Billy Spencer had re-lived this day time and again in his mind. He had lived just for this moment. Hidden behind a boulder many years ago, he had seen his father and two friends shot dead by this old waste of a man called Chadwick and his deputy. Billy Spencer had waited in anguish for them to leave, and then he had come out of hiding to drive the buzzards away. On the hot desert sands of San Lorado he had buried his father, and vowed to get revenge on Chadwick and his deputy. He had forced two of his four brothers from their anguished mother who had begged them not to go.
For years he had built his army, and then he had been on the trail of the two men responsible for his father’s death. Richard Chadwick had seemed to have vanished into thin air, but Billy had been patient. He had caught up with Chadwick’s deputy at last, and killed him. Now it was Chadwick’s turn to die.
In all his dreams, Billy Spencer had seen Richard Chadwick on his knees, begging for forgiveness, his body racked by great sobs as his fear poured out of him. The Chadwick facing him now, however, was not the one in the dream. This one was the real version, and he was angry. Billy involuntarily shuddered. He remembered how his father, the greatest gunfighter then, had faced Chadwick, and lost. Billy remembered the stunned incredulity still on his father’s face as he had buried him, frozen forever by rigor mortis. His father had never believed that anybody could beat him to the draw…until he met Chadwick.
Billy was aware of his two brothers on his left, fanning out. His other two hired guns, Jack the Hammer and Fred Ford who were on his right. Billy was aware that they were waiting for him. His eyes bore into Chadwick, seeking some advantage, even a tiny one, but there was none; the old man was not going to be stared down. Billy felt a slight tremor in his knees, and he fought it down savagely. It was an unknown element, and the sudden realization that he was scared that forced him to make his move. With a yell he went for his gun.
“Craps!” his mind exploded as he saw the impossible, the unbelievable! He barely saw Chadwick moving, but he suddenly became aware that the old man’s gun was pointing whilst he had still not cleared leather.
Uncle Chad’s left palm fanned the hammer of the gun in his hand as he fired with wrath. His first two bullets sounded as one.
Jack the Hammer’s hand was on the butt of his gun when the first bullet ripped through his chest and shattered his heart. He reeled backwards and died before he hit the ground.
Fred Ford had gripped his gun butt and was tensing for the draw when Uncle Chad’s second bullet hit the base of his neck. Actually, as was his normal practice, Fred Ford always fired from a crouch. He always went down low whilst his gun came up. This movement ensured that Uncle Chad’s bullet, which was meant for Ford’s heart, found his neck instead. Fred Ford’s head was jerked back like some out of control marionette. He fell on his back, making gurgling noises, his heart pumping blood into the hot ground.
Billy’s gun was half cleared when he saw the hole in Chadwick’s gun staring at him. He had one terrible moment of sheer fear, staring death in the eye. He watched with fascinated horror, almost in slow motion, as Chadwick’s palm fanned the hammer. His throat constricted, and a scream began deep in his belly. And then, incredibly, the hammer on the gun in Uncle Chad’s hand fell on empty chambers, and there were only metallic clicks as Chadwick fired three times in succession! Uncle Chad knew then, and accepted the fact, that Phil Mortimer’s gun had contained only two bullets in the chambers! He had used the two bullets to kill Jack the Hammer and Fred Ford…and the gun was empty now! No more bullets!
With three Spencer brothers still standing alive! Uncle Chad almost smiled with the grim irony of it. How many times had he told young Chris Bawa never to rush into battle half-cocked? How many times had he drummed into Chris to push rage aside and do the level-headed checks on his gun, to judge a gun by its weight? On countless occasions he had loaded a gun with two, three and even one bullet and told Chris Bawa to judge how many bullets were in the gun. And yet here he was, finding out rather too late that the gun he had taken from the dead Phil Mortimer to dispense justice had only contained two bullets in the chambers instead of six!
Actually, Phil Mortimer had won the shooting contest, of course, and he being a man who always loved to show off his skills with a gun, he had been engaged in a little fun sport with the cowboys. They had been throwing guava fruits into the air, and Mortimer had drawn and shot the fruits in mid-air before they began their descent. It was during this time, when he had reloaded and used four bullets, that word had reached him that five killers were brewing up trouble on the Circle T stand. So used was he in taking care of bullies in Little Rock that he had immediately swung into action without stopping to re-load his gun, so much unlike him. There was no way Phil Mortimer could have known that this single action of carelessness would put a gentleman like Uncle Chad in danger.
Tate Spencer, youngest of the three brothers, was immobile with fear. He had barely moved, and his eyes were fixed on the strange man they had come to kill. He had always felt safe and protected in his older brother’s gang. Nothing had ever come close to harming him. His mother’s cries as she tried to stop him from joining his two brothers on a revenge trip were now a distant past, unlike the beginning when he had heard her almost each night before he slept. At that particular moment however, he realized that except for the fact that there appeared to be only two bullets in the old man’s gun, he and his two brothers would have died. This old man could have killed them all!
Actually Tate flinched when the hammer fell on the empty chambers. With a little cry of horror, he drew his gun and fired. Billy and Sandy Spencer came out of their momentary immobility and also drew and fired rapidly. Six bullets hit Uncle Chad’s chest, knocking him down to sprawl on the legs of Phil Mortimer. His eyes bore into his killers for a moment, and they were filled with steel, still unrelenting, still superior and still defiant. The Spencer brothers reloaded quickly.
“Let’s get outta here,” Billy Spencer said desperately as the crowd moved toward the fallen old man. Taking advantage of the confusion and shock of the people, the Spencer brothers quickly left the park. Of course the citizens were cowed by the brutal violence they had witnessed, but Billy knew that they had committed murder, short and simple. Folks had heard the sounds of empty chambers, and everybody present knew that Uncle Chad had had only two bullets in the gun. Out here in the New Territories, justice was funny; no one cared about the fact that if there had been enough bullets in the Colt, the Spencer brothers would have been dead. They would be branded as murderers, because they had evidently killed a defenseless man. The rule of the gun was that they should have allowed Uncle Chad to reload and faced them again. But they knew they were no match for the old man. They had to shoot him down! If the citizens had not been so shocked, Billy knew that nothing could have stopped them from hanging him and his brothers right there in the park before Tiny and the others knew what was happening! Ted Bawa was the first to reach Uncle Chad.
Not a man who showed much emotion, he knelt beside the dying man with a stony expression on his face at first, and then the lines of his face suddenly softened, and a little horror seeped into it. He was still shocked, still could not believe that save for some fault with Phil Mortimer’s gun, this old man could have killed five men. Uncle Chad was not dead yet. In fact, it seemed as if he desperately wanted to speak. Ted Bawa leaned close, and in spite of himself he felt the first stings of tears in his eyes.
Suddenly there were anguished screams, and Mrs. Francine Bawa was on the ground, gathering Uncle Chad into her arms, her tears falling on him. The old man’s glazed eyes fixed vacuously on the woman for a moment, and then with a tremendous effort he focused, screwing up his face with the pain the effort brought him. He reached out and grasped the woman’s hand tightly.
“T-tell Ch-Ch…Chris!” he gasped painfully.
“Th-this…is n-not his fight. He should let it go!” The last words were spoken succinctly, almost shouted, so that those nearby heard it clearly. The old man went rigid, a spasm passed through his frail body, and then he went limp. He was dead. The sweet, graceful Uncle Chad was gone! Murdered by the three Spencer brothers! And at that particular moment there was another commotion. People were being flung aside as if they were dolls. There were frenzied protestations, but they were still shoved aside roughly, almost violently.
Pretty soon a space was created, and the person who had been doing all the shoving and cursing appeared. It was young Chris Bawa. He was barefoot. His broad feet were puffed up and bleeding. He had obviously been running barefoot over rough ground. He was wearing only a pair of tight-fitting blue shorts. His huge frame was covered with sweat. The fine hair on his body glistened as he took in the awful sight. His whole frame became rigid, his face tortured, as he looked at the bullet-ridden body of Uncle Chad. The look on his face was filled with such complete pain that it brought tears to the eyes of many present.
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Chris’ fat fingers curled until they were huge fists. His teeth grated together, making a disturbing gnashing sound. When he spoke his voice came out as a hiss.
“Who did this?” Chris Bawa whispered. His face was a mass of pain in its raw form.
The citizens of Little Rock knew that Uncle Chad and Chris Bawa were great friends. What they did not know was that it went beyond mere friendship. For a boy who had never received any love from his father, who had refused to subject himself to the wills of an abusive father, his love had been redirected, and apart from his mother there was none he loved more than the old man who had secretly taught him the brutal way of life, Uncle Chad. The bloodied body of Uncle Chad represented a loss so great that it would have driven Chris Bawa mad, had his body not intervened. An unexplained function of the body fought against the acute tragedy, cushioning its effect, guarding against what might have been a tragic consequence. As a result, the boy became a boiling cauldron of pure hatred, devoid of all emotions except the great urge to lash out, to redeem and set things right. Up until that point, the boy had never commanded any form of respect in Little Rock as a man. He had rebelled against his father’s iron methods, and he rarely did any work on the ranch. He was a free spirit, roaming the wild, taking life easy as it came.
Chris was not interested in inheriting any part of the Circle T ranch. He was almost obese, but he was tall with it, and incredibly handsome. He never wore a gun like the young men did. Chris never got involved in fights no matter how much he was provoked. He was indeed considered a coward, like his mentor, and he would have received a most ungentlemanly nickname had it not been the fact that people in Little Rock respected his father. Almost all the young men in Little Rock had nothing but contempt for him, regarding him as a big fat nonentity.
The young women were another factor all together. In an era where manhood was measured by quick brains, a fast gun and a ready fist, they found Chris Bawa’s aversion to anything violent really fetching. Plus, he was such fun to be with, and even then had a certain level of charisma which most boys found hard to beat. Most of the young ladies went tender-hearted when he was around, with most of them doing their best to be close to him. No one could say the boy was a one-girl type; he liked to date the ladies, and on more than one occasion he had been the centre of rowdy disagreements between some of the ladies.
On that particular day of Uncle Chad’s gunplay with the Spencer brothers, Chris Bawa had not taken part in any of the competitions at the Rock Park. Truth was, he found the celebrations boring. He had been going out with Elaine Boateng for some time now, and he spent that day with her. Elaine was the only daughter of Dirk Boateng, one of the new ranchers in town. Elaine was beautiful, quite simply the loveliest girl in Little Rock. Many of the young men had tried to win her attention, but as usual it was the overweight son of Ted Bawa who had rendered her starry-eyed. They had clicked like two stars the first time they met, and it seemed that for once Chris Bawa had met the one woman who would own his heart forever. Chris had been dating her for almost six months, which was the longest time he had ever been with any girl. It had started speculations that they might get married eventually.
Chris Bawa missed all the terrible scenes on the day his mentor faced the killers because he did not stay long enough on the park to be part of the celebrations. He only came to the park to see Elaine, and having caught her eye he managed to lead her slowly and carefully away from the main action. The young men glowered at him, especially his brother Ato.
Ato Bawa secretly had the most tender of spots for Elaine, but he was so shy that he was barely able to maintain eye contact with her for more than a few seconds. The fact that Elaine seemed to love Chris Bawa had really hurt Ato very much, although he had tried his best to hide it. To him, Elaine was the only girl he would ever fancy. Ato had followed his younger brother at a distance he hoped was discreet, but which actually was just a few feet away. He watched as his brother and the girl he considered to be an angel stole into the woods bordering the Rock Park. The last thing he saw was a shimmer of her golden shoulders and the tingling echoes of her happy giggle as they disappeared into the woods. He stayed there for a while, his hard face suffused with a jealousy so bitter and so green that it could have killed a horse.
Absently his right hand fingered the butt of the gun on his hip, and then, after a spell, he turned and went back to the festive grounds. Ato was there when the five riders rode toward Uncle Chad and began speaking to the old man. His heated brain had already been conjuring up hideous acts which his younger brother was enacting on the fair Elaine, and he had worked himself up to such a pitch of emotional mayhem that he was fit to blow any second. He had been looking out for an excuse to go into the woods and disrupt his brother at all costs, and any excuse was welcomed. Thus, as soon as the killers spoke to Uncle Chad, Ato Bawa didn’t wait for anything more but turned round, found his horse and rode into the woods. He found Chris and Elaine beside the Yumany River.
When Ato saw that Chris was naked, his heart almost tore right out of his chest! Chris was lying on his back, and the beautiful girl was astride him. Elaine was moaning as she kissed his ear and ran a hand through the soft hair on his chest. She was sitting on Chris, and had spread the wide hem of her dress across their bodies. She rose up with a hiss of delight, put her palms flat on Chris’ chest, and began a rhythmic up and down movement, her eyes closed and her head thrown back. There were veins on her neck as she moaned in fierce ecstasy, and that was when Ato Bawa realized that they were making love!
His heart pounded right into his brain, and for a moment he almost passed out! He could not breathe! He saw the face of Elaine contorting as she raced towards an orgasm. Her mouth opened wide and her moans were filled with incredible joy. She rode Chris faster, and Chris reached underneath her skirts to grip her buttocks hard. He bucked faster into her, each thrust bringing out a moan of ecstasy from engorged her! Once again Ato Bawa fingered the butt of his gun, and then he turned round and pushed his face into the back of a tree as the tears seeped from under his eyelids, hot and simmering! He had known they had been thick with each other. But Ato had always felt that like the good Christian her family was, and the way she was always cultured and innocent, the last thing she would ever do was sleep with Chris outside the boundaries of marriage!
Worse, that she could make love to Chris, out here in the open, in the damn forest, was something Ato would never have believed in a thousand years.
“You whore!” he whispered fiercely, his heart broken. “You damn slut! Slutty-whore!!” He waited until he could no longer hear their frenzied moans and groans. And then he wiped his eyes, took a shuddering breath, and prodded his horse forward again. The noisy approach of Ato’s horse made Elaine look up with alarm. Ato reigned in hard with sudden shock, noticing that the front buttons of her dress were still undone. And her gentle breasts with their roseate nipples were quite bare.
Chris was sitting up now, quite unperturbed by his older brother’s appearance. With a giggle he bent and licked one of Elaine’s nipples. Ato yanked the horse around, turning his own face away. Blood mounted his neck and face, turning it as blazing red as the intimate heart of hell.
“Sorry, ma’am!” he cried with evident distress. Chris Bawa gave a throaty chuckle at his brother’s discomfort. “Now, dearest brother, what brings you here riding like the devil was taking swipes at you with his pitchfork?” he asked, leaning forward to insert his right hand into the girl’s dress. He was preventing Elaine from closing, thwarting her frantic efforts. Chris burst into laughter when he saw how red his brother and his girl had both become. Their embarrassment was beyond words. With his back turned Ato spoke haltingly.
“Five men are in the park, Chris. They’re armed. Last time I saw they were aiming to draw down on Uncle Chad. I don’t know, but I think he’s in danger. Thought you oughtta know.” It was all Chris Bawa needed. With the swiftness of a leopard he was on his feet. He stood, tall and proud, and hastily pulled on a pair of tiny shorts, not bothering to wait any longer. His words were to Ato.
“Take care of Elaine,” he said harshly. “Protect her with your life.” And then he was gone, leaving his clothes and boots behind. He was running barefoot across the rough grounds because he had heard bad news! His mentor, the man he loved most among all men, Uncle Chad, was in trouble!