I didn’t get another flash fiction piece finished for this week, but here is a short story I wrote a couple months ago.
Eamon O’Fearell saw the snow lying on the peaks of the mountains in the distance even though the sun was beating hot on his back. He knew he was getting close. He had been going by Patrick Duffy, the anglicized form of his middle name and his mother’s maiden name, for the last couple months as he sought his vengeance, knowing his own could get him killed. It felt more like coming home to return to his real name though. And it was time to come home. That was the only way to finish this.
He remembered seeing that same sight when he first rode into town with his father, nearly a decade earlier. It still did not fail to take his breath away. As he approached town, he slowed his horse to a stop and let his eyes roam over what had once been his home. He no longer knew who his friends were, and who had become enemies, so he knew he would have to be careful.
He started his horse again and rode down the dusty street, knowing the animal was tired as he was. He leaned over and patted the animal’s neck. “Do not worry, boy, we’re almost home.”
He pulled the animal to a stop in front of the saloon and slid to the ground. After looping the reins around the hitching post, he started inside. His eyes quickly took in everything around him, recognizing most of the people walking the street, although he doubted he would be recognized as quickly. He had been gone for months and knew he had changed in that time, both physically and in less obvious ways.
Once inside, he let his eyes adjust to the dimness before moving up to the counter and leaning his travel weary body against the bar. “A beer,” he told the barkeep when the older man approached.
When the amber-filled glass slid to a stop in front of him, he lifted it and let the liquid wash the dust from his throat. He set the glass back down on the bar and let his eyes roam the room. He knew most of the people in here, but, as he had thought before entering town, none seemed to recognize him or cast a friendly eye his way. He noticed some strangers, but, he admitted to himself, whether they were really strangers or just new residents, he didn’t know. After all, most people probably thought he was a stranger, even those he had once considered friends. Until they had started working for the enemy; the man who had taken everything from him.
“Eamon O’Fearell,” he heard someone shout and his shoulders tensed. He worked the tension out of his shoulders, knowing he needed to remain loose and ready if there was to be trouble. He turned and scanned the room for the source of the call. And when he saw it, all the tension and weariness that had ridden with him for the last weeks instantly drained away.
“Brian,” he said, crossing to the man who had always been like a brother. “Why aren’t you home with Anna and the children?”
“I just stopped in for a drink on my way there. I brought some horses into town to sell and haven’t made it back yet. How were they when you saw them? I’ve been away for a week now.” But, at the guilty look on the young man’s face, he knew he had not been by to see the family. “Why did you not come out to the house to see us and let us know you were back in town?” He asked as he looked over the young man and a frown made his forehead crease. “You look terrible, Eamon.”
Instantly the happiness at seeing him faded from the young man’s eyes. “You know why I can’t go out that way,” he said, his face hard as he ignored the older man’s last comment. “I haven’t kept my promise yet. Until I do, I can’t truly go home.”
Brian sighed. “You know your father would not keep you to that promise. He never would have expected you to even make it. He was not a violent man. He would not want this.”
“I’m not the one that brought this on,” he reminded his brother. “Kellen did when he ordered my father killed and our ranch destroyed. I made a promise that I would make the people responsible pay. And now I have it to keep. It will be done soon, Brian. Kellen is the only one left to pay. Do not worry yourself.”
‘But, will you be here when it is?’ The older man wanted to ask but knew a lost cause when he saw one and sighed. “Be careful then, Eamon. Kellen still has power here, so watch your back.”
“I haven’t done otherwise for a long time, Brian.”
The older man nodded then made his way across the room and left the saloon. Eamonn turned back to the bar and saw the barkeep staring intently at him. He did not say a word, not sure who his friends were in this town anymore, and just silently lifted his beer and drained it. When he was finished, he tossed some coins on the bar in payment and turned to leave. He could almost feel the tension in the room smothering him as he made his way across the floor. He looked straight ahead but could still feel eyes boring into his back. He did not take an easy breath until he was outside again.
Now, he hesitated, not sure where to head. He glanced down the street and saw a light burning in the house next to the newspaper office. His heart urged him to go there. He could feel the ache in his heart every minute he was away from the woman he loved. And he was afraid that ache would never be eased. But, he was also afraid he would not continue his quest for vengeance if he set eyes on her before he was through. So, he turned and led his horse down to the stable, taking care of him before making his way to the hotel.
Exhausted from his days on the trail, he just kicked off his boots once he was in his room. He made sure to hand his gun belt on the bedpost so the weapon would be within reach if he had need of it. He laid on the bed and fell right to sleep, even though the sun was still shining bright through the window.
Having never been a deep sleeper, particularly during these last months when he knew danger could come at him from any direction, Eamon woke at the first sound of someone outside his room. He didn’t sit up in bed, just lifted the gun from its holster and held it beside him on the bed. As his eyes adjusted to the dimness that now cloaked the room, he saw the doorknob start to turn. He felt his heart kick against his chest when the door started to swing open and pulled back the hammer of the gun. Sweat ran down his neck, afraid this could be the end of everything.
Then, he slowly began to relax as he recognized the curves of the woman standing in his doorway. He uncocked the gun and replaced it in the holster as he swung his feet to the floor. Then, she was running to him. He caught her in his arms, and her lips found his in the dark. “Oh, Eamon,” she murmured. “How I have missed you. Brian said you were in town, and I was waiting for you to come by the house, but you never did.”
He brushed his hand over her hair. “Rebecca,” he whispered her name. “I couldn’t. I can’t come back to you until I finish this.” He brushed his thumb over her cheek and caught the tear that fell. “Go back to your father. This will all be over soon.”
She shook her head as the tears fell unheeded. “I can’t. He’s gone. He never recovered after Kellen’s men crippled him, and we buried him a month past. I have no one left, except,” she trailed off and taking his hand, laid it on the rounded stomach he had not noticed before. And he felt the child, the one he must have planted there before everything changed, and he had left on this quest, moving under his hand. He looked back up into her face and the plea in her eyes nearly broke his resolve. Then, she said, “And we will not even have you if you keep on this path of revenge.”
He just shook his head and steadied his resolve. “This only makes me more sure of what I have to do, Rebecca. Now, go home,” he said, kissing her one more time. “In the morning, I aim to finish this. And Kellen will hold no more power over the people of this town. Then, I can come home to you. To both of you.”
“Be careful, Eamon,” she warned him. “He’s offered to take care of me and the baby if I sell my father’s newspaper office to him. I have refused, and he’s made it hard for me to live in this town. And he still owns the sheriff. He’s told them to take you in if you set foot in town again. You may not survive it again.”
“I will,” he promised her. “And then we can start our life together without his shadow hanging over us.”
“You don’t have to do this, Eamon,” she insisted. “We can go somewhere else and start over. I’ll go anywhere with you. We’ll go anywhere to be with you.”
He shook his head as he walked her to the door and said, “I will not run from the likes of him. If we start, we’ll never stop. I will end this,” he promised before kissing her one last time and shutting the door in her face.
She looked at the closed door between them, wanting to go back in and force him to see things from her point of view. But, she knew how stubborn the man she loved was. So she just whispered, “I just hope it does not end you,” before turning and walking out of the hotel.
When Eamon woke again, he saw the sun was just starting to rise over the horizon. He swung his legs off of the bed and walked over to the pitcher on the table next to the windows. He poured some water into the basin beside it and washed the dried dust from his face and neck. Out the window, he could see the street below and how the peace hung over it. He knew that would not last for long though. If he could turn from this, he would, he told himself. But, he knew he would not be able to live with himself if he did. Then, he shook off those thoughts, not comfortable with the uncharacteristic introspection, and strapping on his gun again and slipping into his boots, he left the hotel room behind him.
He stepped outside and waited for his eyes to adjust to the sunlight before stepping down into the street. He kept his arm loose at his side in case he needed to reach for his gun. But, no one confronted him on his walk down the street even though he could feel eyes on him. He knew any second a bullet could cut him down from behind, since it would not be the first time he had been ambushed by Kellen’s men, but he did not let that stop him.
He stopped in front of the building that he knew housed the man’s office and shouted out to him, “Kellen, I’m tired of facing your thugs. It’s time you faced your sins like a man.”
When the man stepped out of the office on the second floor of the building, Eamon knew he faced a man as dangerous as those he hired to fight for him. It took a moment for him to recognize the young man, since he had aged and grown harder in the past months on the trail, but when he did a sneer snaked across his face. “Why if it is not Torin’s young son. I thought you had skipped town, boy.”
“Only to find those you sent to kill my father. His blood is on your hands, Kellen,” he shouted at the man. “Now, it’s time for you to pay for that.”
The older man shook his head as he descended the stairs. “He would still be alive if he had just sold me his land. He brought it on himself.”
Rage chased all the color from his face. “You had no right to our land,” he shouted. “And you had no right to take my father’s life. You have no right to control a whole town. And you certainly had no right to have me arrested on trumped up charges.”
Kellen clicked his tongue as he stepped onto the ground. “You are mistaken, son. I did not set foot on your land that night. I had nothing to do with it. And this is not about rights. After all, I have the right to take anything I want, as long as I have the power to do so. And you will not be taking that power from me.”
Eamon tapped his fingers on the butt of his gun. “I’m here to see that you pay for what you’ve done to my father, and the other families you’ve ruined with your scheming. And to see that you don’t hurt any others that I love,” he said as he saw Rebecca step out of her house down the street. He would do whatever he could to protect her and their child even if it meant giving up his life. He focused on the man in front of him again and said, “Now, draw your gun.”
But, Kellen just turned from him, knowing the young man had too much honor to shoot him in the back. Eamon watched him, confused as he started back up the stairs. He saw it almost too late. The older man only made a slight move, but Eamon saw the flash of sunlight on metal as the gun slid from the man’s sleeve into his hand, and he turned quickly on the steps.
Eamon drew his gun, cocking the hammer as it cleared the leather of the holster. He was fast, but the other man already had the drop on him. He felt his elbow shatter just as he squeezed off the first shot. The pain dropped him to his knees, and his weapon fell from his limp fingers, hitting the ground in front of him.
His vision blurred from the pain, but he tried to put that in another corner of his mind as he reached for the gun with his other hand. He felt another bullet whip past his head, close enough to split hairs, as his finger wrapped around the butt of the gun. He only flinched though and kept his hand steady as he cast his eyes up and saw Kellen coming back down the steps without a worry, thinking he had him incapacitated now.
“You have made a very big mistake, son. And now you are going to pay for it.”
But, Eamon lifted the gun in his good arm and squeezed the trigger, sending a bullet through Kellen’s body. He saw shock enter the power hungry man’s eyes just before he fell down the remaining steps. He did not have time to see if the man was dead though as he heard a volley of shots from across the street. He dragged himself out of the street, his wounded arm hanging limp at his side. As he pressed himself against the side of the walk, he saw the hand of the man who had caused him so much grief hanging over the edge, no life left in it.
Eamon felt a bullet slam into his body and darkness started to overtake him. He touched a hand to his side and could feel the blood on it. When he tried to move though, the pain was overwhelming. He heard another volley of shots coming from the other side of town and saw a man who had been heading toward him drop into the street. He did not know who had come to back him, but that someone had was enough.
He heard someone running toward him and recognized the cadence of Rebecca’s steps. He tried to shout at her to go inside, but his voice would not come. ‘Please, Lord,’ he prayed, hearing the words in his head even though he could not voice them, ‘don’t allow any hard to come to them as well.’ As he started to slip away, he felt someone kneel beside him and felt a surge of strength. But, it was not enough to keep the darkness away. Before it completely took over him, he whispered, “It’s done, Da. You can rest in peace now. It’s done.”