Published on Saturday, February 1, 2014
By Matthew J. Barbour
His Christian name was Robert something or another. I don't remember. To all of us, he was Buckshot Bob. Buckshot got his name from his piece, a sawed-off double-barrel shotgun holstered where another man would carry his six-shooter. I think he did it for intimidation and truth be told, it worked well.
When we saw him riding into town, there wasn't a one of us who didn't hurry back to our shop or house. He took what he wanted. We gave it to him willingly. We didn't want any trouble.
Of course, Buckshot Bob was mighty proud of himself. He played it up a bit and knelt down beside the man. He started to mock Winkle and him not even dead yet. He stood up shaking his head mocking Winkle's stuttering words. Then, he even up and kicked poor Winkle. Still, Winkle lived on. His one hand clutching his gut, he lifted his other hand and pointed at Bob. I couldn't catch any of the words from my shop but Buckshot Bob was real close. Whatever Winkle said, Bob didn't like one bit of it.
Buckshot raised his shotgun to Winkle's temple and unloaded the other barrel. Blood and brains went everywhere. It was on the street, on the wagons, on the porches, and on the windows. Stuff was everywhere. There were even a couple of teeth later found lying in a nearby trough. After the blast, there was nothing left of Winkle above his shoulders.
Buckshot Bob just laughed and said that is what you get. Then, he saddled up and rode out of town.
A few of us came out once Buckshot Bob had ridden out of sight. We did our best to collect what remained of Winkle and delivered it to his widow with respect and all.
Next day, we held a funeral. It was closed casket for the obvious reasons. We did so out of proper respect for the dead. That didn't last though.
No sooner had the preacher started working his jaw than Buckshot Bob rode up out front and tromped in his spurs jingling. I feared it didn't bode well when I saw as he had a smile on his face extending all the way from one ear to the other. Bob had come by to gloat. He recounted for all of us, including Mrs. Winkle, the events of the day before. He told us how Thomas Winkle had got what was coming to him. He told us how the man had begged for his life right up until the moment his head was blasted off his shoulders. He even described everything in pretty mean detail.
He said some things I will not repeat here, even things about the poor Widow Winkle. It was things he planned to do with the widow later that night. Then as if to emphasize his point, he undid his pants and relieved himself on the casket, right in front of all of us.
We all did our best not to watch. We had done our best not to listen. Just as the day before, when he left, we collectively gave a great big sigh of relief. Comforting the widow as best we could we all encouraged the preacher to continue with the service.
As night fell, by silent agreement we all gathered outside the Winkle residence. I suppose we all knew chances were fair to middlin' that Buckshot Bob would make good on his promise. Mayhap we thought as a group we would have the courage to stand up to him, this time. As it happened that wasn't the way the situation played out.
As the sun set, Buckshot Bob rode up to the front of the Winkle House and dismounted, throwing his reins at a fellow named Pearson. Pearson's hands trembled, but he knew what he was supposed to do. He led the horse off to be stabled in the nearest barn.
Buckshot Bob walked up onto the porch. The group parted and we let him past. He marched up to the door, let out a loud chuckle and pushing easily through a flimsy lock he went in. We could hear Mrs. Winkle scream and then begin to cry. Without a word, the crowd began to scatter.
We all froze and began to look at one another. The word seemed to come from nowhere. It sounded again.
It was louder this time, like a roar. It was almost as the word was in our heads. It seemed to be coming from everywhere.
Buckshot Bob must have heard it too. There was a bit of a commotion inside the Winkle residence and then, the door opened. Bob came out onto the street, shotgun in hand.
I think I saw it first. It was coming by way of the graveyard, just shuffling down the street.
Damn thing had the body of the man, but no head. It was Winkle, a dead Winkle. He was standing up to Buckshot Bob, just as he had in life.
The word was rattling around in my head. It was so loud now that it made me dizzy. It must have been having the same effect on Buckshot. He leveled his shotgun at the walking corpse and fired, but the shot went wide. Not sure if we were reacting to Winkle or the danger of getting shot but it weren't more than a second or two and we were all back behind our windows watching the show. Neither figure on the street seemed to notice. Thomas Winkle just kept coming forward.
The gunslinger moved forward to meet Winkle. He got within arm's length, raised his shotgun and emptied the gun into Winkle's torso. It didn't seem to do anything far as I could tell.
The thing lurched forward and grabbed hold of Buckshot Bob's arm as he was reloading. It must've had a grip of iron, because Bob couldn't break away. He screamed and a spreading wetness appeared on the front of his pants. The dead Winkle turned in its path and began to drag Buckshot Bob back towards wherever it was Winkle had come from.
No one left their windows and the view of the road as we heard Buckshot Bob's cursing grow fainter and fainter as he was drug out of sight. No one ever saw Buckshot Bob or the dead Winkle again. To this day, Thomas Winkle was sure enough the only one who ever stood up to Buckshot Bob.
Matthew J. Barbour is a South(west)ern Gothic Speculative Fiction writer living with his wife and three children in Bernalillo, New Mexico. His stories have been published or are forthcoming in AntipodeanSF, The Camel Saloon, Darker Times Fiction, The Devilfish Review, Horror Novel Reviews, MicroHorror, Postcard Shorts, Short-Story.me, Stupefying Stories, and Thick Jam. He obtained his B.A. (2002) and M.A. (2010) in Anthropology from the University of New Mexico. When he is not writing fiction, Mr. Barbour manages Jemez Historic Site in Jemez Springs, New Mexico and writes for a number of regional newspapers, including the Red Rocks Reporter and the Sandoval Signpost.