I know that I need to be getting back soon, but the memories of what happened that next day still sit fresh in my mind even after all these years; all of the what if’s. Shifting my gaze around the dusty old room, nothing helped to keep my mind off that day; not the sight of my old bed, dirty and broken in the corner, and not even the table that we all used to eat and laugh around when I was just a kid…now lying in a pile of rodent infested, splintered wood. I drained the last of my whiskey, seeing the man’s face as clear as the fingers curled around my glass…
The bed shifted next to me, so I shot up, reaching for my pistol without hesitation. Soft hands came to rest down on mine.
“Don’t worry. It’s just me…Missy…remember?” she soothed. I cleared my throat.
“Yeah-uh-of course, I remember. What are you doing awake so early?” I asked, glancing out the window. It was still dark as hell.
“I’m just going to get a glass of water. I’ll be back. Go back to sleep,” she cooed. Her soft lips came to plant a sudden, sweet…yes, sweet…kiss on my forehead. How could a woman have such a grip on my senses? I just smiled back at her and nodded, holstering my weapon before I laid my head back against the pillows. I was back out in seconds.
The sun had just begun to peak over the brown of the horizon, and was faintly seeping through the old room window. Why the fuck am I awake so early? Patting the bed next to me, it was empty. Where was Missy? Is that why I had woken up? She was still gone?
I sat bolt upright in an instant. Someone was calling my name…and it wasn’t Missy. I wonder how long they had been calling my name. That had to be why I woke up. Still didn’t explain why Missy still wasn’t back in bed, yet. Quickly throwing on my shirt and buttoning my trousers, I fastened my belt while I ran out the door.
“Vincent Gallagher!” The male voice yelled again from outside in the street. It wasn’t the first time I had been called out. Running with the gang for the past several years, my name wasn’t anything new...and I had walked away from every man so far who had ever had the courage to call it. I can’t say that they were able to do the same.
The morning air still had a bit of a bite to it as I stepped out into the dirt of the street. At the other end of town, walking towards me down the center of the road, was a man who had looked like he had seen better days. His clothes were tattered and stained, his hair matted to his head under a holey hat. Blood and bruises covered him from head to toe, but it was what he carried in his arms that made my heart drop.
Her beautiful, brown hair covered her face, and cascaded towards the dirt. One of her arms was hanging down, swinging lifeless at her side. Even from this distance, it was clear to see the bruises on her pale skin.
“What the hell is going on, here?” I barked, my hand hovering over my weapon, every single finger twitching with the eagerness to draw. Everyone had begun to poke their heads out of their windows, and peak out from behind their doors.
“You did this! You killed my wife!” the man screamed in a crazed tone, his eyes flashing savagely. Whatever self-control I had left, I could feel it slipping away quicker than I could manager. Killed my wife? If he was serious, and she was dead…he was about to have a lot on his plate. More eyes looked on with a feeling somewhere between entertainment and fear. Clearly, it was his idea to make a scene. Fuck…I had really liked it here.
“I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but that young woman came with me willingly-” I began.
“You don’t even recognize me?!” the man shrieked. “Of course, who would pay that much attention during a robbery, right?! Did you know that from that coach, to Gleeson, you still risk raid parties? Do you know the sound an arrow makes as it whizzes straight past your ear?!”
That’s when it hit me…almost as hard as Clint had hit him. He was the man from the coach; the one Clint slammed with the butt of his gun. The man looked as if he had snapped. He must have regained consciousness, all alone except for a dead guy in the middle of the desert next to an easy looting target. He really was quite lucky to have made it here alive.
“Listen, I don’t know what you’re up to, but I had nothing to do with the harm that’s come to her and the man that did that to you,” I growled, pointing at the blood-caked gash on the side of his head, “… is dead, . He fell back at the coach…so why don’t you put that pretty lady down and we can talk about this like men,” I reasoned, the threat clear in my words regardless.
“Oh I’ll put her down,” the deranged man yelled out, letting Missy fall from his arms into the dirt at his side.
Time slowed down as his hand reached for his pistol. I saw everything in that split second, the determined, and crazy look in his eyes…the faces of everyone in the town watching what was happening, watching him accuse me of Missy’s death. I knew, instantly, that there was only one way that this could end…good or bad...
The shot rang out, cracking violently through the chilly morning air. With an odd, possessed smile stretching across his filthy face, the deranged man fell straight back onto the dirt…without ever having made it to drawing his pistol. No body uttered a word, but they all kept watching, their eyes turning towards the woman lying still in the road.
Holstering my pistol in a flash, I darted over to her side, dropping to my knees. Please be alive…please. She felt so light, and limp in my arms when I lifted her to hold her tight to my chest.
“Come on, Missy. Just a few bumps and bruises, that’s all. Wake up, darlin’,” I encouraged, gently slipping a lock of her dark hair behind her ear. “Come on, girl.” I shifted my head down until my ear rested against her bosom.
In the still of the morning, everyone was watching in silence with breaths held in anticipation. Faintly…so faintly I thought that I may have been mistaken…there was a beat. Then it came again…and again. No one on this whole, wide Earth could have stopped the smile that spread across my face.
“She’s alive!” I shouted, towards the people watching, unsure of what was coming over me. “She’s alive,” I repeated, more for myself as I gazed down at her, unconscious…but alive…in my arms.
She woke up not long after that. I had taken her back to the inn to rest, and she ended up telling the rest of the people of Gleeson what had happened; that she had been kidnapped when walking in the dark kitchen for a drink of water.
It was Missy that made me finally settle down. She was the final piece of that strange puzzle for me, and even convinced me to settle back in Montana. Even now, she seems to be the glue holding me together. If it weren’t for her, I never would have made it around to saying goodbye.
She said coming here would be “freeing”. Whatever the hell that meant. When I heard that Dom had been shot outside of some dusty ol’ saloon, I could hardly believe it….I didn’t want to believe it. I had always imagined a grander ending for him. I sure hope he found whatever it was he was looking for at the bottom of all those bottles. God knows he tried finding whatever it was with more than one man’s wife.
As for me…my home was in Montana now…and so was my heart. Setting my whiskey glass down on the rickety table at my side, I stood up and took one last look around the heap of old home, before striding straight out the door…never looking back.