In the middle of the Mississippi River, a sandbar arose from the water. It wasn’t quite large enough to be considered an island, but it formed a long, straight line and thus had been the spot of choice for southern duelists for over a century.
Bowie stood on the bar and pulled a rowboat ashore. Dr. Maddox squinted as the sun beat down upon him. The old man poked his cane into the sand and once he was assured of steady ground, he stepped out of the boat and onto shore.
“An obvious trap,” Dr. Maddox said. “This far out of the public eye, Wright will be free to engage in all manner of chicanery and yet still proudly proclaim himself the unsullied victor.”
Wright and the Blanchard brothers, Marvin and Chester, walked over to greet the new arrivals.
“I’m surprised you showed, Mister Bowie,” Wright said.
“I was hoping you wouldn’t, Wright,” Bowie replied as he chewed on a wad of tobacco. “Shame to have another dead man on my conscience. I get so little sleep as it is.”
The Blanchards were a pair of skinny looking reprobates. Dirt beards. Missing teeth. Though they looked as though they had forgotten to bathe for years, they did remember to bring their pistols.
“What’s the deal with these two snakes?” Bowie said. “I only brought a second because I didn’t know there would be thirds.”
Wright slapped Marvin on the back. “Mister Marvin Blanchard shall be my second. He and his brother are inseparable and Chester is here merely to observe.”
“The whole point of a second is to observe,” Bowie said. “You get two men to make sure shit is fair and I only get one?”
The sheriff snickered. “I’m sure Dr. Maddox makes up for this discrepancy with the vast experience he has incurred through his advanced age.”
Maddox smiled and nodded, then put his arm around Bowie. “Yes, yes. Let us make fun of the old man. Pardon me sheriff, a moment with my colleague if you will.”
“Take your time,” Wright said. “I dare say Mister Bowie doesn’t have much of it left.”
Wright and the Blanchards laughed as Maddox prodded Bowie to step out of Wright’s earshot.
“Walk away from this,” Maddox said.
“Don’t start that bullshit again,” Bowie replied.
“Tell me, do the Blanchards strike you as proper gentlemen?” Wright asked.
Bowie looked dumbfounded, as though he’d just been told a joke but missed the punchline. “No?”
“Of course they do not,” Maddox said. “Then why are they strutting about with canes?”
“I don’t know,” Bowie said. “They’re putting on airs.”
“My boy,” Maddox said as he rested his hands on the knifeman’s shoulders. “I implore you to apologize to the sheriff, leave immediately and purge this incident from your mind as though it never happened.”
Bowie shook the old man’s hands off and marched towards Wright. “Let’s get this over with.”
Wright snapped his fingers, prompting Marvin to open up the lid of a velvet lined wooden case. Inside the box was a set of pearl handled dueling pistols.
“Heirlooms that have been in my family for quite some time,” Wright said. “Cleaned, loaded and ready for your inspection, doctor.”
Doctor Maddox took a pistol out of the box and squinted through his spectacles at it. He stretched out his arm and took aim at the water. Once satisfied, he lowered the weapon and handed it to Bowie.
“It is in proper order,” Maddox said.
“Mister Bowie,” Wright said. “I assure you that the shot I too last night was a rare fluke. I am an accomplished marskman.”
“Really?” Bowie asked. “Because I got the impression that you can’t shoot for shit.”
Wright leered at Bowie. Clearly, the titled gentleman was holding back an urge to strangle the commoner.
“Yes, well,” Wright said. “It would be unsporting of me to not offer you one last chance to rectify this matter with words instead of pistols. Will you apologize to me for your vile remarks?”
Bowie made a look as though he were deep in thought. He chewed on his tobacco, then spit an odious, disgustingly brown loogie that landed at Wright’s feet.
“Can’t say that I will.”
Doctor Maddox sighed.
“Very well,” Wright said. “Shall we say, back to back, ten paces, turn and fire?”
“If you say so,” Bowie replied.
With pistols in hand, Bowie and Wright arranged themselves back to back.
Doctor Maddox stood alone. The Blanchard brothers watched from the other side.
“Count us off,” Wright commanded.
Dutiful lackey that he was, Marvin began counting. “One…two…three…”
Each man remained straight shouldered, their chests puffed out as they stepped away from one another in time.
To Doctor Maddox’s great dismay, Wright turned before the count reached nine.
“James!” the old man cried.
Bowie turned. Wright fired.