Dead Red

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Dead Red Chapter One (Excerpt)

Red Chester took a quick glance through the grimy, sand scarred window, and could see they were still gathered there, surrounding the body like vultures on a fallen steer.

He shoveled a spoonful of the congealed stew up to his lips, and took a loud slurp. The salt stung his tongue. Every nerve in his body seemed to be on fire. It was a high, alright, but when the guilt kicked in, this would be just another incident in a long line of incidents he’d rather forget.

Even gunfighters had a conscience.

He wondered how long it would be before the local law stepped foot into the bar to tell him to move on. He’d been through enough of these towns to know that his stay wouldn’t be long, especially when you’ve got a reputation that gets their long before you do.

And there was always someone looking to make a name for himself.

This one, he was barely out of his teens. Young gun attitude with an itch to be something this little dried out shithole never meant him to be.

For the first couple of days, the kid followed Red around, even offered to buy him a drink here and there. Red always refused because he knew it was coming.

He always knew when it was coming.

Just then, the saloon doors swung open. A small man with big intentions walked through them, hands resting on a pair of revolvers slung from the hips. In another life, this person would have probably been an accountant or a lawyer, but, out here, in the wastelands, where badges were handed out like death certificates, he was the elected law.       He walked over toward Red who stared down at his meal.

“You’re going to have to move on.” He said, in a deep, practiced tone. Red could imagine the man running the statement through his head countless times as he made his way toward the saloon.  

Red looked up and stared into the man’s eyes. They betrayed his brave demeanor.

“I was just thinking that myself.” Red took another spoonful of his stew. “Right after I finish my grub.”

He looked back down at the table. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the man’s hands sliding down the handles of his pistols, thumbs arcing around the butt, index fingers outstretched.

“I don’t think you get what I’m sayin’.”

Red kept his head down, dug into his stew once more, and shoveled it into his mouth. The saloon doors opened again with a creak.

Cautious footsteps.

There were now three men standing behind the sheriff.

There was that smell again.

The sheriff kicked at the base of the table, tipping Red’s bowl of stew. The liquid ran to the edge of the table, pooled, and dripped off the side.

“You have until the count of three to get your ass out of that chair, mount your ride, and get the hell out of my town.”

The sheriff’s voice quivered. Red heaved a deep sigh.

“The boy brought it on himself. I didn’t come here lookin’ for no fight.”

The sheriff’s eyes narrowed. The three men behind him slowly moved forward.

“One.” The sheriff’s fingers slid in front of the triggers of his revolvers.

“All I want is to finish this bowl…”


“…of godamned chicken stew.”

The sheriff’s eyes widened. His hands gripped the revolvers and slid them from their holsters.


A deafening bang cut him off mid-word as the sheriff collapsed to the ground, his revolvers falling to the floor before him. There was a gaping hole where his knee cap used to be. He fumbled for his weapon, as five more shots rang out, followed by a series of dull thumps as the bodies of his back up men hit the floor. Just as one of his revolvers was in reach, he watched as his hand exploded in a cloud of blood and bone. Red stood above him, placed a boot on his chest, and aimed at his forehead.

“You should have let me finish my stew.”

Red slowly pulled back the hammer, accentuating every click in the mechanism.

The sheriff laid there, his face contorted into an anticipatory wince.

Red pulled the trigger.


“Well whaddya know,” Red said with mock surprise. “Look’s like you ain’t ready to die.”

The sheriff’s eyes slowly peeled open and Red gave him a wink. As he stepped over him and walked toward the exit Red noticed the bartender, trembling as he leveraged a rifle in his direction. Red stared back at the man. The bartender lowered the rifle, and then dropped it to the floor.

He wasn’t ready to die either.

Red took a few steps toward him, reached into his pocket, and tossed a few coins on the bar.

“Good stew.” He said, tipping his hat at the bartender. He then looked back over his shoulder at the mess on the floor. ”But the atmosphere’s shit.”

Red walked out of the saloon into a sea of frozen faces. As he passed through the crowd, he could hear them rush into the saloon. He walked past the onlookers to the stables, mounted his horse, and slowly trotted out of town amidst a chorus of tears and moans.

It was the music that followed him everywhere. 

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