"It's days like these that have me questioning everything under the sun!" the man in black yelled.
I wiped the blood from my beaten lip and pushed myself off the wall. Even in the shadows of the cave he must have seen me or he expected me to strike. The punch I threw was miles away from his jaw, but his punch hit its mark.
I fell to the ground, coughing as I held my chest. He threw a heavy punch.
"You see, people like you give me a bad name," the man in black continued, huffing. "I have a reputation for killing the bad man. I mean the bad men and that don't seem to be you."
A boot stomped inches from my face and I flinched.
"Who are you, boy?" the bounty hunter asked.
"Carlson..," I wheezed. "Jamie Carlson."
"Carlson? You should have died with that crew south of 'ere."
"I didn't take part."
"Oh, you didn't take part...that makes all the difference."
The bounty hunter walked to the entrance of the cave and stared out at the green forest. His hands were on his hips. There was a killer behind him and he paid me no mind.
"Jamie, I want to make you an offer you best not refuse," the bounty hunter announced. "I am looking for your brother, so you can pardon my confusion with your face. You two look similar, but you don't have his scar."
"Darren doesn't have a scar," I replied standing up.
"Not when you last saw him, but he did when he last saw me," the bounty hunter murmured.
Before I could do anything, let alone say anything, the man in black turned to me. He had a gun in his hand and I wondered how he drew it so quick. Yet, what mattered was if he was going to shoot it or not. I knew that and he knew that I knew that.
"Darren Carlson has large price on his head," the bounty hunter told me. "You had one, but not since the business down south. Your old crew believed you dead, your bounty paid. Now you're not even worth the bullet in this chamber."
I felt the hunter strangling my life in his cold hands. Yet, the bounty hunter didn't pull the trigger.
"Listen 'ere, Jamie," the bounty hunter explained. "You help me find your brother and I will turn you loose. You can be a free man or a dead man, those are your real choices."
I had raised my hands, but I dropped them. My decision was already decided for me. I wasn't worth the bullet in his gun.
"Darren should be in Jefferson state, but he will never stay in one place too long," I told him. "You best hire a good tracker, because the only way I find Darren is when he finds me first."
"I can rest easy then," the bounty hunter smiled. "I'm a hard man to find myself."
The bounty hunter holstered his gun and walked out of the abandoned mine. I waited for a while before following. Stopping outside the cave, I watched him climb atop his horse. He glanced at me, eyebrow raising. Yet, his eyes soon drifted to the compass in his hand.
"You know, a man with no name is more famous than a man with a name," I told him. "You won't get anywhere near my brother."
"I told you, Jamie," he replied. "I am a hard man to find. There are more men with no names in these parts, your brother is one of them. It's because I know his name I am going to find him."
"Best shave, boy," the man in black told me. "If I had trouble spotting the difference between you and Darren Carlson..."
The bounty hunter looked at me one more time, this time with a measure of concern.
"What?" I asked.
His nose twitched as he took a deep breath. I never seen a man go from so casual to so cold.
"You're not on the best terms with your brother, I imagine," the bounty hunter murmured.
"No, I reckon he-"
"You believe he might be a little upset on you for running."
I stared back at him, realisation dawning on my dumb eyes. No number of knocks could make me so dumb, I was born with it. My next decision mattered and I made a dumb one. I ran.
I didn't feel a rope fall around me or bullet in my leg. I heard a horses gallop and felt a metal knock to the head. The stock of a gun is heavy, heavy enough to make my see white lights. I awoke confused and dizzy, hogtied on the back of the bounty hunter's horse.
My mouth felt dry.
That damned bounty killer had damn near knocked my eyes out my head. Yet, I could still see and unfortunately, I could still feel pain. I groaned as I woke.
"You best save your energy, Jamie," the bounty hunter told me. "It's a long ride to Jefferson state."
"Go to hell," I replied.
"I've been there, Jamie. You would like it."
"Let me go. My brother ain't going to show himself for me."
"Oh, give yourself more credit. You two are family. Not a pleasant family, if the stories from your sister are anything to go by."
"Abigail? What have you done to Abigail?"
"Calm down, Jamie. How do you think they found your old crew? Who do you think hired me to find your brother? Abigail is in a better position, working in Washington. That girl knows how to talk, but I'm sure-"
There was a crack from within the woods and I felt the bounty hunter slip off his saddle. He fell to the ground, struggling. Jeremiah cut me binds and I climbed off the horse, leaning down to take the bounty killers gun from the holster.
Behind Jeremiah was Darren, his beard cut and scar as clear as day. He took the gun from me and walked up to the bounty hunter. Staring the dying man in the fearful eyes, Darren smiled.
"Thanks for the help, mister," Darren told him. "I reckon that without your help we would die old before we ever found our dear sister. Have fun in hell."
I flinched as he pulled the trigger and the bounty hunters heavy breathing stopped. Darren looked up at me.
"Good work, lil' brother. Now, Let's ride for Washington."
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