Forty Feet Between Them, Pt. 4

Short, late post tonight. My apologies, team.

John Quinn rubbed his cheek, his flesh still stinging where Rose of Sharon had struck him. Or maybe he just thought it did. Or maybe he just had to keep his hands moving so he had something to focus other than what she was telling him.

“Red’s a farmhand at the Robbins place. About two days’ ride north. He’s a good enough kid; doesn’t cause any trouble, always squares his debts. But he’s got a temper.”

“Show me one of them good old boys that doesn’t.”

Rose of Sharon shook her head. “He’s not the kind to flip a table and throw a punch. He’s the kind to sit there quietly and leave. He gets a grudge, he nurses it and dwells on it until it fills him up, you hear me? He doesn’t pull his gun and fire like the things a snake fit to bite him; he takes his time and he aims and he measures his shots in pure hate.” Rose of Sharon went silent for a moment. Quietly, she added, “I guess he’s kind of like you that way.”

John Quinn snorted. “Kind of like me?”

“You know that story you told me about the house you burned down and the kid you shot in the face?”

John Quinn winced. He’d told Rose about Zechariah Wharton and Keith Rivers once, in a moment of weakness, and he’d never forgiven himself for it. To her credit, she almost never brought it up. Almost. “Yeah.”

“Well, a year back, back when you was still out… out doing whatever it is that you do, there was a man staying in town. A hunter from back east. He was courting one of my girls, telling her how he was going to take her back home with him and they’d have a good life together in wherever the hell he came from. Now, Red Peterson liked this girl, and he was none too pleased when he came in one day and found her hanging off the arm of the hunter. But he saw her happy, and he didn’t do or say nothing.

“Not until the hunter told the girl they were going to get married and then disappeared the next morning without a word.

“Red tried to comfort the girl, but she wasn’t having none of it. She pushed him away and just set to crying over her own broken heart. No one could do anything to cheer her up, and Red just sat watching her suffer from the other side of the bar, his face getting darker and darker. Finally, he just got up and he set off to the east.”

“Went to go beat the hunter to a pulp, is that it?”

Rose of Sharon was silent. “What’d the kid do?”

“I don’t rightly know,” she began. “But there was man that came from the east a few days later. He was asking if anybody in town had gone missing recently. Said he saw a bunch of buzzards circling a spot not too far from the road, so he went to go check it out. Found them feasting on a body.”

“The hunter?”

“Probably. All he said was he found a body that’d met a bad end.”

John Quinn arched an eyebrow. “A bad end? What’s that mean?”

Rose of Sharon shrugged and looked away. John Quinn frowned. “Why are you telling me this?”

Rose of Sharon turned her head back to John Quinn. She studied him for a moment. Concern “You know where I’ve heard that before? ‘Met a bad end?’”

John Quinn shook his head.

“From you. The only other person I’ve ever heard say that is you. The only other person I’ve heard of doing something that a body would have to say that is you”

John Quinn said nothing. He couldn’t hold Rose of Sharon’s gaze, but he wouldn’t look away.

“And that’s the kind of person we’re up against, John Quinn. A man just like you.”

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