DW, an Army vet, has published 7 novels. His day job is teaching elementary school. In his spare time, he camps with his wife of 30+ years.
Are You with Me or Not
Mort stared wide-eyed at Hank. “Are you serious? You think I’m going to let you walk away, bust in the front door, and start shooting up the bar?”
“There’s not much you can do to stop me, Mort,” Hank said. He turned to go. “You just have to decide if you want to join me or not.”
When Mort reached out to grab Hank’s coat and stop him from walking away, all his hand grasped was air. The faint sound of spurs jangling could be heard at the end of the alley.
“How in the hell did he move so fast?” Mort asked himself.
“Not in hell,” Hank’s voice seemed to answer from inside Mort’s head. “I work for the other team. Now make up your mind. Are you with me, or not?”
Mentally kicking himself, Mort pulled his shotgun from under his duster, checked to make sure the magazine was full, with a round in the chamber and moved to stand by the bar’s back door. When he heard what sounded like an old Colt Forty-four start firing inside the bar, Mort raised one steel-toed biker boot and kicked in the flimsy back door of the Last Drop Bar.
Going in Hot
Beyond the shattered remains of the door, Mort saw a guy who must have been the bar’s cook grab a carving knife off the counter and charge toward him with a roar. The charge and the roar were both brought to an abrupt halt when Mort’s shotgun blast ripped into the big man’s chest, tearing a plate-sized hole through his ribs, lungs, and heart.
The cook’s roar, or Mort’s shotgun blast, brought the attention of the bartender - who’d been about to level the twelve-gauge he kept under the bar at Hank - to the kitchen. Without bothering to look at who was still standing back there, the bartender shoved the muzzle of the Remington 870 pump action through the serving window and pulled the trigger, sending a spray of double-ought buckshot across the kitchen.
A few of the peripheral pellets tore through the sleeve of Mort’s coat and fewer still embedded themselves in his shoulder, causing what would be a painful but not mortal wound when his adrenaline wore off. Mort had dropped to his knees and rolled toward the swinging door between the kitchen and the bar when he saw the muzzle come through the serving window. As soon as the bartender pulled the trigger, Mort pushed through the swinging door and, aiming up at the bartender, fired his shotgun.
Mort’s blast caught the bartender in the act of pumping another round into the chamber of the Remington. Most of the buckshot went under the skinny bartender’s arm and tore through his lungs and heart. He was dead before his body started falling to the floor.
Cleaning out the Bar
Mort turned his attention to the customer side of the bar as he rose to his feet. The rhythmic sound of the firing of the old Colt Forty-four, and the answering fire of several other small caliber handguns continued, but it was all background noise to Mort. The bounty hunter’s attention focused on the muzzle of the .357 Magnum pointed directly at him, and the face behind it. Cliff Regnar’s face.
Staring into the barrel of Regnar’s pistol, Mort felt time slow to a near stop. Mort’s weapon, trained as he was to aim where he was looking, was aimed directly at Regnar’s head. Mort could see Regnar’s finger tighten on the pistol’s trigger even as Mort fired his shotgun.
In nearly the same moment the magnum round from Regnar’s pistol slammed into Mort’s chest from point-blank range, the double-ought buckshot pellets from Mort’s shotgun disintegrated Regnar’s head into a cloud of blood, bone, and gray matter. Knowing his shot had hit home gave Mort very little satisfaction as his body fell for what seemed like an eternity before finally collapsing onto the bar floor. As his shotgun fell from his grasp, Mort was assailed by the sudden silence in the bar. He closed his eyes and tried to take a deep breath, but the fetid odor of rotting fruit and stale beer gagged him.
Hearing Hank’s voice saying, “Looks like Sam was right. You are the man for the job,” Mort forced his eyes open. Towering over him, with no trace of the gunfight he’d just been through showing on him, stood Hank.
Not in Hell
“It’s over now,” Hank said. “Does it hurt any? It looks like it hurts.”
Mort wanted to tell Hank that he couldn’t feel anything, but there was no air in his lungs. With great effort, Mort rolled his head slowly to the left and then back to the right.
“No, huh,” Hank said. “Must be the shock. You’ll pass over real soon, Mort. I have to go before the cops get here. I’ll see you on the other side.”
Mort wanted to ask Hank where the other side was, but the cowboy was gone. As the red-black haze settled over his vision for the last time, Mort heard a voice far-away ask, ‘What in the hell happened here?”
With the last of his strength, a weak smile twitched on Mort’s lips as he recalled Hanks’ words. “Not in hell.”
Mort's story continues in Part 8, A Conversation in Hank's Cabin
- Soul Collectors Part 8, A Converstaion in Hank's Cabin
Mort awakens to find himself in a late 19th Century cabin sitting across from Hank and wondering where he is and how he got there.