My fists clenched the front of his shirt with a painful amount of strength. Slamming him against the wall only made him squeal like a pig and wish a worse fate upon his sorry state. The way I was feeling I was happy to put him through such a fate. I threw him to the side, into the corner of the room, pointing my revolver at his stumbling form, firing without a moment’s hesitation. The sorry-excuse of a man collapsed dead in his stumbling and I yelled my anger with the roar of the gun.
“Julia!” I yelled.
I turned to the door and marched forward, shouldering it open as I re-loaded the revolver.
“Pa!” Julia called to me, running towards me from the barn, a glint of fear, but no tears. She gave that up last year.
“Julia, horse, now!” I ordered.
She stuck to my heels as we walked until we reached the horse. It tapped its hooves, animalistic fear running through it upon hearing the shots, perhaps it was my demeanor. It calmed down at the sight of the girl and I took advantage of the calm and climbed on, pulling the child onto the saddle in front of me. Without hindrance we began the gallop away from the land I had come to love. No more, thanks to the law of this state I am back on the hangman’s list.
“Where are we going?”
I didn’t answer and she didn’t ask again. I took me a long moment of thought, replaying the situation again and again, before realizing the girl had called me ‘Pa’. Pushing it from my mind after this recollection was beyond me so I grunted at the thought and turned my attention to a destination other than west.
The nearest town was a no-go; no doubt that was where the lawmen came from and no doubt where the sheriff’s buddy escaped to during the fight. It was a grim and short encounter, but it was going to end that way, despite their best efforts. Aside from that town there were settlements along the main road as well as some easy detours. I swallowed my last thoughts of food as it was going to be long trip before we could rest up.
“Pa!” Julia yelled once more.
I snapped out of my thoughts to hear what she did; the sound of pursuing horses and the familiar of clicking guns. Once more she had said ‘Pa’ and once more I did not chastise her, but instead turn my head, pointing my revolver under my arm as it gripped the reins. Keeping the horse under-control was easy with her, but shooting was all me. There were three riders and the closest who had his gun pointed at my back was the first to feel cold metal run him through and strike him dead.
He fell to the side, his leg caught in the straps of the saddle, swinging him beneath the horse. The painful entanglement caused the horse to stumble and soon buckle. I heard a bone or two break in the fall and soon the first rider disappeared into the cloud of dust that followed. The next tow riders were more cautious, but I wasn’t the warning-shot type; the next fall of the hammer had the second slumping over as a stream of red flowed from the back of his head.
The third felt hatred towards me, I could see it in his eyes as his fellow riders died so suddenly. However, the fear of God entered him when his eyes saw mine. He slowed down, backing away, but I wasn’t merciful. Witnesses gave me these problems to begin with, no more. I had him in my sights for a moment in the sights, but it was Julia who stopped me. She pulled my focus back to where the horse was going.
We were heading down a treacherous path; uneven path and from what I could see, there were holes, most likely done by moles. That spelled death for the horse, so I pulled the reins sharply to a stop and the horse did just that. We slowed down fast and immediately I climbed down from the horse while Julia held the reins, patting the side of the horse’s neck to keep him calm.
The third lawman stopped not far off and I pointed my gun in his direction. He did not move, knowing that his next move would decide what was to come.
“Do you want to die, son?” I asked moving closer, my finger feeling a little heavier with each step.
“No, I don’t, but…” the lawman began.
“Your next words best be ‘my horse won’t move’ or I swear…” I spat.
“What?” I yelled without taking my eyes away from the lawman.
“No more killin’, we can go,” Julia told me. “You won’t kill him, will you, mister?”
I kept quiet and stared at the lawman with fierceness. His eyes darted from Julia to me.
“The girl asked you a question, waistcoat,” I reminded him in case he forgot.
“I can’t let the Devil’s child run free, girl,” the lawman replied shakily, although I had to admire such bravery in the face of death.
“Then you get what you get,” Julia told him with a voice so innocent the words felt colder.
His jaw dropped and he looked to me, probably the first look I ever received as a father than as a wanted man. I shrugged in reply and pulled the trigger. His body hit the ground on the other side of the horse. He didn’t have a chance in hell, but hearing Julia sentence him to death did make me feel uneasy in the moment. I climbed back onto the horse and we continued down a safer path.
“Will we ever find a place where we can stay?” Julia asked meekly.
“Who knows, you might get lucky this time,” I muttered.
“What about you?”
Once more I ignored her question; however, I did ask one of my own.
“When did you start calling me ‘Pa’?”
“When you started using my name and not ‘girl’”
For once this whole encounter I smirked, however brief it was.