A Bullet for Bonney

Flash Fiction

It’s gone midnight when the door to Pete Maxwell’s room clatters open and Bonney crashes in, his pistol drawn and trained at the men on the porch outside. Pete and Sheriff Garrett are crouchin’ in the dark at the back of the room, like a couple of snakes.

‘Who are these guys, Pete?’ Bonney calls over his shoulder.

The ‘guys’ are Garrett’s deputies. They’re as ugly as homemade sin and twice as mean. But useless at keepin’ watch by all accounts. Bonney ain’t expectin’ anyone, least of all these deputies, so he keeps them in sight as he backs into the room barefoot. He’d cut and run if he knew what was waiting for him.

‘That’s him,’ Pete blurts at Garrett.

Bonney turns upon hearin’ Pete and squints into the dark. ‘Who is it?’ he calls out.

The low moon sets his outline in the doorway, fine as cream gravy. He’s a sittin’ duck. When Pete and Garrett give him silence by way of an answer, he hollers again, his voice raisin’. ‘Who is it?’

Garrett answers by cockin’ his colt. It’s a nervous and clumsy draw, the metal snaps like blue lightnin’.

Bonney flinches. Is that when he twigs? Or was it seein’ them deputies on the porch that did it, or maybe the stony silence he got in return for all his hollerin’? Whenever it was, he sees where all this is headin’ now. But why? There’s always a ‘why’.

Pete and Billy go way back, there was never hard feelin’s atween them. And Pete had given him a place to hole up until the heat died down over them killin’s in Lincoln County. Maybe Bonney thinks that the $500 bounty is what has done it. It’s no lie that that kind of tin can make friends turn faster than a cow catching fire, but that ain’t it. It’s down to secrets. Secrets that’s been kept from Pete. And secrets that need to be kept from gettin’ loose. The thing is, Pete had gotten wind of where his sister, Paulita, had been spendin’ her nights of late. He’d heard about the liquor and the canoodlin’. He’d heard the whiperin’s that she was with child.

Bonney raises his pistol and aims it into the dark, but Garrett has the drop. The bullet cracks the silence and lights up the room like spittin’ fire, catching Bonney clean in the chest. The shot spins Bonney, sendin’ his left arm up and over his head like he’s the devil dancin’ in the moonlight. He gives a grunt and slumps against the door. Garrett lets off a second shot but it whistles past Bonney into the night. Bonney stays like that for an age – peaceful like, as if he’s restin’ or thinkin’ – his pistol held limp. Garrett narrows his eyes to shoot again but Bonney’s legs give out and he thumps to the floor.

‘I think I got him,’ Garrett mutters. There’s surprise in his words.

They wait. None of them movin’ on Bonney until the hole in his chest stops hissin’.

With the deed done, Pete leaves Garrett and his deputies to take their souvenirs. They snip a finger apiece, Garrett pocketin’ the trigger finger, while Pete fetches Paulita so as she can say her goodbyes.

William H. Bonney, aka Henry McCarthy, aka Billy the Kid. Wanted dead or alive. Better dead, cleaner too. The dead take their secrets with them.

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