The silver ornate, buffalo-hide cowboy boots crushed the broken glass pieces on the floor as he made his way to the counter walking across the carnage of his creation. His signature 0.44 calibre, double-barreled ’73 Winchester was slung over the left shoulder. In his other hand he carried a ’60 Colt army model, 5 of its bullets had found their home in the two unlucky souls who chose this fateful afternoon to visit the doomed joint.
He pointed the barrel right in the face of the bartender. “Give me the keys, and maybe I’ll spare you.” On realising that his 80-year face was just the pull of a trigger away from being blown away, the old man handed over the keys without a second’s delay. Nonchalantly, he lowered the revolver and shot in both the knees of the bartender. Painful screams broke through the eerie silence of the bar as he passed on the opened the bar counter to collect the loot.
Bill “The Yellow Boy” had a reward of 5000$ upon his head, active in two states. But Bill’s notoriety preceded the reward by multitudes. Even in those two states, bounty hunters rarely ever tried to cross paths with the man who was never referred by his actual name. Nobody knew for sure how Bill’s nickname came into existence. It was possibly the figment of the imagination of a bartender in some far off dusty old town, conjured up for the entertainment of his bored customers on a dull Wednesday afternoon. But the name stuck and gradually passed into the folklore. They still call his favourite weapon by the same name in these parts of the outback.
Yellow Boy. Wreaking havoc in an indiscriminate manner wherever he went – like the dreaded disease of the canal.
“Give me the bag”, Yellow Boy barked in his natural gruff voice. A subordinate dutifully passed on a dusty mailbag. The other one was standing guard, while 3 of them were guarding the front porch and one was in the balcony. He filled up the bag with all the money in the drawer. After casually admiring the hand-crafted mahogany alcohol shelf, he picked up the two costliest looking bottles from the large gold ornate chamber. Although on taking a swig, he immediately spits it all out on the counter. “You keep this shit inside a golden chamber, you baseless retard. Fuck you.” A shot rang out high above the somewhat subdued screaming of the bartender — silencing him up for good.
The younger subordinate had a mortified look on his face. “I was already tired of the fucker’s constant screams.” There was a wry smile of Bill’s face. “Now count the loot, before I decide to blow your head off too.”
While the kid was counting through the crumpled bank notes, he started scrounging through the shelf collection to get a couple of better bottles. It was always hard to find good rum while he was hiding in the wild. Bill remembered the last time he had to resort to drinking moonshine when they couldn’t find proper alcohol, moonshine which they stole from a town not far from this one. It hurt his head like a motherfucker and caused soreness in his throat so he wasn’t able to speak for days. And while the flashback of those terrible days took his mind on a painful trip to the past, the sound of the door closing followed quickly by the distinct ‘click’ of a rifle bolt slotting in its place brought him back to the present.
“Now, now, now Henry…..Do you really think it is a very good idea?” Bill spoke in a calm and composed voice, trying not to give away the fact that he was close to shitting his pants. It was a desperate attempt to bid for some time as his left hand slowly came down to his hips. He knew that the conspirators must have told Henry to shoot him without a second’s delay. But hearing him speak had caused Henry to hesitate for a moment. And a moment was all that Bill needed.
In one sweep action, he turned, ducked and fired off his Colt, blowing Henry off his feet and send him crashing through the nearby table. Henry’s rifle went off too, putting up a huge hole through the wine cabinet. The second guy stood flabbergasted for some time and then started shooting at Bill. But he had a poor aim and by then Bill was behind the bar counter.
Another one of the conspirators broke through the door and the two gunmen started spreading bullets all over his hiding place. The wine cabinet was having the worst of this exchange, glass and booze all raining over him while he desperately tried to load his rifle.
The shooting subsided for a moment. He came out of cover with a firearm in each of his hands and started firing at his assailants. Thomas must have come down from the balcony while he was preoccupied with loading the bullets, and Bill hadn’t accounted for three hitmen in his simplistic plan. One of the gunmen, probably Joe, caught him square in the shoulder, slamming him on the ground with the full force of a 0.44 onto a carpet of silver shards which tore through his leather overalls. White hot pain of glass cutting into his skin rendered him blind, but the fall probably saved his life too. Had he been standing, at least one of the three guys would have cut him down to pieces sooner or later.
‘So almost everyone is in on dethroning the King. But no Joaquin and no Tyne’, he thought as repeatedly fired the revolver to keep the hounds at bay. Their absence meant either one of them must have remained loyal to him and took out the other guy.
“This is it, Bill. As soon as that Colt is out of ammo, I am coming there and cutting your throat from ear to ear, you mad piece of crap.” Thomas had always hated him. It was not because Thomas desired to usurp Bill as the gang’s leader. Neither was it because Thomas was jealous of Bill’s reputation, which was far greater than Thomas’s own. The cause of this hatred was personal. Bill was famous for his countless escapades with women of all age and creed. His deep, gruff voice coupled with his rough looks and notoriety rendered him extremely attractive to the fairer sex. In one of the raids he had spearheaded about a year ago, they had hit a brothel which also housed Thomas’s longtime mistress. One thing led to another and Bill made out with her while Thomas was downstairs fighting off the Sheriffs with the rest of the gang. Worse still, Bill later boasted about it in front of everyone. It was a humiliating experience for Thomas, and rumours say that he later went back and killed her. Bill could never think in his wildest dreams that the timid Thomas would have the guts to ever stand up against him. But now he knew that the wise old men were never wrong. There is no other man more dangerous than an estranged lover.
Another one of the gunmen was shouting expletives at him now. The third must have been busy reloading his gun.
“You come here and I’ll make sure you die the same death as that of your infertile dad.” He might have been acting cocky, but Thomas was right of course. In a gunfight, three on one is almost a certain death. Even if you could take out two guys with both of your hands, the third one will almost surely kill you. The only question is how much time would it take for the inevitable to happen?
As he battled the pain, Bill’s eyes suddenly fell upon an old, rusty-looking toy. They called it a magic ball or something in these areas. Childish thing, used by kids to tell made up fortunes and feel confident about themselves. But Bill never believed in such things. He believed that a person made his or her own fortune. Actions create luck and not the other way around, that was Bill’s philosophy of life.
So when he picked up the black coloured ball in the midst of a gunfight, in which he could have easily lost his head at any given instant, it was surprising, to say the least. And then, in one of the strangest instances of Bill’s life, he proceeded to keep the ball’s head down and ask “Will I die today, in this bar?”
And then with a burst of manic laughter, he threw the ball away, not even bothering to see the result.
Bill “The Yellow Boy” believed that a man made his own luck and Bill “The Yellow Boy” followed that principle diligently. Like every other self-centred, narcissistic person on the face of this earth, he also never trusted anyone. Not even his own gang members.
Unknown to everyone, Bill always carried with himself a small hand grenade. That was the reason there were no stories of the Yellow boy’s great missile, no one had ever claimed that they saw him use it on some poor fellow in some bar. He had never used it before as it was strictly for emergencies. But being shot at by three of your own gang members while you were cornered into certain death was definitely one such crisis.
Bill waited for the firing to subdue a little, then plugged the pin and threw the grenade. He wasn’t even sure if it would work or not, it had been three years since he purchased it from an ex-confederate soldier. But the impact he felt two seconds later proved that his fears were baseless.
Gingerly, he stood up and witnessed the power of the deadly device. It had blown a hole through the walls of the bar and blasted his attackers to pieces. All that was left were broken pieces and ash. For a long time, he stood in silence and awed at the marvel of destruction that he had created in this tiny bar in some far off, dusty old town. As soon as he came back to his senses, he treated himself to slow, hearty laughter. “Now that is a story that they would all love to tell in the bars.” His shoulder was throbbing with pain but at the moment, he felt stronger and more powerful than ever before. He felt invincible.
He came out into the porch, rifle slung over the arm which carried the gun, the other one carrying a bottle of Jack Daniels. Joaquin and Tyne were lying dead. He gave their cold bodies each a kick before proceeding to empty half the bottle in one swing. Nothing soothed his chaotic nerves better than some good alcohol.
Opening the main door he found the afternoon sun beating on his head. As Bill picked up a hat from the stand and turned around, he came face to face with the barrel of a Smith and Wesson held by a 10-year-old African American child. “Get out of the way kid. Don’t you know those things can hurt you bad? Like really, really bad. Blood and pain and all of that. Now you give me that toy you are holding, give it to me gently, and I will let you run away to your mamma.” He put his hand out slowly towards the boy.
It was only then that Bill noticed the safety latch of the revolver, which had been turned off. And it was only then that Bill sensed the anger and vengeance which was burning brightly in the eyes of the 10-year-old kid.
“Momma says that you are daddy’s killer.”
The last sound that Bill “The Yellow Boy” would ever hear was the revolver going BANG. Almost simultaneously, his lifeless body fell down inside the front room of the bar.
In the other room, among shattered pieces of glass and cutlery, among all the spilt alcohol and broken tables, among the lifeless bloodied bodies of innocent old men and lawless outlaws, there was a small black ball with some words inscribed inside its blue face.
‘Without a doubt.’