There was a sudden silence, a rare stillness that gave warning of forthcoming danger. I ordered the wagon to a halt and looked in all directions quietly. The first shot was fired. It missed me, but knocked my hat clean off. I jumped between the barrels of whiskey in the back and surrendered to my fate. Bullets were flying all around me, coming from the south side of the car, going north. And by the way the shots were being fired, I could tell there were only two gunman involved. One of the bullets found me and dug itself into my shoulder blade. I kept from crying out in pain, shrunk as small as I could and watched as the liquor poured out.
They stopped. I reckoned they were outta bullets. One of them climbed off his horse and came closer to the car, loaded both barrels of his shotgun and shot them in my direction. A barrel exploded, wood chips and buckshot tore through me, and whiskey came down on me like a malty rain igniting my wounds. The other one joined, and they could now see me through the holes in the canvas cover, as they both stood beside the wagon.
“What a shame about these horses.” One of them told the other and started towards the front. He stood a short distance aside and as he loaded his gun, he asked: “We kill’um? He shot the horses dead before there was an answer.
“He’s not breathing from what I can tell.” His partner’s eyes remained stiff assessing the situation.
“Well, let’s get’um out of there and make sure.”
Together they walked around back, grabbed me by the ankles and dragged me off the car, dropping me violently onto the mud. The hammer of a gun cocked behind my head.
“What are you doing?”
“You said we ought make sure he’s dead.”
“How do you know it ain’t him, but someone else?”
There was a pause. He flipped me on my back with the tip of his boot, and they looked down and examined me as I lay there covered in blood, mud, and whiskey. I remained still, barely breathing.
“Is that O’Connell?”
“Looks like O’Connell.” He re-positioned to have a better angle of me. “And…” he said with a grin. ” That looks like his gun.”
He bent down over me, brought his face close to mine and tried to feel my breath, but there was nothing; he seemed convinced. He looked back at my gun and said, “this ought to make for a nice prize.” Before he reached the butt-end of it, I took hold of his head and with a quick jerk twisted his neck; his body fell over me like a sack of potatoes. His accomplice opened fire, but I went unscathed by the flesh of his dead partner. I drew the gun off the corpse’s hip and wasted the second man.
I stood up as I could and checked them. One of them boasted the uniform of a U.S. cavalry man, the other looked the same as every other goon. They were too heavy and I was busted good that I only managed to drag their bodies to rest on the side of the car. There, I lit a cigarette I found while looking through them and, though I don’t smoke, I took a few drags and gazed over everything that had just happened. I put the cigarette to my lips for the last time and pulled long and hard, and flicked the tiny torch over the alcohol-soaked canvas and the whole scene caught fire.
I took their horses, tied the extra one to the one I mounted and rode off, as the only evidence of my crimes turned to smoke.