Open Windows-Chapters Eight and Nine
 

                                                   Chapter Eight

                                      Those who welcome death have only tried it from the ears up.                


                                               Wilson Mizler (1876 - 1933)

  

As we were walking up the stairs there were things going on that I should have been watching for. Such as Allen, the man that had left in such a hurry before and another man that had walked in as I followed her, and yet they were both looking for me.

They looked around, asked a few questions from their friends and got the answers they wanted, then talked to the security men, making sure everyone knew what their job was because they wanted no mistakes made this time.

After a short conversation and a few laughs, Allen left with a smile on his face and a twenty dollar gold piece in his pocket, the price of a man’s life these days.

The other man he brought, Espinoza, sat down at a card table and pretended to be interested in the game, they dealt the cards and played the game around him but he looked at them for a moment as if telling them to go and he meant now.

Then the others at the table left without a word of protest, leaving their cards and money right where it sat, winners and loser walked away knowing he dealt in death and they wanted no part of that, it wasn’t their money anyway, it was put there for them as part of the show, the town folk began to leave, knowing someone was going to die soon, maybe a few “someone’s“ but they didn’t want it to be them, and they didn’t much care to see it either.

As the deputies took their positions around the room, the crowd left as quickly as they could and tried to not make eye contact with them as they left because things like that could cost your soul.

The preacher was the last to leave the room, and he was the only one that looked longingly at the money as the door slowly swung closed behind him.

As the doors swung back and forth, he was still out there for a few more moments, trying to peer between them or look over the top, though he was too short, and from inside the saloon it appeared as an old movie reel, flickering open and shut, open and shut and each time it re-opened it was a shade darker.

He even lingered there for a moment when they at last stopped swinging, the entire room fell silent as they knew that he was fighting the urge to ask for his “winnings” for the “good of his flock” but they all knew that wasn‘t why he wanted that money.

They all sat forward suddenly, hands at the waist or the ready, some touching the butt of their guns lovingly, daring the preacher to open the door only to find his reward early. Finally he sighed softly and turned away, knowing they would shoot him before they gave him a cent, perhaps sensing somehow that opening that door was the last thing he would do on this earth.

Espinoza took out his poke and began to roll his own with practiced skill, spreading everything out on the table before him. He sat there thinking as he rolled, his hands working on their own as he worked out in his mind the details of what steps they had taken and what might happen next, trying to cover all the different possibilities.

They knew I was not a gunfighter, they had seen that in my eyes, yet they also knew I had escaped them once because they had taken me so lightly and not been ready when I came out of the saloon.

Not one of them, save for Nemrul ever thought they would have seen any skills from me when I entered the street, they knew they had held every advantage, and still they lost some of them had paid a high price for that lesson because when Nemrul was not happy, no one else was either.

They decided to wait for me to come down, they said it was because they thought I deserved a “last request” before they killed me, but the real reason was they didn’t want to rush into a room where they couldn’t see where I was and how close my guns were, they weren‘t exactly stupid or they would have been gunned down long ago. They also didn’t want to hurt Sam, but she was an afterthought, it would not have bothered them at all had they killed her too, they thought she was a bit snobby anyway.

The rest of them dropped into the shadows of the room and waited for the sign to start shooting.

Upstairs, as we entered her room, she removed her dress and then, carefully she hung it over the chair and then sat on the edge of the bed. Even in the shallow darkness of the room, with only the one lamp lit she was beautiful, and her curves only accented by the soft light.

I went to the window and looked around. There was only one door to enter the room, and I put the chair against it for extra security. I wanted to die with my boots on if it came to that but I didn‘t think it would, at least not in this room.

She had one vanity table in the room, and on the far side was a closet with her dresses and shoes. I went and opened that door and looked in there, just to make sure there was no one waiting for me to drop my guard, but there was no one there at all.

There was only one lamp in the room, and she had a red scarf over that, which accounted for the dim light in there and gave the room a warm feeling.

I then sat down at the vanity and rolled two joints, one for now and one for after.

As I went thru the motions of rolling, my actions were mirrored by Espinoza as he rolled his own, though I didn’t know that of course, it might have been funny under other circumstances, and we were even facing the same direction as we sat.

I lit the fatter one first and walked towards her as she sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for me. She reached for it and took a hit also, drawing the smoke deep into her lungs and then holding her breath as she watched me as I joined her while a smile played across her lips.

I was surprised because not many women smoked in public these days, not that we were in public at the moment, but it surprised me because even less of them seemed to like the spice but I liked seeing her doing that, she held it there for along time before handing it back to me.

“You have done this many times before?” I asked in a mocking accent, “you haf done zis meny times eh?” We both laughed and she lost her hit.

I had to admit that I had always liked women that weren’t afraid to be different, to stand out on their own and take one to the chin and be ready for more, to fight as hard or as long as they had to, just so we would know them as equals when the truth was, sometimes they were better, though most men wouldn’t admit that.

I tried to warn her that this was especially potent but she smiled and ignored me, as if she had smoked stronger than this, but I had my doubts about that.

Still, she took another hit before she passed it back to me, and when she blew the smoke out thru her nostrils, her eyelids drooped down and almost closed.

After a few more hits, there was a large haze from the smoke and a cloud hung over us before the ceiling fan took it and carried it outside the open window.

I then put it out and reached over and pulled a string that was tied at her shoulder, spilling her ample breasts out.

“Now look what you’ve done!” She said with mock seriousness, “What should we do about that?” she asked with a smile and then she giggled a bit.

I leaned forward and kissed the right one, taking her nipple into my mouth as she gasped. As I flicked my tongue over it, she became speechless, only moaning softly and leaning her head back as she grabbed my hair and pulled me closer into her body.

I climbed on top of her then, thinking, “Guess she likes that” and smiling as I looked into her eyes and, as I pulled the covers over my back, I entered her slowly, enjoying both the movements she made and the feeling of being so close to her soul, touching her where few men ever did, even in her line of work, those were jobs and this was something else and we both felt it then, though we never spoke of it, I didn’t think we had to at that point.

As I said before, though we both knew this was business, she made me feel as if it were more personal, more like something we would have eventually been led to had we been dating or something like that, and she wasn‘t faking that part either, I would have seen signs if she had, no matter how good an actress she might think she is.

As I enjoyed her, more security men were coming into the saloon now, filling the room with all but gunmen now, all waiting just for me.

They all checked in and then took positions around the room, some sitting and others foolishly standing in front of the windows, making a perfect silhouette if I needed one.

One or two of them had been rumored to have been her customers too, and were taking bets as to whether I would be able to walk afterwards or stagger as I left her room. Upstairs, she had earned her money and then some as far as I was concerned.

We were laying side by side smoking and talking about everything and nothing important when she smiled, kissed my cheek and with her hair in her eyes and fell asleep, I knew she was asleep because she began to snore softly.

I sat up as she slept and watched her for a while. She looked angelic in this light, so peaceful and resting like that, on her back, her hair covered her face tilted towards the moonlight.

I watched her breast rise and fall and was tempted to wake her again but went to the window instead, “There is more time!” I said to myself, even then knowing how hollow and empty they sounded, it was not to be for us it seems.

I looked out from the balcony and I could really see a great deal from there, all down the main street in either direction, which meant I could see the whole town from there, since no one lived on the outer fringes. I don’t know why, maybe I was being obsessive about it or something, but I kept thinking there was a schoolmarm here as there should be in any kind of a booming town, yet there was no school I could see, even from up there.

I realized as I was standing there that I could even see things from there that they really didn‘t want me to see.

It amazed me that so many people could live in such compacted areas, as if there were thirty of forty living in each house, yet they were small buildings and of course it was not possible.

I wondered then at how many of these ghosts, if that was what they were, had come from here, born and raised and never moved on, how many had been passing thru on their way to homestead in a better land and ended up here forever? Over how many years, and maybe even more important, what had they done to deserve such a fate? What had killed this town, I thought maybe I might never know.

All to my left, the “shops” and “stores” out there were just fronts, I could see that quite clearly and not as if they were meant for something else, but there was nothing but walls propped up for effect and no substance at all. I remembered Samuel telling me not to trust my eyes and wondered if that was what he meant.

Instead of walls there was a series of two by fours holding up the wall, when I looked across the other side of the street it was the same, a false front and two by fours holding the wall up.

You couldn’t see that from ground level, and some of the buildings were freshly painted too, but the saloon now seemed to be the only “real building” around. Maybe because they knew I would go there, they would have counted on me being thirsty but that was no big deal considering I came from that hell of a desert behind us.

I looked across the street and the storefront there looked all worn and needing paint, but there seemed to be lights on inside and people moving about, but I knew instinctively that they were the same thing. It was something they were faking for my effect. I watched closely for a few moments and they were repeating the same actions over and over again, I wondered again why they went to so much trouble, what were they trying to show me, and maybe even more important, what were they trying to hide.

Like the other side of the street, these were empty and fake and when I looked closer I could see that the windows were broken in the front, and were covered with newspaper.

I looked up in the sky, and there were several clouds racing to the west of me, obscuring the moon for moments and then it would break thru and show everything. At that moment it came to me that IF I were a sniper, I would focus on my target and then when the light hit hone in until I knew where it was and then fire.

I looked around for a few more moments, wondering what the hell was going on when I had a sudden urge to duck behind the railing.

I slowly looked out and I could see no one at first, then looked back at Samantha as she slept there and envied so simple a life as she had. She was still asleep and I had my gun in my hand and I didn’t even remember drawing it out.

I watched as her breast kept rising and falling, I wanted more than anything to crawl back in to bed with her and conduct some more business but something was wrong and I knew it.

She seemed to be so close and yet so very far away, there might as well have been a chasm between us right then, I knew I would never get that close to her again and it really got to me.

As I was thinking about her, a shot broke the silence and a bullet missed me, again, where I was standing just a moment ago and when the light flashed and everything was revealed.

I looked around slowly and carefully and sure enough, there was the same bartender, holding the same gun and thinking he shot me with a satisfied look on his face, he was even smiling and nodding his head, looking at the others nearby with a “Yup, I got him“ look on his stupid face.

I hated to spoil his fun but now it was my turn, so I aimed with my arm and shot with my heart, again hitting him in the middle of his forehead. This time he didn’t have time to think before he died.

As I said before, I didn’t even remember pulling my guns out, but there they were, like old friends that were always there to help. I hefted them in my hands again, marveling at how natural they felt. How much fun it was to be the one that could still be standing when shots were fired.

That was when she started screaming at all the noise, sitting up in the bed and yelling as loud as she could, though in truth the firing had already stopped, at least for a moment.

The light flashed again and I saw that a crowd had gathered, they all stood there waiting for something, some checking their guns, some reloading to have “fresh loads” in and others just mumbling among themselves as they waited, but they all looked up at me at that moment, and I wondered why they didn’t fire but they weren’t going to answer me.

I ran to her side and tried to calm her, but she would have none of that and screamed even louder. She must have been having a nightmare or the sounds of the guns going off scared her more than it should, but she was frantic now and could not be quieted.

She started to hit me in the chest, fighting to get away from me and I had to move back, I knew she was hysterical and thought she would calm down if I gave her the space, but that didn’t seem to work either.

I thought to myself that they were homing in on the sound and it was she or I now, and I hated to think of her as bait but that’s what she became then, I had no choice since she was screaming wildly and I could hear men rushing up the stairs now, cursing the bartender for jumping the gun and firing before they told him to.

I stepped back into the closet and checked my guns as the door opened a crack, that was all they could do with the chair in the way.

I saw a barrel pointing into the room, trying to aim at where the bed was, where she was still screaming and I remember kicking out the closet door and fired into the other door as I did, the man I hit falling thru the splintered door and the chair. I fired two more rounds into the doorway and moved again while I reloaded, then I heard another body fall as I went.

I moved towards her and away from the door, again trying to make her quiet to see what she was doing but it wouldn’t work this time either. I tried a few words I remembered from my childhood, and instead began to hum the melody that I’d heard while I was in the garden. That worked because her mouth quickly snapped shut.

She turned and looked toward me, she smiled a little and her hand started to come up to me, to tell me to get my ass back to bed so I thought things would be ok until she turned towards the door. I tried to push her away and she just fell back with a loud thump, hitting her head on the wall, but I saw why she had turned tat way.

As I turned and fired, the gunman also fired at me, but missed by a few inches, my shots hitting him in the throat, and another man behind him thru the left side of his heart. I was getting better at this every time I had to shoot my way out of things, my accuracy was at least.

They were starting to rush the door now, sensing I wasn’t ready for that or maybe they got mad when I shot their friends, but I could hear them as they ran forward.

I turned to tell her to get dressed and I saw that one of their bullets had hit her in the heart.

A crimson stain spread out from her chest, thick and red, it slowed and then stopped as her heart died. I ran to her but she was gone, I hoped she knew my face as the last she saw on this earth, that I tried to save her.

Her eyes were still open and she looked at peace now, but I closed them and covered her with a blanket. “At least she didn’t feel any pain,” I said as I closed her eyes.

I kissed her forehead one last time, thinking that would be a good way to remember her IF I made it out of there. I stopped just long enough to check my rounds again and stepped towards the broken door.

The next man fired as he entered the room, falling over the bodies of his friends and entering the room quickly, guns blazing as he swept the room.

My reaction was to shoot first and let God sort them out, but the face of this man struck me. Or rather, it was the lack of a face that struck me the hardest. It was my host from the saloon. The once great Nemrul himself.

The man with a thousand questions and no time to say thanks for the memories. The man responsible for the bullet in her heart, maybe he didn’t fire it, but he might as well have.

I fired fast as I moved and saw I had hit him in the face; I aimed for the center of the darkness and fired off a few more rounds. All my shots hitting true, smoke began to come from his “face” as he fell. This time I was faster and he didn’t have a chance.

I fired three more times into his body, more for her if for nothing else. I realized I was putting more into the short time we had been together, but it bothered me that she had taken a bullet that was meant for me.

I stepped out and fired some shots into the darkness at the end of the hallway, feeling a sense of satisfaction when I heard a grunt and then two more bodies fall.

As I reloaded, I tried to get a sense of who or what I was fighting now. I stepped past the bodies, and looked around the corner and down the stairs. I saw several men running to the left and right sides of the room, either trying to find a good hiding place to fire from or just because they didn’t know what else to do.

I knelt down and fired at three of them, hitting two in the back and shoulder but the third one got away.

Then they began to fire at me and I had to jump back quickly and I was almost two slow because I was admiring my kill zone. I looked back at the balcony and a rapid secession of bullets splintered the wood near my head.

I knew that was no way out, I could not see where they might be hiding so I turned back to the stairs again and looked down. To my surprise, right there in the middle of them was Nemrul, giving orders and directing things from the center of the room.

As I watched, he turned and looked at me as I saw him, and again I had that feeling he was smiling that wicked grin of his. I felt his voice in my head again, he raised his palms upwards as if to say “What are you going to do?” and then his body stiffened again, I knew he was going to draw.

He shoved Allen out of the way so hard; he landed on the far side of the room, breaking his neck as he fell, so he missed the rest of the fight.

“One less needed bullet” I thought out loud, checking my guns and advancing. If you had asked me yesterday if I could ever do something like this, I would have laughed as I said “Hell no!” Yet, here I was, as if I was John Wayne and had no fear.

I didn’t know how the hell he got down there so fast, or how he had died and was still here because I remember that I looked back and the bodies still lay where I shot them, yet he was down there and now moving up the stairs towards me. Then I remembered that this was their world after all, and they made all the rules. I just had to find a way to survive underneath those rules and hoped they couldn’t change things once I figured them out.

I could see him now, not even bothering to hide while he walked up the stairs with deadly purpose and I swear I could hear Jack Nicholson saying “Here’s Johnny!” as he walked towards me I stood up to meet him.

I wasn’t sure how he did that, and really didn’t care, I just wanted to make sure I got him this time and could get out of there alive and not deal with it anymore.

But everywhere I looked thru the room and beyond I could see him, wearing different clothes and being either taller or shorter, this one fatter than that one, one being left handed and carrying a rifle and the other being right handed and shooting a Colt at me, he seemed to be everywhere at once.

I started firing at all of them, not taking chances or waiting to figure out what they were doing, or which one was the one I had talked with earlier, I started with the closest ones and worked my way back, firing and reloading as I went.

Some of them turned and ran, making me think that they were just the townspeople again, but others were firing at me and hitting pretty close, I felt more than one bullet tear thru my shirt and nick the skin, but I didn’t let that slow me down and hardly noticed, I was concentrating on hitting my targets and getting out of there alive.

By the time I had worked my way out of there and onto the street I was stepping over bodies stacked high as they fell, and I glanced down at some of them when I could see that the hoods had fallen back but there was no head there, nothing that made me think they had been anyone but him, though the blackness was gone and they were headless, the only blood was in their chests or stomachs where they had been hit, I didn’t have time to look down their necks to see what might be down there though, every time I tried to I was reminded that the others had guns too, and were still trying to kill me.

My own guns lay smoking and useless somewhere in that room, I had gone thru several other guns the same way, dropping them and picking thru the others as I went along.

They were backing away now though, as if something had scared them or maybe they were just regrouping, but I could see less of them than there was before and I didn’t think I had killed that many of them yet.

But everywhere I looked there were bodies, some still smoking from holes in their bodies, some stacked as high as three deep.

Some of them were still moving a little and I fired a shot into them as I passed, as much out of mercy as to make sure they didn’t get up and come after me, and I had to admit, with a chip on my shoulder because I really felt a connection to Samantha and they had killed her without thinking, without regard to her safety and didn’t seem to care about what had happened to her.

I think that might have really gotten to me had I let it, and then I might have let my guard down a little and maybe I would be lying in that bed right now, my cold body next to her cold body as they stood over us and celebrated my death.

 

Chapter Nine

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work... I want to achieve it through not dying.

Woody Allen

 

I remember loading and reloading those guns several times over until they were too hot to hold anymore. I also remember firing off full rounds into my targets, making sure they would not get up again ”Once a man is down, he needs to stay down” I remember being told over and over again, though I could hear the voice I could not remember who it was.

I watched as I hit one of them and as he was falling and the man behind him holding a rifle in his hands as he took his place, some of them falling as I fired and the next one had the same grin on his face, but just a little off center or something, as if they didn’t have time to get it right.

Then I remembered that rifle he held, it was the same as the one used on the “Rifleman” with Chuck Conners.

He even had the same hat on and watched me as he walked and loaded the shells into the chambers.

It was hard to think of Chuck as a bad guy, but that didn’t stop me from shooting him between the eyes and taking that same rifle from him.

I even remember bullets tearing into my body and the heat and pain making me close my eyes as I clenched my teeth so hard they cracked. But after that I could remember nothing.

When I opened my eyes again, I was leaving the card game and she was running in front of me in the street.

She stopped suddenly and I thought she was going to catch her breath until she stepped towards me and gave me a nice long kiss. I know how that looks, in the movies, they always stop to kiss and get caught, either that or almost caught. It seemed the dumbest thing in the world at the worst time to do it.

But at that moment, I didn’t care. I wanted that kiss and the promise it held for me. As she moved away, I was so ready for more I was still standing there with my lips puckered.

“Come ON Baby!” She urged me, “You want to wait till they get here so we can play some more?” as she said that, she turned and ran, taking control and reminding me of something that was fading from my mind just then.

There was a newspaper rack there, and the headliner was still about Nemrul though of course they didn‘t know his name. I didn’t have any change to buy it, but the story now was focusing on the last twenty years.

Since I could not read any more of it, I started to follow her again and ran to catch up. I didn’t care right then that I didn’t remember how I got there. I really wasn’t thinking about much except for her and how good she looked to me, how glad I was that we were together again.

You know that feeling when everything is going so good, when you feel so good all you can think about is how much you want to be with her. Everything smells better and the air is even clean for a change, the time just before the other shoe falls and brings you back to reality.

That was what I was feeling, how distracted I was. I was set up for a major fall on my face to happen, and I was walking into it with both eyes wide open.

I remember hearing a roar or scream of anguish from really far off, loud enough to hear but not really register. I couldn’t even tell what direction it came from, but she didn’t seem to hear it.

As we got farther away, the sound faded and I forgot about it. Instead I tried to look into her eyes every chance I got. She was every woman I ever wanted, she was smart and beautiful and she was right there, within my reach.

Her sense of humor was as sick as my own. She obviously worked out and cared how she looked. She was nasty enough to keep my attention and yet she knew enough about manners that she could have met my mother and made a good impression, my father would have loved her too, and we already know how my brother feels about her.

When were safe and down the street, I could hear the sirens getting closer. I wanted to warn them about what they were going to see but then I would have had to explain me and how I knew about it and that was just too much to ask. I just hoped they were heavily armed.

It was cold out there, so I gave her my coat without thinking about it and didn’t understand when she suddenly stopped and looked at me.

“You still think of me as just a girl,” she laughed and shook her head at me before she started on.

I knew she was right, but I didn’t want to give her any bonus points for that, so I took it back and she stopped again as if had struck her but I stepped past her into the street and ignored her, so she never saw the smile o my face.

I was looking for a signs of a nearby cab or something when she took her keys out of her pocket.

She had this old black Dodge pick up truck. It was all tricked out, but not wasted money, mostly for performance and not cosmetic, there was no gold trim or lifters or loud mufflers. It had the fat tires and the chrome rims but that was it on the outside, it was a truck after all.

On the inside it was a different story altogether though, and she had worked really hard on making it just right, just as she had envisioned it when she first saw this truck and then rebuilt the engine and transmission herself. She had learned how to work on cars from her dad, who always wanted a boy and got her instead, at least that was their private joke.

He was her world though, so they adapted. She had never met her mother, but always had questions to ask him about her, wanting to know every detail because she had died long ago. A few months after Erika were born.

He’d lied to her and she believed it when she was told that her mother had died of scarlet fever. But she had died a violent death at the hands of a rapist.

When Erika found out it was such a blow to her that she didn’t speak a word for three years, or leave the house for another. By then she was so far behind in school, her father was told she would never catch up.

They decided to give her the SAT and see how she did; thinking she would fail and they would be off the hook. She scored the highest in state history and beat a score that had stood for thirty-five years.

She quit school the next week and never looked back. But she never forgave him for lying to her. She thought she understood why, but she still never forgave and never forgot.

She had installed and modified the engine herself, and still had long and manicured nails. I had to laugh at that thought.

It was faster than any police car and though it was old and needed paint job, she knew how to drive it and could probably turn on a dime if she needed to.

I thought she left the outside that way to dissuade thieves from trying to take it.

I had to stop and check it out, I guess that’s an automatic “guy thing” but I wanted to drive and she gave me one of those “don’t ask” looks and so I rode shotgun. It had a loud stereo and thank God was into rock and not rap or new wave or country. All of that music had it’s place, but it was not anywhere near me.

As we backed out of the space, the radio started blaring out “When the Bullet Hits the Bone” by Golden Earring, but that was too close to home, so I changed it and Janis Joplin came on singing “A Woman Left Lonely” and it was sad but you don’t change the radio or turn it off when it’s Janis.

So I sat back to listen, closing my eyes and I was back in the desert again when I opened them. I began to wonder if I was supposed to do or see something there that I hadn’t yet and that was why I kept coming back, but I couldn’t guess what it might be.

It just seemed that it was happening more often and almost always at the worst time. I wondered how the people around me reacted when I was suddenly not there anymore, or if they just went on with their lives as if nothing had happened, as if it was all the same to them.

I thought about all the times I had been walking along a sidewalk or the pier and thought to apologize for almost bumping into someone that was not there, “If that was what they were, was I one of those not there people now?” I thought aloud.


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Bluez
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Rating: 10.0/10

Synopsis
Now things are starting to make sense, to come together and he knows what she is about deep inside, what makes her do what she did to him.
Published Date
11/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Published In
Publish America
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