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Walker's Mission

     We all hear the horses come up.  Lot's of horses...maybe six or seven.  Eating stops pretty much while us men wait to see what's coming.  Boots on the porch and men start coming through the door.  Five, six, seven of them, and they are hunting, you can tell from the quick way they look around and study on each of us.  The thongs are off their guns and they are ready for business.

     Sarah comes through the door, wonderment on her face, and I want to tell her to get out, only it is too late.

     The stranger in the corner comes out of his chair like lightning, and his six-gun booms loud in the closed room.  Two of the men yell in hurt surprise, and the rest grab their guns and start banging away.  Some of them are shooting at the stranger and some at the other men who have not done anything as far as I can tell.  I see the Dude go down without firing a shot, surprise on his face as he topples over backwards.  Guess sometimes being invisible just isn't good enough.

     One of them turns toward me and starts to raise his gun.  It's as far as he ever gets, 'cause my Mama didn't raise no idiot children, and I yank my own pistol and go from eating to shooting right in the middle of a mouthful.

     Two heavy .45 slugs bend him over in the middle, and he sits down on the floor real hard and just sort of bends forward as far as he can and even though he is sitting upright I know he is dead.

     The sound of guns is real loud in the room and powder smoke makes everything hazy and bites at my lungs, but not so hazy I can't see the half-breed on his knees holding his belly and still trying to fire his piece.  A shot to the face from one of them puts him the rest of the way out of the fight.

     One of them saw me put his friend down and fixes to turn his attention on me and I have to take him out of it same as before.  My gun bucks twice, and both shots slam home into his chest.  I see his mouth twist in a curse, only his hands are already dead, and drop limply to his sides.  He wobbles some for a second, then somebody else puts a bullet into him and he flips onto his back real hard.  I mean his feet just fly out from under him and it would have been funny if you didn't know what was really going on.

     There is only one man and me left standing, and he looks at me and I look at him and I am just a little bit faster.  My lead smashes into his jaw and I hear him gurgle.  My second shot smacks into his chest and he half-turns and falls to his face on the rough wood floor.  He doesn't make any move to stop himself, and I can easy hear the smack as his face hits the floor but I know it doesn't hurt him 'cause he's dead.

     The Mex is spread out on the table, leaking into the food, and he makes some choking sounds and relaxes.

     The room is deadly silent except for the tinkle of brass hitting the floor and the click of my cylinder as I reload quick as I can.

     And that's the way it happens.  Everything peaceable and normal one minute, and then someone is dead and the room is full of smoke and the blood smell of copper.

     I don't mind telling that my heart is beating like a trip hammer, bangin' away in my chest like it is trying to get out.  As I look around, it occurs to me that my heart is the only one in the room still working at all, so I better not complain about it making a little noise.

     My pistol is loaded again, all six cylinders, and I look the people all over, only it appears I am not gonna' need my gun any more this day.  They are all dead with a capital "D", and their troubles, whatever they were, are now behind them.  Looking at all this death and dying makes me feel suddenly deep down tired all over.  Seems like I have seen too many dead men, already.

     I saw Sarah dash back into the kitchen when the fracas started, so I stuff my pistol back in the holster and walk slow and careful over to the door.  I know she has a Greener double-barrel in there.

     "Sarah," I say softly.  "It's me."

     "Is it over?" she asks.

     I look over my shoulder at the dead men.  "It surely is," I answer.