Word Count 1,420
Ah, California at last! Took me a little longer than I had figured. Met with a couple of problems on my way here resulting in two more dead souls heading over to meet El Diablo – no, the Devil. I’m in America now, I need to think in English. Maybe he’ll be a little less mad with me and leave me in peace for a while. That’s all I’m asking – a little reprieve, then I’ll face the music, once I’ve done what still needs to be done. I’m sure that what I have in mind isn’t something God will ever forgive me for. Besides, what’s another dead man to Johnny Madrid? I’ve already sold my soul to the Devil. It’s too late to ask for forgiveness.
Sometimes, I wish I had been dealt a different hand in life. But, it wasn’t to be. So I guess being good with a gun is kind of a blessing. Well, not really but it’s what kept me alive all those years. Sometimes, too, I ask myself what would have happened if I had stayed at the orphanage. God, where does this all come from? That’s enough! I have to rest a bit and find my way to Lancer and fulfill my destiny. I bet the Devil will be real happy this time. I will commit the ultimate wrong. I will kill my father, that bastard who sent Mama and me to hell.
As I ride, my mind keeps going back to what happened with the rurales. I wonder if the man in black, that Pinkerton agent, made it to the border. I hope he did. When I reach San Diego, I’ll put his gun in a box and send someone to deliver it to their office, if they have one there. It’s the least I can do. I hope Felipe was also able to get away. He didn’t deserve to die in front of a firing squad.
As for me, I suppose I did, considering all the bad things I’ve done. But I’m sure glad that I’ve been given a break. Once I’ve squared things up with Lancer, I’ll be on my way. Maybe the Devil will forget that I have a date with him and leave me be. With a thousand dollars, I can start a new life, away from the border towns, away from Madrid. Hell, maybe I’ll even use the Lancer name. Johnny Lancer… Johnny Madrid… Johnny Madrid Lancer… Johnny Lancer. I smile. I think I like the sound of it. Johnny Lancer, businessman. Yeah, I like that.
I shake myself. Now’s not really the time to think about all that. I need to get to San Diego first and then move on as quickly as possible. People know me there. It’s not safe to stay longer than absolutely necessary – one night will have to be enough.
It’s mid-morning when I finally reach San Diego a couple of days later. I take my horse to the livery and give some money to the boy to tend to my horse. I want the best for him. We both need to be in top shape as we still have quite a way to go before we reach the San Joaquin Valley, where Lancer is.
I rode in that direction one time, but I turned tail and came back to San Diego. I wasn’t ready to meet my Ol’ Man that time but now I am. And it’s not only for that thousand dollars he’s promised me. First, I will have to thank him, I suppose. After all, without the Pink Agent he sent, I’d be dead. Then, once that hour is over, no matter what he tells me, I’ll send him to hell… a hell he won’t come back from.
My steps take me to a small inn, El Toro Loco. If I’m lucky, Felicia will still be working there. I push the door to the inn and step inside. It’s just as I remember. Small, cozy, warm… it smells good, too. Boy, I’m hungry. I think I could eat a whole cow. A small plump woman greets me and shows me inside the dining room. There are only a few people inside, drinking their morning coffee. Lunchtime is still a couple of hours away. That’s fine with me. The fewer people see me the better for me.
I’ve spent a really good night. Felicia was just as I remembered – funny, warm and soft, so soft. She made me feel like a man again, a man fully in control of everything. And to think she laid with me for pleasure… pleasure taken in MY company! I’d offered her money the very first time we were together but she’d said no. “I’m no whore, mi corazon,” that’s what she told me. And I believed her then… I still do. What she and I have is special. I can tell her everything and she never judges me. She’s like that. She’s a good girl. Maybe one day…
Hell, I can’t go there yet. I don’t even know what will happen to me in the next few days. I can’t promise anything to Felicia and she knows it. She’s not asking anything of me. But I make myself a promise, if I can, I will return one day and we’ll see where it leads us.
She gives me a small bundle – “Food for the trail,” she tells me. I kiss her goodbye and give her money for her mother and her sister – that’s the only way she’ll accept something from me.
I cross the street and head over to the livery to retrieve my horse. The livery boy has already saddled him. He’s done a good job. I hand him another dollar and he offers me a big smile. “Have a safe trip, Señor Madrid,” he tells me.
“Let’s keep this a secret, okay?” I say as I give him another dollar. The boy grins and turns back into the livery.
Damn, damn, damn. I was near, so near my destination. I could have been in Morro Coyo in a couple of hours. I’m only about a dozen miles from the place where my destiny will be played out. Why did my horse have to step in that gopher hole? Why did he have to break his leg?
I may be a killer but not when it comes to animals – especially horses. And this horse was good. This horse saved my life and how did I thank him? By putting a bullet in his brain. I hate it – God, how I hate it. I had just given him a name and thought we were making a great pair.
Now, what am I going to do? Twelve miles… it’s a long way to walk – what with a saddle slung over my shoulder. Can’t leave that saddle, either… it’s a good one, maybe the best I’ve ever had – the best I’ll ever have, probably.
I grab my hat, put it firmly on my head and start walking. Hopefully, I’ll reach the road soon and maybe, just maybe, Lady Luck will still be with me and I’ll meet someone who will be willing to give me a lift.
I’ve been walking for maybe two miles when I spot a small hill a few yards in front of me. I put the saddle on the ground and I stretch my back. Damn feet, they hurt like hell. Those boots are not made for walking long distances – or for climbing either. I’m thirsty, too. I uncork my canteen and take a small sip. There’s barely enough water left to last another mile or so. And, of course, there’s not a single stream or pond around.
I start to laugh. Johnny Madrid cheats death in front of a Mexican firing squad only to die of thirst on his way to meet his destiny. That’s rich! Real rich! I fall on my butt right beside the saddle and all I can think of is to lie down, close my eyes and sleep for a while. And that’s what I do – for a few minutes anyway.
‘Wake up, Madrid. You can’t stop here. You’ve got to continue. It’s not far… look, above that hill there’s a road. You only need to get there. Come on, Madrid. You can do it’. I keep repeating this to myself up until the moment I effectively get up.
I reposition my hat on my head, grab my saddle and resume my walk. My destiny is calling me.
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