Kill Slade – A John Slade Western
The four outlaws crept forward along the back alleyways, to finally stand on the far edge corner of the hotel. Then the last hombre in line, Max Johnson, a short skinny man, with an old grey battered civil war hat, long red kerchief and wearing chaps over denims, and while holding his Winchester down by his side, quickly cut himself from the pack. Then making his way across the street from the hotel, he positioned himself on the far edge of a building, blending himself into the darkness. Then bringing his Winchester up in front of him, he pulled back the hammer on a live round – cocked and ready, as he held his vigil.
There were two ways into the hotel, one through the hotel's lobby staircase, and the other from the outside staircase alongside the hotel's alleyway which ran parallel to the main street. The staircase led up onto a veranda on the front of the hotel, which had their own separate windows and doors into the rooms. There were eight rooms total.
The three remaining outlaws separated.
James Echols slowly made his way to the alleyway staircase, as Jerry Hatcher walked around toward the front of the hotel. The third man, Chris Young, of medium height, wearing an old felt hat, a dark Mexican poncho and Levi’s, stayed put in the alleyway to render fire cover, if needed. Then pulling his peacemaker, he cocked back the hammer and finding a spot behind some crates, he knelt taking cover behind them, hoping he'd wasn't likely to be seen.
As he watched Hatcher disappear around the side of the hotel, James Echols stepped cautiously onto the stairs, climbing slowly to the top to the veranda. Once there he stopped, drew and cocked back the hammer on his peacemaker in one fluid motion. He stood there for a few seconds, listening for anything out of the ordinary. But, all was quite. When he was satisfied no one was awake, he continued walking forward looking for room eight, as his boots struck the wooden floor and his spurs jingled behind him.
Just as James Echols made the top landing, Jerry Hatcher entered the hotel lobby. Without seeing anyone in the lobby or the desk clerk come out to see who had come in, he made his way as quickly as he could, without running, to the stairs. Taking the stairs two at a time, he made the top landing, drew his gun and slowly started walking down the hallway, looking for room eight. As his boots struck the hard wooden floor, too damn loud for his liking, he slowed his forward movement just enough so that his boots wouldn't give him away, just in case the Ranger was a light sleeper. His plan completely hinged on the element of surprise.
Hatcher's plan was simple, once he fired the first shot all hell would break loose.
And all hell did break loose that night!
Outside, the dark night became darker as storm clouds formed a warning of impending rain in the air, as another deadly storm was now brewing inside the hotel.
James Echols finally came to the last door at the other end of the veranda, and just made out the red painted number eight on the door. Then kneeling down on the far side of the room's window, he waited.
At the precise moment Echols stationed himself by the window, Hatcher stopped in front of the door marked with the number eight. He placed an ear to the door, and slowly turned the door knob. But it was locked!
From beyond the hills to the east, a strong wind swept through the town, bringing in loud thunderheads, and lighting strikes, lighting up the country side, and with it a drenching cold rain.
And, just as the thunder shook the ground, Jerry Hatcher shattered open Slade's door. Seeing the bed by the window, he started firing round after round at the bulk lying on the bed.
At that very moment, a window pane was struck and broken, as James Echols also fired off several rounds into the bed.
All that could be seen in that darkened room was the muzzle flashes of two guns firing almost in concert.
As death and destruction came on the scene, the devil smiled!
As the door was shattered inward, John Slade from a position in the darkest corner on the right side of the window - while sitting in a chair, guns on his lap – quietly waited to see how many more came into the room, as he lifted his guns and took aim.
Slade, just moments before, distinctly heard boots coming down the hallway that stopped at his door. Moments later, he heard another pair of boots pounding the veranda outside his window. So, he figured it could very well be a two-prong attack.
Very clever, he thought, but he'd prepared for any eventuality.
Then two things happened in quick succession. First, from outside his room, he heard a low rumble in the distance, and then a sharp loud crack booming sound, as lightning lit up the night.
Then suddenly, from the darkened hallway, a figure bust into the room, and as the intruder fired off a constant volley of shots into his makeshift mound on the bed, Slade heard the shattering and the tinkling of glass as a window pane was broken as someone else fired their gun into the bed from outside his window, as slug after slug found their mark.
As the seconds ticked by, he watched the intruder reload his gun then, not seeing anyone else enter the room, Slade let loose four slugs into the intruder at the door. As round after round struck Jerry Hatcher center mass, he was slowly driven back step by step, until the hallway wall stopped any further backward motion. Hatcher slid down into a sitting position, as his head dropped, and his eyes closed for the last time.
“Ah, shit!” James Echols said, as he watched Jerry Hatcher being shot to death. A second later, he quickly rose and ran toward the stairs, jerking bullets out of his gun belt, reloading on the fly, and thinking only of escaping the ranger.
John Slade stood and seized the chair he'd been sitting on, and thrust it at the window, shattering the frame and all into a million pieces. Then holstering his left gun, he crawled through the window as he made out someone running toward the stairs.
Just as James Echols made the staircase, Slade also on the run let loose two quick slugs, but missed both times, as the two bullets slammed into the corner edge of the building, just as Echols disappeared down the staircase.
Suddenly, a shot rang out from across the street, impacting just inches above Slade's head, while a second shot whizzed past, smashing in a silent chug behind him onto the building's side-boards. Slade threw himself onto the wooden planks of the veranda, as he tried to avoid any further gunshots from across the darkened street.
Seconds later, the rain fell all around him in sheets. With the flash from the shooters gun, he surmised was a rifle, Slade thought he knew where the shots came from. So, quickly reloading both his guns, he got onto his knees and fired three quick rounds down into the area of the flashes, hoping to dis-tract the rifleman. Then leaping to his feet he ran toward the staircase.
He slowed his approach to the stairs landing, which saved his life, as several shots nearly found their mark just right of him onto the edge of the stairwell.
Slade came to a complete stop and just barely made out the shooter through the rain, who was standing almost in complete darkness, just slightly visible below him. Taking aim, Slade emptied one of his guns onto the shooter's shadow, permanently silencing the shooter.
With guns drawn, he quickly ran down the stairs, then coming around toward the staircase landing, he kept running toward the edge of the street, just as a bullet tore into his left shoulder, bringing him to a halt while taking cover by the edge of the building. He ignored the pain and the blood oozing down his arm, as he tried to zero in on the shooter.
The rain made matters worse, as it poured relentlessly, and with it strong winds that battered the town, hindering his visibility to two feet in front of him. Then lightning flashed and split the skies, as Slade tried to pierce the darkness where he suspected the shooter was positioned. The night was lit up like a hundred candles in a darkened room, revealing the shooter momentarily. With providence on his side, it was enough time for Slade to react.
His right hand was already tracking the shooter and Slade fired off three quick slugs into the darkness. He was rewarded, when he heard loud groans of pain and saw a shadow materialized out of the darkness, walked out and fall-forward onto the wet cold ground, dead.
"Well wadda you know, dead man walking," Slade said with a grin.
As he walked onto the center of the street, lead suddenly whipped around his head and thudded onto the ground just left of him. Slade turning into the direction of the gunfire, holstered his left hand .45 to his cross holster, and then quickly fanned off five quick shots from his right hand gun at the muzzle flashes. There was a loud groan of pain, but no more lead came his way.
Slade slowly made his way forward.
Suddenly, he heard loud splashing sounds of someone running behind him. He spun around, dropped down on one knee and took careful aimed at the shadow running toward him. Waiting to see any gun flashes, he barely made out the form of Sheriff Brad Chatwood, as he came to a stop in front of him, gun drawn.
"Hell's bells man, what the hell's going on here, Slade?" Chatwood asked.
Quickly getting back on his feet, Slade let out a long sigh, "There's a shooter out there hurt or dead," Slade said. "I'm going to find out which and finish what they started. Can you see if anyone I've shot-up are still alive? And ah, Sheriff, check my room while you're at it."
Sheriff Brad Chatwood hesitated, but realized it was useless to do any protesting in the matter, and turning his back, walked off down the street.
The rain slowly diminished to a light drizzle, as Slade made his way down the middle of the street with both his peacemakers out in front of him. Not coming up to a body yet, nor anyone shooting at him, Slade surmised the shooter could've been wounded and was on his way to the stables, or had found his horse and was long gone by now. Either way, he slowly continued forward ever vigilant down the center of the street.
Without so much as a sound anywhere near him, he'd just made out the stables ahead, when suddenly, a horse bolted out of the darkness of the stables. Slade stopped and took aim, but there was no rider as the horse galloped past him, into the darkness. And as the retreating horse's hoofs beats diminished in the distance, Slade once again moved forward, cautiously.
Directly ahead of him, was the stable’s main entrance as he stopped, waiting – waiting to hear of any sounds from inside.
But all was silent.
Then, instead of walking through into the stables, Slade, turned right and decided to go though its side entrance just a few feet away.
Hell, he thought, if someone was watching the main entrance; I’m definitely not going to get myself bushwhacked.
Inside the stables, James Echols kneeling down behind a support beam, gun drawn and pointing at the main entrance, waited, hoping Slade would walk right through to his death.
Earlier he'd tried to climb on his horse, and failed. On his second attempt he fell flat on his back, as his horse bolted galloping at full speed out of the stables, as the scent of blood filled its nostrils.
Echols was in shock from his gunshot wound to the right side of his chest - not to mention another bullet that struck his right forearm and one that plowed through his right-thigh – and now with continued loss of blood, he was feeling himself moving in and out of consciousness. But he wasn't giving up just yet. He needed to see this through, if he lived long enough.
Using his bandana, he wrapped his forearm stopping any further blood loss, but his chest felt soggy and so did his leg, as blood slowly pumped out with each passing second – blood loss, which he couldn't stop.
So, he waited.
Wincing with pain from his left shoulder, Slade flitted across the open area to the side of the stables, and pressed himself against the wall next to the door leading inside.
Taking a quick glance inside, he saw dim lighting filtering through the open door. With his left arm almost useless - he couldn't lift it fast enough to suit him – he holstered the .45 and bending low, he reached onto his gunbelt and pulled out several bullets and reloaded. Then cocking back the hammer of his .45 and holding it out in front of him, he slowly slipped inside.
For a second or two, he stopped on the opposite side of an empty horse stall, as his eyes roved left and right. To his left, he saw the front sliding gate, and on his right, a room with its door wide open. No lighting came from within. Glancing upwards he saw a second floor possibly holding hay stacks.
The shooter could very well be hiding up there, or anywhere else for that matter, just take it slow and easy, he told himself.
So, staying under the cover of the second floor, he slowly and silently, moved toward his left side.
Suddenly, he came to a full stop as he heard someone coughing to his immediate front from the left side wall. That area was in total darkness, but he was able to make out the shadow of a man kneeling by a support beam, just about twelve feet away.
Rising to his full height, Slade walked noiselessly behind the shadow of James Echols. But, just then Echols started rising slowly. Once he was standing upright, he supported himself on the wooden beam, as he faced the main entrance to the stables.
Slade kept his gun level with Echols back, as he watched him come to a stop, coughing again, fully supporting his body on the beam.
"Drop your gun," Slade said. "Slowly turn around."
Echols knew he was going to die; there was no mistake in that. And having already lost a significant amount of blood, he figured he had nothing else to lose. He couldn't make a run for it. So, he decided to fight. And maybe, just maybe he could shoot and kill the Ranger, before Slade fired his gun.
"Is that you, Ranger?"
"Yeah, give it up, don't make me kill ya." Slade kept his voice low but dramatically, menacing.
"I'm already dead."
Then, with speed belaying his shot-up body and determination in his movement – Echols turned and at the same time, he threw his body onto the ground to his right side, while trying to lift his gun and take aim in the process.
But, as fast as Echols was, Slade was faster. With his .45 still pointing straight ahead, and before Echols fell on the floor, Slade shot him twice, spinning him once around before he dropped onto the grass filled floor, grasping with pain, barely alive.
Slade inched forward as he stopped by Echols’ body, and kicked the gun away from his grasp. Slade kneeled by Echols face, watching as blood flowed from his lips and eyes.
"Tell me where your gang's hiding out."
"Go . . . to . . . hell," A gurgling sound filled with blood escaped Echols lips, as he muttered his last words – defiant to the end!
"Son of a bitch!" Slade snarled in the darkness.