(One of the more popular titles from Filmic Cuts 1: Sunshine & Lollipops, Standoff was my first ever crack at a western. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Oli Jacobs story without a little twist in the tale… as always, hope you enjoy. OJ)
In his dreams he was free. Surrounded by blue skies, long stretches of beautiful green where only the most precious of flora and fauna grew. This was his land, his fields of gold which he presided over and enjoyed at his own pace. His mount stood patiently nearby, not tied to some old piece of wood but roaming around as free as he was, its mane shining in the midday sun as it lapped the water from its trough. As he stood there looking out, his beautiful wife would move next to him, linking her arm in his. He turned and looked into her deep, blue eyes, so full of emotion and joy, and kissed her soft lips. In his dreams he was happy, he was free.
The hiss of an explosion violently shook Daniel Wallace out of his fantasy, and suddenly all his senses came to at once. The heat from outside boiled against his skin, long past the point of pain and now just a dull numbness. His mouth was slowly getting dryer than the desert outside, desperately trying to generate some sort of saliva to placate his taste buds. Not only that, but the smell in the air was rotten, but Daniel found himself getting used to it. It was a combination of the sulphur and the bodies of the horses they had used to keep the fire burning. Added to that, the not-so-fresh corpse of Lonnie McDermott laid across the shack from him, riddled with bullets and with the flies already beginning to feast. Daniel tried looking around to see who else was still alive, seeing Bob Cole resting against a wall, exhausted. He caught Daniel’s glance and laughed.
“Woken up kid?” Bob said, before releasing a hacking cough. The smoke had pretty swallowed them whole now, but you could still see enough to get by.
Daniel tried pulling himself up, but collapsed back to the floor, gasping and coughing hard, almost choking. It had become hard to breathe now. He felt a canteen hit his shoulder and looked up to see Brock Black standing above him. Brock was a mountain of a man who lived up to his name, and his cold chiselled stare was focussed on Daniel. He wasn’t sure whether Brock was contemplating killing him or just pitying him, but he took the canteen and fiercely drank what he could before Brock snatched it back.
“We need to save some.” He said forcefully, as was Brock’s way.
Daniel dragged himself up, feeling around his hip for his gun as he leaned against the shack wall. His shirt was torn and his right arm was caked in blood from an old wound. He looked around the shack; it was empty save for him, Bob, Brock, Terry Gilligan and the late Lonnie McDermott, who had since turned into the finest eatery for flies in the Deep South. As Daniel wiped the water from his eyes, he noticed that Bob rough brown beard had been singed on one half, causing a roaring laughter to come from him, making the others turn around in shock, guns in hand.
“Jesus what the Hell is the matter with you?” Brock shouted. Daniel just pointed at Bob, who looked confused until he felt at his beard. Terry let out a chuckle and even a smirk appeared across Brock’s face.
“God dammit,” Bob lamented, “took me two years to grow that!”
Daniel looked outside, the fire still burning brightly and standing tall, although he felt it had shrunk a bit since he was last conscious. They had thrown everything they could find on it, furniture, others parts of the shack, even their own horses. They put the rest of the gunpowder they had from the heist and threw that on there and that’s when the fire really got going. Behind the flicker of the flames though, Daniel could make out some shapes, it was the cavalry, waiting for their chance to strike.
“How many out there?” Daniel asked between hard-working breathes.
“Couple o’ hundred, maybe more.” Said Brock.
“Shit,” Daniel muttered under his breath, “And how much supplies we got left?”
“Well, we got three, four canteens of water” Bob said, fumbling around, “and zero chow apart from ol’ Lonnie there.”
Daniel grimaced at the thought. “What about bullets?”
Bob flicked open his Smith & Wesson and looked in the chamber, before flicking it back. “Only got what I got here.”
“Same here.” Brock stated.
Daniel looked over at Terry, who was calmly leaning back on the wall. Terry was a weathered man who looked older than his years, but had a glint in his eye that suggested he had seen enough in that time. He had stayed quiet since they left Burketsville, where all the trouble started.
“What about you Terry?”
Terry looked up at Daniel and felt around his holster. He pulled out his treasured LeMat revolver and studied it for a while before looking back at Daniel.
“What you see is what you get kid.”
“Shit.” Daniel muttered again, realising the grimness of their situation. They had used up a lot of ammo escaping Burketsville alone and were now stuck with little to use. Daniel remembered something his father had told him before he disappeared: Always keep one in the chamber for yourself. It had always seemed a macabre philosophy to him but he was now realising its significance. Better to be a victim of your own hand than that of an angry mob.
Daniel had never really questioned it until now, but why were they being pursued this badly? After all, their plan had been simple: Blow up the tracks to derail the 8:50 train through Pawtucket, which carried in excess of $250’000 on its way to the federal bank in Fullerton. The train carried only a crew so casualties would be low, if at all, and could be performed in double quick time with the experience of Bob and Brock on board. Daniel had joined up due to Bob knowing his father Conrad Wallace, and had earned the trust of Brock after sparing the life of a train guard on a previous job. However Lonnie and Terry especially were the ones to be wary of. Lonnie, an Irishman with a short temper and even shorter trigger finger, had been the one with the zeal to use his guns and Terry… well Terry just didn’t seem right. Daniel wasn’t quite sure what it was, but his placid manner just seemed like the calm before a storm.
The robbery had gone through as planned, until it came to getting out of Pawtucket. As they made their way through the town Lonnie had taken down some itchy residents and thus caused every man, woman and child with a gun to take a shot and get the honour of taking down one of the infamous Pawtucket Raiders, a name Daniel liked to use in spite of anyone else. They had barely gotten out of town’s sight when they headed to Burketsville to lie low. It was only until they got there that Brock realised Lonnie’s gun play had cost him a bullet through his kidney.
They settled up in the town and managed to keep their profile low, although in Burketsville no-one really asked you where you were from if you had a guy like Brock around, one stare and any curious minds were closed. The local doc was the only one to really get very far, although after Brock’s stern answer of “accident” he asked no more.
That was when everything began to go south, and fast. The doc had said he couldn’t operate on Lonnie until the morning so Daniel and Brock had put him in the care of a local whorehouse, which happily tended to him for the right price. Daniel had then gone to a local saloon, enjoyed a few drinks and then heard gunshots. He came out to see Bob, Brock, Terry and a limp Lonnie on horseback with his steed behind them, shouting at him to get on. Daniel only had a moment to notice the hordes of townsfolk rampaging through towards them before he hopped on and they rode off.
From there onward it had been a fight for survival. Every few miles they covered, a new group of armed outlaws had joined, firing all they could in the gang’s direction. Brock had managed to steer them through an old ravine which gave the gang some time, and they came across the shack while racing through the desert. It had long been abandoned but was stable enough, and gave them some time to look at Lonnie, who had now the added discomfort of being hit with a few extra bullets.
Daniel and Brock were in the process of digging a grave when Lonnie let out a chilling gasp, signalling he hadn’t checked out yet with a splutter of blood. Brock wanted to bury him anyway but Daniel persuaded him against it. In the end it became a moot point as Bob arrived informing them of the sound of horns, a sign of the incoming cavalry and that their wanted status had risen quite rapidly. They took refuge in the shack and then created the fire, originally to give them some time to think before they made their next move. However what had originally been their protection had turned into their tomb as the fire spread.
Daniel went to the nearest window and looked out. The flames had continued to die down and he could see the cavalrymen beyond it, waiting with guns ready. Bob had walked over to Lonnie and poked him with his gun.
“No shit.” Replied Terry, still calmly leant against the shacks walls. The heat didn’t seem to affect him as he was still adorned in his long coat. Brock looked over at him with a glare that would chill a normal man, but Terry was no normal man. He didn’t seem to be intimidated by Brock or by anything, it made Daniel uneasy.
Brock had other things on his mind than Terry, and approached Lonnie’s body. With one swift action, he picked him up, braving the smell and flies, and threw him over his shoulder. Daniel and Bob just watched as Brock went to the door of the shack, and threw Lonnie’s body into the fire. The flames burst into life again with the fresh fuel and the waiting cavalry became alive again, shifting round to get a view of what had caused this burst of life. Brock came back in and looked at everyone, his stern expression remaining intact.
“Had to be done” he said, and no-one argued. No-one except for Terry.
“Now what are we gonna eat?” He said bluntly, not even caring about the implications behind the question.
It was answered with cold stares, filled with a mix of shock and fury at the callousness of this comment. Even though Bob had previously joked about it, no-one took it seriously, except it seems, for Terry.
Brock was the one who stared hardest though, you could feel it in the atmosphere of the room, through the smoke and sulphur. Brock was burning a hole through Terry with his eyes, intensely evaluating him. There was no shock or disgust, just pure hate. It had been building up for a while and now it seemed was the moment when the powder keg had reached breaking point.
“Burketsville.” Brock said, cool as Alaska but twice as chilling.
Terry shrugged in response, taking out some tobacco and tossing it in his mouth. Daniel and Bob could sense the tension building, and both took a step back to witness what they both knew would unfold. Brock was not a man to play games with.
“What about it?”
“What did you do?”
Terry stopped chewing and looked up at Brock. He spat out the black tobacco without breaking eye contact as a sly grin slowly creeping onto his face which chilled Daniel to the bone.
“I had some fun.” Terry purred.
(To find out what fun Terry had, and what happened to the rest of the gang, read Filmic Cuts 1 today on Kindle & Paperback.)