I may die today.
I look in the mirror as I shave. It's Tuesday and I normally only shave on Saturday, but it's an important day. Maybe I should wear my suit. No, if it's covered with blood, they'll have nothing to bury me in.
Lilly called, "Sam, breakfast is almost ready."
I smell bacon cooking. I put on my work clothes and walk to the kitchen. Lilly is putting my plate on the table as I sit down. Three slices of bacon, four fried eggs, two biscuits, and a bowl of grits. Normally, I wolf all this down and run out the door to work.
I eat one slice of bacon and part of one of the biscuits, but I just can't face the eggs or grits. My nerves are strung tight and my stomach feels like it's on a galloping horse.
Lilly looks at me strangely when I get up and give her a quick peck on the cheek before going out the door. If she knew, she'd try to stop me. Not because I might die. She would beg me not to sentence myself to hell.
Lilly believes in heaven and hell and is always telling me how to behave, to go to the former and not the latter. I'm not sure I believe in heaven, but I believe in hell. There are too many people headed that way. Hell is going to be a crowded place.
I walk into the blacksmith shop where Ben has the forge fire started and is laying out the tools. We've been working on making replacement leaf springs for Jess Jameson's wagon.
I throw myself into the work, trying to put the noon hour out of my mind. I surprise Ben by letting him do the master work today. As my son, he might be the master soon enough. He taps on the metal with the small hammer, indicating where I should hit it with the sledgehammer. I take big swings and pound out my anger/frustration/fear. Heat from the forge on this hot day combined with the heavy exertion soon has sweat flowing off my body.
At 11:15, I take off the heavy leather apron, towel off the sweat, and head out the door toward Main Street. It's hot early, going to be a scorcher today. Maybe I'm already in hell. I can't help but stare at the sheriff's office as I pass it and enter the bank next door.
I had thought about putting on my gun belt, but I haven't worn the thing in fifteen years, and I couldn't hit the side of a barn with a six-shooter.
It's 1894 and the county is civilized now, no Indians or bandits are likely to show up. The problem these days comes from within. The Texas Rangers came to town to stop an all-out civil war. They told us to arm ourselves for protection from Raynes, but it wouldn't help me.
I walk through the bank lobby and knock on the office door. The door cracks open and Silas Johnson peeks out. The door opens fully, allowing me to walk in. In the bank president's office are the three men I drew cards with. I drew low card.
Present are Silas, the town attorney, Jason Samuels, the owner of the general store, and Bradley Matthews, the bank president. The room is filled with smoke from Bradley's cigar.
Silas says, "Hot one today. Already as hot as a whorehouse on nickel night."
Bradley grabs four glasses from the shelf behind him and sets them on the desk. He pulls a bottle of whiskey out of a drawer and fills them.
We each grab one.
Bradley raises his, "Gentlemen, a toast to our success."
The others drink, but I look down at the liquid in my glass. The nervous stomach is back, that galloping horse is about to jump off the cliff. I take a deep swallow and hope I don't retch the liquid right back up.
Jason reaches behind him and picks up a shotgun leaning on the wall. He puts it in my hands, "It's loaded and ready to go."
I just nod. There's a lump in my throat and I don't think I can talk right now.
Silas puts a hand on my shoulder, "You can't miss with that."
I hit the top lever to open the barrels and verify two shells are in place. I close the gun and sit in a chair.
Silas says, "I'll watch and tell you when." He steps out the back door.
Bradley looks me in the eye, "You okay?"
I nod. "Yes, let's just get it over with."
Jason and Bradley are talking about something, but I don't even know what it is. At least my stomach has settled down. Somebody must do this, so why not me? I can do this.
After ten minutes or sixty minutes, I have no idea how long, Silas opens the door and steps in. "The deputy left for lunch."
Bradley stands up, "Today we bring justice back to this town."
I rise out of the chair holding the shotgun in my hands. Silas steps back out the door and looks up and down the alleyway. "Clear."
I step past him and walk across the alley toward the side door of the sheriff's office. I put a hand on the doorknob, take a deep breath, and open it.
I take two quick steps in and face Sheriff Raynes, sitting behind his desk. His mouth drops open and he scrambles for the gun at his waist. I point the shotgun at his chest, "See you in Hell," and pull both triggers.
The roar of the blast is deafening, and my shoulder is wrenched back by the recoil. I look at the devil, slumped in his chair with blood splattered on his desk and the wall behind him.
I guess I walked back to the bank, though I don't remember doing it. My three partners in crime are celebrating and patting me on the back. I hand the shotgun to Jason and walk out the office, through the bank, and onto the street. I ignore the crowd forming in front of the sheriff's office and head home.
I didn't die today.