South of Sunshine
W. M. McIntosh
Cole ‘Dirty’ Dumont is a real bastard.
I ain’t meanin’ to say he ain’t got no daddy. Everybody got a daddy. I’m sayin’ he’s of a mean, vicious kind. No love for nothin’. No feelin’ or thoughts about it.
Cole’s daddy came from up north, farther north than a lot of us has been. Some says Winnipeg, and some says Saskatchewan, but Cole never says nothin’. What Cole does is wander into town and take stock of things he’s lookin’ to take. Don’t nothin’ Cole Dumont lay his eyes on that he don’t take, at one moment or another.
Cole, he’d ride into town on whatever horse he got from a card game or thievin’ job, or maybe just some Mustang from out in the prairie he’d stared down till it bent. He’d walk up on the swingin’ double doors and just smile at the people. He’d say fill up my cup ‘fore I fill you up with holes, and the keep’d say say when.
And if’n those folks keep their heads about ‘em and do as Dirty says, good chance is everybody goes home. And if’n there’s some hero in the midst, some justice happy cow kid, well, Dirty Cole will do what Dirty Cole does.
He’d been at this game a while, just moseyin’ here and shootin’ up there. A couple times, Cole’d even gone and got himself busted. Laid up in the cell and marked for the hangman’s rope. Twice he’d broke free clean off skill; the first time snatchin’ a slow sheriff’s lead off his belt and blowin’ him sky high, and the second takin’ a deputy hostage with a letter opener.
But today, opportunity ain’t knocked for the aging Cole Dumont. No lazy sheriff to catch gazin’ a navel and no sharp tools to palm when folks think you ain’t tough enough. Today, Cole gets walked the whole way down to the square with all the men and ladies and children watchin’. All the dogs and chickens, too. Cole ‘Dirty’ Dumont’s got a date with the gallows today, and he’s showin’ up bright and early with his hands bound back.
Preacher’s in the street handin’ out cards. Not the typical ‘only God can judge me’ guff he’s usually got for hangings. Ain’t no ‘find the peace in your heart’ talk today. Even God’s own middleman here in Sunshine’s got no qualms with puttin’ Dirty down. Today he’s just got little cards that say, ‘I WAS THERE WHEN COLE DUMONT GOT PUT IN THE DIRT,’ with a little dotted line to put your name. At least the folks who can write their names.
So they stand Cole up in front of the crowd and slip the noose ’round his neck and pull hard. They check the trapdoor and get the hood ready. They ask Cole if he’s got somethin’ he’d like to say for himself, and Cole just spits at the crowd and flashes his rotten smile. The hood goes on, and the crowd hoots and hollers, and the floor gives way.
Now here’s Dirty Cole, swayin’ this way and that, kickin’ wild with his bound feet and wrigglin’ like a fresh caught fish. He gets to turnin’ ‘round and ‘round, twistin’ from the force of it, silent ‘cept the jingle of his spurs as they spin. And there’s the townsfolk of Sunshine, ravin’ mad and cheerin’ loud. Them’s good people in the crowd, just excited’s all. Even little children clap their hands and shout for Cole to die, to ride into Hell and tell the Devil who sent him. But that’s when things go sideways more than some. That’s when Dirty’s gang comes in shootin’, twelve men deep and long rifles on ‘em all.
Shots boom off, and folks drop dead. First to go is the lawmen and the armed, the young guns who stand a fightin’ chance to run these types off. The gang loses two in the gunfire but makes quick work of the rest of ’em. When the tough old-timers and grown men fall, they start in on the women and children. Ain’t one citizen of Sunshine left by the time Pretty Pete comes to cut Cole down. With one hit from his long gun, the rope cracks, and Cole falls flat to the dirt.
Pretty Pete yanks off the hood and cuts Cole’s hands free, and goes for the ankles. ‘Fore he’s even unbound, Cole lifts the sidearm off Pete’s belt and carves a straight trench in Pete’s head. Pete falls back and leaks what’s left of his thoughts on the damned dirt. Then Cole goes to work.
He takes aim at the horses first, shootin’ for legs and watchin’ his posse hit the ground. He cuts ‘em down like a farmer razes maize gone bad with black cutworm. He makes ‘em dance like the ladies used to do in the saloon ‘fore the gang got to ‘em. When the smoke clears, ain’t nobody left standin’ but the meanest bastard ‘round, the one they call Dirty, the cutthroat Cole Dumont.
Behind the bar, Cole helps himself to a nip of whisky and a glass of beer. He fills a bowl full of peanuts and fists ‘em in his mouth, chewin’ and drinkin’. He starts rollin’ smokes when the hammer clicks back, and BOOM goes Cole to the floorboards. He sputters and spits and takes a kick to the side. The preacher stands over, barrels burnin’ and smokin’, and pulls his collar loose.
“There’s just one you left standin’, Cole. Just one mean bastard who might be meaner’n even you,” the old man says. “God is here in Sunshine, mister, and he’s the meanest bastard of all.”
Then he lets loose and sends Cole ‘Dirty’ Dumont to Hell, where he belongs.
About the Author
William M. McIntosh is a writer of drivel and collector of rejection letters. He loves literature, film, and any other kind of art he can get his grubby little fingers on. His work has been published by Maudlin House, The /tƐmz/ Review, The Yard: Crime Blog, and Night Picnic Press. He doesn’t tweet, but if he did, it would be @moonliteciabata. You can find links to his work at www.wmmcintosh.com. He is based in Cincinnati.