Age Rating: 7 +
His reputation as a gunfighter rode into Silver City ahead of him. Brad Carlisle was tall, gaunt, with chiseled features, clean-shaven, dark flowing hair under a wide brim, black cowboy hat. He was well dressed with maroon colored shirt and a fancy, paisley vest, and heavy shod Mexican boots and spurs. He was a man in his mid thirties, riding slowly into town, straight up in his saddle! His gun, a colt .45, was hand crafted to his personal specifications, with an ivory handle. There were no notches on this gun; it was much too precious to mark up! he carried a Winchester but seldom used it. He strode into Silver City and went right to the local saloon. Word got out immediately..."Brad Carlisle, the fastest gun alive, was in town!"
Sheriff Billings, on the other hand, enjoyed a reputation as an affable, warm-hearted, capable and honorable man, well liked by the people of Silver City and respected by outlaws and troublemakers as well. He was in his early forties, about 6', jet-black hair with just a touch of gray at the temples. His face was weather-beaten, and pocked-marked, but still retained a certain comeliness. He commanded attention wherever he was. His presence was felt the minute he entered a room. He had been sheriff of Silver City the past eight years.
Both men had been through the Indian Wars in 1876 and were hardened and somewhat volatile!
Carlisle never said a word to anyone until he entered The Sagebrush Saloon, sat down at a corner table, with his back to the wall. After he ordered a bottle of whiskey he told Mitch, the bartender, to deliver a message to the sheriff.
Mitch went right over to the jail, a short walk down the street. "Sheriff Billings, sir," said a shaken and white-faced Mitch, obviously hesitant to relate the message, "It's Brad Carlisle, you know...the gunfighter! He's over at the Sagebrush."
"Yeah, so? said Billings.
Mitch paused a moment, looking at the sheriff and his deputy. "He told me that he'll meet you in the street in two hours!"
"No explanation?" asked Billings.
"None! Just...a showdown in the street. That's all."
Clay Billings looked at Mitch and got the words out, "All right Mitch. Go back to the bar, I'll be over in a few minutes."
Deputy Cort Evers was standing near the sheriff when Mitch told his story. "Clay," asked Evers, "What do you make of this?"
"Dunno Cort, but I'm gonna find out. Stay here. I'm going over to have a chat with our friend."
"Clay," interrupted Cort, "You know Carlisle is the fastest draw in these parts - or anywhere for that matter! No one knows for sure how many men he's gunned down - must be at least thirty-five from what I hear!"
"I heard tell over fifty!" said Mitch as he headed out the door.
"Clay," continued the deputy, "You're no match for this killer." The sheriff, grim-faced, looked up at Cort as he was bucking his gun belt, "Maybe so. Let me see what's going on first. Stay here Cort, and out of trouble. I don't want both of us barging in on him and goad him into doing something rash. Let me deal with this in my own way. Stay put, will ya?"
Billings walked out of his office testing the weight of his six-gun. He took a loaded Winchester off the gun rack just to be certain the gunslinger wouldn't get the drop on him.
The bar was crowded. Everyone of drinking age seemed to be there, from curious citizens to hotheads and the usual drunks. But it was strangely quiet, subdued, the atmosphere tense, charged with anxious, expectant men. No one dare look at Brad Carlisle, who sat quietly drinking his whiskey.
The owner of the saloon was a rather stunning, middle-aged lady, Kate Murphy, who had acquired the place three years ago. A strawberry blonde, she had soft milky-white skin, pure Irish through and through, a short-tempered woman, but stately and never loud or vulgar. She was well respected and close friends with the sheriff. Kate approached Billings as soon as he entered through the swinging doors.
"Hello Clay," said Kate solemnly, "I heard about this calling out. What's it all about?"
"That's what I'm here to find out," said Billings, spotting Carlisle at the far table. Clay glanced quickly at Kate then moved slowly toward the gunfighter.
"You name Carlisle?" asked Billings with a hard, cold stare.
"That's right, sheriff!" Carlisle gulped another shot of whiskey and laid the shot glass down gently on the wooden table. He looked up at Billings. "You got my message?"
"I got your message, sure enough! What's this all about?"
"I mean just what I said," Carlisle checked his timepiece chained to his vest pocket, "At exactly four o'clock I'll see you in the street." He looked up at Billings squarely in the eye, unflinching, not blinking once.
"Why. It's the obvious question."
All eyes and ears were turned on the two men. There was complete silence. No one took a breath, no one dare move!
"It's a nice day to die, sheriff!" came Carlisle's answer.
"That's no answer. No reason!" said a perturbed Billings.
"That's all the answer and reason you'll get," Carlisle said pointedly. He poured another glass of liquor and gulped it down.
The sheriff raised his Winchester and threatened to arrest him.
"What's the charge, sheriff?" It was a sarcastic question.
"Threatening a peace officer. We'll start with that."
"You know that won't stick. Besides, look around you. Take a good look. The townsfolk here abouts wouldn't cotton to a cowardly peace officer, now would they? Not only would you bring down every bushwhacker and hired gun from these parts, but you'll be voted out of office next election." He took a long, hard look at Billings. "No sheriff,you won't arrest me. You're going to meet me in the street in two hours."
The sheriff didn't move a muscle. He thought about it, and then lowered his rifle, turned and walked out of the saloon, Carlisle staring after him.
Kate signaled the piano player to pound out a lively tune. It certainly relieved the tension. She then followed Billings out of the bar and they both headed back to the jail.
At the sheriff's office, Kate, Clay and deputy Evers sat down and after a brief silence, Kate began the conversation.
"I saw that gunfighter two years ago in Deadwood. He's a cold-blooded, vicious killer. And he's got nerves of steel!" She paused and looked at the two men square in the eyes, "He gunned down three men he faced together! They were all dead before they hit the ground. All three! Carlisle had his gun back in his holster before any of them could reach for their gun. It was incredible. He's the fastest we'll ever see!"
"Sheriff, what will we do?" asked a very concerned Cort Evers.
"What can I do?" Billings took off his hat and sank deep in the hardwood chair.
All three looked grim, yet unbowed. An hour passed when Cort got up and said, "I'll make the rounds sheriff. Kate, please stay with Clay till I get back."
"Sure thing," she replied.
Cort stepped out of the jail, but he didn't make any 'rounds.' He headed straight for the Sagebrush.
Evers walked defiantly into the bar right up to the table where Carlisle sat calmly drinking. His bottle was half empty by now, but he showed no outward signs of being drunk. Carlisle ignored the young deputy at first. Cort was young all right, early twenties, slight build, lanky almost, sandy colored hair, thin lips and handsome features.
"Carlisle? Get on your feet and face me!" demanded Evers, as he swallowed hard. Carlisle yawned and looked up at the deputy. A slight grin crossed his lips. "Don't son. I know why you're here. There's nothin' you can do about this. My business is with Sheriff Billings, no one else. This is none of your concern."
"It is my concern. Why are you doing this?"
Carlisle didn't answer. He poured himself another drink. "Son, go home. I don't want to kill you. But I will if you force the issue. I admire your courage, defending your sheriff, but I'll put three bullets in you before you could reach for your gun. And that's a fact."
Mitch, the bartender, saw what was happening and quickly went over and grabbed Cort by the arm. "Come on Cort. Don't mess with this gunslinger." He tugged harder, almost dragging him away. "Come on, please, come on." Cort backed off and left the bar.
Back at the jail...
"You can't do it sheriff," pleaded Cort.
"What choice do I have, Cort?" Kate sat silently. She couldn't speak.
"It's almost four. Let me get a posse together and run him out of town." Suggested Cort.
"No, Cort, no! I'll take my chances."
"You haven't got a prayer, and you know it Clay," said Kate, choking back a tear. "You know it!" No more words were said.
Billings checked his revolver one last time and headed for the saloon. Carlisle checked his watch. He slowly rose, put on his hat and walked out of the saloon into the street. There were hundreds of people lining both sides of the dirt road. Looked like the entire town had turned out - young folks, old folks, ladies and gentlemen, riffraff and every child age six and up. All were watching, waiting, whispering softly. Then not a sound.
Carlisle was first to plant himself squarely in the center of the street, facing the direction of the oncoming Sheriff Billings.
The men were no more than sixty feet from each other. Carlisle looked up at the clear blue sky. He extended his right hand in front of himself. It was his gun hand. He looked at it. It was steady as a rock!
He looked at Billings and said in a firm, clear voice, "It's a nice day to die, sheriff."
Carlisle drew his pistol, clearly beating Billings to the draw. He aimed and pulled the trigger. It clicked three times. He then twirled the gun around his trigger finger and dropped it back into his holster, just as Billings cleared his own holster and fired a single shot.
The bullet went square into Carlisle's chest. He fell to the ground, alive, but mortally wounded. Billings hurried over to him and knelt by his dieing body. Kate, Cort and half the townspeople surrounded the fallen gunfighter.
"Why didn't you fire?" asked a puzzled Billings.
Gasping for breath, Carlisle explained, "They were coming at me, calling me out, day after day. Most were just boys, just young foolish boys. I couldn't kill them anymore, just couldn't, sheriff."
He gasped for air, blood dripping from his mouth as he coughed. Kate and Evers looked at each other in a surprised, almost downcast way. The sheriff cradled Carlisle's head in his arms.
"I came here to die. I knew by challenging a lawman with your reputation, no one would come after you and it would finally end. I'd finally have peace."
His eyes closed and he died.
Sheriff Billings looked up at Kate and Cort with a painful, sorrowful expression. He gently laid Carlisle's head on the bare dirt. Then he stood up, staring down at the dead gunfighter.
Everyone stood there looking down at Brad Carlisle, the fastest gun in the West. They all looked on with their heads bowed. There was a long silence as the wind stirred and some horses neighed in the distance.