Until sundown. That’s how much time Deputy U.S. Marshal Brady Hawkes had to get out Prosperity.
Most men — tougher, bigger men — wouldn’t have hesitated to scoot. No options to it really, but the Marshal rode in on the torrid sands of drought baked prairie with the weight of justice hanging on his chest. A lone figure of the law come to clean up the town of dangerous men and lost women.
Prosperity rose up like many towns in the West with the promise of wealth and ironically prosperity. Sheltered at its back by a fierce, wild ridge of hills and a particularly rich vein of silver up to Clout’s Rock, Prosperity sprung up of its own will. The silver flowed like a river for nearly a year on the backs of pack mules and prospectors alike. The town like a molting snake shed its skin and grew and grew. Then the silver was gone.
Backed by the low ridge of Rockies and facing an inhospitable prairie, no good for beast, feed or green, a town like Prosperity should have dried up like the silver and vanished. It were those hills and the mountains above that offered more value than a rich vein of ore. A man or a gang of men could hide out for weeks within the dense treeline. And the wild ones would find shelter among the rocks and the Bighorns.
Prosperity became the haven of bad men who spent their ill got gains on loose women, watered down whiskey and gambling.
Prosperity knew no law.
And so his esteemed Governor John Long Routt of the Territory of Colorado sent marshal after marshal to clean up or clean out Prosperity. Brady Hawkes were the fifth and Routt hoped the young marshal would be the last.
Hawkes came from a line of military men, who knew only duty and obligation. He wouldn’t turn tail like his four predecessors.
The sun gave the horizon one last kiss before the day gave way to dusk. The swaddling heat of the day loosened its tethers and Prosperity clamored to life as the rowdies came down out of the hills.
Hawkes pushed out the double doors of the Hotel Del Toro and looked onto the earth baked and hoof hardened Main Street.
“I guess we had a misunderstanding, Marshal.”
Hawkes eyed Curly Godot, the unofficial mayor of Prosperity and the biggest snake in the territory.
Curly was sunbaked, flesh turned leather from years of punching cattle before realizing his real talent of rustling and killing. Under that coarse hide sinews of muscle wired tight and were ready to spring. With the best he could make of a smile, Godot looked over to his right hand man, Slim Wilkins, who held tight to a Winchester.
“I’m pretty sure I told this greenhorn that if he wanted to see another day he’d be out of here by sundown.”
Godot flung his arms as a show. No sun on the horizon and the sky was nearing black with a canopy of stars.
Slim, a good twenty pounds heavier than Curly, gave a broken toothed smile before spitting a glob of tobacco juice onto the dry earth.
“It looks like you have overstayed your welcome. Marshal?”
The Marshal didn’t falter and stepped off the planks of the hotel’s porch, boots meeting hard dirt.
“Godot, I’d try to reason with you. Maybe, plead a case that this situation doesn’t have to come down to who’s standing last. We both know this town isn’t going to change until you’re gone and well … there’s only one way that is going to happen. Am I right?”
What little smile Curly had whimpered and his hands settled on the butt of his guns. Slim’s hands wrung tight on the Winchester as a fat finger snaked towards the trigger.
Wilkins felt the gun press against his back, and I whispered, “This is just between the Marshal and Curly. You want to flirt with death?”
Slim’s head shook as his hand slid away from the trigger and we both stepped back off of the street.
Curly Godot grimaced, his weather worn features were hardened by the stark light from the torch lamps and the luminescence ebbing from the lit saloons and the parlors lining the street.
Men like Curly Godot were a dime a dozen and only as strong the men around them. It was likely that someone would step up and take Godot’s place were he to fall, just as it was so that the Governor would send another man to Prosperity.
Hawkes and Godot squared off. Both men hands ready.
“You can still get, Marshal.”
“I’m not afraid of dying. I’m not a coward like you.”
Within a breath both men drew down, the gun hammers cocked back during a frozen moment of time as the dueling guns rose up to release their deadly load. The street was a silent pan of emotions.
“Who’s your daddy? Who’s your daddy? You better pick up now cause who’s your daddy?”
Everyone’s head turned.
The director sprung up out of his chair and turned a shade of red that I’d never seen on a man’s face.
“Cut! Mother. Fucking. CUT!”
He looked across the gallery.
“Who the fuck is the stupid ass-fucker who brought a mother fucking mobile phone to my set?”
All eyes turned to me. My hand slipped out of my pocket holding the offending weapon.
He walked over, grabbed my phone out of my hand and slammed it into the dirt. Then literally flipped his wig as his toupee flung forward as he stomped my phone.
Veins throbbing along his reddened temples and forehead.
“What the fuck is your name?” He flung up his hand up in my face to stop me from answering. “No. No, don’t tell me. I don’t even want to breath your name. You’re done kid. It’s over. Get this mother fucker off my mother fucking set.”
He turned, walking away, cursing as he went.
I was done.