The revolver in my hand was loaded, the nickel plating on the barrel of my pa's Colt Peacemaker reflecting the sunlight bearing down on it. Six glass bottles stood on an old wooden fence. The small wooden posts, and the rails connecting them, were riddled with with holes and cuts from my brother and I practicing. He was four years my senior and twice as good with a gun; that's not to say that I couldn't hit what I was aiming at, because my pa taught me well. The advantage Matthew had over me was his speed. For as big a man as he was, he could draw on a man, kill him, and be having a celebratory drink in a saloon before his opponent hit the dirt. He needed those skills when he headed out west on business.
I raised the Colt, leveling it at the six targets down from me. Using my thumb, I drew the hammer all the way back and trained the sights on the first bottle. As I pulled the trigger, the first gunshot echoed, followed by the sound of glass shattering all over the ground. I smiled and moved to the next, and the next, and so on, until all six bottles lay in shards in the grass.
"Damn fine shooting, Rob."
I turned on my heel, holstering the Colt. The voice was one I recognized immediately. It was one I hadn't heard in two months.
"Bout time you showed up, Matt," I replied, walking towards the mountain of a man. "I don't think Michelle woulda liked it if you missed the wedding."
Matthew laughed his rough laugh. "Not as mad as if I didn't show up with her dress."
He must've been by the house first, I figured. Thats how he knew to find me down here.
"And you woulda been mad if I took her off your hands, like a good best man should," I said, trying to annoy him like any good little brother does.
His hand moved suddenly, unexpectedly out, and my eyes followed it. In seconds, Matt was behind me, his arm around my throat.
"Don't tell me," he said in my ear. "I'm going to have to take you out behind the woodshed and give you a whipping like I used to?"
I worked my neck into the crook of his arm, taking in a deep breath. "You told me once, never underestimate your opponent," I said between breaths. I drew my elbow back, catching his stomach. His grip loosened enough that I could slide free. Before he could react, I had him on his back on the grass. I couldn't pin him, but I had him as close as I could.
Matt looked up at me, with a look of both surprise and satisfaction. He'd been the one who taught me how to fight.
"You're improving," he said, pushing me off. "Some, at least. You're still not even close to beating me in a fair fight, though." He stood, wiping dirt off his duster.
"To be fair, I'm a bit smarter than the Marley boys," I said.
Marcus and James 'Jimmy' Marley had been some of Silent Springs' biggest thugs. The first time I'd ever met them was back when I was nine years old, when pa had gone to the Klondike to hunt for gold. Mom had sent Matt and me to town to buy some things at the general store. To keep me out of his hair while he did the food shopping, Matt gave me a dollar to buy something. I was young, and it had been the most money I'd ever had. Imagine my nine-year-old excitement. A whole dollar! I felt rich! I felt like I could buy anything I wanted!
I couldn't decide, naturally. The peppermint sticks, or chocolate. I went outside to think, and it was there that I ran into the Marley brothers. They'd heard me talking to myself about my dollar, and decided what was best: give it to them. Of course, I said no. I was rewarded with a big, meaty fist in my gut; that had been from Marcus. He was a brute, kinda like Matt but nowhere near as smart. He hit me a second time and was working on a third when Matt came out, holding everything. He looked over, and I could see anger in his eyes. Of course, Marcus was too stupid to notice the 13-year-old coming towards him. He didn't notice anything until he was laying in the dirt, clutching the side of his head. Jimmy had the sense to back off. He grabbed Marcus and ran off.
Matt had reached down, picking me up by the collar. Naturally, I cowered.
"Don't hurt me," I said quietly, my hands moving to cover my face. "Don't be mad."
He shook his head and dusted me off. "We're going to go home," he said. "Mom's gonna clean up your face. And tomorrow, I'm going to show you how to fight fools like that."
The Marley boys had never forgiven Matt for that. Or me, by extension. They knew not to mess with me if he was around, but whenever I was alone, I was free game. They hadn't left me alone until, two years ago, I broke Marcus's nose in a fight. Then I hadn't seen hide nor hair of them. All the better, in my opinion.
The wedding was scheduled for the next morning, at noon. The house was full that night, with Matt, Mom, Michelle, and myself. That night for supper, we sat at a table that hadn't been full since Pa left back in 1885. Of course, afterwards Matt and Michelle retired to Matt's bedroom, and I to the barn loft. I usually slept there when Matt and Michelle were home. It was better that way.
Sleep came quickly, and before I knew it I was being woke up for breakfast. Afterwards came the wedding. As I climbed down, I had a feeling. It was going to be an eventful day.