Death of a Gunman

Submitted into Contest #181 in response to: Write about someone who realizes they're on the wrong path. ... view prompt


Western Suspense Thriller

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

All it took was one mistake.

Chauncey’s dark eyes shifted to the door again. They were out there and waiting, but he was never one to make the first move. Too long he had enjoyed a wild, dangerous life, but now and only now he realized it couldn’t continue. There was always someone faster, smarter, or low enough to murder him with his back turned.

Patiently he carved another notch into the handle of his six-gun. For the first time it didn’t give him pride to do this. For the first time he didn’t feel excitement at the prospect of the fight waiting for him outside.

Reholstering the gun he stood and checked the window. A slight movement in the trees told him there was at least one man there and a boot sticking out from behind the water trough made two. He could tell they were amateurs, which was worse. They had no chance. But it might help him get a hold on himself to have a small shootout. Facing Elvio Rodriguez was something that he didn’t want to do. The man was no half-wit. He was fast, sharp, and professional. Something told Chauncey that taking the money to kill this man might have been a bad move. His one mistake would most likely be made here. He would either get too comfortable or too nervous.

He heard it coming long before the door swung open. One man came from there and two through the windows. Chauncey’s pistol was in his hand before they hit the cabin floor and he hastily emptied all six shots into them. They hadn’t considered that their eyes were accustomed to the light of the Texas sun and the cabin’s dark interior had come as a surprise. Their one mistake.

He reloaded subconsciously before stepping toward the door. His horse stood tied just outside and he figured he could reach it in one bound but he stopped himself short of trying. Suddenly he knew he was going to run, but not now. That was what Rodriguez was planning on because he was just as scared of Chauncey, as Chauncey was of him. They were each waiting for the other one to slip.

A smile curved his lips and found rest on his taut face. This was how it had to be and if he was to die today he wouldn’t be alone. He closed the wooden door and returned to his station at the darkest corner in the cabin. The secret was thinking ahead of his enemy and in the other man’s place. He had learned much about Rodriguez in the past month and he always did the most open things. For example; one would not expect him to storm the cabin after what happened to his men so he might do just that. For an instant Chauncey wondered if he himself was that readable.

“I’m good at waitin’!” Rodriguez shouted. “But why not just come out and we’ll face each other in a fair fight.”

Chauncey didn’t answer. He knew he couldn’t trust this man but he was not a coward either. He would not risk his honor to call a man out and not follow his own terms. So why was Chauncey not answering? 

“You chose this life,” he reminded himself, “You accepted the money to do this and you have to live with the consequences.” Or die with them.

He sat down in a chair, willing himself to relax, but it didn’t last long. Soon he was on his feet and moving toward the door.

“You can’t say I didn’t give you a chance,” Rodriguez pressed.

Chauncey moved toward the door. If he could find his enemy’s location . . . His voice seemed to have come from the side of the house with the most trees, a likely place. Eyes and ears straining, he stepped outside. He had only made it a few yards when a shot kicked up dirt behind him. His gun was in his hand and jumping before he lurched forward and dove behind the water trough. He slipped more cartridges into his pistol and spun the cylinder. 

He saw another man dead where one hadn’t been and decided this must have been the man that had made an attempt on his life. A person peeked from behind a tree. Swiftly and accurately Chauncey fired, knocking them backwards. A few bullets ricocheted off the water and he emptied his pistol into that area of the trees. 

After the smoke cleared and the echos stopped there was silence. He listened but not even the wind moved. He was hesitant to reload because of the noise it would make. He waited too long to decide and a cold voice rang out behind him. 

“ Ah, I meet you face to face at last.” It was Rodriguez. 

Did he know that Chauncey’s pistol was empty? He stood and faced the tall Mexican.

“You couldn’t face me alone, Rodriguez. That hurts my feelings.”

“We’re alone now.”

“Can I believe you?” Trying to buy time? 

Elvio Rodriguez shrugged. “I guess you have no way of knowing.” His pistol sat comfortably in his hand, barrel facing Chauncey.

“I think you’re telling the truth this time,” he stated calmly. 

Rodriguez studied him carefully. Their eyes met and for a while neither even blinked. The Mexican’s dark eyes held the hired gunman’s intense blue ones with fierceness but the calmness didn’t leave. Rodriguez’s nostrils quivered slightly but Chauncey’s gaze didn’t leave his eyes. Then the Mexican began to laugh.

“You think you are good, no? Even better than me, maybe.” He brushed his hand against his face and the smile faded a little. “Nobody beats me. I am the best. Unfortunately you may not live long enough to learn that.” He sniffed. Then he holstered his gun and began to turn and walk away. 

Chauncey wasn’t fooled. All his enemy wanted was the trees for cover. Perhaps the man was more of a coward than he had thought. Within a matter of seconds his pistol was loaded. Rodriguez spun and they both opened fire. After fanning three shots Chauncey flipped behind the water trough. He wasn’t sure if the pain in his shoulder was from a bullet or hitting the ground but he paid it no mind. He kicked out the used shells and replaced them with live ones.

At that moment Chauncey knew that if he made it out of this fight he had to find a way to quit this lifestyle. He had made his mistake and only Divine Providence had saved him.

A bullet stirred the ground behind him and one narrowly missed his head. He lifted his hand and put a round into where the smoke had come from. Rodriguez stopped shooting and Chauncey heard a string of curses fall from behind a large Live Oak tree. 

The gunman replaced the used lead and fired again in that direction. His shoulder was throbbing and he was anxious to be done with fighting. He listened.


In the silence that followed he could hear his mama’s voice begging him not to go and the warning in his father’s eyes, telling him that what would happen if he went through with his plan for the future would not be good. But at the time he had been convinced that he knew more than they did, that it would be the perfect, exciting life. If only he could take back the last three years. What would he be doing now? Certainly not laying here in the Texas sand with an enemy not 30 feet away just waiting to kill him.

He took a deep breath, readied himself and then quickly threw his arm in the air for less than a second. This drew a round of shots. One, two, three, four, five, six. Chauncey smiled with satisfaction and leapt to his feet. He landed running and shooting. Midway to the barn he jumped and rolled to throw off any aim Rodriguez might have had on him. Then he dashed into the barn, reloading. His gun belt was almost empty and Rodriguez had a bandoleer. His next shots had to matter.

Chauncey listened for a moment and then ran noiselessly to the other end of the barn, standing near an empty stall. There it was again. A rustle coming around the barn. The sound stopped just before the doors and Chauncey lifted his six-shooter. He heard a tiny click and emptied five bullets of his last six into the door. For a moment nothing happened and then there was a thud. The barn doors swung inward and Rodriguez fell in. Chauncey jumped to the back of his stall as a bullet creased his leg. He aimed his last shot at the man’s head and fired.

After a moment he took a breath and limped out, instinctively grabbing his fallen opponent’s gun. Midway back to his horse he stopped. Gently he dropped the pistol and then unbuckled his own gun belt, letting it fall to the barn floor. There would always be men bringing up his past but in his mind Chauncey Levine died here alongside Elvio Rodriguez.

January 16, 2023 18:55

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Pamela Blair
19:23 Jan 26, 2023

Nice ending. Not my kind of story, but it's written well and holds the tension to the end. A lot of mystery re why he took on the assignment of hired killer. I echo Timmy W's comments on how there's no reaction when he kills his first two men. My guess is that this person is a hardened youth, probably sociopathic, who needs to make money and finds a quick but dishonorable way to do it. The ending makes me wonder if, after killing all those people, he would be able to say that his urge to kill has died along with Elvio.


Mary Ann Ford
20:11 Jan 26, 2023

Thank you for the comment, I will take all of it into consideration. The reason he became a hired killer was for the exciting life. He experienced no reaction when he killed the first two men because they were not his first, they were just another few. I see that I didn't explain that well and will try to do better. You are right. He is hardened to this way of life but he knows it's wrong. As far as the ending, he no longer felt excitement in what he was doing. If you have any tips as to how to make it better, they will be welcomed.


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Timmy W
23:47 Jan 25, 2023

Hello, I have been asked to critique this story. I will say first that you have very good action. You know how to set a scene and describe what is going on. The thing that I don't like is that the story doesn't make me root for any character. I do not care who dies and who survives. I have no attachment to any of the characters and therefore the story as a whole is a bit boring. Also, there is no establishment of good and evil so I do not know who is the good guy is and who is the bad guy in this fight. In fact, I don't even really know how ...


Mary Ann Ford
00:00 Jan 26, 2023

Thank you very much! I do tend to have the problem of not being able to make my readers feel with my character. Do you have any tips or pointers? His backstory is that he ran away from home to be a bounty hunter of sorts, but I realize that it's not very well described. I did notice in your story "Karuby" that you did well telling the backstory. Perhaps you can also give me tips there. I wrote this story off of the prompt "write about someone who realizes they are on the wrong path" so that might be why the good and evil is confused. Chaunce...


Timmy W
00:24 Jan 26, 2023

I would like to state again that your action is very strong but just needs something to lead up to it. Perhaps show Chuancey killing his first person. Does it change him or does he feel nothing when he kills? What is going on inside his head? Who is he as a person? I think what would really do well for this story is if you showed Chuancey's feelings and how being a bounty hunter has affected him. Who is he a bounty hunter for? Does he only kill people who have done terrible things? Is he killing people just for money or is there a deeper rea...


Mary Ann Ford
00:27 Jan 26, 2023

Thank you! You have been very helpful. I will definitely put this into action.


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Molly Layne
18:31 Jan 21, 2023

EXCELLANT !! Best yet. Great job !!


Mary Ann Ford
21:28 Jan 22, 2023

Thank you for taking the time out to read it, Molly! I really appreciate it.


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