The Gunslinger of Veda Veris

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Westerns  |  House: Booksie Classic


A thriller in a Western setting, about a gunslinger looking for his next paycheck.

Submitted: June 03, 2018

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Submitted: June 03, 2018

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  Veda Veris.

  The biggest, fastest growing boom town in Elaris, seated on the edge of the Long Rail. A haven for prostitutes, outlaws and every other unsavoury type. Gold, coal and iron hides in the hills, just waiting to be found… or stolen.

  The perfect place to make some money.

  I tie my horse to the stables outside a saloon. I tighten the straps on my saddlebags—once full of jerky, water, and ammo, now near empty. Horse drawn carriages and mobs of workers crowd the streets. I weave my way through them and push my way past the saloon doors—which swing back and forth after I pass, finally stopping closed. The tavern crowd pays barely any notice to me. The dimly lit, wood-furnished establishment smells of vice. A strumpet wearing a blue corset dances around a table of men in suits. A table of cowboys throw down cards with one another. A pair of miners roll up in a corner. I lick my teeth and head for the bar.

  “Get me a whiskey,” I tell the barkeep.

  The barkeep is a young man, barely even old enough to have hairs on his chin. He’s not Elarian for sure. He’s far from tall enough or dark enough to be. As he walks over, I exchange a note for a glass and he fills it to half with liquid gold.

  “What’s the word about town, kid?” I ask him, seeing as how the bar isn’t very busy.

  “Depends on the kinds of words you’re lookin’ for,” he says, turning to wipe a glass.

  “The kind that earns me money.”

  “Ain’t nobody not lookin’ for money in Veda Veris, sir,” he says, then turns back around to face me, “Who’re you?”

  “Name’s Wyatt J. Ledder.”

  He pauses to scrutinise my attire and my face, maybe; judging the stubble I’ve accumulated or the wear on my hat; then he looks past my shoulder at the table of suits.

  “Those men’re gold prospectors. They’ll pay a pretty penny indeed for a gun to keep the peace at the mines, what with the Vedans lurking in the hills.”

  I shake my head. “I tried the gold rush when they first came to Old Ela. Money from gold’s too much of a gamble. If they don’t find the gold in the mountains, I might kick it from hunger before I get shot.”

  The barkeep’s expression falls somewhat. “You not a gambling man?”

  “Not, really, no.”

  Then the barkeep leans in onto the counter and looks me in the eyes. “Then you’re in the wrong town, Ledder.”

  In that moment the air slows. The winds stop blowing and the tavern suddenly seems quieter.

  “Because you see,” the barkeep continues, “Veda Veris is a gambling town. Ain’t nothing in Veris ain’t a gamble. You made a gamble walking in here, Ledder, just as you’ll make a gamble to walk out.”

  It’s like the moment before a storm, when the air stiffens and it becomes a bit harder to breathe. Like the whole world has stopped to watch, holding its breath in anticipation.

  “And when you gamble,”

  The whole world, waiting. Just for that lightning.

  “Someone’s gotta lose.”

  Crack.

  My left foot is off the stool, my right hand is on my revolver and the world is in dreadful silence. Everyone’s heads are turned to the doors of the saloon, outside of which the shot rang out.

  “Just make sure it’s not you that’s doing the losing, Ledder. My money’s on you,” says the barman.

  My revolver low, I step out of the saloon. The streets have cleared and the sounds of traffic have halted. A wailing splits the air. On the other side of the street, a man stands above his fallen opponent. He digs the spurs of his boots into the loser’s wound.

  “What’d he do to you?” I shout.

  The man stops and he tilts his head to the side, not enough to see me, but enough to know I’m there. “He owed me money.”

  “How much?” I ask.

  “Four dollars,” he says.

  I grimace. “Was it worth it to shoot him?”

  He smiles. “Per’aps. But I’ve shot men for less.”

  “Ever get your money back after?”

  The man lifts his foot off the other man, planting it in the ground so he’s now facing me.

  “You make a good argument, Mister…”

  “Ledder.”

  “Ah,” he says. His face lifts into a wide grin as he lights a cigarette and takes a puff. “Who’s head is it this time, you’ve come to Veris to collect? Some bandit who robbed a train? Or maybe a murderer; the one who shot up the ranch back East?”

  “Per’aps. But I’ve shot men for less.”

  He chuckles.

  “I wouldn’t’ve thought someone’d know me in Veris, seeing as how it’s so far West,” I say.

  “The Long Rail runs from Harrock, Ledder. That’s as far to the East coast as Elaris gets.”

  “So it does.”

  The wind picks up again, and the man’s scarf flutters as if to announce it.

  I holster my gun. “You better get that man to a doctor. If he bleeds out, you’ll have a bounty on your head too.”

  “Nobody puts out bounties in Veris, Ledder. The law don’t come this far West.”

  “I wouldn’t be so quick to judge the law, Nickels,” I say. His name elicits an immediate reaction from him. His smile drops and he swallows. Nickels holsters his gun and backs away, taking his opponent with him.

  Licking my teeth, I step back into the saloon. The crowd returns to it’s regular raucousness as it sees me enter. The barkeep nods at me, and I nod back. I light a cigarette from my pocket and walk back over to the bar.

  “No, luck,” I say to the barkeep.

  “That so? Looks to me like you won.” He asks.

  “Indeed,” I say, and I take a puff, “But no job.”

He carries on with his business for a while, settling a man with another beer and wiping down the counter, before he realises I’m still watching him.

  “What, Ledder?” he asks. He picks up a glass to wipe.

  “Nothing. I was just watching you work. How many times you gotta wipe a glass?”

  He smirks. “Once. I got a lot of glasses.”

  I scoff. “So, you been in town long?”

  “Sure. Been here since the town boomed. I moved here from Xaihan. D’you know there’s a war happening there right now?”

  “Indeed,” I say, “Say, since you came from Xaihan, you should’ve passed through Harrock on your way here. What’s the place like?”

  The barman freezes. He didn’t stop. He froze. The cloth stopped moving and the glass stopped turning, far too quickly for it to be natural.

  “You alright there?” I ask.

  He raises his eyebrow, as if recalling something, and his hand moves absently, rubbing the rim of the glass. “Yeah, just recalling. Harrock was some time ago. Nice place. Quiet.”

  “Indeed,” I say.

  “Why the interest in Harrock, Ledder?”

  I take another suck of tobacco. “Because I intend to go there after I’m done here.”

  The barman tenses. He swallows. “Are you a gambling man, Ledder?”

  “Not really, no.”

  “But you made a gamble coming in here. Just as you made the gamble going out.”

  “Indeed,” I say, “But you see, it’s not much of a gamble when you know you’re going to win. You heard what happened in Harrock, Weiss?”

  “I’ve heard. Was a man done shot up a ranch. Killed a man and his wife. Brother of the sheriff.”

  In that moment, the air slows. The winds stop blowing and the tavern suddenly seems quieter.

  “Do you know who I am, Weiss?”

  He nods, and takes a deep breath. “I’ve heard. You’re a bounty hunter. Famous.”

  I nod slowly, taking a draw from my cigarette. “I’ve heard too. I’ve heard that Xaihan is across the ocean from Harrock, where the Rail starts, and that we’re in Veda Veris, where the Rail ends. I’ve heard that the Xaihene aren’t welcome outside of the mines in Veris and ain’t no Elarian would hire a Xaihene, least of all to man the bar. Where’s the barman, Weiss?”

  “In the back.”

 It’s like the moment before a storm, when the air stiffens and it becomes a bit harder to breathe. Like the whole world has stopped to watch, holding its breath in anticipation.

  “One last question. You said you were betting on me. Why, Weiss?”

  “I took a gamble,” he says. He’s shivering, but he forces a smile. “I like the odds.”

  “Huh. So you fancy yourself a gambling man, Weiss?”

  “In my line of work, you’ve got to be.”

  The whole world was waiting.

  “Then you gotta know, Wiess,” I say, putting my hand on my revolver. “That when you gamble…”

  Waiting, just for that lightning.

  “Someone’s gotta lose.”

  Crack!


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