“Gentlemen, place your bets!”
Over a hundred people came out to watch Slade square off against Smelly Jack. They lined up along both sides of the street, looking for a good spot to watch the fight. Blake saw an opportunity to make some dough. He waved a stack of bills in the air.
“What’s the action?” Townsend asked.
“Jack’s a shoo-in,” Blake said. “But the odds of Slade living through this are a thousand to one!”
Townsend forked over a ten spot. “Put it on Jack.”
“You got it,” Blake said. “Place your bets! Place your bets!”
Blake worked his way through the crowd, accepting money from all the would be gamblers. Slade’s action didn’t get many takers, but there were a few who believed in him enough to stake their money on him.
The impromptu bookie found himself next to Gunther, who stood outside the church next to Doc and Annabelle.
“Place your bets?” Blake asked.
“You best get to steppin’ before I whup your ass,” Gunther said.
“Yes,” Doc said. “Quite right! Have you no decency, sir? Lives are at stake! Shoo! Shoo! Away with you lest I box your ears!”
Blake walked on. Doc followed him until he was out of Gunther’s earshot. The self-described genius tucked a hundred dollars into Blake’s hand.
“All of it on Mr. Buchanan,” Doc said.
“You got it,” Blake said.
“And this never happened, sir.”
Doc turned around to find a displeased Annabelle had followed him.
“I thought you and Slade were friends,” Annabelle said.
“We most assuredly are, my dear,” Doc said. “Thick as thieves you might say. But business is business and if I’m able to turn a profit that would certainly cushion the blow of losing my dear, dear friend.”
“You don’t think Slade will win?” Annabelle asked.
“Oh no,” Doc said. “Not at all. You see, basic principles of mathematics suggest the best course of action is to go with the odds and well, when it comes down to it, Mr. Buchanan has sent more people to their graves than Slade.”
“You have got to be the smartest man alive,” Annabelle said.
“Oh I don’t know about that, my dear,” Doc said. “I’m in the top five, certainly. Right next to Edison, who I consider one of my few intellectual peers.”
Smelly Jack and Slade took their positions, roughly fifty paces from one another. Both men hovered their hands over their hardware.
“ANY LAST WORDS SLADE?” Jack shouted.
“Yup,” Slade said.
Jack and his boys laughed. “Yeah?” Jack said. “What is it?”
Slade pulled the cigar out of his mouth, doused it out with his thumb then tucked it into his pocket to save for later.
“Your mother must be the only woman who ever popped thirty assholes out of her pussy.”
The crowd erupted in a collective gasp, but Jack held it together. He squinted his eyes at Slade. Slade squinted back. Beads of sweat dripped off of Jack’s forehead. Slade’s remained dry.
And then it all happened within seconds. Each man drew at the exact same time. Who shot first? No one may never know. Slade felt the wake of Jack’s bullet as it sailed just inches past his head. Jack, on the other hand, really felt Slade’s bullet as it exploded his chest. Blood spewed from the gaping wound.
The outlaw’s lifeless body hit the ground. The crowd went into an uproar. No one could believe it. Smelly Jack Buchanan, one of the worst criminals in the west, was dead.
Gunther beamed a grin typically reserved for the face of a proud father. He ran out, grabbed Slade’s hand and raised it high in the air. Even Slade flashed a rare smile.
The crowd cheered. A pissed off Blake unleashed a torrent of obscenity over all the money he’d have to pay out to the handful of people who had bet on Slade.
“Are you sore you lost your scratch?” Annabelle said.
“Oh no,” Doc said. “It’s only money, my dear. Easy come, easy go.”
The good doctor joined the duo and shook Slade’s hand. “Bravo, sir! Bravo! I believed in you whole heartedly!”
Frank and Buck Buchanan stood over their leader’s body. Rufus ran his hand over Jack’s face, closing the eyes. The trio stepped forward. A hush silence fell over the crowd.
“This isn’t over, Slade,” Rufus said.