Southwestern

The Man With No Name reached town by late afternoon. He had ridden all night and day through the desert and wanted a bath and bed above all else. But that could wait. There were more important things to do.

He reached the saloon and looked inside through the half doors. He recognized his quarry immediately, sitting at the bar in a white shirt drinking with two other men. He looked around the saloon. A full house. He hoped no one else would get hurt. Onlookers getting messed up was not part of his plan.

He opened the half doors and walked inside to the bar. The saloon went quiet as everyone studied him. They didn’t see too many strangers in this town.

He sat at the bar at an empty stool three chairs away from his mark.

“What will it be?” asked the bartender.

“Whiskey and water,” he said.

He sipped the drink ignoring curious glances. He finished the whiskey and called out for one more, and while the bartender was getting it he said, looking into the glass, “I hear you are fast.”

Conversation around the bar died down. White shirt looked up and stared menacingly at the stranger.

“So what?” he asked.

He was a little drunk and really didnt want this now but the challenge was too direct to ignore.

“So maybe I’m faster,” said the stranger coolly.

The men sitting between them started to their feet and backed off, leaving them facing each other. The saloon was now very quiet.

“So prove it,” said White Shirt. He was still staring.

“No trouble inside, please,” said the bartender in a pleading tone.

“Dont worry, Robin, he won’t hurt me,” said White Shirt. He laughed loudly. Some of his friends laughed with him, then the rest of the saloon, but the stranger was quiet. He looked intently at his drink.

White Shirt suddenly whirled to his feet in the middle of his laugh. He moved towards the stranger. Something in his hand glinted in the low bar light. But the stranger was on his feet too. He lunged at White Shirt, ducked his head. In a flash he had moved behind White Shirt. His right hand held a long instrument which had seemingly appeared from nowhere. He plunged the instrument into White Shirt’s butt. The click of the staple was loud in the room and suddenly White Shirt cried out and fell, down on his face, a stain of blood darkening the seat of his jeans. He moaned in pain. The stain spread slowly.

The Man With No Name went back to his drink. A few men lifted White Shirt and carried him away. He was writhing in pain.

“Who are you, stranger? asked the bartender. “I have never seen anyone move so quick in my life before.”

”You dont want to know, barman,” he said. He finished the drink and paid the bartender. He walked away, conversation resuming slowly, increasing, behind him.

The Fastest Piles Surgeon in the world stood at the door in silence for a moment. There was always someone faster, he knew, and somewhere, perhaps across the desert, perhaps half across the world, there existed a stapler with his name on it. He shrugged. A man lived in the present. The past was dead, the future a place which did not exist.

He mounted his horse and rode off into the sunset without a backward glance.

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