Seeing the woman slowly step out, one hand waving a rag of some sort, Hayworth felt a satisfied smile at the side of his face. After he pulled the trigger, he started to stand up, but then Everett held his hand out, told him to stay down. Like he was just a stupid trail dog who could be commanded around. The bastard. Really, what was Everett worried about? Hayworth was certain he’d hit the sheriff and said as much--saw the man through the scope, just inside the window with one hand extended, and he knew deep in his gut that was the shot. He took it. Ten minutes later, though, the whole time listening to Everett call out the sheriff’s name, saying it was time to come on out , settle this, Hayworth didn’t see anyone moving around down there and started to doubt. Maybe he’d misjudged the wind or didn’t factor in for the slope. But now, seeing the woman step through door alone, her voice carrying up from the house, saying please, dear God, please don’t shoot, he nodded his head and felt that smile.
Through the scope, he couldn’t see her tears, but he knew they were there. He remembered Francine back in Sundance, how she’d cried. Yes sir, he thought, a woman doesn’t carry a face like that unless she’s bawled a few.
He stood, slid his rifle back into the scabbard next to his saddled, and then winked at Everett. “See?”
Everett didn’t say a word.
Hayworth grabbed at his pommel and slid a boot into the stirrup when a funny thing happened. He saw nothing but sky at first, and then felt the wind gush out of him as he hit the ground. He started to feel embarrassed about the whole thing--damn, if he hadn’t done anything so stupid in his life before--but then he heard the report of a rifle. He wanted to ask where the shot came from, but found that when he opened his mouth the only thing that came out was blood.
Everett glanced down, and in those eyes Hayworth saw a mixture of pain and disgust that he had never wanted to see from his friend. Everett looked up again. He nodded and drew his pistol. He said, “Okay, John, let’s do it your way,” and spurred his horse.
As he rode away, speeding down the hill, Hayworth glanced toward the house and saw the strangest sight: the woman had been replaced by the man. The man raised his pistol and fired, the sound of it reaching Hayworth’s ears as Everett fell off his horse.
He thought, Now how did that happen? And then, he didn’t think of anything at all.
John stood over Everett, his old friend clutching at his chest, the shirt turning red with blood.
Everett gasped. “How’d we miss you?”
John reached for the side of his arm. The lingering pain throbbed. The bullet had gone through, he knew, but it was going to take someone else looking at it, and soon.
“You didn’t," he said. "You just didn’t do it well enough.”
Everett chuckled, the sound coming out wet and bubbly. “Ah well… you always were… the better shot.”
John looked over the scene. Everett’s gun was several feet away, and there was no other threat. He holstered his own pistol.
“Why?” he said.
“Because… some things just need… to be settled.”
“One way or the other, huh?”
“Yeah.” Everett started to laugh, but then coughed and gritted his teeth.
A shadow crept over Everett, and John turned as Lois stopped and looked down.
Everett smiled. “Hey… Lois.”
She didn’t say anything.
“I just want you to know... I… I…" Everett's smile faded. His mouth turned slack, and his eyes stared straight ahead, not looking at John but through him.
John heard Lois’s voice, then, and turned toward her. “What?”
“I just wondered what he meant.”
“He said there was something he wanted to tell me.”
John shook his head. “With men like Everett? It’s better that we never know.”
A moment of silence fell between them, broken up by the stirring of the wind. Finally, Lois said, “I’m not sure what to say to my husband.”
John looked down and frowned. “About?”
“About this. About his gun.”
John nodded. If it hadn’t been for her husband’s rifle--a Sharps, thank God--they both might have been finished. After they had killed him, they would have turned on her. To her credit, Lois had been quick to point out the gun, and then brave enough to step outside, waving the rag.
He said, “Tell him the truth,” and wished he would have done the same thing fifteen years ago. If he had, maybe all of this would have been different. Maybe Roberto Mendoza would still be alive. Maybe several others, too. He kneeled down and closed his old friend’s eyes. He thought of the years that had been lost, the pain that had been inflicted. There were a lot of maybes, it seemed.
“There is one thing I need to say first, though.”
As he stood, Lois shook her head. “You’ve already told me everything.”
He looked down. “Can you ever--”
Her fingers touched his lips. She blinked away the tears and nodded. Then, she did something he would hold in his heart forever: she wrapped her arms around him. The pain bit into the wound again, but this time it wasn't so bad.