Sad day in Jericho

What happened that day in Jericho would never have been, had his horse not thrown a shoe.

The last place on earth, where Zeke Daniels would have cared to spend any time at all, was Jericho. It wasn’t really even a town. It was a crossroads. It had its name because of the last remaining crumbling wall of a fort, dating to the days of the Indian wars, which stood at the end of a dusty street where only a saloon, a general store and a blacksmith shop had survived the gold rush long ago. It wasn’t much of a place.

Zeke had first ridden into Jericho around twenty years before, when it was a much livelier town. He was a lot happier then; a good looking blue-eyed drifter with many more towns to see. It was before he shot and killed the Spaniard and before he gained the reputation as a gunfighter that would have him looking over his shoulder for the rest of his days. Looking for the stranger who might one day gun him down, to steal nothing more than his reputation. That wasn’t likely to happen too soon, because Zeke was lightning-quick on the draw – but a man grows older.

He recalled his first time in this town, but not very clearly. He barely remembered the saloon where he had sat in on a poker game and won a little money and spent it all at the bar and got rolling drunk and shot the Spaniard because of an insult he would never remember. He did remember the girl with long dark hair who hid him until the fuss had died down enough for him to leave town. He remembered her bed.

These thoughts came back to him as he led his horse into the blacksmith shop. He had a strange feeling that he must get out of Jericho, and soon.

It was while he was waiting for the blacksmith to shoe his horse that Zeke caught a glimpse of the figure that passed by a doorway at the back of the shop. The face was familiar. It was still a pretty face but the long dark hair was now flecked with grey. Zeke shook his head to rid him of the memory and decided that he might after all revisit the saloon where his life had been so drastically changed.

The place was empty, but for the barman who was lazily wiping the dust from the bar. Zeke ordered a shot of rye. Neither man spoke more than that.

He might not have known of the threat behind him had the barman not looked towards the door.

As it had so many times before, pure instinct and long practice now guided Zeke’s every move. He crouched and spun around. His revolvers cleared leather and came quickly into line. Steady hands readied to squeeze the triggers.

The young man who pushed through those batwing doors wasn’t near fast enough for Zeke, if Zeke had fired. Instead, when his eyes looked up to recognise his target Zeke’s strong hands deliberately froze around his triggers.

The young man shot him, close enough to the heart that it to took only seconds for him to die. It was long enough for Zeke to look up into the blue eyes of his son.

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