The Outlaw

The Outlaw panted heavily as he ran across the creaking wooden floor, his weathered desert coat whipping behind him. His spurs clanged jarringly with each heavy step, providing an almost musical cadence to his flight, punctuated at various intervals by the explosion of gunfire behind him. He reached the end of the hall of the inn, ducking into the last room on his right, barreling through the open door, heading straight towards the large picture window on the opposite end of the room.

In a matter of seconds, he reached the window, bracing his boot on the ledge, ducking his head and crossing his arms, launching himself through the glass. The giant pane shattered on impact, with the shards etching small scratches on his face and hands. The Outlaw tumbled to the street two stories below.

He rolled when he reached the ground, and taking barely a moment to recover himself, he raced across the road towards the alleyway ahead. The town was eerily quiet, but only for a heartbeat or two, as by the time he reached the other side, he heard his pursuers land on the ground behind him and continue their chase. He saw a horse trough a few feet to his left, and he knew he had a choice to make. He could either dive behind it, using it for cover as he faced his enemies, or he could test his luck and hope he could evade their bullets as he continued to search for the right place to make his stand.

Before he had time to finish his thought, his feet made the decision for him, as he raced on through the narrow alley between the general store and the saloon. Instinctually, he cut left at the end of the alley, reaching for his sixguns as he ran. He pulled the hammers back and spun, firing off two shots at his assailants. He was not aiming, he was simply trying to distract them and slow their attack, giving him a crucial extra moment to plan his next move.

Turning once more and continuing to run, he remembered something; at the end of the street, only a few buildings ahead, there was a small meadow, and beyond that, a church. An appropriate place for this battle to come to a conclusion. His destination fixed in his mind’s eye, having become his singular thought, the Outlaw redoubled his efforts, running at full tilt towards the steepled building.

With bullets whizzing by all around him as several men chased him down the street, the Outlaw wondered to himself what would happen if any of their shots found their mark. There was no cover here; nowhere to go, nothing to hide behind if he went down. He had to hope that his luck would continue, at least until he could put some pews between him and his assailants.

After several agonizing moments, he reached the façade that led up to the double doors of the church. Knowing that the doors opened outward, and that he could not spare the time to stop and pull them open, he dropped his shoulder and plowed through them, breaking them almost clean off the hinges. They fell to the side, hanging on just barely at the bases.

The Outlaw charged to the pulpit and turned, just as his attackers entered the holy place. There were six of them. The Outlaw was not surprised; the entity that had sent this particular hit squad after him was a fan of the number six, obsessively, compulsively, almost comically.

They squared off for a moment, and one of the men began to grin. He wore crisscrossed gunbelts across his chest and a wide-brimmed hat. He holstered his guns and took off his gloves, slapping them across his thigh, dusting them off.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” he tutted as he put his gloves in his back pocket. “Why do you always run? You know this always ends the same way.”

The Outlaw squinted slightly. “Indeed; I run, you chase, you catch me, I send you back to the hellhole you came from.”

The man grinned again and removed his hat, tossing it onto the pew to his left. “That’s not true, really. We’ve taken you in more than a couple times. In fact, you’ve met our boss face to face a time or two, if I remember c’rectly. He’s mighty eager to have another sit down with ya.”

The Outlaw grunted and nodded towards the other five men. “And it took all of you shooting at me to deliver that message.”

The man shrugged. “You’re a tough man to convince. Sometimes you take a certain amount of…persuadin’.”

They stared at one another in silence for a short time. A slight breeze blew softly through the open door, tiny dust devils sweeping their way inside the church, only to die as soon as they crossed the threshold. One of the men coughed. A dove fluttered in the rafters above them. The Outlaw eyed his opponents, waiting for the right moment…

The church bell rang out above them, signaling high noon. The pure ringing was the unspoken signal everyone was waiting for, and the church exploded into a flurry of smoking gunpowder and flying hot lead.

Gong!

The Outlaw raised his sixguns, firing off two carefully trained shots, burying both in the chest of the mad directly ahead of him. A bullet knocked his hat off his head, and he dove to the right, barely dodging a hail of bullets that lodged themselves solidly in the oaken pulpit he had been standing in front of fractions of a second earlier.

Gong!

Rolling to his knees, he quickly squeezed off another round, taking out two more of the men in the doorway.

Gong!

“Three,” he mumbled to himself as he ducked under a barrage of gunfire.

Gong!

He poked his head up again, and immediately a round grazed his cheek, leaving a burning line of blood where the lead had kissed him.

Gong!

“Q’Vietch!” he swore, ducking back down below the top of the pews. Hearing his enemies’ footsteps as they slowly walked down the aisle, he looked beneath the seats, shooting one of them in the foot. He launched himself to the left, sliding on his knees across the aisle. Aiming quickly, he blasted a round between the eyes of the man who had fallen, clutching his wounded foot.

Gong!

The Outlaw heard his assailants dive behind the pews as his momentum carried him out of sight. He took a moment to quickly reload, knowing he may not get another chance to do so.

Gong!

The sound of panting and clinking metal could be heard, as all three men had come to the same conclusion, each reloading their weapons.

Gong!

No one moved for a moment, catching their breath and regaining their wits.

Gong!

The Outlaw stood quickly, firing off a flurry of shots at the first man he saw, riddling his body with holes.

Gong!

The man who had spoken earlier popped up across the room, having crawled away from where he had landed in the pews, shooting the Outlaw in the shoulder, spinning him around.

Gong!

Using his momentum, the Outlaw leaned into the spin, firing off a series of rounds, emptying the gun in his right hand. One of the shots found their mark, miraculously, and as he fell over, he heard a grunt and a groan from the one remaining assassin.

GONG!

As the final toll of the church bell rang out, seemingly more violent and vigorous than its predecessors, the Outlaw pulled himself up and switched his loaded gun to his good hand and walked over to where his opponent had fallen.

He found him crawling slowly towards the door in the side aisle. He kicked the fallen man over with force, feeling a sick sense of pride when he saw that the wild shot that had struck the man had landed dead center in the man’s chest. The wounded man was dying quickly, bleeding profusely all over the floor of the church.

The Outlaw let out a dry laugh. He cocked back the hammer of his pistol once more, aiming down at the head of his enemy.

“Tell your master our little campfire chat will have to wait until some other time.”

The wounded man choked as he attempted to speak. “M…M…Malchizedec won’t stop coming for you. We’ll keep coming back until he’s collected all of you.”

The Outlaw snorted. “Go back to hell, where you belong.”

He squeezed the trigger, and the round punched a clean hole right between the man’s eyes. He holstered his weapon and walked back over to where he had dropped his other pistol. Bending down to pick it up, a short groan of pain came forth unbidden from his throat. Holstering the weapon, he murmured, “Godam demons.”

Hearing a soft creak on the stairs behind him, he turned and saw the pastor of the church frozen on the top stair, coming out of the belltower, eyes wide, mouth agape as he surveyed the bloody mess below him.

The Outlaw nodded towards the clergyman. “My apologies, Father; it seems my friends and I have made a little mess.”

The pastor shivered, regaining his composure. “Friends, huh? I’d hate to see what you do to your enemies.”

The Outlaw chuckled. “Aye, Father, I suppose it’s a good thing I don’t have very many of either.”

The pastor nodded and descended the stairs. “I’d ask you if there was any sins you needed to repent of, but I’m afraid I don’t have that kind of time.”

The Outlaw smiled thinly. “There are things I’ve done that I’m not sure even God wants remembered out loud ever again. Let’s just leave it at ‘Bless me Father, for I am Sin.’”

The Father burped and covered his nose, the stench of the blood clearly making him sick. “I suppose that is fair, my child. Go and be blessed.”

The Outlaw stepped to the doorway, and seeing the doors he had destroyed, reached deep into the pocket of his coat, he withdrew several silver pieces. He flipped them to the pastor. “This oughtta cover the damages; god willing, me and my kin won’t be back through to trouble you and yours ever again.”

“Let’s certainly hope so.”

The Outlaw turned once more, gingerly went down the steps to the road, and walked out into the Wilds.

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