He was a fair shot.
Close to evening, I’d been out riding along North Road, checking the wall and looking for trouble.
The wall was fine, and trouble found me.
I’d reached the end of the wall when something struck me in the back, knocking me out of the saddle and dropping me hard to the road. The crack of a rifle followed a heartbeat later, and the horse beat like hell for home.
I could feel the hole in my back, the shards of bone in the muscle, and I could hear the wind whistling through my lung. As control of my limbs returned, I drew one of my Colts, cocked the hammer, and forced myself to roll closer to the wall.
A quick glance at the road showed a fair amount of blood soaking into the packed earth and some dirty-looking bits of bone I knew to be my own.
My wound stitched itself back together with agonizing sloth, and I wondered what the hell I’d been shot with to make the injury so difficult to heal.
The sound of boots in tall grass drove the question from my mind, and I readied myself.
Someone climbed the wall directly above me, rifle in hand, his body perfectly silhouetted by the sun. As he looked down, I raised the Colt up and pulled the trigger.
The round smashed up into the shooter’s groin, exited his shoulder and sent him tumbling over me. He landed hard, the rifle spinning away and firing off the shot he’d chambered.
The stranger lay next to me, body shaking and quivering while he struggled to breathe.
With a grunt, I pushed up and kept my pistol aimed at the man’s belly.
His eyes darted to his rifle, which lay several feet away, and then returned to me.
With blue-tinged lips and a rapidly paling face, the dying man whispered, “Thought I had you.”
“You did,” I replied.
I nodded. “Second time?”
He laughed and then winced. “Yes. Twice. Thought I might last a little longer the second time around. Guess I was wrong.”
“Guess so,” I agreed.
“No hard feelings?” he asked.
“None at all.”
“Good.” The man closed his eyes and died.
I checked his rifle after I healed and discovered no rounds remained.
With the weapon on my shoulder, I made my way home. The horse needed tending, and I had to change my damned clothes.