One Last Job

"Hey, kid."

A young boy, with a shock of curly brown hair and a splattering of freckles across his nose and cheeks, came running into the dimly lit room. "Yes, sir," came the hurried response.

"Saddle the horses," a gruff voice commanded. The tall man turned to watch the young boy scurry from the room, nearly stumbling over a chair before reaching the door. A small smile crept onto his face as he watched the boy's hasty retreat. After a moment, he turned his lean frame towards the dirt-covered window and peered out into the harsh sunlight. He tipped his hat forward, revealing the dark locks that lay beneath. He ran a callused hand across his chin, now rough from two days growth of beard, and thought about the plans he had for tonight.

"No use scarin' the boy," drawled a voice from the doorway.

The man continued staring out the dust covered window for a moment before turning to face the blond man reclining in the door frame. "What do ya need, Jake?"

"Don't growl at me, pal. Just wanted to know what you're plannin' for tonight."

"What makes you think I've got something planned for tonight?" questioned the dark haired man. Anger flashed briefly in his dark eyes but was quickly replaced by a subtle suspicion. He considered Jake his closest friend but he was a wanted man and had learned long ago that no one, not even those closest to you, could be trusted.

"Oh, I dunno. Maybe it's the way you been running 'round fumin' at everyone." Jake pushed himself away from the wall and strolled over to one of the only two chairs in the tiny shack's front room. He flipped the chair around backwards before straddling it. He leaned forward and, not taking his eyes off of his partner, began rolling a cigarette. "Or it could be that you just had that boy saddle the horses. Not one horse, all the horses." He paused for a second to light his cigarette. "That tells me one of two things. Either you've got some scheme you're planning on springing tonight…or you plan on riding all them horses yourself. Now, I don't think you're aimin' to go on a whole lot of joy rides."

A small smile pulled at the man's lips but quickly vanished. "Never could pulled nothing past ya, could I?" The man sighed wearily, stretched his tired muscles, and flopped heavily into the last remaining chair. "This is it," he said softly. "I'm through after this. One final job." A bitter laugh escaped his chapped lips.

"How many times have I said that. Five, ten, a hundred? When will it end? When I'm dead?" The voice that began as a soft whisper rose to angry yells that echoed off of the bare walls.

He jumped up from the chair and began pacing the small room. His heels thudded on the packed dirt floor as he took five long strides, turned sharply and took another five strides. He repeated his pacing while mumbling softly to himself. "…never end. Should've given myself up years ago…last job," were the only audible words that slipped from his tongue. Just as quickly as he began pacing, he stopped. Again, he returned to the window and leaned one black clothed shoulder against the cool pane. His black leather gloves muffled the taps his finger was making against the low slung Colt on his hip. He studied the tanned face reflected on the glass. He was still young, barely thirty, and most thought him handsome with his dark hair and eyes. He needed a shave but the dimples in his cheeks could still clearly be seen when he smiled.

It was his smile that caught most people's attention; flashing and bright, his teeth even and white against his bronzed skin, tanned from the long hours he spent riding under the hot Arizona sun. It was a disarming smile, sincere and warm. Or so it seemed. He had used his looks and charms many times for his own gain. It wasn't until the last few months that his smile failed to reach his eyes. And people had begun to notice. He was finding it hard to flatter his intended targets into thinking him harmless. He had even begun to loose command of his men. My most loyal men, he thought bitterly. One last job, that was what he needed, just one last job. He straightened, tugged at his black vest, adjusted the black hat on his head, and stormed towards the door

"Come on, Jake," he called over his shoulder. "Let's get outta here." He didn't bother waiting as his long legs carried him through the door. He tilted his hat lower as the sun assaulted his eyes but kept moving forward. He usual arrogant swagger had returned as had his brilliant, flashing smile. Yelling had always cheered him up.

"Coming, boss." Jake threw the cigarette on the floor, crushing it with his boot before following the black figure into the bright, Arizona sunlight.