“It amazes me, every night these settlers think they have a champion. The betting is as good as ever. We got fifty-dollars tonight clear profit.” Todd counted the money as they closed the rear saloon door.
“When do we move on?” A sweaty Knuckles Newly rubbed his shoulders with crossed arms.
“Not until Vlack tells us. Rhodes told me to keep on going. We managed to get six families uprooted and leave their spreads.” Todd patted the pocket of money for reassurance. “The marshal and that town council thing wasn’t worth shit about gettin’ us outta here.”
“I’m not the marshal or the town council.” Cotter’s deep voice behind the tan bandana stopped them cold.
“What? Who the hell are you?” Newly was on guard and put up his fists.
Todd had his left hand on his single strapped-on .44 and went for it. Cotter’s two Colts came up like lightning and stopped Todd with his hand still on the handle of his holstered pistol. Todd swallowed hard.
“What do you want?”
“Take your gun out with your right hand and drop it on the ground.” Cotter motioned with the shiny Colt and holstered his second gun. He threw a length of rope to Newly. He pointed to Newly with his gun. “You, tie him up to the stair rail.”
Newly tied Todd’s hands to each other and then ran the rope around the middle of the hand truss and tied him to the rail next to the post of the first step.
“My argument is with you Knuckles.” Cotter kept his gun aimed at Newly and pulled out the pair of lead shot gloves from his saddle bag. “You and I are going to fight with our hands. If I win I get the money and you leave town.”
“What do I get if I win?” Newly strutted back and forth between Todd and Cotter. The air was cool but Newly took his shirt off.
“You get to live.”
“That means we fight to the death.” Newly smiled.
“That’s what it means.” Cotter took off his hat and draped his holstered Colts over his saddle and put on Bosch’s gloves.
“Hah. I don’t need gloves to finish you. Are you gonna take off the mask.”
Cotter remained silent. Newly brought his fists up and closed on Cotter. He went forward and straight-armed a left to Cotter’s head. Cotter ducked and moved around Newly.
“Kill the bastard.” Todd strained at his tethers watching the combat unfold.
Newly turned to face Cotter again but turned right into a side punch to his jaw. He moved back. He had rarely been hit in the face before by any of his non-professional adversaries. The blow hurt. The man had power even with gloves on.
“Break his neck. You know how to do it. Just like the asshole from the other night. You remember the guy Rhodes told us to eliminate.”
Cotter took in the words. They were what he needed to justify what he perceived to be his duty. Todd and Knuckles Newly were one of Vlack’s tools. Newly came at him again in his fists-up stance.
“Okay my masked friend, your time has come.” He swung his left and missed, staggered a bit but recovered and swung a roundhouse right at Cotter’s head.
Cotter ducked and moved sideways ramming his right-gloved fist hard into Newly’s right rib cage. Cotter could feel the give as several ribs cracked.
“Ahhh, fuck, I’m gonna kill you, you pig fucker.” Newly leaned to his right with severe chest pain and ran at Cotter. He faked a roundhouse right and kicked Cotter’s right calf, sending Cotter to the ground.
Cotter rolled as his right side met the cold earth and he sprang up to face Newly who came at him swinging. Newly’s left fist hit Cotter’s right shoulder at the margin of the collarbone. Cotter felt a searing pain as the juncture separated. He ducked Newly’s right hand aimed at his jaw and slammed his left hand into Newly’s right temple with all the strength of his arm and the momentum of his body. Cotter concentrated his total body weight behind this one punch. Newly hit the ground immediately. Cotter backed away but Newly didn’t get up. Cotter nudged the immobile torso with his leg.
“Get up Newly.”
There was no response.
“C’mon Knuckles. Get up for Christ’s sakes. Kill the bastard. You’ve done it before. Smash his brains. Break his neck like you did the guy the other night.” Todd was sweating. His eyes widened as he digested the scene.
Cotter knelt down. He looked at Newly’s face and turned it into the moonlight. Newly’s right pupil was larger than the left. The legs and arms began to twitch and generalized seizure activity made his body flap up-and-down. The dark stain of a released bladder appeared between Newly’s legs and the odor of feces reached the observers. Cotter knew the right side of the man’s brain had hemorrhaged and his neck was broken. Newly’s head was fixed at an unnatural angle even during the generalized seizure.
“You killed him. You’ll hang for this.”
Cotter leaned against his saddle and saw stars as he relocated his collar bone using the saddle’s hard surface for leverage. It popped back into place. He removed Bosch’s leaded gloves, put on his hat and strapped on his guns. Cotter was amazed that his bandanna was still covering his lower face.
“Let’s go up to your place. You can give me the thousand-dollars you owe me.”
“You’re crazy. I’ll give you nothing. Rhodes will kill you for this. Vlack will hear about this.”
Cotter placed the barrel of his nickeled Colt against Todd’s temple.
“I’ll kill you right here.”
Cotter removed the tether to the stair rail. After Todd gave him the money he pushed Todd to his bed. “This money goes to the dead man’s widow–the man that Newly killed the other night. You can tell Rhodes, Boda and Vlack these are the consequences if more citizens in Endura are hurt or killed.”
“Who are you?”
“Just tell Vlack what I looked like–he’ll know who I am.”
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