Word count: 1,820
It had only been a few days since Johnny Madrid turned his back on Mexico and crossed the Rio Grande. The ride had been long and tiring, but at least he’d left the Rurales far behind.
Rubbing his hands, Johnny warmed them by the recently lit fire and watched the flames dance in the wind showing off a display of colours not unlike the recent sunset. He stared, mesmerised by the fire’s beauty and haunted by the words of the gypsy fortune teller – words about his father.
Father. Even the thought of the word angered the young gunfighter, causing him to touch the butt of the Colt strapped low on his hip. Father. Yes, he knew all about Murdoch Lancer. The man who gave his mama the keys to the road one day and said, “What’s your hurry, and just a minute, don’t forget buster here.”
In that one move, the rancher had slammed the door on both his wife and son, changing their lives forever.
Now, strangely enough, all these years later, his father wanted to see him and was willing to pay a thousand dollars for an hour of his time.
Why? Why now? His old man threw him away like a piece of garbage when he was two years old. Why did he want to see him now? Did his father know who he was, a gunfighter good at his trade? Was that it? The old man needed his gun?
He was still undecided as to whether he wanted to see his father. True, the attraction of the money enticed him. Johnny laughed at the thought of the ‘listening money.’
Hell, maybe he should just ride in there and put a bullet between the son of a bitch’s eyes.
No, he couldn’t forget the money. He’d just take the money and to hell with the hour. A smile came to his face. Imagine, holding the great Murdoch Lancer at gunpoint and robbing him of the thousand dollars. Wouldn’t that be a sight?
There again, he could listen to what the man had to say, then take the money and ride away.
Damn him! There was no way Johnny Madrid wanted to listen to Lancer’s lies, not after all these years.
The hell with it. He’d just keep on riding. Yeah, that would solve the problem, and at the least, it would cure his nagging headache. It wouldn’t be hard to find a job. For a man known on both sides of the border as a fast gun, he could easily get work.
Everyone knew the name Madid…yeah, everyone… even she’d known who he was.
A breeze stirred the fire. Johnny pulled his jacket up around his neck. Rubbing his hands again, trying to warm them, he summoned up the memory of the night he’d met the gypsy fortune teller.
It was just before he left Mexico. He remembered the air was hot and humid and in the far distance, thunder rumbled, only adding more tension to the way he felt.
Slowly he approached the gypsy’s tent.
“Come in, Johnny Madrid.” The disembodied voice sent a chill up his spine. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
How did she know his name? There was no way she would have known he was coming. He hadn’t known himself until a few minutes ago.
Cautiously entering the tent, he froze when a flash of lightning lit up the interior. He’d expected to find an old bruja, but instead, sitting on the floor was the most beautiful young woman he’d ever seen. Her long black hair cascaded over her shoulders, shining like a raven’s wing. And her eyes, well, her eyes were as black as the darkest night.
Johnny shivered, remembering her eyes staring back at him.
“Come sit with me.”
She held out both of her hands, gesturing him to hold them.
A rumble of thunder sounded in the distance. Unsure if he wanted to stay or bolt, but captivated by the woman’s beauty, he couldn’t resist and sat opposite her.
Hesitantly, Johnny offered her his hands. Even now, he could remember her touch and shivered.
Suddenly he’d felt a strange tingling sensation that started in his fingertips and quickly spread throughout his body. It was as if her touch was draining the life from him and taking his soul as well. He desperately tried to pull back, but the gypsy’s hands held firm.
She stared at his palms and then lifted her dark eyes to meet his. It seemed like an eternity before she spoke again.
“Have you come to me this stormy night to see into your future?”
She stared deep into his blue eyes.
Unable to speak, Johnny nodded.
The young woman took a deep breath before continuing.
“I see your journey has come to a crossroads.” She stroked the palm of his gun hand. “You must choose which road to take, but choose carefully. For the devil feels he has been cheated of your soul and waits for you to choose.” She stroked his hand again and concentrated on the lines on his palm. “Yes, I see it now. One road will lead to a new life, one in which you will find happiness, while the other one will take you straight to hell”.
At the mention of hell, lightning cracked and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up.
The devil feels cheated? Was she referring to the firing squad that very nearly took his life?
“There is a man, a giant of a man waiting for you. He sits in a great room. I can feel he is troubled and in constant pain, so much pain. I can feel his agony”. The gypsy winced as though she was feeling the pain herself. “In the background high above, I can see a boat and a strange bird, a type that I have never seen. It sits motionless, watching the man stare at the most beautiful place in the world.”
Could this be his old man? Johnny wondered.
“There are two other men with this giant of a man. All are strangers to each other, yet I feel they are connected…yes, connected by blood.”
“Tell me more about these men, Gitan?” (Gitan-Gypsy)
“Patience, Pistolero,” she whispered, tossing her long hair over her shoulder.
The gypsy closed her eyes and seemed to go into a trace before continuing.
“I see one man, an eastern man, who sees the world through his mother’s eyes. He has travelled far to see this man.”
She paused for a moment. A gust of wind rocked the tent.
“Dios! Johnny recalled saying under his breath.
The fortune teller opened her eyes briefly before closing them again.
“The other man is not clear to me.” She squeezed Johnny’s hands tighter. “Wait, my vision is clearing… I am beginning to see him now…. hiding, hiding in the shadows. A dark man. An angry man with much blood on his hands.”
Could this man be me, Johnny thought? He was dark, yes, like his mother. Hell, there was no doubt he was downright angry. Blood on his hand? Yes, there was blood on his hands; blood he’d never be able to wash away.
The gypsy woman opened her eyes and what he saw chilled him to the bone. It was the colour of her eyes; they’d changed, or at least he thought they had. They were no longer dark black. Now, starring at him were the green eyes of a cat.
Those eyes. Memories surfaced of a stray cat he’d once found as a child. Despite efforts to tame it, it had remained wild and vicious. Those same feline green eyes, like his childhood cat, stared at him.
Johnny tossed another log onto the fire and blew into its dying embers. He inched closer, trying to keep warm. Pulling his legs to his chest, Johnny wrapped his arms around them, seeking some comfort. His mind wandered again to that strange night.
Outside, the wind blew with all its might. Johnny swore he heard a tree fall not far from the tent. The storm did not disturb the gypsy’s concentration as a flash of lightning lit up the tent, highlighting her green eyes.
“There is more, Pistolero. I see a bullet with your name on it, a bullet that will strike you down. Beware, Johnny Madrid. Beware of the top dog.”
He remembered jumping as a clap of thunder struck at the mention of his name.
The gypsy studied his hands again. Running a long fingernail along the lines of his palm, she gave him a faint smile.
What she’d said next made him pause.
“Heed me well, Pistolero, for I see that through the pain you will find a new life…a happier life.”
She halted momentarily, then suddenly released his hands as though she’d touched a branding iron.
The tingling sensation he’d felt, stopped. When he looked at the back of his hands, his veins had turned a deep blue.
She suddenly stood and pointed toward the tent opening.
“Now go! I have told you all I can. You have seen a small glimpse of your future. Choose wisely the road to take. But before you go, I will tell you one final thing. Put your past behind you, Johnny Madrid; it cannot be changed, whether it is good or bad, right or wrong, it is past and forever gone.”
As he left the gypsy’s tent, a loud thunderclap sounded so loud; the ground shook beneath his feet.
Johnny turned and looked back at the gypsy’s encampment. A black cat had appeared staring at him with those same gypsy green eyes. The woman had mysteriously vanished.
A flash of lightning blinded him.
When he looked again, the cat had gone.
Shaking himself, Johnny wasn’t sure what he saw that night or even if he’d seen anything. The words she’d spoken, however, were loud and clear.
Looking at the fire, he realized it had long since gone out, only ashes remained. There was no chance of relighting it.
With the dawn only a few hours away, Johnny thought maybe he’d be able to get a few hours’ sleep. He adjusted his bedroll and laid down.
Staring up at the stars, he wondered if the gypsy’s vision would come true. There as only one way to find out.
What the hell. What did he have to lose? He’d go to see his father and take some time to listen. Perhaps it could lead to the happy life the Gypsy Fortune Teller prophesised and right now, he needed some happiness in his life. Madre de Dios, he’d suffered enough pain.
There was a faint smile on his face when he turned on his side. No matter what, he’d have the thousand dollars safely in his pocket before he decided anything.
Maybe, the gypsy’s fortune for him would come true, after all.
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