You can always tell when there is going to be a shootout, the trick is not to be the ass that starts it.
The shifty eyes; the fidgety hands; the rapping knuckles; you just need to “see” the signs. Five men in this god-forsaken bar. All trying not to look at me. I have had bounties on my head before, but so far, I have still got my head. Which means one thing – no one has been able to collect on any of it till now.

The worst thing one can do in such a situation when it starts is to try and make it out through the door. That’s the easiest way to get on the highway to heaven. I have seen men stand in surprise just before they hit the dirt floor and looking through them at the noonday sun – actually, through the holes in them. So as usual, in the first couple of minutes after I enter such an establishment as this, I knew without looking where every window and a couple of weaknesses in the walls lay.

So when it started, I was out through the window with sixes in both hands. I laid on my back with my eyes on the window I had just come out through. I am not going to try to run immediately. A bullet in the back is just as bad as one in the chest – I am having neither – not today. I knew one of the degenerates in there is going to come flying through that window sooner rather than later. I didn’t have to wait long. He was in the air when I let him have two. Now there were two of us lying on our backs outside the building: the difference was that one was looking up at the sun while I still had my eye on the window. I knew the smarter ones would have guessed I didn’t run, so I was about to have company round one or both sides of the building. Rolling on my side and getting on my knees in one fluid movement, I had both sides covered. But I had to move. If there was still an idiot in the building, he could start sending hot lead through the walls at my back.

You can’t second guess yourself in a situation such as this. Make your decisions and stick with it. If you are wrong and lucky, you had be dead even before you knew about it. I make my own luck. I tossed a small rock on the ground round one corner and made immediately for the opposite corner. The shithead that gets the rock will start shooting, and hopefully, the idiot round the other bend will rush in thinking he had a fair chance of getting in the fray from behind my back. Well, I was waiting at the corner of the building when he came galloping up like the light Calvary. I stopped him dead with 3 rounds to the belly and one to the chest. Time to reload.

I did a quick tally and came up short. From the racket I had heard after my hurried exit through the window, I assumed there was at least one feller looking up at the rafters inside. And in case you didn’t catch my drift – dead as a dodo. So, not counting the bartender, I supposed there were at least 2 dogs still hoping to chew my bacon this hot afternoon. I needed to get those odds down as fast as possible. Well, I had help from unexpected quarters. A shot rang out from inside the bar, followed by the sound of shuffling feet coming out the front, and what sounded like someone dropping a sack of potatoes on the floor. It couldn’t be the barman. He was behind the bar when the ruckus started, and he looked like he could hold his own if it came right down to it. Well, whoever it was. I was always glad for a helping hand.

I made it quietly round the corner and came face to face with the biggest, hairiest, ugliest looking roughneck I had seen in a long time. I remember he was sitting in the corner of the room and I was thinking who the hell released king kong from his cage. I think he was a little “slow” because he had no guns and was swinging his hands and making fist cuffs as if he wanted us to engage in a fist fight. Well, I have had a few fist fights in my time and I could give as well as I got. But I know when the odds are stacked against me. I moved in for the kill and shot the bastards toe off, then socked him on the jaw with my gun. He dropped on the spot and rolled over. I put one in his ass – you don’t want a man with a grudge riding after you in this part of the country. That bullet in the butt ought to keep him from getting on a horse for quite a while.

Where there was five, now there was one. I was feeling better already. But I knew better than to get cocky. Better men than I have died in less complex situations. You would have expected that with the odds more or less evened out, I would go in guns blazing and close the deal in style – not my style.

Me: “Yo! You at the bar. I know you in there. I know you fixing to collect on my head. So what’s it gonna be? Are you gonna come out or I come in? Or I can walk away without you following for at least a couple of hours. Your choice.”

No response. I assume he was weighing up his chances.

Barman: “Are you as good as they say you are? If yes, let’s do this the old-fashioned way, man to man. I am coming out.”

I couldn’t believe my luck. Where was this this guy from? A duel, really? As soon as I saw his foot come out the front door, I sent him right back inside. Carefully walked up to the door, peeped in and saw he wasn’t about to palm another gun in this lifetime.

Coughing up blood, he tried to speak “Don’t you have any honour?”

Me: “Honour. No, I left it back in the last town I visited with my dead wife and young son.”

Stepping over him and one other dead body, I went to the bar and poured myself one.

Time to move on.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  THE END  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

NOTE: I think I have found my muse.

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