The stranger stepped into the dimly lit tavern. Dirt and mud clung to his breeches, cowboy hat, and long coat. He wasn’t a large man, yet a sense of strength and power surrounded him. Just inside the doorway, he stood letting his eyes adjust to the sudden darkness.
Everyone in the bar turned their heads as one to gaze upon the new stranger. He slowly walked toward the bar and placing a few coins on its rough surface ordered a whiskey. His voice was a hoarse whisper, only the barkeep and a couple of others sitting at the bar were able to hear him.
Taking the small glass of liquor, the stranger downed the drink, exclaiming a soft sigh of pleasure.
“A whiskey man aye?” a man slurred next to the stranger.
“On occasions,” the stranger said.
“I’m a bourbon man myself,” he said taking a gulp of his drink, “The names Clive Hodgkins,” he said holding has out.
“Pleasure,” the stranger said ignoring the drunk’s outstretched hand.
“You have a name boy? Or should I make one up for you?” the drunk laughed into his glass.
“Trevor,” the stranger said simply and motioned to the barkeep for another round.
“Nice to meet you there Trevor boy,” Clive said with a big sheepish grin. “Where you from?”
“Come now, what’s with the secrecy? You can tell ‘ol Clive, I won’t tell no one.”
“Just traveling through.”
“Where you a headed then? Or is that a secret too?” Clive laughed.
“No where in particular,” Trevor said in his raspy voice.
“Must be a sad existence there boy, having no where to go. You need a place to stay? There’s a hotel down the street a ways, its nothing fancy but she’ll do for a nights sleep.”
“Thanks, I’ll look into it,” Trevor said ordering another drink. He turned his back to the bar and began surveying the room. His eyes came to light on a man in the far corner of the bar, sitting with two others and talking in hushed voices.
“I wouldn’t mess with that bunch boy, they are nothing but trouble,” Clive hiccupped and slapped Trevor on the arm.
“Who are they?” he asked turning his back on the room.
“The big one is called Tom Wallace; the other two are Lester Hughes and Christopher Banks. Stay clear of them Trevor, they kill any man who crosses them. Sherriff won’t do nothing about it, he’s Tom’s brother, names George,” Clive said in a slurred whisper.
“How many have they killed?” Trevor asked.
“Oh the good Lord only knows. Last year 10 drifters disappeared after they crossed that gang. Could be coincidence but I don’t think so. Cold-blooded killers they are.”
“You know Clive, I think you’ve had enough,” the barkeep said coming by to take away his glass. He handed him a mug of coffee.
“Right you are Billy,” Clive said taking the mug.
“Do they have a name?” Trevor asked.
“A name? You mean like the James Younger gang? Nah, I don’t think they are smart enough to come up with a name. Besides, it will only draw attention themselves, and they do not like attention.”
“Why are you so concerned with them?” Billy the barkeep asked seriously.
“They look awfully familiar. But so far I can’t remember why,” Trevor said simply.
“Its best you leave them alone. Otherwise, you’ll go missing like all the others,” Billy said before walking away to another costumer. Trevor sat for a moment or two, before getting to his feet and heading to the table in the corner. There were gasps from the bar.
“Excuse me gentlemen, I was wondering if you would be interested in a game of cards?” Trevor asked politely in his hoarse whisper.
“In a rush to loose some money?” one man said.
“We don’t play with trash boy,” the other one chimed in.
“Now boys, how could we pass up a nice game of cards?” Tom Wallace said smiling.
Names were exchanged then the men dealt the cards in silence, placing their bets they sat back and examined their cards.
“So where you from stranger?” Christopher asked.
“North. Just traveling through”
“Where are you traveling to?” Tom asked.
“No where really. When I find a place to stop, I’ll stop,” Trevor said smiling up at the men.
“How are you surviving without money?” Lester asked he was the one who refused to play with trash.
“Oh I have a bit of money. Whenever I’m getting low, I find a job for a bit,” Trevor said watching as the three exchanged looks.
“How much we playing with here Trevor boy? We won’t make the stakes too high, just so you don’t lose everything!” Tom chuckled.
“Where did you stop off last?” Christopher asked after the negotiations were over.
“Tennessee, Tellico Plains I think was the name,” Trevor said absently. The three changed looks again.
“Oh really? What were you doing way up in Tennessee?” Christopher asked.
“Tracking down a sorry son of a bitch who robbed me blind a year ago. Been on his trail for 6 months only to find someone got lucky and knocked him off for me.”
“That’s something huh,” Tom said.
“I wish I knew who did it, and thank him. Saved me a bullet,” Trevor said with a laugh.
“I bet,” Tom said again, clearing his throat. A soft click was heard from his end of the table. Trevor smiled.
“What did you do that for? I aint cheating.” He said lightly.
“I didn’t hear nothing,” Lester said in a menacing tone. Silence had exploded inside the tavern, no one was even breathing.
“It’s awfully funny that we just left Tennessee,” Tom said.
“Is that so? Whose turn is it?” Trevor asked looking around the table, seemingly oblivious of the sudden tension.
“It’s also funny that horse of yours looks awfully familiar.” Tom said.
“Well I bought him up in Tennessee, the one I had before bit the dust the second I rode into town,” Trevor said sitting his cards down. He leaned back in his chair and laced his hands on the back of his head.
“You look awfully familiar too boy,” Tom said.
“What are you getting at Tom? Did we run into each other in a bar in Tennessee and you’re hurt that I don’t recognize you?” He said with a laugh.
“You are one stupid son of a bitch Trevor,” Lester said.
“How so?” he asked keeping his gaze locked on Tom.
“You have three guns aimed at your belly and you sitting there smirking like you won the game,” Lester said.
“Who are you?” Tom asked.
“Who do you think?” Trevor asked. He took his hands slowly and put them on the table. He leaned in close to give Tom a good look.
It was dark, and the rain was pouring down in icy sheets. A group of men stood on the porch, trembling with cold.
“Can I help you folks?” a tall lanky man asked from the doorway.
“Yes sir, we are in dire need of a bed for the night and hot meal, if you’d be so kind,” the first man asked.
“Of course, come on in,” the man said backing way to let the other’s enter.
“Please sit, I’ll pour you some coffee while the soup heats up,” a woman said from the fireplace.
After eating, the group huddled down under piles of blankets and the couple settled themselves down to sleep.
“Don’t move,” a deathly whisper sounded into the night.
“Take what you want, you know we don’t have much,” the man said shakily to the stranger.
“Oh you have more than enough,” he chucked. A scream echoed inside the home as the men grabbed the sleeping woman and carried her to the main room.
“Move, I dare you,” the voice said.
Her screams echoed throughout the night as one man after another raped and beat her. Her husband lay in the bed as still as stone, with a gun barrel pressed into his forehead.
“Hey Buster, your turn!” a man called from the doorway.
“My pleasure,” he said. The two men exchanged places, the gun pressed hard against the husband’s skull.
Crashes and crying came from the main room. The husband began to shake slightly, his sobs were quiet.
“Move and you’ll die, and she will become our whore,” the new voice challenged.
The husband was pulled out of bed, and dragged into the main room. His wife, beaten and bloody, lay in a small pile in the floor. The strangers were laughing and joking about the raping of the woman. The man slumped in the grasp of the two men holding him, tears pouring down his face.
“Ah ain’t that sweet Buster,” one man said sarcastically.
“Terribly.” A shot echoed into the night.
“You can’t be,” Tom said in a whisper.
“Can’t be who?” Trevor asked seriously.
“We killed you, shot you in the head. No one can survive their brains splattering the walls,” Tom said in a shaky voice. The two men were looking back and forth between Tom and Trevor.
“No you didn’t,” Trevor said. He raised his hand slowly, and pulled the hat from his head. Long blonde hair spilled out, to frame her face.
“Oh my god!” Christopher exclaimed. Without blinking, she lifted the gun in her lap and shot both Christopher and Lester in seconds. She jumped up out of her chair, knocking over the table. She walked up to Tom gun aimed at his head.
“Let me bring you up to date you sorry asshole! I lay on that floor for two days before I came to. I found my husband, lying dead on the floor mere inches from me. All of our belongings gone, even our pots and pans. It took weeks for me to even walk again. And then I find out I’m pregnant! Not knowing if it was my husband or one of your bastards, I tried to kill myself. As you can see it didn’t work, but I lost the baby.”
“Instead of trying again, I decided I wanted you dead instead, and all of your crew. You are the last one left Tom. I’ve gotten rid of all five of your buddies who raped me and murdered my husband. Now it’s your turn,”
“You’ll pay for this bitch, my brother is sheriff. They’ll hang you,” Tom said laughing.
“Not if he’s dead he can’t. You see Tom, I did my research, I know who you have in your pocket. They are all gone,” she said dragging out the last sentence one slow word at a time.
“There are witnesses here, they will see that you pay,” Tom said with a grin.
“You think so? Hey folks, who here will stop me from killing ‘ol Tom? Does anyone want to see me hang for it?” she asked the crowd behind her. No one spoke, no one moved. “See Tom, they don’t care what happens to you. Making enemies leaves you all alone in the end.”
“Get it over with it then,” Tom said sitting up taller.
“Oh no see it doesn’t work that way. That would be fair, and what you did to me and mine, was not fair. You are going to suffer, and all of us here in the tavern are going to enjoy the show,” she said with an evil grin on her face. “Anyone got some rope?” she asked the crowd.
A roll of rope was tossed near her feet. She tied him to the chair, stripped him of every single artifact on his person. She pulled up her vacated chair and moved it so she was closer to him and sat down.
“And so you don’t worry about your dear homestead and possessions, it all belongs to me. Everything you have stolen will be returned, and I will live out my days in your beautiful home.”
“Shoot me you spineless bitch!”
“Not having fun are we Tom? Did you give Henry that choice? Or did you shoot him without him knowing?”
“I shot the bastard as he fell to his knees sobbing over you, pathetic excuse for a man!”
“Yes that’s right, a husband grieving over his wife’s body, bruised and bleeding and covered in your filth, how pathetic. It’s you that’s pathetic. You have taken from everyone that has ever come in contact with you. Well no more Tom, now it’s our turn,” she said lifting her gun. Tom smiled. She shot his left foot, and he screamed.
“Do you know how many innocent people you have killed?”
“No!” Tom screamed.
“According to my calculations it’s close to fifty people! Fifty! You have stolen the lives of fifty people!” she screamed.
“So what? Shoot me get it over with!” he screamed struggling against the ropes.
“So what? Do you know how many of them had children? Do you know what they could have contributed to this world if you hadn’t murdered them? No, because it’s all about you Tom. All about you!” she said shooting his right food. Tom began to scream and cry, loud ear-piercing screams.
“That only takes care of ten people. Guess whose next?” she asked. She had tied his hands to the armrests of the chair. She walked over, looked him in the eye, and shot his right hand.
“Fifteen,” she shot his left hand, “Twenty. Now that leaves thirty, do you have thirty of anything Tom?” she asked with a maniac laugh.
“Fuck you!” he screamed in her face.
“Ah you have, and you weren’t very good,” she said just before shooting him in the groin. His screams turned irrational, unreal. He struggled against the ropes and had to stop at the pain it caused. Blood was all around him. His two companions were still slumped in their chairs.
“No woman will ever miss that Tom. Or you,” she said. The shot echoed inside the tavern.