He was a damned fine shot.
The bullet went clean through my chest and out my back, and I don’t mind saying it hurt like hell.
The impact sent me tumbling down a slight ridge, and that saved me a bit more pain, although the fall itself was nothing pleasant.
As I rolled to the bottom, limp as one shot through the chest ought to be, I heard the fading echo of the shot. When I reached the end of my unexpected journey, I sat up, spat blood and was thankful the bullet had gone through and through, painful as it was.
My bones and flesh stitched themselves back together as I crawled away, curving back towards where the shot must have come from. Each movement was a lesson in pain, and that pain cleared my head.
I couldn’t go after the bushwhacker angry.
Angry would get me hurt, and I might do something rash.
It had happened once or twice before.
I reached the spot where I thought he might have been, and when I angled myself up another small rise, I saw him.
He stood at the top, scoped rifle over his shoulder as he looked for my body. As he did so, I watched the man remove a pipe and a pouch of tobacco, and he packed the bowl slowly and methodically, as though he had all the time in the world.
When I crept up behind him, I slipped my knife from its sheath. With the weapon in my hand, I waited as he fished out his matches and let out a sigh.
“Where did that damned body fall?” he asked no one in particular.
“Here,” I whispered, and as the man turned around, his eyes wide with surprise, I drove my knife into his belly. The pipe fell from his mouth, and I caught it with my free hand, spilling nary a leaf of tobacco.
His hands wrapped around my wrist, and I twisted the blade. He let out a long, low groan and sank to the stones, and I went with him.
“You’re a headhunter,” I remarked.
The man nodded as his breath came in short, ragged gasps.
“I don’t bother with the heads. Just the scalps.”
I drew the knife from his belly, knocked the hat off his head, and sawed his scalp off while he begged for me to stop.
I didn’t listen.
Instead, I lit his pipe and smoked it while he died.
I’ve no love for bushwhacking bastards.