Coldgrass was a peaceful hamlet. It was named after the large fields of tall grass that surrounded it, the only land not being touched by the grass being the road that ran through the town and continued to run on the other side of town, leading away to other settlements like: Goble City and Smithsville Keep.
In the fields around Coldgrass, large buffalo's roamed, kept as work animals and livestock by the citizens of Coldgrass. Sometimes, the people, especially a few brave vaqueros would ride angered buffalo's during festivities, or fiestas, as they were called in the local dialect.
It was in this peaceful small town that The Bounty Hunter, found himself facing a gunslinger.
They were both standing in the main street at around three o'clock in the afternoon.
The gunslinger bent over a bit, his legs were spread and he held his right hand a bit higher than his left hand, close to the grip of his revolver. The look on his face the one of a hardened drifter.
The Bounty Hunter stood straight up and had his legs spread just a bit, his hands hanging down.
The sun, which was already travelling downwards towards the western horizon, cast reflections on his glasses, making his face look expressionless.
All of this because of a glass of milk, The Bounty Hunter thought.
A few minutes earlier...
It was a silent day in Coldgrass, the peaceful town. The wind blew across the fields of tall grass and bewildered the buffalo's fur. It was the day of the Sabbath which meant that nobody was out on the streets except for a few children and a vaquero or two.
It was on this empty day that The Bounty Hunter came riding into Coldgrass.
He rode a large, dark brown horse with long manes. At the side of his saddle hung a large holster that kept a rifle in it. A very expensive repeating rifle.
The Bounty Hunter himself wore a brown duster and a dark hat.
A pair of field glasses was dangling about on his chest in the rhythm of his horse.
Slowly, he rode into town, looking carefully around him.
Some of the children looked at him as he passed by. The two vaqueros who were playing cards on a crate didn't even notice him.
The Bounty Hunter stopped in front of a large building standing two stories high. IT had a large sign mounted on the front, saying: Saloon.
There were three hitching posts outside and the horses that were hitched there belonged to some of the vaqueros inside and a few travellers who were passing by.
The Bounty Hunter dismounted, hitched his horse and stepped onto the squeaky boardwalk in front of the saloon.
He leaned onto the doors of the saloon and looked inside.
It was emptier than the other saloons that he had visited had been. Only a few men were sitting inside.
The vaqueros, with their poncho's and sombrero's, were playing cards at their own table and the drifters were either sitting at their own table or standing at the bar.
A pianist was bashing the keys of his piano, producing something that resembled music.
The Bounty Hunter stepped inside, walking straight towards the bar.
Some of the vaqueros looked up from their card game, saw that nobody was drawing their revolver or anything and went back into their game again, muttering in their own language.
The Bounty Hunter walked up to the bar and laid his elbows on the counter.
The bartender, a sleazy-looking man by the name of Stanley, was cleaning a dirty glass with a dirty piece of cloth. When the Bounty Hunter approached he didn't say a word, but continued to clean the glass, which only seemed to get dirtier from the cloth.
The Bounty Hunter thought to himself that if the bartender would pour his drink in that glass, he wouldn't drink it.
The Bounty Hunter looked at the bartender, who kept his eyes downwards at the glass and said nothing, opened his mouth, and said: ''Good afternoon.''
The bartender looked up as if he hadn't noticed the Bounty Hunter before and for a moment they looked each other into the eyes, the Bounty Hunter's dark green, looking into the brown eyes of the bartender.
Slowly, as if in slow-motion, the bartender opened his mouth, closed it and opened it again.
''Howdy.'' he said.
The Bounty Hunter nodded as if the bartender had just answered a question right. ''Good.'' he said.
''What's good?'' The bartender asked.
''Life's good. You're good. Or at least okay.'' The bounty Hunter responded.
A puzzled look appeared on the bartenders face.
The Bounty Hunter who noticed the look on the bartenders face, shook his own head and said: ''Never mind.''
He smiled and shrugged.
The bartender looked at him for another moment, twisted his moustache as if he was thinking and then said: ''How can I help you?''
''I'd like a drink, dear sir.''
''What do you want? Whiskey, Gin, Tequila...'' the bartender started, but he stopped as The Bounty Hunter shook his head.
''No, no. no. I'd like a glass of milk, please.'' he said.
Suddenly, The Bounty Hunter heard a loud cry of laughter behind him.
He slowly turned around and looked at the man, one of the drifters, who had burst out in laughter.
''Milk, he says.'' the guy said, slamming the table. ''Haha, milk.''
''Is there something wrong with milk, sir?'' The Bounty Hunter asked.
He turned around to the bartender with a worried look on his face. ''There's nothing wrong with the milk around here, is there?'' he asked.
The bartender shook his head and kept twisting his moustache.
The Bounty Hunter turned back to the drifter who was still laughing and slamming his fist on the table.
''I don't see what's so funny, mister. Milk's good for the bones and it doesn't ruin your aim like alcohol does.''
The drifter stopped laughing, looked at the Bounty Hunter again and burst out in even louder laughing.
The vaqueros had stopped playing cards and the pianist had stopped playing. All were looking at the laughing drifter now.
The other drifters still weren't looking. They had been in countless saloons and knew that somebody who laughed that much was liable to catch a bullet sooner or later. They also knew that a wrong look could nominate themselves for a bullet too, so they kept looking forward.
The Bounty Hunter said nothing, but kept looking at the man. The drifter slowly stopped laughing as he saw The Bounty Hunter's look pierce through him. The green eyes of The Bounty Hunter stayed fixed on his face that slowly grew more nervous.
After a while, the drifter composed himself and said, angrily: ''Don't look at me like that.''
The Bounty Hunter smirked. ''Do I sense a bit of fear in your voice. I don't get it. What have you, great big drifter, to fear from me, a milk drinker?'' he asked sarcastically.
The drifter opened his mouth: ''Don't talk to me like that, boy. And stop that looking, or d'you want me to cut out your eyeballs?'' he asked.
The Bounty Hunter looked down. ''No, no, that won't be necessary. I really like my eyeballs. I don't want to lose them yet.'' he said.
Some of the vaqueros laughed and a few of the other drifters, who were now interested in the affair too, smiled.
The drifter now walked up towards The Bounty Hunter.
As he approached The Bounty Hunter, he noticed that the other man was actually taller than him, something he hadn't noticed before. He had to crane his neck a bit to keep looking the other in the eyes.
As he gazed up, he saw that the friendly and even a bit naïve look on The Bounty Hunter's face had made place for look that was of contempt and, yes, even a bit irate.
The drifter didn't like this new look and took a small step back.
''Bartender.'' The Bounty Hunter started in a voice that was much harder then the one he had used before. ''Can you get me my glass of milk, please?'' he asked.
Behind him, the bartender quickly went to the kitchen to get some milk.
He returned a moment later, holding a large cup of milk in both his hands. He laid it on the counter and said, in a voice that shook a bit: ''Your milk, sir.''
The Bounty Hunter turned around. ''Thanks.'' he said, using his softer voice again. ''How much?''
''I-It's on the house, sir.'' the bartender said, his hands really shaking now.
The Bounty Hunter laid his own hand on the bartender's hands.
''No, no, I insist on paying. How much?'' he asked.
''T-ten cents?'' he said as if he asked if it was an okay price. The Bounty Hunter suspected that heh ad already cut down the price by half.
''Here you go.'' he said as he laid a dime on the counter.
He took the glass in his hand, brought it to his mouth and then drank the whole glass in one gulp.
When the glass was empty he put it back on the counter and wiped his chin, before turning back to the drifter that had stood behind him all the time.
''Now where were we?'' he asked. ''Oh yeah, we were talking about why you shouldnt't try to cut my eyeballs out.''
''Why not?'' the drifter asked.
''Because you can't.'' Was The Bounty Hunter's answer.
The drifter squinted his eyes. ''What'd you mean, I can't?'' he asked.
''Try. By all means try.'' The Bounty Hunter said.
It seemed that the drifter looked down to consider for a moment, but the next moment he sprang forwards towards The Bounty Hunter, his hand holding a large, shiny knife.
A loud scream of anger came out of his mouth, changing in a scream of surprise as an iron grip locked itself around his wrist.
The Bounty Hunter, who hadn't seemingly moved, had grabbed his wrist with a lighting speed.
The drifter winced, partially out of anger, partially out of surprise and maybe even out of fear.
The Bounty Hunter just stood there, a half-smile on his face.
He twisted the drifter's wrist around and the knife fell onto the planks with a loud clatter.
I told you so, his eyes seemed to say.
The drifter moaned a bit. ''Let me go.''
''Okay.'' The Bounty Hunter released his grip around the drifter's wrist and the man stumbled a bit backwards, his other hand holding his wrist. He looked at The Bounty Hunter's face with a mix of fear and anger in his eyes.
The drifter now started smiling. ''You're a fast man. No hard feeling's okay?'' he said, extending his hand towards The Bounty Hunter.
The Bounty Hunter hesitated for a moment, then took the drifter's hand in his own and shook it, a big grin appearing on his face.
He started turning around. ''Well, now that we handled this...'' The drifter quickly went for the revolver he carried on his hip.
The Bounty Hunter turned back quickly, his own gun already drawn and cocked, ready to be fired and ready to make a huge hole in the drifter's belly which would surely change his intestines in fresh pasta.
''You want to shoot, we go outside.'' The Bounty Hunter said. ''We holster both our guns on 1... 2... 3...''
Both men holstered their guns and together they made their way towards the door.
One of the vaqueros got up and left before them.
Outside, the vaquero ran immediately towards the Sheriff's office.
He knocked on the door and shouted: ''Hey, Sheriff.'' with his vaquero accent. ''Two guys are going for a showdown out here.
The next moment the vaquero could hear the sound of a key turning around in the door. An instant later the door swung open, revealing a middle-aged, bearded man with a large rifle in his hands. This man was Sheriff Ruiz, the son of a vaquero and a prostitute from the East.
His greying hair was waving around In the wind as he stepped outside.
He looked around, looked at the empty street, the two men who stood in the middle of the street and the scared vaquero in front of him.
''Alright everybody, break it up. Break it up.'' Ruiz said, waving his arms around.
The two men in the middle of the street turned their heads and looked at him.
''You two, we're a decent folk here, so no gunning each other down without a referee, alright. I'll call the shots here. Alright, face each other.'' Ruiz took a step towards the men and cocked his rifle.
''Both of you, take five steps back.'' he said.
Both men stepped backwards.
Th drifter, who wasn't wearing a coat just raised his hand to his hip and bent over a bit, spreading his legs.
The Bounty Hunter took a part of his duster and stuffed it in his belt, exposing his large revolver.
Ruiz saw it was a large calibre, one they only made in The East. This man came from far away to have obtained such a revolver.
The Bounty Hunter just stood there, his legs spread a bit and his long arms hanging around his body like snakes.
The two men faced each other.
The Bounty Hunter looked at his adversary who stood a bit more than ten metre's away from him.
The Sheriff, who was now posted in between them took a step back and raised his rifle, aiming high in the air.
''Alright, when I fire my rifle, you draw... and you kill each other.'' he said.
The Bounty Hunter readied himself. This was something he had done many times before, but still he was a bit nervous.
He could see the sun high in his line of sight and imagined the reflection it would cast on his glasses.
Sweat was dripping down his forehead, into his eyebrows, who prevented it from entering his eyes.
His hands were a bit sweaty underneath his gloves as he waited for the starting shot.
His hat waved around a bit on his head, moved by the wind.
The Sheriff held his rifle above his head almost vertically now.
It was cocked and ready to fire.
The Sheriff looked from the left to the right to see if both men were ready.
The drifter's face had formed in an angry sneer and his movements were a bit shaky. The black hat on top of his head also moved with the wind.
The Sheriff moved his finger around the trigger. For one moment he put some pressure on the trigger without firing the shot. The next moment the bullet in the rifle flew out of the barrel with a loud bang, flying off into the hot air.
It was almost impossible to see, but a fast eye could have seen which one of the men had drawn first. It was The Bounty Hunter.
His hand had flashed towards his revolver, drawing, cocking it and aiming it in one fluid movement.
He fired. He felt how the revolver went up in his hand as the large bullet left the barrel and made it's way across the street towards the drifter.
The drifter had drawn a split-second later than The Bounty Hunter, a fatal split-second.
Just before he pulled the trigger, the bullet hit him in the stomach. He felt how it left his body on the other side, but not before puncturing some of his organs.
His arm went up as he pulled the trigger. The bullet flew upwards in the sky.
He fell onto his knees and knew it was done with him.
The man across the street looked at him, the sun still reflecting on his glasses, his revolver still drawn and aiming at him. A little bit of smoke came out of the barrel.
The Bounty Hunter cocked the pistol again and the drifter readied himself to feel the pain of another shot biting it's way through his body. Maybe through my heart, he thought, or my brains, or, if he's a sadistic prick, through my balls.
But the second didn't come.
The Bounty Hunter just stood there, his revolver ready.
The drifter had lowered his arm and his revolver touched the ground with it's barrel.
He tried to raise his arm, but failed to.
Then, the long awaited second shot followed, throwing him backwards onto the dirt road that led through Coldgrass, a peaceful town. Then he felt cold as the sun seemed to rapidly go under and everything became dark quickly.
The Bounty Hunter looked at the man who was lying in front of him for a moment, then holstered his revolver.
The Sheriff, who was still standing in the same spot and whose only move had been to lower his rifle, looked at him.
''Well, I guess that's that.'' Ruiz said.
The Bounty Hunter shrugged. ''I guess so. I hope you won't have to lock me up, Sheriff.'' he said.
Ruiz shook his head. ''No, no. It was a fair showdown. You will have to make a contribution to the burial fee, though.''
The Bounty Hunter walked up to the Sheriff, reached in his pocket and the next moment he held a large twenty-dollar gold coin in his hand. ''Is this enough, Sheriff?'' he asked.
Ruiz looked at coin in amazement. ''That's way too much, sir. That'll pay for the whole burial.''
''Then it's enough.'' The Bounty Hunter said.
He handed the Sheriff the coin and went back into the saloon again.
Inside, the drifters who had stayed inside looked up to see the winner of the showdown.
They saw The Bounty Hunter enter the saloon and they went back to their own business.
The Bounty Hunter walked back to the bar and looked at the bartender. ''Could I have another glass of milk, please?'' he asked, laying another dime on the counter.
The bartender said nothing, but immediately went to the kitchen.
A few moments later he came back, holding a glass of milk in his hands.
He laid the milk on the counter. ''Your milk, sir.'' he said.
''Thank you. I'd also like a meal if possible.'' The Bounty Hunter said. ''Some beans or something. Maybe a slice of bread.''
''I-I got a very good steak I saved for the upcoming fiesta, but you can have it.''
''No, no. Keep it for your fiesta. Beans are good enough. Some bread would be nice too.''
''Oh by the way... Do you have any vacant rooms by any chance?'' The Bounty Hunter asked.
''Sure, sure... It's fifty cents a night, mister.'' the bartender, slowly regaining his confidence, said.
The Bounty Hunter still believed the guy was cutting down on the price, but hey, who was he to object.
''I'll just go and sit at a table, okay.'' he said.
The bartender nodded, before disappearing into the kitchen again.
The Bounty Hunter sat down at a table and reached in his coat.
He took out a small book, opened it and began to read.
When the bartender came back out, he held a plate of beans in his one hand and a large, rusty key in his other.
The Bounty Hunter looked up from his book as the bartender laid the plate on the table.
The bartender then handed him the key, saying: ''Upstairs, room four. Cash in advance.''
He held out his hand.
The Bounty Hunter reached in his duster again and took out a small coin.
He handed it to the bartender. ''Keep the change.''
Then, he started eating his beans.
Half an hour later, he was finished and gestured at the bartender again.
The bartender walked to his table.
''Could I have some coffee, please?'' The Bounty Hunter asked.
The bartender nodded, and disappeared again. A few minutes later, the bartender came back with a large pot and a cup in his hands. He laid the cup on the table and then filled it with coffee from the pot, before leaving again. The Bounty Hunter handed him another dime and asked if it was enough.
The bartender just nodded. The dime fell on the table as The Bounty Hunter stood up and headed for the door. When he stepped outside, he immediately felt a breeze of hot air upon his face and he took another step forward.
He started walking, headed for the Sheriff's office. He crossed the street, dodging a passing cart and stepped up to the door that gave entrance to Sheriff Ruiz's office.
He raised his hand, held it in front of the door for a moment, and then knock on the door.
It was silent for a moment, but then a voice said: ''Come in.''
The Bounty Hunter opened the door and stepped inside the dim office of Sheriff Ruiz.
Ruiz was resting his boots on his desk and was reading an old book. Behind him, locked in a cabinet with a chain lock, were a few rifles and pistols, accompanied by a few boxes of ammunition.
On Ruiz' desk was a small stack of paper, wanted posters. A pen and ink bottle lay next to a telegraph receiver with small derringer lying on top of it.
Ruiz lowered his book and looked at The Bounty Hunter. ''Ah, if it isn't the gunslinger. One of the fastest drifter's I've ever seen.'' he said, rubbing his big, greying beard.
He had taken of his hat and had unbuttoned his vest. The rifle he had come out with now leaned against the side of his desk. Ruiz gestured at a chair in front of his desk. ''Sit down, son.'' he said.
The Bounty Hunter seated himself.
Ruiz, who had taken his boots from his desk and was now sitting straight up, opened his mouth and asked: ''So, how can I help you, son?''
The Bounty Hunter reached in his duster and took out a folded piece of paper and laid it on the desk. He gestured at Ruiz.
Ruiz looked at the paper for a moment and then picked it up. He unfolded the paper. He looked at it, straight into the wild-looking eyes of a man. He had long, dark brown hair that fell onto his shoulders and a beard to match.
He was looking at the mugshot of a wanted criminal. His eyes glanced down looking for a name, a price and a condition. The famous condition. Dead or Alive.
''It's just a picture.'' The Bounty Hunter said. ''His name's Johnny ''Goosebumps'' Kane. Don't ask about the nickname, I don't know. What I do know is that the bounty on his head is fifty-thousand dollars.'' The Bounty Hunter smiled while he said that. ''He's wanted for murder, and, as you might have guessed by now, I'm after him.''
''Fifty-thousand for murder. How much people did he kill?''
Sheriff Ruiz' face went pale. Lewis Clarke, the leader and symbol of all law bringers and official Bounty Hunters in the whole Continent. From The East to The West. Also one of the fastest guns in the whole history. And now this man was dead, buried in the ground, turning into dust.
And this Bounty Hunter was following his killer, Johnny Kane.
''Why did this guy...'' Ruiz said, nodding at the picture. ''kill Clarke?'' he asked.
''I don't know, but I will ask him when I catch up to him.''
Ruiz noticed The Bounty Hunter's use of the word ''when'' instead of ''if''
''He's running West, with his gang of twenty men.'' The Bounty Hunter said. ''I'm going to get them all.'' he added. ''I have followed his track up to here. He passed by here... How long ago?'' The Bounty Hunter asked.
Ruiz searched his memory, but not for long. A gang of twenty ruffians was hard to forget. He opened his mouth and said: ''two weeks ago.''
The Bounty Hunter smiled. ''I gained a week, then.'' he said.
''How long ago did you commence your chase.'' Ruiz asked.
''A month ago.'' was the answer.
''Guess you're catching up to them then.''
The Bounty Hunter looked outside and noticed that the sun had reached the western horizon and was now slowly disappearing.
''I'd better get back to the saloon.'' he said.
Ruiz nodded and both men stood up. He held out his hand. The Bounty Hunter took Ruiz' hand in his own and shook it.
''Good luck.'' Ruiz said.
''Thanks. I'll need some.'' The Bounty Hunter said.
He left the office and went back towards the saloon, his mind razing with happy thoughts.
He was catching up to Kane, the killer of Lewis Clarke, his teacher, his father, his brother and his friend.
End of Chapter 1
:) Hope you enjoyed this first chapter. Please let me know what you think about it and what could be better.