The stagecoach shook and rattled, like a drunk in the first stages of withdrawal, invading Frank’s dreams and dragging him into consciousness. He wrenched open his eyes, but the day was as bright as a migraine, and he clamped them shut again.
He counted to ten and slowly and peeled back his eyelids.
The coach was hot and cramped. A little old man with a bushy beard snoozed close to to the window. Beside him a beautiful blond, with a red ribbon tied around her neck, sat reading the
bible, her eyes filled with tears.
All Frank could see outside was desert, until a flock of screeching vultures, looking more like bats, sliced across the brandy colored sky. The woman glanced over at him, muttering to herself.
He fiddled in his jacket pocket for his canteen of whiskey and went to take a drink. It was empty.
How the hell had he ended up here? Was he leaving Tuscon or returning?
His sleep had been fitful and stained with disturbing dreams. Or were they memories?
Frank wished he could drink the whiskey and wash away the dark and dingy thoughts that lurked in the murky corners of his mind. He took out a scarlet bandanna and scrubbed the encrusted blood from his hands as the stage coach came to a small town.
Was it Tombstone? Well, it looked like Tombstone but why was everything painted red? He shivered as he remembered coming here with Becky. A picture of her naked on a bed, a slash of lipstick across her mouth, turned into an image of her splattered with blood. The sound of a Colt .45 echoed through his thoughts until the old man jolted him out of his reverie.
‘Frank,’ he said, ‘You’re here.’
The coach stopped and the horses screamed. As Frank and the blond got off , he realized the ribbon around her neck was blood.
He turned, and saw that the old man was still on the coach, waving as it rode a way. The stage driver, his eyes glowing red, tipped his crimson stetson and laughed like a maniac.
It was getting hotter as he walked down the Main Street, passing the deserted saloon and whorehouse. And it was getting harder to breath. Dark memories skewered his thoughts. Then he heard screams .
The sky got redder. Everything got redder. And Frank finally understood where he was and why he was there. It had been stupid of him to get involved with a woman with a history. Especially Becky’s tainted history. From their first night together, they were on a trail that was bound to end in tears. And blood.
Hers. Or his.
‘It’ll be a cold day in hell when I let you walk away from me,’ Becky had once said. She was wrong on that account.
It was a red hot day.
And it would only get hotter.
(c) Paul D Brazill 2009.