The Devil Hides Behind the Cross

Devil Cross

Smoke began filling the air as soon as The Cameron Gang exited the bank. Gunshots, splintering wood and shattering glass surrounded them as they dove behind the troughs for cover. The terror filled cries of horses pierced the chaos. The air was acrid, gunpowder gelling with humidity, creating a stench that reminded Johnny of brimstone.

“Guess they knew we were coming,” Ed shouted, snapping Johnny out of his trance.

“They just wanted to give us a proper sendoff,” Johnny shouted back. His cocksure grin grew wider in defiance of a town trying to uphold its law. To protect its money. To protect its own.

He took the saddlebag from his shoulder and tossed it to the shortest member of their group. “Billy, you and Jim get the horses behind the bank while Ed, Bobby and I draw their fire. We’ll meet you back there.”

Billy and Jim scrambled off without a word, crab walking to avoid the bullets. They obeyed his orders without question. Appointing him leader wasn’t something they decided. No one had questioned him going all the way back to the war. No one knew exactly why, or when. One day they were just following him.

Johnny drew a Colt with his left hand to match the one already in his right. The twin six guns were responsible for countless deaths, saving his life with each one. He learned to kill during the war, and lost his humanity. He parted with it willingly. The war brought him out of a lazy stupor that had dominated his life. It didn’t create his instinct to kill, merely nurtured it. Less of a birth mother and more of a wet nurse. It kept him full. But each time at the tit left him wanting more.

His experience as a soldier and an outlaw guided his hands as he fired in the direction with the most guns pointed at him. He managed to kill seven before diving into the protection of the bank, narrowly avoiding another onslaught of bullets.

He lived for these days and one day it would kill him. But today wasn’t that day and he knew it. Without hesitation he shot the banker, the only soul left in the building, as a precaution.

The others had pinned most of the vigilante townsfolk into a stale standoff. Timidity now weighed down the sporadic bullets.

“What now?” Billy said, crouching under one of the shattered windows. The banker’s head wound oozing blood into a puddle surrounding his boots.

“Go out the back. I’ll meet you there, there’s something I have to do first,” Johnny spoke, his mind already off in the distance. His eyes drawn to a building across the street.

As soon as the gang made a break for it, the vigilantes found their courage. The bullets of novice marksmanship serving as the final death rattle in a battle already lost. A battle that was proof that good doesn’t always triumph over evil.

Just as he had predicted, for a moment the amateur lawmen forgot all about him, providing him with the opening he needed. He slithered along the ground outside until he was clear of the bank.

Johnny sauntered into the church, gun smoke wafting off his duster. Sunlight from the open door melded with the smoke and cast his shadow in front of him. He made his way up the pews with an intense casualness ignorant of the chaos outside. He gazed up, contemplating the Christ child splayed out on the cross above him, his cocksure grin once again dancing across his teeth.

He tossed a coin purse onto the pulpit with a devil may care flick of his wrist, his eyes still engaged in a staring contest. His icy gaze turned to the priest crouched in front of the sanctuary’s two shaking parishioners, a man and a woman humbled by their fear.

“God always gets his cut.”

Silence hung heavy in the air as he turned and sauntered back into the gunfight.

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