The Hired Gun

by Patricia Henry




ďTake it outside!Ē


But no one moved. It was as if reality had become a painting of still life, for everyone in the saloon looked frozen in time. Sounds normally unnoticed, such as the ticking of a clock or a horse neighing outside, now made several of the men, who leaned against the bar, even more edgy. Each noise, no matter how soft, was heard and seemed to explode throughout this crowded room.


Jess Harper and Slim Sherman had come into the saloon to escape the summer heat. They had worked side by side since dawn. And Jessí clothes showed that the men had labored hard. His shirt and hat were stained with perspiration, and he wore a thin layer of dust from his Stetson to his boots. His hair was plastered with sweat and lay against his head like a wet towel.


The beers had been a welcoming relief from the summer heat, but now the saloon offered no refuge for Jess found himself the center of attention. It was only one man who kept Jessí interest, and this man and Jess faced each other like two angry grizzly bears.


Slimís eyes moved back and forth as he kept his hand on the butt of his gun. His body was tense, ready to spring into action, but like everyone else in the saloon, he waited.


Jess too stood patiently, waiting; his eyes fixed on the manís hand, which hovered over the butt of the gun. A small bead of sweat rolled down the back of Jessí neck. He wet his lips tasting the salt from the perspiration that had formed on his upper lip. Yet Jess never looked away but kept his stare locked, as he waited for the manís hand to drop to the weapon.


Jess heard the swinging doors of the saloon open just as the manís hand fell to the handle of the gun.




It was too late! Jess drew his revolver with lighting speed and the man fell to the floor dead. Jessí glare finally left the cowboy. He looked around and saw Slimís taut body start to relax. Then he saw Mort standing at the entrance of the saloon cradling a shotgun. The expression on Mortís face would haunt Jess for days.


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Chapter 1