Jack sat back and laughed. Luke scrambled to get out of the horse’s trough. Poor old Luke. Thought Jack. That boy has never been right. Three young men from his side of the street ambled across the dusty road towards Luke. Jack could tell they were looking for trouble. He dropped his boots off the railing and onto the wooden planks. He stopped his momentum when he sheriff was coming up the walkway across the street.
Jack’s fingers tapped the holster strapped to his hip. He hoped Sheriff Nolan was not going to live up to his reputation. The young men saw the sheriff, but kept walking towards Luke. Luke was too busy cussing at the trough and kicking it to notice the men approaching. The Sheriff and the men converge at the same time.
Luke looked up. “Howdy fellas. Why’s everybody comin’ to see me?” Luke smiled, took off his soaked hat and slapped it against his thigh.”
Sheriff Nolan responded first. “I was about to ask the same question. What business to you three boys have with Luke?”
Adam, the biggest of the three spoke first. “That’s our business Sheriff. We don’t want no trouble, but if you’re gonna harass us there just might be some.”
Nolan looked at the three young men. Their expensive pistols told him that he did not want to argue with lead. In a street fight he was hopelessly outnumbered. There was nothing he could do from where he was standing. “No trouble, boys. I was just curious. If you aren’t planning any trouble I guess I’ll be on my way.” Nolan turned and walked the other direction. All four men watched him walk away.
From across the street Jack stood up and leaned against the nearby porch post. The four people across the street had not noticed him, but the people near Jack began to find their way into shops or turn around and head the other direction. Jack held his ground. He was not going to get involved until the time called for it.
Adam looked at Luke with contempt. Look at that simpleton. Thought Adam. He’s standing there shivering in this cold December air, too stupid to go home. “What’s wrong with you Luke?” Asked Adam.
“What do ya mean?” Luke answered and put his wet hat back on his head.
“It’s freezing out here. You’re all wet. Why don’t you go home? You too stupid to get out of the cold?” Adam and his cohorts took a few steps closer to Luke.
“I don’t know. Some folks probably say that.” Luke followed their lead and stepped up between Adam and the horse trough.
Adam looked at his friends. “Maybe you ain’t wet enough then.” The three men lifted Luke in one quick move and threw him into the horse trough and held him under. Luke sputtered and splayed in a panic. The three men laughed. Adam pulled him up, and as soon as Luke took a breath he shoved him back in again.
Jack had seen enough. He slowly walked across the street towards the young men who were too busy torturing Luke. When he was ten feet away he hollered over then whooping and yipping. “Hey! Idiots!” Adam and his friends stopped. All three turned around and faced Jack.
The smallest of the three spoke first. “Adam, that’s Jack, Jack Domingo. He’s a legend ‘round these parts.”
“Shut up, Carl.” Adam responded. “What do you want, Jack?”
“I want you to leave that boy alone. He’s done you no harm.”
Behind them Luke rolled out of the trough. He laid in the mud shivering and coughing up water. Adam turned to look at Luke and then looked back at Jack. “We were just teaching him a lesson. Maybe next time he’ll get out of the cold before he catches his death of pneumonia. I think you should just move along and mind your own business.”
Jack gave Adam a half-smile. He had to admire the kid’s quick wit. “This is my business. Luke is a friend of mine.”
Luke was sitting up now and replied, “I am?”
Jack just nodded and returned his attention to Adam. “I think you owe my friend an apology.”
Carl looked over at Adam. “Just do it, Adam.”
“Shut up, Carl.” Adam tapped at his gun holster. “It seems to me there are three of us and one of you. If we kill you that’ll make us legends, won’t it?”
Jack shook his head. “It’s not worth dying over, son.”
Adam glared at Jack. “I’m not your son.”
Jack’s hand quietly unbuckled the strap on his pistol. “One of you may kill me, but which one. How many of you are willing to die? How many want to die over Adam, or Jack?”
Carl lifted his hand. “I don’t.”
Adam looked over to his right. “Carl, I swear, if you run I’ll shoot you myself. You know, Jack, for a legend you sound like a coward.”
Jack pulled back his trench coat, so he would have free rein to grab his weapon. The other three did the same. Adam took one step closer and drew his weapon. Jack’s world slowed to a crawl. This is what he loved. Life and death hung in the balance. It was like the earth held its breath. He could see Adam’s pistol part way out of its holster. By the time it cleared Jack already had his first shot off.
The first bullet shot true into Adam’s chest. He turned to the man on his right and fired again. The bullet hit the man in his gut. Jack saw the flash of the man’s muzzle before the gun dropped from his hand. A searing pain cut through Jack’s right calf. He started to fall as soon as the bone broke. A bullet whizzed by his head from the left. Jack pointed his gun that direction and fired. Carl fell to the ground dead with a bullet in his head.
Everything was silent. Jack laid there in the dust and focused on breathing. He looked at his shot leg. Thankfully, the bone was not sticking out. “I saw it, I saw everything!” The familiar voice of Sheriff Nolan came from Jack’s right side. He could hear him running up the street. “It was self-defense. They tried to ambush Jack when he went to help Luke. Somebody get the Doc!”
Doc Johnson walked up behind the Sheriff, “I’m already here.”
Luke walked over. “Thanks, Jack. Nobody’s ever fought for me before. Why’d you do it?”
Jack sucked in a breath and gritted through to pain. “It’s Christmas time, kid. Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas to you too.” Luke said with a smile.
Doc Johnson turned to Luke. “Okay, Luke. Why don’t you head home? I think you caused enough excitement today, and get out of those wet clothes. You’ll catch your death.”
“Yes, sir.” Answered Luke. “Bye, everybody.”
Luke waived, turned around and left.
Somebody put a stick into Jack’s mouth. “You bite on that.” Doc Johnson said. “We are going to move you now and it’s going to hurt.”
Men lined up on each side. In one swift move they lifted Jack’s body. A blinding flash of pain emanated from his leg, and then the world went black.