The only light in the room came from the oil lamp that stood on the table. The Bounty Hunter rested his head on the pillow and looked through the window. The sun had almost gone down and outside was a dark blue colour of the twilight. He was lying in room above the saloon where he had dealt with the three men that afternoon. His hand was still hurting, but that didn't matter. His duster was hanging over a chair in the middle of the room and his hat lay on the table in front of the chair.
He still wore his pistol of course. A Bounty Hunter never took off his pistol belt, no matter where he was. I'll kill you myself if you ever take off that damn belt, boy, Clarke said inside his head. I'm not going to, Lewis, The Bounty Hunter thought. He moved his hand down on the butt of his revolver. He expected company tonight. The Bounty Hunter was sure that the scene he had caused that afternoon would have repercussions. That Redhead wouldn't just let him go after after what had happened to his buddy. They'd come for him this night, he was sure. The Redhead would come. That other guy would come. But the debt collector he wasn't sure about. Maybe the guy would still be knocked out or at least unable to come take revenge. He was ready for them. He took his watch out of his pocket and saw it was just past Nine o'clock. He put his watch back in his vest and got up.
He started pacing up and down the room, his hands on his back. What if they don't come, boy? Lewis asked.
If they don't, they don't. But you know they'll come, Lewis, was The Bounty Hunter's answer.
A floorboard creaked.
The Bounty Hunter was immediately ready for anything.
He legs moved a bit apart and his hand moved to his revolver, touching the butt.
He relaxed a bit. Must have been a mouse, he thought. Or a criminal, ready to plug some holes in you, boy, Clarke warned him.
He kept listening for a few minutes, ready to draw and fire his revolver, but nothing happened. No doors were kicked in by big, burly, angry redheaded guys or debt collectors who only dared to act tough against innocent farmers. Nothing happened.
He started pacing through the room again. His hand stayed on his revolver.
The Redhead, Tex and the other guy came walking into the saloon. Tex had a black eye and his nose was swollen and bluish. He looked angry. The three men headed to the bar where the bartender was still cleaning the counter like he had done all day. He looked up, his eyes squinted as always. ''He's upstairs. Room number four.'' he said.
The Redhead nodded. ''Thanks.'' he said. He walked towards the stairs, followed by his lackeys. Slowly, they headed up the stairs, the Redhead first. His hand hovered by his revolver. The Redhead thought about the stranger, of course he did. It was the matter at hand now. The stranger had messed up the way things normally were. And The Redhead couldn't allow that. He thought about how his cousin had acted. It had been just after Tex had been socked unconscious by the stranger. They had been at the Redhead's house, Tex lying on the couch, bleeding out of his nose and missing a teeth.
Flint had come too, angry and the vein on his forehead throbbing like crazy. He had been slamming his fist on the table until the table showed red marks and a few cracks. ''Tonight!'' Flint had shouted. ''You go after. No matter if he stays! You go after him and you won't rest 'till the undertaker has put him six feet underground!'' They had nodded in agreement, but The Redhead hadn't felt sure about it at all.
Tex came second, his black eye half closed, but his normal eye twitching with anger. He'd show that stranger, that fancy Eastern City-dweller, how people did it here in the West.
The third guy, silent as always, followed. He didn't wear a revolver around his belt. Instead, he had a small Derringer up his sleeve and a small revolver in a holster under his armpit, put out of sight by his dark coat. When the Redhead reached the top of the stairs, he drew his revolver and raised it, aiming in front of him. Tex did the same, but he held his revolver upwards. The other man didn't draw his revolver. He could draw his Derringer and fire within a second. His hand went up to his face and he started twisting his small, black moustache. He smiled a bit as they approached room number four. They walked towards the room in a line. The Redhead stepped on a floorboard, which gave out a soft cracking sound. All three froze and none of them moved for a few minutes. They continued their advance towards the room. The Redhead reached the door first. He moved towards it until he stood right in front of it. Then, he took a step back and gestured at the others to take up positions at each side of the door. They moved swiftly and silently, neither of the making a sound. As slowly and silently as he could, The Redhead cocked his revolver. Tex and the other guy, who had now also drawn his Derringer, did the same. Still, they made a little bit of noise, but the Redhead thought it would've been impossible to hear at the other side of the door. They waited for a few minutes. The Redhead nodded at the others. Tex nodded back and the other man just looked at him in a way that said ''What are you waiting for?''.
The Redhead didn't hesitate. He took another step back, almost reaching the other wall. He then stepped forward quickly, swinging up his leg and contracting his knee. He aimed to hit just next to the lock. He swung his foot forward as he extended his leg. His boot and boot heel slammed into the door just above the lock which broke with a loud crack of wood. Wood splinters broke from the area around the lock as the door swung open. The Redhead stumbled through the door, followed by the others. All held out their guns and waved them around. The Redhead looked around in to room. The room was empty.
The Bounty Hunter sat down at his table. He sat opposite the door and watched it closely. They can come any minute now, Clarke said to him. I know, was his answer.
A few minutes later he heard that his visitors were coming. He heard the soft clicking of the cocking of a revolver. He acted immediately. He grabbed his hat and put it on his head. He stood up quickly, but as silent as possible, and headed for the window. He opened it and stuck his head out. There was a small shed just underneath his window, built against the saloon itself. Without hesitation, he swung his leg through the window and stepped outside on top of the shed. There, he positioned himself next to the window, his revolver drawn and cocked. A minute passed where nothing happened. Then, The Bounty Hunter heard a loud crack. They were kicking the door in or they had already done it. He didn't dare look, but what he heard confirmed his idea.
''What the...? He ain't here.'' a voice said, belonging to the debt collector.
''I can see that, you idiot.'' That was the voice of the big redheaded guy. ''The windows open. He could've gone through there.''
''I'll take a look.''
A few moments later, the head of the debt collector came outside. His left eye was black and his nose was swollen and blueish. He looked in front of him, practically presenting his neck to The Bounty Hunter. The Bounty Hunter holstered his revolver and put his hands around the debt collector's neck.
The Redhead looked around in frustration as Tex went over to the window to check outside. The guy had escaped them. And his cousin would be really pissed off with them. Especially him. But what even frustrated him more was the fact that the stranger could have escaped unpunished. He cursed a bit. The silent guy, silent as his name suggested, looked around, his Derringer ready.
Tex bent over and stuck his head out of the window. The Redhead looked at the table. The stranger's bag still lay there. He hadn't taken most of his stuff with him.
The Redhead picked up the bag and started going through it. He felt something big in the bag when he heard Tex scream. He looked up and could just see Tex' behind disappear through the window.
The Bounty hunter pulled the debt collector through the window. The man screamed. He fell out on the shed with a loud thumping sound. The Bounty Hunter brought his leg up and stomped the man on the back. The guy groaned. He tried to get up, but at that moment The Bounty Hunter pushed him off the shed. Screaming, he fell into a stack of crates.
The Bounty Hunter glanced at him for a moment to make sure he wasn't any danger before taking cover next to the window again. He peeked around the window for a moment and was greeted with a volley of gunfire. He went back behind his cover and waited until the other two men had emptied their guns. Then, he flung out of cover and fired.
The Redhead saw the stranger peeking around the corner. Immediately, he raised his revolver and fired, fanning the hammer with his other hand. After a while he noticed that his gun was empty, even though he had kept on pulling the trigger. Hastily, he started reloading his gun. Another shot rang, sounding like a roar of thunder. The Redhead heard someone scream. He realised it him. The bullet from the stranger had went right into his shoulder and was stuck there. He dropped his half-loaded revolver and tried to find support at the table. He failed and fell onto his knees. Next to him he could see the silent guy calmly reload his Derringer and fire another shot. The next moment, he took a shot in the belly. Silent, as always, he looked down at his bleeding belly. Then, he fell down on the floor, his hands around his belly. He still said nothing. All he did was groan softly.
The Redhead looked in front of him again and saw the stranger climb back through the window, revolver still in hand. Slowly, he walked towards them. The Redhead groaned. The stranger said nothing, but raised his revolver at the silent man. The man looked at the stranger for a moment. Then, the stranger pulled the trigger. The silent man's head flew back and dropped on the ground with a loud thumping sound. The stranger looked at the dead man for a moment then lowered his revolver. He looked at the Redhead for a moment and then holstered his revolver. The guy's shoulder had been shattered. He wouldn't pose any danger.
Sheriff Avery of Goble City was, with his two deputies, the only lawman in town. Nothing really happened in Goble City and Murphy Flint, the guy who practically owned the town, paid him off. Only Isaac, his youngest deputy, wouldn't be bribed, no matter what promises, or threats, Flint threw at him. But Avery didn't care. He wasn't even from Goble. He had been born in the East, in a place called ''Mayfield'', not too far from Eastfield, the capital of both countries, The East and The West. Only through his father's influence, his father being the governor of Mayfield County, he had been assigned as Sheriff to Goble. It was a position that required little skill or brains, for little happened in Goble. Avery was content with that and most citizens of Goble, save a few, were content or didn't care at all. He wasn't a good Sheriff, so it wasn't a big wonder it was in bed, sleeping, that Deputy Isaac found him around 9.30. Isaac came rushing into the Sheriff's room without knocking. A serious breach of the law if you'd ask Avery. Isaac came storming in, his gun drawn. He tugged a bit at the massive body of the Sheriff.
''Wake up, Sheriff. Gunshots!'' Isaac was new to law enforcement and still quite nervous every time people started fighting.
Avery grunted a bit, but continued sleeping. All he did was turn around in his bed, his back to Isaac.
Isaac gave up on trying to wake up the Sheriff that way. Instead, he moved his head to the Sheriff's ear and shouted as loud as he could. ''Wake up, Sir!''
Finally, Avery opened his eyes and turned back, staring into the face of his young deputy. ''Isaac, that the...?'' he didn't finish his sentence.
''There's been a shootout at the Saloon, Sir.'' Isaac said, backing of again.
Avery sat up in his bed and rubbed his neck. He yawned. ''A shootout?'' he asked.
''Some stranger shot two guys up. One's dead, the other wounded badly.'' Isaac said.
''Where's the guy?'' Avery asked.
''He's in your office, Sir. In the cell.'' was the deputy's answer.
''Alright. Go on ahead. I'll be there in a minute.''
That minute became half an hour, as Avery dressed and made himself some coffee. With a cup of fresh coffee in his hand, Avery unlocked the door that connected his house to the adjoining building if the Sheriff's Office of Goble. He stepped inside his well-lit office.
Isaac, his hat on the table in the office, was leaning against Avery's desk.
The stranger, was lying on the cot inside the cell of the office. His eyes were open and stared at the ceiling, behind a pair of square-shaped glasses. When Avery entered, the stranger looked at him and Avery could see his face. The man was still quite young. Avery presumed he was in his mid-twenties, making him half as old as Avery himself was. He walked towards his desk and put his cup on it. Then, he opened his mouth and said to Isaac: ''So, what happened?''
At that moment the stranger said something: ''I can explain that, Sheriff.''
Avery looked at the stranger. He stood at the door of the cell now, his hands resting between the bars.
Avery walked towards him. ''Tell me.'' he said.
''Alright.'' The stranger put his hand in his pocket and picked a piece of cloth out of it. He took of his glasses and started wiping them. ''Well... This afternoon, I solved a dispute between a poor farmer and a debt collector for one Mr. Flint, a man you'll probably know.'' The Stranger paused.
''They paid me a visit in the saloon later and after a few words were exchanged between us, one of them tried to nail me to a table with his knife. Naturally, I defended myself against him and the other two. This night, the business escalated and they came visiting again, but with guns this time.'' The stranger finished cleaning his glasses and put them back on. ''That's how it went.''
Avery looked at Isaac who shrugged. ''I guess that's how it went. I just want to add that there are two guys shot up, one in his shoulder and one in the stomach and head.''
''Oh, three of them came. You'll find the third guy outside the saloon, amongst a few barrels. He should be alright, but he'll probably be unconscious.'' The stranger added.
Avery nodded. He thought about how he could solve problem as quickly as possible so that he could go back to bed again. He took another sip of his coffee. ''Isaac.'' he said, still pondering. ''Where are the other two?''
Isaac, who was now staring at the floor, said: ''At the doctor's office. One's being treated, the other... examined.'' At that last word, he looked angrily at the stranger who didn't notice or pretended not to.
The stranger, nor Avery, didn't know that Isaac was related to the man who had been shot that night, so he found that it had become a bit personal, even though Isaac tried to be as objective as possible as deputy and, maybe later, as sheriff. He glanced at the stranger again who, he judged, was only a few years older than he himself was. But the stranger seemed way older in experience than in years. Also, the guns he wore made clear that we was an expert shot. One could only handle an Eastfielder skillfully after years of training. Taken also the fact that those guns were so rare because only the Royal Bounty Hunters wore them. To obtain you either had to be a Bounty Hunter or you had to have killed one. Both cases were hard to achieve.
Avery looked up from his pondering and said: ''Isaac, stay here and interrogate this fellow while I go check on that third man.''
Avery left the office.
Isaac looked at the stranger again and said: ''So where you come from?''
The stranger looked up from his thoughts and answered: ''Eastfield.''
''So what's it like there?'' Isaac asked. His curiosity awakened.
''It's like this place, lots of wooden buildings huddled together, but it's a bit bigger and in the centre there are a few larger buildings made out of stone.''
Isaac, whose curiosity was quenched a bit now, managed to stay silent for a few minutes, trying to be angry at the strange for killing his distant relative, but found it hard to do so. ''And... And what about the Royal Palace. The place where the Emperor lives.'' he said, breaking the silence.
''You want to know about that?''
''Yes, please, tell me.''
''Maybe, I will. But it seems that the Sheriff is returning from his expedition to the Saloon.''
Isaac saw Avery through the window. He was coming back.
A few moments later, the door opened and Avery stepped inside. He walked to his desk and leaned against it. The desk gave a slight cracking sound but stayed in one piece. ''Well, the guy's alright except for a small cut in his forehead. I brought him to the doctor. Well Mister,'' he looked at the stranger ''Doc Jones will sure appreciate all the customers you bring in for him. But, back to business.'' Avery walked towards the cell door.
For one moment The Bounty Hunter thought the sheriff was going to release him, but the man stopped a few centimetre's before the door. ''We're gonna have to sort this mess out. I'm afraid you have to stay in the cell for a couple o' days. I'm sorry.'' Avery went towards the door that led back to his house, but turned around for a moment. ''Isaac? Will you see to it that he gets some breakfast tomorrow or something.''
Isaac nodded. ''Sure sure.'' He made an obscene gesture at the sheriff's back which was heading back to his bed.
The Bounty hunter laughed, although inside he felt angry. Staying in that cell for a few days meant that he'd lose the time he had already won on Kane. He suppressed the feeling and forced himself to smile at the deputy who brought him a cup of coffee, ''Thanks.'' he said. ''Now, since I'll be staying here for quite a while, I guess I can tell you about Eastfield and the Royal Palace.''
Isaac took the chair from behind his desk and sat down close to the bars of the cell.
The Bounty Hunter started talking.
End of Chapter 5