A Western Story by Martin Green.
The noonday sun blazed down upon the town of Dry Gulch, Texas. Sheriff Matt Stone walked into the coolness of the saloon. He was a tall man, handsome in a rugged way, with black hair, steely blue eyes and a strong jaw. He wore his gun low on his hip. He looked the perfect lawman, but for one thing. He was just a bit slow on the draw. He walked with a limp, thanks to a bullet from an outlaw whod outdrawn him. The reason he was still alive was that many fast gunmen werent that accurate when they shot. Once Sheriff Stone had his gun out he didnt miss, as that outlaw had found out.
The cowboys at the bar stared down into their drinks as the sheriff passed them. Stone knew why. The Brady brothers were coming into town. The oldest, Billy Brady, was one of the fastest guns in Texas. Hed sent the youngest brother to the hangman. Now they were coming to get their revenge. Everyone in town considered him a dead man.
Come and set a spell, Sheriff. It was Monte Faro, the town gambler, seated at his usual table, in a corner, back to the wall. Faro trusted no one. The rumor was that he cheated at cards, but no one had been able to catch him at it. The one cowboy whod accused him had regretted it as Faro was as adept with a gun as he was with cards.
The sheriff sat. Drink? asked Faro, raising his own.
Thats right. The Brady brothers should be here soon.
In about an hour.
Ever think of leaving town for a while.
No, Im the sheriff.
Billy Brady is fast. Hes also a dead shot. I dont think youll have much of a chance against him.
Stone shrugged. Maybe Ill get lucky.
The odds are against that..
Stone stood up. Id better get going.
The gambler raised his drink again. Well, heres to you.
Thanks. The Sheriff limped out. Still, nobody looked at him.
Stone checked his gun and put on his hat. Why cant you at least take your deputies with you? asked his wife Mary. She was a tall woman, almost as tall as her husband. She had blonde hair, striking blue eyes and strong features.
They dont have the stomach for it. Besides, the Bradys quarrel is with me.
Then what about me? I dont want to lose my husband.
Its just something I have to do. Im the law in this town.
Youll be killed.
Well see. Other gunmen have tried and Im still here.
Mary put her arms around the Sheriff. I wont let you go.
The two pairs of blue eyes stared into each other. Dont make it any harder. You know I have to.
Mary looked away and released her husband. Yes, I suppose you have to.
The Sheriff limped out the door.
The Brady brothers were waiting in front of the saloon. Nobody else was on the street. The sun still blazed down. There was an uncanny silence, as if everything else in town had stopped. Hi, Sheriff, said Billy Brady.
Hi, Billy. The Sheriff nodded to the two other brothers. Boys.
You come by yourself?.
Your deputies too yellow to come out and fight?
Its my quarrel, Billy.
It is. You sent my brother to the hangman.
He was a cattle rustler. The judge and a jury found him guilty. He deserved to be hung.
Stone was deliberately trying to goad Brady. He saw Brady turn red and tense.
Brady shouted, He was my brother. and he drew. Stone had been watching Brady gun hand; even so,. when it moved it was a blur that could hardly be seen and . Stone knew his own draw would be too late. He stiffened, waiting for the bullet to hit, but nothing happened. He heard a shot and a bullet hole appeared between Billys eyes. The other two brothers seemed frozen. Clearly, theyd expected Billy to have killed the Sheriff. They reached for their guns, but by this time Stone had drawn and, as always, when he shot he didnt miss.
Stone heard a noise behind him. He turned around and saw his wife Mary walking toward him. She was carrying a rifle. Did you shoot him? asked Stone.
No. I would have, but this gentleman beat me to it. Im much obliged.
Stone saw that Monte Faro, the gambler, was behind Mary. Faro raised his hat. It was no trouble, maam. The odds against the Sheriff were so good I couldnt resist making a few wagers. I had to protect my investment
Arent the other men going to be a little mad that you were the one who killed him? asked Stone.
The wager was that youd be alive, and here you are.
Yes, Im still here.
Well, I have to collect my bets. Faro turned and walked back to the saloon.
By this time, a dozen or so townspeople had gathered around. Luke Tidwell, the town casket maker, stepped forward. Ill take care of these bodies, Sheriff, he said. Why dont you and Mrs. Stone go home now.
Stones wife linked her arm in his. Yes, she said , Lets go home.
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