Dulin Caine

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Westerns  |  House: Booksie Classic

Welcome to Texas, the mid-1880s, and a tiny incidental desert hamlet named Slap Out. It's a little known, seldom spoken of frontier town, snugly nestled beneath majestic mountains along the southwestern border between Texas and Mexico, and morally poised between virtue and corruption. It's a mundane community barely on the maps of this vast region, a unique shade of gray in this harsh black and white world. Not only that, but it's a tiny society unto itself where the sublime sometimes means the surreal. It is a place where wandering souls come for a variety of reasons. For some, it's to seek a better life away from the increasingly modernized mayhem of progress. For some, it's a place to hang their hat before moving on to their destiny. Still for others it's a sanctuary from the past, a last chance of sorts to start anew.

So welcome, my friend. Welcome to a town where last chances meet new beginnings. Welcome to a town on the edge of the American spirit, where the unimaginable is cultivated from the seeds of the human condition. We're  at a town where the past and the present roll the dice with the future hanging in the balance.

I kept my senses tuned high to prevent any accidents or someone like the posse from over powering me. Still the days rolled on without incident as I skirted around El Paso and headed towards Slap Out. Unable to wait patiently for the horse to come to a complete halt, Dulin Caine hurriedly dismounted and made his way at a run out of the old corral towards the cabin. Then peeked through the single pane plate glass window that served to light the desert cabins' interior. Seeing no sign of life within, he shouldered the handmade plank entrance door open slowly with his left hand, gun in his right, stepped inside. The coolness of the  interior surprised him as outside, the temperature had skyrocketed past one hundred and fifteen degrees. A quick look about told him the cabin had been abandoned to the elements some years ago. Not the cleanest of places, he mused, yet it would still serve to give him the needed protection he’d been hoping to find.

The late morning sunlight fell across the floor, lighting the dim interior, the simple pine table and chairs, the rough-hewn ladder to the sleeping loft above. He grimaced at the dried blood spatter on the floor and stepped to one side of it. He kept his gun drawn, but there was no sign of occupants and no place to hide if anyone had wanted to. Likewise, he crossed to the far wall, where he saw another pool of dried blood beside the table, and holstered the gun with a shake of his head.
Stepping back outside, he glanced at the black, darken horizon and knew he had maybe fifteen minutes at best before the monstrous mile high dust storm struck. He wondered what would reach him first, the storm or the lawman on his tail. There wasn’t much he could do now but tend to his horse and wait the storm out. Anyone tracking him would have to do the same.

A couple of dust devils whirled in his path before they petered out as Dulin led his horse to the protection of the nearby shed. He hurriedly unsaddled it, gave it some feed and water. His right hand, shading his eyes from the sand storm, looked out to the distance ahead, and shook his head. Then he saw a bit of a dust cloud seemed to grow and made his way back inside the cabin. He was exhausted after weeks of traveling. Despite the hard floor beneath him, Dulin had the best night of sleep he'd had in a long time. It was mid-morning before he'd waken. The Texas sun was beating down on the cabin, a sigh escaped as he headed out to see about his horse.

The Prospector who owned the cabin only went by the name Pick, short for Pick Axe, I assumed, a fellow I'd run with told me about the place long ago. I was still pretty much in the dark when the storm had come about. Still, I was safe inside, minding the holes perforating the shutter and only door.

Dulin lit a fire. It was not a good fire, but he didn't give a rat's ass. He hunched down and drew some grub from his saddlebag, and watched as the fire threw red sparks into the air. Suddenly he leaped up out of his lethargy and opened his saddlebag. He pulled out a bottle of seven-year-old rotgut. It was full and had a pale yellow tint. Dulin cut the dust with a long drink, then another pull from the bottle. Dulin pondered his new situation. Dozens of men were cutting back and forth across the territories, making names for themselves by taking what they wanted at the end of a gun. Why couldn't he? Who's to say he couldn't do some taking of his own? He'd have to practice with the new pistols, and he'd have to learn how to stare a man down. He would probably have to kill some more. Well, this time had gone alright, he guessed. He might get himself killed, but it wasn't like he'd been doing much living anyway, but he was far from being a coward.

Dulin felt as if his horse was an extension of his legs, the rope an extension of his hand. He didn't even think about his bullwhip anymore, as if it was merely another finger. The twin Navy Colts on his hip was a weight he felt naked without, the leather chaps a second skin. He'd spent long days without food, dark nights without sleep. He practiced with the guns until his hand was fast. Fast and accurate, and firing his pistols for many months before he thought he was ready to leave the cabin.

Abilene. Little more than a cluster of log cabins sitting in the middle of nowhere. But there was a rail head there, next to those log cabins. South of the city proper were the shacks and tents of the cowboys. With the sudden arrival of the railroad and the great migration of the Texas Longhorns, the town's population had grown faster than its infrastructure. It was a wild, raucous town, where beef turned into money, and money turned into whiskey. And the cowboys and businessmen alike loved it. Abilene was a town that thrived after dark. In the light of day, the streets were deserted. It seemed everyone in town was hungover in bed, waiting for the next big herd to arrive from the south, and the whole cycle to begin again. As Dulin stepped into the street, the only other movement was the lone tumbleweed that rolled across his path. He took a deep breath. The dust in the air stung his nostrils; dust and the smell of a saloon.
Frank and his partner were thirty paces up the street, leaning against the rails of the saloon's front porch. Their gun belts rode easy on their hips, holsters tied off and guns unstrapped. Nick had replaced his sawed-off with a more manageable and more accurate Colt revolver. They stood up straighter as Dulin made his way up the street. Not looking at either of them, Dulin walked slowly but steadily toward the general store across from the saloon. There were some things he needed to pick up. He wasn't sure what they were yet, but there had to be something.
Nick and Frank watched Dulin coming closer and closer with every step. Just before he stepped onto the porch of the general store, Frank stepped out into the street.
"Hey, kid. Looks like I found my friend."
Dulin turned to face them, both hands folded over his belt buckle. Like the men he was facing, he had already unstrapped his gun.
"So I see. How's your hat, friend?"
The man growled at him.
Frank took another step forward. "They don't sell brains at this store, kid. Maybe you should go back to school to find yours."
"Maybe I will," Dulin answered. "Or maybe I'll have a look at yours."
Something changed in Frank's eyes. His hand snatched down toward his belt.
The Colt Navy leapt from Dulin's holster. The hammer dropped.
A gunshot shattered the morning stillness. Crimson spread across Frank's plaid shirt.
His friend cleared leather, but Dulin's hammer fell again. Before the echo from the first shot had faded, the man fell face down in the street, blood pooling from the hole in his forehead.
Frank screamed in pain and rage. He raised his revolver.
A third shot from the Navy Colt silenced him forever.
After a few moments of silence, the people of Abilene began to emerge from the buildings on either side of the street. As yet, there was no sheriff in Abilene, so the undertaker simply pulled up with a wagon to cart away the corpses in preparation for their plots on Boot Hill. No one said a word to Dulin, or even looked his way after his guns were back in its holsters.
He stood there in the street a moment longer, though, staring down at what he had done. Two lives were over, with no way to take it back now. Three bullets, and their lives were reduced to blood soaking into the dust of the street.
Without a word, he turned away, unable to look at his handiwork anymore. He couldn't stay here in Abilene. He wanted to go out west, but he didn't feel that was an option either. Furthermore, he couldn't stay, but he had nowhere to go, perhaps; to the freedom and adventure he'd never felt before.


Submitted: November 10, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Intoxcy8me. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Celtic-Scribe63

A good slice of Old Western pie, here. A gritty little tale full of atmosphere and tension.
Nice work, Pardner!

Regards CS63.

Sun, November 21st, 2021 8:21am

Author
Reply

Thank you for the generous comment, you made my day.

Thu, November 25th, 2021 2:56am

Intoxcy8me

Thank You, tried to recapture part of the past.

Tue, November 23rd, 2021 12:39am

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