In a Shallow Grave, No One to Grieve, Pt. 3

Saturday marked a milestone in views for the site! An embarrassing, laughably low milestone given that the site’s been up since before New Year’s, but a milestone nevertheless! Thank you to all the readers, from those who check in every day to those who came once while looking for something else. It’s my sincere hope that the writing here has brought you some entertainment and enjoyment you might not otherwise have had and that it continues to do so.

Anyway, the story of John Quinn continues below. Enjoy!

Put that gun down and put your hands in the air. You even think about turning around, and I’ll shoot you in your spine,” the voice said.

John Quinn did as he was told, setting his revolver down on the rocky ground. “The other one, too,” the voice said. “I know you got two of them on you.”

John cursed, loudly. The voice chuckled again. “Keith Rivers, is that you?”

“Yeah, it’s me. Put down the guns, put your hands in the air, and turn your ass around.”

John did as he was told and turned around to find Keith’s ragged sneer greeting him. His left cheek was a patchwork of pink flesh and scar tissue, his teeth unnaturally exposed from his wound and giving him half of a perpetual, skeletal grin. “Afternoon, Keith,” John Quinn said. “You’re looking well.”

Keith snorted, grinned wider, revealed more of his teeth. “Looking like a ghoul, more like. Your handiwork, John. I ain’t forgot that.”

“You’re lucky I didn’t blow your brains out, boy.”

“Lucky ain’t the word I’d use, old man.” Keith stepped out of his hiding place amongst the rocks on the hill and walked forward to jam the barrel of his revolver into John’s stomach. “I know you got at least one more gun on you a knife. Something. Save us both some trouble and don’t go for it. I know you don’t want to bleed out alone on the prairie.” Keith grabbed John by his shoulder and spun him around, prodded him forward down the hill with his gun.

“You make me turn around just so I’d have to look at your ugly face, Keith? That’s torture, you know.”

“Shut up, old man.” He bent down to pick up John Quinn’s guns keeping one on the man all the while. John Quinn walked forward heedless of the fact that Keith wasn’t immediately behind him. “You and me got a lot of unfinished business, you know.”

“I don’t have no unfinished business, save delivering that kid you roughed up to the authorities for his lawful trial. Whatever unfinished business you think we got, it’s all in your head.”

Keith grabbed at John Quinn’s shirt and threw him to the ground. He stood astride the man, aimed his gun in his face. The sun was behind him, and he was a black and evil shade, a creature of indistinguishable fingers save for his stained and yellowed rictus. “All in my head? All in my fucking head? You jam the barrel of a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger, and you tell me our unfinished business is all in my fucking head? You think I’m going to let you do that and not make you pay for it?”

“Of course not,” John Quinn muttered under his breath. “You never were very smart.”

* * *

Keith Rivers marched John Quinn to the mesquite tree and sat him down alongside Elliot Whitmore. The boy was badly beaten, and John could see now that his nose was broken, his face a mass of purple bruises. “What in Hell’d you do to him, Keith?” John Quinn said, not truly expecting a reply.

He didn’t get one.

The three men sat there in silence, Keith watching John intently and turning his attention to the horizon for a few brief moments every so often, John wondering why Keith hadn’t killed him yet, and Elliot still unconscious. Time passed, and John became aware of a cloud of dust on the horizon, a cloud that slowly coalesced into two figures on horseback.

Keith grinned. “Good. As soon as James and Sam get here, we’ll take care of you and the brat.”

Twenty minutes later, a pale hulking brute of a man and a thin, dark-skinned woman in a sarape and wide-brimmed hat reached the group. The man spoke, smiling like a child eager to please their father. “Good news, boss. Old Zeke said the bounty was still good. Said if you could bring John Quinn in alive, he’d pay double.” John Quinn’s eyes went wide at this, the name at once filling him rage and fear.

Keith smiled. “Course he will,” Keith turned to John Quinn, grinning his corpse grin at the man. “Zechariah Wharton ain’t the type to forgive and forget, is he?”

John Quinn said nothing. His face was stone, his eyes firmly trained on the ground before him.

“Come on, John. Ain’t you got nothing to say about our mutual friend?”

John Quinn looked up and locked eyes with Keith, and for a moment, the smile fled from what was left of the younger man’s lips. There was cold steel in John Quinn’s eyes, steel that had meant death for many just as sure as the steel of a revolver. “Boy, I’m only going to tell you once. Walk away now and I’ll do my level best to forget this ever happened. You can crawl back under whatever rock will hide your ugly face from the light of day and go about your miserable life. But if you take me to that man, I will kill you. I will kill your accomplices. I will kill him. I will kill whatever is left of his gang. I will kill whoever is left from his family. And when I am done, I will burn all that he has built to the ground and I will salt the earth so that nothing living may ever find respite in that land again.”

The brute’s eyes went wide. The woman’s hand dropped to her waist where a pistol sat in a holster. Keith Rivers was silent, and there was no sound at all to be heard save for breathing.

“Ah, Hell,” Keith said. “You ain’t got nothing but words, old man. Nothing but words.” He stood up and turned to the others. “Tie him up. Come sunrise, we’ll take the brat to Potterville, get the bounty, and take the old man to Zechariah’s. This time tomorrow, and we’ll be richer, happier people.” Keith chuckled, and his chuckle turned into a deep laugh, and the others joined him in a chorus that echoed under the setting sun.

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