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The Wrong Choice April 2008

The Wrong Choice April 2008

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Published by beejay
A story challenge in which the writers each produce their own story based on the same theme. Here the boys or someone else makes a wrong choice.
A story challenge in which the writers each produce their own story based on the same theme. Here the boys or someone else makes a wrong choice.

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Published by: beejay on May 23, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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06/16/2009

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By Lana CoombeAn ominous stillness and quiet fell on the saloon. The only sound was the scraping of chairs on the wood floor and the low mumble of nervous men, as they tried to distancethemselves from the unfolding event. It was not an unfamiliar sound. Indeed, HannibalHeyes had heard it many a time and was more often than not at the centre of thedisturbance, having been accused of cheating or having suggested to another that therehad been unfair play. Although he never felt happy about this happening, he wasreassured to know that his partner and best friend would always be there to back him up,with his inconceivably fast draw.This night, however, Heyes had been involved in a peaceable and fair game and hadaccumulated a fairly substantial pile of winnings on the table, in front of him. He wasglad, that for once, it was not him that was having to face a disgruntled, losing player andthat he would not have to draw his partner into a dangerous situation.Heyes’ relief was short lived however, when he looked about the room and realised that itwas the said same partner, in the midst of the fracas. Kid had been seated at an adjacenttable, but now he stood, arms hanging loosely at his sides, in an all too recognisablestance. Across the table, another man stood, glaring menacingly in Kid’s direction.“No one’s luck is that good, mister,” the man was growling at Kid, who remained in thesame passive position, with a resigned look on his face.“Well, maybe mine is!” Kid answered the man, calmly.Heyes remained in his seat, watching the proceedings unfold, outwardly calm anddisinterested. He’d been here before but he never got used to the feeling of trepidation ashis partner faced an opponent more deadly than any man with five, coloured pieces of card in his hand.The man was scowling more intensely at Kid now, who continued to stand motionlessly before him, piercing, blue eyes studying his every move, his expression sorrowful at whathe knew was unavoidably going to happen.“I’m going to give you a choice, boy. Either you go out that door, or, you for your gun!”There seemed no way that the man was willing to back down and persisted in trying tointimidate Kid.In a seemingly emotionless and flat tone, Kid responded, “Well, I really don’t want to usethe gun.”“Then you’d better leave, boy, while you can still walk. ‘Cos iffen you leave it anylonger, the only way out is in a pine box!” This was greeted with a stifled, yet nervousguffaw from the spectators in the bar.1
 
Heyes found that his palms of his hands were clammy and his throat dry. He had seen thatlook in Kid’s eye quite a few times before. He seemed oblivious to the rest of the worldabout him, his attention directed solely at the man who stood confronting him.“I told you, I wasn’t cheating. You’re just having a bad run of luck tonight, my friend. Now, we can either sit back down and be peaceable or … you can get out.”The stillness and quiet in the bar intensified at Kid’s words, the tension palpable, aseveryone knew that the inevitable was about to happen.“I ain’t leaving!” the man replied, curtly.“Well, that’s your choice,” Kid replied, calmly.The man next to Heyes leaned towards him and quietly said, “I hope that boy knows whathe’s doing! Jake Curtis ain’t one to tangle with at the best of times!”Heyes felt a twist in his gut. He had heard of Curtis and his reputation as a ruthless andindiscriminate killer. It was said that he had killed at least seven men, usually in quick draw confrontations, as he was renowned as being incredibly fast. Heyes knew that Kidwas fast too, possibly the fastest, but Curtis had an advantage over him - he had noqualms about taking another man’s life.Heyes found himself faced with a choice. Either, he could try to intervene and drawCurtis’ attention away from his partner. By doing this, he ran the risk of being shothimself of course, or worse, Curtis could take advantage of the distraction, to draw onKid, while his attention was diverted. Heyes’ other choice was to sit and do nothing andsee how things played out, letting Kid take care of the situation by himself. He knew thattime was running out and if he was going to take any action, now was the time to do it.Swallowing hard, he gripped the arms of his chair and started to push himself out of hisseat. In the same split second, Jake Curtis went for his gun. Heyes froze where he was,mouth gaping in horror at the sharp sound of a bullet being jettisoned down the gunmuzzle, on its course to the intended target. His eyes quickly flicked in Kid’s direction,relieved to see that he was still standing, without any obvious injury. A sharp cry took hisattention back to Curtis who now stood clasping his right arm, the crimson red of fresh blood seeping through his fingers.Looking back at his partner, an overwhelming sense of pride and relief swept over him,as Kid coolly span his own Colt back into his holster. Heyes returned the steady gazefrom his friend as their eyes met briefly. He watched as men moved out of Kid’s way ashe moved towards Curtis, who now sat in a chair, demanding whiskey and a doctor.Kid looked down at the injured man. Curtis looked back at him, teeth gritted against the pain in his arm, a look of surprise still on his face. Giving Kid a simple nod of respect, hereached for the whiskey that someone had placed before him. Kid returned the nod, a2
 
look of regret showing in his eyes and began to move away, softly saying, “Wrongchoice, my friend!”ChoicesBy Grace R. WilliamsThe air was hot inside the stagecoach, hot and stale, almost stifling. It didn't seem to bother the two men across from him. Both sat, each a mirror image of the other. Feet propped up on the seat, one pair of boots on either side of him, right foot crossed over left, arms crossed similarly over their chests, hats, one brown, one black pulled low over the eyes.Mr. Smith slept, Mr. Jones did not. The partners wouldn't sleep at the same time. Onewould sleep, the other would watch. How the reverend knew this, he couldn't be sure, but he knew it just the same. They functioned as one, not in unison mind you, but...harmony. Separate notes strummed at the same time, blending to create a perfect chord.There were miles and miles to cover before they'd reach Taos. Reverend Spencer continued to watch Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones as if somehow he could by simply studyingthem long enough, discover a truth that had eluded him for far too many years.Reverend Spencer had been forced by the events of the last few days, to re-examine thechoices he'd made in his life. He had to admit most of his choices had been wrong. Hischoice to pick up a bottle every morning, his choice to walk away instead of helping thecongregation he'd been called to serve.The stagecoach jostled on and Spencer continued to wonder. Smith and Jones. Whatchoices had they made in their lives? Obviously the best choice each had made was inchoosing the other for a partner. But no one wore a gun like that, no one used a gun likethat unless he'd made a wrong choice or two somewhere along the road.The reverend considered Jones' thoughts. He appeared to be sleeping, though Spencer knew he wouldn't be, couldn't be. He'd be reviewing the scene in his mind, "What if Ihad killed him?" "What if he'd killed my partner?" playing the scene again and againuntil he was sure he'd made the only choice he could have. The choice not to bend, not to break, not to back down and the choice not to kill.And what of Smith? Was he dreaming it now? The nightmare of burying his partner.The nightmare of killing a man over something as simple as...a jig. He knew Smithwould be having no second thoughts. He was where he needed to be, backing up his partner. The place for him to make his stand was firmly at his partner's side.Jones made his choice and Smith made his. Briggs had made his choices a long time ago.3

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