“You’re a bit slow Ulysses!” Blane’s fingers were made from shifting sand. He bought them up to new holes in his leather vest. Then he reached into the smoking holes and pulled out both bullets. “I believe these are yours.”
Ulysses knew he was in trouble. No one in the room was going to help him. They were all dumbstruck by the instant change in the other man. Many had their backs to the walls.
With his free hand, Ulysses grabbed the glass of water he had been drinking. At the same time, he raised his revolver and aimed for the oil hat on Blane’s head.
The outlaw saw the look in Ulysses’ eyes. “No you don’t.” He brought his free hand up and over his hat. A bullet tore through one side. Blane ducked and anther bullet grazed the sand that made up the side of his face.
The water came next. The glass broke as it hit Blane in the chest and water went down his shirt, and pants.”
Anther bullet hit Blane in his right leg. Someone else was trying to end the fight before someone was killed. It was a disturbance the bandit didn’t need.
The outlaw fired a shot into the mirror just past Ulysses head. It shattered bringing everyone to silence. “Get out! All of you get out! This man’s hide is mine and I’ll take yours too if you’re still in here once I loose my patience!”
No one tarried. Even the barkeep followed the crowd as they tried to exit as fast as they could. Blane turned back to Ulysses and had the revolver shot out his hand.
Blane reacted with amusement. “Are we done now?”
Blane reached down to picked up his gun and Ulysses fired again. This time succeeding in taking the other man’s hat off.
Ulysses grabbed the entire water pitcher and tossed it at Blane. The outlaw sidestepped the tin container. It hit the floor with a thud and clatter sending water all over the floor.
“Wow, you’re fast!” Blane laughed as he straightened. “Frankly, I’d have to say you’re the best shot and fastest draw I’ve ever seen! I tell you what. I’ll go ahead and give you that open shot you wanted.”
The thief’s body shimmered a moment and the sand was replaced by flesh. “There, now it’s fair.”
Ulysses kept his revolver pointed at Blane. “I’m surprised you’ve given up. You were winning you know.”
“Friend, I already have won.” He pointed to the bounty hunters gun. “That revolver you’ve got there only holds six bullets and do you know how many you’ve rattled off?”
Ulysses face went blank for a moment and set his gun on the counter. He took off his hat with both hands and held it over his heart. His gray head hung low.
“Like I was saying, let’s finish this.” Blane started bringing his gun up. “I’ve still got work to do here in this town.”
A final shot was fired. This one found its resting place right in Blane’s chest. Without another breath the outlaw fell to the floor.
The old bounty hunter moved the hat held with a single hand. His other hand held the small gun he had pulled from his vest.
“You know Blane, real cowboys carry more than one gun.”