An experimental short story/work in progress/western
© Christoffer Petersen, 2021
The man pulled back the hammer on his revolver, another Colt made for the army, and leaned around the door. He paused as if he was listening to something, then turned his head to look at Cal.
“She’s coughing,” he whispered. “Inside the stall.”
“Step to my left,” Cal said. “I’ll go right.”
The girl held her breath and licked a spot of blood from her lips as she slipped the revolver through the stall’s slatted gate. She rested it there, tucked both her index fingers around the trigger, and waited.
“One more step,” Cal said.
The girl dipped her head to look beneath her fringe. She wanted to brush the hair from her eyes but couldn’t let go of the gun. She pulled the trigger the second the man stepped into view.
The bullet slammed into the man’s chest, flipping him onto his butt as the horses shied, screaming and snorting, and kicking a cloud of dust out of the stalls to blow up the length of the barn. The man sat there for a second, before keeling over onto his side to die, just as Cal fired the first of the two shotgun shells into the stall.
The girl screamed as the wooden wall splintered into two halves. The free half crashed onto the barn floor as she rolled out of the way, and under the wall into the next stall. She slipped in the shit and dust covering the floor, ducking her head as the horse kicked, before crawling beneath its belly and into the next stall as Cal fired the second barrel.
The wall between the stalls took most of the buckshot, but a few balls of lead puckered the side of the horse, throwing the beast into a frenzy as it kicked open the gate and whirled into the barn. Cal dropped the empty shotgun as the horse charged towards him. He leapt through the door, rolling clear of the horse as it galloped into the paddock and leaped the fence.
“Cal,” shouted Sam, from the rear of the barn. “You all right?”
“I’m fine. But those two friends of yours are dead.”
“She killed ‘em?”
“So what are we going to do?”
“We’re gonna kill her back,” Cal said.
He stood up and brushed the dirt from his shirt. Cal reached for the new revolver he bought in town and tugged it out of his holster. He cursed the feel of it in his right hand and swapped it into his left. It was awkward, just like the fight between him and the girl, when he shot her horse and leaped off his own. He wondered at the time if all Apache women were taught to fight when they were just little girls, or if it came naturally? But try as he might, as they fought at the foot of Roberts Pass, he couldn’t get a grip on her. And when he did, pressing his fingers around her chin, she bit his index finger to the bone, severing it at the second joint. That’s when she kicked him in the crotch and grabbed his gun.
“She’s a fighter,” he said, as he hefted the gun in his left hand. “But then, ain’t we all?”
“Cal?” Sam said.
“The boys are working on something.”
Cal’s nose twitched as he caught the first scent of smoke.
To be continued…